Arizona, Aliens, and Abortion


What do two laws recently signed by the Republican Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, have in common?  Both unreasonably invade the privacy rights of human beings.  Both laws treat some people as more “alien” and less human than others.

The most talked-about law, SB 1070, makes it a crime to be a woman (or a man) walking or breathing in Arizona without the right identity papers.   SB 1070 effectively legalizes racial profiling and definitively authorizes the police to require anyone–anyone at all–to show evidence that they are not “aliens.”  That word choice is sickeningly ironic, since fear and hatred  for people who don’t look, speak, and act the way that the dominant group thinks they should have inspired this legislation.  And it gets worse!  The law actually allows any Arizonan who thinks that the browner people in the State have not been sufficiently interrogated to bring a lawsuit.

The second law, SB 1305,  is being called a “mini-Stupak” and is the first in the nation to prohibit insurers in the state-run health care exchange “from providing coverage for abortions unless the coverage is offered as a separate optional rider for which an additional insurance premium is charged.”  Mcjoan, writing on the Daily Kos, notes that his bill

prevents insurers from offering abortion services, except under the most extreme circumstances, even if only private money were used to pay for those services. Most if not all women in the exchange would only be able to purchase coverage through an impractical, separate abortion “rider” or leave the exchange entirely and find coverage in the shrinking individual health insurance market. Since it’s unlikely that many insurers will offer abortion riders or that women will purchase them in anticipation of needing an abortion — in fact, “in the five states where abortion riders are currently required, no insurance company offers them” — the Arizona law will severely disadvantage poorer women who would likely have to pay out of pocket for abortion services.

Immigrants are often the poorest people.  This law makes it even harder for immigrant and other women of poor means to make their own choices about their reproductive health.  It effectively forces some women who have gotten pregnant to stay that way.

Let’s just forget about how economically foolish it is to pass a law that will result in the expansion of the very population that the xenophobic racists in the state would like to reduce, and consider the way that both laws invade the privacy of individuals.

Our legal tradition places an incredibly high value on bodily integrity.  Over 100 years ago, the US Supreme Court stated:

No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right to every individual to the possession and control of his [sic] own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by a clear and unquestionable authority of law.  As well said by Judge Cooley, “The right to one’s person may be said to be a right of complete immunity: to be let alone.”

[cit. Susan Bordo, "Are Mother's Persons?" in Unbearable Weight(UC Press, 1993)]

The women and men who voted for the laws that Governor Brewer signed recently violate the basic right to “be left alone” that the Supreme Court acknowledged so long ago.

Anyone who looks like an “alien,” who doesn’t walk and talk in a way that pleases an Arizona officer of the law has now just lost the right to the possession and control of his or her own person and bodily integrity.  As Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)  exclaimed,

This is a slide back on the rights of each and every American,…Arizona has become ‘a show me your papers’ state. I read the Arizona law, and it’s just replete with the type of broad descriptions that invite discrimination, that invite racial profiling, that invite violations of constitutional rights and civil rights.

The anti-choice legislation that Brewer signed makes it legal for insurance companies to  treat women as less than human than men, who do not need to sign any special riders for legal, medical procedures that can only be performed on men, such as a vasectomy, or treatments for testicular cancer.  Abortion is legal in the United States of America, and insurance companies should not be allowed to discriminate against women by treating procedures that only women undergo differently than procedures than only men undergo.

The Arizona legislation is designed to invade women’s privacy and to prevent women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies.

So are two anti-choice laws recently passed in Oklahoma.  The governor of that state, Brad Henry, a Democrat, vetoed both laws.  The legislature voted to override.  One of them requires a doctor or technician to set up an ultrasound monitor so the woman can see the fetus before she aborts it.  The doctor or technician must then describe its heart, limbs and organs.  No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.  This legislation is designed to torment and punish a woman for exercising her constitutional right to choose.

The other law, as Governor  Henry explained, grants “a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform pregnant women in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on a patient.”  It protects doctors who withhold information about the disability or malformation of the fetus from suing after birth.

Let us not forget what the anti-choicers are after:  they want to force every women who gets pregnant, no matter how, to stay pregnant.

They want to the law to reflect their belief that women’s bodies are nothing more than incubators, and that a woman’s body, faith, rationality, psychological and/or physical well-being are secondary to the so-called “right to life” of a mass of cells.

This theologically driven agenda treats the fetus–or even a zygote–as a “human being” endowed with “rights” that override the rights of a living, breathing adult woman.   Susan Bordo refers to this way of thinking as the “subjectification of fetal being” that points out that it amounts to an attack on the personhood of women:

The nature of pregnancy is such …that to deprive the woman of control over her reproductive life–whether by means of involuntary or coerced sterilization, court-ordered cesarean, or forbidden abortion–is necessarily also to mount an assault on her personal integrity and autonomy (the essence of personhood in our culture) and to treat her merely as pregnant res extensa, material incubator of fetal subjectivity.

Anti-choicers who subscribe to this thinking deliberately disregard the beliefs, choice, health, and well-being of the mother while they elevate  the thing inside of her to the status of a “super subject” whose alleged rights supercede her own.

Anti-choicers treat the mother as the “alien” or the “thing” whose rights are less meaningful than the fetus inside. They  elevate their will and desires over the will and desires of those others.  In short, they regard pregnant women as “aliens” whose rights to breathe, walk, work, and make choices are non-existent in comparison to the rights of the narrow-minded people who  change the laws.

What have the people of Arizona have just shown us?  that it’s not just Mexicans, Latinos, and other darker-skinned people  whom they treat  as less than human “aliens,” but also women, especially mothers.

Looking for work or having a baby? Leave the country: The Global Gender Gap


Of all the interesting and depressing statistics that the authors of a recent Newsweek essay on sexism at work–U.S. men still earn 20 per cent more than U.S. women do–the following seemed most important to reiterate:

The Global Gender Gap Index—a ranking of women’s educational, health, political, and financial standing by the World Economic Forum—found that from 2006 to 2009 the United States had fallen from 23rd to 31st, behind Cuba and just above Namibia.

The report measures how countries distribute their resources and opportunities between women and men.  That means it also measures how various countries continue to treat women as less than human beings.   It measures “hard” statistics in four “pillars” of civilization:

  1. economic participation and opportunity: “hard” statistics measuring what women and men get paid for relatively equal work; the ratio of women to men in positions of leadership (bosses) and workers;
  2. educational attainment: girls’ and boys’ access to education and literacy rates;
  3. political empowerment:  the ratio of women to men in positions at the highest levels of government;
  4. health and survival: life expectancy of women and men and  sex selection at birth.

Scores in each of these countries measure the level of sexual equality and freedom for women.  Women have more liberty in 33 countries than they do in the United States.

Women have the most liberty in the following countries: Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, S. Africa, Denmark, Ireland, Philippines, and Lesotho.

Women are least free in the following countries, in descending order: Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Mali, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Benin, Pakistan, Chad, Yemen.

Why does the U.S. score so low? The statistics don’t look so bad at first, especially when you look at education.

We’re at the number one spot, with Iceland, when it comes to literacy.  93 per cent of our girls and 92 per cent of our boys are in primary school.  96 per cent of our women get some education beyond high school, while only 68 per cent of our men do.   Still, gender equality in U.S. literacy rates is no greater than it is in Mongolia, Cuba, Honduras, Latvia, and Nicaragua, so it’s hard to brag.   Consider the fact that, in Kazakhstan, women hold 63 per cent of the tertiary (beyond high school) teaching positions, while only 45 per cent of the tertiary teachers in the US are women.

Men overwhelmingly dominate positions of authority in U.S. institutions of higher education. There.  We’re not feeling so smug now, are we?

Things also look  not too terrible in category one–employment.  After all, 69 per cent of US women work, compared to  81 per cent of U.S. men.  But the average woman makes only $25,613, which is paltry compared to the average man’s salary: $40,000.   In Iceland, where 83 per cent of the women work, and 89 per cent of the men (it seems the Scandinavians DO have a stronger work ethic in general), women earn $29,283 compared to $40,000 for men per year.   There are even statistically more women in positions of authority in the workplace–bosses, managers, and senior officials–in the US than in Iceland.

In short, fewer U.S. women have access to paid work, and those that do get paid a lot less for the same kind of work than in other countries. Men are still powerfully discriminating against women in the U.S. workplace.

It’s rather humbling–and quite infuriating–to find out that women in 16 other countries–including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Mozambique–have greater economic equality and opportunity, compared to men, than they do in the U.S.  Canada is way ahead of us in providing jobs and equal pay for women, and Uzbekistan is ahead of Canada.

When you get to category 4, political empowerment, it becomes very clear that men are making most of the laws in our country:  women hold only 24 per cent of our high-level (ministerial) office, while 76 per cent of the high-ranking officers are men.  In Iceland, women occupy 36 per cent of high-ranking positions.  But they have also had a female head of state for 16 of the last fifty years, while we have never had one.

What really brings the US down in this study of equality between men and women around the world?   You guessed it: our abysmal health care system.

Maternal morality rates are a very good indicator of how a country takes care of its people, especially women.

HAVING A BABY?  LEAVE THE COUNTRY:  Women are  more likely to die in childbirth in the U.S. than in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

11 out of every 100,000 women who give birth in the U.S. die.  In Iceland, 4 of every 100,000 women die.   Okay, so we’re way ahead of Yemen, where 430 out of every 100,000 women, or Nepal, where a startling 830 out of 100,000, die giving birth.

Humane health care is the sign of humane attitudes, not wealth:  Women who have children in the U.S. receive far less support from government and private sources (like employers) than they do in 39 other countries, including Guatemala, Barbados, Columbia, Mauritius, Mexico.

Here’s the really startling statistic that shows that our failure to provide health care results in many more teen mothers than in other countries:

In Iceland, as in all countries that offer universal health care, or nearly universal health care to its citizens, only 14 out of 1,000 adolescents give birth. In the U.S., where  religious extremists who oppose giving women their constitutional right to make their own health care decisions, 41 out of 1,000 adolescents have babies.

How many of those 15-19 year olds are ready to be mothers, do you think?  And what kind of health care are those new mothers and their children getting?  How likely are those children with babies to get a higher education? How likely are they to fall into poverty?

I’m still mad and I’m still writing.

The Hard Road to Freedom


What does it all mean?  And why am I still ANGRY?  Why are the National Organization of Women and NARAL, our nation’s strongest advocates for women women’s health, upset?

The mostly male members of the House and Senate managed to bring a little bit of sanity to our insane health care system last night.   With nearly all Republicans voting against health–which in my book amounts to the same thing as voting for death– the Democrats took a first and very timid step towards better health care for all Americans last night.  But they caved into right-wing demagoguery and big-business interests anyway.  When will they learn?

Here’s how this bill, if it is allowed to stand, will reduce the liberty of women in our country:

1.  It will severely curtail women’s access to abortion.  Employers and employees will now have to write two checks EVERY MONTH, one for health care, and another for an “abortion rider,” if they want to have coverage for abortion.

WHY THIS IS BAD:  Before the bill, 85 per cent of insurance companies covered abortion without stigmatizing it.  : it imposes new restrictions–burdens and cumbersome procedures–that will effectively limit women’s access to choose, which is exactly what the religious zealots and terrorists wanted all along.

2. It will effectively cement the power of the Hyde amendment, which is not an established part of the law, but rather a measure tacked on to the appropriations bill every year.  Why?  Because the President agreed to issue an executive order that will lending the weight of his office to the anti-abortion measures included in the bill.

WHY THIS IS BAD: It shows us that the guys in government are willing to trade away women’s rights to get what they want.  The end does not justify the means. By strengthening the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, this order weakens women’s constitutional right to choose to end unwanted or dangerous pregnancies.

3.  It will allow insurance companies in the health exchanges to discriminate against women and the elderly, most of whom are women, to charge women and the elderly more for health care –if the pool of people to be covered is greater than 100.

WHY THIS IS BAD:  It penalizes women for being female.  In the case of elderly women, who are poorer because they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace for their entire lives, it redoubles the penalty against women for being female.

4. It imposes cruel and unreasonable limits on health care coverage for immigrants.  Legal residents must wait a for five years to be eligible for Medicaid and other assistance, and undocumented workers cannot even use their own money to purchase health insurance through an exchange!

WHY THIS IS BAD: It’s racist and classist and backwards.  We are a nation of immigrants, and every one of us deserves equal access to health care.   And by the way–did you know that 25 per cent of all Black people in American immigrated to this country at the end of the 20th century?  So this policy is going to hurt, badly, at least 25 per cent of Black women in our country today. That’s shameful!

A good end does not justify bad means.  You can’t achieve justice for all by trading away the rights of some.

But WHY AM I STILL PISSED OFF?  Because religious extremists and religious terrorists are steadily eroding our basic freedoms!!!

Women have a basic right to bodily integrity and subjectivity.  By limiting our rights to the governance of our own bodies, by telling us that women do not have the ability or the freedom to choose what happens to their own bodies–a right they would never dare to take away from men–the lawmakers are attacking women’s fundamental rights to subjectivity, to personhood, to liberty.

I’m mad because these guys don’t care about my freedom, about my liberty–in fact they’ve shown me again and again that they’re perfectly happy to treat me as a less human than men, less entitled to basic freedoms than men.

Not enough Democrats and Pro-choice Republicans seem to be getting this message:  Women’s basic liberties are  falling under the monster-truck tires of the demagogues and the religious terrorists, who are determined to grind women into the mud.

These people are not just against health care, not just against abortion, they are against WOMEN.  (And on Stupak’s resolute disregard for women, especially for Nuns, see Jodi Jacobson).

And yes, some of these extremists and terrorists are women, but that means nothing.  Women have historically traded away their liberties in exchange for financial and emotional support from men–Women are not the only group of oppressed persons who believe what their oppressors tell them to believe, and who would rather take the lazy road of slavery than the hard road towards freedom.

Let’s all of us stop going along with the people who hate women.  Let’s all of us get on that road to freedom.

The sick men (and women) who want the middle class to be sick


What is with these guys? Why are they blocking legislation that would expand health-care coverage to people in the middle class, who are already paying taxes for it, and who need it?  As a new report from the non-partisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds, the health-care crisis in our country hits the working people, the middle class women and men who pay the taxes that keep this country going, harder than anyone else.  According to this report:

  • More middle-class Americans are uninsured.
    Nationwide, the total number of uninsured, middle-class people increased by more than 2 million since 2000, to12.9 million in 2008.
  • The average employee’s costs for health insurance rose, while income fell.
    Nationwide, the average cost an employee paid for a family insurance policy rose 81 percent from 2000 to 2008. During the same period, median household income fell 2.5 percent (adjusted for inflation).
  • Fewer people were offered, eligible for, or accepted insurance coverage through their jobs.
    As costs of health insurance premiums rose, some employers stopped offering coverage benefits to employees, or changed the criteria for employees’ eligibility. While most employers still paid the lion’s share of their employees’ insurance premiums, rising costs have been passed on to workers—with some choosing to drop insurance.

How many people do YOU know who have lost ground in the health care industry lately?  Just about everyone I know has.  How many people do you know who are miserably stuck in jobs in which they have never flourished, and never will, because they are afraid to lose their health insurance?   Think of how much more productive we would be as a society if people took and stayed in jobs because they liked the jobs, not because they needed health care, or because they know that if they leave, they’ll join the ranks of the unfortunate persons who, often for very trivial reasons, are tagged with “pre-existing conditions,” and who will never be able to afford private insurance? How well, how energetically, how creatively, how industriously, do you think the people who stay in stupid jobs they hate because they’re afraid to lose their employer-sponsored health care, do their jobs?

And why should employers have to pay?  How much more productive an economy do you think we’d have if small businesses didn’t have to pay health care premiums?  Think of the great county we could be if employers were not hampered in this broken system.

How can these guys in any kind of conscience, much less good conscience, stand up and block health care to millions of American people?  How can these people call themselves “representatives”?  Who are they representing?  Who are these mythical people they claim do not “want” health care reform?  Who does not need health care?  And how do you think these Republicans, and the few wacko Democrats who have been LYING about what the bill will do (as has been exhaustively demonstrated, the bill will not make federal tax dollars go to fund abortions) live with themselves?  How would you like to go down in history as the guy who was against health?  It’s kind of like going down in history as Hades, or Hitler, or Nero.

How can anyone be against health?  Why would anyone want to prevent sick people from getting medicine, treatment, and care?  How can these guys insist, which is what they are doing, that Americans who get sick (and that would be all of us, because we all get sick at some time or another), should STAY SICK?  Is this the voice of reason?  Is this the voice of sanity?  In what lunatic cosmos do these people live?  And why aren’t their constituents throwing these anti-health, pro-sickness bums out on their bums?

How are we supposed to recover from the worst economic depression that we have had in nearly 100 years, and get back to work, when we are sick because these guys don’t want us to have health care?  Why do they want us to be sick?  Don’t they think Americans deserve to have productive, healthy lives?

And they say they’re the party of fiscal sense?  In what universe does a country full of sick people who have been denied health care constitute a healthy economy?  These guys must be sick–they’ve been thinking out of the wrong end for so long that they’ve gone mad on the gas fumes.