Abortion Pain Bill

My daughter just directed me to an interesting web site, Project Vote Smart, which publishes things like voting records, speeches, interest group ratings and so on for all candidates at the national level.

While surfing the site I ran across the Abortion Pain Bill from 2006. This is another example of the measures being put forward in Congress which are designed to make it harder for women to consider abortion. While I don’t disagree with doing all that we can to decrease the number of abortions in this country, I see no purpose in trying to add to the anguish of the woman who has decided to have an abortion. You may see it differently. At any rate, I thought this was important enough to include it in this blog. See details below:

Official Title:

HR 6099: To ensure that women seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child.

Project Vote Smart’s Synopsis:

Vote to suspend the rules and pass a bill that outlines several protocols that abortion providers must follow before performing an abortion on a fetus/unborn child that is 20 or more weeks into development.



– Requires the physician to provide the woman with the following information or material:
the approximate age of the fetus/unborn child
the ?Unborn Child Pain Awareness Brochure?
the possibility that drugs administered to the mother may not prevent pain for the fetus/unborn child
risks and costs associated with the use of pain-reducing drugs

-Requires the ?Unborn Child Pain Awareness Brochure? to state that evidence exists suggesting fetuses/unborn children 20 weeks or more into development are capable of experiencing pain, and that the woman may request pain-reducing drugs for the fetus/unborn child, and that there may be additional risks associated with the use of some pain-reducing drugs

-Allows the woman to waive receipt of the brochure by signing an ?Unborn Child Pain Awareness Decision Form?

House Passage Vote: 12/06/2006: Failed (2/3 Vote Required): 250-162 (Roll no: 526).

Feminism: Good or Evil?

I hope that we all know how far ultra-conservatives can go in their denouncements of feminists and how ridiculous their claims are. Feminists are not necessarily lesbian, they don’t advocate a man-less society, they don’t encourage women to leave their husbands or neglect their children and they do not, as a rule, practice witchcraft.

But has feminism done anything negative to the fabric of society or to women themselves? Here are some of the criticisms I’ve heard over the years and my personal response to them:

1. Feminism is exclusionary. It excludes all women who do not toe the party line (and men altogether.)

It may feel this way from the perspective of those who do not consider themselves feminists. But feminism is for all women, whether or not they agree with the feminist ideology. As for men, feminists believe that what is good for women is also good for men.

2. Feminism has marginalized women of color. It is basically a white, mid- to upper-class movement. Minorities need not apply for positions of influence and leadership.

This objection has had some validity in the past. The reality was that white women had the means and influence to get the movement going. That does not excuse them for not seeking to join forces with women of color, but it is a fact of life that people tend to come together with people like themselves to work toward achieving their unique goals. Feminist ideology, however, demands unity and any feminist worth her (or his) salt is completely open to working with all women.

3. Feminism rejects tradition. It asserts that anything traditional is tainted by the patriarchal system in which we live.

It is true that feminists are critical of patriarchy and feel that it is a system that needs a severe overhaul. That does not mean a rejection of traditional values, but a reworking of ways to express them.

4. Feminism goes against biology. It ignores the natural differences between the sexes and seeks conformity to a model that is gender neutral.

This was more true during the ’60s and ’70s than it is today. Today’s feminist acknowledges the role of biology but contends that much of what seems to be biological differences are actually the result of socialization. The feminist goal is to free both men and women to be who they want to be, regardless of social expectations.

4. Feminism is anti-male. It promotes a world run by women to benefit women. Anything masculine is ridiculed and reviled.

Feminism may seem this way, especially to men, because it challenges the status quo and makes them feel threatened. No one likes change, let alone being forced to change, so there are often bad feelings between men and feminists. Man-hating, however, is not a feminist tenet.

5. Feminism is divisive. Not only does it drive wedges between men and women it also creates hostility between women who are married and unmarried, working and non-working, lesbian and straight, and mothers and childless.

Again, people tend to side with their own and to see everything through that group’s lenses. This is as true of feminists as it is of anyone. But the truth is, one of feminism’s main goals is to build bridges among all women, regardless of marital, parental or working status.

6. Feminism is anti-female. Traditionally female, that is. Women are not supposed to beautify themselves or act “like women” in any way for fear that they may be buying into the idea that they are sex objects and servants, i.e, male-oriented.

Not wanting to be seen as a sex object or manservant does not mean that feminists are anti-female. On the contrary, feminists believe that women don’t need to remake themselves to someone else’s specifications to be valued for who they are. Younger feminists are more likely to claim their right to be as “girly” as they want to be, as long as they are doing it for themselves and not because men won’t accept them otherwise.

7. Feminism is anti-life. It is pro-abortion. Enough said.

While this seems to be a clear-cut issue, it really isn’t. Feminists believe that all women should have decision-making power over their own bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are for abortion. Most feminists would be happy to decrease the number of abortions, as long as women aren’t forced to go through with unwanted pregnancies.

8. Feminism is anarchistic. It seeks to tear apart the very fabric of society. It is against all forms of authority, which it insists are male-dominated.

Feminism seeks wholeness for all people, but knows that change is often necessary to bring that into being. Change can seem like anarchy at times. And while feminists do not throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to authority, it does urge women to question the restrictions that are put upon them by others.

9. Feminism is anti-religious. Not only is it against religious values, it is also not sanctioned by any of the major religions.

Whether a woman can be religious and a feminist has been argued for ages. There are definitely clashes between religious and feminist values. But they are not insurmountable. Feminist ideology does not rule out being religious; it only seeks to sort out the parts of religion that are damaging to a woman’s well-being as well as to her relationship with God. And while religions may not come out and sanction feminism per se, most do uphold a person’s right to seek equality and human dignity.

10. Feminism is unnecessary.

This is an old, old argument. People have always insisted that women have it good, that they like things the way they are, that there is no need for emancipation. Tell that to the women who were “kept” by their husbands, who couldn’t own property or enter into contracts, who weren’t even allowed to vote until 144 years after the establishment of this country. Okay, you’re thinking, that was almost a hundred years ago; what do women have to bitch about now? Well, answering that question is the point of this blog–so keep coming back!

Anti-Princess Books

Mommy Track’d tells us about the Amelia Bloomer Project, which is dedicated to compiling yearly lists of non-sexist books for children and young adults. Check it out.

After the Election: The Role of Feminism

My husband asked me today what I was going to write about after the election. It’s true that most of my posts over the past few months have been about the Presidential campaign. In fact, you could even say that the election got me off my duff and got me energized enough to write for this blog. My first “political” post was on May 6th of this year and I only had two other posts before that. So I would say that, yes, the election has breathed new life into my blog and has caused me to think more deliberately about the role of women in this society.

Hillary Clinton was the trigger. How could I be a feminist and not respond to her campaign for the Democratic nomination? It was a historic moment and one long-awaited by Second Wave feminists. It made me think not only of women’s place in politics, but also of the differences between Second Wave and Third Wave feminists, since their support for the nominees split almost equally among those for Clinton and those for Obama.

And then there was Sarah Palin. If for nothing else, I will remember her fondly for stirring the feminist waters, making us ask questions like how does a successful woman mix family and work, and can one be a feminist and be against abortion. Because I think the feminist waters need to be not just stirred but churned. Feminists these days need to be asking tough questions about themselves and others. What does make one a feminist? What is the party line for feminism? The feminist ideology? The feminist identity? How do we forge bonds between all facets of the feminist movement? How do we forge bonds between feminists and all women?

Then there is the place of feminism in society. What power for good or for ill has feminism wielded in this country and around the world? What is its role today? What should be its role in the future? What influence has it had in the lives of women–and not just feminist women? How has it changed their lives, and the lives of men and of children? How has it transformed the workplace, the marital bed, the church, the government, the schools?

Feminism, like society, is always changing. That’s because it’s not a force outside of society, but one very intrinsic to society’s inner workings. What a woman thinks of herself and her various roles makes a big difference in what kind of society we have and continue to shape. If she demeans herself, who will protect her children? How will she make herself safer and stronger? Feminism means not having or waiting for someone to do it for you. It also means finding the ways that all woman can contribute to making this a better world to live in. Feminism means not stopping to function–and to care–after the election is over.

Katha Pollitt on Sarah Palin

The rest of the world is watching us as our presidential election winds down. Der Spiegel, a foremost German news magazine, ran an interview on October 24th with Katha Pollitt, American poet, feminist, activist and columnist about her views on Sarah Palin. Here are parts of the interview:

SPIEGEL: For the first time in American history, both parties have had viable female contenders in their Presidential campaigns — Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Sarah Palin is now running for Vice President. Does that represent progress for women?

Pollitt:I can answer that in two very different ways. In some long-view world historical sense, I could say: We might look back in 500 years and realize that 2008 was the year that women began to come into their own in American politics. But right now I see it a little differently. Hillary Clinton was a candidate who represented a certain liberal feminism. If she had become president, our abortion rights would have been safe. Clinton would have made sure that the anti-discrimination laws were enforced, and she would have financed a lot of programs that are good for women.

SPIEGEL: What about Sarah Palin?

Pollitt:With her, we would get the opposite. Other than in terms of her “girls can do anything” image, I don’t see that her political goals will do female voters any good.

SPIEGEL: Sometimes even female politicians who don’t consider themselves feminists can provide a positive influence: Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a role model for many younger women who showed that women can wield power successfully.

Pollitt:Margaret Thatcher never said, “Vote for me because I am a wife and mother.” On the contrary, she didn’t present herself as relatable at all: She was the iron lady. Thatcher never made anything of her looks, she made very few concessions to conventional notions of femininity. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is all about those notions. She represents a very old image for America, the tough but beautiful frontier woman with a gun in one and and a baby in the other.

SPIEGEL: Still, Republicans are hoping to use Sarah Palin to attract female voters who were carrying Hillary Clinton’s torch …

Pollitt:I don’t think there are so many of these women, and I have looked pretty hard for them. You have a small group of Hillary fans who are extremely vocal. They really believe that Hillary Clinton was robbed of a nomination that was rightfully hers. These women have a whole narrative that puts the blame for Hillary’s loss on some combination of party skullduggery and media sexism. But most female Palin voters will be conservative white women who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the race so far, and who identify with Palin. But they would have voted Republican anyway, if they had voted at all.

For the entire interview, click here.