Apr 212008

Reproductive Rights: The Abortion Conversation That We Should Be Having
by Lucinda Marshall
Far too often, I have the nagging feeling that we’re having the wrong discussion. About what? Pretty much darned near everything but none more so than the endless pro-life vs. pro-choice debate.

During a recent community conversation in Louisville, KY, Loretta Ross, the National Coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, offered what I think is a far more productive framework for discussing the abortion issue. Ross posits that abortion is only part of the issue of reproductive health and rights, which she points out include not only the right not to have a child but also the right to have a child.

On their website, SisterSong defines reproductive justice as an intersectional theory that integrates reproductive health and social justice emerging from the “experiences of women of color whose communities experience reproductive oppression. It is based on the understanding that the impact on women of color of race, class and gender are not additive but integrative, producing this paradigm of intersectionality.” The site also points out that,

“The intersectional theory of Reproductive Justice is described as the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, environmental and economic well-being of women and girls, girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights. It offers a new perspective on reproductive issue advocacy, pointing out that as Indigenous women and women of color it is important to fight equally for (1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to parent the children we have, as well as to control our birthing options, such as midwifery. We also fight for the necessary enabling conditions to realize these rights.”

Obviously that language goes far beyond the run-of-the-mill pro/anti abortion rhetoric. By using this framework, we can start to see abortion not as an isolated issue of choice, but part of a far more complex set of issues. And the truth is, despite Roe v. Wade, “choice”, like so many other choices is a right of privilege. If you are poor, or live far from a clinic, there is not much of a choice.

Ross also stressed that abortion needs to be seen as a human rights issue and points to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares the right of every person to live free of slavery. And being forced to bear children is most certainly a form of slavery as Ross is quick to point out.

The flip side of the abortion rights issue, the right to have children is every bit as important a matter within the framework of Reproductive Justice. Although it is an issue in this country, it is even more so in less developed nations that have high maternal mortality rates.

Every year, more than half a million women die of complications of pregnancy and childbirth as a result of economic, cultural and political injustice. More than 99% of those deaths are preventable. Jane Roberts, co-founder of 34 Million Friends of UNFPA, points out that, “Lack of family planning commodities and of health care workers to educate about and furnish family planning to eager consumers is the root cause of the 40 million abortions which take place every year, half of which are risky, illegal, unsafe. If the world really cared for its women, this would not be happening. About 70,000 women die during the abortion or the immediate aftermath, millions more suffer temporary or permanent disability. Then they are “compassionately” offered PAC (post-abortion care) by our government and others.”

Yet as a recent U.N. report points out, the “sharp decline in international funding for reproductive health is threatening global efforts to reduce poverty, improve health and empower women worldwide.” According to Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population (UNFPA), “The result is increasing numbers of unwanted pregnancies, rising rates of unsafe abortion, and increased risks to the lives of women and children.” Obaid also noted that, “research indicates that ensuring access to family planning alone would reduce maternal deaths by 20 to 35 percent and child deaths by 20 percent.”

As Ross points out, it isn’t that choice is not an issue, but rather that it is one of many connected reproductive justice issues that need to be addressed. And that is the conversation we should be having.

 April 21, 2008  Posted by on April 21, 2008 Comments Off on Reproductive Rights: The Abortion Conversation That We Should Be Having
Apr 212008

According to Time magazine, “Choosy Mothers Chose Cesarians“. Just like choosy mothers pick the best day care or pre-school or what kind of food to feed their children? Well not exactly.

“Rates of C-sections have been climbing each year in the past decade in the U.S., reaching a record high of 31% of all live births in 2006. That’s a 50% increase since 1996. Around the world, the procedure is becoming even more common: in certain hospitals in Brazil, fully 80% of babies are delivered by caesarean. How did a procedure originally intended as an emergency measure become so popular? And is the trend a bad thing?”

Well one way it became so popular might be by referring to it as a procedure instead of major surgery. But is it the mothers who are actually driving the numbers up, as the headline implies? Guess again.

“Some of the rise in C-sections can certainly be attributed to women with routine pregnancies… who make a pragmatic decision to keep their deliveries just as uneventful. Preliminary data suggest that such cases account for anywhere from 4% to 18% of the total number of cesareans.

So never mind that the headline makes it sound as if this is the delivery method of choice for Moms who care about their kids, the reality is that only a small percentage of these numbers is attributable to maternal choice.

According to the article, better surgery outcomes, obesity and multiple births also contribute to the increased rates of cesarians and one OB opines that giving birth is now less about the miracle of giving birth and more about delivering the kid “safely and without incident.” Okay, let’s say this again, cesarian sections are a kind of major surgery and major surgery is risky.

But as the article points out,

“(There) are some powerful fiscal forces as well, such as soaring malpractice rates for obstetricians. Since doctors are sued more frequently after vaginal births than cesareans, surgery is often the prudent choice when there is even the slightest indication of a difficult vaginal birth.Vaginal delivery can, for example, lead to future incontinence and pelvic damage, while babies born by C-section may suffer from respiratory problems because of not being exposed to certain hormones during the birthing process.”

Well yes indeed, it would certainly be more prudent for the doctor who consequently makes more money and doesn’t have to bother with the fuss and muss of being sued, but just an observation, most women who deliver vaginally do not have ongoing incontinence problems. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but if it were that big a deal, the adult diaper section at the grocery store would be a whole lot bigger and not to belabor (sorry) the point, but C-section risks are about a whole lot more than the baby not being exposed to certain hormones. It is also about the baby being exposed to anesthesia, the mother having a major incision in her gut and a longer recovery period with a whole lot more risk of complications than recovery from a vaginal birth. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the ‘developed’ world, a number that has been attributed in part to high C-section rates.

No doubt there are times when a C-section is totally necessary but when the rate of those times suddenly skyrockets over a few years to more than 30% of the time, it isn’t about medical necessity. It is about medical greed and mothers being given very poor information about the birthing process and the extent to which medical decisions are de facto being made by insurance companies.

 April 21, 2008  Posted by on April 21, 2008 2 Responses »
Apr 212008

And remember, Pakistan is our ally:

Over 4,000 cases of crimes against women were reported in Pakistan last year – more than double the figure in 2006. But rights organisations say this is just the tip of the iceberg and many more violations go unreported or are hushed up.

The reported cases in 2006 stood at 1,821.

The State of the Human Rights 2007 report, launched recently by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), attributed the rise to conservative social practices and religious extremism.

HRCP secretary Iqbal Haider termed the year 2007 a “brutal year for women”.

In 2006, the commission reported, a woman was raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours.

According to its recent report, in 2007 there were 4,276 cases of reported abuses. Of this, 636 women were victims of honour killing, 731 were raped and 736 kidnapped.

 April 21, 2008  Posted by on April 21, 2008 1 Response »
Apr 182008

Oh I just can’t think of enough bad things to say about this book but for starters…

So here’s the deal, kids–Mom gained a few pounds and stretchmarks giving birth to you. Yes you, and in a world where size 0 is the new size 6, that means that every day Mommy is subjected to a gazillion messages telling her that her body is no longer beautiful. Therefore, Mommy is going to subject herself to major surgery in order to feel good about herself again but really it is no big deal, getting a new belly is just like getting a new dress or new lipstick except you get a big bandage…

Dr Michael Salhauer’s “My Beautiful Mommy” (be sure to check out the photo gallery that accompanies the review) will be out just in time for, yes you guessed it, Mother’s Day.

“It features a perky mother explaining to her child why she’s having cosmetic surgery (a nose job and tummy tuck). Naturally, it has a happy ending: mommy winds up “even more” beautiful than before, and her daughter is thrilled.”

“What’s the market for a children’s picture book about moms getting cosmetic surgery? No one specifically tracks the number of tummy-tuck-and-breast-implant combos (or “mommy makeovers,” as they’re called), but according to the latest numbers from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation was the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure last year, with 348,000 performed (up 6 percent over 2006). Of those, about one-third were for women over 40 who often opt for implants to restore lost volume in their breasts due to aging or pregnancy weight gain. There were 148,000 tummy tucks—up 1 percent from the previous year.”

“”My Beautiful Mommy” is aimed at kids ages four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: “You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better.” Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.

The text doesn’t mention the breast augmentation, but the illustrations intentionally show Mom’s breasts to be fuller and higher. “I tried to skirt that issue in the text itself,” says Salzhauer. “The tummy lends itself to an easy explanation to the children: extra skin and can’t fit into your clothes. The breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old.””

No shit, and what is the deal with the nose job?? Somehow I just don’t see this piece of predatory self-serving drivel on the bookshelf next to “The Cat in the Hat.”

“The article goes on to discuss the psychological ramifications of trying to explain to young children that major surgery as nothing more than another way to be pretty.

Then there are the body image issues raised by cosmetic surgery—especially for daughters. Berger worries that kids will think their own body parts must need “fixing” too. The surgery on a nose, for example, may “convey to the child that the child’s nose, which always seemed OK, might be perceived by Mommy or by somebody as unacceptable,” she says.”

But just to be sure that you undertake this little renovation job safely, the last line of the article points to Newsweek’s own guide to getting breast implants safely. But better yet, go check out Beauty and the Breast and learn about why breast implants aren’t safe.

 April 18, 2008  Posted by on April 18, 2008 2 Responses »
Apr 182008

For immediate release:
More Information:  athousandgrandmothers @ yahoo.com


1000 Grandmothers are getting rockers greased, and stomachs prepared for the Close the SOA Fast which will occur on April 23-25 in the Downtown City Plaza.  Fasters and supporters will be in the plaza during the hours of 10am – 3pm, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  The grannies and others will be in their rocking chairs offering information about the former School of the Americas, collecting quilt squares, and urging citizens to call Congressional District 2 Representative Wally Herger urging him to vote for House Resolution 1707.  The bill before the House budget session this summer will suspend the funding of the school until a full investigation into documented abuses is reported and acted upon.

A walk/caravan to Mr. Herger’s office at Philadelphia Square on Thursday at 11am will include the giant puppet grandmother and companions featured in the city plaza on March 15th.  Trinity Methodist Church pastor David Moss will conduct a teach-in on fasting for social justice at the Congressman’s office.  Rev. Moss fasted at Mr. Herger’s office for over two weeks last fall to call attention to the injustice of the Iraq War.

The Grandmothers organized in 2006 to join the annual protest and vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia to demand the closure of a controversial school housed on the U.S. Army base.   At that protest grandmother CathyWebster was arrested for trespassing and served two months in Sacramento County Jail.  In a previous year, another Chico grandmother, Dorothy Parker, trespassed in protest at Ft. Benning and served two months in federal prison at Dublin, CA.

“ Cosmetic changes and slick public relations tactics have not addressed the fundamental issues in its deeply disturbing history, including its use of “torture training manuals” and the records of human rights abuses by many of its graduates. It remains a combat training school that provides dangerous skills to countries with serious on-going human rights problems despite attempts by the congressionally-mandated Board of Visitors to address some of the concerns that have been made over the years,” said Webster.

The School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001, is a US-taxpayer funded military training school for Latin American soldiers located in Georgia.

1000 Grandmothers is a national coalition of grandmothers and others taking direct action to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC.


 April 18, 2008  Posted by on April 18, 2008 Comments Off on 1000 Grandmothers: Close the SOA Fast