Wrong Huntsman! Social Issues Are Important

Wednesday morning on CNN’s morning show Starting Point, host Soledad O’Brien interviewed Jon Huntsman’s three daughters, Abby, Liddy, and Mary Anne Huntsman. The three talked about the direction of the 2012 GOP race for the Presidential candidate nomination. In keeping with the theme of this year’s commentary, the conversation turned the reason women are not more supportive of Rick Santorum (i.e. – candidates’ conservative views on contraception which do not reflect Americans’ views). The Huntsmans typically have intelligent things to say regarding current issues. But their comments yesterday missed the mark.

When asked about contraception as a political issue, Abby Huntsman replied,

“I think that contraception is an important issue, obviously, for women. But I think the more that we spend talking about it takes away from getting the economy back or, you know, foreign policy.”

Then Mary Anne Huntsman doubled down,

“I really think every second you talk about these social issues is a second away from talking about jobs… it’s about jobs.”

Someone should explain to these women that contraception certainly is an important issue, not just for women; but for the men who want to postpone fatherhood, plan their family size, and who most certainly are affected by unplanned pregnancies.
Additionally, the subject of contraception can never be completely segregated from jobs. Access to contraception has increased women’s role in the workplace, which had a drastically positive impact on gross domestic productivity. National productivity directly affects our economic bottom line as a nation. When half of the population is not economically productive, the country suffers. One has only to look at economies in countries that oppress their women to find evidence of this.

The GOP has an onerous reputation for campaigning on economic issues and small government rhetoric and, upon taking office, turning to restrictive legislation on social issues on which Congress does not necessarily have jurisdiction – the Defense of Marriage Act being a prime example. Such legislation extends the tendrils of government all the way into our private lives, our bedrooms, our bodies. That’s not smaller government. It’s dispersed government. Trying the social rhetoric of a candidate during the election campaign allows people to make informed decisions about whether the candidate would indeed broaden the reach of government in such a way.

So listen up Abby, Liddy and Mary Anne. Jobs are important. The economy is important. Foreign policy is important. And social issues are important. Any President can help create jobs. Any President can help improve the economy. But not every candidate possesses the restraint to keep his or her hands off of our liberty. And that’s a big deal.

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Two Worlds Collide: Abortion Clinic Escort meets Engineer

What does one do when personal anonymity is compromised by the very nature of one’s business association?

One comforting aspect of being a clinic escort is the idea that no matter how rude, obnoxious, hateful, or nosy the protesters get, a clinic escort can keep his or her personal identity on the down low. Like an anonymous superhero, I swoop in, throw some elbows, then go home unaccosted. We clinic escorts do our best to not reveal personal attributes while on duty. Details such as name, employer, religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and neighborhood of residence are topics we regularly avoid in the presence of anti-choice extremists. But what does one do when personal anonymity is compromised by the very nature of one’s business association?

Today I escorted at my clinic. It was a normal day. It was kinda cold. I didn’t wear enough clothing so my legs were cold. After about an hour on the beat, I look up and see a man I work with chatting up some of the protesters. I lost it. My fellow escorts were probably quite amused by my evolving measure of shock. I was all, “What’s he doing down here? Is there some event going on? No! He’s just walking through. He’s not with them. Keep walking! Oh, no! He just didn’t. He’s holding a sign!”

It was epic disappointment. I thought he was cool. I thought he was one of the elite and educated. I thought he was respectable! Alas, he is not. All respect – gone in an instant. You are not cool. We will not have beers. We won’t share joyful words at the company holiday party. We will not chat at the company picnic. You will forever be that guy, anti-guy. It’s fine to be anti-choice; but to harass women too? That’s not respect. That’s exactly the opposite.

But another dilemma underlies this situation. Did he tell the other antis he knows me? Did they ask him about our association when he, albeit discretely, acknowledged me? Do they know my name now and where I work? Could they influence him to create bias against me at work? If they know my name, could they find my home, my husband, and my family?

In the age of church sanctioned domestic terrorism, personal safety is paramount. Violent “pro-life” extremists threaten, stalk, and intimidate clinic staff with impunity. They put up “wanted” signs with abortion providers’ faces on them. They start databases listing clinic employees’ names and places of work. They insult and intimidate women at clinic entrances.

And our Congressional leaders turn their heads. Rather than take the opportunity to repudiate violence and commend reproductive responsibility, public figures use their pulpit to shame women and bolster extremists by pandering to the religious right on social issue after social issue. Even leaders who support a woman’s right to control her reproductive life pass up the opportunity to discourse on social causes, labeling them inconsequential compared to economic well-being.

Has my anonymity been compromised? Maybe. Am I mad about it. No. Just disappointed. But most of all, I am pissed off that I even have to worry about it in the first place.

Herman Cain Flexes His Misogynist Muscle – Again!

I’m not sure I have many polite words to express my disgust with Herman Cain’s latest misogynistic comments. In addition to my complete lack of amazement with the fact that his emerging history of sexual harassment has only bolstered his equally woman-hating supporters into donating more cash to his irreverent campaign, Cain had the nerve to publicly label one of his accusers a “troubled woman.” TROUBLED WOMAN!

Seriously, Herman? Why is she so “troubled?” Is it her success as a single mother? Her loyalty to family? Her unabashed boldness? Her audacity and courage to speak out publicly (baring her soul and her dirty laundry to the world) against the power of a former boss, CEO and current potential presidential candidate?

Well, she did declare bankruptcy. But she helped her parents while raising a child on her own and going through a divorce. I’d say coming out the other side intact shows much, much more than a “troubled” spirit. These actions speak of iron guts! They show above average strength and insatiable will to thrive! Not weakness.

With a victim-blaming strategy straight out of the rape culture play book, Cain resorts to calling Bialek a “troubled woman” in order to discredit her. His tactic is so transparent, I’m surprised other feminist bloggers haven’t had a field day with it. Cain needs to own up to his pattern of misdeeds. He is not fooling anyone with his victim-blaming denial spree.

Regulating Abortion in PA after Gosnell

I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.

In a transparent attempt to usurp the personal power endowed upon us by Roe v. Wade, the Pennsylvania Assembly is considering legislation that would make it impossible for the currently-operating, well-regulated abortion providers in Pennsylvania to continue to provide health care services. While abortion clinics in Pennsylvania are currently regulated in accordance with 28 Pa. Code Ch. 29, Subchapter D – Ambulatory Gynecological Surgery in Hospitals and Clinic, Senate Bill 732 [PDF] would apply Ambulatory Surgical Facility (ASF) regulations to abortion clinics, even for simple, early first trimester procedures. ASF regulations would mandate larger operating room size, fire extinguishing provisions and ventilation capacities that current non-hospital based facilities cannot meet.
This bill was proposed in response to the discovery of the clandestine Gosnell horror clinic in Philadelphia. In the grand jury report [PDF], Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of State officials were called out by name for their extremely negligent oversight of this clinic. And now, legislators are attempting to cover their tracks. But anti-choice politicians have seized the opportunity to eliminate any choice for women of abortion care altogether by closing abortion facilities for structural details as minor as an improperly sized closet. If passed, a compliant clinic would be given inadequate time (180 days to widen hallways, increase procedure room size, install new ventilation, and etc. is inadequate time) to make the structural changes necessary to comply with structural requirements for ambulatory facilities.
But imposing new regulations does not mean that the new regulations will be enforced. Instead of new, stricter regulations, we need better oversight and stricter enforcement of the current regulations for abortion clinics. Or if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ASF regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.
What follows is the letter I wrote to my state Senator expressing my opposition to Senate Bill 732, as amended. If you live in PA, please take the time to contact your state Senator about Senate Bill 732.
Dear Senator _________,
I write to you to express my genuine concern for the consequences a piece of legislation currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Senate, Senate Bill 732 (SB 732). As amended, SB 732, if passed, would create a dangerous health care situation. As you know, SB 732 adopts facility standards for all abortion clinics that most western PA abortion providers cannot currently meet, and would face grave structural and financial burdens to meet if such standards were enacted. The effective date of the legislation is such that no structural changes could be rendered to such facilities before their enforcement, and these clinics would be forced to close.
This legislation was proposed under the supposedly well-intentioned premise that patients need to be protected from illegal, unsafe surgical abortion facilities like the one uncovered in Philadelphia. Upon examination, this is an obvious lie. This legislation does nothing to protect women from dubious ‘doctors’ who care nothing for their health and well-being. It is my personal view that this legislation will have the opposite effect. This legislation would close most of the clinics in Pennsylvania due to structural nonconformances unrelated to ensuring medical health or patient safety.
Closing the currently well-regulated, compliant abortion facilities will make abortion inaccessible to most Pennsylvania women. In addition, many women will be unable to afford a legal abortion due to the increase in cost to providers due to increased regulation. Consequently, utterly desperate women will seek clandestine services from unregulated, illegal providers. Women may seek abortion care out of state. Or, sadly, women may attempt extremely dangerous self-abortion. The indirect effects of this legislation are innumerable.
If the genuine concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is the health and safety of women, the assembly should readdress this bill and pass laws that do not manufacture health crises. Or, if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ambulatory surgical facility regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. If the real concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is usurping Roe v. Wade by eliminating safe abortion access in Pennsylvania, then this bill is unconstitutional.
I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better. But as evidenced by the Gosnell indictment, enacting regulations does not mean the regulations will be enforced. In addition, this legislation does nothing to actually protect patients. Your yes vote on this bill will create a public health crisis, fuel a clandestine abortion industry, and endanger women’s lives. I urge you to vote no on SB 732.
Sincerely yours,
Nuclear Grrl

Purple Haze: Black and Brainwashed

I am NOT brainwashed. I just don’t agree with you, Herman Cain!!!

So, Herman Cain thinks I’m brainwashed. As you would expect from a brainwashed black zombie voter, hearing this peculiar news was news to me. Cain says I’m brainwashed because I’m not open minded, and because I “won’t even consider a conservative point of view.” Wow, Herman! Thank you for opening my eyes!!! I am SO closed-minded. And I NEVER listen or even consider what conservatives think. So let me take this opportunity to turn my life around, and really consider exactly what conservativism is all about. So I visited Herman Cain’s website. He has a page where he publicizes his position on “The Issues”, so I’ll start with that.

On National Security, Herman Cain says:

While diplomacy is a critical tool in solving the complex security issues we face, it must never compromise military might.

The rest of his statements on national security are, though not automatically appealing to me, mainstream enough. From this statement, I gather that, as President of the Unites States of America, Herman Cain would not hesitate to march America to war when diplomacy, in his opinion, became futile. Or maybe I am to gather that president Cain would strike first, and negotiate later. Would a president Cain hesitate to send more and more of my brothers and sisters to sacrifice their lives, even if the American people didn’t want it, even if the diplomatic world clamored against it, even if it continued to bankrupt our country and spoil future security for our children?

On Spending, Herman Cain says:

It is no secret that federal government spending is out of control. They view the American taxpayers as a bottomless piggybank for their wasteful programs and expansion of power.

I wonder, who is “they”? And to what wasteful programs is he referring? Is Title X a wasteful program? In other words, is preventing premature births, birth defects, and cancer a waste of taxpayer money? There are some programs that can be considered wasteful, Cain should be more specific. Cain also thinks we should eliminate some of our entitlement programs “with a keen eye and a red pen”. I take that to mean Herman Cain would see the end of Social Security. Many of our senior citizens already live on tight, fixed budgets; and depend on social security (which they paid for) to keep them healthy. I don’t want to see our elder generation impoverished!

On to Immigration! Herman Cain says:

Americans have embraced their role as the world’s premier “melting pot,” welcoming immigrants from every corner of the planet. We readily learn about other cultures, customs and beliefs. We appreciate those who are willing to come to this country and make America a more vibrant and enriched place.

Conservatives readily learn from other cultures? What about conservative Michele Bachmann’s opinion that, “not all cultures are equal, not all values are equal,” implying that immigrants should assimilate to her culture. That doesn’t seem very welcoming to me. Herman Cain himself said he would not hire a Muslim to his cabinet, and that towns should be able to ban mosques from being built within their borders. He also thinks we should “promote the existing path to citizenship”. Well I argue that the existing path to citizenship is broken. It is filled with bureaucratic red tape and financial barriers that ensure that only very rich, patient, educated foreigners are allowed in.

For Herman Cains stance on energy policy, all I can say is, “WOW!” He mentions that corn-based ethanol producers are subsidized; but fails to mention that so too are oil producers, nuclear operators, and renewable energy producers. In fact, there is no sector of energy in the United States that is NOT subsidized in some way by federal funds. Now I mistrust Cain. His attempt to spin the energy story to promote his campaign has just turned me off. He also says, “liberals have forced excessive environmental regulations that have stifled our domestic energy production.” Cain thinks that the regulation of energy producers to protect the public from unmitigated pollution of our skies, rivers and ground water puts undue burden on energy producers who, might I add, are in no way struggling to turn profits. I think some oversight of energy producers is warranted.

Then I get to Herman Cain’s Health Care page. I cannot continue. This is some of the language I read here:

  • liberals in Congress have dismantled the free market health care system
  • compromise the sacred patient-doctor relationship
  • eliminate patient choice
  • stick a bureaucrat in the examining room
  • ration care

Time after time, this same inflammatory language Cain insists on using to describe the PPACA has been proven misleading, lying at best. It’s not a government takeover. It’s not interfering with patient-doctor relationships (although, with the latest attempts by Congress and the states to eliminate insurance coverage for abortion from the health care system, that is debatable). The PPACA increases patient choice. Patients will now be able to choose from a wider selection of insurance providers than they had before. And health care is already rationed by health care providers and insurance companies. For instance, hospitals will not put someone on the list for a lung transplant if the person is a smoker. And with Herman Cain’s views on abortion rights, I am sure that, under a Cain presidency, my rights to make medical choices without the interference of government would only suffer more.

And Cain promotes “tort reform” as the solution to lowering health care costs and increasing patient choice. Tort reform is code word for eliminating a patients ability to seek damages from a doctor when he or she is harmed. Tort reform is not the answer. Increasing the availability and affordability of primary care in order to reduce the number of patients seeking such care in hospitals, thus decreasing the work load of doctors and nurses such that they can better focus on their patients is the solution to medical malpractice suits. Scaring the ‘have-nots’ from taking the ‘haves’ to court in order to reduce the number of malpractice suits serves only to deter an individual from seeking reparation when he or she has actually been wronged. And believe me, it’s an individual against a huge insurance company, not patient versus doctor.

Let me end this useless attempt to consider Cain’s conservative ideas on their merit. In almost every instance, Cain provides a half story in an attempt to brainwash his own readers! And on his “Faith & Family” page, he basically makes his point that the U.S. is a Christian nation (especially noting the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance), and should remain that way. I argue that the U.S. Republic is seated by a secular government whose job is to administer a country in which Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Witches, Pagans, Hari Krishnas and Atheists alike can live their lives in the way they see fit. The words “under god” are an addition made in fear; and don’t belong in the Pledge of Allegiance. And I decry any attempt to force me or my future children to say such words. That is the opposite of freedom of religion.

It’s possible that Herman Cain seriously believes that African American voters are living in a purple haze that makes liberalism show up in rosy hues. But, I don’t think so. I think he is just desperate. I am a highly educated, worldly, open-minded, faceted and (and if I can say so myself) fascinating individual. And I am NOT brainwashed. I just don’t agree with you, Herman Cain!!!

Embattled Birth Control?

Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me.

On August 1st, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced historic new requirements for insurers on services for women that should be covered by new insurance plans at no cost (i.e. – without a copay). To determine what medical care would be covered, the Institute of Medicine was charged with reporting to the DHHS what services and screenings for women are needed to fill gaps in recommended preventative care. In the IOM report, “Clinical Preventative Services for Women, Closing the Gap“, the committee defines preventative services as,

measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition.

The services recommended by the IOM include common sense stuff:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.
Well, unless you live under a rock or are completely unconcerned with women’s reproductive issues, the fall out from the release of these new HHS guidelines has been epic. Both for it’s greatness, and for it’s sheer moronic misogyny. As expected, the National Women’s Law Center, Feminist Majority Foundation, National Organization for Women, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (P2) have all come out in support of the new guidelines. Representatives from many organizations are commending the HHS for actually listening to and implementing the recommendations of real medical experts and scientists. Some of the reaction has been beyond epic, such as this Bollywood-inspired song and dance routine made for Planned Parenthood:
Any feminist woman knows the depths of Bill O’Reilly’s misogyny. But he feels he continually needs to remind the world how low his opinion of women. On his awful, bias-as-hell show back in July, O’Reilly spoke to a fake liberal woman and a conservative woman about the HHS’s mandate for insurers to cover birth control. (Any liberal who was asked the question as he stated it would have pointed out that O’Reilly’s description of the regulations was inaccurate.) The conversation was completely biased, as O’Reilly asks “liberal” contributor Leslie Marshall if the government should pay for “everybody’s birth control…in the world”. Even leaving out the fact that O’Reilly misrepresents the DHHS requirements (that private insurers pay for birth control for private policy holders, not the government!), he goes on to insult every female birth control user by saying they are “to blasted out of their minds to use it anyway”. Since O’Reilly doesn’t care to actually engage women in a substantive manner, he obviously doesn’t know that the 56 million women who use highly-effective birth control don’t take it when they are “blasted out of their minds”. In addition, he attacks the “health care deal for the ladies” talking to Lou Dobbs, saying we ‘all’ will have to pay for this. Someone should call him up and explain how, we are all ALREADY paying for it!
Although the regulation includes an exception for religious institutions, the Family Research Council argues that the regulation “undermines the conscience rights of many Americans.” Um, yeah, he must mean the less than 1% who don’t use any contraceptive method whatsoever. (I argue that women working for religious institutions should not be subject to their beliefs if not shared, and should have an alternative option for contraceptive coverage.) A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, says “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” Someone should let him know that no one said pregnancy was a disease. But there are,however, many conditions and diseases associated with pregnancy, many of them fatal for the pregnant woman. Oh, but wait, the Catholic church doesn’t care about the pregnant woman. I forgot.
The arguments against prohibiting cost sharing for preventative services only gets more ridiculous. Stephen Colbert can state it much more hilariously than I. And Jon Stewart breaks it down on the Daily Show. The arguments of opponents to this mandate are not rooted in science or medicine. They are solely rooted in religion. The catholics say the rules are “messing with God”. Other conservatives say giving away free birth control will result in rampant promiscuity. And conspiracy theorists argue that free birth control is just the first step in the government’s assertion of complete control over the reproductive lives of the citizenry for population control purposes. Um, communist China anyone?
These arguments become especially irreverent when you consider that of women of reproductive age who do not want to become pregnant, 99% use a contraceptive method other than natural family planning, and two-thirds of us take a highly-effective method (i.e. – sterilization, the pill, IUD, etc.) regardless of our religious beliefs. And these conservative, anti-choice pundits seem to forget about the fact that not all women using contraceptives are unmarried young people, contraceptive use helps breastfeeding women breastfeed longer by helping them space their pregnancies and increases the socio-economic status of women who are consequently able to delay pregnancy, preventing unplanned pregnancy reduces the need for abortion, couples are less likely to separate after a planned pregnancy than an unplanned pregnancy, contraceptives help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, and some women are prescribed contraceptives for reasons other than pregnancy prevention (such as endometriosis). I could go on, but I think I made my point.
The DHHS will be taking public comments on the new regulations through the end of September. Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me. (I hope my husband is up to the challenge!) Plus, I am TOTALLY DOWN with becoming a 4-star General in Obama’s Army of Flesh Thirsty Young Sluts! And, seriously, who would compare domestic violence counseling and breastfeeding advice to getting a pedicure? Oh, wait…