Is “Obvious Child” the Abortion Rom-Com We’ve Been Waiting For?

Sarah Seltzer

A new short film rewrites the "Juno" and "Knocked Up" script.

This film has already made the round of the feminist blogsphere thanks to Amanda Marcotte discovering it last week, but I thought it was worth another post here. In 21 minutes, Gillian Robespierrre with help from new SNL cast member Jenny Slate and others, writes a cute, funny, "quirky" film about a one night stand that ends in… abortion. It’s a very similar set-up to "Knocked Up", particularly the antics at the bar which lead to the fateful coupling.
Slate’s character gets pregnant after using low-quality free condoms during her night of post-breakup sex with a stranger from a bar. She immediately jokes about the standard storyline when she finds out she’s pregnant: "First I’m going to find him and get his name, then I’m going settle down and start a family," she says sarcastically, before asking her friend: "Be my date to my abortion?"  She also receives encouraging words from her mom, who tells her about her own abortion, pre-Roe. The characters are neither militantly feminist nor glib about the reality of abortion, but nor are they morally torn about it. The story is a fictional counterpart to the abortion blogs that have been cropping up: an honest, non-loaded look at what it’s really like for women.
Whether or not this film is poignant to the viewer will depend on his or her sensibilities. And whether or not the film’s hipster-humor is too specific or icky for some, bloggers writing about "Obvious Child" have nailed its point: a film about an accidental pregancy does not have to have one outcome–keeping the pregnancy–to work narratively, have a happy ending, or be funny. Abortion can work as a plot device. Hopefully the film will inspire others to stick the Planned Parenthood clinic back into the fabric of film, as it’s a part of the fabric of life.

Here’s the film:

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Here’s a roudup of blogs reacting to "Obvious Child":

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New short film is cute, quirky, and candid. And it’s about abortion.
from Bitch Magazine Blogs – 

 

Commentary Family

#HungerActionMonth: How We Can Raise Awareness and Resources to End Child Hunger

Katie Klabusich

With 15 million children facing hunger, our nation is failing miserably on this front.

Last year, one in seven Americans lived in a household that was food insecure. Hunger affects all who are touched by it, but is especially impactful on children. With 15 million children facing hunger, our nation is failing miserably on this front.

September is Hunger Action Month, a national campaign spearheaded by Feeding America that seeks to raise awareness and resources—both funds and volunteers—to address that failure. Part of its advocacy includes supporting legislation that fills the gaps, including the Child Nutrition Act, which must be reauthorized at the end of this month. As we all take time this month to raise awareness of food scarcity, which is a reproductive justice issue, we should also follow in Feeding America’s steps by contacting our legislators to let them know the funding levels for federal school meal and child nutrition programs need to be adequate. Giving families that help allows parents to focus on other needs (like their own ability to eat) and care for their kids.

Any movement concerned with supporting parents, family, and children must consider the effects of widespread hunger in the world’s richest country. Poverty and hunger have a number of complicated causes, but if we can find $609 billion in a $3.8 trillion federal budget to wage war overseas, certainly we could do more to prioritize the basic needs of our friends and neighbors. Helping 49 million hungry Americans is a problem too large for personal charity to handle; pooling our resources for big problems and causes is what we rely on the government for.

The reproductive justice framework makes it clear that the ability to parent in a safe and healthy environment is a basic human right. But if a parent is unable to exercise that right due to “food deserts” or federal budget cuts (as families are forced to choose between health care and groceries), our children suffer. Children do not get a second chance at development and laying a foundation for their lifelong economic security, nutrition, and health.

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The need of the one in five children living in poverty with the stress that comes with not being able to take their next meal for granted is up for debate in Congress. The National School Breakfast, Lunch, and After School programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and others that fall under the Child Nutrition Act are reviewed every five years. Though the programs are permanently authorized, the regular assessment of how they are administered and funded determines whether the help delivered to the 21.3 percent of children the USDA estimates live with food insecurity is adequate.

Food insecure households, according to the USDA, are defined as “those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months.”

The current Child Nutrition Act expires at the end of this month and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry has postponed its mark-up—originally slated for last week—for the reauthorization bill. This is where amendments are added and bipartisan legislation takes the form that will be up for a vote. The parallel responsibility for hammering out funding for the programs under the Child Nutrition Act belongs to the Senate Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. According to an alert from the Food Research and Action Center on September 15, Hill staff expect a two-week delay—putting the meeting on reauthorization beyond the expiration date.

Advocates, governors, mayors, and school officials around the country are pushing for not just reauthorization, but more adequate resources. The Urban School Food Alliance, a group of six of the nation’s largest school districts, met in Chicago this summer; its recommendation is to raise the per meal allowance for the school lunch program 50 cents, which could help cover the costs of additional healthy food options. The districts have watched the effects of hunger on the three million students they oversee who rely on subsidized meals, and are clear that the status quo is falling short of meeting the need.

Providing nutrition and cutting down on hunger pains isn’t just about making it possible for kids to pay attention in school. Research from Children’s HealthWatch—a nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers, and children’s health and policy experts—indicates “strong connections between food security in early childhood and the development of skills crucial for school success including memory, emotional stability, and social skills.” The effects of early childhood hunger and the stress of insecurity last through the teen years and into adulthood, creating obstacles to education and skill development that can cause lifelong economic hardship.

Of course, benefiting the individual wasn’t the original motivation behind federal programs to reduce child hunger. President Harry S. Truman caught wind of the number of military recruits turned away during WWII because of malnutrition and in 1946 signed the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, which created the National School Lunch Program. Truman considered it “a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children.” It took another 20 years for President Lyndon Johnson to expand services to include breakfast as well by signing the Child Nutrition Act. By 1968, most federal programs addressing childhood hunger had been absorbed by the Child Nutrition Act, amplifying the importance of its full reauthorization.

The military roots are hardly concealed. Current U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke about the importance of reauthorization at a Center for American Progress event this month.

“Military leaders have expressed concern that not enough young adults will be physically fit enough to serve the country,” said Vilsack. “Children who don’t get enough food are more likely to struggle academically and have trouble finding a good-paying job.”

In addition to voting on reauthorization, a handful of bills to increase resources have been introduced in both houses of Congress. Topping the priority list of national nonprofit organization the Food Research and Action Center are “The Summer Meals Act of 2015” (S. 613, H.R. 1728), “The Stop Summer Hunger Act of 2015” (S. 1539, H.R. 2715), and “The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act of 2015” (S. 1833). Together the legislation would expand eligibility, funding, and logistical support for child nutrition. Enrollment paperwork would be streamlined and funds for innovations, such as transportation grants for mobile meal trucks, and placing electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards directly in student hands, could go a long way to boosting the effectiveness of programs.

Because childhood hunger affects lifetime economic productivity and has roots in military preparedness, bolstering services from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to School Lunches should have widespread bipartisan support. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily true; Republican legislators across the country at the state and federal level have sought to implement burdensome restrictions and even bragged about cuts they didn’t impose.

The only way to counter this trend of ideological backsliding is public awareness and engagement. While that advocacy is always important, election season—especially while presidential primaries highlight national priorities—is the perfect time to amplify issues like poverty and hunger. Luckily, Feeding America makes contacting your legislators in support of adequate resources simple during Hunger Action Month and every month. They’re a top-rated charity whose food bank network extends into every corner of the country and is always in need of new volunteers. Helping the 49 million hungry Americans, including those who are children, parents, and caregivers, is as easy as taking a “Spoontember” selfie to raise awareness.

The #CNR2015 hashtag also makes it easy to track updates on the full set of legislation that groups like Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center are backing.

News Family

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez Seeks Proof of “Forcible Rape” in Applications for Childcare Assistance

Jodi Jacobson

Forcible rape is back in the news, this time in New Mexico, where the administration of Governor Susana Martinez is seeking a "forcible rape" test for women seeking childcare assistance, proving you don't have to be male to be a misogynist.

See our update on this story here.

“Forcible rape” is back in the news, this time in New Mexico, where the administration of Governor Susana Martinez is proposing to require a “forcible rape” means-test for women seeking childcare assistance. It appears New Mexico is now officially part of the fundamentalist right-wing effort to redefine rape that would leave many thousands of rape victims vulnerable and ineligible for state support.

A March 2012 proclamation signed by Martinez declared April as New Mexico’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Seems like a good thing until you read it. The second paragraph of the one-page document says:

WHEREAS, FIFTEEN PERCENT OF NEW MEXICAN ADULTS HAVE BEEN FORCIBLY RAPED AT LEAST ONCE IN THEIR LIFETIMES….

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The proclamation claims to be concerned about sexual violence and coercion, but, for one thing, fails to even mention sexual abuse of children and teens, two groups for which sexual abuse, rape, and incest are critical problems and often shrouded in the kind of secrecy that enables and perpetuates such abuse. The omission of children and teens is both curious and troubling if for no other reason than that surveys reveal that in 2010, the rate of sexual assault for these children and teens was higher in New Mexico than it was nationally.

Use of the term “forcible rape” is also troubling. It indicates that the Martinez administration is part of a widespread effort by conservative political and religious groups to maintain narrow and outdated definitions of rape that are being replaced in many states, as well as by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which defines rape as:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” 

As noted by Attorney General Eric Holder:

“The longstanding, narrow definition of forcible rape, first established in 1927, is ‘the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.’ It thus included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina and excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and non-forcible rape.”

A broader definition of rape includes date rape, marital rape, and child rape and sexual abuse among other forms of rape that are not recognized under the term “forcible rape;” it recognizes also that a broad range of victims are in need of help and establishes consent, rather than force per se, as the critical determinant of rape.

Why focus on “forcible rape?” The terms “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” were catapulted into the public political debate recently by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin who asserted that, among other things, “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy. It is a (literally) medieval theory adopted by far right fundamentalist religious and political groups and individuals as part of an ongoing effort to eliminate access to safe abortion care, as well as to further marginalize women. Since rape is usually recognized as a “valid” exception for abortion care even by those who self-identify as against abortion, and since, under law, women who are raped may be able to access state or federal funding for safe abortion care, the right is deploying a strategy of undermining and confusing what is and what is not “legitimate” rape to further undermine access to safe abortion. Beyond abortion care, the redefining of rape is part of a broader effort to reinforce patriarchal norms about women’s bodies and their claims on social and economic captial as well as to reinforce profoundly patriarchal views of reproduction and the family.

For example, after the 2010 elections, fundamentalist right-wing politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives sought to pass H.R. 3, the Let Women Die Act, which among other things, would have re-defined rape based on the narrow definition.

It is therefore clear that Martinez’s declaration did not come out of thin air, but is rather part of the broader strategy.

Now, however, the state is taking things a step further. If passed, proposed changes to New Mexico’s childcare assistance regulations would require that women seeking assistance for children conceived from rape will need to *prove* that they were forcibly  violated.

The revisions appear on a state website on page 7 of the proposed new regulations—Proposed revisions to Child Care Assistance Regulations (8.15.2 NMAC)—and would affect poor and low-income women seeking childcare assistance in order to work or attend school or both. New Mexico’s childcare assistance program provides direct payments to approved childcare providers for those children whose parents qualify. The law requires that women seeking childcare assistance prove that they have done everything possible to obtain child support from (in this case) the father of the child or children for whom they are seeking childcare assisance. One exception to the requirement for child support is in the case of rape; the state did not previously—for what are to most people obvious reasons—require women to seek child support from their rapist.

 Proposed revisions to Child Care Assistance Regulations (8.15.2 NMAC)

Now, however, unless a woman who conceived and gave birth to a child as a result of rape can prove that she was “forcibly raped,” she will be denied assistance for childcare needed for work or education.

If adopted, this policy will have numerous implications. It establishes in state law a narrow definition of rape that can and will be applied in other areas of law and policy. It puts a heavy burden on women who have been raped and are now struggling economically to support a child or children to prove the *manner* in which they were raped, requiring that women who have left violent domestic partnerships, who were date-raped, who were impregnated as a result of incest, or through other “non-forcible” but nonetheless equally violent and denigrating means of sexual violation to first re-engage with their abusers to seek child support, putting control of their lives back into the hands of someone by whom they were violated in the most profound sense of the term, or to prove somehow they were victims of “forcible” rape or incest. Many women, for again what are clearly obvious reasons, can not or will not be able to seek or receive child support from their rapists or, due to the dynamics of rape and rape reporting, may not have adequate “proof” that the rape they endured was “forcible enough” to satisify the state, and so will be completely disqualified from childcare assistance. This poilcy will therefore diminish the economic and social prospects of both women and their children who are unable to afford childcare while they attend school or go to work (or both).

Advocates are outraged at the proposed policy change. “When are we going to stop looking for ways to minimize the violence against women? Rape by definition is already an act of power and control,” said K.C. Quirk, Executive Director of Crossroads for Women in Albuquerque, NM.

They are especially troubled that the move comes under the leadership of the nation’s first Latina governor of a state in which there are high rates of both poverty and violence experienced by both Latinas and Native American women. In a statement, Strong Families, a coalition working to advance the rights of women and immigrants, said:

The attempt to qualify differing levels of rape is especially egregious coming from the nation’s first Latina governor, a former tough prosecutor from southern New Mexico, and a prominent speaker at the Republican national convention. Leaders want to emphasize that rape is rape, period.

“Rape is rape, let’s not move backward toward victim blaming… [A]s a single parent who once benefited from state-subsidized child care assistance, I am saddened at the state’s move to decrease access to a much-needed benefit for our women and families,” said Adriann Barboa, Field Director with Strong Families.

A hearing on the proposed policy is set for October 1 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Calls prior to publication of this article to numerous government agencies dealing with childcare assistance, and to the state’s Children, Youth, and Families Department, which is directly responsible for overseeing the policy change, went un-returned.

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