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:

Birth Control & Abortion–The Only Women’s Issues?

American LipsThe Republican primary in South Carolina is less than a week away.  News about the primary, the candidates and their prospects in cinching the candidacy is coming at us at a fast, furious and tedious rate.  I keep listening and reading to hear the candidates’ positions on women’s issues.  It’s not that I’ll be voting Republican, but I am trying to figure out which of these guys is the least scary.

And did you know that the only issues affecting women these days are abortion and birth control?  That’s it.  Nobody’s talking much, if at all, about daycare, balancing work and family needs, food, education, jobs, pay equality, violence against women, maternity leave, misrepresentation in the media, and whatever else you can think of that affects women in their daily life.  Actually, you don’t need to think about it.  The candidates have boiled women’s existence down to their ability to bear children.

The consensus from the Republican candidates seems to be that women should bear children regardless of their economic situation, health and whether they conceived after being raped or molested.

Birth control methods like IUD’s and some versions of the pill are also under attack because they prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Clearly, if one of these men gets elected we will have a fight on our hands over reproductive freedom.  The last time NARAL called me for a donation, I gave them my credit card number and had a heartfelt conversation with the woman on the other end of the line about how tired I am of getting these calls and giving NARAL money.  Don’t misunderstand–I fully intend to continue supporting NARAL and Planned Parenthood in every way that I can.  But I’m tired of fighting for a woman’s right to choose.  I’m sickened by the rabid right wing rhetoric that shows over and over they don’t really give a damn about what it takes to raise a child properly.

Having a baby needs to be a woman’s choice always and forever.  Being a mother has been one of the biggest and best gifts of my life, but it’s also  requires more wherewithal, resources and constant thought and action than anything I’ve ever experienced.  It’s not a thing to be taken lightly.  Or legislated.  If the Republicans are against big government, then why are they trying to legislate my family life?

Mitt, Newt, and the others–You have the opportunity to open up the discussion and be truly supportive of the families and individuals that make up this country.  Leymah Gbowee said in her book, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War that if you help a woman, you help a family.  Take that to the next level and if you help a family, you support an entire community.  Ask women what they need, what they think.  Don’t reduce us to babymakers. We won’t stand for it.