Chesler Chronicles

Women’s Reproductive Rights Thrown Under Obama’s Bus

After Obama was elected, Ms. magazine ran a cover with an image of him opening his shirt, Clark Kent style, to reveal a T-shirt which reads: “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE.”

Given how quickly reproductive rights were just jettisoned in the House, and mainly by Democrats, I wonder if there is any breast-beating going on over there. I certainly hope so, but I doubt it.

It seems like only yesterday that Hillary was running against Barack—but it also seems like a hundred years ago.

However, long before the Ms. magazine cover, I remember The List, which first came out during the Democratic primary race. I was shocked and disheartened by it. How could so many educated American women be so foolish, so desperate, so easily conned?

No, I am not talking about the McCarthy era blacklist (the only list that tenured and creative leftists really take seriously) but about the “Feminist Petition for Obama and for Peace.”

I have personally known many of the signatories; have truly admired (or strongly disagreed with) the views of some; have, over the years, been at odds, publicly, with more than a handful on issues such as pornography, prostitution, custody, surrogacy, the nature of Islamic gender and religious apartheid, 9/11, jihadic terrorism, the fate of both America and Israel, global anti-Semitism—but still: Let’s set that all aside for a moment. In their own terms, they have all just been royally screwed.

Many of these feminist signatories devoted their academic and activist lives to the fight for women’s reproductive rights. For example: Eleanor Bader wrote Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism; Rosalyn Baxandall authored Women and Abortion: The Body as Battleground and Dear Sisters: Dispatches From The Women’s Liberation Movement; Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English wrote about women’s rights, including reproductive rights, way back in the 1970s, in For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women; Linda Gordon wrote Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: Birth Control In America and The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America; Rosalind Petchesky wrote Negotiating Reproductive Rights and Abortion And Woman’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and Reproductive Freedom, among others; and Katha Pollitt of the Nation magazine has written extensively about abortion rights in their pages.

These feminist signatories have gotten tenure for their work on reproductive rights. They’ve had long careers as paid journalists, paid lecturers, funded researchers, and funded conference participants both here and abroad based on their work in this very area.

Now, they have all been thrown under the bus. I wonder what, if anything, they will do about this.

This is a far-reaching restriction on abortion that goes further than a “codification of the Hyde Amendment,” which cut federal funding for abortion long, long ago.

As NARAL Pro-Choice America points out, “The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.”

Obama himself mainly…sidesteps the issue, stays above the fray, be it in Teheran or in Congress. Banter, even soaring teleprompted eloquence, is not the same as actual leadership.

Remember: These newly jettisoned feminists rejected Hillary Clinton (yes, feminists have rejected female candidates other than Sarah Palin), and clambered aboard the cool, charismatic, could-be-a-movie-star-or-an-athlete’s bus. True, the candidate was really also half-white: raised by his white mother and white grandparents, abandoned by his black African father. But, in American terms, Obama was, essentially, a “race” man, someone who certainly looked like an African-American, and someone who wrestled with questions of black male identity. President Obama has not written about his bi-racial identity or about the lives of black women very much or with the same passion.

They fell for a guy—true, a charming, eloquent and very handsome guy, whom they wanted to believe really loved them for their….political views. Not just for their votes.

They fell for a guy who may have reminded them of their youth on the Left, when the (murderous, sexist) Black Panthers were all the rage.

Let me be clear: Some feminists remained squarely in Hillary’s camp. Clinton was the first viable female candidate for the American Presidency that America has ever had. They did not vote for Obama. No, I did not “like” Hillary, but yes, I certainly voted for her in the Democratic primary. Unlike Obama, she actually had a track record on women’s issues.

Yes, there are more than 2,000 names on this petition. They include actors (Kathleen Chalfant and Susan Sarandon), novelists (Mary Gordon, Meredith Tax), poets, academics, politicians (Ronnie Eldridge), journalists, psychotherapists, activists. Many are very honorable women with whom I strongly disagree. Some are craven opportunists and hypocrites. Some are merely sheep.

But the feminists who signed the pro-Obama petition are mainly leftists. This means that they are often more concerned with the rights of (male) people of color; less concerned with the rights of women (of any color); more concerned with Christian and Jewish misogyny than with what I view as a far more dangerous Islamic misogyny; quick to criticize western imperialism and colonialism, yet utterly silent on the Islamic version; and devoted to principles of anti-racism (except where Jews are concerned).

Long ago, to avoid being labeled “racists,” such left feminists deserted their own vision of universalist human rights and became cultural relativists.

Well, Obama’s and Pelosi’s health care bill has, so far, been passed in the House. Federal funding for abortion (except in cases of rape and incest) has been deemed not as important as the right of the poorest (male) person to receive various sub-quality health care treatments and benefits.

So: I challenge these left feminists to do something about this. I challenge my old friend Gloria Steinem to pick up the phone and call the White House. NOW’s old national President, Kim Gandy, was a frequent White House visitor. How about it, Kim? I know that the new National Organization of Women is already planning rallies.

But my question is: What will the prominent left feminist signatories really do about this?

Break with the Democratic Party? Form a third party? Work with the Republican Party? Apply for asylum in Saudi Arabia?

Well, girls and boys, these are some of our choices.

Brief Afterword

To be fair, I have been told that the Senate has to reconcile its version of the bill with the House version. Even now, as you read this, there are 40 Congresspeople who have signed a letter drafted by Congresswoman Diana Degette (D-Colorado) who now say they will not vote for the final version of this Health Care Reform Bill/Conference Report/Amendment (no on knows exactly what to call it) if abortion remains un-funded or underfunded.