The Fem Spot

Bargaining with abortion

Posted in Politics by femspotter on March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010

In its 11th-hour, the health care bill is still in need of support from approximately 12 holdout Representatives, even after Dennis Kucinich’s recent high profile flip from “no” to “yes.” That has House Democratic leaders scrambling, reports The New York Times.

It was not immediately clear if the bill could win approval without some concessions to Democrats seeking tighter abortion restrictions.

In similar late-hour wrangling in November, Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, succeeded in winning approval of tight limits on insurance coverage of abortions in the House health care bill.

Mr. Stupak has said he would oppose the current measure without similar limits. Other Democratic opponents of abortion have said they are satisfied with the language in the Senate bill that bans the use of federal money to pay for coverage of the procedure, and they have pledged support for the package, expected to come to a decisive vote in the House on Sunday.

Mr. Stupak introduced a resolution on Friday that would add tougher abortion restrictions to the bill after it is approved but before it is sent to the president — a technique typically used to make minor or technical changes with the consent of both chambers, an unlikely prospect.

‘We don’t want another vote on abortion,’ said Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado and a champion of abortion rights, as she left a meeting Friday evening in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. ‘We are not going to vote for a bill that restricts women’s right to choose beyond current law.’

I find that as a liberal and a feminist – not a Liberal Feminist, per se, I am torn: I want to see this hopeful yet insufficient stab at health care “reform” succeed, but I am not willing to sacrifice the already meager rights that women exercise in exchange for similarly meager reform. As the article points out, federal money will not be used to cover abortion procedures under this bill. What more – or less – do these opposing Democrats want? Do they want to overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic “do with your body what you will” compromise that we all should be able to live with?

Up until now, I have avoided writing about health care reform because it seemed unlikely and because it didn’t strictly relate to my feminism. It is my belief that had this country elected Hillary Clinton to our highest office, she would have successfully banged the shit out of health care reform by now: no white glove summits coddling Republican misers and certainly no talk of making abortion the pigeon for her bill. But President Barack Obama has her safely out of sight and mind, tucked away in Moscow discussing diplomacy with Israel, where she can’t reach out and smack Stupak upside the head. Clinton is, after all, one of the most poised supporters of reproductive health rights working in the United States government today. So, were she installed in the Presidency, I probably would not have weighed in either.

But as a liberal – and one a stone’s throw away from embracing socialism, I have been ruminating about health care without specific regard to feminist issues like abortion or breast cancer, etc. I have thought about the Unconstitutional and unfair nature of our capitalist, for-profit health care industry and how it reflects our capitalist legal system wherein the rich get bigger and better services than the poor. And in these two systems, there’s money to be made at every turn.

Traditional moms and dads don’t want their sons to grow up to be doctors or lawyers, or their daughters to marry said doctors and lawyers, for the greater good; they want them to grow up to become doctors and lawyers because, in this country, that’s where there’s honorable money to be made – and by “honorable” I refer to money for service rather than money for little to no contribution to American Constitutional ideals. These moms and dads love to brag about Johnny Jr. and his impressive degrees from Harvard and Yale…oh, and by the way he saved a life today. It makes sense in America that if you educate yourself and work hard, you make money. That’s capitalism: the American dream. Of course, now mom and dad can also brag that Johnny Jr. is a pharmaceutical sales representative or insurance executive, because there’s “McMansion” money to be made there too.

The problem with capitalism is that it is not self-corrective. The American dream, once attainable by a strong middle class, has become perverted to the point where it is no longer readily attainable. Less and less, people are able to earn enough money to own their own homes and support their families without government intervention. Seen an ad for a multimillion-dollar home lately? The $20 million mansion has become the new American dream. Who needs it? Nobody. But there’s nothing in our capitalist system that corrects or reverses this economic flow, which pushes all the money in one direction: up. Capitalists believe that people charitably give their wealth proportionally, stimulating the economy from the bottom up, and that the system will work because of human compassion. Socialists know that people do not naturally want to share with each other; that’s why they build in sharing through centralized health care, etc. If you’re in the top 1% of the American population, you can afford great doctors to treat you when you’re sick and great lawyers to defend you when you’re accused of crimes. There are none to few “wealthy” people on death row. And I’d be willing to bet that there are no wealthy women contacting women’s welfare groups for abortion funding either.

When did our Constitutional rights to “general welfare” and “liberty,” i.e. health care and justice, get eroded away to the point where only the wealthy are entitled to them?

Health care reform measures are now in play to correct this Constitutional “welfare” discrepancy, but they have many conservatives crying “Socialism.” Gasp! “We can’t be socialists here. This is the United States of America, land of the pursuit of happiness.” Of course, that pursuit is short-lived when you can’t get chemo treatment or when you spend the first 18 years of your life as an unwanted child schlepping around in our child welfare system.

Health care becomes a feminist issue when abortion and mammograms – to name a couple of women’s services – become bargaining chips toward the long overdue, liberal end: medical coverage for all Americans. In November, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women in their 40s should no longer get annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer, despite the rising rates of breast cancer in the U.S.: the current statistics are that 1. just under one in eight American women (12%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and 2. that the 39 million mammograms that occur each year in the U.S. cost the health care system $5 billion. Are those one in eight female lives enough justification for money that the war in Iraq surpasses in expense on a monthly basis? Mammography is highly controversial, with some arguing its benefits and others its harms. But it is a controversial issue that belongs mainly to women – who rally and march at countless fund-raising events for breast cancer research each year – and should not be evaluated strictly on a cost basis, which the task force said was not a consideration. Somebody calculated and reported the cost, however. Hmmm… Whatever you do, don’t think about the elephant in the room. The proposed health care bill will extend coverage to 32 million people at a cost of $940 billion over 10 years. At $50 billion (5.3% of the $940 billion), mammography might be poised to take a hit for the good of the many.

And if Stupak gets his way, reproductive rights will also take a hit. In 2009, Stupak introduced a successful amendment to the House bill, which restricts women who receive government-subsidized health insurance from choosing health plans that cover abortions – according to the National Abortion Federation, roughly two thirds of health insurance providers offer some kind of coverage for abortion procedures. In other words, he threw the bill into a morality crucible. No longer was the issue about women’s health, the issue became about restricting women’s choices on the basis of the opposition to abortion’s morality. This amendment reduced the bill to a coin on a string: We’ll give you money for health care if you don’t actually try and obtain the health care you need. Might this influence health insurance providers to stop covering abortions so women will elect their coverage with government subsidies? Stupak wants this clause put back in the bill owing to what he calls his strong Catholic faith.

The only reason I’m listening to Stupak is because he has a very big microphone in front of him, put there by the voters of Michigan. At the end of the day, I don’t believe that Stupak or any man should get a say in whether or not abortion is legal or afforded by tax dollars. It’s not their issue; it’s ours, women – whether we’re for or against legal abortion! We should discuss and legislate. Male legislators should shut the fuck up about it because they’ll never have need or want for abortion! (Similarly, I am completely silent about penile enhancement procedures and vasectomies.)

I can understand not wanting your tax dollars to go to something you’re morally opposed to; but hey, sack up – my tax dollars support the “war on terror” and I’m morally opposed to that! Bottom line: Stupak, this is not up to you and your penis. Abortion is an issue for womb-bearers only, unless said womb-bearers are in loving, committed relationships with men and seek male approval on an individual basis.

You want to bring Catholicism into this? That’s Unconstitutional, according to Thomas Jefferson’s interpretation of the First Amendment, but I’ll go along. According to The New York Times, “a group of nuns has once again exposed the long-running rift between liberal and conservative theology in the Catholic Church.” Progressive Catholics, including a group of nuns, have said that they would support the Senate bill while the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has said that it would oppose it. Nuns win in my book, not because I agree with their stance, but because…they’re women! Though it’s doubtful that these nuns will ever take advantage of abortions, they believe that the bill does not make abortion more widely available than it already is. (Shucks!) Regarding the 59,000 nuns who maintain their anti-abortion stance yet support the bill, Stupak told Fox, “With all due respect to the nuns, when I deal or am working on right-to-life issues, we don’t call on the nuns.” Instead, he turns “to leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee.” That’s right, you misogynist, self-important windbag: ignore the women and their views…on this women’s issue!

Interested in hearing Stupak duke it out with Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth – who notes that, under Stupak’s amendment, women would have “to plan for an unplanned event” – on “Hardball?”

Blah, blah, blah… Rachel Maddow and (female) guest are much more articulate, not to mention relevant.

This bill doesn’t satisfy me on liberal or feminist planes, but it’s a step in the right direction politically. When it comes to abortion, however, the bombast coming from male politicians needs to cease. Men, this is not your decision to make. You do not get to control what we do with our bodies for the sake of our health and the sake of our happiness. It is yes! Unconstitutional for you to think you can strip away our rights to life and pursuing happiness at the hands of abortion…or mammography or any other women’s health service you deem inconsequential. You can decide you’re the experts and tell us which brand of tampons to wear, but don’t expect us to listen. And if you take away legal abortions, women will go back to bleeding to death for our rights. Stupak, you want to threaten Nancy Pelosi with your 40 plus dissenting votes? We threaten you with dead pregnant women and their similarly dead unborn.

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Natalie Dylan: virgin or victim?

Posted in Feminist Theory, Politics, Pop Culture, Sexuality by femspotter on September 19, 2008
September 19, 2008
Natalie Dylan (pseudonym)

Natalie Dylan (pseudonym)

Although Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s eyewear seems to be getting more media attention than the announcement from a 22-year-old woman from California that she will sell her virginity to the highest bidder, the latter incident has not gone entirely unnoticed. Prostitution is largely illegal in the United States – it is legal in Nevada and Rhode Island, so it’s surprising that we Americans are spending more time debating abortion – which then presumptive Supreme Court Justice John Roberts said in 2005 was “settled as a precedent” – than we are about the concept of selling sex for money.

Natalie Dylan (left) has said that rather than work her way through graduate school, she’d like to auction off her virginity – she’s hoping for $1 million – in order to pay for a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Presumably, as we are living in a capitalist society which operates according to the principle of supply and demand, there is a demand out there for sex…but not just sex: sex with a virgin.

Of course, news of Ms. Dylan’s scheme has sparked speculation in the blogosphere that perhaps she is not what she says. Could it be that she is lying? Could it be that she is not a virgin, and therefore selling a used good claiming that it is new?

That seems to be the most popular angle on the debate over Dylan’s sex sale: is she or isn’t she a real virgin? What’s the difference? The penis doesn’t leave an impression behind after intercourse. It’s not like there will be grooves in a seasoned vagina that weren’t there before the…uh…seasoning. And any female who has ever used a tampon or participated in youth sports activities has broken her hymen. There will likely be no blood to prove your claim.

Guys, your dick won’t know the difference. Do men secretly want to be Captain Kirk (William Shatner), “boldly go(ing) where no man has gone before?”

If I had $1 million in spare cash just lying around, I wouldn’t pay for sex with a virgin. I’d smuggle ice cream into a secret gathering of women in Afghanistan and move all young girls slated for “circumcision” to a desert island. That way women who aren’t getting laid properly could at least enjoy the pleasure of eating forbidden food. And little girls who are being crippled so that they never have orgasms – EVER – could escape such a cruel, sexless existence.

And if there’s any money leftover, I’d buy something for me. I’m no saint. Behold:

Armadillo Striped Satin d'Orsay by Christian Louboutin - $790

Christian Louboutin $790

It’s not like Dylan will use the whole of her $1 million to pay for school. Graduate school doesn’t cost that much. I see extravagant satin shoes in her future.

But wait: even if somebody does agree to pay big bucks for sex with the big V, doesn’t the aforementioned prostitute get only half of the money that’s tendered? After all, Dylan has agreed to lose her virginity at the Moonlite BunnyRanch in Nevada, one of only a handful of legal brothels. But the location doesn’t come cheap: Dylan will have to fork over half of her earnings when the time comes. If she’s offered $1 million for her virginity, she’ll net $500,000. And BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof will keep the remainder for…well…for having a keen business sense and the foresight to know that his 1993 $1.5 million investment in the existing brothel would pay off.

Everybody gets rich, I guess.

I had an argument about prostitution with a Marxist feminist wherein she outlined for me how prostitution exploits women. I don’t agree entirely. In the first place, exploitation would mean that a service is being provided without just compensation. In Dylan’s case, she has said up front what “just compensation” means to her. If a woman says that she will provide sex for $100, and she is subsequently paid $100 for that sex, there is no exploitation. If her customer stiffs her – in more ways than one – then there is exploitation. I am assuming that customers pay upfront in these legal brothels. How is there financial exploitation in such cases?

The hole in my argument (or, at least, the wrinkle) is that the house takes 50 percent of the working girls’ earnings. Because prostitution is only legal in these small areas of the country, women (and men where there’s demand) have very few potential employers.

Do real estate agents generally feel exploited by their real estate brokers? If they do, they can switch. Realtor X makes x percent of her commission and Realtor Y makes y percent at a different brokerage. Realtor X can make y percent if he or she changes companies. But a prostitute has few options. In our society, we consider prostitutes to be deviant; suppliers of a deviant product. (We don’t generally think about the level of deviance in the demanding population.) Therefore, we have isolated the identified deviants in small pockets of the country.

Natalie Dylan has said that in this capitalist society, she is going to capitalize on her virginity. But because her options are limited, so is her fiscal yield. It is therefore not capitalism that exploits prostitutes, as the Marxist feminist would argue, but rather moral rigidity in the law. More legal brothels would yield more competition for brothel owners and consequently higher commission splits for sex workers.

This doesn’t completely expound a platform in favor of prostitution. I believe that like most things having to do with our bodies – i.e. sexual preference and reproductive rights – prostitution should be above the law. One reason for the federal government to make abortion uniformly legal was to avoid the state border hopping that was going on prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973. Isn’t that why President George Bush and others are in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage: to avoid mass vigilante behavior across the U.S.? Until more states permit prostitution as a legal means of income, there’s very little threat of such border hopping and mass vigilantism. It’s not likely that the federal government will address the issue any time soon.

I believe there shouldn’t even be an issue. What you do with your own body should be entirely up to you so long as you don’t infringe upon other human beings’ inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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