big buts at the train tracks

Jon Henner

Jon Henner
November 26
full time father, full time deaf activist, some times writer, most times thinker, all times wandering.


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MAY 1, 2009 4:10PM

The Sum of Her

Rate: 41 Flag


I’m staunchly pro-choice, but I don’t actually have a dog in the fight.  My rights aren’t impacted either way, especially since there’s no valid male “abortion” (failing to pay child support, notwithstanding).  I continue to fight for women’s rights, though, because it’s the just thing to do (I wish more women would do that for disability rights, but I digress).  No woman deserves to have the state seize control of her body for the duration of gestation.

We’re all very familiar with a vocal contingency of the population that believes fetuses have more or less the same legal rights as the women carrying them.  Here, in Arizona; one of the last bastions of the lunatic Republican fringe, four anti-choice bills were proposed just weeks after Democratic Napolitano abandoned her post and left liberal Arizona-ians twisting (One would think that the Republican legislators would have better things to do with their time, other than mucking over GLBTQI rights, such as solving the budget crisis.).  While protecting the children may be a noble endeavor, I can’t help but feel that the anti-choice folks are more concerned about protecting fetuses than already born children.  The deep cuts in social and school spending here in Arizona only reinforces my belief.

At least we have a president who appears to be pro-choice.  Obama’s belief that grown women don’t need the state involved in the affairs of their bodies bothers many pro-choice foes, even those who would dare suggest secession, or that the government under Obama’s till veers socialist.  Obama’s planned appearance at Notre Dame is especially flaming for them.

When I was a child, I enjoyed reading Kathleen Parker.  It was nice to have a female editorial perspective in the Chicago Tribune, other than Mary Schmidt, whose sole success was writing for a comic and having one of her columns about sunscreen go viral.  When I began thinking critically, about the time I entered high school, Ms. Parker’s writing became less relevant.  Like many conservative writers, Ms. Parker has a specific worldview and isn’t above creating convoluted, twisted exercises in logic in order to frame her view accordingly.  These type of arguments frustrate me because when the logic structure itself is questioned, those who defend it start screaming about strawmen and try to direct the argument back to the supposed points (My poor, poor brain). 

I still read Ms. Parker when she pops up in the Arizona Republic, mostly for nostalgic purposes, and to educate myself on how the other side thinks.  She’s more tolerable than Cal Thomas and Charles Krauthammer, both of whom I absolutely cannot read for fear of destroying china and furniture.  And, now, with George Will thoroughly discredited (at least he should be) after publishing corrupt science in a weak attempt to refute global climate change, I don’t really have a conservative writer who isn’t a pantomime of a thinking, rational human being. 

Today’s Ms. Parker column was a plea to Obama to refrain from going to Notre Dame.  His appearance there will offend all the poor anti-choice folk.  I’ve read Ms. Parker long enough to know that she never made similar requests to W. Bush, asking him to refrain from attending various universities for fear of offending the anti-war people.  I’ve long since known that conservatives tend to be the masters at do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do politicking, so that particular element of her column didn’t bother me.  What really got me hot was the following

It always seemed to me that the truest form of feminism, as in the early days of suffrage would to be to hold abhorrent the state-sanctioned destruction of women’s unique gifts.

           (Emphasis Mine)

In a single sentence, Ms. Parker managed to reduce the whole of women’s experiences and perspectives to their uteruses and their ability to carry fetuses.  In fact, women’s ability to conceive is so precious, according to Ms. Parker, that the state must step in and control their bodies in order to ensure that these women experience their unique gifts regardless of their mental, physical, and financial states.  And, this argument comes at a time when the states are reducing much of the social services aimed at helping women in weakened mental, physical, and financial states take care of themselves and their offspring.

That the state doesn’t force women to choose doesn’t bother Ms. Parker.  She’d rather that women not have a choice, because she possibly doesn’t believe that women possess the mental faculty necessary to make such a choice.  The weight of her women-as-children argument doesn’t faze her because she engages in what psychologists call the actor-observer fallacy.  In short, other women are incapable of making the right choice, but she is able to make decisions properly regardless of mitigating circumstances.  Ms. Parker can’t see the slippery slope her argument leads because her mentally constructed reality won’t let her.

Obama needs to be at Notre Dame to show the anti-choice crowd that he is above their pettiness.  Ms. Parker needs to learn that the whole of the female experience is not limited to her uterus.  If she doesn’t, this is one out-of-work father who wouldn’t mind having her job.



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I've got a unique gift to give that bitch...
Is that gift something I can watch on pay-per-view?
Jon--This essay was awesome, thank you so much for writing it. The Notre Dame thing...sigh. I hope the anti-abortion folks realize that all protesting Obama's presence on their campus will do is show their petty and narrow-minded colors. And Ms. Parker needs to reevaluate her idea of feminism. Rated.
Thank you, Jon, for adding your voice to those of us who want Obama to stand up for women's rights by signing FOCA, and who think that the reduction of women to their ability to reproduce is reprehensible. We are more than the sum of our parts. We are more than our parts. When do we get to be whole human beings?
I, for one, would pay to see VR take on Ms. Parker. Outstanding essay - and right on.
Well said. When will there be wide-spread understanding that pro-choice is just that, the ability to have a choice. Whether your choice is the same as mine is irrelevant. The fact that you have one is relevant. And I am not my uterus.
As Jessabelle noted, the more these folks complain and make a big fuss...the more they show their pettiness and narrow-mindedness.

I hope they make a huge fuss.

The more religion does to damage itself...the less there is for us to do.
Generally I agree with you, esp. on Parker. But the underlying problem is using anybody's offense as the key index of morality. Racists are offended by racial equity; those who favor racial equity are offended by racists. We can't figure this one out by weighing offensiveness, unless we introduce a double standard by which somebody's offense counts more than others just because of who they are. I seem to recall that conservatives did a fine job of mocking the idea of "offense" back in the '90s. Same objections still apply, and we're all in for the harder work of striving to articulate moral positions on other grounds.

As for Notre Dame, I wonder what they were thinking in issuing the invitation. Surely this backlash was easy to predict.
Jessabelle: Always a pleasure to see your comments. One thing you may want to consider is changing your use of “anti-abortion” to “anti-choice.” Reframing an argument is a pretty powerful tactic. The problem with anti-abortion is that very few people are for abortion. The anti-choice’s use of pro-abortion makes us pro-choice folk look like rampaging fetus-yankers. Pro-choice refocuses the issue on a woman’s right to choose rather than the abortion itself.

Fingerlakeswanderer, Owl, and Coyote: Amen.

Frank: Good to see that you’re still around. I thought you left OS.

Incandescent: Looking forward to it. Thanks for reading.

Diotima: I really wanted to focus more on Ms. Parker’s ridiculous anti-choice argument rather than the perceived offensiveness of the Notre Dame Obama choice. You’re right that offensiveness entails a certain amount of moral relativity; however, through forms of national discourse, we can ferret out what is truly offensive to the most amount of people in the most amount of situations.
Should Obama speak at Notre Dame?


As a Catholic whose children attend the local Jesuit high school, I can tell you there are plenty of Catholics who are pro-choice. That, by the way, includes boatloads of the Catholic faculty at Notre Dame. More important than where anyone stands on the issue, the notion of tolerance for and listening to alternative viewpoints is critical to this debate. I know many people associated with ND; not a one has an issue with Obama--most voted for him. As usual, it's a few crackpots who have dominated the news.
Diotima: You wonder what they were thinking. Well, here's the answer: Notre Dame has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence and scholarly independence. They are not and never have been a place that dictates religion to their students; instead they are famous for nurturing critical thinking. They have hosted Presidents of both parties in the past; in fact, it's their common practice to invite the newly elected President--including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

I believe the recent issue arises from two separate phenomena: the rise of the virulent conservative Catholic and the increasingly sensational news cycle. There's a new strain of Catholicism that has taken its cues from Protestant fundamentalism. This did not exist when I was a child. Even the priests and faculty at the Catholic University of Dayton (my alma mater) have officially noted it, registering their dismay at the lockstep, politically minded, conservative Catholics that are showing up at their school.

Please understand that most Catholics would not object to an Obama appearance--this is the right-wing nuts taking over the American Church. (Think Bill Donahue of the American Catholic League--he's crazy and he's secular.)
Jon, you're right, I'm not sure why I typed "anti-abortion." Maybe because "anti-choice" is, while accurate, so clearly rhetorical--even if it's rhetoric that aligns perfectly with my views on the matter. By anti-abortion, I meant anti-legal abortion (which obviously poses an impediment to a woman's right to choose), but that's not sufficiently clear.
Re: Janet Napolitano leaving her governorship to become the Secretary of Homeland Security: my heart sank like I stone when I first heard the news. We here in Arizona need all the help we can get to keep the Repubs at bay, and losing Napolitano meant we became saddled with a Republican governor. All I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best.

First, this was very well written; I like your style. The anti-choice folks are a unique brand of hypocrisy, which you point out well in your article.

This is a hard one for me. I've thought a lot about this issue and have come to the conclusion that I'm pro-life in most cases, which I realise is a very unpopular stand point on OS. There are of course exceptions; rape, incest, severe deformities where a childs quality of life would be affected, etc but I feel that any abortion needs to be done very early on. I do believe in the rights of the fetus.
Natalie, do you think Obama shouldn't speak at Notre Dame?
No Lainey, I think he should speak at Notre Dame. I am not against pro-choicers, or pro-choice policy. My own personal opinion is that the actual procedures we use to abort fetuses are inhumane. If that changes, so might my view point. In Australia, where I live, there isn't as big a divide as in the US. Abortion isn't a topic of such hot debate.
Awesome! rated.
You know, the more I think about it, the angrier I get at the specific people from ND who publicly objected. In other words, HOW RUDE! The idea that someone would be invited somewhere and then put in this awkward, uncomfortable position of knowing he's not wanted (by some) is the height of "unChristian" behavior. I can see a private memo to the Dean or whoever invited him, articulating the concerns, perhaps even asking permission to not attend as a faculty member or something. This whole thing reminds me of Achmadinijad's weird reception at Columbia. Remember how CU's president introduced him with a bunch of veiled insults and Achmadinejad actually called him on it, saying he was appalled at the rude reception? No matter what else I don't like about that guy, I had to give that one to him; you don't invite someone to your place and then pick them apart and make him feel unwanted. I just all of a sudden got a bee in my bonnet about this, but I'm done. Please go back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Great post!

Do you recall the controversy over Pastor Rick Warren speaking in Obama's inauguration? What was it he said? Oh yes, something like, "We don't have to agree on all issues in order to work together." It's this kind of divide that further polarizes people. What is different about the Notre Dame incident?

If we don't learn to really hear each other from time to time, how can we ever hope to find common ground on some of these emotional issues? I don't care for Rick Warren, especially in light of some of his comments about sexual minorities like me. But if familiarity breeds understanding, and I think it does, it behooves us all to make an effort to really listen, and to stop writing people off as "bad" if they aren't in lock step with us.

We can be moved, and we can move others. This won't happen if we never meet peaceably.
I'm an Obama fan but I'm disappointed that he no longer considers as a priority a constitutional amendment to guarantee reproductive choice. If ever there is a time to set this issue to rest once and for all, this is it. Would there be a backlash in 2010? Absolutely. Would it be worth the backlash? Absolutely.
Since Notre Dame invites EVERY president, did they invite pro-choice Bill Clinton?
It's a very rare thing for me to read an article by a pro-choice male. The sad reality is that the men I know who have championed abortions considered themselves "pro-life" until their own girlfriends became pregnant and they were apoplectic at the thought of paying child support. Even then, they still considered themselves opposed to abortion except in their one case.

So, I am immediately grateful that you chose such a topic to discuss. I am even more grateful that you did so in such an intelligent and eloquent manner. I don't believe anyone else could have done such an excellent job. Rated and dugg.
John, if only we could be so lucky that you would get Ms. Parker's job!

Lainey - I thought the same thing about ... okay, not looking up how to spell it... the president of Iran. Can't stand the guy; couldn't comprehend why a university would invite him to speak; then really couldn't comprehend why they would introduce him with rude remarks. If your stand is that you are so open minded that you want to hear this guy's views, don't you need to set the stage for that with a little respect?

Sorry Jon - sideline. I thought your article and arguments were fantastic. I wish you would write about stem cell next. Here in Texas, Perry (Governor Goodhair, as I believe Molly Ivins called him) is trying to undermine Obama's new direction on stem cell research. Cannot understand how people get so worked up over cells in a test tube that will be discarded.

Also - and sorry to go on so long - but your reply to Verbal gave me my best laugh of the evening.
First of all, thank you for this. Well-put. Parker's twisted logic missed the most-important aspect of feminism that women ought to be able to think for themselves. (I especially appreciate your mention of Parker's venture into the actor-observer fallacy.)

Further, the Catholic hysteria over Obama's invitation to Notre Dame is astounding. I came across a Catholic newspaper at my parents' home last week that railed about the terrifying descent into despotism represented by Obama. Seriously.
At least he's capable of coherent sentences. I say let the MF'er talk where ever he wants to. He's got a f'ing brain and can decide for himself. Bitches man!...
I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to comment. If I could, I’d reply to each of you individually. But, then, my responses would be longer than my original blog post. A couple of comments stood out, though.

Arizona Viking: To my utter shock, Jan Brewer seems somewhat competent. She’s fighting hard to raise taxes. From what I’ve read, she wants to raise the sales tax, which is too regressive for my tastes. But, then again, my sources could be wrong. It’s not easy to find good info on Arizona politics.

Natalie B: The most awesome thing about pro-choice is that it allows people to be against the abortion procedure. My beef is with a select group of people who feel that their moral values require legislation. That is, if they’re against something, it must be codified accordingly.

Incandescent: Most morality-based legislation, in my opinion, is filled with logical loopholes. Witness the GLBTQI anti-marriage rhetoric.

Leslie: Like you, I’ve been fighting for my rights and the rights of others for a long time. Some people, no matter what reason you provide, will not budge from their worldview. Until those people lose power, there will be no equity in our country.

Renaissance: I would’ve thought that SCA-ers would be more open-minded. Then again, I’m not privy to a lot of their conversations. I’m usually the quiet one in the corner trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Adfeminem: Happy to put my graduate degree in psychology to use, for once. Maybe one day, it’ll get me a job.
Ms Parker, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Mr. Water Canon...

AARRGH! That patriarchal finger wagging assumption that women are too fragile to make their own decisions really burns my bacon.

I'm pro-choice as I feel the state should NOT be making the decisions about family planning, and that Planned Parenthood really beats the other variety. For best results, parenthood SHOULD be planned. I'm no more in favor of forcing a woman to have a child she doesn't want and perhaps cannot support than I am of coercing women into having abortions when they very much want the child.
I agree that some people may never modify their positions on social issues like this one. Thanks for commenting on my comment. I'm just getting my feet wet here, but I'm enjoying it immensely.
This is an excellent piece Jon. Honestly, I'm surprised at the backlash. Back in the day when I went to an all girl's Catholic high school, before Roe vs. Wade, the debates were heated but most girls were pro-choice. The nuns encouraged the conversations. My parents were practicing Catholics and although they didn't like the idea of abortion, they were never staunch about it. Most Catholics I knew were pro-choice. If there is a demonstration at Notre Dame, I will be very curious to see how many of them are students or for that matter, even Catholic.
Verbal Remedy stole my line. Damnit. Now I got nothing clever to say.
I wish that some women would exercise their cherished right to choose when choosing whether or not to spread their legs. Could save us all a lot of trouble down the road.

On the other hand, reading some of the comments on OS, I'm inclined to legitimize abortion up to, shall we say, the age of 12.
I just think it's generally very bad when anybody, especially a sitting president, has to pass a litmus test before they can even open their mouth (and btw, Obama is not even going to talk about abortion). Jeez, it reminds me of the days in Great Britain when people had to belong to the Church of England. Now, according to SOME Catholics, a person who does not uphold their orthodoxy is barred from speaking?!! Isn't that making some kind of mockery of the fact that a majority elected Obama? And what about free speech?
The irony! The Catholic vote went decidedly for Obama. I hope he thanks them during his speech. Now wouldn't that be funny?
Good points generally, but one quibble:

You wrote: My rights aren’t impacted either way

This isn't quite true. Were you to impregnate someone and neither of you wanted to keep the pregnancy yet the woman was unable to get an abortion, you could find your rights substantially infringed if she had to carry the pregnancy to term. (Incidentally, this could happen to you while married.)
ms. parker used to refer to her southern, south carolina i believe, roots in making her "common sense" opinions seem rooted in the everyday, normal, working family's life routine. she isn't or wasn't anti-intellectual but just a "red state" woman. the south still seems to be "red".

if asked, of course obama should speak. putting the right of living women to healthcare and their care first would be refreshing to hear in or from nearly any forum. it seems like years since any leader stood up for planned parenthood,etc.
I am so upset with this whole politicization of the abortion issue, which becomes progressively worse . Now, more and more, I do not hear "pro-choice" -- instead it is termed "pro-abortion," as if there were such a thing!
IMO, what has sprung up derives from a Christian viewpoint, where God makes man in His image. Fine if that is your belief system. During the recent stem cell dust-up, think I heard the same arguments applied to blastocysts that would never become people. Fear that this wackiness over products of conception has become mainstream.
Thank you for this fine article.
"In a single sentence, Ms. Parker managed to reduce the whole of women’s experiences and perspectives to their uteruses and their ability to carry fetuses."

Yes, and that's a very troubling reduction. What about those of us who have never had that ability? We are still very much women, and all women are very much more than that particular facet of biology. I wonder if she realizes just how insulting that is.
I agree with Ms. Parker, feminism took a wrong turn 40 years ago with their push for sexual "liberation" rather then promoting the value of women's "unique gifts" of motherhood and nurturing. What a different world we would have to day if those values had been promoted by feminists rather than a misguided notion that they could be like men. Men have, on the hedonistic surface, benefited the most from this upheaval in our society and children have suffered the most. Children, in single parent households, are the face of poverty in this nation. And ironically neither financial need nor risk to health constitute the common reasons for abortion. The most common reason is convenience. All women need support to bring a child to term. But when that support network: boyfriend, husband, family, friends turn to her and say, go have an abortion, we can't be bothered, what kind of "choice" does she really have. Our society is failing, when 1 in 4 pregnancies is terminated in abortion, we have lowered ourselves to the level of animals that eat their young.
Turns out you are far more than BBQ and boobies.

(Well, ok, I knew that already, but the joke was there, and I had to take it.)

Well done. You really are a superior writer. Dammit, someone needs to fecking hire you.
VR is here with us because, despite the fact that women had no "legal" reproductive choice in 1967, back-alley abortions were always an alternative. I, personally, would still have chosen to put my life and plans on hold for the few months required to bring her into this fortunate world, had that "legal" choice" been available.
Please note that I said, "personally." My choice. Every woman has the right to choose, according to her own circumstances and beliefs. No one is obligated to restrict her (his) choices or their life, in order to appease anyone else's moral code. What if one doesn't believe in the bible? Must they structure their options according to Judeo-Christian precepts? As I read it, The U.S. Constitution crystal-clear on this point. I rest my case.