Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Which I Am Not Triumphant So Much As Resolved

Something amazing happened yesterday.  Texas Democrats stood up and fought like hell to prevent the passage of SB5, which would have brutally restricted abortion access, imposed an arbitrary and unrealistic 20-week limit, and closed the clinics that currently provide essential women's health services to tens of thousands of women, especially the clinics that serve poor and mostly-nonwhite parts of the state.  Just under a dozen Senators stood up for the women of Texas, backed by THOUSANDS of citizens who turned out to stand with them.  And in the end, despite cheating, despite a complete assault upon parliamentary procedure, despite lies and despicable tactics on the other side, despite the literal (and possibly illegal) alteration of the legislative record, that plucky little band of Democrats prevailed.  Just before 3 in the morning, word came down that we had prevailed, that the vote had not happened in time, that the Democratic filibuster had succeeded in running out the clock.

There are a lot of names to remember from last night.  Senators Wendy Davis (who kept her feet and her head when all was chaos), Kirk Watson (who wielded procedure and verbiage with fabulous aplomb), Leticia van de Putte (who stood her own ground, in her grief, with a grace and courage that stunned me), Royce West (who ran Senator Duncan around after his own tail on whether you could appeal a ruling that is not a ruling once the presiding officer has ruled...or not ruled?), Rodney Ellis (who asked, "Is it fair to say the rules have become very flexible in this body?" at just the right moment), and Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa (who had the foresight to print out the evidence that proves GOP tampering with the record).  Even Senator Eddie Lucio, who supported the bill based on his personal beliefs -- but refused to vote with Republicans to suspend the rules of the Senate and accelerate the process, out of respect and compassion for his friend, Senator van de Putte, so that she could attend her father's funeral and return in time to vote.

Soon, they will all need our support because you can bet they'll be targets in the next election.

There are other names to remember, too.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Senator Robert Duncan, who between them completely mocked and gutted any pretense at parliamentary order or rules.

Senators Donna Campbell (who insisted that the legislation already existing to restrict abortion was not germane to a discussion of restricting it further), and Craig Estes (whose irrelevant, insulting, and bullying questions I lost count of), and all those who supported not only the bill, but the unethical tactics used to try to force it through.  I can respect those who voted 'yes' on SB5 for reasons of conscience, on which we disagree, but not those who participated in devious, underhanded, and dishonest tactics to push it through without scrutiny or debate.

Governor Rick Perry, who has already called another special session to force through legislation that he KNOWS does not reflect the will of his constituents, a special session that will cost the taxpayers of Texas money they must find somewhere: schools, state parks, highway maintenance, environmental monitoring...

*They* will also be targets in the next election.  Remember them, find out who is standing against them, and support every one of their opponents.  Not one of them ever deserves to hold an office with more responsibility or power than 'Second Assistant Deputy Inspector of Dog Park Fecal Collection Bags' ever again.  Let's remember how we feel today, and keep it in the coming weeks to fight through the special session, and then in the months beyond as we work to get these people OUT of office.

Monday, June 24, 2013

In Which I Do Not Care Why You Made That Choice, Just That You Were Free To Make It

I'm going to tell you something I generally only discuss with people I'm considering as potential long-term committed sexual partners:

I do not believe it would be ethically or morally right for me to terminate a healthy pregnancy, so I won't do it.  If I become pregnant, and the fetus and I are physically able to survive and thrive, I will carry the baby to term and raise it.  The level of the father's involvement will be at a minimum fiscal, and based on our relationship at the time.  I won't sleep with anyone who can't accept that reality.  I have great respect for the two or three partners over the years who've said "Yeah, I am really not ready to be a father in any way shape or form and I am not willing to take that risk," and either limited involvement with me to non-risk behaviours or ended the relationship entirely.  That takes a lot of self-awareness and integrity.

Why won't I terminate a healthy pregnancy?  Because I'm physically, emotionally, and financially able to take care of a child.  Because I'm educated about birth control and pregnancy.  Because I have access to reasonably effective, reliable birth control.  Because I live in a city where I have access to emergency contraception in the event of rape, and good prenatal care in the event of accidental pregnancy.  Because, to me, an unplanned pregnancy would be inconvenient and perhaps a little awkward to explain to my conservative employers, but it would not require me to give up an education or a career or other opportunities.

There are personal reasons and spiritual reasons and all manner of other reasons, but what really matters?  Two things:

1.  That I have the right and legal protection to make whatever my choice might be, with the guidance of a trusted physician, and receive safe, legal, reasonably priced healthcare.

2.  That I understand that no part of my personal reasoning for whether or not I would choose to terminate a pregnancy has any bearing whatsoever on the decisions another woman might make.

In Texas right now, laws are being passed to deny women the right to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks.  Many proponents of these laws say "Well, isn't five months enough time to decide?"

You know what?  Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.  Maybe a woman's just found out she and her husband are carriers for a potentially devastating disease.  Maybe she's escaping an abusive relationship and knows her ex will use a custody fight to keep stalking her if she has the baby.  Maybe she's got erratic periods and she didn't find out she was pregnant until her fifth month, and she's been taking medicines that cause birth defects the whole time.

And maybe, just maybe, nothing in that last paragraph matters because a woman seeking an abortion at any time, for any reason, does not need to justify it to me or to anyone else.  Maybe there should only have to BE two people in that room when the choice is made, and one of them should be the patient and the other should be the doctor.  Maybe we should trust women to know their lives, and their needs, and their capabilities, far better than any other person would know them, and make their decisions accordingly.  Maybe we should assume that a woman considering an abortion has already talked to her partner, her mother, her spiritual advisor, her therapist, or anyone else whose input she feels is important to the decision, and does not need a governmental mandate to do so.

A lot of people say "If you don't have a uterus, you don't have a right to an opinion on abortion."  I disagree absolutely.  We all, every one of us, have the right to that opinion, and the right to speak it freely, and I think that as long as we can do so respectfully, we have an obligation to speak our minds freely.  I believe that a clear and open discussion of the moral and ethical issues surrounding sexuality, pregnancy, abortion, and parenthood is long overdue in this country because we'll never stop using shame and fear to control sexuality until we can have those conversations openly and without judgment.

What we don't have?  The right to turn opinion into law.  The right to assume there is a common religious morality that should direct legislation.  We don't have the right to assume our choices are a universal ideal and judge or shame those who don't fit it.  We don't have the right to claim a moral high ground we do not actually hold, and deny essential healthcare funding (and access) in a perversion of 'Christian values'.  We don't have the right to establish rules regarding when others should have 'made up their minds' or whether someone's reasons are 'good enough'.

There are dozens of reasons a woman might end a pregnancy, and dozens of reasons she might not.  I refuse to split hairs, to even engage in the act of finding 'defensible abortions' that justify why a woman might have a 'reasonable' explanation for it.  I say, absolutely, that it does not matter to me that another woman might choose differently than I might.  It matters to me that both of us are given equal respect and freedom to make those choices, and equal care and opportunity to carry out our choices in the way that is healthiest for all concerned.