Southern Politics, Abortion and an Identity Crisis

As Americans begin weighing their options in terms of which presidential candidate is worthy of our votes, there’s been a slow-burning mindset that this presidential election could very well go down in history as one with an incredibly low number in terms of voter turnout. Many Republicans are finding themselves struggling with a bit of an identity crisis.

ImageThose glorious years of the Reagan and Bush presidencies are long gone. Those were the good ol’ days when a proud Republican could be sure of one thing – the core belief system of the collective Republican president. These days, however, many conservatives are taking a step back for a better perspective and what they’re finding is a scenario that’s anything but proud or certain. And if you’re a female Republican? Indeed, your back is definitely against the wall.

By now, everyone’s had the opportunity to mirror the about-face Republican candidate Mitt Romney made in his stance on abortion. He’d gone on record several times in support of pro-choice before changing his view in 2007, when he declared he is now pro-life. He’s also said he would support any efforts that included overturning the historic Roe v. Wade decision and then allowing states to decide whether they would allow abortions to be performed. This is where things become a bit more complicated.

The Mississippi Factor

In late 2011, Mississippi voters were given the opportunity to pass the Personhood Amendment, or Prop 26 as it was sometimes referred to. In essence, this bill would define “life” as beginning at conception.

What made this such a heated controversy was the vague nature of the bill’s wording: “Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

The threat associated with this bill was the very real possibility that birth control, in-vitro fertilization and the morning after pill would be outlawed. It got worse, though. There were absolutely no provisions made for extraordinary circumstances, including pregnancies as products of rape, incest or pregnancies that jeopardize the mother’s life if carried to term. Many ever-faithful, southern conservatives held their ground by insisting God would have to make that decision if it come down to saving only one life between the mother and the fetus. This would be a highly debated bill and one that very narrowly was voted down.

Abortion Law Quietly Signed in Mississippi

This week, Mississippi’s new governor, Phil Bryant, signed into a law that affects abortion providers. What many aren’t aware of is Mississippi is home to just one abortion clinic, located in the state’s capital. House Bill 1390 quietly made it through the state’s legislative process and onto Governor Bryant’s desk, where he wasted no time in signing it into law.

The new law requires abortion providers to be board-certified OB GYNs and they must also have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The three physicians employed with the Jackson Women’s Health Organization are all board certified gynecologists; however, only one of those doctors has admitting privileges. The clinic’s owner, Diane Derzis, is now preparing for a legal battle. She has vowed to sue the state. Governor Bryant continues to reiterate his goal of eliminating abortion not only in Mississippi, but the entire country.

With Mitt Romney agreeing to participate in any efforts of overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the choice to each state to decide the legality of abortion and these “fanfare-free” bills being quickly signed into law that make it nearly impossible for physicians to perform these procedures, there’s no doubt a movement in some states is taking place.

Not Birth Control

While no one argues that abortion should be an acceptable form of birth control, what many are failing to see is the devastation many young girls and women will face in some circumstances. There are those times when abortion is appropriate. To eliminate this as a possible avenue, especially for rape victims or when other extraordinary dynamics are present, is unnecessarily cruel.

The irony is found in Romney’s own words. In 2010, he is quoted as saying about abortion, “…the fact is that two lives, not one, is involved.” The truth is, there are many more than one or two lives involved. Women contemplating abortions have hundreds of politicians along for the ride, making it anything but “only” one or two lives involved.

The Problem With Contemporary Women

Today’s modern woman seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis. We want to rule the world, live life on our terms, and for some reason, we are willing to overlook the political detour the presidential candidates have taken on reproductive issues that affect us. While that’s complicated enough, now we seem to be more than a little peeved when we’re referred to as assets or given any other kind of compliment. It’s confusing as all get-out – and I’m a woman….and a Republican. Maybe it’s time for the fairer sex to take a step back, re-evaluate how we define “value” and take a deep breath. Maybe we’re getting too wrapped up in the details that we’re missing the big picture. Then again, that’s sort of what you expect when you combine politics with the human condition.

Many may recall the countless references in 2008 to Sarah Palin’s clothing style. The vice president hopeful was making the rounds, both determined and focused, even as the media went crazy with photos of her choices in shoes and her trim legs. While she voiced a small concern that the issues were getting lost in the focus on her physical appearance, for the most part, she graciously accepted any compliments that came her way and she embraced her femininity (even as she was shooting her guns, keeping up with her husband in fishing and proving she could carry her own in other traditional male roles).

Unfortunately, last week, another very successful and career-driven woman missed the compliment in her efforts to rebuke any reference to her being a “charming asset” to French presidential hopeful Francois Hollande.

Valerie Trierweiler works for Paris Match, a popular French magazine. She’s powerful, educated and worldly. Last week, the magazine’s cover included a lovely photo of her. All hell broke loose on Twitter as Trierweiler and the magazine’s editors slammed each other. She accused her employer of reducing her to a “trophy companion” and said she was angry that the magazine didn’t give her fair warning. The magazine agreed that it gave her no head’s up and said it had no obligation to tell the subjects of their covers they were about to hit newsstands – even if it’s their employees who are about to grace the cover.

The confusion comes in when one explores what Trierweiler values. She is quite successful in her career, has become a formidable partner for her Socialist presidential-hopeful and easily admits she likes doing laundry. Such a well-rounded woman should have a bit more tolerance towards such a glowing piece written and published by her employer. Instead, she takes offense to being called a “charming asset”. For the love of all that’s good and right, what is the problem?!

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Republican hopefuls, for some bizarre reason, have chosen to make women’s health part of their campaigns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for consistent efforts that can improve the lives of many, especially when it comes to their health. The problem is Santorum and Romney are all about ulterior motives. I absolutely agree that the costs of birth control methods should fall on those using them if their health insurance plans don’t cover it. But is this the way these ultra-conservatives want to move forward?

And what about all of those who are Republican and feel as though the current candidates are doing a huge disservice to the party? Why is such a limited topic even an election consideration? We’re not talking about the medical controversies that President Bush faced with stem cell research, nor are dealing with the massive restrictions President Reagan placed on various governmental programs such as AFDC. We’re talking about birth control. The dynamics have clashed in ways never before seen in our country. First, we had the push for Prop 26, or the “Personhood Amendment” that almost resulted in major problems for Mississippi. Then, in a very hokey manner, religion, healthcare and reproductive rights came together to redefine “a perfect storm”. They were targeted and ultimately, our candidates honed in on birth control. But why? It’s not even about preventing pregnancy anymore (if it ever even was), even though trying to discern what it IS about has proven difficult. Let’s face it, they’re falling woefully short in the eyes of many in their party. Do they really want to alienate the female Republicans? Because if they do, they’re well on their way. I’m not the only one who feels these two – Santorum and Romney – are patronizing, entitled and sorely misinformed.

Never before has being a woman been so complicated. What happened to grace, manners and compassion – those qualities that epitomize being a woman? Why is such a strong-willed woman ready to do battle with her employer for putting her in the spotlight and referring to her as a “charming asset” but who proudly says she enjoys doing laundry and other traditional female chores? Sometimes I think women get too wrapped up in the more aggressive role they feel they must adhere to and forget that being assertive works just fine, thank you very much.

A Dangerous Precedent? Prop 26 and its Devastation

My beautiful home state of Mississippi is in the national spotlight; once again because someone decides our residents are “just ignorant enough” to buy into a dangerous new initiative. Prop 26, also known as the Personhood Amendment is being voted on next week. Make no mistake: whether you’re in Mississippi or Minnesota, the implications will most certainly affect you, a close friend, a family member or your own unborn child (or lack thereof).

So here’s the dynamic in this blog: much as I try to maintain some degree of objectivity, this is one area where  I won’t. My refusal to do so doesn’t come from my stubborn mindset, but because I truly believe there is nowhere to go (in terms of finding the “good”) were it to pass. So there it is – no objectivity here. I vehemently oppose this bill. I’ve spent the past several weeks screaming it from the rooftops (OK…maybe not the rooftops, but Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else there was someone willing to listen).

Here’s how it works out –

This amendment is all about deciding whether life begins at conception. Sounds simple enough and if it were that simple, I wouldn’t be so adamant in my stance. This vote decides much more, though. And this is where some folks are getting confused.

First, the measure would make abortion illegal. Again, sounds reasonable, yes? Except….rape victims would be forced to carry their rapist’s fetus and would have no say in what ultimately happens for the next nine months.

The one story I keep coming back to is about a mother and her daughter, who was eleven at the time and who came to a domestic violence shelter I volunteered at. The young girl was pregnant. By her stepfather. Mom had bruises, stitches down her right side where her hairline began and no shortage of deep scratches down both arms. Across her foot, and through her sandals, I saw where it was twice the size of her other foot with what looked like to me the heel of boots impressed, as though someone wearing boots had stomped this woman’s foot and likely broke one or more bones. On her daughter, I saw an emptiness that scared the hell out of me. This child was terrified and her mother even more so because she didn’t know how she was going to protect her. They wanted information first on safe shelter and then they wanted information on physicians in the area who provided abortions. I gave them information for both. And would do it again.

Don’t see yourself in that scenario? Maybe you won’t see yourself in this next one either, but your daughter or daughter in law or your best friend may:

In-vitro becomes impossible. And on the off chance you DO find a physician who’s willing to do it, good luck getting it through the court systems before you’re old enough to be a grandmother. That’s right. You have no control over what happens in your uterus –but the United States Supreme Court does. It’ll set up shop like a bad case of an STD you can’t get rid of.  Oh – and then you might still not live to see the day you give birth.

Think your birth control efforts are safe? Think again. Here’s what one Personhood member said when pressed by Dianne Rehm of NPR  about whether birth control would be affected:

HOYE: Any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure.

REHM: So that would then include the IUD. What about the birth control pill?

HOYE: If that falls into the same category, yes.

REHM: So you’re saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being?

HOYE: I’m saying that once the egg and the oocyte come together and you have that single-celled embryo, at that point you have human life, you’ve got a human being and we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.

Don’t take my word for any of this, do the research. There are simply too many ambiguous phrases in this measure. Governor Haley Barbour voted for it via absentee vote, though he went on record later the same day and said he too believed there were many inconsistencies – but he’s pro-life, so for him, and I suspect many others, that’s all they need to hear. Too bad the folks who are pushing for its passage aren’t telling the WHOLE story. There are groups of parents and groups of Mississippi physicians who are determined to see this not pass. Up until today, I was quite confident it would never, ever pass either, but now? I’m no longer sure.