The anti-choice movement still refuses to compromise (check out this one-sided Talk of the Nation round table discussion for proof) – which is unfortunate because they are now moving us even further backwards – away from “safe, legal, and rare” and towards demonizing birth control! Additional evidence of the no-uterus crowd’s war on contraception was seen more recently with the trivialization of an affordable contraception provision contained in the economic stimulus package and the demonization of President Obama’s reversal of the Global Gag Rule.
One of Liberadio(!)’s recent guests, Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation, insists, and rightly so, that this cannot stand. We have to get the conversation back to one that is reasonable and rational she said, let’s stop making the lives of women a political football and move the conversation towards the importance of freely available and affordable contraception, women’s health issues, and reducing the number of abortions.
Little did Ms. Smeal know when she spoke to us at the beginning of the month, that her agenda would be advanced by Fox News, Greta Van Susteren, Bristol Palin, and Bristol Palin’s mom.
Bristol Palin – who discovered herself pregnant at 17 – now understands from personal experience that abstinence only is “not realistic at all” and that the pregnant one is the one who ultimately makes the difficult decisions:
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you read any of the tabloids?
BRISTOL: I’ve seen some of them, and I think people out there are just evil because they don’t know what was going on at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: What didn’t anybody get? What didn’t people understand?
BRISTOL: That — there’s a lot of things. They thought that, like, my mom was going to make me have the baby, and it was my choice to have the baby. And it’s just — that kind of stuff just bothered me.
VAN SUSTEREN: And in terms of your mother making you have the baby, I mean, the whole issue of, I guess, the right — the right to life and choice and things like that.
BRISTOL: Yes. Yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: But this is your issue. This is your decision.
BRISTOL: Yes. And would have — doesn’t matter what my mom’s views are on it. It was my decision, and I wish people would realize that, too.
And Governor Sarah Palin, who has a definite populist appeal, now understands – also from personal experience – the consequences of abstinence only education and that not everyone who finds themselves pregnant at too young an age is lucky enough to have Bristol’s support system:
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, but it’s — I mean, you look at this, and it’s joy in this family. You know, and some families aren’t…
SARAH PALIN: Oh, yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, some families don’t have the broad family support. I mean, she’s got the brothers and the sisters and the parents and the grandparents.
SARAH PALIN: We have five (ph) generations helping right now. And Bristol — maybe she got to talk to you a little bit about that, that we have a very large network of family, so a lot of support. And Bristol’s in — maybe she’s a bit of an anomaly in this situation, in that she has a lot of support. She has it perhaps easier, if you will, than other young mothers. But many, many, many young parents have been successful in raising their children and have raised healthy, happy, contributing members of our society.
VAN SUSTEREN: So it’s not just an issue of abstinence. That’s one issue. But once we get beyond that — you know, because when you have the discussion of abstinence, it’s almost — I always sort of feel badly because there’s a wonderful child here and talking abstinence sounds — I mean, it sounds…
SARAH PALIN: (INAUDIBLE) naive (INAUDIBLE)
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it doesn’t even — it doesn’t even sound naive, but it doesn’t sound very nice because this is a wonderful young boy.
SARAH PALIN: Yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I mean, and so I hate to have that topic…
SARAH PALIN: I hear (ph) you.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, the bigger topic is, OK, now the situation — the bigger question is, like, now — you know, how to make it go right.
SARAH PALIN: Exactly. Exactly. So you get behind that, that ideal of, yes, abstinence, you know? Hey, don’t get pregnant. Well, get beyond that when it happens, and then you deal with it. Life happens. Life happens and you deal with it, and Bristol’s dealing with it wonderfully.
In the Palins, who have the country’s collective ear and seem to now get that there are no absolute, clear-cut, answers to reproductive health issues, Ms. Smeal might have found just the spokespeople to fulfill her wish of leading the abortion conversation out of the wilderness and back to the “reasonable and rational.”
As an aside, though, I do have to wonder why Governor Palin couldn’t muster up enough empathy before Bristol’s pregnancy to figure out why people in the real world – too many, in fact – find themselves in these situations all the time. Was it her lack of imagination? No natural curiosity? Hubris? Blind faith? Pure political calculus? But I digress…
Elleanor Smeal is quite an able spokesperson for what is reasonable and rational, as you can tell by the following audio gleaned from her recent appearance on Liberadio(!), but she just might find that it’s the Palin women, and not she, who will be invited on the TV and radio. If she’s smart, she’s already picked up the phone.
Eleanor Smeal on:
Global Gag Rule and its Reversal – The Global Gag rule meant that family planning groups around the world couldn’t talk about abortion if they received aid from the US. That meant less gynecological services for women (70,000 women die of botched abortions in the third world and over 500,000 die of maternal illnesses). It also meant the cutting off of condom shipments to 20 countries during the time of a full-blown AIDS epidemic in Africa. Link to mp3 (1:58)
The United States Restored Partnership to United Nations Population Fund – We are just one of the donors but by cutting off aid we caused much suffering. Link to mp3 (0:58)
On the Abortion Debate – How to make progress with a group who now wants to make birth control controversial. Which begs the question, wouldn’t access to birth control reduce the number of abortions? Link to mp3 (1:36)
On Sarah Palin’s Feminist Cred – Does she have any? How could she not! Link to mp3 (0:46)
An “I Probably Shouldn’t Be Telling You This But” Moment
The signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act was the first time women’s rights advocates have been in the White House in 8 years. Link to mp3 (0:54)
What She’s Hoping to Work Very Hard to Get Accomplished During the Obama administration – A convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination around the world, the paid family medical leave act, and then some. Link to mp3 (2:16)
Listen to the Full Interview
Link to mp3 (12:30)