A Working Mother Asks: Can We Please Talk About Working Parents Instead?

Another week, another spate of stories and “debates” about motherhood and working mothers and the right age to become a mother and on and on until oh my god, is there nothing else to talk about besides the ovaries and uterus of The American Woman? What about—just for funsies—the testicles of The American Man? After all, in a whole lot of cases, women are getting pregnant by their male partners. What say The American Man about the best age to become a father, or the ideal career path that fathers should take, or the struggle between financial security and a stable family?

I understand quite well that for many years—nay, decades—women have had a unique set of issues to contend with if they wished to have both children and a career. I also understand that while those issues have shifted over the years, there are still specific challenges to being a mother that earns a paycheck, whether she works outside the house or from home. But focusing just on the challenges and questions encountered by one gender perpetuates the notion that only this one gender needs to meet these challenges and ask these questions.

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Attempt to Restrict Abortions in Washington, D.C. Fails

As one restrictive abortion law is upheld this week, one falls by the wayside. Last night, the House of Representatives voted 220 to 154 to pass a bill that would ban all abortions (including in cases of incest, rape, and fetal abnormalities) in Washington, D.C. after 20 weeks; although a majority of representatives approved the measure, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

The proposed bill had garnered much national attention in recent months. Its sponsor, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, did not shy away from a reliance on both hyperbole (he repeatedly called late-term abortions “the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today”) and unproven medical theories to advance his agenda. Franks based his bill on the controversial concept of “fetal pain,” an issue on which the medical community has reached no firm consensus. The fact that Franks was attempting to regulate the choices of constituents that he did not represent also drew criticism, especially after the District’s actual representative, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, was not allowed to speak at hearings regarding the bill.

While it’s tempting to think that the matter has now been tabled in Congress, the Senate has not yet voted on its companion bill.

When Wombs Speak Louder Than Words

Next week, anti-choice activists bring the latest assault on reproductive rights to Washington, D.C. On October  13, the “Voices from the Womb” tour will set up shop at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, offering both the public and members of Congress the chance to stop by and watch ultrasounds being performed on women in their first, second, or third trimester of pregnancy. The purpose of this  The purpose of this fetal theater is allegedly to show the truth about abortion. What is that truth, you ask? Oh, just that an ultrasound image is so powerful, it erases all doubt that life begins at conception, establishes the personhood and humanity of a fetus, thereby giving the fetus protection under the 14th Amendment, and calls the very legality of Roe v. Wade into question.

This isn’t exactly a new strategy, but it’s still worth taking a closer look at. In a nutshell, the 14th Amendment was established after the Civil War to give ex-slaves full rights; it establishes the citizenship of any person born or naturalized in the U.S., guarantees that U.S. citizens have procedural and substantive due process, and grants citizens equal protection of the laws. Arguably the most single important part of the Constitution, this amendment has been essential for safe-guarding individual rights.

If fetuses are established as people from the moment of conception, the anti-choice argument goes, then they are granted the same rights and protections as any other citizen, and the validity of Roe would be called into question. Of course, this push to grant fetuses equal personhood ignores the multitude of difficult legal and ethical issues that would also arise – in particular, in regards to stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, and contraceptive use. While it’s no great surprise that such issues don’t seem to trouble anti-choicers, these considerations are just some of the reasons that stunts like Voices from the Womb should concern anyone that values their right to make their own decisions about birth control, to say nothing of their reproductive freedom.  [Read more...]

SlutWalk Comes to Washington, D.C.

Image courtesy of www.slutwalkdc.org

Full disclosure: I really meant to listen to the speeches at SlutWalk D.C. The crowd was in high spirits, the speakers enthusiastic, and the weather beautiful … until all of a sudden the temperature dropped, the clouds gathered low overhead, and the thunder boomed at a eerily well-timed pause during the first speech. So I cursed myself for not owning an umbrella and biked home, spurred on by thoughts of dry clothes.

The walk itself was just as impressive as the downpour that followed. I’m horrible at estimating crowd size, but the chants of the marchers could be heard from two (very long) blocks away and the signs, outfits, and sheer numbers were enough to both draw double- and triple-takes and warrant an escort by the D.C. police. My personal favorite signs were “My dress is not a yes” and “Ask permission to gain admission,” as well as the very direct “Tube tops don’t cause rape, rapists do.”

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Apparently Women in D.C. Have Really Pricey Abortions

I don’t know about you, but I breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday morning. The government shutdown was averted, without sacrificing Planned Parenthood! Yay, bullet dodged!

… and then I learned that that bullet was actually headed straight for pregnant, low-income women in the District of Columbia. Because not only did House Speaker John Boehner want to limit government funding for Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits that provide abortion services, he also wanted to restrict funding on abortions in D.C. So a compromise was worked out: D.C. funding was cut, but the funds to nonprofits were safe.

Look, I get that an argument can be made for this outcome. Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits serve a huge number of men and women, and can now continue to do this very necessary work. And to take even more of a “greater good” perspective – if the government actually had shut down last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people would have been affected, and D.C. would have essentially come to a halt. As a proud resident of the District of Columbia, I’m really glad that we’ll continue to have things like trash pick-up and parking enforcement, and that the businesses in my neighborhood that depend on the income of government workers won’t suffer.

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