President Obama rescinded the Global Gag Rule yesterday. Wishes really do come true! Well, kinda sorta. Being the cynical bitch I am, Obama’s timing and statement threw up all kinds of red feminist flags for me.
As I said in Thursday’s Blog for Choice post, I had hoped – fervently – that Obama would repeal the Global Gag Rule that day. Instead, he chose to do so a day later. What’s one day, right? Practically speaking, not much. I don’t imagine that much money was distributed to international NGOs between Thursday the 22nd and Friday the 23rd, so most likely Obama’s slight delay didn’t have a negative impact on any family planning organizations. And yet.
Had he chosen to take action on the anti-abortion rule on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade – like the two administrations before him – he would have sent a strong message to anti- and pro-choicers alike: Women are humans, and I respect their right to privacy and bodily autonomy unequivocally – no matter how popular such a stance may or may not be. Period. The difference is one of symbolism – and symbolically, Obama seems reluctant to align himself too closely with the pro-choice side.
Of course, he also chose to repeal the rule on a Friday – the slowest of all news days. Consequently, I’ve seen little-to-no coverage of the Gag Rule on the cable news shows. Seriously, Sully Sullenberger has received more air time. The more cynical part of me (which is to say, 99%) can’t help but think that this was Obama’s plan all along.
Of his rescinding of the Global Gag Rule, Obama wrote:
It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries. For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.
For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us. I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.
It is time that we end the politicization of this issue. In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world.
I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies. They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.
In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population Fund. By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.
Common ground? What common ground? Either you think that women are full and equal human beings, or you don’t. It’s that simple.
There is no “finding common ground” with misogynists like this:
Listen. Forcing women to carry and birth fetuses, whether they’re 8 weeks or 8 months old, elevates the lives and value of potential humans above those of actual humans. Any restrictions on abortion – any! – necessarily subjugate the rights of women, whether it’s to that of the fetus, her parents (as in parental notification legislation), her husband (spousal notification/approval legislation), or the church, community or state.
The only way to reduce the need for abortion (and the number of abortions performed, legally or not) is to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies through comprehensive sex ed, readily available contraception, and empowering women so that they can control their own sexuality. Time and again, we’ve seen that those on certain “sides of [the] issue” have zero interest in doing so.
So let’s stop playing. Enough with the pandering. No more rhetoric. You can’t have it both ways, President Obama. Either you favor a woman’s right to choose what happens in her own body, or you don’t. If you do, please stop signaling your willingness to compromise my rights away in the name of “unity.”
And yeah, maybe these are “just words,” catch phrases to placate those who’d rather women remain subservient members of the sex class. But, as then-Senator Barack Obama said, words matter.