Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Butts, penises and cookies

I submit, for your consideration, exhibit A in the case of needing accurate age-appropriate education about our bodies, a scene from the PreK classroom where I work:

We are reading a book about how dinosaurs say good night. One of the dinosaurs turns off the light with his tail.

Lead teacher: Do you turn off the light with your tail?
All kids: No!
Boy: We don't have tails! We have butts and penises!
Girl: Girls don't have a penis! We have cookies!

There's a split second where everyone looks at the boy, then the girl, thinking we're going to tell them not to say "penis." My lead teacher says, "Girls have vaginas," and keeps reading.

At least the girl didn't call it a vah-jay-jay.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Debra Haffner and Jim Wallis on Stupak

One more reason why I'm not a Jim Wallis fan - his piece at Huffpo titled "Health Care: Keep Your Eyes On The Prize."

You can read it all for yourself, but he writes,
"Whether every American woman has a health plan that pays for abortion or not, tens of millions of currently uninsured women in this country will be much better off with health insurance than without. Therefore a focus on "women's health" cannot just be restricted to access to abortion."
Yeah, but you can't talk about women's health without realizing that access to reproductive health care is part of that.

I just can't believe that he put quotes around "women's health." As if it's not real. Fake. Pretend. A figment of my imagination. If he has his way, my access to affordable, comprehensive health care will be a figment of my imagination. I'd like to think my health is more than just a series of air quotes in a lengthy and puffed up Huffpo article.

If I went on, I'd just be restating what Daniel Schultz says in "Jim Wallis' Egregious 'Memo To Nation's Leaders' on Stupak" over at Religious Dispatches. From Schultz, "In his passion for health-care reform, he seems not only willing to toss aside basic questions about human rights without a second thought, but unable to understand that some people might have a problem with that. Even worse, he's quick to blame the people who got screwed for not making a compromise more quickly."

Also over at Huffpo is Rev. Debra Haffner's take on Stupak in light of King Solomon, compassion and justice. She rightly juxtaposes the role and authority of religious institutions to the Constitution, quoting from the Religious Insitute's Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Abortion as a Moral Decision. The document states, "No government committed to human rights and democracy can privilege the teachings of one religion over another. No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on abortion, nor should government take sides on religious differences."

Let's hope our congresspeople remember that we are a nation not bound to one religion or doctrine and thus cannot legislate on one interepretation of morality.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Democrats really hate women or I use the skills I got in law school to analyze stuff that takes away my rights

Have you heard that the newly-passed health care bill treats women like second-class citizens?

Behold the absolute draw-dropping shittiness of The Stupak Amendment. Here it is, proof positive, that Democrats really hate women. What's also awesome is that the first female Speaker of the House presided over a Democratic majority that passed the most expansive restriction on women's rights in recent history. Not only was the amendment passed by 62 democrats (and all voting Republicans), the bill carrying the amendment was passed through Congress 220-215, with the majority of Democrats blithely signing the biggest roll-back of reproductive rights. Super.

Some Democrats (mostly women) did not take this sitting down. They tried to speak in Congress, only to have male Republicans heckling them and shouting "I object, I object, I object, I object" over them. Think Progress has the video. Thrown under the bus by their own party, some of the women we voted into office were forced to speak out against their own party signing away their rights while they were viciously silenced by the very men that orchestrated this new oppression. I'm sure that while the men in Congress, some of them in their own party, thought this was just business as usual, our minority of female lawmakers got a heady sense of deja vu. Men talking over them in a meeting? Nah, that never happens. Especially when you're talking about your own freedoms and liberty. I mean, just shut up, woman. Know your place.

Out of this process of ugliness came the unholy spawn of the Stupack Amendment. However, unlike some other places, I believe that the proof is in the pudding. I'm not doing to quote from some dude that quoted from some other dude that quoted from yet another dude. I'm including the full text of this steaming file of fail. Here's your hope and change, right here:


No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the women in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.

Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting any nonfederal entity (including an individual or State or local government) from purchasing separate supplemental coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions, so long as—
(1) such coverage or plan is paid for entirely using only funds not authorized or appropriated by this Act; and
(2) such coverage or plan is not purchased using—
(a) individual premium payments requires for an Exchange-participating health benefits plan towards which an affordability credit is applied; or
(b) other nonfederal funds require to receive a federal payment, including a State's or locality's contribution of Medicaid matching funds.

Notwithstanding section 303(b), nothing in this section shall restrict any nonfederal QHBP offering entity from offering separate supplemental coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions, so long as—
(1) premiums for such separate supplemental coverage or plan are paid for entirely with funds not authorized or appropriated by this Act;
(2) administrative costs and all services offered through such supplemental coverage or plan are paid for using only premiums collected for such coverage or plan; and
(3) any nonfederal QHBP offering entity that offers an Exchange-participating health benefits plan that includes coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section also offers an Exchange participating health benefits plan that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section

The emphases are mine.

For those without a background in legalese, this is about as unequivocal and binding as law can get. There's no wiggle room. No exceptions. What this creates is a health care system in which women are second class citizens, forced to choose between even private coverage of a perfectly legal procedure and all federal funding of health care. This, simply, is an outrage. As far as I'm concerned, this violates both Roe and the substantive due process of the 14th amendment, but for those without a background in law, rest assured that this crap is really, really, really, legally dubious.

So let's digest this, line by disgusting line.

Section A explicitly prohibits any federal funding governed by HR 3962 (the larger Affordable Health Care for America Act) going towards the provision of abortions. But if you thought that they really needed to put this in, that anyone was really ever in danger of seeing their tax dollars going to "kill babies", allow me to enlighten you. Behold the related 30-year-old ickiness of the Hyde Amendment. Passed in 1976, in the immediate backlash of Roe decision three years earlier, the amendment explicitly bars all appropriations for The Department of Heath and Human Service budget from going to the purpose of funding abortions. It does not prohibit all federal funding of abortion, just anything out of HHS. Since H.R. 3962 would be administrated by HHS, there was absolutely no way, shape, or form that its provisions would go to funding abortion. Got it straight?

Moving on, the second clause is the kicker: "or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion". You catch that? If you have a health plan that covers abortion, you cannot receive any federal assistance. Can't make the last $300 for a root canal? Too bad. Choose between your teeth rotting out of your face or abortion coverage. Want part of your "exchange" to go towards a consultation with an allergist for your seasonal allergies that you couldn't otherwise afford? Too bad, you got an abortion last year on that plan.

This amendment goes beyond limiting federal funds. This explicitly bars even private insurance companies from covering abortions.

Well, so can insurance companies just offer plans with abortion coverage and ones without? Sure, if you're cool on getting totally substandard care and no government assistance whatsoever. Given that the majority of those who see themselves in low-paying part-time positions that don't offer health coverage are women, there's going to be a lot of women who need federal assistance. But they won't get it unless they accept prohibitions on their rights, and start saving for out-of-pocket abortions if they need it, instead of putting away money for retirement. That's other thing: men won't have to save for expensive procedures that they need. They won't have to choose between affordable health care and their reproductive rights.

But all this begs the question: will insurance companies continue to offer abortion coverage? The answer: probably not to the extent they do now. Providing abortion coverage will undoubtedly require additional administrative costs to make sure that the company remains in compliance with the amendment. Additionally, by section C Paragraph 3, those additional administrative costs will have to be covered entirely without federal assistance that insurance companies could get if they didn't offer abortion.

The result is obvious: some companies will just not offer abortion coverage. It's too troublesome and expensive. If they offer it, they're required by Section C Paragraph 3 to provide identical coverage that doesn't cover abortions. Notice that the amendment, however, does not require that companies offer plans that do offer abortion coverage. A company would be in compliance if they did not offer coverage for abortion at all. In fact, it's transparently obvious that this is the goal of the entire amendment: to make it so that insurance companies will have lots of incentives to never cover abortions.

If a company decided to offer coverage including abortion, the coverage would be prohibitively expensive. Not only could the insured not use federal monies for any medical procedure so long as they are covered for abortion, they also would be forced to pay higher premiums. After all, the additional administrative costs of the plan could not be paid for with federal assistance, which would transfer the additional fees directly unto women. To really sweeten the deal, you'd also be ineligible for Medicaid matching even from your state while your insurance covers abortion. Awesome.

At the end of the day, you're left with a tiered health care system. At the very top are men. They can purchase private insurance. They can use public funds. They can do what you want with them, within reason, and not have to worry about losing coverage.

Quite a way below them are women paying for identical insurance except for abortion coverage, but paying much higher premiums. They cannot use public funds for anything.

Below them even further are women who can't pay for the prohibitively expensive private insurance of their female peers. Among them are women that need any assistance whatsoever for anything, even something as simple as a teeth cleaning. They must pay for abortion out-of-pocket or choose between any federal or state assistance. It's arguable that most women will find themselves here, as the prohibitive cost of the above will make it unfeasible unless you plan on getting abortions often.

And at the very bottom are the women who can neither pay for prohibitively expensive private insurance or out-of-pocket abortions. They get pregnant, and they're forced to procure risky abortions by untrained providers or have a baby against their will. At best, they succeed. At worst, they bleed to death or lose their fertility to a massive infection.

Oh, and they will suffer from those cheaper abortions. I'd bet all the money I have that someone will make it so the prohibition against paying for abortions will extend to paying for the complications from botched abortions. Or they'll extend it to birth control, IUDs, and all those things that wackos say "kill babies". Before long, everything that has to do with your right to exercise your entirely legal reproductive rights will damn you to fork over big bucks. No assistance. No coverage. Additionally, because paying massive premiums for abortion coverage is totally unfeasible and uneconomical for basically everyone, it will come to pass that all women in America must pay out-of-pocket for abortions.

Lo and behold, our Democratic majority has opened its collective butthole and gifted us a mammoth steaming pile that only allows us to avoid bankruptcy by medical bills only if we promise to be good girls and never ever kill babies.

There's your Hope™ and Change™. You thought that Democrats were cool with just throwing gays under the bus? We're not stopping at anything. Screw the poor. Screw women. Screw the environment. Screw the Middle East. Screw accountability. Screw ending tax cuts. Screw our progressive base. Screw federal law and Roe v. Wade and the things we could do with a Democratic majority.

If you have a Senator that would otherwise vote to pass this bill (mine are all Republicans), please, for your rights, send them a letter. Give them a call. Do something! Otherwise, I'm afraid that this is the death-knell for reproductive rights.

How I came to yell at a woman on the street about feminism

My sister and I were walking back from the bus and a woman came riding up on her bike beside us, talking about how crappy men are and how unlucky in love she is. We mumbled in agreement, etc, and thought we left her behind us. Then she rode up again and started talking about how men are wusses and pansies and girls when they don't do their "job" (whatever that is). I told her I didn't appreciate her comparing weak men to women, saying that it put women in a hierarchy under men. Well, I said it less academically. Eventually we ended up shouting and she called us lesbians, and then somehow I ended up yelling across the gas station area, "'Man up' is not an acceptable term!" At that point, I became the yelling lady and the circle was complete. The student became the teacher.

Honestly, I started talking back to her because I've had enough with people not living their beliefs. I believe in gender equality, even - especially - in language. How we speak and the words and idioms we use reveals our inner biases and beliefs. Inclusive language in church is another fine example of this exact thing. If we're for something, well then, let's be for it.

All in all, I just didn't want to think later, "Why didn't I say anything?" Casual sexism is sexism is sexism.

Would I have been nearly as vocal if it was a man, or a person of color of any gender? No. Her whiteness and gender made me bold in ways I wouldn't have if it was another person. Well, maybe it didn't make me bold, but it made HER non-threatening. I may have said something, but definitely not yelling the way I was.

Would I have even said anything if it was in a group of my friends or family?

Casual sexism is sexism is sexism.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coffee and consent

From Until Someone Wakes Up, a play written by Hamline University professor Carolyn Levy and a group of Macalester College students:

Waiter: Would you like some coffee?
Woman: Yes, please.
Waiter: Just say when. (Starts to pour.)
Woman: There. (He keeps pouring.) That's fine. (He pours.) Stop! (She grabs the pot; there is coffee everywhere.)
Waiter: Yes, ma'am.
Woman: Well, why didn't you stop pouring?
Waiter: Oh, I wasn't sure you meant it.
Woman: Look, of course I meant it! I have coffee all over my lap! You nearly burned me!
Waiter: Forgive me, ma'am, but you certainly looked thirsty. I thought you wanted more.
Woman: But -
Waiter: And you must admit, you did let me start to pour.

via Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery by Patricia Weaver Francisco