Ho, ho, Merry Christmas to all. The past few days the Lame-Duck Congress has given out gifts to the American public. In the realm of who is naughty and who is nice, it is clear that women fall into the ranks of the naughty.
The first example is the vote on the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010, which failed on Thursday because according to Incoming House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) the bill is too costly and might provide some funds for abortions. I wonder how one evaluates the value of lives of children forced into marriage and servitude? If I might be so bold as to suggest that the tax extensions to the wealthy cost more than this bill and said repeal of extensions would have paid for the bill. The interesting dichotomy here is the concern that some money might, just might be used for family planning or abortions for children who are raped in forced marriages, but shows an utter lack of concern about those who are already born. No monies can be spent on abortion, and whoops, no money should be spend on the conditions that might cause the need for the abortion.
Second the block of the repeal of the military ban on abortions once again shows the lack of respect for women in the armed forces. Anti-choice Senators like John McCain who speak so passionately of our men and women serving abroad were the strongest voices against providing military women the right to spend their own money in military hospitals abroad to have abortions. Now these soldiers will find themselves in an untenable position. Either go home and risk demotion or seek medical attention in an unsafe place. Surely, our military deserves better than this.
But the block of this amendment, offered by Senator Burris (D-IL) that would have repealed the ban on women in the armed services using their own funds to pay for an abortion, is even more ominous in terms of media coverage. When I tried to get more information on this block, only NARAL had current information. No information was readily available about the stripping of this provision from the Defense Appropriations Bill. Once again women’s health was compromised and no one seemed to care. When in doubt, compromise women’s rights. Where is the anger, the fire for women among women, liberals, civil rights groups?
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On a positive note, perhaps, Santa’s nice list was the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell result. The years of struggle to repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Bill concluded with a vote this weekend. For the men and women who have fought for the right to serve their country without the threat of discharge for being gay, this was a battle they deserved to win. I congratulate the Senators who voted to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It was heartening to see Senators Lieberman and Collins work together to pass this bill and to have Senators Snow, Brown, Murkowski, Kirk, Burr, Ensign, and Voinovich cross the aisle for this passage.
The real gift for America would be that our Congress would continue to work together on bipartisan, bicameral legislation. The last week has shown that it is indeed possible. But that does not appear to extend to the rights of women. Bills that work to better the lives of women and girls become mired in religious and philosophical conflict. It is as if the biology of being a woman relegates one’s rights to religious doctrines or to a socially conservative movement. Again and again bills that support the right of women to live healthy lives are thwarted because of the fear that some funds might go to provide abortions. And again and again the bills die and the public is silent.
For those of you who care, let our gift be to the women and children who are forced into marriage, servitude or who cannot control their own bodies or who are raped or trapped by their biology. Let our gift to them be our voices in Congress. Let’s pledge to be as persistent as any other civil rights movement.