Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bush's Christmas Gift to Women

As any beginning student of the German language learns, the word "gift" is a false cognate. In German, it means "poison." That double meaning seems just about right to describe George Bush's parting gift to women: the new HHS rule that allows health providers to refuse women basic health services.

Jill at Feministe has a great analysis of what's really at stake in this rule. Here's the short version (but you should really go read her whole post):
It’s being framed as about abortion, but here’s the thing: There are existing laws that protect health care workers from performing or assisting with abortion. Under current U.S. law, no one can be forced to partake in an abortion procedure if they have a moral objection.

This is about birth control.
Yep. I have just two things to add, both in connection with the Nativity story.

First, a film I often use in the classroom - Sacred Choices and Abortion: 10 New Things to Think About - starts from the premise that "Mary Had a Choice." And it's true that the Gospels don't say that God impregnated Mary against her will. They don't suggest that the Holy Spirit essentially raped her. God asked Mary if she was willing. She had a choice. She said yes. She could have also said no.

Imagine if Mary instead had to convince an intransigent pharmacist to prescribe Plan B for her after unprotected sex with Joseph? I'm not being flip about this. I sincerely think that the HHS rule doesn't protect the Christian faith; it conflicts with it.

Secondly: Over twenty years ago Margaret Atwood made a poetic plea for all women to have the same reproductive choices as Mary. I would like Bush and his minions to have to write out this poem over and over again until they knew it by heart - until they took it into their hearts. I realize that would take a miracle on par with the virgin birth.

(Warning: This is a poem, but it vividly depicts sexual violence, so it's not for you if you're easily triggered.)
Christmas Carols

Children do not always mean
hope. To some they mean despair.
This woman with her hair cut off
so she could not hang herself
threw herself from a rooftop, thirty
times raped & pregnant by the enemy
who did this to her. This one had her pelvis
broken by hammers so the child
could be extracted. Then she was thrown away,
useless, a ripped sack. This one
punctured herself with kitchen skewers
and bled to death on a greasy
oilcloth table, rather than bear
again and past the limit. There
is a limit, though who knows
when it may come? Nineteenth-century
ditches are littered with small wax corpses
dropped there in terror. A plane
swoops too low over the fox farm
and the mother eats her young. This too
is Nature. Think twice then
before you worship turned furrows, or pay
lip service to some full belly
or other, or single out one girl to play
the magic mother, in blue
& white, up on that pedestal,
perfect & intact, distinct
from those who aren’t. Which means
everyone else. It’s a matter
of food & available blood. If mother-
hood is sacred, put
your money where your mouth is. Only
then can you expect the coming
down to the wrecked & shimmering earch
of that miracle you sing
about, the day
when every child is a holy birth.
From Margaret Atwood, Selected Poems II: 1976 - 1986, p. 70.

Atwood holds the copyright on this, of course, and if anyone objects to my reprinting it in its entirety, I will take it right down. She was describing truths from history and nature, but as usual, she was also all too prescient about the future.

Photo by Flickr user andy castro, used under a Creative Commons license.


hesperia said...

She didn't pull any punches with that one, did she?

Sugarmag said...

I love Margaret Atwood.

Sugarmag said...

Oh and dang it! I was really hoping that you were going to write about something good he did that I didn't know about. I guess being disappointed doesn't really make sense does it? Duh.

Smirking Cat said...

I adore Margaret Atwood, and I despise Bush and his condescending, woman-hating, anti-choice agenda. I have always wanted a coherent explanation how forced childbirth benefits anyone.

Sungold said...

Thanks for stopping by, all of you, while I've been neglecting my blog.

We should start a blog for lovers of Atwood, shouldn't we?

Hesperia: I recall many of her poems from that period being pretty harsh. Lots of anti-torture pieces, and the like.

Sugarmag: We'd all like to be surprised for the good, wouldn't we? But I think it's more likely that the next round of Bush holiday treats will be pardons for Cheney, Libby, and maybe even himself.

Smirking Cat: Forced childbirth is handy dandy if you're willing to see a baby as punishment for illicit sexual activity ... I'm not sure Bush even thinks the issue through that far, but some of his supporters have no problem seeing an unwanted child as women's just desserts.