Saturday, January 22, 2005

The 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade

The National Organization for Women and Capital City NOW are hosting a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court to commemorate the anniversary of Roe, the landmark Supreme Court decision which recognized a woman's right to privacy in deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy.

That's today. Today is the thirty-second anniversary. The candlelight vigil was to begin at five o'clock and by the time this posts, it will be too late for anyone.

My apologies to you and to NOW for not giving a heads up to this. But if, like me, you're wishing you'd known ahead of time, you can turn that wish into a donation or into pledge to action. (Or both.) If you're fortunate enough to have the money to donate, you can find information about donating to NOW on their home page (look at the options at the top of the page). But more than money is needed.

Did you check out The Third Estate Sunday Review this past week? If so, you found "Abortion Why It Still Matters." What happens when the man impregnating you, raping you, is your own father? This is one young woman's powerful story.

I know from e-mails that this story is being passed around via e-mailing and that's good. That's one way to drive the point home about the importance of reproductive choice. To those of you who've written expressing your surprise that certain places didn't link to it -- don't be so surprised. It's a young adult female. They're often the most quickly dismissed and just as it takes courage for her to tell her story, it takes courage -- apparently -- for some sites to link to it. You're e-mailing it to people in your circle does more good than a link on any site.

You'll note that the sites you've named, if they covered abortion at all this week, did so in a historical manner. That means they gave you statistics or they told you a "musty old boomer tale" (Shirley, who says to put in that she's a "musty old baby boomer").

While those stories are important to explaining why it was important that reproductive rights were recognized as a privacy right, they apparently aren't touching our college-age members (male or female). That's not surprising because we're dealing with the right now. But it's much easier (and far less "messy") to focus on the sixties (and focus on them and focus on them and focus on them . . .)

"Karla" tells a story that is all too familiar to many Common Ills members and apparently others have never heard of incest or would prefer not to allude to it (as Shirley will point out at the end, thanks Shirley for allowing us to quote you). That's their loss. If some want to treat abortion as something that "just needs to stay legal" for "historical reasons" then that's their business.

But abortion matters today, right now, to so many. And with all the problems facing access at present, you don't have to repeatedly dig up tales from the pre Roe v. Wade days to find out why abortion still matters. Katha Pollitt does a great job in The Nation highlighting the continued need for reproductive rights not just because of the lessons of the past but also because of the constraints of the present. (To read some of her articles on the subject, click on her name and you'll be taken to an archive of her writings for The Nation.)

Natalie e-mailed this in from The Metroactive News:

Shortly before Christmas 2004, as Democrats were picking through the rubble of another disastrous election, news broke that former Indiana Rep. and abortion foe Tim Roemer was joining the race for chair of the Democratic National Committee. Not only that, he was reportedly doing so at the urging of pro-choice House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The news sent shock waves through the Democratic universe.
As bloggers were quick to note, were Roemer to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Democratic chair, the party known as the champion of women's reproductive rights would have not one but two antiabortion leaders at its helm, given that anti-choice Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada has just taken over as Senate Minority Leader, after pro-choice Democrat Tom Daschle lost his seat in the Senate.
Roemer was quoted in the Dec. 23 issue of the Los Angeles Times as saying that he would not try to change the minds of abortion rights supporters, but he also said he would try to encourage the party to eliminate its "moral blind spot" when it comes to late-term abortions.
"We should be talking more about adoption as an alternative, and working with our churches to sponsor some of those adoptions," Roemer said.
Roemer thinks that abortion opponents would be more comfortable if the party talked about the issue in a more open-minded manner.
"We should be able to campaign in 50 states, not just the blue states or 20 states," he said.
Meanwhile, Roemer's foremost competition is former Vermont governor and pro-choicer Howard Dean, who has also entered the race for DNC chair. In response to Roemer's comments, Dean told NBC's Tim Russert, "We can change our vocabulary, but I don't think we ought to change our principles."
Reached last week by Metro Santa Cruz, Nancy Pelosi's press secretary Jennifer Crider emphasized that Pelosi had not endorsed anyone.
"Nancy basically said Roemer would make a good chair. There are many good candidates in a very rich field, and Mr. Roemer is one of them."

Sarah Phelan's "Skid Roe" addresses not only the danger in some Democrats' rush to the center, but also with the very real picture of access today throughout the country.

I'd also recommend that you read Katha Pollitt's "Stuff These Stockings (Please)" which details
a number of ways you can effectively donate your money.

Within a week of The Common Ills becoming a web site, a number of you began e-mailing about an article posted on Tom Paine wherein a presumably pro-choice woman took issue with a young woman for wearing a t-shirt as she attempted to register voters. That Tom Paine (which is a great site) would run such nonsense is sad. Shirley brought it up in an e-mail again this week (responding to the remarks that The Common Ills wouldn't take marching orders from anyone).

Shirley: This up-tight "expert" wants to act as though she's done the world some huge favor by mixing with the working class while I got the clear impression that she didn't understand the first thing about the working class. I grew up working class and there's not one of my friends who wouldn't have seen the young woman's t-shirt warning others to keep their hands off her
f--king body and applauded. Ms. Up-tight obviously knows very little about the socio-economic realites of the working class. She's a little too genteel to reach the working class.
And one of the things that bothers me the most about my generation is how quick we are to blame and dismiss the young women and men coming after. If abortion rights are going to remain a right, not a passing fad, we need those people coming up. Mocking them or telling them how they should conduct themselves is self-defeating.
Ms. Up-tight came off like the ultimate prude in her op-ed and I wouldn't be surprised to find out she offended many working class people with her Town & Country mind set. She seemed to feel that gracing the working class with her presence did more than the young woman's plain spoken t-shirt. People respond to basic messages, they aren't motivated by what the social set declares acceptable.
This week, I've sent out The Third Estate Story to many sites that cater to a left audience. Seeing their refusal to link to it reminds me of the time before Gloria Steinem and others had to weigh in on the importance of the new generation of feminists. Before that happened, these young women (and some men) were being dismissed and mocked. That's no way to build a movement. That's no way to continue and expand a struggle for equality. Apparently the lock-jaw set finds 'Karla' and her story offensive to their genteel sensibilities.
I knew girls like 'Karla' growing up. And in those days, we whispered about it, if we discussed their situations at all. That all these years later (I'll be 57 this year) we're still treating incest as a tale we can't face head on is shocking. The left better start recommitting themselves to telling all the stories and not just the ones that are currently socially acceptable. I thought we had stripped away the idea that victims of rape and victims of incest had anything to be ashamed of?
I was obviously mistaken.
Now maybe if 'Karla' was fifty-years-old and could point to a history of social activism, we'd tell her firmly-in-the-past teenage story? But as any feminist with any sense of awareness can tell you, incest has not vanished just because we've apparently grown more uncomfortable addressing it.
'Karla' had the guts to share her story and it's too bad that so many sites elected to respond to her bravery by deciding 'Oh, incest . . . Can't we talk about something nicer?' I'm really appalled by the silence that has greeted 'Karla''s story online.
You said that we don't take marching orders and I hope you stick to that because this is one fastly approaching retirement woman that has seen too many censors on the left over the years.
And the women of my generation need to either commit themselves to making sure the voices of younger generations are heard (as Gloria Steinem has) or they need to create their own nostalgic publications and sites because they're doing very little to address real problems when they so pointedly ignore 'Karla' and stories like this. The feminist message of the seventies stands: If every woman told her truth, the world as we know it would never be the same.
It seems a number of people (on the left) have moved away from that idea towards one of what is "prudent" or "socially acceptable."
My generation, in their youth, was about taking on the idea of "socially acceptable." We brought issues out of the shadows and gave them names. We spoke truths that weren't "polite." Instead of glorifying events of the past and coating them in a nostalgic glow, we need to focus on returning to their power and passion of that period.
As a feminist, I take pride in the fact that my generation was able to pick up the baton and carry the struggle further. But unless we're thinking this is all we were fighting for we need to continue to commit ourselves to the struggle, not just bask on our fond memories as we pat ourselves on the backs. The time for action isn't yesterday, action is something we strive for each day because the world's far from perfect and the struggle continues on so many issues.

[Note: As most members know, Shirley regularly lets me know when I've got a typo or confusing point that needs clarifying so if there's an error in the above, assume it's mine and not Shirley's. Any errors in her quote will be corrected at her request which is the same policy for all members. However, one person who is still wanting changes in their book listings is arguing that those are "errors" even though the person admits those were the books listed in the e-mail. I'm not going back and correcting changes of hearts. Ryan notes on that: "That's already yesterday" and I agree.]