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Beyond Dr. Tiller

–updated–

Not only did she fear the protesters, she also worried about whether Dr. Tiller would be gruff and cold, “only in it for the money,” as his critics alleged. It was almost a shock, she said, to instead meet a slightly nerdy doctor who gently explained every step and kept asking, “Are you doing O.K.?” – An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death

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I don’t write much about this subject. I still can’t figure out why in an age where science has offered up the antidote to abortion, we’re still talking about it. The Morning After Pill combined with birth control should render this discussion closed. In fact, the article today in the New York Times Magazine illustrates why traditional media is failing so spectacularly. Instead of Dr. Tiller’s story, why isn’t the Times focusing on the health care debate and women’s reproductive rights, including abortion?

A group of 20 House Democrats signed a letter sent last Friday to House Democratic leaders stating they “cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.” The House health-care bill doesn’t explicitly mention abortion, but the Democrats who signed the letter are a guarantee that it wouldn’t allow the federal funding of abortions or require that private health-insurance plans pay for abortions. – WSJ

But yet, the pro selective life crowd keep on with their 19th century mantra, with zealots among them winning on access and lynch-mob mentality for anyone who dares to provide women the legal health care rights we deserve. The pro selective life crowd hell bent on scuttling women’s civil rights for which women have fought and died over decades and decades. Their theory when applied to health care today is simple, as is their advice to Pres. Obama:

You will infuriate abortion-rights activists. But to be blunt, where are they going to go? – The Week Magazine

The “where are they going to go” theory of women’s civil rights shrouded in the “call their bluff” talking points of putting in language against poor women, so that the majority gets health care, etc. etc. Read the piece, you’ll get the picture.

But even as bad as the piece is, it’s where the New York Times should have gone today. Proving that even this newspaper can’t reject passed events over the importance of covering a critical current event in today’s health care debate.

The pro choice crowd not singularly focused on engaging these anti civil rights activists on the one issue that renders the issue solved: reproductive health care products, including when it comes to health care reform. Some Democrats fighting for health care reform seem to think the Chris Matthews philosophy against abortion access the most moral fight.

The whole debate revolves around civil rights (which should never be predicated on whether you are rich or poor).

Back in May, I did an interview with Women on the Web about whether there is a “pro-life feminist movement.” I can barely write those words without laughing out loud. I explain why fully in the interview below. It seems like a perfect moment to share the importance of women’s civil rights, which includes full reproductive health care access. Today Women on the Web’s lead story is on “The Bathing Suit Chronicles.” Anyway, I tape all my interviews, so I’ve got the back and forth, which I thought I’d share today, because it adds a broader context to The New York Times piece. Though we might have missed some things here and there, the text is as close to verbatim as we could get. I hope it will give everyone something to think about. We’re beyond Tiller today.

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WOMEN ON THE WEB: … As I told you this is for a piece on the pro-life feminist movement.

TAYLOR: Oh, that’s an oxymoron.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: OK, well we’ll get into that in a second. First of all you describe yourself as pro-choice, basically. Can I ask you why you . . . you’re pro-choice?

TAYLOR: Well I don’t describe myself as pro-choice, actually.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: How do you describe yourself?

TAYLOR: I’m pro women’s civil rights.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: OK.

TAYLOR: That’s what I’m for.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: And what’s . . .

TAYLOR: Civil rights begins with what we do with our own bodies. If you cannot have . . . if you don’t have control over your own body, there’s . . . there are no civil rights. It doesn’t exist. I mean, I happen to believe that privacy is part of that, but that isn’t the only issue. The issue is my body is nobody else’s but my own. And what I . . . and my decisions that affect my body and my life, whether it’s diet, health or something as monumental as ending a pregnancy or deciding to go forward with a pregnancy, that is ultimately my decision. And this is a civil rights issue.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Right. Well a lot of people, certainly like in your ideological camp for people who would define themselves as pro-choice, discuss the fact that, you know, being able to choose what to do with their body is an empowering decision for women. Marjorie Dannfelser, who runs the Susan B. Anthony List, and that’s a group that campaigns for pro-life female candidates, as well as pro-life male candidates, argued to me that . . . …But she said, “Well, you know, people can be empowered to do lots of things. We can be empowered to abuse our children, we can be empowered to starve ourselves, we can be . . .

TAYLOR: Oh, good grief.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: . . . empowered to steal. What do you make of that sort of counter argument from her?

TAYLOR: Well it’s . . . it’s changing the subject. It’s kind of like a non sequitur argument, and I disagree with their whole . . . they’re pro-selective life. They’re not pro-life. A woman in the throes of a difficult choice, especially someone that’s younger, this is . . . this is a life issue for her. And some women can’t afford it, aren’t emotionally prepared. I mean, there’s a million reasons. I’m not going to, you know, delineate people’s choices there. But this is . . . their platform is a pro-selective life, because if they really were pro-life then these individuals that want to curtail a woman’s civil rights would also be for preventing pregnancy, they’d be fore contraception, they’d be for RU-486. We could get into the stem cell debate and what that does for quality of life and pro-life. Their argument is morally bankrupt and most . . . and a lot of these people are also . . . you know, they’re the proponents for torture, they’re the proponents for the death penalty. So their pro-selective life. It’s . . . it’s . . . their argument is morally bankrupt and it . . . it really doesn’t . . . if you follow the through line you just gave, it makes absolutely no sense and I really feel sorry for them because in the 21st Century, if you really want to be an agent for changed, whatever it is, but especially when it comes to the abortion issue, you have to put everything in the mix. You have to want to help young women, you have to want to go beyond abstinence — which doesn’t work. That’s been proven a million times. And you have to not only teach abstinence, but you have to also give them the tools of what happens our emotions and our physical urges smack int . . . you know, run into the wall of a situation that is leading you down a tough road. You have to be prepared and be willing to stop unwanted pregnancies, not just through abstinence but through every means we have — scientific, medical, all of it. You have to bring all of it to bear if we’re going stop the number of abortions, which we actually have the power to do. We can bring this down if everyone would agree. You know, my side — pro civil rights — will agree, OK teach abstinence, but abstinence plus. Their side won’t come to our side. They will make no compromises whatsoever. So we’re not able to curtail the number of abortions. Then if you want to go to what we can do in the world, and AIDS and what is happening with our policy in the gag rule around the world, you know, we have a moral obligation to use every . . . every scientific means at our method, plus the moral means, plus abstinence. The only way to get abortion down is to use them all.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: … Hmm, interesting. I like the pro-selective life argument. I had not heard that but I think it’s, you know, very . . .

TAYLOR: You know, it’s absolutely what it is. It’s . . . and too many people . . . that’s why I reject wholly being put in the pro-choice. It’s far larger than that, and they get pro-life. Their sloganeering makes them sound like their on a higher plane. But when you dissect it down, and even the argument you gave me, if you dissect it down it’s creepy what their saying — that you can inspire people to be . . . I mean, that’s their argument? This . . . I’m not just . . . it’s not just about being pro-choice. I think women have a tremendous responsibility, especially in the modern era. There is no excuse for an “unwanted pregnancy.” There’s no excuse for it, with the scientific methods we have, the medicine we have, planned parenthood. And I’m not a . . . you know, I’m not a member of any of these groups, but there’s just no excuse for it. We have the means for . . . for every, single young woman — and young man, by the way. It’s not just about women, it’s men too. We have the means to stop “unwanted pregnancies.” There’s no excuse for it. And the pro-selective life community won’t engage on all these methods. And that’s why we’re still having this ridiculous argument. We should just go about . . . we should be in the solution phase, period. I mean, it’s the 21st Century. We should . . . none of these other things are valid. They are old. They are out-worn. It is putting us on a hamster wheel of this argument that gets us nowhere. And I’ve seen what this does when someone is faced with these things, when they have parents that . . . that, you know, don’t allow . . . don’t allow their own daughter’s civil rights to be acknowledged. This is a problem, and we can’t just close our eyes and say, “Oh, we’d love this all to be abstinence and every . . .” I mean, who wouldn’t love that to work? But it just doesn’t. You know, it’s just not practical. It’s just not practical. And we are . . . we all are guilty if we don’t fight for every tool we have to be on board. This is a very serious issue. This is very serious and it deserves . . . it deserves solutions, not just a rolling debate that leads us back to the 20th Century, to things that have already been solved by science.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: And my next question is a simple enough question, but of course the answer can be quite complicated. What . . . how do you define a feminist?

TAYLOR: Boy, well I’ll start by saying that for a long time the Conservatives have said that the feminist era is over, and that is because they look through a very myopic lens, and they think that feminism is just about the United States, and just about what women in the United States have. I cover foreign policy. That is my main thing, especially since I moved to DC. It has always been my passion and I look at it through a really wide lens, covering Afghan women, covering what is done to women in honor killings. Being a feminist is about . . . and you don’t have to be female to be feminist. Being a feminist is insuring that every woman has the God given civil rights that we were born with, to be totally free to envision her life as she wants without restriction, except obviously by law and certain things of that nature; not the law of a country, but the law of . . . the Golden Rule law, let’s say. And I think as long there is one woman being stoned to death in some country, if young girls are having acid poured on them because they want to go to school, it is every woman’s duty to fight for that woman to be free to make those choices to educate herself or educate children. And I . . . and this does not involve getting in the midst of religious differences. It has nothing to do with what clothing some woman wears, whether she wants to wear a (abaya or hajib). That is a choice of her religion that is none of our business. But it is the world’s business that women’s rights are human rights, and a feminist fights for those rights whether they’re in the United States of in Kenya — wherever it is. That is the goal, is to spread the importance of women’s rights as human rights, as Hillary Clinton so eloquently said back in China in the ‘90s as First Lady. This is very critical because we are learning, and we have learned, that the more women have a say in a nation the more stable their government. That is in our interest as Americans, and that’s in our interest as we go forward to try to have relationships with countries, to stabilize the world we live in.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Going over . . . I mean, doing my work for this piece I’ve encountered to many different definitions of feminist. There is the free-market feminist, the pro-life feminist, feminist feminist, progressive feminist… … I mean, you have a very . . . I’m not going to say strict, but you have a very definite definition of what a feminist can and should be. So you . . . do you not believe in a spectrum of feminism?

TAYLOR: What do you mean by a spectrum of feminism?

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Well, you know, some people argue you can be a feminist and pro-life, you can be a feminist and pro-choice, you can be . . .

TAYLOR: No, I don’t. No. Absolutely not. I don’t believe in that.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: OK.

TAYLOR: I absolutely don’t believe that. You know, femin . . . no, I don’t. It’s a civil rights issue. It’s what I just explained. No, I don’t. I don’t think you can dissect it. I think they want to dissect it because that makes it easier and the responsibilities less onerous. You know, the responsibilities that we have to fellow people on our plant, it makes it easier. And they can also say, “Well, in this small section I really am a feminist. But if I go out of this section I’m not.” You know, that . . . that doesn’t wash. Whether progressive or conservative, you know, I could care less, when we’re talking about getting something done around the world — helping women . . . The Clinton Global Foundation and how they help keep down AIDS, they make deals to get drugs to communities to help, women, their children, stop the AIDS virus. I mean, this is all our job as feminists… . . . . . …You know, we each have tribes, but we can all agree that quality of life is imperative, especially with women… whether you’re Israeli Palestinian… Israeli Arab women there do not . . . are not able to work. I mean that is our job. There is no . . . there is no subset. You either are involved in dragging this world forward to a place of more enlightenment, peace and civil rights for everyone, or you’re not. Period.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: You know what’s interesting, Taylor, is that I’ve been approaching all sorts of people for this story, but Planned Parenthood and Feminist Majority declined to comment.

TAYLOR: Huh?

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Isn’t that weird? I thought it was weird.

TAYLOR: Well, I . . . I’ve got to be honest, as I said before I don’t belong to any of those groups.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Right.

TAYLOR: And so . . . and there’s a reason… You know, there’s a reason. I just . . . I push away from the group think stuff and it’s what gets me in trouble all the time.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Well, I mean, I have the same thing with organizations like Human Rights Campaign.

TAYLOR: Yeah. . . . . . Well it’s another . . . it’s another form of tribalism. And I don’t want to get down into smaller tribes. I want to be part of a big tribe.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Right. Right.

TAYLOR: Because big tribes can make better change.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: I think so, too. Another argument that has come up from the so-called pro-life feminists is the idea that the ability to have a child, that maternity is an essential part of a woman’s being. What do you make of that, that it’s like a woman’s duty to have a child almost?

TAYLOR: That’s propaganda placed on someone else because you want to control them. Its guilt, it’s marketing, it’s making it laudatory without . . . without considering the personal woman’s own life. Again, pro-selective life, the life they want you to lead has nothing to do with her civil rights and her willingness to find her own soul’s journey. Each person is not in it for . . . as much as I want to move the collective forward, each of us is not in this world to simply be part of a collective. Through our own soul journey we find answers and our own bliss, which leads us to a higher place that makes us more valuable in that group that can push forward and make change. But the first thing you’ve got to do is go through your own soul journey. And they want to cut that off and make it . . . make women feel a duty to do something other than they’re being called to do. It’s coercion.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: And my final question for you, and I . . . I mean I pretty much know how you’re going to answer this, but I need to ask. Is it anti-feminist to fight Roe vs. Wade?

TAYLOR: Roe vs. Wade is . . . is settled law. I’m going to come back to it. This is a civil rights issue. And if you’re against women’s civil rights, you’re on the wrong side. Anything that impedes a woman’s civil rights is wrong, it is antithetical to everything that I know, even about my own Christian faith. It’s . . . it’s cutting off freedom and it’s cutting off your own soul journey. Part of the tough choices we make in life, the tough decisions, what we create on our own . . . by our own mistakes, is the challenges that make us better people. And all this is part of a civil rights journey that makes you who you are and hopefully you learn from them and get better. And it’s all down to civil rights. Anyone who fights against a person’s civil rights — women, man, gay, lesbian, whatever you want to call it — anyone who stands up against a person’s civil rights is on the wrong side.

WOMEN ON THE WEB: Alright. Well you have been very informative . . .

TAYLOR: Well thanks for this. I appreciate the opportunity. I really do.

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.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong