Keep asking hard questions

As I wrote about earlier, Tuesday night was a huge night for the Democratic party and liberals.  Not only did Obama get reelected, but there was a huge repudiation against many GOPers who had spoken out about their pro-life positions in ways that were shocking (but consistent) with their extreme ideology.

Rachel had an epic takedown of some these politicians in her show on Wednesday night:

Here’s where the Republicans ran into trouble — they had to justify what their supposedly “pro-life” views looked like when applied to actual people. It didn’t go over so well. From Rachel:

Where they were in power between the 2010 elections and the 2012 elections, Republicans governed very, very, very aggressively on this issue [of restricting access to reproductive choices]. They governed so aggressively on this issue, it was unprecedented.

What happened then, though, which maybe the Republican were not counting on was that Democrats decided they were going to make the Republicans explain themselves. Democrats decided they were going to hold Republicans to account for what they had been doing in terms of their governance and their philosophy on this issue, and what they planned to
keep doing if Americans elected them again.

And when Republicans started having to answer specific appointed questions about their issue on abortion, some creepy stuff happened this year. We learned a great deal, very specific, very creepy detail of what Republicans really do believe about this issue they’ve been so energized about.

Yes, who would have guessed that the “gotcha” moments for these Republicans would simply be to have them explain themselves on this issue?

In all honesty, though, I’m not surprised. Asking hard questions is now my preferred way of talking to people about reproductive choice, as I’m no longer that concerned about persuading people to my side of the issue. What I want to hear is how pro-lifers justify their ideology being applied to someone else. It’s all fine and good to say that “life begins at conception!” — but what does that LOOK like in our society? What are the implications of that statement in terms of the law?

The other line of approach I’m taking when it comes to discussing abortion is to say this: There is no such thing as no abortions. There is only such a thing as no safe abortions. Think about that. Does the “life” portion of being pro-life apply to the lives of women who die from unsafe procedures? If the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to reduce the amount of abortions that are taking place every day, why isn’t there more support for women to have access to contraceptives?

The best article/essay I’ve read on that question is this one: How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement. So much of this essay has resonated with me, because I, too, once counted myself in the “pro-life” ranks.  PLEASE take the time to read this article, no matter where you fall on the issue — it’s going to be one that I read over and over again.

From her conclusion:

The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

But I am very sure that there are other dupes out there. If you’re sitting there reading this thinking “but I really am in it to save unborn babies,” I am sure you’re not alone. After all, I was one of you.

If you are one who has been a part of the pro-life movement because you really do believe in “saving unborn babies,” it’s time to cut your ties with the movement. You may be an honest and kind-hearted person, but you’ve been had. You’ve been taken in. It’s time to let go.

This is an important enough issue that these difficult conversations need to keep happening — on my part, I’ll keep asking the hard questions.

practically pro-life

One of the most effective ways to describe why I support a woman’s reproductive choice is to show what being “pro-life” looks like, when its principles are practically applied.

It’s one thing to cite the emotionally-evocative platitude of “life begins at conception” — it’s another to see what life looks like when such a talking point is put into law.

Case in point: Georgia Representative wants to investigate all miscarriages

Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin want abortion classified as murder, according to his latest bill, the police will have to investigate all miscarriages to ensure that they were “spontaneous.” Here’s the complete bill.

Via Daily Kos: Franklin wants to create a Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages, and requires that any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated. If the woman can’t tell how it happened, than those Uterus Police can ask family members and friends how it happened. Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it.

One step closer to becoming a Pro-Life Nation — who’s on board?

Ooops, I did it again…

…stirred up a little bit o’controversy, that is.  I started another Meetup group (yes, Jerry, this will be my last!).

My latest foray into the atheist activist’osphere is a group I call “Reasonable Women.”  Here’s how the Meetup description reads:

Why a group for atheist/agnostic/skeptic/freethinking women?

After reading this BlagHag post about the troubles some women faced at a recent American Atheist conference, we got the idea of forming this group.  Don’t get us wrong — the local atheist groups in Saskatoon are not sexist in their treatment of women members, but we thought it may be fun for the women of these groups to have a place of our own.  And, maybe, having this kind of group available could encourage other female-minded folks to join the movement!

Are you anti-men?  Why aren’t you allowing men to join this Meetup?

Well, this group’s purpose is meant to engage one particular subset of the larger atheist/freethinking movement: the women.  We welcome the men to start their own “Reasonable Men” Meetup!

So much of the current “new atheist” movement is dominated by its male voices — this little group is meant to counteract some of that testosterone by inserting estrogen into the mix!

So far we have 9 members, and it’s only been a day!  I’m quite excited about the potential of having such a group in Saskatoon — not only for what this kind of group can do for our immediate area, but what this type of group can do for empowering women in the larger atheist movement.

And yes, I knew when I started this group that there would be some people who wouldn’t be so keen on the idea of having a women-only group.  So far there have been some interesting discussions back and forth on the pros and cons of a single-gender group — my commitment to the conversation is to not get too defensive when it comes to explaining why I support a women-only group.  For one, I don’t think there’s reason for me to be defensive, and for two, it’s just not necessary at this point.

Anyway, stay tuned.

Home-grown religiously-inspired terrorists (and their enablers)

Oh how easy it is for those of us in North America to think that terrorism is only bred in countries overseas.  Tonight I watched The Assassination of Dr. Tiller, and I’m just sick about what happened to this heroic and compassionate doctor.

No matter which side of the debate you fall under, you should watch and bear witness to Dr. Tiller’s story (not to mention the stories of the women he sacrificed so much for).

Here’s a bit from the conclusion of the documentary:

For those who worked for Dr. Tiller, a raw anger remains — though not for the man who pulled the trigger.  For them, much of their rage is focused on the anti-abortion forces in Wichita who targeted Dr. Tiller for so many years.

“The ones who don’t carry guns definitely incite the ones who do have guns.” [Shelly Sella, MD]

“They gather all these people up, they fill them with hate, and then they stand back when the least imbalanced among them does something.  They stand back and say they didn’t have anything to do with it.” [Joan Armentrout, Clinic Administrator]

“[They say:] ‘We never advocated violence.’  No?  You didn’t? You advocated everything else.  You put [Dr. Tiller] up to hatred, contempt, and ridicule.  And he gets killed, and you step back from it now and say, “Well, that really wasn’t our intent.”  Well, what the hell was your intent?!  [Nola Foulston, District Attorney of Sedgwick County, Kansas]

When it comes to discussing the abortion issue with people who disagree with me, I try to get them to see what their position looks like when it’s practically applied.

Now I’ll also get them to see what their stance looks like when their ideology is drawn out to its extremes — this documentary provides a very good picture of how anti-life that view really is.

In which I agree with Bill O’Reilly?!!

One of the bigger news stories today is that two of ‘The View’ hosts stormed off the stage in response to the ever-blustering Bill O’Reilly (video here).  The daytime-TV controversy was over O’Reilly insisting that “the Muslims killed us” on 9/11, which made Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walk off the set in protest over his bigoted statement.

Now, since Behar and O’Reilly each have their own evening TV shows, I was curious how each would cover what happened today.

First I tried to watch Behar explain her side of things — but she had on guest Jesse Ventura who started in on a whole bunch of 9/11 truther bullshit, of which I have ZERO tolerance for, so I didn’t care to hear much more of that particular clip. (video here)

Then I watched a bit of O’Reilly’s response (video here) — again, I had to cut off my viewing of the clip after he had on the intolerable Laura Ingraham — but before I turned off the video, I nearly fell out of my chair when I found myself agreeing with something he said.

During his infamous “no spin zone,” O’Reilly defended his statement on the View by saying he’s tired of the “political correctness” of today that attempts to whitewash (or flat-out avoid admitting) the fact that the terrorists of 9/11 were Muslim.

And I agree. (!!!)

I’m just now finishing reading Aayan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel, and I can honestly say that reading her book has really shaken me in how I view the Islamic faith and the idea of multiculturalism.  Ali was born into a Muslim family, and lived as a committed Muslim woman for most of her life — including stints as a committed Muslim fundamentalist.  She endured genital mutilation, forced marriage, and many other gender-based repressions under this faith system.  The story of Infidel is how she was finally able to break free from that oppression, and fight for the rights of women who are still under its ideological thumb.

Ali writes about how the seemingly-respectful liberal guise of “multiculturalism” is one that allows the continued oppression of women in restrictive religious regimes.  For example, when she was a member of the Dutch Parliament, Ali fought to have police records taken on how many Muslim women in her country were murdered via “honor killings” or were forcefully-excised as victims of genital mutilation.  The Dutch were at first hesitant to take such records, particularly out of fear of being politically incorrect in their targeting of a specific religious group.  Once she was able to persuade the authorities to take note of these women victims, her country was stunned by the number of women who were targeted by such acts.

In addition to my views being shaped by reading Infidel, this weekend I was also motivated by some of what Sam Harris had to say in a debate I witnessed.  At one point he said:

“It’s an astonishing failure of compassion on the part of liberals to claim the sanctimonious high ground of being sensitive to someone’s religion, and not connect with the abject suffering, the abject and unnecessary suffering, of the millions and millions of people — disproportionally women — who suffer under Islam at this moment.”

That statement of being a “failure of compassion” really hit me square in the eyes.  It’s not enough for me to look the other way and try to explain away unethical practices because I’m trying my best to be understandingly multicultural. No more.

But back to how I somehow found myself agreeing with O’Reilly — as I mentioned earlier, after he played the clip of today’s swaggering performance on The View, he had some commentary on why he said what he did.

He said that he’s tired of the political correctness that makes it taboo to mention that the terrorists of 9/11 were Muslim.  And y’know, he’s right.  It seems like more and more, people are straying away from the religious motivations of 9/11 and are trying to explain the attacks from a socio-economic perspective, or even from a Western-capitalist-you-had-this-coming-to-you angle.

So, yes, I sorta agree with O’Reilly here.  I don’t think it does anyone any good to ignore the fact that these nineteen 9/11 terrorists — highly educated, not-in-poverty men — were indeed motivated by the uglier tenets of their faith system, Islam.  Of course admitting this is not the same thing as branding all Muslims as bomb-wielding terrorists, but it serves no purpose to sugar-coat the fact that these attacks were largely motivated by religious ideology.

I’m still not entirely comfortable with how I feel right now.  I still feel really shaken by Ali’s story, and awfully convicted by Harris’s statement.  A part of me wishes I could crawl back into my previous space of fuzzy-wuzzy multiculturalism — but I don’t think I could ever go back.  In fact, I don’t want to.