Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “birth control”

Birth Control? Really? – Tom Rossi

As we approach another presidential election, I expect the usual re-animation of the battle between the pro-choice and pro-birth sides. This is pretty much business as usual, because it’s the single best way that Republican politicians have to convince people to vote against themselves and their own best interests.

I think the abortion issue pretty well splits the country, if not exactly in two. People who see this issue one way or the other seldom change their minds and we sit, locked into yet another eternal battle that will never be resolved, while the rest of the civilized world moves forward.

But just when you were getting bored with the pro-life, pro-birth battle, along comes something so surprising, so weird, so completely out of left field that your head spins around. A debate over… contraception.

Wow.

Part of the Republican Party (fortunately, it’s a small part, I think) is so incredibly out there on the religious right that they oppose birth control in any form. Unfortunately, this faction seems to be all that counts in choosing a candidate to represent their party in the November election.

This right wing of the right wing still wants people to simply abstain from sex if they don’t intend to have a child. These are the same people, I assume, that hold onto the belief that the president somehow sets some sort of national tone for behavior and culture.

The origins of the insertion of this “issue” into this year’s silly season are a little hard to sort out. It might appear that President Obama opened this can of eels himself with the policy he flew up the flagpole that would have required even religious institutions to provide birth control to patients who want it. He later changed the policy to circumvent the hornet’s nest he had kicked, but he had fanned the flames of the religious fire that smolders beneath this country.

But Rick Santorum (currently the only candidate “conservative” enough for the right wing of the right wing) had gone on record long ago in opposition to birth control. Well-versed in doubletalk, he implies that he separates his beliefs from his governmental function in that he has “supported” birth control, but in the same breath says he’s against it because it “harms women and harms society.”

In another development, there is a bill moving through the Virginia legislature (no guarantee that it will make it all the way) that would require women considering an abortion to have an ultrasound. In itself, that may not sound like such a bid deal, but most abortions happen in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and, at such an early stage, what would be required to perform an ultrasound is the insertion of a probe (into the vagina) which then must be sort of “stirred around” in order to produce a recognizable image of the fetus.

Oddly enough, some women find the idea of the involuntary intrusion of an object into their private parts a little disturbing and are calling this “state-sanctioned rape.” These women actually have the nerve to object to the legal violation of their reproductive organs.

It’s now completely clear. The right wing of the right wing, and the part of the Republican party that seems to be controlling the whole for the time being, want to take away any illusion that women have about being in control of their own bodies. Women are baby factories – period.

This is one reason I agree with Robert Reich when he calls these right wing extremists “regressives.”

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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What Feminism Means To Me – Marianne Ingheim Rossi

My name is Marianne. I’m 36, half-Danish, half-Norwegian (and these days my heart beats sorrowfully and warmly for the courageous and peace-loving friends I have in Oslo), and I’m a feminist. 

I say the latter with pride because I’m incredibly grateful for the advances of the feminist movement. It has given me rights that I believe everyone – no matter race, religion, gender, or any other classification we can come up with – is entitled to. 

Being Danish, I realize I’m a bit “spoiled”. In Denmark, things like gender equality are a given. Here, feminism has made advances much faster and more easily than in the U.S. (for example, full voting rights five years earlier than in the U.S.).

In recent years, the focus of Danish feminism has been on making women as much a part of the workforce and the government as men are. Great gains have been made in this regard through such policies as free child-care, paid maternity leave, and paid paternity leave. 

In addition, reproductive rights are much further ahead in Denmark than in the U.S. Birth control and early-term abortion are free of charge in Denmark, and where the percentage of teen pregnancies in the U.S. is discouragingly high, in Denmark it is very low.

To me, such advances are what the feminist movement is – or should be – about: concrete steps to equality. Only then, I believe, can we affect a societal change in the framework that defines the feminine. To me, feminism is about rights, not about whether or not you wear a bra, whether or not you dress sexy, whether or not you have children. The point is, you have the right to choose: what you wear, what you do for a living, who you marry etc. 

I embrace my femininity! I’m proud to be a woman, boobs and all! And I don’t care whether you happen to be sexier than me or whether you happen to want children or not. I don’t (want children, that is, or care if you do). To me, feminism is about declaring that the feminine is equal to the masculine – not the same, but equal to it. I don’t have to behave and look like a man to succeed; I am a woman and I shall succeed as a woman, with all the qualities that make me and my fellow women unique (and I should have equal pay!).

And, by the way, just because I’m sexy doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with the boss to get ahead! I can actually be pretty and smart, and I can succeed because I’m smart and I work hard. Period. In Denmark, this is a given, but I sometimes feel that in the U.S., this is still highly questioned. 

We must not forget that in spite of all the advances of feminism in the western world, in many countries, feminism has hardly touched ground. One of the tough challenges we face today is the human trafficking of women and children. 

On the other hand, it is encouraging to see how, in many parts of the world, women are the ones making a change in their communities. We are the ones protesting against the building of dams that will destroy our livelihoods, the ones organizing against oil drilling in rain forests, the ones exposing animal cruelty. I believe this is because it is our natural role as caregivers to affect change. Through our connection with the earth – Mother Nature – and our sense of community we can affect the change needed for the betterment of all living things. Not by imitating men, but by embracing ourselves as powerful women.

Marianne Ingheim Rossi

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