May 09
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 14, 2011 10:13AM

Congress Diddles Women While Americans Suffer

Rate: 31 Flag

As if we needed more proof that the culture wars are NOT over, the House of Representatives passed the ironically titled "Protect Life Act" last night, rather than deal with the issues of joblessness, hunger, homelessness, and general economic misery.

Under the Protect Life Act, which passed the House 251 to 172 Thursday night, no health insurance policy that offers abortion coverage could be purchased with federal money made available through the new health care law. Current federal law prohibits plans in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program from covering abortion. The new bill would apply the same rule to plans in the newly created health exchanges, which are subsidized with federal government tax credits.

The bill presented Thursday also says that the federal government may not discriminate against health care providers that refuse to provide abortions by refusing them federal funds under the health care law.


I'm not sure how a law that could deny treatment to a pregnant woman whose pregnancy is in trouble can possibly be construed as "protecting life." Well, I can, actually. I'm familiar enough with the anti-choice crowd's double-speak to know that when they say "life," they mean "fetuses," and when they say "protect," they mean from those disgusting women who grow those fetuses but who want to kill them.

Are there women, anywhere, that they trust? I feel fortunate that I had a spontaneous abortion in 1996, and not today. Today, I would worry that an investigation would be launched as to what I had done to provoke my body into expelling the fetus that my husband and I both desperately wanted. If I had been in  Mississippi, rather than North Carolina, that might have happened. 

We already make it nearly impossible for young women to get an abortion. We tell them they can't have Morning After contraception if they are under seventeen. We limit access to contraceptives. And then we wonder why a woman finds herself pregnant and not willing to give birth? 

One in Eight Women in Sierra Leone will die in Childbirth. Tell me again how childbirth is safe, and how women who choose to have abortions are selfish, undependable, untrustworthy, and, ironically, unable to be trusted with a choice (although trustworthy enough to raise children against the odds). 

500,000 women a year die in childbirth each year. Again, please, with how safe it is? 

The United States ranks #29 in the world in infant mortality. More babies survive in Cuba. Tell me again how we don't need national health care?

Prior to 1973, 5000 women a year died from illegal abortions. It is now twice as safe to have an abortion as it is to give birth. 

70 percent of the world's poor are women. Tell me, please, how women can raise themselves out of the depths of poverty if they cannot even control their own reproduction? 

Do you really think we would be having this conversation if we said to men, "Look. Pregnancy still kills hundreds of thousands of you each year worldwide. It causes multiple health issues for many more. Your body is going to be regulated--not only by the law, but by lots of folks who believe your pregnancy is their business. But. Having a baby is the most sacred thing you were put on this earth to do. So, sorry. You're having this baby whether you want to or not." 

How long do you think anti-abortion laws would stay on the books if men could get pregnant? 

And, of course, it's not just men who are anti-choice. Plenty of self-hating women at Concerned Women for America and other groups of its ilk are all too ready to hold women down while they are raped by the law. 

Because, when it comes down to it, this is what these laws represent. Legal Rape. If rape is the insertion of an object into the body of an unwilling person, than what else do you call laws that insist that a woman submit to pregnancy regardless of her age, the circumstances under which she became pregnant, her health, or her general well-being? 

The same members of Congress who think that we don't need nationalized health care, who believe that 47 percent of us are freeloaders, who think that asking millionaires to take a tax hike is unAmerican--these same members of Congress think that denying a woman healthcare in order to force her to stay pregnant is okay. 

"Protect Life." Snort. My ass. 

The women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.


Dr. George Tiller

1941-2009, murdered by an anti-abortion terrorist


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
without cannon fodder than can be no wars....(skull and bones hand book, 1978 version)
I was going to write on this today; glad you id and I didn't. Briliant. r.
Jonathan--you could still write, you know. :) And Snowden--yes. Natalist policies tend to go hand-in-hand with war-mongering.
When they did this last night, it provoked something in me that I cannot really explain. I told my husband I was glad that we humans did not live forever, that my life had a beginning and an end. I told him I could not live through another lifetime of them regulating women in this way, not letting us vote, then letting us, giving us a measure of reproductive rights, then trying to take it away. Every generation some small victory, then some big attack. Women are so unjustly manipulated, world wide and without recourse. We are kicked, abused and screwed with to the point that I am besides myself. And what the hell is the point??? It is like we are the penny target and the rest of the problems, the climate, the environment, the death, the disease, the destruction, the economy are million dollar targets, so the brainless wonders go after the easy mark. When did we get so easy?

The thing is I am bombarded by requests for money every time they do something like this to us. It is as if we must pay and pay for our rights and our freedoms. We must pay all the organizations that support what we believe to fight for us. Since when do we have to buy democracy? Why can't our representatives represent us with out financial influence but on the premise of justice, equality and humanity. I don't know how many more lifetimes of this vicious cycle of anti women abuse I can take, and I am sure others agree with me.

One lifetime of it is enough. I am glad for death when this happened last night. They are all crazy, they want to bump us back down to sub human, like female slaves, and we must continue to ransom our freedoms and our equality. We cannot keep this up, something has to change and if someone could tell me what would tip the scales of justice into balance, I would fight for that. The money, the abuse, no more, one life time of it is enough.
I hear your rage and frustration. I feel as if I'm watching time go backwards, and I find myself thinking that we had more rights as a people when I was a teenager than we do now that I'm in my 40's.
I hope my daughters will be the last generation that has to re-fight these battles. But, like you, I'm determined to not go down without a fight. Life is short, and sometimes, that's a mercy. Grieve today. I grieve with you. And then we will fight again.
great piece and great rant, lorraine. and all true. i remember my brilliant doctor, eight months before my daughter was born, telling me that being pregnant and giving birth was inherently very dangerous and that i needed to pay attention and follow his advice. it's no joke. when we think we've come so far, it's only that *more* women used to die than currently do.

"snort. my ass." perfect.
Lorraine I knew someone would do a far better job on this that I could and I'm pleased it was you.
Great piece, FLW. I love when someone handles (justifiable) rage with the intelligence you did here.

Gotta hope that some day we will come to our senses on issues like this.
What I find equally disgusting is that the self same people that would deny a raped 14 y.o. an abortion while deriding her for daring to want one are the same ones who would deny her assistance and deride her for being a single mother.

P.S. And it bears noting it wasn't just Rethuglicans who voted for this bill. More than enough Democrats disregarded women's rights to make them equally culpable.
I must believe that let's say half of all who are "pro-life" are completely sincere, and feel a moral compulsion. But the rest, including their theocratic leaders and cynical political enablers, should be required to put an ass-terisk next to every use of "Life" they deploy. Something like: "*Not actual life as lived in the real world, nor any aspect of life impacted by the policies we promote; subject to restrictions and selective application; not responsible for misery and suffering by those who must endure the consequences of our simple-minded legislation and elitist moralizing. "

When I read your posts on women and on Africa I feel this strong urge to write better. To write something powerful, something lasting, something that nags the conscious of the certain, and disturbs the idle, and lays bare the raw wounds created by religious narcissism, the lifelong consequences for women of sanctity and piety when it intrudes upon secular law.

This law. Goddamnit. VETO, Barry, VETO. Thanks, Lorraine.
Congratulations on the well-deserved EP. You read my take, so you already know how I feel. Ditto!!!
Grrrrrrrrrrrr . . . . well-written, FLW . . .
It's going to come down to an Underground Railroad of sorts where women like us will be forced to secretly help women in need of choice.
I always struggle with whether it's gauche to respond to each comment. I just want to say that I'm heartened by your responses. I've been on a tear these last weeks, listening to pundits tell me that the religious wars are fading because of economics. How much more proof do they need that it isn't so?
Lorraine, once again this group shows their true colors. A quick check found that my representative who defeated John Hall in the last election voted for this bill. Interestingly enough, that representative is a woman and a doctor. I know that my former representative, the well known musician John Hall, would have voted against it if he still had his House position. I am figuring the Senate majority will ensure this bill never becomes law.
Just as (sorta) side note, I wonder how many people who SAY they oppose legislation like this actively DID anything about it? How many emailed/called their Congress person? How many donated time or money to support organizations that are fighting for women's rights or (gasp) even did anything other than say "what a shame it all is".

Talk is cheap. Y'all need to either stand up and DO something about it or else just STFU and go stand in the corner with the rest of the hand wringers till they come for you.

(and I'm not talking about you here, FLW. I know you put tangible actions behind your words).
Well said and written. It's a complex subject. I've never met anyone who was joy filled and thrilled she had an abortion. I know women who still feel sad about it, even though she is glad she did it because of the circumstances. If legal abortions are eliminated the rich will fly off to where they are legal and the poor will do it them selves. There will be more lives lost and ruined.
Every word of yours - so very true.
Very honest post -- thanks for sharing your experiences.

The hypocrisy is amazing -- we don't want BIG government, yet we're happy to let the government into the most private parts of our lives.

"I'm not sure how a law that could deny treatment to a pregnant woman whose pregnancy is in trouble can possibly be construed as "protecting life." " -- I couldn't agree more.

Mimetalker - two points about the "feeling sad about having an abortion" issue. First, I also know and know of a lot of women who feel sad that they had a baby they didn't want and they're now saddled with parenting responsibilities they're not prepared for or they gave up a baby for adoption.

Second, just because one "feels sad" about a choice doesn't mean it wasn't the right choice to make.
Wish I could rate this more than once! Beautifully, eloquently put. Yes, they trust us to raise the babies they abandon, but not to govern our own bodies. Snort!
This makes me so maad! (Not your post, the legislation).

We have to make sure those who voted for this POS legislation feel the electoral pain in a way they'll never forget!
"Plenty of self-hating women at Concerned Women for America and other groups of its ilk are all too ready to hold women down while they are raped by the law. "

CWA and all the other fundamentalist right wing nut jobs obviously feel that all the world's wombs belong to them and YOU, Lorraine, are just carrying one around for them.

It's tragic that until we can elect a secular congress, they're almost right.
How did I put it...

They want a small government; they want a government small enough to fit into everyone's bedroom.

Didn't win me many friends in the comment section of the conservative Indiana newspaper.
It makes me furious.
This is not denying women health care. It is denying them an abortion (a health care option) paid for by other people's money and by taxes. If you all feel that strongly, get out your checkbooks and subsidize an abortion clinic and/or doctor. Start a charity for this "need".

You may also consider that this is what happens when health care is given over to politicians. It is and will be politicized. Now they are going after something you all favor (and I am not arguing about abortion per se here) and later they may come after something other people favor.

Another reason to be anti government-run medical care.

For some analysis of the "infant mortality rate" stats and how misleading what we are "led to believe" is.
That's quite a collection of controlling and mean-spirited folks in that House. I appreciate you taking the time to post this as I lost track of this story with all the Occupy activity these days. I also simply do not understand how some people think that health care is some type of privilege or something and should remain a private sector business concern.
Much appreciated post.
I think well-meaning people have been fooled for years by some of the "abortion statistics" like the one about the number of women who died before legal abortion. George McKenna in the Human Life Review (a scholarly journal even for those who hate their views) writes:

The most infamous whopper was the one widely circulated in the years before Roe v. Wade, which helped prepare public opinion for it. That was the claim, by Dr. Bernard Nathanson and Lawrence Lader, pioneers in the movement to legalize abortion, that illegal abortions were causing “5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year,” when the actual figures were in the double digits. (There were 39 deaths in 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade.) It’s worth pausing over this lie because of what Nathanson wrote about it later in Aborting America. (By then, Nathanson had had a change of heart and had become a pro-life spokesman.) Nathanson confessed that “I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose that the others did too if they stopped to think about it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?”

Human Life Review, 2008, G. McKenna
Barbara Joanne,
I see that you're back. I won't try to confuse you with facts, since you will conveniently go find some anti-abortion journal or website that will confirm your views.
I'll simply say that I expect you to now post a dozen or so comments on the blog in your attempt to hijack the argument. And I'll say now that I'm not going to read what you have to say. If you seriously believe that health care is not a human right, and therefore should not be subjected to whether you can pay for it or not, then your views of what it means to be human are at odds with my own.
Good night and good luck.
How long do you think anti-abortion laws would stay on the books if men could get pregnant?

I don't think those laws would ever be passed if men could get pregnant. And it really disgusts me that this bill got ANY support at all from Democrats.
"How long do you think anti-abortion laws would stay on the books if men could get pregnant?"

That law would never be passed, men would be violently protesting. My guess is, men would have many more abortions than women.
god damn... people are so fucking stupid

why do women not have equal representation? I am tired of being dictated to by the other sex simply because that is the way it's always been done.
The same people who voted for this hideous law are the ones who champion war, claim that any question of war is an attack on our troops, and cheer when another human being is executed in Texas. These are men who want to protect life?

Were any of the members of Congress who voted "Aye" women?
By informal count (names and if they sound female or not- didn't research) yes, but the numbers come down on the side of women NOT voting against their interest, unless it's politically prudent for them to do so. (all of the women traitors were Repubs, and voting yes keeps them personally in power even if it harms their gender)

Yes Votes (251) 22/251
Member Party Dist.
Sandra Adams R FL-24
Diane Black R TN-6
Marsha Blackburn R TN-7
Jo Bonner R AL-1
Mary Bono Mack R CA-45
Ann Marie Buerkle R NY-25
Shelley Moore Capito R WV-2
Renee Ellmers R NC-2
Jo Ann Emerson R MO-8
Virginia Foxx R NC-5
Vicky Hartzler R MO-4
Nan Hayworth R NY-19
Lynn Jenkins R KS-2
Cynthia M. Lummis R WY-1
Connie Mack R FL-14
Sue Myrick R NC-9
Kristi Noem R SD-1
Martha Roby R AL-2
Dana Rohrabacher R CA-46
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R FL-18
Jean Schmidt R OH-2
Lynn Westmoreland R GA-3

No Votes (172) 44/172
Member Party Dist.

Tammy Baldwin D WI-2
Karen Bass D CA-33
Shelley Berkley D NV-1
Judy Biggert R IL-13
Lois Capps D CA-23
Kathy Castor D FL-11
Judy Chu D CA-32
Yvette D. Clarke D NY-11
Susan A. Davis D CA-53
Diana DeGette D CO-1
Rosa DeLauro D CT-3
Donna Edwards D MD-4
Anna G. Eshoo D CA-14
Marcia L. Fudge D OH-11
Janice Hahn D CA-36
Colleen Hanabusa D HI-1
Mazie K. Hirono D HI-2
Kathy Hochul D NY-26
Sheila Jackson-Lee D TX-18
Marcy Kaptur D OH-9
Barbara Lee D CA-9
Zoe Lofgren D CA-16
Nita M. Lowey D NY-18
Carolyn B. Maloney D NY-14
Doris Matsui D CA-5
Carolyn McCarthy D NY-4
Betty McCollum D MN-4
Gwen Moore D WI-4
Grace F. Napolitano D CA-38
Nancy Pelosi D CA-8
Chellie Pingree D ME-1
Laura Richardson D CA-37
Lucille Roybal-Allard D CA-34
Linda T. Sanchez D CA-39
Loretta Sanchez D CA-47
Jan Schakowsky D IL-9
Allyson Y. Schwartz D PA-13
Terri Sewell D AL-7
Jackie Speier D CA-12
Betty Sutton D OH-13
Nydia M. Velázquez D NY-12
Debbie Wasserman Schultz D FL-20
Maxine Waters D CA-35
Lynn Woolsey D CA-6
Thanks for posting this. Several New York Democrats also voted in favor of the bill. I just don't get it. How can you decide that half the population is not entitled to the same medical benefits as the other half? Is there any situation where a man is going to have prove he's not trying to abort his own baby in order to get medical help?

And Seer. I hear you. I, for one, am not willing to give up sex, but if someone is opposed to abortion and they're not using contraceptives, I don't know what they're thinking.
"Several New York Democrats also voted in favor of the bill. I just don't get it."

Let's not confuse "Democrat" with "liberal."

Two things need to happen for you to beat the "Taliban" in this country. More females need to be encouraged to run for public office, and the sanctimonious Puritan/Taliban voice needs to be quieted.

There is a very liberal woman near you in Massachusetts that you may wish to support. Elizabeth Warren is fighting very hard for Scott Brown's seat in the senate. Send her ten bucks. I did. And I live in the West coast.
On. ON the West coast.
This just makes me so furious. It is so stupid to spend an entire day on this when there is already a quite restrictive law on the books. Good post.
crap. now I'm all pissed off again. this is an unwinable fight but with every breath in my body I will keep on trying. great writing. sorry about your father. It's truly unbelievable to me that people who swear they are protecting life can so easily and callously take it without a backward glance. Keep your anger, girl. anger is good sometimes.
‘’Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder,
earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe ...
that such a law [punishing abortion]
would have the desired effect.
It seems to be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed,
while the root remains. We want prevention, not merely punishment.
We must reach the root of the evil, and destroy it...
It is practiced by those whose inmost souls revolt from the dreadful deed.”

 Susan B. Anthony (signed "A") in The Revolution, the suffragette newspaper Anthony edited (August 8, 1869). [4]


In the post war days.

Tell me, please, how women can raise themselves out of the depths of poverty if they cannot even control their own reproduction? You ask, rhetorically. They cannot.
Abortion is a tough subject. Reproductive rights is an easy one.

Rape is another easy subject.

These subjects kind of coalesce around the idea of women's
freedom of their own bodies, it seems...
As you say:

this is what these laws represent. Legal Rape. If rape is the insertion of an object into the body of an unwilling person.
"Pro-life,­­" but anti-birth control, anti-sex ed, anti-educa­­tion, anti-stude­­nt loan, anti-socia­­l mobility.

This relentless push by Republicans to dismember Roe v. Wade and strip women of their right to a safe abortion has nothing to do with women, with children, with fetuses or with any sort of reverence for the "sanctity" of human life.

I'll quote Fred Rotondaro, Senior Fellow, the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC:

"The Republican Party has used abortion as a political tool to raise money and rally millions of average men and women to vote against their own economic interests. The abortion issue has been the reason Catholic and Protestant church leaders have put aside their stated social justice goals to support Republican candidates who pledge opposition to abortion..."

The Republican Party's opposition to abortion is a powerful rallying cause and a brilliant political ploy.
No Lorraine, I do not have values that would encourage me to not want people, all people, to have health care. (I am glad that doctors cannot refuse care to people by law.)

But this fight isn't about health care. Rather, it is about who pays for other people's health care. (We need to be intellectually honest about that.)

My points are two:

One) Do we want to force people, via taxes, to pay for other people's health care? Is it moral? Is it efficient? Is it constitutional?

Tw0) Abortion and other procedures that some don't approve of are excellent examples of what happens when health care decisions are not made by doctors and their patients, but by politicians who have to answer to those who elect them. When health care funding is made political, health care decisions will be politicized. Now it is abortion. I freely admit that this is fueled by the dislike of abortion by what I assume are your political opponents. Of course that is so. Later, some on the left may question why they should pay for, for example, a heart treatment for someone who is overweight because of lifestyle (as opposed to genetics) and/or smokes. The politics will never end. It will occur on both sides.

Let people decide on their own health care decisions and, yet again, I'd encourage all of those who want to help women in the situations you describe get out their checkbooks and donate to places like Planned Parenthood and/or start their own charitable organizations to help those women.

And if it is hijacking to write comments on your blog, I guess I'll just have to plead guilty. People who write on controversial issues should expect that not everyone agrees with them and I, as someone who writes "against the grain" here, welcome comments.
finger - You provided: "... abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women."

No its not. It is about convenience. Not that I object to convenience. Its just that we have a very big shortage of adoptable new borns. A woman with an unwanted pregnancy COULD choose to provide a newborn to an adoptive couple, and even get paid for it.

What I do not understand is why a woman would croak a half-born kid when it could get born ninety seconds later and given up for adoption. That is very very weird to me. Don't get me wrong.

I was a single guy 42 years and have no idea how many abortions my girl friends might have had. Never asked.
PS - fingerlakes

The Supreme Court recently decided 9-0 that religious organizations are exempt from various governmental requirements that are in opposition to their religious tenants.

Just out of curiosity, do you support that decision. Just asking.....