For weeks there was a virtual onslaught of antichoice activity related to or coming directly out of every major social and cultural institution in the United States, reinforced by similar activities worldwide. Policy was being pushed through the state and federal level to put the rights of fetuses over the rights of women, to criminalize abortion in every way legally possible, and to de-criminalize murder in the name of defending the unborn. Religions were coalescing around anti-choice the way they had previously mobilized against LGBTQQAI rights. Institutionalized racism was playing an insidious role, calling the decisions of black and African American women to have abortions a “genocide” and also managing, somehow, to compare these choices to the historical horrors of slavery.
On top of these full frontal assaults, the anti-choice movement was also insidiously chipping away at the foundations of the women’s health movement, rendering all women, whether they ever chose to become mothers, have an abortion, or simply continue to go on living, unsafe from a number of preventable medical conditions, including cervical cancer. (Dear Antis: HARD TO CHOOSE TO BECOME A LOVING BIOLOGICAL MOTHER IF CERVICAL CANCER RENDERS YOU UNABLE TO HAVE CHILDREN). In Seattle, land that launched grunge, flannel, and a thousand surprisingly laid-back coffee addicts, a man burst into a women’s health clinic screaming about “baby killers” and “murderers.” These have not been the best of times.
Yet, for the last two weeks or so, I would put the number of terrifying stories and developments regarding women’s health and choice in this country at about average, which is to say, “quite a few, but not so many that it feels like an hourly onslaught from which we may never recover.” And that quiet is dangerous. Did you ever read “All Quiet on the Western Front”? In it, the war rages endlessly around a man who continues to survive, mostly through luck. And on the last page, the main character is killed on an unusually quiet, peaceful day, a day on which the army report contains only one phrase: “All quiet on the Western Front.”
I’m calling this our Western Front. This is not the time for complacency – this is the time to evaluate the situation, assess our needs, re-group, and make decisions about how to move forward. I admit to taking a week off myself. I was exhausted and burned out, and the thought of staying angry seemed like it might require too much energy. But I slept in for a few days, had some coffee, and got back up to lace up my combat boots. I ask you to do the same. Because I assure you, the anti-choice movement, despite its protestations, is every bit as prepared and well-funded as we are, and in some cases, better prepared and better funded, and their roots in the religious structure of this nation go too deep to be untangled. In other words, whatever fights they lost this round, they will be back to fight again.
There have been many laudatory articles written by progressives, and excoriating articles written by conservatives, about the Republicans who declined to strip funding from PPFA. They have my thanks. I appreciate the willingness I am seeing from the left to defend these public officials, who may very well find themselves in jeopardy when the time comes for re-election. But I am significantly more interested in a subject that no one seems to be talking about, one that is so unexamined that it required an extensive search to answer a basic question: Which Democrats voted to strip PPFA funding, thereby jeopardizing the lives and health of millions of American women, including, oh, I don’t know, me?
There are nine of them, including Rep. Heath Shuler, whom I have a lot of personal affection for but who, it should be kept in mind, challenged Congresswoman Pelosi for the Minority Leader position as a Blue Dog Democrat. This is a man who believed he had a fair shot at leading the Democratic minority in the House of Representatives, and he voted to strip funding from PPFA. I deem this completely unacceptable.
How I register to vote is NOT my political affiliation. My political affiliation is “progressive, rational and rebellious.” My political affiliation is “angry, underserved and all too often ignored.” My political affiliation is with those in need, those pissed off, those working hard, those raising families, those making noise. I do not stand with the Democrats. I stand with my causes. I will stand with any member of any party who fights for equality for women, for minorities, for the queer community, who believes our needs and concerns are every bit as valid as those of this nation’s big businesses and religious right. A few Republicans seem to be gathering that voting one’s conscience has benefits as well as drawbacks – how about we let Democrats know that too?
We are a strong, young, passionate, powerful voting block who should not be ignored or underestimated, and we are never more dangerous or more in need of appeasement than when we go to the polls. If one of those Democrats represents you, please call. If your Member of Congress voted the way you wanted them to, regardless of party affiliation, please thank them. Please sign every petition, please attend every rally, please make every noise possible – and please vote.
This is our country, and we will not leave it to teeter on the brink.