Posts filed under Abortion

We know other marketplaces.

If you enjoyed Pigs as a Paradigm, here is some more from the same place, which may be something by way of a moral. This is in Aristide’s article Globalization: A View from Below, which is a frustrating mix of sharp and important insights and politically-blinkered non sequiturs. The article includes the story about the international-aid driven massacre of Haitian creole pigs, and also includes this, which I think is another of its best passages.

In today’s global marketplace trillions of dollars are traded each day via a vast network of computers. In this market no one talks, no one touches. Only numbers count. . . .

We know other marketplaces. On a plain high in the mountains of Haiti, one day a week thousands of people still gather. This is the marketplace of my childhood in the mountains above Port Salut. The sights and the smells and the noise and the color overwhelm you. Everyone comes. If you don’t come you will miss everything. The donkeys tied and waiting in the woods number in the thousands. Goods are displayed in every direction: onions, leeks, corn, beans, yams, cabbage, cassava, and avocados, mangoes and every tropical fruit, chickens, pigs, goats, and batteries and tennis shoes, too. People trade goods and news. This is the center; social, political, and economic life roll together. A woman teases and coaxes her client: Cherie, the onions are sweet and waiting just for you. The client laughs and teases back until they make a deal. They share trade, and laughter, gossip, politics, and medical and child-rearing tips. A market exchange, and a human exchange.

We are not against trade, we are not against free trade, but our fear is that the global market[1] intends to annihilate our markets. We will be pushed to the cities, to eat food grown on factory farms in distant countries, food whose price depends on the daily numbers game of the first market. This is more efficient, the economists say. Your market, your way of life, is not efficient, they say. But we ask, What is left when you reduce trade to numbers, when you erase all that is human?

— Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Globalization: A View from Below
In Bigelow and Peterson (eds.), Rethinking Globalization: Teaching Justice in an Unjust World (Rethinking Schools, Ltd.: 2002). 10.

Now I’d actually want to say a word or three in favor of mind-boggling scale, computer networks, and global markets. But I think what is most valuable in them — when they are valuable — is precisely their ability to interconnect and network bottom-up confederations of a lot local, people-centered marketplaces, and to facilitate and loop in the kind of messy, informal, individually-driven, un-professional trade that Aristide celebrates. The highly centralizing, politically captured global market that aims to annihilate this aims to annihilate it because it is a corporate-owned market herded, and driven by, some very powerful interests exercising tremendous amounts of interventionist political force in order to reshape their environments, to dominate their markets, and to protect their corporate empires, their preferred business models, and their commerce without a human face. Self-organizing markets are at their best when they are the Other Marketplaces. And a radical defense of trade and private property is essential precisely because it is only by sticking to our guns, and defending market forms down to the bottom, and especially in the hands of and for the use of the poorest and most marginalized, that we can move beyond half-measures, business balance sheets and number-crunching neoliberal economic reform; get out of the strip mall and into the bazaar; and get down into the people-powered Other Marketplaces that bring together the best of human sociality and mutual exchange.

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  1. [1] [Sic.]

Roe v. Wade Day (#40)

To-day is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, repealing abortion laws in the United States. Like all anniversaries, it’s a good day for remembering, and for honoring.

Here’s libertarian feminist Lucinda Cisler’s brilliant and chillingly prescient article on Abortion Law Repeal (Sort Of): A Warning to Women. From Ramparts (August 1970), on the importance of radicalism to the pro-choice movement and the danger of TRAP laws and state control.

The most important thing feminists have done and have to keep doing is to insist that the basic reason for repealing the laws and making abortions available is JUSTICE: women’s right to abortion. Everyone recognizes the cruder forms of opposition to abortion traditionally used by the forces of sexism and religious reaction. But a feminist philosophy must be able to deal with all the stumbling blocks that keep us from reaching our goal, and must develop a consciousness about the far more subtle dangers we face from many who honestly believe they are our friends. In our disgust with the extreme oppression women experience under the present abortion laws, many of us are understandably tempted to accept insulting token changes that we would angrily shout down if they were offered to us in any other field of the struggle for women’s liberation. We’ve waited so long for anything to happen that when we see our demands having any effect at all we’re sorely tempted to convince ourselves that everything that sounds good in the short run will turn out to be good for women in the long run. And a lot of us are so fed up with the system that we don’t even bother to find out what it’s doing so we can fight it and demand what we want. This is the measure of our present oppression: a chain of aluminum does feel lighter around our necks than one made of iron, but it’s still a chain, and our task is still to burst entirely free… .

. . . But the new reform legislation now being proposed all over the country is not in our interest either: it looks pretty good, and the improvements it seems to promise (at least for middle-class women) are almost irresistible to those who haven’t informed themselves about the complexities of the abortion situation or developed a feminist critique of abortion that goes beyond it’s our right. And the courts are now handing down decisions that look good at a glance but that contain the same restrictions as the legislation.

All of the restrictions are of the kind that would be extremely difficult to get judges and legislators to throw out later (unlike the obvious grotesqueries in the old reform laws, which are already being challenged successfully in some courts and legislatures). A lot of people are being seriously misled because the legislation and the court decisions that incorporate these insidious limitations are being called abortion law repeal by the media.

. . . There are many reasons why a woman might seek a late abortion, and she should be able to find one legally if she wants it. She may suddenly discover that she had German measles in early pregnancy and that her fetus is deformed; she may have had a sudden mental breakdown; or some calamity may have changed the circumstances of her life: whatever her reasons, she belongs to herself and not to the state.

— Lucinda Cisler (1970), Abortion Law Repeal (Sort Of): A Warning to Women, in Ramparts (August 1970).

And here is how a group of women in Chicago took matters into their own hands, years before Roe, without the blessing of the male experts and in defiance of the man-made Law, in order to make justice for their sisters a reality.

Radical women in Chicago poured their energy into Jane, an abortion referral service initiated by Heather Booth, who had been a one-woman grapevine for her college classmates. In 1971, after Booth’s departure, some of the women took matters into their own hands and secretly began to perform the abortions themselves. Safe, compassionate terminations for a modest fee became their high calling—a model, as they saw it, for women’s empowerment after the revolution.

Leaflets appeared in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the University of Chicago bearing a simple message: Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane at 643-3844. The number rang at the home of one of the activists who volunteered to be Jane. As word spread and the volume of calls increased, the service acquired its own phone line and an answering machine, a cumbersome reel-to-reel device that was one of the first on the market. Volunteers, known inside the service as call-back Janes, visited the abortion seekers to elicit crucial medical details (most important was lmp, the number of weeks since the last menstrual period), then another level of volunteers scheduled an appointment with one of the abortionists on the group’s list.

At first the service relied on Mike in Cicero, who was fast, efficient, and willing to lower his price to five hundred dollars as the volume increased. Mike gradually let down his guard with Jody Parsons, his principal Jane contact, an artisan who sold her beaded jewelry and ceramics at street fairs and was a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease. The clandestine abortionist and the hippy artisan struck up a bond. When Mike confessed that he was not in fact a real doctor but merely a trained technician, she cajoled him into teaching her his skills. Jody’s rapid success in learning to maneuver the dilating clamps, curettes, and forceps demystified the forbidden procedures for another half dozen women in Jane. If he can do it, then we can do it became their motto.

Madeline Schwenk, a banker’s daughter who had married at twenty, six months pregnant with no clue whatsoever about how to get an abortion, moved from counseling to vacuum aspiration after Harvey Karman, the controversial director of a California clinic, came to Chicago to demonstrate his technique. Madeline was one of the few women in Jane who was active in NOW, and who stayed affiliated with the Chicago chapter during the year she wielded her cannula and curette for the service. I’d get up in the morning, make breakfast for my three kids, go off to do the abortions, then go home to make dinner, she reminisces. Pretty ourageous behavior when you think about it. But exciting.

Jane’s abortion practitioners and their assistants were able to handle a total of thirty cases a day at affordable fees—under one hundred dollars. A doctor and a pharmacist among the women’s contacts kept them supplied with antibiotics.

Fear of police surveillance in radical circles had its match among clandestine abortionists who relied on a complicated rigamarole of blindfolds and middlemen. Jane straddled both worlds. Abortion seekers gathered every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at a front apartment, usually the home of a Jane member or friend, and were escorted by Jane drivers to the Place, a rented apartment where the abortions were performed. The fronts and the Place changed on a regular basis. New volunteers, brought into the group by counselors and drivers, went through a probation period before they were told that women in Jane were doing the abortions. The news did not sit well with everyone. Turnover was high, from fear and from burnout, although the service usually maintained its regular complement of thirty members.

Jane lost most of its middle-class clientele after the New York law [repealing the state’s abortion ban] went into effect. Increasingly it began to service South Side women, poor and black, who did not have the money to travel out of state, and whose health problems, from high blood pressure to obesity, were daunting. Pressure on the providers intensified. Audaciously they added second-trimester abortionsby induced miscarriage to their skills.

On May 3, 1972, near the conclusion of a busy work day in an eleventh-floor apartment on South Shore Drive overlooking Lake Michigan, Jane got busted. Seven women, including Madeline Schwenk, were arrested and bailed out the following day. The Chicago Daily News blared Women Seized in Cut-Rate Clinic in a front-page banner. The Tribune buried Lib Groups Linked to Abortions on an inside page. Six weeks later the service was back in buinsess. Wisely, the women facing criminal charges selected a defense attorney who was clued in to and optimistic about the national picture. She advised them to hang tight—some interesting developments were taking place in Washington that could help their case. (After the January 1973 Roe decision, all outstanding charges against the seven were dropped.)

The activists of Jane believe they performed more than ten thousand abortions. It’s a ballpark figure based on the number of procedures they remember doing in a given week. For security reasons they did not keep records.

— Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, pp. 123—125

Here’s Roe v. Wade Day (#36), which I wrote a few years back. I would now just emphasize that I wrote this article at the beginning of the Obama administration; halfway through that administration, I can only say that the ongoing legal assault on reproductive rights under Obama’s administration — an assault which, depending on the case, he has either been directly complicit in, or simply could do nothing effectual to prevent — has been far more extensive, and far worse, than I would have pessimistically predicted in January 2009. I actually do have a great deal of hope about the future and about the prospects for reproductive rights. And to-day is as good a day as any for remembering the reasons why. But none of these reasons have to do with any hope I have left for electoral campaigns or pro-choice politicians.

To-day, as part of Blog for Choice Day, NARAL would like bloggers to write about your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress. But, as much as I might like for the now-ruling Democrats to roll back the past 8 years of new restrictions on abortion rights, I think the most important lesson to remember on this day is not to put your hope in the politicians and their power-plays. As noxious as Bush Jr.’s regime may have been, we can’t afford to forget that it was not George W. Bush, but pro-choice Bill Clinton who spent eight years presiding over the most intense and coordinated legal assaults on abortion rights in the post-Roe era — the emergence and proliferation of TRAP laws and procedure bans from 1992 to 2000. Politicians make political decisions, and even the most principled are subject to political forces beyond their personal control, and when we put our hope for social change in their hands, whatever convictions they confess and whatever parties they swear to, they will throw it away as soon as it suits them, again, and again, and again.

If not politicians, then who should we put our hopes in? But the answer should be obvious: we must put our hope in ourselves . . . The repeal of the abortion laws in the United States wasn’t a gift handed down out of benevolence by a gang of old men in robes. It was struggled for, and won, by women in our own times. It didn’t take ballot boxes; it didn’t take political parties; it didn’t take clever legal briefs. It took radical women who stood up for themselves, who challenged the authority of self-appointed male experts and law-makers, who spoke truth to power, who took things into their own hands and helped their sisters, in defiance of the law, because they knew that they had a right to do it, and to hell with any law and any government that said otherwise. Radical feminists who built a movement for their own freedom over a matter of months and decisively changed the world in less than five years. . It’s not just that we owe the Redstockings, Cindy Cisler, Heather Booth, Jody Parsons, Madeline Schwenk, and so many others our praise. They do deserve our cheers, but they also deserve our study and our emulation. They did amazing things, and we — feminists, leftists, anti-statists — owe it not only to them, but to ourselves, to honor them by trying to learn from their example.

— GT 2009-01-22: Roe v. Wade Day (#36)

Change You Can Believe In (Vol. III, No. 12): Emergency Contraception.

From the New York Times (December 7, 2011). Boldface mine, for the parts that feel like getting kicked right in the stomach.

WASHINGTON — For the first time ever, the Health and Human Services secretary publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration, refusing Wednesday to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter, including to young teenagers. The decision avoided what could have been a bruising political battle over parental control and contraception during a presidential election season.

The contraceptive pill, called Plan B One-Step, has been available without a prescription to women 17 and older, but those 16 and younger have needed a prescription — and they still will because of the decision by the health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. If taken soon after unprotected sex, the pill halves the chances of a pregnancy.

Although Ms. Sebelius had the legal authority to overrule the F.D.A., no health secretary had ever publicly done so, an F.D.A. spokeswoman said… .

— Gardiner Harris, Plan to Widen Availability of Morning-After Pill is Rejected, New York Times (Dec. 7, 2011)

Until now.

Ms. Sebelius’s decision on an emotional issue that touches on parental involvement in birth control for teenage children is likely to have powerful political reverberations. Scientists and politicians have been at odds for years over whether to make Plan B available over the counter. The Bush administration at first rejected over-the-counter availability for women of any age, but ultimately allowed it for women 18 and older. After a federal court order, the Obama administration lowered the age to 17 in 2009.

With Ms. Sebelius’s decision on Wednesday, the Obama administration is taking a more socially conservative stance on Plan B, one closer to that of the Bush administration than to many of its own liberal supporters … .

For Dr. [Margaret] Hamburg [head of the Food and Drug Administration], the studies and experts all agreed that young women would benefit from having easy access to the pill and did not need the intervention of a health care provider. The agency’s scientists, she wrote, determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted disease.

… Dr. Susan Wood, a former F.D.A. assistant commissioner who resigned in 2005 to protest the Bush administration’s handling of Plan B, said that there were many drugs available over the counter that had not been studied in pre-adolescents and that were far more dangerous to them.

Acetaminophen can be fatal, but it’s available to everyone, Dr. Wood noted. So why are contraceptives singled out every single time when they’re actually far safer than what’s already out there?

… The American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have endorsed over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. Plan B was approved in 1999 as a prescription-only product, and it initially had few sales. In 2003, advocates filed an application for over-the-counter sales.

An expert advisory committee recommended approval, and scientists within the Food and Drug Administration unanimously supported that recommendation. Their rationale was simple: women can decide on their own when they need to take it, the drug is effective and its risks are minimal — particularly compared with pregnancy. But in a highly unusual move, top agency officials rejected the application because, some said later, they feared being fired if they approved it.

The agency delayed reconsideration for years despite promises by top Bush administration officials to do so. Then in 2006, the Bush administration allowed over-the-counter sales to women 18 and older but required a prescription for those 17 and younger. In 2009, the F.D.A. lowered the easy-access age limit by a year after a federal judge ruled that its decision had been driven by politics and not science.

— Gardiner Harris, Plan to Widen Availability of Morning-After Pill is Rejected, New York Times (Dec. 7, 2011)

Progressive Pro-Choice Peace President Barack Hussein Obama would like the Washington Post to know that he didn’t do it. He didn’t do it, but he dug it.

President Obama said Thursday that he supports his administration’s decision to block unrestricted sale of the morning-after pill to people younger than 17, a move that dismayed women’s advocates when it was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius said Wednesday that she had overruled the Food and Drug Administration, which had decided to make the contraceptive available to people of all ages directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves, without a prescription.

Obama said he did not get involved in the decision to require a prescription for girls 16 and under before it was announced, leaving it up to Sebelius.

But, he said: I will say this. As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.

And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old, going to a drug store, should be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries, purchase a powerful drug to stop a pregnancy, Obama said. I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

— Rob Stein and Anne E. Kornblut, Obama defends administration’s refusal to relax Plan B restrictions, The Washington Post (Dec. 8, 2011).

Especially parents who are trying to win a political election. I wonder if they bothered to ask an 11-year-old girl, who is afraid of becoming pregnant, how she feels about it?

About 10 percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age, Sebelius said.

— Rob Stein and Anne E. Kornblut, Obama defends administration’s refusal to relax Plan B restrictions, The Washington Post (Dec. 8, 2011).

Therefore, the state should ensure that the youngest girls of reproductive age are forced to get pregnant.

Back in the New York Times:

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the Obama administration may be trying to assuage Catholic bishops and others angered in recent weeks by a decision requiring that health insurance programs created under the new health reform law offer contraceptives for free.

I think they’re trying to create some political balance, Mr. Ornstein said.

— Gardiner Harris, Plan to Widen Availability of Morning-After Pill is Rejected, New York Times (Dec. 7, 2011)

Yes, a balance. Marvel as President Obama, liberal voters and the Catholic Bishops defy gravity in a spectacular balancing act! Right on top of a terrified 12 year old girl’s body.

This decision is inexcusable. And what makes it even worse is having to watch to the newsmedia calmly discussing the political calculations that went into it, as if what really mattered here had nothing to do with the lives affected by this decision, with the girls who have to live in fear of an unwanted pregnancy because their access to basic medical treatments has been regimented and sacrificed for the sake of a Democratic politician’s political prospects — as if what was really worth discussing was whether that palavering creep and the rest of his administration will be able to effectively exploit this regulatory backstab to increase their chances at holding onto political power for another four years. There are no English words for just how contemptible this shameful display is.

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In which women’s access to abortion becomes public-optional

From GT 2009-08-20: Tonight, in News of the Obvious:

And in breaking news from NARAL Pro-Choice America, it turns out that government provision of healthcare means that women’s healthcare will be allocated through a political process, and when women’s reproductive healthcare is allocated through a political process, women’s reproductive healthcare ends up being subjected to the vicissitudes of political debate over abortion.

NARAL may not draw the conclusion from its report, but the editorial board here at News of the Obvious will: setting aside outright political prohibitions, which aren’t likely to pass in the near future, a broad expansion of political control over women’s healthcare is the single worst thing that could possibly happen towards undermining women’s access to abortion and reproductive medicine.

— GT 2009-08-20: Tonight, in News of the Obvious

The House of Representatives just recently passed an omnibus health insurance bill which includes extensive new government involvement in health insurance and a strong public option of broad-based government-provided health insurance. The explicit purpose of this bill is to expand political control and political funding in the health insurance industry — to expand government’s role and responsibility in directly paying for healthcare and medical procedures, and to shift more of the money coming in to for-profit health insurance companies away from private sources, and towards government funding sources.

So-called Progressive While so-called Progressive organizations on the male Left — groups like MoveOn and SEIU and the AFL-CIO — have been celebrating the passage of the House bill as a great big win. MoveOn.org calls it historic health care reform and headlines their front page Victory!; now they are staging Countdown to Change rallies to thank those representatives who stood with the American people (by this, they mean those that voted for expanding the scope of the American government). In an e-mail circulated to their mailing list, the AFL-CIO called it a truly historic movement and called on supporters to pressure their Senators to pass a similar bill in order to ensure final victory.

Well, wait.

Just one little problem about this Huge Step Forward: turns out that, if it passes the Senate too, it will strip millions of women of access to abortion, by using strings attached to the new government funding to stop both the public option health insurance plans and plans offered by existing insurance companies from covering abortion procedures.

Oops.

From the National Organization for Women:

The House of Representatives has dealt the worst blow to women’s fundamental right to self-determination in order to buy a few votes for reform of the profit-driven health insurance industry. We must protect the rights we fought for in Roe v. Wade. We cannot and will not support a health care bill that strips millions of women of their existing access to abortion.

Birth control and abortion are integral aspects of women’s health care needs. Health care reform should not be a vehicle to obliterate a woman’s fundamental right to choose.

The Stupak Amendment goes far beyond the abusive Hyde Amendment, which has denied federal funding of abortion since 1976. The Stupak Amendment, if incorporated into the final version of health insurance reform legislation, will:

  • Prevent women receiving tax subsidies from using their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion;
  • Prevent women participating in the public health insurance exchange, administered by private insurance companies, from using 100 percent of their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion;
  • Prevent low-income women from accessing abortion entirely, in many cases.

NOW calls on the Senate to pass a health care bill that respects women’s constitutionally protected right to abortion and calls on President Obama to refuse to sign any health care bill that restricts women’s access to affordable, quality reproductive health care.

Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women (2009-11-08): NOW Opposes Health Care Bill That Strips Millions of Women of Abortion Access Says Bill Obliterates Women’s Fundamental Right to Choose

Once again, this should come as no surprise. Government health insurance means political allocation for women’s healthcare — for any and every one of the women who is moved over to public options and public-private partnerships on the public health insurance exchanges.

Political allocation of women’s healthcare means that women’s healthcare will be subjected to political debate and sacrificed in the name of political compromises — which, in this country, means being subjected and sacrificed to the Gentleman’s Agreement between anti-choice partisans, on the one hand, and, on the other, the doughface politicos, who just don’t give much of a damn about women’s lives or health or freedom, and are happy to treat them as optional as long as they’ve got a bill to pass or a Democrat to elect.

This healthcare bill, authored by Democrats, pushed by Democrats, and supposedly a key aspect of the male liberal’s agenda for Progressive social change, will almost certainly mean a massive government-sponsored assault on women’s access to abortion. Women’s bodies are not public property; women’s health should not be subject to public controversy or dependent on the approval of the public (which means, in fact, the loudest and most belligerent voices in politics). But as long as government is calling the shots on women’s healthcare, women’s healthcare is always going to be compromised and sacrificed in the name of political agendas. The only way to make sure that women’s healthcare will no longer be treated as public-optional is real radical healthcare reform — not by preserving the government-regimented corporatist status quo, but rather by getting government out of healthcare entirely — by cutting the government strings that always come attached to government money — by getting rid of government subsidy and government regimentation and replacing them with grassroots mutual aid, abortion funds, community-supported free clinics, and other forms of low-cost healthcare free of political control because they are supported by free association and community organizing, rather than taxation and political allocation. That is to say, by taking the funding for women’s healthcare out of the hands of politicians, and putting in the hands of women themselves.

Expanding government control of healthcare funding is anti-choice, anti-woman, and would represent the single biggest assault on women’s access to abortion in the last 30 years.

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Monday Lazy Linking