Monday, September 28, 2009

The Catholic Church Seemed to Be Doing Something Right...

Happy Monday, friends!

As a lapsed Catholic, I'm still keenly interested in the policies and work of the Catholic Church-- no doubt because I drank so much of the Kool Aide that it's not really possible to purge all of it from my body.

Anyway, there's a brouhaha churning. It seems as though in all religious congregations that there's a fundamental tension between those wanting to support holding the line on "family values," whatever that means, and those who push for social justice. Now, don't get me wrong, there are lots of people that push hard for social justice while still opposing same-sex marriage, abortion, etc, but I find (and found) them to be the minority.

This tends to bubble up quite prominently at the institutional level. There are many, many social justice programs under the umbrella of the Catholic Church. It is, after all, the largest charitable organization in the world, and one of the most well funded domestic entities is the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. That is an organization that is the direct outreach of the Bishops of the United States (and consequently the Roman Catholics of the United States)to the people of the United States (as opposed to Catholic Relief Services which is their outreach to the globe) and it essentially follows along the lines of of traditional social justice: aid for the poor in the form of education/tutoring, health care, neighborhood development, food pantries/soup kitchens, micro-loans, etc. It is not an aid organization in and of itself, but it funds numerous programs.

WELL! Apparently, the people at CCHD got a little too excited and started funding things that are getting conservative Catholics all riled up! CCHD seems to have funneled money to groups that opposed Proposition 8, support access to reproductive health, support gay marriage and so forth. These things struck a little too close to the heart of the Millennium Development Goals and strayed a little too far from the flock, apparently.

I have to say that I have this little bit of hope that the Catholic Church will start to change at least some of its positions. Sometimes it puts forth blatantly reckless things. Imagine for a moment, just imagine, if the the world followed the Catholic Church's line and no one used contraception. Not only would we have prodigious amounts of sexually transmitted diseases but we would be, perhaps quite literally, drowning in children. We'd experience global poverty to an even greater extent than we do today. Reproductive health is a key component of the solution to ending poverty.

The Catholic Church was doing something right. It's a shame that people who are less concerned with the message of Jesus and more concerned with control over people's private lives still find themselves in power.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Scary: It isn't a child, it's a CONSEQUENCE!

Well, I know that I had initially set up the expectation that we would have funny things on Friday.

This video is not funny. Well, at least not in the traditional sense. It's funny because these people are off their rockers, but that's about the extent of it. You have to check this out and never doubt for a second that the fight for reproductive health limits itself to securing access to abortion. In some parts of the country contraception even finds itself under attack.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Recession and its Impact on Reproductive Health

No doubt you've heard through the anecdotes of friends and family that times are tough. Or perhaps you have experienced that toughness yourselves. Of course, here we're all particularly concerned about how harder economic times effects women and their access to reproductive health.

Now a study released by the Guttmacher Institute sheds some concrete data-driven light on these concerns. The study found that the recession had an impact on the reproductive choices of women with nearly 1/2 of those surveyed saying that they intended to delay pregnancy until the economy improves.

The study also points out that this in itself causes additional problems because when women want to delay pregnancy, they turn to contraception, which is an expense in and of itself. Lack of access to affordable reproductive health options increasingly puts women in untenable situations. This further highlights the centrality of organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, that can provide reproductive health services at or below cost.

The above link takes you to a summary, but the published study itself is worth a read and provides lots of valuable data that many of you might find interesting. And if you feel comfortable, please share your story. How has your life or the life of a friend been effected by the recession with regards to reproductive health? If we all listen and do a little, we can do a lot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Video from the Author of the Vagina Monologues!

I thought that our readers out there might really appreciate this inspiring and challenging video from a leader in the movement to fully empower women.

Ms. Ensler isn't without controversy, however, and I'd love the chance to hear your thoughts about this video, about her work with V-Day and about her now quite famous work,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sometimes, people make me angry

This video from the American Life League has to be one of the most ridiculous and equivocating things I've ever seen. First off, they make gross claims that fly in the face of fact, such as the claim that this guy makes that the vast majority of Americans are against abortion, which just simply isn't true. If the vast majority of American abhorred it, we wouldn't have it. That's typically the way things work in a Republic.

Furthermore, they are pointing out all these things that actually empower "grandma." As one commenter points out on ALL's YouTube Channel,

Everything you are talking about is already the law. I can sign an end of life directive right now and any doctor who ignores it violates the law. What this bill does is provide Grandma a voice and an opportunity to tell her doctor what to do in certain situations. Had Terry Schiavo's doctor met with her, she could have decided for herself if she wanted to be kept alive on a feeding tube. But since Terry didn't have a living will, the court made that decision. Stop scaring uninformed people.

The guy keeps bringing up the Terry  Schiavo, (you know, where "scary big government" tried to impose itself on a person and make decisions for her-- that thing that conservatives are supposed to dislike) but the fact of the matter is, as the poster points out, that this bill has the provision and the language that would have encouraged and allowed Terry to meet with her doctor and then a living will could have been established.

This bill, far from victimizing "grandma" attempts to empower her and to encourages her and her family to talk have the tough discussion about what happens when the eventuality arises when one cannot speak or reason for oneself any longer. These tactics are infuriating and people buy into them. Each of us has a duty, as citizens, to try and combat this. The ludicrous supposition that the President wants to kill off old people is nauseating and yet hordes of gullible and impressionable people drink up from the arch-conservative bottle.

Don't let you or one of your friends be one of them! We can always try to make the case for a little cool-headedness and rationality. Of course, in the face of marches at the state capitol (and the National Mall) with signs equating President Obama with Hitler, that might not win the day and we may have to pose a question like Barney Frank (D-Minnesota) to someone, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good News!

Normally I don't like to rejoice at the downfall of something or someone, but I'm making an exception in this case. NPR and the AP are reporting that Operation Rescue is almost completely and totally out of money. I found this surprising because just a month or so ago the group announced their intention to publicly consider purchasing Dr. Tiller's clinic.

I'd like to think that OR suffers from a dearth of funds because people are finally growing more comfortable with the notion of choice, realizing that it is here to stay, and focussing the charitable giving elsewhere. Sadly, I think NPR has it correct in saying that, in fact, people probably shy away from the organization because of its connection to the murder of Dr. Tiller via contact with and donations received from the murderer, Scott Roeder.

No doubt the American Life League and other explicitly or nominally anti-choice organizations continue to receive their donations. We can, however, take some measure of comfort that one of the most militant organizations seems to be clutching anywhere for life in a world that, bit by bit, sees their fear and ignorance based goals as less and less pertinent to the health and well being of our society.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Intermingling of Disappointment and Optimism

How long, oh how long will it take people to regard abortion as a medical procedure? This really is a blow. Obama's plan, as it turns out, will not provide any funding for abortions and presumably would not count it as a covered medical procedure in the government healthcare option nor in the mandates to be laid out for insurance companies. I've imbedded the video in here and it's definitely worth a watch in its entirety, but that particular blow to the fight for reproductive justice comes comes at around 27:20 in the speech. Also, if you'd prefer just to read what the president says and forgo all the hoopla, you can read a transcript here.

This, of course, all stems from the roadblocks that still stand in front of us with regard to the previous post. Abortion is the great unmentionable. It's taboo. Many of its supporters feel uncomfortable with the topic. It's something some other person does, and as such, that keeps abortion from moving away from a shadowy existence.

The bottom line is that much of the country (this includes, apparently, the federal government) does not view abortion as something purely medical. Imagine what a disconnect we'd experience if President Obama stood up and said, "Just to clear up any misunderstandings, none of your tax dollars will be used to fund chemotherapy."

So, as the title of this post suggests, I find myself conflicted. It's a great humanistic boon for me, personally, that the country finally seems on a course to ensure this human right for every citizen-- yet it still stigmatizes reproductive health despite the fact that empowering women and giving them choice, both in our country and elsewhere, has proven to be one of the most effective means of eliminating poverty and, to tout a great conservative notion, helping people to help themselves.

Healthcare reform is surely something around which we can rally, let's just be sure to have the courage to continue to speak frankly about about our cause. We've got to do our part to shine the light on choice because society wants to keep it subdued and quiet in the shadows.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coming Out of the Closet

This article from helps put into perspective that there’s a lot of “othering” that goes on with regard to the abortion question. Many Americans paint themselves a sour face and hold their nose about a “distasteful” procedure because some other person might need it. The tendency to “other” stems from the fact that, as the author points out, women who have had abortions remain closeted, and as such, abortion remains an abstract concept to most Americans.

One of the tactics employed by the LGBT community to gain acceptance in society was simply to come out of the closet. Though it remains stigmatized and demonized in many parts of the country, supporters and bigots alike had to come to terms with the fact that they knew, really knew, a gay person. It’s harder, unless you’re truly a monster, to abuse and discriminate with your words or with your votes if the person you attempt to demonize is your daughter, niece, or grandson.

I think that same sort of openness might lead to the de-stigmatization of abortion if we would simply realize that we know a woman who has made that choice for herself. Abortion is not something that a low-income woman somewhere in the country or world seeks—it’s a medical procedure that has improved the lives of and empowered our mothers, sisters, and friends. If more women could discuss it frankly and openly, then I think we’d see a shift. Maybe we could stop talking about stripping abortion of its legal protection and have a more serious and heartfelt conversation about how to safeguard the reproductive rights of all people.

It’s a difficult first step to take—to stick your neck out when it’s simply easier to remain silent, but rarely has the course of history found itself offered by those who fell victim to timidity. Better to be thought outspoken then to say nothing at all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Operation Rescue's Goal: Unwanted, Unloved, and Impoverished Children

Obviously anti-choicers want to strike funding for abortion and the like, but it seems ironic, conceptually, to try to take away funding for abortion services (a service predominantly used by women from disadvantaged backgrounds) from a government health option designed to address the healthcare needs of low income individuals. It’s pretty ridiculous, don’t you think, to strike out one of the most pivotal services for low income individuals from a plan designed to help that very same group?

At any rate, I’m writing in response to this post about opposition to a medically inclusive health reform plan set forth by our “friends” at Operation Rescue.

Needless to say, I hope that each of you is very much giving thought to what a boon universal health coverage would be for the United States’ citizenry. Then, with particular regard to the above post, be sure to let your legislator know that any health reform should include funding that supports women’s health by giving them a full line of reproductive choices.