Uncategorized

Pro-Choice Feminists and Pro-Life Feminists should march together

Here’s a cheering thought about 2017: It’s gonna be a banner year for comedians.

It’s also shaping up to be a surprisingly good year for pro-lifers. Not because Trump has done anything whatsoever to help save babies or protect women. Maybe he’ll take the trouble to reinstate the largely symbolic Mexico City policy, maybe he won’t; but so far, his pro-life credentials are exactly zero, if you’re generous. [ETA: Shortly after I wrote this, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy. Credit where it’s due.]

But never mind him, because people who are actually pro-life aren’t waiting for him to remember there’s such a thing as us. Women in seven continents turned out for the Women’s March, to protest his election and to support causes dear to women — causes like education, healthcare, racial justice, protection and respect for the disabled, and, well, everything else. Women are interested in all kinds of things; and even progressive women have more on their mind than abortion abortion abortion. That’s the nice thing about a protest: You show up and say what you want to say (even if you can’t even talk yet).

Yeah, the protest was organized and funded by pro-choicers. Yeah, “abortion rights” became one of the planks of their platform, after a stink was raised in some quarters. But tons of pro-life women showed up anyway, because pro-life is a feminist cause ne plus ultra. As the giant banner said — the banner that led the march, because Students For Life decided to run right out in front — “ABORTION BETRAYS WOMEN.”

So there were pro-life feminists there. In some venues, they were attacked and screamed at; in some venues, they were greeted with respect and support, even from women who didn’t agree with them. These are the reports from the women I know who were actually there.

Even more heartening than this reception is what happened on Saturday Night Life. You can see the entire segment here, but here’s the money part:

Did you catch that?  The man just told his audience that pro-lifers are feminists, and that they absolutely belong in a pro-woman march, because a feminist is simply a reasonable person. He used the phrase “pro-life,” not “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion rights.”

Here’s the transcript of this segment:

It was an amazing show of support for feminism, but some feminist groups were asked not to march because of their pro-life views, which raises the question: “What makes a feminist a feminist?” It’s confusing. 

My mother raised seven kids by herself and she’s the strongest woman I know, so I asked her if she was a feminist, and she said, “Boy, God made Adam and EVE,” I was like, “That’s not what that means.”

A feminist is really just someone who believes in rights for women, and that’s easy to get behind. Until you get behind a feminist wearing a uterus hat and then you’re like, “There are levels to this.”

I just think it’s weird to have a special name for just being a reasonable person, because that’s all it is. Believing in equality just means you’re not a dick, and for me, that enough.

Folks, Donald Trump is a dick. Not because he claims to be anti-abortion, but because he treats women and children, and anyone else who seems vulnerable, like dirt to be trampled under his feet.

Shall I tell you what I want, as a feminist?

I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel that she has to have a sexual relationship she doesn’t want.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel pressured to act out the porn that’s shaped the desires of a generation.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to be mocked, pressured, or chided by her friends, her boyfriend, her doctor, or the culture at large for deciding not to have sex with someone.

I want every woman to know that, if she gets pregnant unintentionally, the father of the child will behave like an adult — not just ponying up a few hundred dollars and a ride to the abortion clinic to erase his mistake, but taking on real, shared, self-giving responsibility. I want women to know that the pregnancy is not just her problem.

I want rape victims to be treated with dignity and respect, not suspicion and blame and aggression from schools, from the legal system, and from their neighbors.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning stigma, shame, and horror.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman’s education must end.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman is doomed to poverty.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning the end of a career.

I want women carrying a disabled unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.

I want women carrying a black unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.

I want women carrying an unborn girl to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.

I want a world where it doesn’t even occur to people to consider abortion, because there are so many, many alternatives. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers can work together to provide these alternatives. And that’s what we have in common.

If pro-choice feminists agree with even part of this, then you’re damn right we are sisters. You’re damn right we belong marching together.

Don’t underestimate the power of popular culture to change hearts and minds. It’s already becoming more acceptable to be pro-life. It’s already becoming more evident that there is more to us than “no, no, no.”  Today’s young adults are looking around at the cultural wasteland left behind after the sexual revolution, and they’re thinking, “Well, that didn’t work. What else can we try?”

Some of them are trying on pro-life feminism. I think it looks pretty good on them — and apparently, so does Saturday Night Live.

So, you folks who are stamping your feet and huffing and puffing over the scandal of pro-lifers turning up at a pro-choice march? You Catholics who are up in arms over pro-life women inflating the numbers of the march, and giving aid and comfort to our ideological enemies? Check it out:

Pro-life feminists who marched got Saturday Night Live to utter the phrase “pro-life,” and to call them reasonable people, to admit that they are feminists, too. Tell me how you were planning to achieve that by sitting at home in your MAGA hat, annotating your list of Catholics We Find Upsetting.

While you were busy taking incriminating screenshots of your neighbor to send to your priest, pro-lifers feminists were bringing their message home. And they’re changing the culture.

Keep marching, sisters.

Uncategorized

Catholic pro-lifers at the Women’s March? Get used to it.

Were you surprised, even shocked, to see Catholics and other pro-lifers joining in at the Women’s March — the march that was funded and organized by pro-choicers, and which backed out of partnering with pro-life groups?

Numerous Catholics told me it was a scandal that they were there.

Well, get used to it. The pro-life establishment abandoned women and children when they threw in their lot with Trump. Get used to seeing pro-lifers strike out on their own, welcome or not.

When you in the Republican establishment helped Trump win, you told the world, “This is what a pro-life leader looks like like.” You told the world:

–A pro-lifer is a serial adulterer who proudly thinks with his penis.

–A pro-lifer responds to an unplanned pregnancy by saying, “Oh, great” and asking the mother what she’s going to “do about it.”

–A pro-lifer tells the world that a woman isn’t qualified to lead if we don’t enjoy looking at her face.

–A pro-lifer, when asked about his baby daughter, speculates on how big her tits will be some day.

–A pro-lifer mentions several times in several ways that, if he weren’t Ivanka’s father, he’d be dating her because of her gorgeous body.

–A pro-lifer will appoint ludicrously unqualified cabinet members whose only asset is their promises to cut funding for food and housing, programs which disproportionately support women and children.

–A pro-lifer is enthusiastic about torture, and is proud to turn his back on refugees.

–A pro-lifer thinks that life-saving vaccines cause autism, and is reportedly considering appointing a vaccine skeptic to investigate vaccine safety.

–A pro-lifer has promised repeatedly to repeal the law that has given millions of women (including me) basic healthcare for the first time.

–A pro-lifer appoints an education head who thinks that special needs kids don’t have a right to an education, and that the states should (like Texas did) be free to just stop making it possible for special needs kids to go to school.

–And of course a pro-lifer, as a newlywed, brags about kissing women without consent and then grabbing women by the pussy. And pro-lifers say that talking about “fucking” married “bitches” is “locker room banter” and can be excused as long as we also talk about ISIS.

You elected Trump and told the world that we had to vote for him, because he is pro-life. You even said that it was a mortal sin not to vote for him. And then you told women that they weren’t real Catholics because they marched against him.

Tell me again that women are shameful and disgraceful for telling the world that this man does not represent us. They’re the disgrace. Not him. Tell me again.

Tell me again that Catholic women who marched on Saturday aren’t real Catholics. Tell me again that they are the ones who should be cast out, because they are in the street at the same time as women with silly hats. Tell me that they are the scandal, and not the party who betrayed women and elected Trump.

Tell me again how the true disgrace is when young pro-lifers march in the streets with signs shouting “ABORTION BETRAYS WOMEN,” and the Huffington Post reports it, with numerous photos and ample quotes from pro-lifers. Also Slate, The Atlantic, and numerous other left-leaning websites.

Tell me what a scandal it is that “pro-life feminist” is now a thing.

God bless you, Destiny Herndon De La Rosa, Abby Johnson, Aimee Murphy, Students for Life, and all the strong, smart women who had the courage to face not only the abuse of pro-choicers but the abuse of your fellow Catholics. God bless you for telling the world that abortion hurts women, that pro-life is pro-women. God bless you for turning over your lives to the pro-life cause, when even other pro-lifers refused to help.

And God bless you for being physically there, for putting yourself right next to women who have been told all their lives that pro-lifers are rigid, angry, fanatical misogynists. God bless you for talking to them, showing them that we are human, showing them that there is another way of seeing the world.

You are the ones who are changing hearts; and that is how abortion is defeated. Not by signing bills, not by babbling catchphrases when it’s politically expedient and shrugging them off when it’s not. Not by yanking help away from the needy.

Abortion is defeated when pro-lifers have the courage to go where they are not invited. The election of Donald Trump made it very clear that respect for women is not important to the republican party. So be it. Pro-lifers who do respect women will go elsewhere.

The old categories do not hold. If Trump is the leader of the republican party, then the republican party is no longer the home for people who value family, who cherish children, who respect women. Pro-life American are now politically homeless; and so, like so many of the homeless, they took to the streets.

Expect to see more of this kind of thing. The old categories do not hold.
***

Image: Screenshot from Fox News interview with Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists

Uncategorized

I’m a single-issue pro-lifer in a swing state, and I cannot vote for Trump

I’m a pro-lifer. I believe that the term “pro-life” encompasses so much more than abortion; but I also believe, as Flannery O’Connor says, that you can’t be any poorer than dead.

So when I vote, I vote for the candidate whose presidency will result in fewer dead babies, because you have to start somewhere.

Many of my friends who think the same way are voting for Trump. This is something I cannot do.

As a single-issue, pro-life, swing state voter, here’s what I know:

The President doesn’t just rush over from the swearing-in ceremony, wielding a copy of the Constitution and a Sharpie, passing laws or repealing laws by fiat. They are required to work with Congress. A President Hillary can’t just repeal the Hyde Amendment on her own, any more than a President Trump can’t just repeal Obamacare on his own. So if you’re voting for Trump just because you think Hillary will repeal the Hyde Amendment, then think again. The Hyde Amendment comes down to budgetary issues, and who passes the budget? Congress. So if you’re worried about specific legislation, think of who you’re voting for down ticket. They’re the ones who hold that power.

Presidents also don’t just show up at work and decide who’s going to be on the Supreme Court. The president can nominate someone, but then Congress must approve the nomination. Remember? Remember how Obama shamed the GOP by nominating Merrick Garland, who is widely known as a thoughtful, rigorous, non-partisan judge, and the GOP dug in its heels and blocked him out of spite? That’s how that works.

So if you’re voting for Trump just because of potential Supreme Court nominations, think again. The president can’t put anyone in place without congress’ say-so, and congress has shown that they’re more interested in vengeance and grandstanding than in anything to do with Roe v. Wade or any other pro-life legal case. They’ll say yes to any idiot Trump chooses if they think that idiot will grease their palms in matters that are actually important to them, and they’ll say no to any good judge he might accidentally choose if they think that it will impress their constituents to stand up to Trump.

Congress. Doesn’t. Care. About. Abortion.

Speaking of the Hyde Amendment and Obamacare, if the fate of tens of thousands of babies really does come down to funding, as I keep hearing from the “But the Hyde Amendment!” crowd, then riddle me this: The Hyde Amendment (and I keep accidentally typing “Hype Amendment,” which is pretty accurate) means that federal tax dollars can’t go for abortions. And it’s completely bogus. The federal government funnels millions and millions of tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, and has done so for years. Planned Parenthood is mainly in the abortion business. Money is fungible. Your tax dollars have been paying for abortions forever. The Hyde Amendment  is there so republicans can point to it and say, “SEE? This is why you have no choice but to vote for me!” That’s its only function.

But what about Obamacare? It’s a huge friggin’ mess. Lots of my friends are suffering because of it. But also, it pays for things like prenatal care for poor people who have no other insurance. It pays for thing like the delivery of babies, and for healthcare that keeps alive already-born babies (and children and teenagers, not to mention pregnant and non-pregnant women, and men). One of the reasons people seek abortion is because they think, “How can I possibly afford a baby?” And . . . Trump has sworn to repeal Obamacare.

So if you really believe that it’s mainly big government funding that makes the difference between life and death, you might as well vote Hillary, because she’s not talking about yanking Obamacare. (But those are ugly, leech-like Obamacare babies, not clean, noble Hyde Amendment babies, so screw ’em, right?)

Where do pro-life laws or pro-choice laws really come from, anyway? The president has all kinds of ways of influencing what kind of laws come before congress. The president can make deals with legislators, appointing people heads of committees, and promising rewards in return for favors done; and the president can occasionally pass executive orders or try to repeal certain laws, if they are extremely important to him and worth making a stand over.

But the political will and clout for big, important, life-changing laws come from the ground up, from the states and from individual communities. That’s where the momentum comes from. That’s how legislatures get the idea and the courage to introduce new bills: if they think their constituents will like it, and if they think someone will put money behind it. That’s also, frankly, how laws come before the Supreme Court: if someone has the stamina to keep challenging it, and if someone puts up the money to keep championing it.

I know you don’t want to hear that our legal system rises and falls on popular opinion and money, but it does. It’s really not mainly about who’s president. That’s simply not how it works.

So what happens (and what’s already happening) when pro-lifers openly support Trump and say that he represents our goals and values? Checks come pouring in to pro-choice candidates. Sane people take one look at him and say, “If that’s what it means to be pro-life, then helllllll, no.” A Trump presidency backed by pro-lifers would energize the pro-choice movement in ways we’ve never seen before, ever. Money, enthusiasm, legislative pressure, local and state election — all, all will go shrieking away from pro-lifers. And this is one thing that you really can pin directly on who’s president.

What happened during the Obama presidency? The pro-life movement was tremendously energized. Dozens and dozens of pro-life laws have been passed. Abortions have gone down. This is what it looks like when pro-lifers look at the president and say, “This is the enemy. Let’s fight back!” The very same thing will happen if Hillary is president.

And the very same thing will happen is Trump is president — only it won’t be pro-lifers saying it; it’ll be pro-choicers, and it will be pro-choice laws being passed, and pro-choice causes gaining clout and energy and donations. If I were pro-choice, I’d vote for Trump.

And now let’s talk about pregnant women in crisis. Let’s talk about how they get that way. Let’s talk about the fact that so very many pregnant women who seek abortion say they felt pressured into it. Where could that pressure possibly come from?

Maybe from men who treat them like sex objects. (This is how Donald Trump treats women, past, present, and future.)

Maybe from men who hear that their wife or girlfriend is pregnant and immediately see it as a problem. (This is how Donald Trump treated his wife.)

Maybe because they think they can’t afford to be pregnant and can’t afford to take care of a child. (Donald Trump doesn’t want poor women to have access to free healthcare.)

Maybe because they’re involved with a man who doesn’t feel any need to honor his promises. (Donald Trump is a rich man because he routinely backs out of his promises, refusing to pay contractors and declaring bankruptcy.)

Maybe because they’re living in a culture where men feel that they have a right to push their way into women’s lives, grab whatever they want from women, blame and shame women for anything that happens next, and leave whenever the relationship becomes inconvenient for him. (Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump.)

Women end up having abortions mainly when they feel like they have no other choice: when they feel that their lives and their identities are only worthwhile if they’re more serviceable to people who have power over them.

And I have just described the world that Donald Trump builds around himself, and will continue to build as president.

Just yesterday, Baby Christian Trump said that a reporter’s accusation of sexual aggression isn’t credible because “look at her.” This is how he operates. This is how he sees women: as either pretty enough to be worthy of his sexual onslaught, or as too ugly to be worth anyone’s time.

Women seek abortion for a reason. Donald Trump, and the people who admire him and imitate him, are that reason. Trump has been telling us who he is. Pro-lifers, let’s believe him.

So how to vote, then?
-Vote for Hillary if you think she’ll be better, in the long run, for the unborn. Since I live in a swing state, this is probably what I will do, because I think it’s the least un-pro-life option.
-Vote for a third party candidate if you think he can’t win, but you just can’t stand to vote R or D.
-Vote for a third party candidate , or write in someone if you can, if you think your candidate won’t win, but it will crack open the monstrously dysfunctional two-party system that got us here in the first place.
-Leave your ballot blank, if you think that’s what this election deserves.

But don’t vote for Trump because you’re pro-life. It would be better to hang a millstone on your ballot and throw it into the sea.

Uncategorized

An Ethically-Produced Shingles Vaccine?

vaccine elderly

Many pro-lifers still decline to use any vaccine that was not ethically derived, choosing instead to face the risk of contracting and spreading preventable, often fatal diseases.

Whatever is keeping Americans from taking full advantage of vaccines, this potential new shingles vaccine is a step in the right direction, and pro-lifers are rightly heartened by the possible advent of at least one ethically-derived vaccine. It’s a bit early to celebrate, though.

Read the rest at the Register.

 

Uncategorized

Why it’s important to beat up robots

kids kicking robot

Was it a senseless tragedy, or was it a slice of richly deserved jungle justice when the hitchBOT, a hitchhiking “robot” (actually just a vaguely humanoid prop with a computer chip in it) got curbstomped by some jackass in an Eagles jersey, ending a sojourn over two continents?

We can probably all agree that an adult who beats up someone else’s robot for no reason is a jerk. Fine. But what about when kids beat up robots? Are they just jerks in training? Or are they onto something?

Tech Insider reports that Japanese researchers are working on programming assistive robots to avoid large groups of young children, because they’ve noticed that little kids have a tendency to push, hit, kick and throw things at robots they find wandering around public spaces:

If there’s one other thing we learned from the study, it’s that young kids may possess frightening moral principles about robots.

… nearly three-quarters of the 28 kids interviewed “perceived the robot as human-like,” yet decided to abuse it anyway. That and 35% of the kids who beat up the robot actually did so “for enjoyment.”

The researchers go on to conclude:

From this finding, we speculate that, although one might consider that human-likeness might help moderating the abuse, humanlikeness is probably not that powerful way to moderate robot abuse. […] [W]e face a question: whether the increase of human-likeness in a robot simply leads to the increase of children’s empathy for it, or favors its abuse from children with a lack of empathy for it

“Frightening moral principles”? “Yet decided to abuse it anyway”? I’m not going to argue that it’s okay for kids to go whacking stuff (although the “abuse” caught on the videos in the Tech Insider post don’t strike me as horrific). I’m just curious about what would motivate kids to want to do it. Is it just because they’re bad kids, and do these findings point to some terrifying truth about man’s inhumanity to manlike robots?

The kids weren’t just indiscriminately violent toward robots; they were more violent toward robots who were designed to be more humanlike, and the story implies that this phenomenon demonstrates some moral failing in the kids. But I think it demonstrates that kids are smarter than adults.

Adults tend to speak as if machines may actually be able to achieve humanity once they’ve been programmed to imitate it well enough. We’ve been prodding this idea since Isaac Asimov was in short pants.  When adults are confronted with something that looks and sounds as behaves like a human, but which may or may not be human, we may laugh, or shake our heads, or feel ashamed, or meekly submit, asking ourselves, “Well, what does it mean to be human, after all?”

But when it happens to kids, it makes them mad.

I remember being that kid. I didn’t just dislike ventriloquist’s dummies; I was angryat them. I felt that someone was trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and I resented it. The world was very confusing, and I was expected to swallow unreasonable and nonsensical ideas every single day (the world is round? The sun isn’t really moving? Baking chocolate doesn’t taste good, even though it’s chocolate? What the hell, adults?). The last thing I needed was more flim flammery.

The story continues:

[T]he more human a robot looks — and fails to pass out of the “uncanny valley” of robot creepiness — the more likely it may be to attract the tiny fisticuffs of toddlers. If true, the implications could be profound, both in practical terms (protecting robots) as well as ethical ones (human morality).

Practical implications, sure. If an old lady needs a robot to carry her groceries, they should protect the robot. But ethical implications? Also yes — but not the ones that the researchers seem to think.

For kids, “is this a real person or isn’t it?” isn’t just an unsettling intellectual exercise – it’s a matter of life and death. They don’t know what is real and what is not real, what is human and what is not human, and it’s very important that they figure it out. When they can’t, it makes them angry. A robot is not a person, and when adults expect them to behave as if it is one, they will put the impostor in its place with their small fists and feet. And, God help us, they’re onto something that so many of us are allowing ourselves to ignore.

We stroke our chins over how much autonomy human-shaped robots ought to have … and at the same time, we shrug and speak of “line item” costs when what we have in our hands — literally, in our hands, dripping with real human blood — is demonstrably a human being.

It is a good thing to rebel against bad things, and blurring the line between human and non-human is a very bad thing indeed. Is this human, or is this not? It matters. It matters. If we can decide, by fiat, that a manufactured thing should be treated with the respect that we owe to human beings, then we can decide, by fiat, that a human being can be treated like a sack of parts. This is happening now, today, constantly, horribly. It matters.

And the robot researchers talk about troubling ethical implications. Well, show a fifteen-week fetus to those Japanese children, and ask them if it’s okay to slice it up and sell the pieces. Then we can talk about “ethical implications.” Then we can talk about who has “frightening moral principles.”

Hold the line, kids. It really is a matter of life and death.

***

image is a screenshot grabbed from the video found here.

Uncategorized

Abortion Is a Men’s Issue

boy and salamander

In great men, two traits go together: strength and control. Power, and the knowledge of how to use that power, and when, and why.

There’s no merit in producing testosterone; but there is great merit, for the whole world, when men learn how to use it, and when they learn how to be in control of it, rather than letting it control them. Great men know when to hold their strength in check, and how to use it for the right things. Great men use their strength to protect.

Read the rest at the Register. 

Photo  of boy holding salamander by Simcha Fisher: