OK, look, I really try to stay out of the political fray because I suspect that engaging in online discussions rarely changes anybody's mind-most of the people reading you are either there because they are already of a similar mind or else they're just there to fight. Generally people get pissed off, somebody gets compared to Hitler, and the whole thing goes downhill. So...blech. (If you've already read my The 47% post or my Gay Marriage post, you can skip ahead to paragraph five, after the line break). I don't like confrontation, and unless I already know your position and know that you agree with me, I'd rather not let you in on mine lest you think I'm an idiot, or, worse yet, decide to spend the next hour telling me why I'm an idiot. But I have to do this. I never thought I would say this, but there are things going on in this election that I have literally been losing sleep over, and I feel like if I don't put this out there I will have failed in some way. I promise I will do my best to be thoughtful and respectful and reign in my snark, and I expect you to do the same.
This started because, to my surprise, I kept seeing my Facebook friends "liking" Mitt Romney. Well, not totally to my surprise-I knew there would be a few-but some of them were a surprise. If you came here from Facebook, I know you (at least a little), I like you, and we probably have a lot of shared experiences in one way or another, so how are we seeing this thing so differently? I want to ask "What are you thinking???" but that tone generally doesn't engender useful conversation, and I'm tired of all the comments (on both sides) along the lines of "If you support [the other guy] you're an idiot! Sorry if you don't like my opinions, but it's a free country and I can say all the vitriolic, non-constructive, name-calling things that I want to. Don't forget to go to the polls on Nov. 6th! (Unless you're voting for the other guy-LOL!) (Also, my football team RULES!!! And yours SUCKS!!!)" (That last part doesn't have anything to do with the other--I just think it's annoying).
So, I wanted to take the time to explain why I feel the way that I feel. I don't really expect to change anybody's mind, but if there's anybody out there who's still on the fence, or who isn't interested in voting for their own sake, I do hope that I can help convince you to vote on behalf of me, your fellow American. Even if I don't, even if you know right here and now that there is NO WAY that is going to happen, I hope you'll still read, so that you at least understand where I'm coming from. And I do hope you'll comment to explain your side of things or to ask me questions. I just ask that if you're going to comment, you read all the way through to the end before doing so and keep everything civil, relevant, and thoughtful.
I plan of voting Democratic this election cycle, not because I am stauchly pro-Democratic or because my family has always voted Democratic (honestly, I don't even know if my family ever voted). The fact of the matter is, I like Barack Obama, but more than that, I can't stomach the things that I keep hearing from the Republican party. According to GOP.com, the Republican party was all about things like abolition, free speach, and women's suffrage back in the day, and those are all things I can get behind. They say that, "With a core belief in the primacy of individuals, the Republican Party, since its inception, has been at the forefront of the fight for individuals' rights in opposition to a large, intrusive government." So, what happened?
Warning: This is loooong, but it's all really important to me, so if you're reading this, I really appreciate it. This is not a plea for you to vote for Obama, but, at the very least, it is a plea for you to please NOT vote for the men mentioned below. They are prepared to take away the existing rights, or, at the very least, limit health-care coverage, of literally every woman of child-bearing age in this country (by the way, according to my calculations*, that's approximately 95,000,000 women), and they are doing it carelessly, thoughtlessly, and based on information that is flat out wrong.
I can't think of anything more intrusive than a government telling you that you cannot marry the person of your choice or telling you that you must have a child against your wishes. I tackled the first one in a previous post; now let's talk about that second one.
I know that whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, your position is probably pretty well-ingrained, and I'm not likely to change your mind here. I think everyone should absolutely find a representative who supports her views and vote her conscience on this. My plea this election cycle is this: If you are going to vote to restrict someone else's choices based on your beliefs, at the very least, make sure that the person representing you knows why they are trying to do so and understands the facts relating to that decision.
I think by now, we've all heard about Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's reprehensible "legitimate rape" comments. Just in case you haven't, here you go.
Now, maybe he did misspeak-I will give him the benefit of the doubt and allow that maybe he meant rape of the forceful, non-consensual kind, and not statutory rape, which could be consensual and not forceful. To be fair, I'm not sure how you briefly make that distinction without sounding like a jackass (I think maybe we should get rid of the term statutory rape altogether but that's a whole separate argument). Either way, his statement implies that if you are a victim of rape and you become pregnant it is somehow your fault. You failed as a woman to "shut that whole thing down." Also, does this imply that if you become pregnant you weren't actually raped? Wow, now you're a failure AND a liar. Wait, maybe you're only a failure OR a liar. Either way, way to handle your rape, loser. Besides, it's not like it's going to be an unexpected cost or burden to you; you might still be able to finish your education and afford to care for your new baby. If not, there's always welfare assistance, and I know most Republicans are big fans of that! Seriously, what happens in these scenarios? Does the law go after the rapist for child support? Maybe he gets your address so he can send you a check every month? Does he get visitation rights for the next 18 years? No, honestly, how does this go forward? Eve Ensler wrote an open letter to Akin that I think every politician should have to read.
Actually, let's go back to that statutory rape thing for a second. I think having terms like rape and statutory rape is where you end up with problems like the misunderstandings and hurt feelings brought about by Wisconsin Representative Roger Rivard's comments about girls who "rape so easy." He wasn't saying that some girls are easier to rape than others. Because that would have been insensitive. In response to a case regarding a 17-year old high school boy who was being charged with sexual assault for having sex with a 14-year old girl, he was just sharing a story about how his dad warned him that consensual sex with your girlfriend can turn into "rape" if the girl gets pregnant and doesn't want to take responsibility. *sigh* Look, again, I will go way, way out on a limb here and say that maybe Roger Rivard is not the creep that this statement makes him out to be. Roger Rivard could be a perfectly nice guy who just happens to have a dad that's kind of an inarticulate creep. Either way, the fact that he didn't have the good judgment not to share that story in public, makes me question his leadership and decision making skills.
Shortly after the Akin dust-up, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith, was asked about his position on abortion exceptions. He then proceeded to explain that, to a father, finding out that your little girl accidentally got herself knocked up without being married is the same as finding out that someone held her down and forced her to have sex with him. You can listen to the audio, but there's a lot of background noise, so I've gone through and done my best to provide an accurate transcript of the Q&A here:
Reporter: Hey, Tom...Tom? In light of Congressman Akin's comments is there any situation that you think a woman should have access to abortion?
Smith: My stance is on record and it's very simplistic. I'm pro-life, period. And what that congressman said, uh, I do not agree with at all. He should have never said anything like that.
Reporter: So in cases of incest or rape?
Smith: No exceptions.
Reporter: How would you tell a daughter or granddaughter that, who, who, God forbid would be the victim of a rape to keep the child against her own will? Is that, is that something that you would...do you have a way to explain that?
Smith: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views, but, um...fortunately for me, I didn't have to...she chose the way I thought. Now don't get me wrong it wasn't rape.
Reporter: Similar how?
Smith: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.
Reporter: That's similar to rape?
Smith: No, no, no, but, uh...put yourself in a father's position, yes, I mean it is similar. [emphasis mine]
The conversation moves on to other issues before a reporter brings the conversation back around to Smith's previous comments.
Reporter: Can I just ask you to clarify one more time the question that [the other reporter] asked you? Did I just hear you say that having a child out of wedlock is analogous to rape?
Smith: No, I did not say that.
Reporter: You did say that.
Second Reporter: You did say it, sir.
(mumbly, panicky kerfuffle)
Smith: I said I went through a situation...
Reporter: With your daughter, with a daughter?
Smith: Yes, and it's very very difficult. But, do I condone rape? Absolutely not. But I propose life, yes I do. I'm pro-life, period.
Reporter: So what is the similarity between those two, in other words? It's just that there's a decision involved?
Smith: A life. There's a life that needs protecting. Who's going to protect it? We have to. I mean that's...I believe life begins at conception. I'm not going to argue about the method of conception. It's life, and I'm pro-life. It's that simple.
Smith's spokeswoman later clarified that "the situation" wasn't with his daughter. No other details were given. So...Smith knows someone who once had a baby out of wedlock and that is as emotionally disturbing and frightening for him as if she'd been raped. Boy, that IS simple.
Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock would support a ban on abortions with exception for the life of the mother, but, like Smith, he believes that life begins at conception, "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." After a lot of backlash, he tried to backpedal by saying that he meant God intended the life, not the rape that caused it, and I believe him. I'm sure he never meant to say that God intends for anyone to be raped, but if you believe that God is responsible for all things, doesn't that include the rape? Why do you get to be the arbiter of what God intended and what he didn't? And if we, as a nation, have decided that God-intended rape is wrong, then how can we also say that the resulting pregnancy is right?
Joe Walsh, the Republican candidate for Illinois' 8th Congressional District, is also "pro-life without exception." After a recent debate with his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth, he clarified his position by saying that "There's no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing. With advances in science and technology, health of the mother has been, has become a tool for abortions any time and for any reason."
Mr. Walsh, have you seriously never heard of a mother's life or health being negatively impacted by a pregnancy? About women dying or being unable to conceive again due to complications of pregnancy or birth? Ectopic pregnancies (pregnancies outside of the womb) still happen fairly regularly. If a baby starts to grow inside a fallopian tube and the mother doesn't miscarry naturally, the tube will eventually rupture. The baby can't survive, and the mother's health would be at risk as well. Removal of the embryo through induced miscarriage or through surgery would, technically, be an abortion. As I understand it, Akin would at least allow for that, but Joe Walsh wouldn't even make that exception. He is so pro-life that it is worth risking the mother's life to save the baby's life. Even when there is no way for the baby to survive.
Republicans keep talking about The Dignity and Sanctity of Human Life, but I don't think that they apply it evenly across the board. They are all about the sanctity and dignity of a human life when it is a clump of cells without a heartbeat, but that concern seems to disappear when they are considering the women who already exist as a fully-formed human being.
I realize that it is probably a pretty rare situation in which a doctor ever has to say to a woman, "There are complications, and I can save you or I can save the baby, but I may not be able to save you both. You need to make a choice." I can't imagine being in that position, and unless you've been there, neither can you. You also can't assume that the decision that a married woman with no other children would be the same as a mother of three whose husband has just died in combat or from an illness...or from anything. Both of those women might have an equal respect for human life, but a married woman with no other children might say, "Try to save the baby. My husband will take good care of him." The mother of three might say, "I have three other children and nobody else to take care of them. I need you to try to save me." Are you really going to tell me that she doesn't have the right to make that decision, the decision to save the mother of her children? Again, I realize that this is probably an extremely rare situation, but if it were you or someone you knew, would you care about the statistics?
Tennessee Republican Scott DesJarlais who identifies himself as Pro-Life, recorded himself "pushing a woman--a patient he'd been sleeping with while working as a physician--to have an abortion, in hopes of showing the recording to his wife and saving his marriage." I don't even know where to start with this guy. Clearly, there are several issues here, but I think Stephen Colbert said it best when he said, that the Congressman is "adamantly against abortion except when it endangers the political life of the father."
These are the men who, if elected, will be making policy for the women they represent and possibly influencing federal policy, thereby affecting all women. These are men who are either so delusional about their right to power over women or are so sure of their religiously-guided stances surrounding situations that they will NEVER have to deal with personally that they are willing to impose it on all the women they represent and possibly even those they don't.
I am begging the ladies of Missouri, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and Tennessee, to please vote in this election. I can't imagine that these are really the guys that you want representing you. Even if you are a Republican, is party affiliation worth keeping someone like this in power? Do these men illustrate your party's platform of a non-intrusive government that's fighting for individual rights and the sanctity and dignity of human life? If so, then...I don't know what else I can say. Thanks for reading this far, I guess; and if you've read this far, then I hope you'll at least hear me out to the end.
Men, you have a say in this too. Is this how you want the women in your lives treated. If your daughter came to you one day, crying, telling you that she had been raped and that, on top of having been physically violated, emotionally scarred, possibly infected with HIV or some other sexually-transmitted disease, was also scared that she might be pregnant, who would you want making the decisions about what to do next? Do you want the Todd Akins of the world telling her that if she's a real woman she will just "shut that whole thing down" and she won't have anything to worry about?
What if your wife came home and said she had been raped. Would you both be looking forward to the baby that might be growing in her belly right now (squee!)? Do you want the Richard Mourdocks and Tom Smiths out there telling her (and you) what a miracle this is and how blessed she should feel to be carrying and then giving birth to her rapist's child? I'm not saying that every woman would opt for abortion in these situations-I understand that some women might choose to keep a baby in these circumstances, but shouldn't they be the ones who get to make that choice?
I know that adoption is always a possibility too, and one that Republicans are pushing for, but, again, that forces a woman to carry a baby that she may not want to carry and then leaves her to deal with the emotional aftermath of having given up her child. No matter how sound the reasoning behind it, no matter how sure you are that it's the best, least-worst decision, I'm sure that leaves a mark on your heart. I read a book a few years ago called The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, and if you think giving up a child is no big deal, I would encourage you to read this book.
What if your sister called you, excited because she thought she might be pregnant and a couple weeks later called to say that it's a tubal pregnancy. The baby implanted in the fallopian tube and unless she miscarries naturally, it might burst her tube. Aside from any pain this may cause it may also reduce her chances of getting pregnant in the future. She's disappointed and scared and wants to have the developing fetus removed. Do you want Joe Walsh telling her that A) She's crazy-these types of things don't happen, B) she should stop trying to use the "health of the mother" excuse as a "tool" to get an abortion, and C) She can't. She's just going to have to wait and hope that she miscarries naturally. If that doesn't happen, then she'll just have to wait until the baby gets big enough to rupture her fallopian tube and once it finally dies, then a doctor can go in and scrape out the necrotic tissue. I'm sure Mr. Walsh will keep his fingers crossed for you that sepsis hasn't set in by then and that that ruptured fallopian tube doesn't make it harder for her to conceive next time! Even if Republicans don't succeed in banning abortion, they will try to exclude funding for health-care which provides abortion services. Technically, this would fall into that category. So, ha! Even if you do manage to get your "medically necessary" abortion, you're still going to have to pay for it yourself.
Look, I've never had to make a decision regarding abortion, but I'd like to know that in the future, if I ever find myself in a situation where my pregnancy might kill me (physically or spiritually), I would have the right to decide what to do about it, and I would hope that all the other women in my life would have the same choice.
*I made my calculations based on information from the 2010 U.S. Census using number from the Resident Population by Sex and Age table and included females in age categories "10 to 14 years" through "50 to 54 years". Even if you moved the lower and upper age brackets to just include women between ages 15 to 49, you would still be talking about almost 74,000,000 women.