Global Gag Reflex?!

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10 things you need to know about the global gag rule!

1. How GGR came to be

The Mexico City Policy was first introduced in 1984 by the then President of United States Ronald Reagan. Ever since, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has either reinforced or rescinded the policy under the leadership of every President. All of the Republican administrations have enforced the Mexico City Policy, most recent one being republican president Donald Trump. On the other hand, all the Democratic administrations have rescinded the policy, with President Barack Obama having done so most recently during his eight years of presidency.

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2. Basic built up of the GGR

The ‘Mexico City Policy,’ better known as the ‘Global Gag Rule’ is a United States government policy which prevents NGOs that provide abortion related services and/or counselling, any access to U.S. federal funding. The rule forces organisations to choose between either providing the much needed comprehensive sexual & reproductive health care without any U.S. funding or complying with the policy in order to accept financial aid from U.S. government. In other words, any organisations that provide abortion related services or even mere counselling about termination of pregnancy, forfeit their access to US government funding.

3. How does it restrict essential health care

When we talk about US government funding, we are talking about BILLIONS OF DOLLARS! The Global Gag rule in reality increases the number of unsafe abortions instead of reducing abortions. As many healthcare providers lose access to US funding, they are forced to reduce staff or even shut down. People in the affected areas especially women are hence stripped of their access to contraceptives which leads to an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies.

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As the healthcare providers have to survive without US funding, services other than abortion and contraception are also adversely affected. Developing countries are most affected by this policy due to shortage of their own funding.

4. Donald following Ronald’s footsteps, made it worse.

Donald Trump as the 45th president of United Stated took office on january 20th, 2017. On January 23, 2017, in one of his first acts as President he, reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule. As it stands currently, the rule targets international organizations that work on any programs funded by U.S. global health assistance — including programs to expand access to contraception, prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, combat malaria, and improve maternal and child health.

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In other words, organisation cannot get funding from US for any of their programs if even one or any of these programs even discuss abortion with patients. Hence- The GAG rule!!

To make the matters worse, this new and expanded gag rule also denies funding to NGOs who collaborate or receive another set of funding from organisations that provide abortion services. If I work with an organisation that provides abortion related services or receive funding from them for one of my healthcare programs which is not at all related to abortion, I forfeit my claim to US federal funding all the same due to my association with an organisation who provides MTP services. Small NGOs hence either have to give up their association/funding with such organisations or give up US federal funding.

5. Aftermath= Increase in number of unsafe abortions.

Let us get one thing clear, there is no such thing is ‘no abortion’. There are only ‘safe abortions’ and ‘unsafe abortions’.

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If we look at the term ‘UNWANTED PREGNANCY’ doesn’t it become clear that this is something that the woman doesn’t want? By restricting access to safe abortion, the women who wish to terminate their pregnancies have to look for other ways to terminate their pregnancy. As this policy literally gags NGOs (and doctors and nurses working with them) from even talking abortions, the women in the dependant area (mostly developing countries) go to the “back alley” to get abortions. These unsafe abortions very often can and do result in the death of the women.

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Women who don’t want abortion are not going to surrender to “motherhood” just because they don’t have access to safe medical care to terminate the pregnancy. Lack of access to safe and legal abortions is going to result in women swinging themselves down the staircase or even shoving coat hangers in the uterus in an attempt to terminate the pregnancy.
Do these procedures sound safe to you?

6. No discrimination while discriminating

As previously discussed, this policy not only affects the abortion services but also adversely affects other healthcare services. Contraceptive aids, HIV/AIDS affect all people but unsafe abortions and lack of abortion services only ‘kills’ women. Eliminating conversations around abortion and preventing its access is a way of denying women’s autonomy over their bodies. Mexico City Policy literally introduces global politics into women’s uterus.

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Even though this policy is discriminatory towards women, it doesn’t consider any exceptions within the gender. Irrespective of the reason behind abortion, this policy implies to every single case.
An NGO that discussed or provided abortion to a rape victim or medically endangered pregnancy, will forfeit the funding all the same.

7. Need to trash GGR

“The global gag rule is undermining our nation’s legacy as a leader and innovator in global health. The global health funding the U.S. provides to countries around the world should be used as a tool to expand people’s access to care, not restrict it.”
– Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Other than all the reasons discussed above, this policy is harmful to the world we live in. It allows government to take your most personal decisions instead of you. By promoting policies like this one, we are taking a step back. This Policy is in direct contradiction with the human rights and the ideology of freedom.

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Swedish deputy prime minister Isabella Lovin (L) signs a referral of Swedish climate law, witnessed by seven female colleagues, imitating a viral photograph of US president Donald Trump signing an executive order. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/is-sweden-s-deputy-pm-parodying-trump-with-all-woman-photo-1.2963975

8. Administrative explanation for enforcing GGR.

The explanation behind GGR is that US federal fund is tax payers’ money and many of the citizens are who are anti-abortion, do not want their money being used for supporting such cause. The Mexico City Policy’s motives are parallel with that of Hyde Amendment. In US politics, the Hyde Amendment is a legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. The difference between the two is that Hyde Amendment at the least recognises exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Hyde Amendment was introduced in 1997. The entire explanation for enforcing The Mexico City Policy, rests on conscientious objection that tax payers who do not support abortion should not have to fund NGOs for the same, directly or indirectly.
The government is not using tax payers money to support causes that many of them do not support on moral level.

9. Objection to the conscientious objections.

The major contradiction with the administrative explanation for enforcing GGR, is that while honouring the wishes of part of the population who doesn’t want their tax money being used for abortion support, the government is conveniently ignoring the rest of the population who doesn’t object to their tax money being used for abortion health care.
Another major contradiction can be seen with selectivity of the administration regarding human rights, Administration says to believe that the tax payers should not be forced to pay money towards a cause that they do not support on a moral ground, but at the same time the administration creates barriers that take away a women’s autonomy over her own body. If the administration chooses to follow a rights-based approach when it comes to utilising the tax money, then how come the same administration denies the rest of the world even the most basic human rights?

If I don’t support democracy will I be allowed not to pay taxes as I morally do not support it?

10. Why you should support safe abortion rights

One simple reason: you should support an individual to make their own choices and practice autonomy. It is not your uterus and you don’t have to face the consequences of the pregnancy, hence your morals and your beliefs have no standing in that decision.

#NotJustAUterus 5.2

 

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Abortion should be a women’s right other than a contraceptive method or a population control tool!

Talking about Population Policies and its impact on abortion rights in China

-Yu Yang, Youth Champion

 

As a Chinese youth champion of ASAP, people once asked me: since abortion was already legalized a long time ago in your country, what are you guys advocating for?

The answer is that: we are worrying about the absence of a rights- based environment, which means abortion was considered as a contraceptive tool for women, a useful population control method for the government, instead of a treasured right of women. As a result, abortion might be influenced by policymakers easily.

If we want to discuss about the dynamic relation between population polices and abortion in China, it’s good for us to look into both the current situation and history of abortion first.

As you may already know, abortion has been legal in China since 1953.

One can easily get a medical abortion by prescription or in the black market, across the country. There are also numerous providers, both public and private, who are providing safe abortion services to the women who need it. The difference is the public providers offer abortion to pregnant women within 27 weeks, and the price is always lower. However, we find that many Chinese women, especially young girls, prefer to consider abortion as a way of contraception method rather than a right they deserve.

So you will see China has might the highest retake rate of abortion in the world. Many young girls suffered a lot, both physically and mentally, from the unrestricted re-take of abortion and lack of information about regular contraception.

Furthermore, not only the public but also the government has never consider abortion as a right and choice of women other than an efficient birth control tool. Because after it was legalized in the 1950s, abortion access did not really become common until the government began to enforce a one-child policy to stem the population growth.

Untitled1Carry out family planning, implement the basic national policy – 1986 

So people might say that the situation of abortion in China is kind of weird: while safe and legal abortion is everywhere, the public never think that abortion should be an inalienable right of women, instead of a tool for unwanted pregnancy and a governmental tool of population control.

That means the absence of abortion rights which could allow the government to easily rewrite current unrestrictive laws and regulations without any public opposition, just because there is not awareness of that.

Then the question arises: if population policies change, what kind of impact would we see on abortion in China? It is apparent now that after decades of China’s one-child policy, the policymakers realize that the country’s population is getting old.

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–China recorded its lowest birth rate in almost 60 years.

–New data shows the number of newborns in China dropped to 15.23 million in 2018 after also decreasing in 2017.

–The birth rate fell to 12.43 births per thousand people in 2018, down from a record of 12.95 in 2016.

Obviously, more children would be vital if the country is going to maintain economic growth. So we might understand that the government must take a corresponding population policy action.

Although there are not any official laws or regulations, except for 2-child policy, we can still find some “interesting changes” happening here, which indicate the anticipation of a baby boom in the near future.The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China was renamed to The National Health Commission in 2019. Maybe some one-child policy enforcers have switched roles to encourage women to get pregnant.

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China inaugurates national health commission-2018

Also, an official guide of Providing High Quality Contraceptive Service to Women Who Had an Abortion, was published by NHC in 2018, defining abortion as a measure of remediation for unwanted pregnancy.

This guide writes: Since the Induced abortion, especially repeated practice, is harmful to women’s fertility and SRHR, we are making this highly efficient guide of contraceptive methods for women who had an abortion, to protect their fertility and physical and psychological health.

 

The statement of RIGHTs was missing.

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People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s largest official newspaper, devoted a whole page to the issue entitled “Having children is a family matter but also a national matter” in 2018.

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The All-China Women’s Federation, the official organization of the women’s movement, launched the propaganda event: Looking For The Most Beautiful Family, supplanted by a celebration of traditional family values and natural women roles of daughter, wife, and mother.

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The stamps also showed an interesting hint. Before the one-child policy was abolished, China issued Year of the Monkey stamps featuring two baby monkeys.

In 2018, the year of the pig, the government released a parent pig couple and three piglets.

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Of course, we can’t just simply say that those examples are predictors that the government will make the so-called “pro-life” stance (different from the Christian-led one) into a restrict law or regulation.

However, there are still many people worried about this kind of the corresponding rise in pressure on women to have more baby, because one-child policy did use abortion as a tool for population control. They are wondering if population planning goes back to coercive times in the future, then what will happen to the abortion access in the country?

Although my country has some of the least restrictive abortion law in this world, that has nothing to do with state support for women autonomy.

Abortion, supposed to be a right of women, becomes a tool, which always coincides with policymakers’ will.

During the one-child policy time many couples were pressured or even forced into having abortions. Although those extreme cases are almost non-existent now, one would still argue that the incoming demographic crisis could also push abortion into a wrong direction.

Will freely chosen abortion be somehow regulated, with hurdles such as spousal approval, doctor’s approval, mandatory waiting periods, and required counseling?

As long as the government’s firm control on governing fertility remains, people still hold reason to keep the worry. That’s why we, safe abortion advocates, should tell every single woman here: abortion is your choice, right, should never be controlled by anyone else.

 

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Who we are and what we may be

The term “Hegemony” came from the writings of Karl Marx and was conceptualised by Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) a Marxist social philosopher. He theorised that one social class can manipulate the system of values and practices of a society, in order to create and establish a ruling-class worldview that justifies the status quo of their
domination of the other social classes of the society.

Simply put, a hegemony is a system where one ruling social group or state rearranges a system to suit its position.

We see it in action every day!

When we are taught in school about the World Wars where only a handful of countries from the global North waged it. When we are told that Britain was victorious without ever being told about the millions of soldiers from Asia and Africa who died on the war front as part of the British Army.

When General Colin Powell was asked about the number of Iraqi people who were slaughtered by Americans in the 1991 “Desert Storm” terror campaign and he said, “It’s really not a number I’m terribly interested in.” and the number was 200,000 people!

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When motherhood is naturalized and glorified to such an extent that choosing to not be a mother is seen as a sin and a moral downfall of the highest order, to be punished by being outcast or even dead.

The hegemony of heteronormativity is a relatively recent phenomenon if one were to look at older cultures and traditions where gender fluidity and sexuality spectrums have always been recognized. The domination of the feminine and masculine stereotypes gradually made non-binary spaces smaller and more difficult to access.

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It is interesting to note that even within the queer community there is inequality. One hardly hears of lesbians or asexuals as much as one does of gays. One rarely sees queer women in drag or telling people how to dress while one sees queer men doing it on primetime TV.

In recent years the efforts of the LGBTQI community have paid off and the stigma has reduced in many ways. Their increasing visibility and solidarity has seen the system is working to bring them ‘back into the fold’ so to speak.

The increase in the number of countries legalizing marriage is a case in point. IN the last decade over 30 countries (including Nepal) have passed laws that allow non heterosexual couples to be ‘joined in holy matrimony.’

Of course one would want to question if this ‘holy matrimony’ is a good thing even for heterosexuals and I worry that in all this celebration of gay marriage we have lost out on the chance for heterosexuals to escape those binds! (Not that I want to rain on anyone’s parade.)

All of us are working in our own ways to break the iron grip of the hegemon—whether we want access to safe abortion, we want to stop trafficking for sex work, prevent child marriages, give everyone access to sex education, accept non heterosexual individuals and relationships or integrate people living with disabilities.

What we are all trying to do is question the ‘normal’ or the normative frameworks and step back when we are told this is how it is and ask ‘but why?’

We all want to change things from the way we have forever been told is the right way, the best way, the only way.

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Since the hegemon is the power that benefits most from the existing world system, the hegemon has the greatest stake in keeping that system functioning.

As this blogger says “Over time, we become what we do. The longer we accommodate injustice, the better we become at accommodation. This allows those closest to the hegemon to dictate the terms of our resistance in relations contained within concentric circles spreading away from the center of power.”

In feminist terms, the ‘personal is political’ refers to the theory that personal problems are political problems, which basically means that many of the personal problems women experience in their lives are not their fault, but are the result of systematic oppression.

According to the blog Feminism 101, “the theory that women are not to blame for their bad situations is crucial here because women have always been told that they are unhappy or faring badly in life because they are stupid, weak, mad, hysterical, having a period, pregnant, frigid, over-sexed, asking for it etc. The personal is political proposes that women are in bad situations because they experience gendered oppression and massive structural inequalities.”

The world has seen every so often a gathering of voices and a surge in political discourse around so many issues where the political decisions had deep personal repercussions—not only in how one led one’s life, but even in whether one’s life was in danger from one’s choices.

We have seen this in the past with the movements against apartheid, for abolition of slavery, for the rights of workers. We have seen this recently with the campaigns for gay rights, including gay marriage and equal civil rights and liberties. We have seen the Occupy movement where the politics of financial policies led to ruin for the 99% and whose personal lives were deeply affected. We can see this now when the push back against safe abortion access is taking place at every level.

Sweet Home Alabama

With the gay rights movement there has been an increasing emphasis on ‘coming out’ and perhaps it is time for more women to also ‘come out’ and speak about the abortions they have had or needed to have.

Often women question the need to share these personal details, but questioning these in public helps to break years of silence and stigma, and create support for other women who might be in similar situations.

Dr. Darcy Sterling writes about the advantages of coming out in this article published in the Huffington Post, “You do not live in isolation from the world. You have a fundamental obligation (as we all do) to make this world a safer place for the youth of our planet. Your personal choice to come out has a larger implication: It’s a political statement. So if you can’t find the strength to do it for yourself, do it for the kid in Tennessee who sees no “normal” role model of gay life because… so many people value “privacy” above social obligation.”

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Akiba Solomon states in her thoughtful piece, “While considering the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I’ve been thinking about Angela Davis’s 1988 essay “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired.”

In it, she wrote, “Politics do not stand in polar opposition to our lives. Whether we desire it or not, they permeate our existence, insinuating themselves into the most private spaces of our lives

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Privacy does matter. Yet, within these private stories lies the ammunition we need to break free from years of systematic oppression.

The stories of women who either continued their unwanted pregnancy for fear of punishment, or risked their lives to terminate one, or fought hard to find safe abortion will reveal the several nuanced barriers that have been
deliberately placed over the years through political, religious and patriarchal systems.

It’s HER Right!

So maybe it is time for all of us to come out!! All of us who do not fit in with the stereotypical ideal that is dictated to us and who do not want to cut off parts of ourselves in order to fit into the moulds created by thousands of years of feudal, patriarchal religious and cultural systems.

Maybe someday we can all be loud and proud no matter what our identity and finally we can escape the confines of the prison of our birth and be who we are meant to be!

Adapted from an earlier blogposts

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10 years ago I wasn’t an abortion rights activist

I usually shy away from getting into the personal – sometimes its all that much easier to connect political dots together, construct a narrative, and leave out the personal for a drink with a friend, coffee with my mama, or tea with a partner.

But I think today, maybe I will get a little personal – after all it’s not everyday that you get to deliver a keynote at the 10 years anniversary of one of the fiercest partnerships to ever be.

So here goes.

To my knowledge, 10 years ago I wasn’t an abortion rights activist.

Even though I had been exposed to this struggle’s medical patriarchy – the actively harmful and vicious type, as well as the passively negligent and seemingly-unknowing type – even when this violence had targeted so many women around me, and I knew it did so purposefully because we all share having a uterus. But it didn’t seem strange or wrong. It felt – just as I and others around me were supposed to perceive it – normal and self-evident.

Normalized violence, the type that no one, sometimes not even its own victims, are fazed by.

Macro and micro aggressions that you know aren’t right, but that you also know other women face – and so it isn’t that bad – we’re all in it together (that’s early on when you think we’re all in it, the same way, till later you find out that isn’t true, and it bursts a little bubble).

But anyway, I digress.

Perhaps it’s the early on realization of “that’s just how things are” that prepares you a lifetime of all types of struggles, all types of validations needed, all types of proving yourself – where at some point you too even start associating the feminine with the negative and you go to show that you’re stronger than that – and may find yourself at competition with other a women – a divisive tool of the patriarchy – but soon you find out, no, no the feminine is alright and that men’s validation / compliments / comments / cookies are the least of your concern – worse even it angers you because you’ve spent a lifetime unlearning that you don’t need it, that it was eating at you, that it was making you hate/ distrust yourself and worse, distrust other women.

Sometimes I don’t know what type of PBV, patriarchy-based-violence, is worse, but definitely the lifetime of unlearning patriarchal (and its bro buddies capitalist, nationalist, classist, ableist) values is a difficult struggle on all feminists.

Every time we give into “that’s just how it is”, that’s every time the patriarchy has won a little. Normalizing that myself and body will eventually face street and work place harassment, that I must be ready to fight a rapist, that my face needs to smile and be pleasant, that my voice must be soothing, that my body must be attractive, but modestly and humbly so (maybe even better if I pretend it isn’t, so I’m not too conceited or too confident) that my words must be calculated, not too offensive to my surroundings’ intelligence, or mocking, or belittling, that my words don’t scar male pride and ego, that maybe they (my words) forfeit a few intellectual wins here and there and spin things to make it look like “it was your idea, and wow we should totally go with that” – just so we get the ends we want.

Normalizing that my desire be heteronormative, my fantasies, my dreams, my utmost goals – just so that my behavior is complimentary to how my body, voice, talk and walk have been policed from the get go and thereafter self-policed.

It is amazing a system so violent, it poisons your own thoughts, desires, and dreams – teaches you to inflict on others – creates the architypes of the monstrous and jealous mother-in-law, the harsh judge, the “yeah I made it, so can you” CEO.

So violent that even countries where abortion is legal, such as Nepal, South Africa, Vietnam or Thailand can have women not even know that it is. Where this not-knowing among women, is masked as a lack of awareness, rural naivety, lack of education, but how could you blame them when the stigma is so large and this patriarchal violence runs so deep and is so normalized.

Where countries where abortion is so prevalent, as we heard yesterday from our comrade in China, can twist this gain for women into a status element of fancy abortions versus the commoners’ abortions (splitting women even further), and using degrading selling tactics and objectifying images to sell something that need not be sold to a woman who wants one. I’m still reflecting over these adverts in China, that we saw and heard of yesterday. How does one make a consumer product of abortions, telling women “if he really loves you, he will buy you this abortion” like a) she needs him to buy her pretty things and gifts and b) he may not truly love her and she must not feel safe in his conditional love towards her – but if he pays money then this capital shall prove his love.

How these two offenders have held hands so tightly and over time held hands even tighter – making sure women always feel dependent, the love they receive conditional, their looks fading, replaceable, fragile, and always unsure.

Capitalism and patriarchy need us feeling unsafe and uncertain, scared and dependent, and they do it so well.

It is alternatives to these ways that we need.

The sexual liberation movement and gender justice movement have come such a long way in the fight against normalizations in fantasy, desire, sexual behavior, kinks, gender expression, alternative family models, pleasure, self-satisfaction, in using medicine pre (vaccines, OCP, PrEP, pap smears) and post (PEP, antibiotics, ECP, and we know MA but they’ll never say it), in arts, in literature, in dance, in sensuality, in gender identities, in dating apps, and sex clubs, and sex toys, in reforming voting rights, divorce laws, domestic violence laws, rape laws, adultery laws – the list goes on.

Sexuality and gender justice aren’t always winning these fights, but at least you see the fight – this struggle is brought into the light, meanwhile abortion still sits in the dark… like we must inherently be ashamed of it. In a time when we see gay marriage advancing in countries that could never conceive of abortion rights (and we had thought they would never conceive of gay rights… we were wrong).

Somehow our movements have abandoned women, and people with uteruses, yet again. I’m not the first to say this, but its important to understand why the fight shows promise in some issues and not as much in others. Perhaps because gay marriage campaigns focus on this being a fight for love, while abortion about reproductive justice, freedom and emancipation.

With abortion, women have more room to negotiate with the patriarchies value of self-sacrifice and forced motherhood. Between abortion and contraception women can have “sex without punishment”, which makes us loose and threatens a heavily anchored notion that has been a struggle for us for a very long time.

And lastly, gay marriage need not challenge or alter socio-economic arrangements or the status quo and does not need government funding; whereas abortion does. Looking at hinders to cross movement solidarities, there have in fact been plenty of writers criticizing the nefarious misogyny in gay culture and gay men’s circles; being disgusted by periods and vaginas, telling women to look better, making them unsure of themselves, sexual harassment without accountability because they aren’t sexually attracted to women, belittling of queer women’s sexuality – seeing them as not “really” sexual for the assumption that are not interested in penetration – even if you think of it, compulsory heterosexuality gears desire to men’s bodies and to penetration being real sex.

Shone Faye, a transfeminine writer says:

“Homophobia is not misogyny’s sibling, its his son, Patriarchy hates gay men because they behave sexually “like women”, it hates lesbianism because lesbians are women who “refuse” to fuck men, and it hates trans people who call bullshit on so many of its supposed truths.

We are all harmed by patriarchy, but in many contexts, gay men are the ones best placed to be seduced into conspiring with it.”

How can we build partnerships when our many different privileges – privileges that exist at the expense of others (cause that’s how a privilege works) – are not questioned and relinquished?

Where even abortion has been used as a tool by patriarchy to keep women in their place of compulsory motherhood, heterosexuality and gender norms – where parents take their never-wed daughters to get an abortion to uphold their chaste, honor respectability, marriageability, and forces these pregnancies to exist only in heteronormative marriages (if abortion was truly a sin, then we would have had SO many more single mothers, at least in my part of the world).

The state, religion, and norms need abortions to keep happening, so that women may remain in their place, on the good paved path to motherhood and wives-to-be.

So how come then abortion, an activity, more common than marriage, gay marriage, and all types of divorces – is still tabooed and banned?

They fear us, they fear our free sexuality, our independence, and the eventual and inevitable complete and entire ownership of our bodies.

And they should be afraid.

Because we are coming, women, gender queers, trans* folk, we are coming for our reproductive justice, and we’re coming for them, and we’re going to topple this entire system on its head.

We promise you this.

We’re almost there.

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Sweet Home Alabama

“Sweet Home Alabama, Where the skies are so blue, Sweet Home Alabama, Lord, I’m coming home to you.”

This song is so universally popular that my school friend from India has this as her ringtone. Also, I have spent the last two decades working on women’s right to safe abortion.

So yeah, for both those reasons, I have a rather strong opinion on what Alabama just tried to do to its women.

It made me think about the long history and the politics which created this song.

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Historically, African Americans were brought to Alabama as slaves, in greatest numbers in the cotton-producing plantation region. This region remains predominantly African American, where many freedmen settled to work at agriculture after the Civil War.

The Selma to Montgomery marches, led by Martin Luther King Jr, were three protest marches, held in 1965, along the highway from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. These were organized by nonviolent activists to demonstrate the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression, and were part of a broader voting rights movement underway in Selma and throughout the American South.

Then in 1972 a group of youngsters set up a band and named it Lynryd Skynryd after their PE teacher who had punished one of them for having long hair. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was one of their most popular songs ever. The details of the political interpretations can be found here if you want to know more but what is interesting is that this song belongs to a genre known as Southern Rock.

As a cultural formation, southern rock bands not only demonstrated progressive racial views, they also demonstrated progressive political views through the lyrics and subjects of their songs, as well as by actively participating in the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter.

The cultural form of southern rock music is political in that many songs addressed social issues like racial injustice, poverty, gun control, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.

These inclinations towards liberal politics went against the political trend being set by many white southerners who increasingly supported the more conservative Republican Party in the post-civil rights South. This political realignment has been described as “the legacy of the Civil Rights Acts,” and resulted in southern whites flocking to the Republican Party, which actively appealed to conservative southerners dismayed by the advancements of racial integration.

It is not surprising that a generation later it is a Governor from Alabama who has fired the opening salvo in what is probably a larger strategy to challenge Roe vs Wade. (the law which allows women to seek abortions in USA.)

It is also not surprising, given the two- faced hypocrisy of most politicians, that they day after signing this abortion ban bill, and stating that ‘every life is precious and every life is sacred gift from God’, the Governor will be returning one of these ‘gifts’ to God by overseeing the execution of a man on Death Row.

(Kind of like a Christmas gift you didn’t really want to keep. Hey, God, can I get a credit voucher on this one?)

Clearly ‘every life’ has a different meaning depending on which side of the tracks you find yourself!

Not surprisingly, Alabama has exceuted more people on Death Row than any other state in the US and most of those executed have been African- Americans, although they form barely 25% of the total population.

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What we are seeing here today is the coming together of many layers of oppression. The word ‘Kyriarchy’ was coined by Elisabeth Fiorenza to explain a complex system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of super-ordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression. This brings in the hetero-patriarchy, the religious conservatism, white supremacism, the neo-liberal globalization and also the criminalization of poverty.

Alabama also has a historical connection with other violations of the rights of women and vulnerable people. James Marion Sims studied medicine in Alabama and is known as the “Father of Gynaecology” and one of his contributions incudes the surgical technique for repairing the bladder which has been damaged by prolonged labour. His statues in NYC and other places are finally being pulled down since it is known that he ‘perfected’ those techniques named after him by experimenting, repeatedly, on slave women ( one of whom was 18 years old), without anaesthesia, because he believed that ‘these women feel no pain.’

Let us also not forget the Tuskegee Trials, also from Alabama, where experimental drugs to treat syphilis were tested on former plantation workers and then continued even after penicillin was discovered and known to cure the condition.

Alabama is a state where 8,00,000 of them live below the poverty line. The state has some of the worst conditions of poverty in the developed world, according to a visiting United Nations official.

“Philip Alston, whose job takes him around the planet to look at conditions of extreme poverty, said some of the things he saw in parts of Alabama so-called Black Belt, particularly in regard to sewage disposal, were unprecedented in the West. People in the region frequently suffer from E. Coli and hookworm, a disease associated with extreme poverty and which was thought to have been eradicated in the US more than 100 years ago but which was recently found to persist in pockets of Lowndes County, located just 20 miles from the state capital, Montgomery, where many residents are too poor to afford a septic system and make their own sewer lines using PVC piping.”

Here is a quote from a counsellor from the State: “I just spoke with a woman who needs help raising money for an abortion. She has two children and no job. Medicaid will only pay for her medical care if she carries to term. She has no TV to sell, so she’s been selling her
children’s toys. Do you know anyone who can help,” she asked. The woman needed $75.

US_maternal_mortality_by_state

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What is laughable is that some media houses are stating that thisproposed Bill is actually meant to reduce racism and poverty!

“Self-styled progressives have all the Handmaid’s Tale memes and punchy tweets to suggest that the Alabama measure is great step back for womankind. But, in fact, the new law pushes back against racism and sexism by rejecting the defeatist notion that there is only room in modern society for selected unborn lives to be afforded the right to life…… Alabama shows that black mothers make up the majority of the abortion industry’s business in the state. Abortion supporters would exacerbate this situation, making abortion access easier for minority mothers in Alabama, who are likely to be poor. This essentially sends the message that society has nothing to offer her child should she choose bring it into the world, so she might as well abort it. …..Far from being cruel and oppressive, the bill’s message to mothers is one of freedom, that they need not give up their motherhood because life is difficult. A mother deserves better than having to make the gruesome choice between her child and her dreams.”

Uh….yeah, exactly what we are saying except we recognize that women are human beings with dreams, aspirations and ambitions and should not be forced to give up on their dreams for compulsory motherhood.

In a state that ranks among the top ten in poverty, illiteracy, maternal mortality and infant mortality, while also banning contraception, it is indeed baffling to understand how the ban on abortion is going to ‘push back against racism and sexism.’

India’s Minister for Health and Family Planning spoke at the World Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974 where his statement that ‘development is the best contraceptive’ was widely quoted. In a recent statement he says “I must admit that 20 years later, I am inclined to reverse this, and my position now is that contraception is the best development.”

But for the residents of Alabama, USA, it is no-win situation, since they are getting neither contraception nor development!Now the future holds a scenario where they cannot get safe abortions either.

We have evidence from so many countries, over so many decades, that has shown repeatedly and conclusively, that banning abortions does not stop abortions, it only results in more unsafe abortions!

The Global Gag Rule has already set in motion a juggernaut that is likely to kill or maim millions of women and girls in so many countries across the world. Now the impact of these ridiculous and un-realistic policies will be felt by the most marginalized and vulnerable women within the US also.

In a country like Nepal, on the other side of the world from USA, where legalization of abortion in 2002 contributed to a sharp decline in maternal mortality, which fell dramatically from 580 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1995 to 190 per 100,000 in 2013.

Whereas in Romania during the Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 when abortion was banned, the maternal death rate spiked. It then fell dramatically as soon as the ban was lifted.

bargraph

How many more times does it need to be said?

As long as men and women have sex women will continue to get pregnant, despite the most perfect contraceptive use. Often even planned pregnancies can become unwanted. If a pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, it is most likely to be rather unwanted. This Bill proposes to punish women for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies –as though a woman has any control over these physiological events than any man does over his sperm count or composition.

10-hungriest_states-_infographic-2017

In an age when we are preparing for a colony on Mars and creating Artificial Intelligence of the most superior humanoid standards, perhaps we need to be taking a look at Natural Stupidity and sending most politicians off- planet.

Until then, here is a George Carlin video I would like to leave you with because he said it sharp and clear. ‘God is the leading cause of death! And these laws are not pro-life—they are anti-woman.’

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