Right to Abortion about to Become Privilege of the Rich Only

Dear Readers,

Here are links to a piece of mine, published last week, on the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in The Huffington Post and RH Reality Check.

Alternately titled: “Pitts is the Pits,” in honor of U.S. House of Representatives Member Joe Pitts, Republican from Pennsylvania, who chairs the House committee with jurisdiction over the matter of abortion funding, I let him have it in this piece. Time to disrespect these guys, just like they’ve disrespected us.

A couple days ago, Rep. Pitts said: “…the momentum [in Congress] is on the pro-life side…” [See here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20029391-503544.html.]

Indeed, things really are going from bad to worse on this front. So, if there was ever a time you thought about getting involved in the fight for women’s reproductive rights, but you didn’t act on the thought, now is definitely that time to act.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights; take your pick; there are lots of good options for activists.

Sincerely,

Rebecca

Elena Kagan Hits the (Really) BigTime

Dear Readers,

On the occasion of Elena Kagan’s presumptive confirmation to the Supreme Court, http://http//www.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?abbr=daily2_&page=NewsArticle&id=25389&security=1201&news_iv_ctrl=-1, I’m posting my piece, “The Supremes, and We’re Not Talking Motown Here,” which appeared in the Huffington Post and in RH Reality Check earlier this summer.

Since I first posted this piece, I’ve received a whole lot of interesting comments–a lot of people care a whole lot about our Supreme Court, and that’s a wonderful thing: Whoever said civic engagement has diminshed, that we’re “bowling alone” (these days) isn’t part of (our) crowd. And I, for one, am very grateful for knowing that.

A great first-2010-August-weekend to all.

Rebecca
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THE SUPREMES, AND WE’RE NOT TALKING MOTOWN HERE

So, maybe, there’s yet another big difference between the sexes: While nice boys finish last, nice girls finish first.

Just look at today’s news: I ask you, what’s a bigger achievement than being selected as a Supreme Court Justice? Yup, just pause, and think for a moment about those words, “supreme” and “justice,” next to your name. How cool would that be?

In his first year in office, President Obama has had the amazing good fortune to get two Supreme Court picks. In both cases, he picked a girl from New York. [How cool is that, for a(nother) girl from New York: me. Let me count the ways. But keep reading; it’s not all that good.]

OK, so let’s be serious here. Do you see a pattern here? And, this time, I’m not talking about the one in which all the brilliant New York girls are being picked for starring roles.

The pattern is: Make sure you’re a really nice girl, first and foremost.

What’s that, you ask?

Well, taking a page from the Sonia Sotomayor/Elena Kagan, New York, nice girl (no, “New York” and “nice” is not an oxymoron) playbook, it’s study really hard; get really good grades; go to Princeton (both); go to Harvard Law (Elena), or go to Yale Law (Sonia); have important male mentors; stay single as you’re making your way up the career ladder, so no husband’s choices get in your way, or put you in a bad light; well, you get the drift.

In fact, these two women who finished first: Elena, the one about to have “supreme” and “justice” next to her name, and Sonia, the one who already has it, are nice girls, in all the ways that actually matter, if you want to have words like “supreme” or “justice” next to your name.

In fact, these days, as Sonia and Elena have now proved, you can even safely forget the baby-making and the finding a nice guy, or even a(nother) nice girl (keep reading on the latter point). Just don’t forget to study hard, and never, never talk out-of-turn.

And, do forget, for sure, that old saw, which used to make some of us feel better: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” http://thinkexist.com/quotation/well-behaved_women_rarely_make/180481.html.
In fact, those badly behaved women, and, believe me, I know where-of I speak, only make history of the upset-the-apple-cart kind, not the kind that leads to “supreme” and “justice” next to one’s name.

In sum, these two New York nice girls, just like those two nice Illinois girls, Michelle Obama (Harvard Law) and Hillary Clinton, she of the when it came right down to it I did stand by my man school, (Yale Law), have never met a test they couldn’t ace, and, well, cooking or housekeeping, the used-to-be sine qua non of nice girls; well, there’s help for that: Just ask Michelle or Hillary.

On the personal front, Sonia Sotomayor seems kind of like Valerie Jarrett (Michigan Law, daughter at Harvard Law). While married early-on, there was no husband around during the formative years of her career, when the difficult decisions needed to be made, when one’s decisions might have required consideration of the desires of another ambitious adult.

On the other hand, Elena Kagan has never married, and, at least as far as we know so far, she hasn’t had any long-term intimate relationship, (male or female), requiring accommodation to that person’s career or personal goals.

And, doubly lucky for Elena Kagan (we have made some real progress here), the White House seems to be comfortable handling, albeit somewhat defensively, the assertions that the President may have just nominated a LESBIAN to the SUPREME COURT! [It really is delicious when you think about it.]

So, what’s my point in all this, you ask? Well, my point is it’s that gosh-darned “nina modela” thing, that “nice girl”/model child syndrome one more sickening time.

So, that’s ridiculous, you say? It’s ridiculous to feel bad when a woman finished first–when lord knows not many women, of any kind, finish first anywhere, much less in the run-up to the Supreme Court?

Well, it’s not ridiculous, I say, because it’s the bad girls, like me, who make these good (nice) girls’ dreams come true. And, to add insult to injury, these nice girls can maybe even be lesbians!

We screamed, and scream; we hollered, and holler. And what do we get? Somebody’s back, as they shut the door in our face(s). “She’s a pistol,” they say, and not with admiration.

What do they get? The Supreme Court (Elena and Sonia), or the West Wing (Valerie), or, for that matter, and not so bad either, the East Wing (Michelle and Hillary).

Fact is, Elena stood silent, while I screamed. Fact is, Elena was “canny,” while I was fervent. Fact is, Elena was a coalition-builder, while I was an advocate. Fact is, Elena didn’t express her political views, while I did nothing but. Fact is, Elena wrote little, while I wrote untold speeches and press releases, all with the same basic headline: We (women) want more. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/us/politics/10kagan.html

[NOTE: I’m using myself as a stand-in for those women lawyers who will
never be considered for “supreme” and “justice” next to their names. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t run this race.]

Is this ironic, or what? This is Elena, the putative lesbian, we’re talking about. This is Elena, who, odds-are, will be doing nothing but express her opinions for the next forty or so years, if her’s and the President’s good luck continue, and just because she kept her mouth shut in the early rounds. It’s not only ironic, it’s bewildering.

Ironic? Let me count the ways.

–Let others do the political talking, so you don’t have any politically-incorrect YouTube videos.

–Let others do the writing, so you don’t have any controversial law review articles.

–Let others interrupt their careers to follow a spouse, or pay for a spouse’s education, while you forge ahead in line.

–Let others fight for women’s reproductive rights, while you benefit from that fight.

–Let others advocate for women as a group, while you advocate for yourself.

Yes, all this said, I’m still very happy that a(nother) non-Protestant (more progress, here) woman from New York is going to be a Supreme Court Justice. That makes the Supremes, in case you’re counting, the (really cool, not Motown, but Big Apple) Supremes: Ruth, Sonia, and Elena.

But I’m not that happy: In fact, as I think about it, I think I was happier when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, a woman who found a way to be a women’s advocate, and a wife, and a mother, as well as a way to be a brilliant lawyer and judge, and, finally, yes (!), a Supreme.

And, as I think about it, Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be a better role model for today’s young women than soon-to-be Justice Kagan or now Justice Sotomayor. For, unlike Kagan and Sotomayor, Justice Ginsburg has
lived the life that most women live, and yet she found a way to be a Supreme, notwithstanding.

Wreckonciliation or Reconciliation?

Dear Readers,

“Americans who support abortion rights need to make their voices heard.”

That’s according to today’s New York Times. [See here: http://wwwnytimes.com/2010/03/10/opinion/10wed2.html?ref=opinion.]

As it happens, I spoke-out earlier this week, on Monday, International Women’s Day.

My goal was to prod people, (no surprise there!), on this auspicious day.

Below is the link to that blogpost of mine, “Wreckonciliation,” at RH Reality Check.

The post also appeared in Huffington Post Politics and Huffington Post Chicago and was picked-up by Daily Kos and Medical News Today, among others.

I’m confident you, too, will strike a chord when you speak-up.

Here is the link to “Wreckonciliation”:
http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/03/08/wreckonciliation

Last, as if further proof were needed that it’s now or never, last night on Rachel Maddow, Congresswoman Diane DeGette, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said: “History has shown that if we pass a resolution restricting women’s right to choose, we never get it back.” [See here: http://www.rhreality.org/]

Time to make our voices heard, indeed.

Rebecca

www.rebeccasive.com/blogSubscribe.htm

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“Wreckonciliation”

On International Women’s Day, I imagined the White House full of cooing, hugging women, celebrating the wonder of the world’s and America’s women, and I had to ask: where’s the wonder?

To coin a cliché: Where’s the beef?

Here’s my beef: We, the women of America, are being told by those on-high, starting with those who might have been at the White House on International Women’s Day, including Nancy Pelosi–the most important woman in America right about now–that American women’s most fundamental right, our right to control our reproductive destiny, should be of no consequence in the effort to reform healthcare.

Yup, that’s the bottom line for the Speaker, the bottom line she reached Thursday, near the end of her soon-to-be, five-month death march to wreckoncilation. “This is not about abortion,” the Speaker said, when even the most politically untrained, outside-the-Beltway bystander knows otherwise.

Well, Madame Speaker: You would be wrong about that. “Abortion could be health bill deal breaker in House,” according to the D.C.-insiders’ bible, Politico.

Yup, Madame Speaker, right-about-now healthcare reform is about nothing but abortion, as some of us have been saying all along it would be; in fact, as some of us were saying it would need to be, if there were to be any justice in this enterprise. And, Madame Speaker, truth-be-told, you and the President have also known this, at least since last November, four months and counting, ago, when “…[You were] forced to give [Rep. Bart] Stupak a floor vote that incorporated his strict abortion funding provision,” in order to pass your healthcare reform bill.

Four months and a day later, Rep. Stupak would be right: “‘Nothing has changed,’ said [Rep.] Stupak. ‘I don’t think they have the votes to pass it (a healthcare reform bill without Stupak Amendment-type language re access to abortion).”

Madame Speaker, like it or not, and I say it again, Rep. Stupak is right: The future of (your and the President’s) healthcare reform has come down to this: Can you and the White House come to a winning plan on how to deal with access to abortion.

Why? Because access to abortion is the marker of women’s equality, and who are you and the President, if you’re willing to win without this?

Madame Speaker: But for legal access to abortion, no American woman has equal opportunity. I can’t believe this is something you don’t want.

And, anyway, Rep. Stupak is playing hardball: What choice do you have?

Madame Speaker: I know that you and other inside-the-Beltway women’s-issues’ dealmakers, not to mention your post-racial, post-feminist thirty-something staffers don’t like hearing this, but it’s true. I know you’d all rather spend International Women’s Day lauding one another and having us laud you. Well, no can do.

And anyway, the proof of my point is, so-to-speak, in the (Catholic Bishop’s) pudding. They’re cooking up lots, right about now.

Just look at how hard they are fighting to prevent access to abortion, just because they know what you’ll know too, in your heart-of-hearts, and here I repeat: Access to abortion is the marker of women’s equality.

And, as if all this pudding could get any more distasteful, take a good, hard look at just how the Bishops are cooking it up–doing just what politicians (and bishops) do when things get really right-down-to-it: Covering-up their real intentions with lofty sentiments about morality and justice while they cook-away, and deal-away, behind closed doors, hoping those of us out in the hinterlands are lulled into complacency by talk of morality and justice.

Madame Speaker, to coin another cliché: “This will never do.”

So, Madame Speaker, please read these theses I’ve nailed to your D.C.-church door, the building otherwise known as the House of Representatives:

1) There is no proof that we can’t have a healthcare reform bill, providing for unfettered access to abortion, just as it does for all other lawful medical procedures. Why? Because we haven’t yet heard any at-the-table Beltway-dealmakers, say that healthcare reform is an oxymoron if it doesn’t provide for women’s equal access to healthcare, and then fight for just that.

By contrast, Rep. Stupak, and his “merry anti-choice band,” are doing what true believers generally do: They are fighting really, really smart, and really, really hard for what they (truly) believe in.

Madame Speaker: Are you a true believer (in women’s equality)?

Madame Speaker: Why are you going down without a fight, especially for the sake of rich-as-Croesus-already health insurers, who are just going to get richer, once your Stupak-lite passes, because the risk pool they’ll then be insuring will be getting riskier (once all those people with expensive pre-existing conditions are in the pool), and so premium costs will go up even more than they already have.

And, Madame Speaker, even if there’s some, as yet unshared-with-the-public proof that the only healthcare bill that could ever be on the table for a vote in 2010 is Stupak-lite, why in the world should the women Members and Senators–led down that rose-garden path by you–vote for Stupak-lite? Because something is better than nothing?

I don’t buy it. See above for starters. There hasn’t been battle-one yet.

How about an equally aggressive fight, led by you? How about saying something this evening at The White House?!

This takes me to thesis two.

2) “I won’t always be there with you.”

Some in Chicago heard the President–in the earliest months of his Presidential campaign–say just those words, talking about the issue of abortion.

Yup, just as I’ve been writing in these pages for months: The President never promised us a Rose Garden. And boy has he kept his promise. Not once during this year of speaking, meeting, deal-making, power-breaking, think-tanking, and healthcare-summiting has the President ever said that women’s health is as important as men’s, and that, therefore, it ought to be recognized as such in his healthcare reform bill.

So, maybe, you’ve been thinking all this time that, ah gee, he’ll come home when it really matters. Well, he hasn’t. Not to our home.

Instead, when the President finally stated his legislative preference for a healthcare reform bill over a year into his Presidency, and almost four months after Mr. Stupak had his say (and his wish come true), the President’s preference was for the healthcare bill passed by the U.S. Senate: Yup, that one.

Stupak-lite, and that’s putting the best face on it. Stupak-lite: The one that contains noxious, rabidly anti-women language, effectively mooting American women’s constitutionally protected access to abortion.

Stupak-lite: The one that has no public option, no national health insurance exchange, (but, instead, state-based health insurance exchanges, permitting a network of anti-women local pols to govern American women’s healthcare; boy, that’s worked out really well for women), and no employer mandate to provide health insurance (even at the employee’s own expense). Well, you get the drift.

Stupak-lite: The one that is really, really light, not-to-say ephemeral, when it comes to protecting the women of America.

3) Sisterhood is powerful, but it is only powerful when it advances the rights of all sisters. [Neither Stupak-lite, nor the current federal laws governing access to abortion, do that for American women.]

Madame Speaker: According to published reports, when the proverbial “[healthcare reform] s(…) hit the fan” last Thursday, you called to your office a group of Beltway women’s-issues advocates and power brokers.

Did anyone at that meeting ask you whether you think it’s right–for the women of America–that you and other women Members and Senators are mooting our constitutional right for the sake of Stupak-lite?

Assuming you said “yes,” or, alternatively, that you said “no, but that’s the only choice I have,” why do you sound so righteous as you discard the rights of your sisters?

Why do you sound so righteous when neither Stupak-lite, nor the current federal laws governing access to abortion, do that for American women?

4) Some bill, any bill, (won’t) do.

Madam Speaker, I feel like we’re all becoming slaves to Baltimore, or Chicago, or Beltway art-of-the-possible approaches to governing, ones you and the President know so well; ones that say some bill, any bill, will do; ones that say that the only failed health reform bill is no health reform bill.

For, God-forbid, Barack Obama should have the same stripe on his back as Bill Clinton: The one that says: I failed to pass a health reform bill. For, God-forbid Rahm should return to Chicago as just another rich investment banker, former D.C. insider who couldn’t get the big one done. God-forbid you should go down in history as a Speaker who couldn’t get the big one done, either. The women of America will just have to be sacrificed to avoid all this unpleasantness.

5) Madame Speaker: I repeat: That will never do.

Madame Speaker: Hear this: The only healthcare reform bill that matters right now is about abortion, and that’s a good thing. And here’s why. As you sit in those oh-so-lovely White House and Capitol rooms this International Women’s Day, remember this: What you give away today will never suffice; they’ll just ask for more tomorrow. That’s how Washington works; that’s how men in power work; that’s how women in power who don’t care about other women work. That’s wreckonciliation.

So, you might as well fight for what really matters: Fight for our (not God-given, but even better than that, Supreme-Court given) right to abortion. Fight for reconciliation.
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Rebecca

www.rebeccasive.com/blogSubscribe.htm

If Ida B. Wells Were Alive Today

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to my February post for Today’s Chicago Woman: http://www.tcwmag.com/blogs/sivesiftings.

Ida B. Wells is inspiring in any month, but particularly so in this Black History Month, as women, all women, of all colors, gather together to figure out how to save healthcare reform, so that it will matter for women.

Ida B. Wells taught us both how to fight and how hard to fight: a writer, community organizer, and tireless advocate for justice, she never, ever, gave up.

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Here is my fan-letter post about Ida:

One of my favorite heroines of Chicago history–in fact, of all American history–is yesterday’s-Chicago-woman, Ida Barnett Wells. (See: http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=W041.)

Ida B. Wells was born and educated in post-Reconstruction Mississippi, in a time when, and in a place where, African Americans experienced the very worst of what post-slavery white America offered-up to post-slavery black America. Lynching was common, and in Ida’s Mississippi homeplace, as well as in Memphis, Ida’s home as a young adult, all forms of public life were strictly segregated. (See: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_people_wells.html.)

Ida was a young woman when the U.S. Supreme Court infamously decided that “separate [could be] equal (for blacks and whites),” including in public transportation. (See: href=http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_plessy.html.

Indeed, Ida B. Wells first came to public notice when, still her 20s, and newly arrived in Memphis, she fought against just this kind of segregation, on the railroads.

Ida filed a lawsuit; she wrote editorials in the local newspaper; she spoke-out without fear. But, when a friend was lynched, and Wells spoke out against the lynching, Ida was forced to flee to safety, to Chicago.

In fact, Chicago was thought to be the “the promised land” for many of Mississippi’s African Americans.

The Chicago Daily Defender preached this message to Mississippians, distributing the newspaper at the very train stations where Mississippi’s African-American families boarded the (segregated) trains for Chicago.

Of course, times were tough in Chicago, too, but times weren’t nearly as tough as they were in Mississippi, where the sharecropping economy meant the meanest form of poverty.

Ida hit Chicago and started “blogging,” writing for the Chicago Daily Defender, among others.

And, girl(s), did she “blog.” Ida said what she thought, when she thought it. She was clear as a bell, at times caustic, and always, always, writing about the political matters of the day most important to African Americans. She was also a stirring and untiring voice for equality for women.

Fast-forward to today. At Today’s Chicago Woman, I try to say “…what time it is,” too.

And here’s what time it is, as I write in mid-January 2010: The U.S. Congress is about to come to agreement on a healthcare bill–with the votes of the women of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in-hand–a bill that renders American women separate and unequal (just what Ida fought against a hundred years ago), by virtue of its approach to reproductive healthcare to American women.

How can this be, you ask?

Here’s the back-story: According to Jessica Arons, writing for the Center for American Progress, (http://www.americanprogress.org/), and RH Reality Check, (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/), federal legislators made a “deal” at the outset of developing the healthcare reform bill, a deal that included a commitment to maintaining the federal status quo regarding access to abortion.

That status quo is the deal made by an infamous Chicago Congressman, Henry Hyde. Why infamous? Well, “The Hyde Amendment” denies federal funding to Medicaid-covered poor women seeking abortions, while their richer sisters can continue to be reimbursed by their (private) health insurer.

Surprise, surprise: In the run-up to the healthcare reform bill, neither the anti-choice Republicans, nor the anti-choice Democrats, kept their end of the deal Jessica describes. Instead, they proposed new, and, again, surprise, surprise, worse terms.

To add insult to injury, instead of fighting these proposals, say, in the way Ida would have, the pro-choice women in the U.S. Congress basically folded. The result: “the Stupak Amendment” (see http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/, for a refresher on that one), as well as the Senator Ben Nelson deal (see same place for a refresher on that one), both amendments effectively eliminating–each in its own special way–the federally-guaranteed right to access to abortion.

THESE WOMEN LEGISLATORS, OUR SUPPOSED ADVOCATES, ENDORSED A HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN WHICH ACCESS TO ABORTION, (A FORM OF HEALTHCARE, AFTER ALL), WOULD BE EXEMPTED, SOLELY, FROM THE ORDINARY COURSE OF HEALTHCARE TREATMENT AND PAYMENT.

NO HEALTHCARE FOR MEN, PILLS FOR IMPOTENCY, SAY, WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ANY RESTRICTIONS TO THE NORMAL COURSE OF TREATMENT OR PAYMENT: NONE, NONE, AND NONE.

As I write [in mid-January], we don’t know what the final version of the healthcare bill the Congress sends to the President will be. Nor do we know whether the President will wake-up and remember who elected him (among others, America’s women and African Americans), and, therefore, decide that he ought to lead, instead of to follow, when it comes to insuring our equal rights.

However, and in any event, we know this: As we celebrate Black History Month, and as we look ahead to next-month’s celebration of Women’s History Month, history is being rewritten, for the (way) worse.

Ida would rail against this rewrite, and so should you.

Ida wouldn’t have stood this for a hot minute. She would have said, plainly and forcefully:

WE WON’T, AT THE BEGINNING, MIDDLE, OR END OF ANY DISCUSSION IN WHICH WOMEN’S VERY LIVES ARE AT STAKE, ALLOW ANYONE TO SUBJUGATE US.

WE STAND FIRM AND UNITED. IF THE CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT THINK OTHERWISE, JUST LET THEM TEST US.

WE WON’T MAKE DEALS. WE WILL MAKE WOMEN’S LIVES BETTER.

As your Today’s-Chicago-Woman Ida-surrogate, I say to you: Let’s do what Ida would do. Shout these words from the rooftops–in Black History Month, in Women’s History Month, in every month until the right deed is done.

Rebecca Sive

www.rebeccasive.com/blogSubscribe.htm