Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Day for Women

The election is over, Barack Hussein Obama will be our president, and already the silliness is running rampant. One first-grader came home from school to tell her mother that the new president will kill babies. Gun enthusiasts are lining up to stock their armories. “Values” voters are bemoaning the election of such an immoral person to the highest office in the land. Racists are…well, being racists.

It is heartening for those whose values include issues besides making abortion illegal and attacking gay rights to know that around the country people gathered in groups and burst spontaneously into the “Star Spangled Banner,” performances that are immortalized on YouTube. People around the world cheered and waved American flags, scenes reminiscent of the post-9-11 reaction, only this time joyous rather than elegiac.

Most importantly for women, women’s rights will once again be a priority. Vice-president Elect Joe Biden has been a co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act and will now be in a good position to push this bill through a Democratically-controlled Congress. Pay equity for women will have a chance with this Congress. And given that a President Obama will be able to appoint Supreme Court justices during his term, Roe v. Wade will likely be safe for years to come.

Those who bemoan this fact should give a thought to the fate of abortion rights during the long eight years of the Bush administration. Despite some setbacks to abortion rights around the world and in the United States, abortion is still legal, and therefore safe, in this country. One has to ask why the Republicans and Bush didn’t do more to make abortion illegal when they had the chance. It seems that without the issues of abortion and gay rights, right-wingers would lose their two biggest money-maker issues. It’s certainly the case that leaders of groups such as Operation Rescue and Focus on the Family make a bundle off their fundraising efforts aimed toward shutting down abortion clinics and denying equal rights to gays and lesbians.

Of course, these groups will now be able to rake in more dough than ever as they fight the "evil" Obama empire. Thankfully, though, women, even the religious, anti-choice women who make up a good percentage of those having abortions, will be able to look forward to an administration that trusts them to make choices. Those who have children may look forward to an administration that pays attention to their needs. Those who are in a situation in which they need to have an abortion may be confident that the procedure will continue to be legal and therefore safe.

It’s a new day and good day in America and around the world for women, a day that is long overdue.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Disastrous Bush Family (Non)-Planning Policies

Blog 10-09-08

Reading Nicolas Kristoff’s column in this morning’s New York Times:, took me back to the 2004 March for Women’s Lives on the Washington Mall. I went to Washington as a volunteer to sign people up to go back to their hometowns to register people to vote. At one point, I ran out of steam, overwhelmed by the size of the task and by the size of the crowd, so I sat on a park bench to take a break.

A young Black woman was also sitting on the bench and we starting talking. She spoke with an accent, so I asked her where she was from. She said she was from Eritrea and was visiting relatives in the D.C. area. She came to the March, she said, because she said she was so angry at George Bush, her anger growing from the Bush administration policy of cutting off funding for any group giving birth control information that also mentioned abortion as an option. She related in graphic detail the story of one of her relatives who was severely maimed as the result of an illegal abortion. This illegal abortion was the direct result of the Bush administration family planning funding cuts.

As Kristoff points out in his OpEd column, denying funding to family groups only increases the danger for women who are trying to space their childbearing so that they will be able to provide good care to their children.

There’s something sick and evil in a mentality that dictates that women are good for only one thing, childbearing, and it’s even worse when these anti-choice types, mostly men, claim that women don’t want to have control over their childbearing.

Women around the world want control over the number and the timing of children that they give birth to. This is especially crucial in developing countries where women are often raped by their partners and are often the sole support of their families. When they are cut off from access to contraception and family planning information and from legal abortions, they and their families suffer the consequences. Voters should take this information to the polls when they cast their votes this November. We cannot afford the Religious Right agenda fueled by the zealots to continue. We must elect a president and other office holders who believe that women have the ability to figure out for themselves what to do about having and raising children. We need people in office who believe that government has business making these decisions for individuals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Women Against Sarah Palin

Recently several friends sent me the following URL for a web site titled “Women Against Sarah Palin.”
One friend expressed hesitation about going after Palin in such a way, saying that we should not stoop to the level of our opponents in this election. Another friend fears that the attacks on Palin will deter other women from running for high office. I, however, felt a sense of relief that at last I had found a place to express my dismay at this woman’s nomination for an office that puts her a heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world. I oppose her not because she’s the mother of small children, but because of her anti-woman stands on issues. This woman, while posing as a feminist, has made statements espousing the most anti-feminist ideas possible. Being female does not confer the mantle of feminism on a person. What then does make a feminist?

According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “feminism” means, “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” as well as “organized activities on behalf of women’s rights and activities.”

What this means in real life is that people, both women and men, are committed to full participation and equality for women. It means women take charge of their lives and decide their fates on a level playing field. This means, among other things, that women have the right to control their own reproduction, to decide if they want to be mothers, if they want to stay at home with their children, or if they want to enter the work force.

Both John McCain and Sarah Palin say they are opposed to Roe v. Wade as unconstitutional. Sen. McCain has voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and opposed renewal of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Palin made Alaskan rape victims pay for their rape kites and wouldn’t allow abortion even for rape or incest. She also cut funding for teen mothers.

It is difficult to know in what way either of these candidates supports the feminist agenda. By contrast, the VAWA was drafted by aides in Sen. Joe Biden’s office and Barack Obama has made it clear that he trusts women to make their own reproductive decisions.

Of course, Gov. Palin is not the presidential candidate, but that fact has been obscured by the near-celebrity status accorded her by a cadre of adoring mainstream media figures. In fact, one has to marvel at McCain’s ability to take the attention off his weak candidacy by choosing Palin as his running mate.

Also obscured in the rush by some women to support Palin because she is a woman “just like them” is the fact that the McCain/Palin ticket would be the worst thing for women since George Bush—oh, wait. Even George Bush supported VAWA.

Gov. Palin, like many women of her generation, balances the demands of motherhood with the demands of her career. Does this balancing act automatically make a person a feminist? No. Palin’s opportunities as a woman make her the recipient, not the proponent of the benefits of the feminist movement, benefits she and McCain would likely undo if they were elected into office. That is the reason I added a comment to the Women Against Sarah Palin web site. Too many women and men have fought for too long to gain equal rights for women to have those gains undone by an administration avowedly against those rights.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If Issues Were Names....

It’s an election year, which means the crazies are bound to come out of the woodwork. It seems like everyone and their dog thinks that if they could just get on the ballot, surely they’d win and do a better job than the yahoos in DC. Too bad a fair portion of those trying to get on the ballot are yahoos themselves. Take for example Marvin Richardson of Letha, Idaho. Marvin’s an organic strawberry farmer and active political junkie. Marvin’s also a stark raving lunatic. Not too long ago, he got the bright idea to change his middle name to “Pro-Life.” He wanted to make sure when he put his name on the ballot for governor of Idaho in 2006, everyone knew he was certifiable. But, Idaho state law barred ole Marvin from using his full name because it was also a slogan. Marvin wised up this year though, now his name is just “Pro-Life,” like Cher, or Bono, or the Unabomber. Can’t you hear the crazy cackling coming from a distant strawberry field right now?

Since Pro-Life is his full and only name, Idaho state officials have no choice but to allow just that to be printed on the ballot. Pro-Life has vowed to run for the highest office in the state every 2 years for the rest of his life while advocating murder charges for doctors who perform abortions and women who obtain them. Charming. This year, he’s going for Senator Larry Craig’s seat, another charming fellow, who if he ran again, could use the name Larry “Not Gay” Craig. Catchy, huh? Of course, that name probably would have been more useful before he stepped into that airport bathroom.

Crazy as Pro-Life is, the concept of a candidate changing his or her name to reflect their views may not be such a crazy idea. The whole process would probably be a lot easier if you had to choose between Tree-Hugger and War-Monger. Here’s to an entertaining election!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brownback's Backdoor Anti-Abortion Bill?

Senator Sam Brownback is not well-known outside the state of Kansas. You're likely scratching your head trying to figure out why you recognize his name. Think back to very early in the Republican race, when the debates were populated by 11 different candidates. The guy on the outer wings, the one who said that he didn't believe in evolution and that he'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, the one with the curly hair and the Kansas drawl, that's him.

Sen. Brownback is known for his extreme conservatism. It's not just fiscal restraint and state's rights with this guy. He has members of the far-right saying, "Wow, this guy is hard-core." Not surprisingly, Sen. Brownback is thoroughly anti-choice. He does not believe that there are any circumstances under which a termination of pregnancy is acceptable, not even in cases of rape or incest. So it's not a shock that he's introduced another bill regarding abortion. The knee-jerk reaction is to assume that any bill coming from Sen. Brownback regarding this issue is inherently flawed and a thinly veiled effort to undermine women's rights, which is why everyone who has read the bill or anything about it is finding themselves a little confused, because that's not what this bill is.

Here's what the bill does:

For women and families whose prenatal testing has indicated that the fetus has a genetic disorder, physicians will be required to provide "access to timely, scientific, and nondirective counseling about conditions being tested for and accuracy of such tests." Additionally, the bill would create a nation-wide list of families who are willing to adopt children with special needs and referral to support services, including a national clearinghouse of coping resources.

While he may be getting cheers from some, Sen. Brownback's efforts smack of an inability to grasp the difficulty of the heartbreaking choices some families must make. A diagnoses of Down Syndrome does not always mean that a family will give birth to a living child with Down's. What it can mean is that the disorder is such that their baby will die from Down's. The same is true for many genetic and chromosomal disorders. There are degrees of severity and some of them simply are not compatible with life.

The spirit of this bill is laudable; anything that allows women and families to make the decision that is best for them is a step in the right direction. But one step doesn't get you to a destination. If Sen. Brownback is serious about reducing abortion, then it's time to focus on the causes and impact of unplanned pregnancy. In fact, knowing Brownback's typical M.O., one has to wonder if this is an attempt to lull everyone into a false sense of security before tacking on a bunch of amendments that undermine a woman's right to choose.

Sen. Brownback says that this bill is an effort to promote the "culture of life." But the so-called "culture of life" has to be about more than preventing abortions, it must be about making it easier to access information, birth control and the resources parents need to raise children in today's world.

The fact is that the "culture of life" is not being promoted in this country, period. Families are not guaranteed paid medical leave, not all women can access the preventative health care necessary to decrease and detect birth defects, students are not given honest and thorough sex education, and when given the chance to cover low-income children for healthcare, the Congress (Sen. Brownback included) said "no."

What are we to make of a culture that focuses more on the pre-born than they do the pre-schooler? There must be a broad and sweeping overhaul in how this country deals with issues like poverty, health care and education before anything can be done to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Julie Burkhart

Kansas Legislators Choose Their Own Morality Over Liberty

Every legislative season the people of Kansas are forced to endure the same outrage: righteous legislators wasting the taxpayer’s time and money intruding upon women’s reproductive decisions.

The bills are endless: more reporting, more regulations, more rights for the fetus at the expense of the woman, more legislation targeting Dr. Tiller and just more burdens for women to bare in order to exercise their legal rights.

Brazen legislators are using their own families as examples of why their own private reproductive decisions must be the same choice required of everyone else. (This, from the men and women who talk about keeping the government out of our lives).

During recent testimony, several state legislators grilled a man for having the nerve to support his wife’s decision to come to Kansas for an abortion due to the terrible abnormalities of their unborn child. The man appeared stunned. To defend what should have been their own private decision and have it openly disputed in a legislative body as if they were monsters is just the worst example of government abusing citizens.

Legislators in turn gave their own pompous and cruel statements to the press about how they too had children with severe abnormalities and had rightly made a different decision.

Last year a female legislator divulged she had an abortion but later regretted her decision Thus, it was only reasonable to argue that her change of mind was some sort of rationale as to why no other woman should be able to make her own decision. This is the level of discourse and deep thinking by our legislative body. In a word: stupid.

The hypocrisy is enormous and self-evident but no one in Kansas should ever believe for a minute that this legislature holds an august body of stellar individuals working for the good of the state. Too many work for the good of their own morality and act prouder than a peacock when they pass a lame bill on license plates or work to deny women the dignity to make their own health care decisions.

In Plato’s Republic, one philosopher argues that “justice” is the “advantage of the stronger”. Clearly, in Kansas what is right is based on who has the power to abuse others, and if might continues to make right, there is little hope for women in their most vulnerable hour unless the public demands real justice to prevail. In Kansas, that could continue to take a long time when morality trumps liberty again and again.

Vickie Sandall Stangl

Friday, March 07, 2008

All Hail the Prince

If you live in Kansas, even better, if you’ve ever sought reproductive health care services in Kansas, your medical records are likely the most talked about thing in the state Legislature. They just can’t get enough.

This tale of privacy violation goes back a few years, clear back to the election of Attorney General Phill Kline in 2002. It was clear from the beginning that Kline had a gift for sniffing out imaginary crime. He was convinced that if he could just rifle through the medical records of women who’d had abortions, surely he’d find some malfeasance to unearth: statutory rape, coercion, illegal late-term abortions. And thus began Kline’s crusade. The subpoenas went out, the records were confiscated and Kline, in all his noise and fury, never suspected that people may not agree with what he was doing. It never occurred to him that regardless of the personal views people had about abortion, hardly anyone thought he was justified in prying into private medical records. He was summoned a fairly loud and abrupt wake up call on Election Day 2006 when he was booted out office in what can only be called a mandate.

Kansans breathed a sigh of relief as we watched Phill and his clinic x-ray specs head out the door (only to have him set up shop as the Johnson County DA, but that’s another blog for another day.) Anyway, little did we know what was brewing in the Kansas state Legislature. The Legislature is full of busy bodies; legislators who can’t stop thinking, talking or writing bills about abortion or really anything that has anything to do with any action occurring below the belt. But the busy-bodies cannot function as an indefinable mass, they need a leader. Unfortunately for anyone who values privacy, they’ve crowned the new heir since Phill Kline’s departure. We have known thee Prince Panty-Sniffer, and thy name is Rep. Lance Kinzer!

Kinzer has quickly emerged as the new anti-choice pied piper. This year, the prince squatted down and dropped what we like to call the “Trail-Mix” abortion bill. There’s a little something for everyone in this 18-page whopper. One needs a fork lift to haul it around and the stamina of a marathoner to read the whole thing in a single sitting. The provisions in this bill make it sound as if Kinzer would only be mollified if he were allowed to personally supervise every abortion in the state of Kansas. Here are just a few choice nuggets from the 17 provisions:

If your second cousin twice removed feels that you were coerced into an abortion, she can take it upon herself to sue the doctor who performed the procedure on your behalf, sweet of her, isn’t it?

It gets better, if a local DA (say a de-throned AG withering away in Johnson County) wants access to a local clinic’s records, well heck, all he has to do is ask. For that matter if a group of 10 or more interested parties feel that they just aren’t getting enough data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, they can compel the agency to hand over more information. Hm, I wonder who that one is for? Looks like Troy Newman at Operation Rescue and his goonies could get some serious jollies off with that particular provision.

But wait, there’s still more! Because women are too mentally feeble to know what they’re doing, great big signs need to be posted in every reproductive health care facility alerting them to the fact that they should feel free to leave the building that they’ve already entered of their own volition and free will. Obviously they’re not smart enough to act on changing their minds without a reminder from our friendly legislature. Following that logic, someone should post similar signs at JC Penny whenever they have a door buster sale for those who feel that they can’t leave the store until they’ve purchased a couple armfuls of merchandise at 40% off. “You don’t have to buy the pencil skirt! You can walk away!” Think of how many cases of buyer’s remorse could be prevented!

The thing goes on and on and on this way. If we gave you a snarky bit about every provision, this blog would end up roughly the same length as Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” and just as appropriately named.

Will the bill go anywhere? That remains to be seen. The legislature is still in session and really, if Dorothy can click her heels to come home, then just about anything is possible in Kansas.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Abortion Issue more than just numbers

In light of many studies and a recent AP article, if people were truly interested in significantly reducing the number of abortions being performed, they would first look at the demographics of those receiving abortion services and specifically, the conditions in which unintended pregnancies and resulting abortions are more likely to occur.

A common misconception is that most abortions are had by unwed teens or ‘loose’ women, and it’s usually due to the ‘immorality’ of these women. Mass media plays a major role in forming this image, with stories and movies that portray unintended, teen pregnancy in such light terms.

However, the facts show this just isn’t true. Of women who terminate their pregnancies, only about 17% are teens, half are 25 or older with even more than that having already had at least one child. In spite of these readily available statistics, much legislative energy is still being spent trying to enact parental notification laws across the United States. New Hampshire is an example of a state, looking to pass bills related to these laws.

An unintended pregnancy can create quite an economic strain, and all too often, women who are getting abortions are acting in the interests of the children they already have. Looking around, we can see that ignorance and misperceptions are all too common regarding who has abortions and why.

Of course, most people don’t trouble themselves with the use of demographic analyses of various social phenomena, especially abortions. Most see or imagine one specific situation, and can’t seem to imagine the many other factors that may affect a woman’s situation. While this doesn’t preclude opinions on the subject, it definitely reduces the number of those that can be considered valid. Like many other social issues, abortion has many factors, many elements that rule out any single ‘solution’, for it has too many complexities to be pushed into the realm of either/or, or all right or all wrong.

Julie Burkhart
CEO, ProKanDo

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Requirements for Businesses Against Abortions

It was an odd encounter but in Wichita these odd moments are not that unusual. Wichita is a place where people are so adamant that women have babies against their will that conducting business becomes impossible without someone forcing their anti-choice point of view into a transaction. Man, it’s a real turnoff and accomplishes N O T H I N G.

When I am trying to purchase something in a store or do business with a company, I do not expect employees or even the owner to start lecturing me about the evils of abortion. I just want to buy the product or look at the merchandise and leave. I’m not there to hold a debate or even presume to first ask them if they harass Dr. Tiller and the women who seek his medical help.

It’s clear to me that I have incorrectly assumed that decent people will act responsibly in public especially in a work environment, but this is not the case in Wichita. Frankly, I’m tired of being sideswiped by righteous individuals whose views I don’t share in the least.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t mind doing business with people who disagree with me if we stick to business and the product I want is something they can offer. However, I certainly want to avoid places that turn their public place into a private zone of moralizing to me. Most of us would never ever force our private views on others in a public place but again, let’s be clear; in Wichita, don’t count on any bubble zone of decency to protect you from these fanatical views. The “Visioneering Committee” might want to think about what a turnoff this is to new citizens of Wichita as well as the natives.

Therefore, it might make sense to propose that the Wichita City Council pass legislation requiring businesses who can’t control their workers or owners from statements that make it clear they are against a woman having the fundamental right to make her own choices about reproduction, to place signs up announcing their opposition. The sign could state: “Pregnant women are required by the Christian Fundamentalists of Wichita and their god to give birth regardless of whether the woman agrees or follows our beliefs. Have a nice day.”

And while the City Council is at, by all means, allow these businesses to put up their crosses, the Ten Commandments, opposition to same sex couples, and pictures of aborted fetuses so that it should be very, very clear we are dealing with people who live in a world that rejects an individual’s personal liberties and would transform our republic into a theocracy in a minute if they could.

A “buyer beware” warning sign should be visible to the consumer since we enter these businesses for no other reason than to make a purchase, and then find ourselves accosted by pronouncements against abortions. I would really appreciate the heads up that the business I am about to encounter is either going to respect me or use the opportunity to get on their soapbox that I’m a baby killer and have no morals compared to their glorious morals.

It must be nice to view life in only black and white terms and to have all the right answers to other people’s lives. I wouldn’t know. I’m just trying to do the best I can and when a young girl or older woman feels that her pregnancy is not a good thing, I’m taking her word for it, and wouldn’t presume to do otherwise.

Vickie Sandell Stangl

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Anti-Choice Witch Hunt

Currently in Kansas, a grand jury is investigating Dr. George Tiller, one of only a handful of late-term abortion providers in the U.S. The petitioners are convinced that the Dr. has violated state regulations pertaining to late termination of pregnancy. This is the second time in as many years the doctor has been thusly investigated as he is a top target of such anti-choice organizations like Kansans for Life (like the rest of Kansans are for death?), and Operation Rescue (they aren’t interested in rescuing ‘born’ children from anything). The citizen petition, which was the impetus for the grand jury, was organized by Operation Rescue & Kansans for Life, and only required about 4,100 signatures. As advocacy groups go, these two are about as biased as they come, with long-standing goals of not only shutting down Tiller’s clinic, which serves several thousand patients per year, (only a small percentage of these are late-term); but to make all abortion illegal in Kansas, as well as across the nation. The citizen-petitioned grand jury dates back to the late 1800’s when it was enacted to help fight political corruption during the railroad boom.

Historically, this citizen’s grand jury has rarely been invoked and never, until recently, to advance a social or moral agenda. This old law, had its use in fighting political corruption to be sure; but in this case it is a tool in active vigilantism. A small minority of people with an agenda, forcing a criminal investigation, definitely usurps the executive power of government. A government populated with persons elected by the majority of voters by the way. But Operation Rescue & Kansans for Life (KFL) have long claimed that prosecutors are too soft on abortion; thus, the witch hunt they’ve orchestrated.

Last Friday, jurors heard testimony from KFL director David Gittrich (“inspired by God to use the grand jury”), and Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, (why are these organizations always headed up by men?). While the testimony is secret in these proceedings, the jurors did receive binders from Operation Rescue that included the citizen petition, a failed criminal complaint from 2006, and photos of several pregnant women entering the clinic during this last fall. These busybodies regularly take pictures of those entering and exiting the clinic, from their protest “camps” just outside the gates and over the fence of the clinic. Of course these photos prove nothing, they are being used in the group’s building of circumstantial “evidence” and of course, to intimidate and shame the women who are often in the midst difficult circumstances.

Additionally, Operation Rescue has indicated that they cannot have prosecution of late-term abortion without subpoenaing private medical records – Doctor/patient privacy and HIPPA be damned, they’re at it again! This taxpayer-funded investigation amounts to little more than religious and moral zealots preaching against women’s right to reproductive freedom.