Roundup: Abortion No Longer a “Wedge issue” in Western States; “Troubling Ramifications” of Cosmetic Genital Surgery

Emily Douglas

Abortion no longer a "wedge issue" in Western states; "troubling ramifications" of cosmetic genital surgery; Chinese woman allowed to continue her pregnancy; more about the next HHS Secretary.

Abortion Won’t Work
as a "Wedge" Issue in Western States Anymore

Laura K. Chapin, a Democratic strategist and consultant for
the No on 48 campaign in Colorado, says that in
the wake of the resounding defeat of Colorado’s
personhood amendment, California’s parental
notification initiative, and South
Dakota’s abortion ban, we can conclude that voters in
Western states will no longer be tempted by anti-choice ballot initiatives. Writes
, "Ballot initiatives are tempting for abortion opponents because
they at least partially sidestep the complications of the legislative process.
This is especially true in states like California
and Colorado
that have very low thresholds for getting something on the ballot."  But the strategy backfired – the extreme
amendments demonstrated to voters that pro-choicers are the true moderates and
that votes showed that residents of Western states would rather focus on practical
issues that affect their daily lives. 

TIME Examines "Troubling
Ramifications" of Cosmetic Genital Surgery

I don’t want to read about it either, but if you’re
going to, you couldn’t do much better than Laura Fitzpatrick’s "Plastic
Surgery Below the Belt
," in TIME, on the rise in cosmetic genital surgery.  Aside from pointing out that the surgery isn’t
medically indicated and can result in health complications as well as decreased
sexual pleasure ("The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
issued a committee opinion last year warning that women may experience
scarring, chronic pain, obstetric risks or reduced sexual pleasure; a similar
statement was issued in July by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists"), Fitzpatrick quotes sexologist and psychologist
Leonore Tiefer saying: "Promoting a very narrow definition of what women’s
genitals ought to look like – even for those women who don’t want surgery, it
harms them."  Fitzpatrick also
points out that cosmetic genital surgery can have "troubling ramifications"
beyond our own borders.  

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This kind of
cosmetic surgery can interfere with advocates’ ability to fight forced ritual
mutilation in places like Africa, where the
practice is still common, says Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of
international women’s rights watchdog Equality Now. Designer vaginas "are
considered reasons for not throwing stones, so to speak, at other
cultures," she says." 

Fitzpatrick concludes
quoting social worker Laura Berman: "The best way to start enjoying your body could be far
simpler than surgery: ‘You may need a new boyfriend.’" 

Chinese Woman Allowed
to Continue Pregnancy

Chinese officials were threatening to force Arigul Tursun, a
six-months-pregnant mother of two, to have an abortion, but she has now been
freed and allowed to continue her pregnancy, reports
ABC News
.  However, she was
apparently only released because, said the local population control committee
chief, "she wasn’t in good enough health to have an abortion."  Some Republican
lawmakers have suggested
that this case proves that US funding should not
be restored to the United Nations’ international family planning agency, UNFPA.
But UNFPA is not engaged in any way in
coercive sterilization or forced abortion, and works with the Chinese
government to promote a voluntary approach to family planning. 

Want to Know More
About the New HHS Secretary?

For the back story on Tom Daschle, listen to the New
York Times’s Peter Baker talking
about the Senator’s background and likely
priorities at HHS.  And Rev.
Debra Haffner responds
to the appointment.

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