Archive for the ‘Reproductive rights and choices’ Category

What depresses me (Virginia politics part 3)

Thursday, January 13th, 2005

Ema at the Well-Timed Period writes:

"The saga of HB 1677 has made me realize that the lives and health of tens of millions of women are literally at the mercy of legislators of Del. Cosgrove’s caliber. This realization is enough to subdue even the most optimistic person.  [By all means, if you were already aware of the existence of legislators like the Delegate, please, carry on with the celebration.]"

I knew that there were legislators like Cosgrove, here in Virginia and even in more "enlightened" states.  That doesn’t even depress me all that much; while they can introduce bills like this, they’re unlikely to get them passed.

What depresses me is that Tim Kaine, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Virginia (we have odd year elections) argues that the "partial-birth" (e.g. dilation and extraction) abortion ban should have an exception for the life and health of the mother — but only because the Supreme Court has ruled that such laws are unconstitutional without them.  Reading his letter to the editor, I’m left with the impression that he would have opposed such an exception if it weren’t for that meddling federal court.

Chap Petersen, who is one of the leading contenders for the Lieutenant Governor position, also has taken some positions that I’m pretty horrified by.  In addition to supporting the ban on dilation and extraction (without an exception for the life and health of the mother), he also opposed the recommendation that the feticide bill be amended to clarify that it should not be construed as limiting the right to an abortion.  And he voted for HB751, the anti-civil-union bill that became law last year. (To be fair, he did introduce a bill today, HB2940, that would amend that law to say that it "shall not abridge the right of any person to enter into a lawful contract that pertains to the ownership or devising of joint property, the maintenance of personal health, or the protection of private assets. ")

If that’s what the Democratic candidates look like, I’m more than depressed; I’m scared.

(Most of these legislative links are thanks to Maura‘s posting on Daily Kos.  Thanks.)

Awards and a land mine (updated)

Wednesday, January 12th, 2005

1)  At 9:52 pm, I got my 10,000 hit on this blog.  I know, lots of sites get more than that in a day.  But I’m excited.  Thanks for reading.

2) I’ve been nominated for Best New Blog in the Koufax awards.  It’s an honor just to be mentioned, and I know I have absolutely no chance of winning, but it would be nice to get a vote or two.

3) With this post, I’m nominating myself for the "Land Mine" award (part of Feministe’s Anti-Awards, Part Deux)

I want to make a confession: even after having read a bunch of the fabulous infertility and assisted reproduction blogs out there, like Chez Miscarriage, and I wasted all that birth control, and a little pregnant, I don’t get it.  I still don’t get why people put themselves through such emotional, physical, and financial torture to conceive and bear a child.  I adore my sons, and am very grateful that they’re in my life, but if I hadn’t been able to get pregnant, I wouldn’t have made the sacrifices these women (and many others) have made.  That sort of baby-hunger is as alien to me as James Boylan’s conviction that he was a woman

As an outsider to this world, someone who has never had to deal with infertility, I can’t help but wondering whether assisted reproduction has increased or decreased the net amount of happiness in the world.  On the one side are those people who’ve successfully had children with the help of modern medical miracles.  But on the other side are the people whose heartache has been drawn out for months or years as they ride the reproductive rollercoaster, and those who must endlessly second-guess themselves, wondering whether things would have been different if they tried just one more time.

I’m calling this a land mine because, as Jen at Buddha Mama and I have discussed, it’s hard to talk about the choices that we make without it seeming like we’re implicitly criticizing those who have made other choices.  And that’s truly not my desire.  I’ve actually started to post about this before, and then stopped, for fear of giving pain to people who are already dealing with more than their share of grief.  But I think it’s worth talking about, to open a dialogue, as well as to paint a fuller picture of the diversity of parenting experiences.  I want to tell people that you can be a good mother even if you don’t have that sort of passionate need to be one, even if you could imagine having a happy and full life without children.


I’m updating this to try to respond to some of the comments I’ve been getting from some of the visitors I’ve received via Uterine Wars.  Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to comment, for being willing to engage in dialogue.  I appreciate it; I know it’s not your job in life to educate me.

A few of the commenters have written that you didn’t imagine or couldn’t have imagined making the choices you’ve made, until you were actually in the situation.  That’s a powerful (and slightly frightening) statement about the limits of our ability to put ourselves in a different situation.  I hear you, and I’ll be more careful in the future about saying what I would or wouldn’t do — I can only say what my best guess is, from the perspective of who I am now.

But some of the commenters implied that I’d definitely make the same choices they are making if I were in their situation.   I still reject this statement; there are many other women who are in their situation who make different choices.  Heck, there are many woman who make a deliberate choice not to have children, regardless of their fertility status.  That’s part of what makes life fascinating; we are all different people and make different choices.


One more thought.  I am truly sorry to have caused pain, and I can tell, from both the comments and the referring posts, that I have.  I started this post saying I was making a confession, because I believe that my inability to "get it" is a failure of empathy on my part — although some of you are telling me that no fertile woman will ever "get it."  Saying I "don’t get" your choices is different than saying I think you’re making a bad choice.

Yes, I live in Virginia.

Friday, January 7th, 2005

Although sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here.

As reported by Maura at Democracy for Virginia (duplicated here if the first link is down) and updated here, Delegate Cosgrove is introducing a bill, HB1677, that would make it a class 1 misdemeanor for a woman to fail to report to law enforcement within 12 hours a fetal death that occurs without medical attendance.  And because another Virginia law defines a fetal death as one that occurs regardless of the duration of the pregnancy, this would affect everyone who miscarried or even had a slightly delayed pregnancy.  I’m not going to try to describe just how stupid and callous this proposal is; instead, read the posting and discussion at Chez Miscarriage for much more eloquence than I could achieve.

Cosgrove is supposedly concerned about the stories you occasionally hear about women giving birth and leaving the bodies in dumpsters.  If it can’t be proven that the baby was born alive, the only crime the woman can be charged with is improper disposal of human remains.  But the proposed response is totally disproportionate to the goal.

It appears that Cosgrove introduced a similar bill in 2003, which died in committee.  (Oddly enough, the 2003 bill was explicitly limited to women who miscarry more than 24 weeks after their last period.)  My guess is that even in the crazy-house that is the Virginia House of Delegates, this bill doesn’t have much of a chance of going anywhere. 

But don’t leave it to chance.  Write or call Cosgrove and tell him what you think of this bill.  If you live in Virginia contact your legislators, and let them know what you think too.  Contact the members of the Committee for Courts of Justice and ask them not to let the bill get out of committee.

And pay attention to what else is happening in your statehouses.  It doesn’t get the attention of what’s happening in DC, but it can make just as much, or more, difference in your life.

The politics of the paradox of choice

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Yesterday, I wrote about Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice.  In looking for further discussion of this book on the internet, I found a PSB Newshour interview with Schwartz from last year, in which discusses some of the political implications of his argument.

The interviewer explains "Now, politically Barry Schwartz is a liberal who finds himself running against what seems to be the tide these days, more choice for every citizen: The private Social Security accounts that President George W. Bush has pushed, for example, where we would decide how to invest our own money."  In fact, the Bush Administration supports increased consumer choice as the solution to everything from health insurance to primary education, to social security, to job training (they’ve proposed giving unemployed workers vouchers that could be used for job training — or taken as cash if they get jobs quickly).

And then Schwartz says:

"People don’t have the resources, the intellectual resources, the time to learn enough in all of these different areas of life to make wise decisions. The point of public policy, seems to me, is to improve welfare.

"But who decides what’s in someone’s best interest? And the answer that we have collectively embraced, driven, I think, largely by economists is maximizing choice is the way to promote public welfare."

I have very mixed reactions to this statement.  When I think about health insurance, and social security, I tend to agree with Schwartz.  I think about how much trouble I have figuring out what is the best health insurance option for my family — as a person with access to all sorts of information, and the time to sort it out, and a graduate degree in public policy — and I find it hard to believe that there are a lot of people who are going to find it much easier, while I’m quite sure that there are people who will find it much harder. 

But I’m also vehemently pro-choice.  And, as my father asked (rhetorically, of course) this evening, how come Democrats are only pro-choice when it comes to abortion and not when it comes to anything else?  And he’s right, there’s something fundamentally inconsistent about saying that we trust women — all women — to make the best decisions for themselves and their families regarding abortion, but not regarding where to send their kids to school.  Or how to save for their retirement.

(Note that rejecting Schwartz’ argument doesn’t mean that you have to support these proposals; there’s a separate problem that most of these proposals deliberately eliminate the risk pooling that is inherent in the current systems.)

Is parenting a right?

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

I’ve been struggling with this topic for a few days, since I read the interview with Rickie Solinger on the Mothers Movement Online website. I’m going to touch on some issues that are highly sensitive, and I know there’s a risk of hurting or angering people, but I think the question is too important to ignore in the interest of politeness.

Solinger is the author of a book called Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States. In her interview, she makes a convincing argument that the rhetoric of "choice" gives little protection to poor women, who are often criticized for their choice to have children when they do not have the financial resources to support them. Thus:

"Making “good choices” about whether or when to become a mother— a concept, Solinger notes, that “evokes women shoppers selecting among options in the marketplace”— is an opportunity reserved for women with the right combination of social and economic resources. Women without some or all of these assets— a degree of maturity, a good education and/or marketable job skills, work that pays a living wage, a husband or another dependable source of supplemental income— can only make “bad” choices by expressing their sexuality and fertility."

Moreover, the focus on choice provides an argument against public intervention in everything from child care, to college costs, to supporting part-time employment; if everyone is entitled to make their own choices, why should society rescue some people from the consequences of those choices?

Solinger therefore argues that "women must have the right to reproduce in order to be full persons accorded full rights of self-determination." Recognizing such a right would have lots of repercussions. Solinger argues that it would encompass "the right to raise one’s child with access to the basic elements of a dignified life, such as decent food, shelter, physical safety, health care, and education." It would also presumably guarantee access to fertility treatments.

I just don’t think I’m willing to go that far. I have two main objections to the idea of an inherent right to parent:

First, I think Solinger comes dangerously close to suggesting that those who are physically unable to reproduce, or who choose not to, are less than full persons.

Second, and more importantly, I think viewing parenting as a right has the effect of treating children as a means to an end. I reject the notion that people who aren’t willing or able to care for their children have a "right" to have them anyway. And I’m very uncomfortable with some of the surrogacy and donated-egg arrangements that people are using to have children these days, because it seems like the parents are putting their own desire to have some biological relationship with their child ahead of the child’s best interest. And as Being Daddy wrote in his wonderful Unhip Parent’s Manifesto: "Having a baby is not about you. Get over it."

(I recognize that it’s easy for me to say this, not having had any fertility issues. I’m willing to listen to your counterarguments. And I’m not arguing that my queasiness is a basis for making public policy.)