Friday Thoughts

A rainbow shot from the car

A rainbow shot from the car

It’s hot here in LA.  Even in West LA it’s hot.  The cats have barely moved.  The air is certainly not moving much.  It’s been kind of humid.  Not East Coast humid, but the sky let loose some definite drops of moisture this morning as I drove Izzy over to the Valley for a school meeting.  The almost rain only served to make my car seem dustier.

I was up late two nights ago working on a piece about a poem by Jorie Graham.  My piece is not essay, not poem.  Something in between that needs courageous editing.  I sometimes feel that I spend hours (better spent in actual writing) trying to decide what it is that I do write.  Which leads to the question of who cares about my thoughts on Graham’s poem and why this is important enough to spend time on.  A raveling and unraveling of thoughts like these serves little purpose.

Better to just write.  Better to keep reading really good essays, poems, stories and then grab the notebook.  I can hear my friend Sarah John saying, “That’s just an excuse for not writing.  It’s not your business deciding what anyone else wants to read.  Your job is getting the stuff down on paper.”  SJ may not have actually said that, but I like to think she’d give me that little shake now if we were hanging out.  To quote Annie Dillard, “Are you a woman, or a mouse?”

It’s Friday.  Almost 5 o’clock.  I’d like to be heading out the door soon to meet a friend for a drink, dinner or even a movie.  Instead, I’m waiting for the heat to subside so I can vacuum without needing a shower afterward.  Then I’ll pick my girl up from gym and we’ll probably throw in a pizza and watch Shark Week.

Have you stopped reading yet?  I don’t think it’s going to get any more interesting or profound than this today.  I’m disgusted over the 2 year jail sentence for Pussy Riot for “hooliganism.”  A 16 year old girl in the Dominican Republican died from leukemia.  Doctors withheld treatment because she was 9 weeks pregnant and they were worried about harming the fetus if they treated the girl’s leukemia with chemo. There’s news everyday on new attacks to women’s healthcare and freedoms.

I realize that my prospects are significantly better.  The sadness and anger over the ruin of lives is what I’m sitting with here in my overheated apartment.  Recording these thoughts  is better than self-pity and breaks through the surface of lethargy and paralysis, but it’s not an answer.  It’s not much of an action.

I keep thinking about Helen Gurley Brown‘s message to just keep working (and go out and get laid every so often).  I wrote a piece called Stay The Course for this blog and that’s become a theme for me.

Sorry this isn’t a cheerier post.  Staying the Course isn’t nearly as much fun as travel, shoe shopping or trying a new restaurant.  It’s that middle ground place we all inhabit at times.  Uncertainty lining both sides of the path; jeering and taunting and full of distraction.  Stay the course means keep your head down and get your work done.

So.  Okay.  I’ll do that.

In Arizona you’d be pregnant by now!

Arizona State flag

Arizona State flag

Question #1: When is a woman who’s not pregnant, actually pregnant?
Answer: When she lives in Arizona.

I know, I know.  You’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about.  Actually, so am I.  The non-sense on this one is making me crazy.  It’s a dizzying logic that has led the Arizona House of Representatives, Senate and now Governor Jan Brewer to approve legislation that would place the start date for a woman’s pregnancy at the first day of her last menstrual cycle.  Got it?  So while you still have your period and haven’t ovulated or conceived or maybe even had sex ever, you’re pregnant.

Why?  You may be banging your fist into your forehead and asking yourself why would  Arizona lawmakers decide to fly in the face of simple biology.  But then, if you think about the rash of laws and the outpouring of moral folks who feel the need to legislate over women’s bodies and reproduction, you have your answer.  Abortion.

House Bill 2036 was just signed by the governor this afternoon. It will prohibit abortion after 20 weeks (except in emergency cases).  The new math, biology-defying pregnant before conception statute effectively limits the time frame for women to have an abortion to 18 weeks into the real pregnancy.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of genetic tests that have to be done at 16 to 20 weeks.  Then, there is a 10 day to 2 week wait for the results.  There’s no easy way to think about this, but this law means that women in Arizona could be forced to give birth to a child with a life-threatening, deforming disease such as spina bifida, Tay-Sachs or trisomy 18.

Let’s look at a disease like Tay-Sachs.  It’s a genetic condition.  There’s no cure.  Amniocentesis reveals the disease.  A baby born with Tay-Sachs has a life expectancy of 4 – 5 years and the only treatment is to make the child comfortable as the disease progresses.  According to Wikipedia, the child [with Tay-Sachs] becomes blind, deaf, unable to swallow, atrophied, and paralytic.  Arizona lawmakers have to know that the timeline they’ve created makes an excruciatingly painful situation much, much worse for everyone involved.  I’m trying to decide if it’s more shockingly ignorant or self-righteous.

Some who favor this law are claiming that it protects the woman.  I’m not sure how that logic works.  It seems to follow the same rule that claims every woman in Arizona who has her period is pregnant.

Question #2: How do we stop laws like this from stripping away women’s need to reproductive freedom?
Answer:  I really wish I knew.  There has to be a way to civil discourse. There has to be a way to protect our rights.

I spoke with Cynde Cerf at Planned Parenthood in Arizona.  She encouraged people to keep an eye on AZ House Bill 2625.  Bill 2625 could force women to provide proof to employers that they’re taking birth control for a medical reason such as ovarian cysts, rather than to prevent pregnancy.  This bill has received national attention.  The Arizona Senate passed the bill and it’s headed to Caucus and then onto the House for a vote.

Here’s what you can do:
Check out
the Planned Parenthood Arizona site for info on getting involved locally.

Become a member of NARAL.

Support Arizona List.  We are “a grassroots donor network supporting pro-choice Democratic women running for office in Arizona and we want you to join us!”

More questions coming soon…

Shades of Pink: Komen and Planned Parenthood

I Stand With Planned ParenthoodMost of you are familiar with the disaster Susan G. Komen for the Cure brought upon themselves by announcing they were cutting funding to Planned Parenthood.  I was really angry and disappointed in Komen’s decision to pull funds from Planned Parenthood for a program that provides breast cancer screenings primarily for low income women.  Komen’s reversal of that decision was the right thing to do, but we’ll see what this does to Komen’s donation levels over the next few months.  They’ve broken a trust with the women and men who have supported and relied on the work Komen does.

But the dust is not settling yet over this issue.  Now Karen Handel, who resigned from Komen over this situation, has come out in an interview on The Daily Beast and claimed that Planned Parenthood is bullying Komen.  She claims that Komen and Planned Parenthood had a “ladies agreement” which included not going to the press with the defunding announcement.  According to Handel, Planned Parenthood launched “Armageddon” with a social media firestorm.  Planned Parenthood denies this.  And so the beat goes on.

The outpouring of donations to Planned Parenthood since the Komen announcement is heartening.  No matter what the Republican Presidential candidates and other politicians would have us believe, there is a strong base of support for all the work Planned Parenthood does.  Their attempts to pigeonhole the organization as strictly an abortion provider is blatantly false.  What’s more important is that people see through that characterization.

The abortion issue has gotten out of control.  I wrote earlier this month about the Republican Presidential candidates’ narrow focus on birth control and abortion as the only issues affecting women.  It seems that things are reaching such a fevered pitch that organizations like Komen can’t or won’t remain neutral on abortion.  Komen denies that pulling funding from Planned Parenthood was politically motivated and tied to the abortion debate.  I just don’t believe that.

I hate that I just wrote the words abortion debate.  There really is no debate.  Roe v. Wade is law and has been for almost 40 years.  Rick Santorum has said that a woman who becomes pregnant because she was raped should have the baby.  He says that “Women should make the best out of a bad situation.”  I don’t think Santorum will win the Republican primary or become president, but statements like the one above smack of self-righteousness and true ignorance of the damage rape does to women.  It also points to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in discussing abortion in this country.  And frankly, I am tired of this controversy.  It’s a private matter for women and those she chooses to share with.  The laws in this country are not dictated by religious beliefs, no matter how powerful the beliefs of those running for public office.

It’s imperative that non-profit organizations like Komen not enter the political fray.  I support Planned Parenthood for the range of services they provide women and men.  I’m not sure how we conduct a civil discourse concerning a woman’s right to choose.  I know that my feelings run high in protecting a woman’s right to decide when and if she’ll have children.  I’ve organized and attended rallies, helped keep clinics open, donated money, written countless letters and emails and signed many petitions.  I am resolute on this issue.  And because we’ve got such a polarity, I’m sure the other side is just as intractable.  I’m don’t know how we bridge this.

I really do hope that organizations like Komen can do their good work without picking sides.  That, in turn, will allow Planned Parenthood and others  to continue offering their crucial services.  But given the current turn of events, we’ve clearly got a long way to go.

Here’s a video follow up from The Daily Beast interview: