Feminist News, Nov. 21, 2012

Barack Obama wins second term

Barack Obama won a second term as President, defeating Mitt Romney by (electoral votes) on Nov. 6. Reflecting the views of many, journalism Professor Robert Jensen commented: “The U. S. dodged a bullet but it might not mean as much as hoped.”

For women, a Romney presidency would have meant not only a deepening of the assault on abortion rights but also more attacks on equal pay, the Violence Against Women Act, and entitlement programs on which womenbecause of greater povertydepend onmore heavily than men

The Republican platform included a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the gutting of Medicare and Medicaid–and a Romney presidency would have almost certainly resulted in a strengthening of the right wing majority on the Supreme Court, resulting in the probableoverturning of Roe V. Wade–the 1973 decision on which the right to legal abortion depends.

That said, the attacks on abortion have been so severe in recent years, that literally hundreds of anti-choice pieces of legislation have passed just over the last 4 years alone and remain on the books (and more have passed even since the election). Abortion is currently inaccessible to women in over 84% of U.S. counties. As Chloe Angyal said in a recent guardian piece: “Regaining the ground lost, and bringing the national discourse back to where it was before this madness began, will take an enormous amount of hard work..it will also take time – far longer than the four years Obama would have in office.

There has been much argument about the demographics whose vote put Obama over the top.

There were wins for women running for office, especially in the Senate–with the number of women Senators now at 20 (out of hundred) but that hardly gets us to parity in women’s representation. As Soraya Chemaly reports: Until last Tuesday, the United States ranked 80th in the world for women’s political representation, tied with Morocco and Venezuela; now we may have moved to 79th.

Barack Obama himself has a mixed record on women’s rights, having reaffirmed the Hyde Amendment, which denies Medicaid funding for abortion and come out against the availability of the Morning After Pill to women of all ages. As has been noted elsewhere, he also presides over an imperialist government and a capitalist system that many say by its very structure denies economic equality to all–a pre-requisite for the liberation of all women.



issues for wmn in election

charts by race/gender

Death of Savita Halappanavar due to refusal to grant her an abortion by Irish hospital

In Irleland, a country where abortion is illegal, a woman has died after being denied an abortion that could have saved her life, causing vigils and protests in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Belfast in many places around the world. ON October 28, Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old Indian Dentist living in Ireland, died of septicemia–or blood posoningafter she miscarried her 17 week old fetus. During the agonizing two days before her death, she repeatedly asked for a termination of her pregnancybut her request was denied by hospital staff because of the presence of a “fetal heartbeat.” Her husband reports that she was told repeatedly by staff: “This is a Catholic country.”

The Irish abortion law is based on an 1861 law denying all abortion “except to save the mother’s life” but the criteria are not spelled out. According to Rachel Donnely, a pro-choice activist in Ireland: “This obstetric emergency should have been dealt with in a routine manner but Irish Doctors are restrained from making obvious medical decisions by a fear of potentially severe consequences.” The situation is similar to a well-publicized case in Nicaragua in 2007, in which a woman died during an ectopic–or outside-of-the-womb pregnancy, because Doctors were afraid of the legal consequences of removing the the fetus (which would have died anyway), after Nicaragua outlawed abortion in 2006.

The death sparked outrage in Dublin where thousands marched to demand liberalization of Ireland’s abortion laws and there have been vigils around and demonstrations at Irish embassies around the world and an Indian newspaper called it murder. there was a demonstration today outside of the Irish Parliament and one in New York at the Irish Consulate on Park Avenue.

Ireland outlaws abortion under an 1861 statute–but a 1992 Supreme Court decision demanded that the 1861 law be clarified, and in 2010 the European Court of Human Rights demanded Ireland clarify the status of abortion in Irish law–but reform has been forthcoming.

Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister, who is on record as anti-abortion, said that Halappanavar’s death was a “coincidence” having nothing to do with the Irish law on abortion. Wendy Lyon, a feminist activist, said the death has resulted in a “sea change in Irish opinion. Things cannot be allowed to go on without change, adding “enough is enough.”



Petraeus Resignation and sexist stereotyping of women

The resignation of CIA head General David Petraeus over a “sex scandal” involving adultery, has led to a media field day of promoting sexist stereotypes of the women involved.

Says Kimberly Dark, writing in the Ms Blog: “Media… continue to discuss marital infidelity in a way that upholds sexist roles, framing women as homewreckers and victims, while men are sovereign individuals capable of making mistakes and moving on.” She points out that Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Petraeus‘ had an extra-marital affair, though herself a West Point graduate and Harvard Research Fellow, has been routinely described in media such as ABC and the Daily Mail, UKas “Petraeus’ Mistress” and her husband as a cuckold. Dark adds: “to assume that one man’s wife becomes another’s mistress reifies women’s position as property.”

Nor has the “leftist” press been better–in some cases it has been worse. In an article purporting to be about a possible hidden connection between the Petraeus resignation and the bombing of the US embassy in Benghazi, writer Pepe Escobar seems to glory in misogynist and racist stereotypes. Broadwell is described as “Blog Babe Paula” and there is reference to “a virtual catfightwith “steamy Lebanese American Jill Kelley.”

Another woman connected to the scandal is the sister of Jill Kelley, Natalie Khawam, who  has been involved in a custody battle in which Petaeus backed her by providing a character reference. Khawam has been portrayed in the New York Post as “unstable” and an “unfit mother” after a judge rejected her accusation of abuse against the child’s father. Ben Atherton-Ziemann, in the blog Voices of Men writes that “the stereotype that battered women lie about abuse is all too common” and points out that Khawam was not allowed to bring up the allegations during the court proceedings, a situation that battered women often face.

Unfortunately It is still “normal”, in media-hyped “sex scandals” for women to be portrayed as demeaning sexual stereotypes that play to cultural prejudice rather than full human beings.

And you can read more about this on the Joy of Resistance blog at joyofresistance.wordpress.com



What happens to women turned down for abortions? A new study

Abortion is a hotly debated and poorly studied. although a few studies of dubious validity have tried to connect it to mental illness and drug use–and politicians have used these studies to justify greater limitations on women seeking abortion in the United States.

There has been no sustained effort to study what happens to women who want abortions but can’t get them due to restrictive rules–these women are called turnaways. A new longitudinal study reveals what happens to their economic position, health, and relationship status after seeking an abortion and being denied it.

Public health researchers with the UC San Francisco group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) used data from 956 women who sought abortions at 30 different abortion clinics around the U.S. 182 of them were turned away. The researchers, led by Diana Greene Foster, followed and did intensive interviews with these women. Some obtained abortions easily, for some it was a struggle to get them and some were denied. 

The short version of what they discovered

“We have found that there are no mental health consequences of abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. Even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.


When a woman is denied the abortion she wants, she is statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line. 

Violence and Drug Use

In the Turnaway Study, the researchers could find no statistically significant differences in drug use between women who get abortions and women who don’t.

But when it comes to domestic violence, being denied an abortion makes a really big difference. Turnaways were more likely to stay in a relationship with an abusive partner than women who got abortions.

One of the biggest concerns about abortion is that it causes emotional problems that lead to clinical depression. The Turnaway Study looked at that question from two angles: how did turnaways and women who got abortions feel; and did they become clinically depressed.

As the researchers found: “One week after seeking abortion, 97% of women who obtained an abortion felt that abortion was the right decision; 65% of turnaways still wished they had been able to obtain an abortion.” Also one week after being denied an abortion, turnaways told the researchers that they had more feelings of anxiety than the women who had abortions. Women who had abortions overwhelming reported feeling relieved (90%), though many also felt sad and guilty afterwards. All of these feelings faded naturally over time in both groups, however. A year later, there were no differences in anxiety or depression between the two groups.

In other words, the Turnaway Study found no indication that there were lasting, harmful negative emotions associated with getting an abortion.

Other findings:

There was no indication that abortion could be linked with increased mental health disorders.

That physical health complications are more common and severe following birth.

f you look at all this data together, a new picture emerges of abortion and how the state might want to handle it. To prevent women from having to rely on public assistance, abortions should be made more widely available. In addition, there is strong evidence that making abortions available will allow women to be healthier, with brighter economic outlooks. By turning women away when they seek abortions, we risk keeping both women and their children in poverty — and, possibly, in harm’s way from domestic violence.


Other related links

rape statements by right

similar case in Nicaragua in 2007 after ban on all abortions made even those to save the life of the mother illegal


scientific study of what happens when abortion is denied

leftist critique of “men’s rights” mvt (by a man)

Protest of warren farrell @ Univ. Toronto


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