This is not just a war on women

This isn’t just a war on women, it’s a war on dignity, it’s a war on common decency, it’s a war on the GOP’s own conservative principles.  When someone accuses liberals of being smug and turning our country into a “nanny state”, ask them which party thinks women are too stupid to make their own decisions about their body.

Ask them which party thinks a woman needs a sonogram, an intravaginal ultrasound, a lecture, and a 72-hour waiting period to be able to make a choice about their body.

This is not just a war on women, it’s a war against progress, it’s a war against economic recovery, it’s a war of obstructionism. It’s a war for gaining political points instead of actually helping people.

In 2011, there were 1100 bills about reproductive rights introduced at the state level; 135 passed.  So far this year, 45 states have considered 944 bills about reproductive rights.  Tell me, which of these bills created a job?  These jaded conservatives don’t think all of these bills will pass, they just want to prevent anyone else from actually governing.

Nikki Haley was almost right — women don’t care ONLY about contraception — so give us our rights so that you can get on with real legislation.

Women are not doing OK.  Our unemployment rate has stayed stagnate in the past three years.  88% of the jobs in the recovery have gone to men.  The rate of poverty for women is over 25% higher than that of men.  In South Carolina, we still make only 76 cents to the dollar.

This is not just a war on women, this is a war on the first amendment — on freedom of speech, on freedom of religion.

This is a war trying to force the Christian version of Sharia law into our secular constitution.

This is a war trying to make it so the 1960s never happened.  To take the US back to an imaginary time when women held “aspirin between their knees” and didn’t have sex.  Where it’s ok to repeal equal pay laws because “men care more about money.”  In a country where 2/3 of women are the primary or co-breadwinners of their family.  It’s a war to make women’s only function to be married with children.

To create a world where we can arrest women for having a miscarriage and make killing abortion doctors Justifiable Homicide.  Where Maryland can justify cutting pre-school funding because women should be at home, NOT working.  Where Wisconsin can introduce a bill designating single parenting as child abuse.

Where Arizona can demand women prove they’re taking birth control for a REAL medical reason, as though NOT GETTING PREGNANT wasn’t a real medical concern.  This in a country where a woman is fourteen times more likely to die in childbirth than if she lived in Greece.  That sounds like a real medical concern to me.

They want to create a land where Arizona doctors can legally lie to women if they think it will prevent them from getting an abortion.  Where wife beating is LEGAL in Topeka, KS.  Where the ER can refuse to save a woman’s life if it might kill her unborn child.

Where democrats are so afraid of the religious right that the Obama administration ignored science and the advice of the medical community and prevented Plan B from being over-the-counter.  WHAT IS SCIENCE FOR?  Apparently just for Christian Conservatives to dismiss as a “liberal agenda”, the facts so rarely being on their side.

This is not just a war on women, it is a war on facts, it is a war on reality, it is a war on America.  Where women are worth less than fetuses, where Congress fights for horse contraception but not for women’s contraception.  Where conservatives are either ignorant or liars about how birth control works.  Where Susan Komen would rather cut funding to save women from breast cancer than be associated with Planned Parenthood.

This is not just a war on women.  It is not a war on women’s rights, it is a war on human rights.

But it is not hopeless.

Planned Parenthood raised over $400,000 when Susan Komen dropped them.  Republican women are starting to speak out for women, women like us.  Women like Senators Olympia Snowe and Lisa Murkowski. Women like Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Though it had opposition — far more opposition than I am comfortable with — the Violence Against Women Act passed the US Senate.  And there are things we can do.  We can vote this November for the president.

The Supreme Court has four justices over 70 and Mitt Romney’s chair of judiciary appointments is Robert Bork.

Robert Bork, the man Reagan failed to get on the Supreme Court 15 years ago.  Robert Bork who doesn’t believe in the right to contraception, much less abortion, who thinks discriminating against women is QUOTE “not possible”, who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  I know who I don’t want putting people on our already too anti-woman court.

We can vote.  We can run.  We can refuse to shut up.  We can tell our friends, our lovers, our husbands, our brothers, our sons.

We can fight and we will fight.

We’ve been sitting still for too long, but now we’re standing up and we will not be silenced.  I can’t speak for you, but I have no intention of sitting back down.

Thank you.

(Speech given at the Unite Against the War on Women Rally in SC)

SATURDAY: I’m Speaking Against the War on Women

The following is from the press release from the SC part of the Unite Against the War on Women.  I will be speaking at the State House on Saturday, at some point between 11:30AM and 1PM.  If you are in South Carolina, please come, if you are elsewhere, please find your local event and participate.  It seems the white male Christian establishment is determined to take away women’s control of their own bodies, women and men need to stand up for rights that we shouldn’t have to fight for in the first place.

The religious right shouldn’t be imposing their version of sharia on my body.

South Carolina Answers the CALL TO ACTION: UniteWomen.org Rally at Statehouse 4/28

A rapidly growing movement called UniteWomen.org is poised to push back on legislative efforts to erode women’s access to equal pay, reproductive healthcare, and protection from violence, with protest marches and rallies across the country on Saturday, April 28. The SC Rally will be held on the Statehouse grounds, Gervais Street side, from 11:30-1:00, with live music beginning at 11:00. This action is joined by 55 concurrent events planned nationwide and includes many high profile state and national leaders – a historic event that South Carolinians are proud to join and support.

The newly-minted organization has garnered more than 21,000 members nationally in less than two months, demonstrating the tremendous political will and commitment across the country to fight back against attempts to turn back the clock on women’s rights.

In addition to the April 28 actions, UniteWomen.org is also looking long-term to future actions and activity for the group. “We will not suffer the burdens of those whose ambitions would be fulfilled by the destruction of the human worth of mothers, sisters and daughters of this great nation,” founder Karen Teegarden said.

This all hits close to home for South Carolinians. Governor Nikki Haley has made the inaccurate statement that “Women don’t care about contraception.” This is actually of great concern for our state, where 3 out of 10 women will become pregnant by the age of twenty and 58 percent of all pregnancies are unintentional. Unintended pregnancies have a huge economic impact on our state. Births to teen mothers alone cost South Carolina taxpayers $197 million annually.

In addition:

 Nearly half of new sexually transmitted diseases in SC are diagnosed in young people age 15 to 24. South Carolina is also considered an HIV “Hot Spot”, with the 8th highest AIDS rate in the U.S., and 1 out of 5 new AIDS cases here are in people age 25 and under, with minority women especially at risk.

Yet despite all of these grim statistics, legislative support remains for abstinence-only sex education, an obvious disservice to our communities. To make matters worse, for 6 out of 10 women of all ages in the state, family planning clinics are their only source of healthcare, yet the clinics remain a target for budget cuts and legislative restrictions.

The time is right for such an event to stem the rising tide against women’s rights. SC Rally Organizer, Chris Cherry, has only just taken the reins of the South Carolina event and found tremendous enthusiasm in the community. In addition to support from volunteer organizations all over the state, many community leaders are stepping forward to join in the fight to protect the civil liberties of South Carolina women. Pioneers of the women’s rights movement in the 1970’s have answered the call toaction and will be speaking at this rally. “This is a fight that we thought was already won,” Chris said, “and now it is more evident than ever that we have to be firm in our resolve to secure those protections for American women.”

Chris has appeared on Progressive Talk Radio 1230 with Frank Knapp and the Power Hour Call-in show to discuss the upcoming rally. She’s participating in a round table on the War on Women and women’s rights issues on Thursday April 19th at 1:00pm PST/ 4:00pm EST with Steve Gelder of New Dissident Radio (http://www.newdissidentradio.com/ listen live or podcast). Chris will have a follow-up interview with Frank and making announcements regarding special guests and speakers for the Rally on Thursday, April 26th at 5:44 pm. Contact her directly to book speaking engagements or for quotes.

A full list of national endorsements and national media coverage can be found at UniteWomen.org.

Send an Atheist to Church: Ashley survives Brookland Baptist Church

As part of a fundraising effort for a cancer charity, the local Pastafarians at USC group took donations, in exchange for which the atheist members agreed to be sent to church.  I was sent, along with three other students, to Brookland Baptist church, in West Columbia, SC.

Brookland Baptist Church

I have not been to church in a long time. The closest I’ve been in the last five years is probably the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship, but as their minister is an atheist, I’m not sure how much that counts.  I have actually been to Brookland Baptist before, at the very end of 2006, when John Edwards was speaking there.  I was highly skeptical of him, but after seeing him demand healthcare for all and declare we needed a way to be patriotic besides war, I absolutely fell in love.  Which turned out real well.

Back to the church:

Brookland Baptist Church is a largely African American megachurch, founded in 1902. On Sunday, not only are the parking lots full, but the lots across the street are not enough. The church claims 5,300 members, seats 1,600 on the floor and 500 in the balcony.

Dove with laser beams

I arrived before my fellow heathens and had to wait outside for them.  Initially, I was quite self-conscious because everyone was staring at me, but when I realized it was just because I was the only white person there, not because I was an atheist, it became less worrisome.  For better or for worse, church services seem to be very heavily segregated.  Just as you’d only find one or two African-Americans at your average Episcopalian service, you’ll only find one or two white people at your average Baptist service.  They were, despite the staring, very nice and friendly.

The rest of the cohort arrived and we were sent up to the balcony because one of our members wanted to film some of the service.  I was a little disappointed not to be in the middle of the throng of people, but also relieved that no one would be judging me for being on Facebook during the boring parts.

And boy were there boring parts!

I am a temporally minded person and therefore was already highly irked that the service started 15 minutes late.  I was even more irked when it turned out that the service lasted nearly two and a half hours.  I would have much rather re-watched The Hunger Games with that time!  How someone sits through that every Sunday is beyond me.

Aside from the absurd length, I didn’t really note too many significant differences in the structure and audience participation than the last time I went to an Episcopalian service.  Admittedly, that service was at one of the churches that left the American Episcopalian church to join the Rwandan one because they hate gays so much, but you know, Episcopalianish.  Brookland did, however, have one of the best announcement voices I’ve ever heard — it was like the “In a world” voice, but he was just reading the locations and dates of events.  It was awesome.

This is the song that never ends

There was a lot of singing.  Interminable singing while the collection plate went around.  As much as comedians joke around that the Anglican church is joyless, but the Baptist church goes crazy with the music, there was no evidence of that.  The musak style choir songs were not joyful, just very long.  Fortunately, I had a book, since we were subjected to what probably added up to over an hour of this.

We were, however, very fortunate to have attended the day that we did because the focus was on education and they were recognizing the scholastic achievements of their students.  I don’t know what there normal services and sermons look like, but this was a perfect illustration of how important churches are to the minority community here.  It’s heartwarming to see an institution take so much time and effort to help children succeed and overcome the shortcomings of their schools and local environments.  It is a real shame that, in most cases, the only place they can find this support is in churches.  I know I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, secularists need to pick up minority causes — they are basic human rights issues and we should be on the front lines supporting them.

The church gave out scholarships to graduating high school seniors, and then had a college graduate come and deliver the speech for the day.  Anrae Jamon Motes graduated from MIT in 2010 and currently works as a consultant; he came to give advice to students in the congregation.  He was fantastic.

Motes plays with legos; I love the internet

The entire thrust of the speech was about using education to empower yourself, especially economically.  This is an important message to this community, a community that does not generally have economic power.  He did not really talk about religion until the very end of the speech, where he focused on the support system that the church had given him.  Truly it is not faith that changes these people’s lives, but the actions and support of this community, and that’s something that is quite moving.

That said, he did give some of the credit to Jesus, but I was very impressed by how pragmatic and practical the overall message of the entire day was.  This was not a day about God’s achievements, it was a day about people’s achievements, and much more enticing to an outsider for being so.

At the very end, the deacon made a call for people to join at a protest/celebration for the arrest that has finally come in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.  There was a general call for people to be more proactive, to do more than just talk and complain and protest, to actually get out there and vote to change things.  Their goal is to empower people through evangelism, education, and economic change and they emphasized that their community “is about more than winning souls for Christ, it’s about changing lives.”  And to that I can certainly say, “Amen.”

South Carolina Democrats Fail Shamefully

My representative

Not one Democrat has entered the race for the US House of Representatives against Joe Wilson.  The party has entirely failed to recruit or field a candidate for a national office against a man who is an absolute disgrace to this state.  They also have not responded to my inquiries as to why they’ve failed to do so.  This shows not only a flagrant disregard for the state, but also a complete failure of priorities.

Normally when I am embarrassed at politics in my home state of South Carolina, it is because an individual Republican politician has done something that makes me cringe.  They disappear on the Appalachian Trail, say women don’t care about contraception, or scream “You lie!” during the State of the Union.  I am a generous person and I’m willing to allow that it’s really none of my business that Mark Sanford was having an affair, though there were some legitimate governmental interests involved in that story, and maybe Nikki Haley really meant to say women don’t only care about contraception, but other things as well.  But there is nothing about Joe Wilson’s outburst that is forgivable.

I care deeply about the truth, but there is a time and a place for pointing out perceived falsehoods and if a Democrat had screamed “You lie!” during one of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, I would have condemned them as well.  There is a rebuttal aired immediately after the address just for such claims!  You’ve got a platform that doesn’t require being rude!

Of course, caring deeply about the truth, I should also point out that Joe Wilson was monstrously incorrect when he claimed that President Obama was lying.  If you’re going to be completely unnecessarily rude, at least get your facts straight first!

There’s nothing about Joe Wilson’s political career that redeems him from this behavior.  He is a supporter of keeping the treasonous rebel flag on Statehouse grounds.  He’s repeatedly voted to limit the rights of his gay constituents and of the country, he’s voted to make the PATRIOT act permanent and to remove our fourth amendment constitutional right to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure, he does not support scientific research, he does not support women’s rights, he consistently votes against education in a state that desperately needs better education, and he is a religious fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in separation of church and state.

The filing deadline has passed and I wish someone with any basic decency had taken the opportunity to use the public platform to bring some truth and dignity to the race, rather than more of the cowardly lies that Joe Wilson has to offer.  I wish I’d had $3,500 dollars and any knowledge of how to run a campaign or join a race because he’s the representative of MY district and I am mad as hell.  Perhaps Dick Harpootlian, the SCDem chair, should spend more time trying to get Democrats elected and less time insulting women, accusing Republicans of being gay, and schmoozing with Stephen Colbert.

South Carolinians deserve choices when it comes to sending a representative to Washington DC, but it looks like the 40% my district and of the state that votes blue is going to continue to be disenfranchised by a failure of the party and a failure of the system.