Women’s Bodies Held Hostage = Election Year


2-day-old human embryo (zygote)

It’s election time, so once again, just like the swallows coming home to Capistrano and geese flying South for the Winter, women’s bodies are being held hostage. It’s predictable.

One of the first signs this election cycle was when word came that Obama voted to not give life-saving measures to babies who survive late-term abortions. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Obviously, this was a vote to assuage his potential evangelical voter base. However, after Sarah Palin entered the race, those voters, knowing they now had the real deal, swung back to McCain, whom they were hesitant to support previously. Obama’s vote “No” was meant as a protest against late term abortion. So, then if life prevailed, kill it anyway? This makes no sense whatsoever.

A more recent sign of the “election-year women’s-bodies-as-hostage cycle” is today’s news that Rep. Nancy Pelosi will be given some schoolin’ on Catholic Cathechism by the San Francisco Archdiocese. It seems that the House Speaker made some controversial statements about abortion following Sarah Palin’s VP nom. Nancy was trying to show that although she’s Catholic, she’s pro-choice, so as to distinguish herself from the smarmy pro-life Palin who would have us revert to back room abortions. To Nancy, her choice about choice was as plain as day, but the Catholic Church thought otherwise: her views approached heresy. It was even suggested that perhaps Pelosi should not be offered Holy Communion if she was going to be that way. The uproar is due to Pelosi’s statement that she didn’t know when life begins, and that no one, even the Catholic Church, can know for certain.

The Church has replied: oh no you dit-‘nt. The Church has stated unequivocally that life begins at conception.

Now, I’m going to state something very, very controversial for a pro-choicer: I agree in part with the Catholic Church — life begins at conception. You know those carriers of life, the swimming little sperm and the big egg? Ever see them under a microscope, magnified, like on film? They pulse, they move, they form a zygote whose cells multiply and divide. The zygote beats with the mother’s heart, and grows into an embryo as it receives nutrients. What the heck else do you call it? Any woman who’s carried a fetus, whether it’s been born or aborted, feels the life within her. Way beyond religion, to call it anything but life defies scientific definition.

I’ve done a lot, I mean a lot, of transformational work in the process of becoming a body-centered therapist. I’ve literally experienced my parents’ emotional and psychological states leading up to my conception. Let’s just say they weren’t happy and knew as soon as they got married that they didn’t want to be together. They were among those post-war couples who “stayed together for the kids.” So my personal work, which has taken a long time, years, has been to unburden myself from that first cause of being a burden, somebody’s fault for being stuck together. Please, don’t worry. I’m fine.

So why am I delving into my past in this oh-so-revealing way? Yes, this is anecdotal, but I’ve seen it over and over again in my clients — the affect of one or both parents being unhappy during pregnancy and perinatally. Any psychologist can tell many of these stories. Although science has barely caught up, our memory, our life experience lives in our bodies. I am saying that our cells, the zygote, the fetus, are conscious.

Here comes the really controversial part: anyone who’s ever had an abortion knows that she is terminating the life of a baby. Otherwise, it would just be like having a period. Bloop and that’s it. There wouldn’t be the severe emotionally distraught feelings of fear, guilt, sadness, and trauma. Although we are determined to have that choice, who has ever had an abortion and felt happy about it? The fact of the matter is: a woman knows she is choosing to end a life AND that it is her choice.

Have you ever heard this point? No. Instead a woman is forced to either deny that she is ending a life when she has an abortion, or if she admits to herself, God, and Country that she is ending a life, then abortion must cease to be available. Isn’t that what the entire debate has been about — forever? So, Nancy Pelosi, by gosh, you did do something while in Congress! You made me come out about this topic. I say that both are true, and I stand by my right to choose, over and above all.

Of course, as we all know, if men had babies, it wouldn’t even be a discussion. Birth control and every other thing about reproduction, pregnancy, birth, and abortion would be highly studied, bought and paid for, and designed for his maximum empowerment, comfort, and control. And life would begin at birth, including for the Catholic Church, although I guess women would be running it.

Women I know, who lived on my same long-time hippy commune, where our policy was “don’t have an abortion,” are now staunchly pro-choice like me. Our solution back then was: instead, carry the baby to full-term, and if upon giving birth you still don’t want it, a family will take care of it for you. If you ever decide you want the baby or child back, you can have it. Of course, this policy created its own set of problems, but it tried to solve the “life vs. abortion, preggers but don’t want the child” conundrum.

So, yes, it’s election year, and women’s bodies are once again being held hostage. And so are our brains. We have to pretend that a sperm, egg, zygote, and fetus are dead, so we can do what we want to do with our bodies and the life we create that grows within us. Running for top office, basically, we have four pro-lifers, who say they won’t impose their views on their governance. Their churches would have them do otherwise. (Disclaimer: as a Jew, I don’t claim to know a thing about the Catholic Church or any other.)

As could be expected, during the campaign Obama once again voted present with his statement that determining when life begins “is above [his] paygrade.” Well, he was caught in a woman’s situation, because he was speaking at evangelical, Rick Warren’s forum, and didn’t want to alienate either side of his lady voter base. He actually was right: it is above his paygrade, but that doesn’t excuse his choosing ambiguity for expediency’s sake. As a Democrat, he was expected to come down on the side of pro-choice, but then how could he in that venue and not be cast out?

Pro-choice leaders, orgs, and Democrats are threatening that we run for our lives, because a woman’s right to choose will be removed from the table if the Repubs win, what with SCOTUS conservative appointees and all. Pro-life women are happy, because a woman of their own beliefs may come to national power, and life at conception might be recognized. Either way, women have to fake it once again. If we admit that we’re harboring life and abort, we’re baby-killers, murderers, plain and simple. This would make repeal of Roe v. Wade a foregone conclusion. If we divorce our brains from our bodies so as to simulate a dead zone, well then, I guess we’re alright. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t making judgments and taking control of women’s bodies remind you of how it was for us during those Salem witch-huntin’ days?

Not pretty, but in the end, who bears the responsibility, the shame, the guilt? Whose bodies and lives are at stake and held hostage because of it? You guessed it. This is a messy deal, this living thing and all.

Although a bit of a jog off the path, a few more things about the judgmental attitudes that other people make about bodies and lives not their own: We exist on living things — whether a plant or an animal. Anyone who’s ever raised an animal, or had a pet for that matter, knows they’re conscious. Many gardeners speak to their plants, and research studies show that plants respond to music and human emotion. Gardeners would agree. Whatever we eat has to die so that we may live. If we rid ourselves of pesky pests like bugs, rodents, or wildlife, we are killing. If we go to war or order others to go, we may end up taking a life or helping others to do so. Buddhists would have us not kill at all. In choosing what we eat and how we live, we are also choosing whether something or someone will live or will die.

In other words, to judge women as reckless for a choice about their own bodies denies the fact that in each moment we make life and death decisions.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

“5,000 Angry Feminists” – Part Deux

How we got here —

Recommended: VH1’s excellent, accurate, and enticing new Rock Doc series, “Sex: The Revolution” airing late nights this weekend and upcoming. I saw bits and pieces (sic) last and Thursday night. It’s broken into segments, and VH1’s web info focuses on the sexy parts. But, actually, it’s truly a beautifully documented telling of the sexual revolution–“how it used to be” and what we were rebelling against. It gives fun, historical context to how and why each decade rebelled, beginning with the 1950s baby boomers. It shows the effects and counter effects of the Viet Nam War, Reagan’s politics, free love, birth control/The Pill, reproductive rights, psychedelics, recreational drugs, spirituality, pornography, women’s lib, encounter groups, communes, more, and yes lots of sex in multiple flavors. It shows how a new generation was completely rethinking their value system about sex, which was free and sometimes spiritual.

However, in progressive meetings about stopping the war, women found that they were still making the copies, getting the coffee, and handy for sex. In one segment Gloria Steinem reminisced about the “The Sexual Revolution” in Ms. Magazine’s first issue: All it did was make more women available to men–they still felt unequal.

In one segment, a man recounts how women in the early 1970s began organizing, first about women’s right to choose. Then after opening a Times Square office in New York City, feminists began taking on the porn industry that had taken over the area. They began marching through the streets of Times Square, “waving banners and fists.” They spoke out against the porn industry’s objectification of women and being portrayed as bound, raped, murdered, and beaten, which was supposed to be sexy. (I’m not talking about consensual kinky play here, people, okay.) Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were leading the charge.

In the documentary, the interviewee recounted amazedly that “5,000 angry feminists” burst out into the streets and were marching. Somehow that phrase stuck with me. The series is a great history lesson and reminder of how and why we got here, where we’ve come from, and how much we have yet to go, so don’t miss it.

Sometimes these days I feel like 5,000 angry feminists . . . times a thousand. Actually, 5,000 angry feminists times 1,000 equals 5 million, which is less than one third the number of people who have voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries so far. Having felt ripped off this week by NARAL’s endorsement of Obama, then feeling a bit better with the subsequent affiliates’ support of her, and condemnation by Emily’s List of NARAL, I was pleased to read that the NWPC–the women who marched for our sexual and reproductive freedom in the sixties and seventies–are standing for Hillary now, because of her solid track record about those causes:

May 16, 2008–

Statement by Lulu Flores, President of National Women’s Political Caucus

The National Women’s Political Caucus is disappointed to learn of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s endorsement of Senator Obama. The Caucus knows Hillary Clinton to be a clear leader and a consistent champion of the issues that NARAL and NWPC have in common. We believe that this announcement will divide the choice community at a time when we need to stand united.

As a lawyer, advocate, First Lady, and Senator, Hillary Clinton has stepped up and stood out on matters important to women. When it comes to each woman’s ability to make the most personal of life decisions, Hillary has been a consistent and reliable advocate for a woman’s right to choose. In fact, she has received numerous awards from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

  • Senator Clinton condemned the Supreme Court’s April 2007 decision to allow the government to dictate to women what they can and cannot do about their own health.
  • She has championed the Prevention First Act, which expands access to family planning services for low income women.
  • She is an original co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, federal legislation that would guarantee the right to choose for future generations of women.
  • In partnership with Senator Murray, Senator Clinton waged a successful battle to get the Food and Drug Administration to make Plan B (the “morning after” pill) available over the counter. This was one of the biggest accomplishments of the pro-choice advocacy community in years.
  • Senator Clinton made it very clear when she stood on the Senate floor to voice her opposition to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito that one of her major concerns was to keep intact Roe v. Wade. While Senator Obama was also opposed to the nomination of Roberts and Alito, he never mentioned the preservation of Roe v. Wade.

NWPC members in 30 chapters throughout the country join me to say that we are disappointed to learn of NARAL’s endorsement of Senator Obama, and that we stand firm in our support and commitment to the candidacy of Senator Hillary Clinton for President.

That’s strong, and I applaud them. From their website, here’s the history of the NWPC:

The National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) was founded in 1971 for the express purpose of promoting women’s participation in both elected and appointed government offices on the national, state, and local levels; supplying political expertise to female office-seekers; and supporting women already holding political office.

Among NWPC’s founders were Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan. The group held its first convention in 1973 and elected Frances Farenthold, onetime Texas state legislator, as its first President that same year.

The organization founded by the very same women who championed our sexual and feminist freedom are standing with Hillary Clinton now. Let’s remember and honor them, how we got here, and Hillary’s strong stand in furthering women, children and babies’ health, economic equality, and reproductive rights in our nation and the world.