Out of the Mouths of Babes

The Oklahoma legislature is poised to deal a major blow to non-profits and faith-based organizations who help administer the WIC program.  The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is a federally-funded, state-administered nutrition service for low-income women, infants and children under five.  WIC subsidizes nutritious foods, infant formula, education on healthy eating and breastfeeding, and screening and referrals for other health and welfare services.

On average in 2010, Oklahoma WIC clinics provided 133,002 low-income mothers $37.18 dollars in food and formula each month.  WIC clinics are operated by health departments, tribal governments, faith-based organizations, community health centers and non-profits.  For instance, the clinic in Variety Health Center in south Oklahoma City serves an average of 8,066 low-income women and children each month.  The Edmond Ministerial Alliance’s Hope Center Health Clinic serves 1,611 average monthly participants.

Rep. Jason Murphey amended SB 709, a senior nutrition bill, to prohibit non-profits and faith-based organizations in Tulsa and Oklahoma county from administering WIC benefits to thousands of women and children across the state.  Section 2 of SB 709 creates new law that stipulates:  [Read more...]

Dexter’s Raped Crusader

If you’re not a fan of the show (or familiar with the premise), here is a quickie overview:  Dexter Morgan is a Miami Homicide blood spatter analyst AND serial killer who has honed his expertise in the service of vigilante justice.  We love him.  In Season 5, Dexter inadvertently saves a young woman from a gang of sadists holding her captive.  Enter Lumen, expertly played by Julia Stiles, the latest addition to a cast of narcissists, sociopaths and dysfunctionals.

Lumen relays her experiences with her captors to Dexter and enlists his help in revenge-murdering the pack of creeps who raped and tortured her.  There is a lot of duality in the revelation of Lumen’s character so far – broken/empowered, victim/survivor, docile/dangerous.  The complement to Dexter is believably developed:  we excuse Dexter for being a serial killer because he targets the unforgivably evil and we excuse Lumen for being vindictive and bloodthirsty because she only targets her rapists. [Read more...]

Kagan Kerfuffle Exposes the Subtle Class Bias of Military Recruiting

John McCain’s editorial on the Kagan nomination got me thinking.  At issue, her move as dean of Harvard Law School denying military recruiters access to the campus Career Services Office.  McCain cites one beleaguered recruiter complaining that without this access, they were “relegated to wandering the halls in hopes that someone will stop and talk to us.”

Funny, recruiters have no problem meeting recruiting targets by wandering the halls (or streets, parks, gas stations, malls, and Wal-Marts) in low-income communities cruising for teenagers to sign on the dotted line.  Of course, there is less competition in this arena than in the post-grad job market of a Harvard law student, whose student body emerges equipped with a world-class education, awesome earning potential, and is still majority white, almost 70%.  McCain bristles at the thought of “white-shoe law firms” recruiting students, but not “one of its great institutions, the U.S. military.”

The damage done to military recruiting efforts by Kagan’s decision is a chimera, but the opportunity to resurrect a tired (and frankly a little pathetic) narrative of God & Country was too hard for Senate conservatives to resist.  When the best and the brightest (read: richest and whitest) don’t roll out the red carpet for military recruiters, it is an insult to the pedigree of military-political careerism and chickenhawks everywhere.  And John McCain won’t stand for it.

The Irony of Ultrasound Legislation

5 states now require providers to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortions, with several other states encouraging women to do so via counseling/consent provisions.  Pro-life proponents of this expensive, unnecessary, and patronizing requirement hope that viewing a fetal image will dissuade women from choosing their choice.  Au contraire.

The New York Times reports that out of 254 women at 2 British Columbia clinics, none reversed their decisions to terminate as a result of viewing an ultrasound.  Zero.  At an Alabama clinic, patients and providers report that ultrasounds helped ease the decision to abort:

In some instances, the ultrasounds have affected women in ways not intended by anti-abortion strategists. Because human features may barely be detectable during much of the first trimester, when 9 of 10 abortions are performed, some women find viewing the images reassuring.

“It just looked like a little egg, and I couldn’t see arms or legs or a face,” said Tiesha, 27, who chose to view her 8-week-old embryo before aborting it at the Birmingham clinic. “It was really the picture of the ultrasound that made me feel it was O.K.

Remember,  61% of abortions in the U.S. are obtained by women who already have one or more children:

Like other patients, Laura, who has a 17-year-old son, said she took offense at the state’s implicit suggestion that she had not fully considered her choice.

“You don’t just walk into one of these places like you’re getting your nails done,” she said. “I think we’re armed with enough information to make adult decisions without being emotionally tortured.”

Oklahoma Poet: “Pleading for relief from your morality”

Lauren Zuniga performs a poem for Oklahoma legislators.  Get it, girl.

Kagan’s Choice Bona Fides?

The Kagan media narrative is picking up steam.  I remind myself that it’s just that:  a narrative.  As we await the impending confirmation-hearing-circus, let’s evaluate what we’re being told about the nominee:

  • You can find articles written by, and video clips featuring, Elena Kagan here.
  • She has not spoken publicly about her sexuality and, frankly, neither do most politicians, bureaucrats, and career civil servants.  Yet the blogosphere is buzzing.
  • She once wrote a now infamous memo advising Clinton to support a ban on partial birth abortions.  A strategic (and successful) political move, suggested by then-strategist Kagan, for a White House with a strong pro-choice record.
  • The House Pro-Choice Caucus finds Kagan’s record “troubling,” but witholds judgement pending confirmation hearings.

My gut says Kagan is a diehard feminist for choice, just like the President that nominated her.  I strongly suspect she is progessive to the core, but shhhhh…

Stay tuned.  Hearings set to begin June 28th.

The Dreaded ‘R’ Word: Choice & Responsibility

Every semester I ask my students to write an essay and describe their ‘personal political identities’, giving policy positions as examples.  Abortion is a popular issue.  Oklahoma is a rural, conservative, and devoutly religious state.  My class is comprised mostly of Freshmen taking their required Govt credit.  Given this, I’m always surprised (impressed?) by the nuance and ambiguity of their abortion opinions.  Yet, there is one thought meme that keeps appearing that really burns my biscuits (I stole that euphemism from Serena and I’m not giving it back).

Most think its wrong, but are uncomfortable with the idea that it should be illegal.  Most contain underlying currents of respect for individuals’ right to control their bodies free from government interference.  The one argument that they write again and again is not about the bible, or murder, or the sanctity of life, but about personal responsibility. It goes a little something like this (paraphrasing here):

It just isnt right that people should be allowed to act however they want and not have to face the consequences.  If you are old/responsible enough for sex, then you should be old/responsible enough for a baby.  The fact that people think abortion is okay means they just sleep around and don’t care.  This encourages promiscuity/irresponsibility and thats bad for society. [Read more...]

Talking About Choice with Men

A few nights ago, I gave a new acquaintance a ride home after a party, and before I knew it I was in the middle of an abortion heart-to-heart.  I felt a little out of my element talking about abortion with (a) a man (b) a man I didn’t know well and (c) a man I had a lil’ bit of a crush on.

He talked about living with his first love and girlfriend for a few years, and then breaking up over an abortion that he was against.  It was clear that even though it had occurred some time ago, he was still broken up about it.  I asked if the experience upset him so much because he was staunchly pro-life in general, or in love with his girlfriend and ready for a baby.  He answered he, ‘just knew what was right’.  So, yeah I don’t really know what that means.

Help me out choice feminists!  I don’t really have a good angle on talking to men who have experienced abortion and were not in agreement with their partner.  Any experience with this?  I was tempted to say ‘imagine how much worse it would be if you didn’t have any say in the matter and the baby was in your uterus’…but I didn’t want to sound flippant.  Besides he didn’t at all question her ultimate right to choose or stand in her way, just at a loss for where he belonged in the situation.

Also, would you date a pro-life dude?  My policy has always been N-O, but I find this guy pretty terrific in every other capacity….help!

Outsmarting Bible-thumpers! Talk Choice like a (Religious) Pro


Engaging in a biblical debate about abortion might seem a little ridiculous if you do not, in fact, believe in God or the Bible.  But you’ll never get the choice message across to a Christian fundamentalist without trying!  The bible does not mention abortion.  It does not define life at conception.

Below are a few common Biblical arguments, and some push backs you can use.  For the truly adventurous, I’ve also included some Bible verses that support Pro-Choice arguments.  Trust me, I went to Christian college (shudder).

  • The word ‘fetus’ never occurs in the bible: No kidding.  Fetus/foetus is of Latin origin.   Its generally agreed that the Christian Bible was originally written in a combination of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  It isn’t in the bible because there was no such word. 
  • “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee,” Jeremiah 1:4-10: Anti-choice Christians love this one.  But read the rest of the verse and chapter.  In this passage, God is speaking directly to Jeremiah – a prophet – not to humanity writ large.
  • God creates every life, and every life is precious to him: Not according to the Old Testament.  There are a handful of passages that threaten miscarriages and ‘untimely births’ onto populations as holy punishments.  Also, this begs the question of what constitutes life.  There is no passage that says every pregnancy is precious. [Read more...]

Pro-Life State Pregnancies End in Fewer Abortions?

The fine folks at fivethirtyeight.com recently ran a piece titled ‘Pro-Life States Have Lower Abortion Rates?’ that utilized SurveyUSA opinion polling and CDC abortion stats gathered from state health agencies’ voluntary reports.  Study caveats:

Some states, like Florida and Louisiana, do not report their abortion statistics, and in other cases — Kentucky’s figures are suspiciously low when compared to Tennessee’s, for instance — it may be subject to various sorts of imperfections……..Also, there is some ambiguity about the number of abortions in a particular state versus the number by residents of that state; for instance, a lot of women in Idaho travel to Washington to get abortions….

Despite these caveats, Silver goes on to describe a strong relationship between the % of adults identifying as pro-life and the % of pregnancies ending in abortions.  I find his reliance on imperfect information cavalier at best and irresponsible at worst.  Towards the end he queries: [Read more...]