Monday, February 20, 2012

virginia's new honor rape law

In places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, male-dominated society is the norm. Violence against women is acceptable. Women who try to demonstrate any control over their own lives are demonized. And in this area of the world, an "honor rape" is considered an acceptable means of punishing a family. One of the more well known cases of honor rape was that of Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani woman who was gang-raped because her brother was accused of having illicit sex with an unmarried woman. The case is well-known because she successfully pressed charges against the men who raped her and some of the men went to prison. But that is a rare outcome in that part of the world. And in some cases, tribal councils have ordered a gang rape as a punishment.

This couldn't happen in the United States of America. No. But it is going to be happening very soon. Because the men of Virginia have banded together and passed a law that requires that every woman who wants to have an abortion must undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound, whether she wants one or not and whether her doctor wants her to or not. Because the vast majority of abortions are performed in the early part of the first trimester, the only viable ultrasound is transvaginal ultrasound.

What the heck is that? Well, I can describe it in detail because I have had one. In 1991, I had an ectopic pregnancy. My doctor ordered a transvaginal ultrasound to verify that there was a fertilized egg in my fallopian tube. No amount of conversation could have prepared me for this event.

This is the device that was used. When the technician took it out and began explaining it to me, I nearly died of embarrassment. She was very professional and didn't bat an eye as she rolled a condom onto the wand. I had to lie on my back while she put the wand into me. It was not pleasant. It was uncomfortable.It was embarrassing.

This is what the wand looks like inside a woman. As you can see, it isn't a small item. The wand must penetrate all the way to the back wall of the vagina in order to capture an image.It also has to stay in place and be moved around in order to achieve good images. There is a lot of pressure and discomfort. And it takes a while. In my situation, this WAS medically necessary, so I bore the discomfort and embarrassment. I then had surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy and mourned the loss of a baby that I had very much wanted.

Now you're probably wondering why the men of Virginia passed a law that requires doctors to do this to women when it is medically unnecessary. They claim that they want women to make an informed decision prior to having an abortion. They want women to have "more information". They imagine that looking at an ultrasound picture of the fetus will cause some women to change their minds. There has been no call for this from the medical community, no hint from anyone knowledgeable that women seeking abortions are lacking information that they need to make an informed decision. So we know that this is not really the reason.

Just to get the true flavor of their thinking, note this: When presented with information about how the majority of these medically unnecessary ultrasounds would be performed, one legislator responded that women had already made the decision to be penetrated when they got pregnant, so he had no problem with it. (In other words, once you allow your vagina to be penetrated by a man, it's open season on your lady parts.)

What does this have to do with honor rape? Well, let's see. We have religious fanatics who do not want women to have freedom over their own bodies. These religious fanatics are so determined to control women that they have legislated a vaginal penetration of them in order to shame and punish them. That, by definition, is an honor rape.

Tribal Council in Pakistan = Virginia Legislature
Honor Rape = Forcible penetration of vaginas as a way of punishing women who are sexual

Congratulations, Virginia. You've done yourself proud. You are now the Taliban. You must be so proud.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Obama 2012

The presidential election is just around the corner and I'm thinking about how I can make a difference this year. In 2007 and 2008, I contributed a lot of money to the Obama campaign. Early in the process, when friends and family were supporting Hilary Clinton and telling me that Obama couldn't win, I was the only voice echoing his campaign slogan of Yes, We Can! I can't contribute as much money this time around, but I can at least talk about why I will be voting for him again:

1. President Obama took a bold position when he chose to offer loans to Chrysler and GM. And it worked. Both companies have repaid the borrowed funds and both companies are profitable again. There were many, many critics of the president's decision. And the situation wasn't - and isn't perfect. The companies shouldn't have needed the loans! Ford, for instance, didn't need to borrow any money because their leaders did a better job of forecasting and planning. And there were costs associated with tracking the loans that the government will never recoup. But we will also never know what the long-term consequences might have been if he hadn't made this decision!

2. President Obama's social policies are more likely to reduce unwanted pregnancies and will, therefore, reduce the number of abortions performed in the USA. The Republican candidates are all very vocal in their anti-abortion stance. But they also promote public policies that are guaranteed to increase the number of abortions (legal or illegal) performed in the USA. Decreasing access to birth control and teaching abstinence only sex education are two ways that we can assure an increase in abortions. More importantly, I truly believe that, with the possible exception of Santorum, the Republican candidates take these stances for the sole reason of getting votes. Let me be clear - I am 100% pro-choice and never want to see the day that women lose any measure of their reproductive freedom. But I would love to see the day when we don't need abortion - legal or illegal. The answer to that is through access to birth control and sex education that includes access to all information available.

3.  President Obama ended the Bush-era restrictions on stem cell research. "In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values," Obama said. "In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering ... But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly." (The Guardian 3/9/09)

4. President Obama ended the decades long American military policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) that was in effect from December 21, 1993 to September 20, 2011. This was a courageous decision and one that he knew would get backlash. But when the vast majority of the military leaders said it was time to make a change, President Obama listened and acted. Interestingly enough, Gingrich and Santorum have both publicly called for DADT to be reinstated. I guess that tells the military leadership how much these candidates plan to listen to the experts if they ever hold the Commander In Chief title.

5. President Obama has lately shown that he favors small-scale, but effective military maneuvers to handle big problems. Under his leadership, we've seen al-Qaeda decimated and Osama bin Laden removed from the planet. Republican leadership likes war a little too much for my taste. As much as they like to say that they "support the troops", they sure throw them into the front lines a little too casually. What they really like is to ensure that money flows in the direction of the war machine - all the companies (like Halliburton) who profit from our country being at war. We are now out of Iraq and are increasing spending on the things that military families need - housing allowances, tuition assistance for military & their families, family support programs and military pay. If we put a Republican in office, how long before we are invading Iran?

6. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010 after it was passed by Congress. (This is the actual name of the legislation that critics love to call "Obamacare".) There can be no argument that it is bad to ensure that all American citizens have access to affordable healthcare. Nobody is bold enough to argue that only people with money should be able to get healthcare. So the main argument against PPACA has boiled down to a claim that it is unconstitutional. Not so fast, says Charles Fried, who was solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan. Dr. Fried, a conservative Republican, indicates that there is absolutely nothing unconstitutional about the law and he says that he hears no arguments against the law from the vast majority of constitutional law experts at the Federalist Society (an organization of conservatives & libertarians who study constitutional law). So why all of the hullabaloo? It's just another divisive issue that politicians are using to garner voter support.

7. Character and personal beliefs matter. Although our founding fathers wisely ensured, through our Constitution, that there would never be a requirement that our presidential candidates be of any particular religious faith, I think we can all agree that character and personal beliefs matter to us as voters. (Well, this is certainly true for the people I know & respect.) President Obama is a family man and a Christian who lives a Christ-centered life. He is a good man. He clearly believes that women are equal to men. I've seen him angry on only a few occasions. One that stands out to me was his reaction when the crowd (gathered to hear Republican candidates) booed an openly gay member of the military and none of those candidates rose to the military guy's defense. “You want to be commander in chief,” the president said, “you can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.” President Obama is true to his own principles and stands firm, even in the face of criticism.

8. Each of the Republican candidates frighten me - for different reasons.
  • Gingrich is a complete slimeball who would say or do anything to regain the power he had in the 1980's. He has an axe to grind against Democrats AND Republicans. At the end of his congressional reign, everybody was happy to see him go. He is a power-hungry megalomaniac who will do damage to our country if he ever makes it back to Washington, D.C.
  • Santorum is an evangelical who sees no harm in changing the laws of the land to ensure that all Americans are forced to live according to his version of the Christian faith. If you are an evangelical, that's fine. I have many relatives who would describe themselves as evangelicals. But surely you don't approve of any one religious group controlling the lives of everyone else? Taliban, anyone? Sharia law, anyone? Does nobody get the irony of this???
  • Romney is a moderate who is now trying very hard to "conservatize" himself.  He has taken an anti-abortion stance. He supports abstinence eduction. (See # 3, above.) He has flip-flopped on gun control, at first signing laws that banned certain weapons and instituting waiting periods, but later joining the NRA just prior to declaring his candidacy for president. He has also flip-flopped on the issue of economic policy. In fact, he flips and flops so much that he should scare anybody. I don't think he knows what he is in favor of until he figures out what is popular that day! But the clincher for why he scares me is that he has told one too many lies. He once told an audience that he saw his father marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was later debunked. He was pandering to African-American voters.
9. When I think of WHAT COULD BE, I know I will vote to re-elect President Obama. Joan Ruaiz, over at said it best in her article entitled "We All Have a Choice in 2012". In it, she outlines that which could be if we elect a Republican president again. I suggest that you read that article before you make any decision about what you'll do in November.

That's just nine of my fifty reasons, but you get the idea, I think. My hope is that you will actually give thought to what you want for our country. Don't just repeat crap that you've heard on whatever channel you're listening to. Listen to the opposing arguments too. Really think about what you think is best for our country. Me? I'll be campaigning for - and voting for - President Obama.