Standing against zealotry

Rowan County, Ken., clerk Kim Davis. Photo by Huffington Post.

Rowan County, Ken., clerk Kim Davis. Photo by Huffington Post.

I apparently started a shit storm on Facebook today when I replied to the news that the Vatican confirmed that the Pope had met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who is using her religion to deny people the right to marry.

I said, “Well, there goes my admiration for the pope,” which I will admit is a bit of an over-reaction. I still love this man’s words about caring for the planet and for the poor. I admire his humility. But I stand against any support for this woman.

Kim Davis has been married four times — so much for one-man, one-woman. Her twins were fathered by a man not her husband — so much for faithfulness to one’s spouse.

She has no right to stand in judgment over anyone. And yes, I am standing in judgment over her actions. I’ll admit that.

Kim Davis is trying to deny people their rights based on her view of God, which is unconstitutional. Our Constitution gives each of us the right to our religious beliefs but denies us the power to impose them on others.

I was called narrow-minded because I said people have a right to be married. It’s the poor fundamentalist zealots who are being persecuted, I’m told. All they want is for all of us to have to follow their narrow, bigoted beliefs. Gays are bad. Women are inferior because we are descended from Eve and therefore guilty of Original Sin. Addicts deserve to die. Mental illnesses can be prayed away because they are, after all, only demons.

I was raised being taught this crap, and I rejected it because those who believe this all too often ignore the needs of the poor. Because God will bless you if you’re a good person, so the poor deserve to suffer.

I also was chastised for calling someone out on his “pro-life” stand on another post, when he said Planned Parenthood needs to be closed. You’re not pro-life if you would deny women access to the health care provided by Planned Parenthood. You are not pro-life if you think women who want an abortion deserve to die. You are not pro-life if you would shred the social safety net.

If you want to call yourself Christian, read the red print. It says nothing about gay marriage or abortion. Take seriously the admonition to care for “the least of these.” And keep your thoughts on other people’s sexuality to yourself; it’s none of your damn business who I love or marry.

At least the pope gets some of it right. He has admonished us to care for the planet and for each other. He has denounced greed.

Still, I’m disappointed he apparently met with and supported Kim Davis, a woman who simply is refusing to do her job — which is to record (not approve of) births, deaths, property transfers and marriages.She needs to quit, be fired or land in jail for contempt of court. She is a hate-spewing zealot, not a hero.

For Women’s Equality Day, let’s defend women’s health

pp POSTER

Today marks the 95th anniversary of woman suffrage. That’s a big deal to me. My grandmother was the last generation of women who were denied the most basic right of a citizen — the right to vote.

But that didn’t mark the end of the Women’s Movement. Today we still make just 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men.

We still are less likely to get promoted into higher management and more likely to lose our jobs because we take time off to tend to sick children. And understand that we are the ones expected to stay home with sick children.

Men still think they can tell us whether and when we can have children. Remember the Congressional hearings about contraception in 2012? All of the panelists and all of the witnesses were men. When Sandra Fluke made noise about the injustice of that, Rush Limbaugh called her a slut.

Conservatives in state legislatures and in Congress — nearly all men — keep trying to take our right to contraception away from us.

When I was getting married in 1971, I had to sign a paper stating that my wedding was less than 90 days away before my doctor was allowed to prescribe the Pill for me. It was illegal for a doctor to prescribe any kind of birth control for a woman, and the law was so paternalistic that it was the doctor who would be punished, not the woman.

Now there’s a new push to close women’s clinics, especially Planned Parenthood.

No matter where you stand on the morality of abortion (I say it’s only the business of the woman and her doctor), Planned Parenthood prevents far more abortions than it performs.

Low-income women get their health care from Planned Parenthood clinics. That’s where I got my care when my kids were young and I was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. I had my annual checkups and cancer screenings there, and I got my contraception there. When I had bronchitis, I got antibiotics there. The clinic likely saved my life.

I was at a counter-protest last week and the people who wanted to close down Planned Parenthood were among the rudest, meanest, nastiest anti-life people I have ever encountered. Their behavior shook me to the core. Apparently, fetuses matter more than their mothers because these people didn’t care that women die when they lose access to health care. In fact, some said the women who get care there deserve to die.

Well, I have news for these creeps. I can be as loud as you are. I can make as many signs and I can fight just as hard for women’s lives as you fight against them.

I’m not good at the violence they so love to promote and perpetrate, but I can love better than any one of them, and I will fight for women’s access to health care with every ounce of strength I have.

We have to draw the line now. We can’t let them take away any more women’s health clinics, whether or not the clinics perform abortions — which, by the way are still perfectly legal.

Women’s lives matter.

 

 

Don’t you dare tell me about “God’s plan”

pp rallyI helped organize a counter-protest this morning to an anti-abortion protest in front of Planned Parenthood, and while I was able to keep my cool for the most part, the level of misinformation and the lack of critical thinking skills left me shaking my head in dismay (and muttering the F-bomb under my breath).

We set up across the street from Planned Parenthood and they began to trickle over to stand in front of us to hide our signs. I stood my ground in front of one man as he tried to push his way past me and threatened to call the police because I was standing my ground. He pushed me again.

“Sir, what you just did is classified as assault. If you don’t move away from me right now, I will call the police and I will press charges.”

He pushed again.

“I’m trying to save babies,” he said.

I stood firm. “I’m trying to save women. Now, move away or I will call the police and I will have you arrested for assault.”

I stared him down and he moved on.

I stood in front of another woman and she started yelling at me.

“I’m 73!” she said.

“I’m 63,” I answered. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I asked her if she’s for universal access to health care. Naturally, she said something about the poor babies.

“What about the poor women?” I asked.

“I’m a Christian,” she said.

“So am I. What about the already-born?”

I told her I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to, and then my son was killed by a health care system that wouldn’t take care of him because he couldn’t get health insurance.”

God took your son,” she said. “God has a plan.”

I lost it. Fortunately, my rabbi friend, Wolff was standing there and folded his arms around me.

“What took her son,” he said to the woman, “had nothing to do with God. Her son was killed by greed, not God.”

Meanwhile, I was sobbing and mumbling, “fuck off,” into his chest so she wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“I used to be an agnostic,” she said. “I tried every religion there is before I was born again.”

Wolff tightened his arms around me and glared at her silently.

The woman backed off, and the next time she tried to talk to me about how God took my son, I excused myself, turned around and walked away. I don’t need to talk to someone with the critical thinking skills of a rock.

“I wonder why it’s God’s will when greed kills your son, but not when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy,” Wolff said.

Great question.

Another man carrying a Christian flag tried the God thing again. He had overheard me speaking about my son.

“Bless you for choosing life,” he said. “God will bless you because God has a plan.”

I glared at him and said, “God didn’t kill my son. A greedy doctor did by choosing to let him die rather than save his life. Please just leave me alone.”

Then another woman asked why I seemed so angry because she, after all, was so loving with her anti-abortion sign.

I told her I’m angry because my son died and she and her friends didn’t seem to care about that at all.

“Oh, you’re angry because you couldn’t kill your baby,” she said.

I couldn’t even imagine where that had come from, so I explained that I had chosen not to have an abortion, but that our broken health care system had killed my child.

“So, you wish you had been the one to kill him?” she asked.

“Fuck off,” I said and walked away. That was when I had to leave. I can’t stand having someone think it’s OK that people are dying every day from lack of access to health care, that if you close women’s clinics, women die, and then turn around and call themselves “pro-life” or “Christian” because they want to limit women’s choices.

A few of the people I spoke to  wanted to see alternatives to Planned Parenthood open up, wanted to see everyone have access to health care, were anti-death penalty and anti-war. I really liked talking to them, even though we disagreed on abortion.

But the vast majority of people I encountered were ready to hate me without knowing anything about me. All it was about was their view of God and trying to force it on me. The Romanian man I met said it beautifully.

“God is there to love us and help us through the worst of things. We honor that by loving each other, even if we don’t agree.”

As we were speaking a teenage girl said to me, “God has a plan.”

“Please don’t tell me about God and plans,” I said. “If you ever lose a child, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from here. God had nothing to do with my son’s death; it was a greedy corrupt system where he couldn’t get insurance and he couldn’t get care. Planned Parenthood took care of me when I was uninsured and they gave me contraceptives. When I got sick, they treated me and probably saved me life. They helped me prevent an unplanned pregnancy, so you could say they helped me prevent having to have an abortion.”

A young man stepped forward and tried to tell me something about pregnancy, speaking over me as I spoke to the young woman.

“First of all,” I said, “Never talk over me. That’s just rude, and it won’t save the lives of any pre-born children, OK? And since you’ve never been pregnant and never will be, you have no place lecturing me on pregnancy.”

Let me just say it one more time for emphasis.

God did not take my son from me. God had nothing to do with it. My son died from greed. He died from a broken health care system. He died from negligent homicide.

If we take women’s clinics away, women will die, and while they may not matter to you, they matter to me and to all the people who love them.

In very poor taste

Last week, Rick Santorum’s sugar daddy, Foster Friess, said,  “Back in in my day, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Newswoman Andrea Mitchell was floored, and as progressive radio host Stephanie Miller said, this is a woman who has seen Alan Greenspan in the bathtub; it can’t be easy to shock her.

That joke was funny when we didn’t have to worry that we might actually have to resort to that. Now, it seems, it’s a sexist vision of America.

Women won’t have a right to any form of family planning if these people have their way.

What bothers me most is the same thing that bothered me two generations ago: All the decisions are being made by men. Women weren’t allowed to testify before Darryl Issa’a panel, only men. Old, wealthy white men. People who can’t get pregnant.

In my day, to paraphrase Friesse, women in Massachusetts, where I grew up, were forbidden by law from getting birth control. Any doctor who prescribed birth control to an unmarried woman could go to jail.That’s right, the penalty was on the doctor, who was almost always a man, as though women were too stupid to make up their own minds.

This isn’t about health care, it’s about control of women. It’s about taking us back to the 1950s, when women had few economic options aside from marriage and repeated childbearing. It was legal to deny a woman a job because she was a woman. She could be fired for getting married, and almost always had to leave her job if she got pregnant.

Contraception gave us the chance to have only as many children as we wanted or could care for. It also gave us the option to stay in our jobs until we chose parenthood, and even afterward. It gave us the chance to escape bad marriages. We no longer were prisoners — or property — of men. It was an important step for the women’s movement, and some want to go back to when women had to do as they were told.

Attacks on a woman’s right to an abortion were just the beginning, as it turns out. Now they want to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which is where millions of women go for annual checkups and birth control, and then they plan to go after contraception.

This is one wacko war we’re being called to fight.

Just because I’m too old to get pregnant doesn’t mean I won’t fight for the rights of my granddaughters to control their own bodies.

If your religion is against contraception, don’t use it. But don’t deny it to others. Your freedom of religion doesn’t mean I have to adhere to your convictions.

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