My young driver, Supreme Court, and a simple thought about abortion

The Supreme Court’s decisions last month were simply bad: allowing anti-abortion clinics to mislead women, upholding a truly rigged system of gerrymandering, ignoring unconstitutional racist context and motivation of Trump’s travel ban, and twisting the first amendment to harm workers in their ability to organize for collective bargaining. Added to that, we were shocked to learn that Justice Kennedy, a sometime swing voter, is retiring, leaving a vacancy for Trump to fill with a radical conservative.

So many bad decisions in such a short time reminds us of the fragility of our rights. Now more than ever we need to heed the ACLU and “vote like our rights depend in it” because they do! And as we come closer to losing a woman’s right to choose her own health outcomes, it seems like time to talk about it.

Here is a simple thought about abortion. Tell me I’m wrong:

My oldest son recently got his driver’s license! Despite long anticipation of this event (my very first blog considered this moment), he and I were not prepared for the question of whether or not he wanted to be an organ donor. He was hesitant, and who am I to tell him what to do on such a personal question? That is when it struck me…

Our society does not require people to donate parts of their dead body to save a life. It is optional, left to personal preference, religion or belief. Yet many would force a woman to compromise her living body and risk her health and possibly her life for the possibility of giving birth to life. We don’t require each other to donate blood even though that saves lives and has no negative health outcomes for us. We don’t even require people to save someone from dying right in front of us even though we could easily stop it. In Florida two teens were given a pass for filming a drowning man instead of lifting a finger to save him. Yet women endure a multitude of negative health outcomes when bringing a baby to term and giving birth.

While U.S. leadership is doing more to restrict women’s access to abortion, Ireland is in the process of ending its strict abortion ban, despite its Catholic majority. Now our U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of being packed with staunch conservatives for decades to come. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch (whose mother was a militant anti-abortionist under the Reagan administration) combined with Justice Kennedy’s impending vacancy while Republicans control the Senate bodes ill for preserving women’s rights.  While some states have laws protecting a woman’s right to choose (like Illinois who recently enacted legislation because of our proactive legislators and our active citizenry), if Roe v. Wade is overturned it will negatively impact women in 17 states.

Let’s be honest, pregnancy is a serious medical condition. Even in the modern world women still lose their lives due to pregnancy. On balance, it is safer for a woman’s life and long-term health to undergo an abortion procedure than to carry a baby to term.  Before you cringe at this statement, consider that our awareness of that is not causing abortion rates to increase, abortion rates are going down in the U.S. Indeed, women who intend to be moms (for the first time or many times over) still carry babies to term, bravely facing the wonderful and awful possibilities that await them.

Why are women held to a higher standard of care toward others than dead people are? Certainly our laws often impose a higher standard on people with a duty of care, like parents of a child. But while women’s organs get shifted and compromised, and some body functions get permanently affected, we don’t require a father to donate spare parts (like a kidney or portion of his lungs, liver, intestines, or pancreas) to save a daughter. We don’t even require police, who are sworn to “protect and defend“, to save anyone in particular unless perhaps when they created the hazardous situation for that person. Heck, we often don’t even discipline officers for injuring or killing people, but we will heckle and deride football players who kneel in support of life.  That’s pretty ironic. In fact, does anyone appreciate the vomit-inducing irony of having a president who has a history of molesting women, including having extramarital unprotected sex with women, and then has the gall to reduce women’s access to reproductive health care including abortions?

If you want to force women by law to bring a fetus to full term, then you must force all people to donate blood, and all parents to donate skin and body parts to their children, and all dead bodies to offer up their organs. While you are at it, you must punish sexually aggressive men (like our president) and give rapists a lifetime sentence (after all, being a mom is a lifetime commitment). You must create, and enforce by law, a culture that fully empowers women in controlling all sexual encounters, without power plays, abuse, and manipulation. If you want the laws of our government to govern so much of our personal lives, for the sake of life, then so be it.

If, instead, you feel that governmental laws should not invade your privacy nor dictate your personal  decisions, then defend a woman’s right to choose. Advocate to support Planned Parenthood.

My son opted out of the donor program at this time. And even though I know this program prevents deaths, collectively across America that could mean the equivalent of 22 jumbo jets crashing every year with no survivors, and even though my best friend died in her twenties while she was in need of an organ transplant, I support his sovereignty over his own body, his personal privacy from governmental inquiry requiring him to defend that intimate decision, and ultimately, I support his right to choose.

Women’s March Chicago: Big, Beautiful Historic, Sober, Determined

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How was the Women’s March today? Depends on who you ask.

“Big!” Says my sixteen year old son. “Lots and lots of people.” Considering he is over six feet tall I suppose he had a good view of the crowd and the pink hats. He also was not at the Women’s March last year and so his biggest march was Earth Day with roughly 45,000 people. Today’s crowd was more like 300,000.

“Beautiful!” said the police commander when my friend asked him how it went. Peaceful and pleasant almost to a fault. Right before the march an organizer said, “Remember to be respectful of each other and public property.” And we were.

“Historic”, said our friend who also was impressed that it marks the anniversary of the birth of a Movement.

“Sober and mature” I thought, compared to last year’s marches which swelled beyond expectations. Last year in D.C. everything felt electric as people rushed with outrage and urgency to defend Americans and the nation’s ideals.  Now both their heads and their hearts are in the game. People know better how to proceed, how to pace themselves, how to win the long game to restore this country.

I saw ‘Dan Biss for Governor” signs. Meanwhile, JB Pritzker wound his way through the crowd near us , accessible to folks for chat and pics. Lisa Madigan gave one of the most inspiring and focused speeches. Basically she said,  “1. You can do anything (you already do, like build businesses, teach, volunteer), 2. You are powerful, 3. We are more powerful together. 4. Get out there to vote and run for office.” Powerful message we can think on, and act on!

My recommended 2018 To Do list:

  1. Register to vote
  2. Ask everyone you know to register to vote–friends, neighbors, sales clerks, the mailman, (I remind telemarketers who call my home)
  3. Stay alert for rallies, marches and other organized activity in your area. See PersistList.org for happenings in Chicago and/or sign up for your favorite causes who will send you alerts.
  4. Stay informed about candidates as we approach elections. Go to ballotready.org for information about candidates up and down the ballot, and triangulate news sources for good information.
  5. Let’s all get in formation and march to the polls for 2018!

Heed MLK Jr.: Women’s March Chicago this Saturday, Jan. 20 at 11 am (Columbus & Congress)

LADY LIBERTY IS STILL WATCHING YOU!

This Saturday heed the warning of Martin Luther King Jr.

“…And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights….” Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream”

Were moms and men, women and children, simply blowing off steam when they marched in last year’s Women’s March? Will they be content to return to business as usual? NO!

The reasons I marched are equally true today if not more true. This administration has proven to be even more bigoted, cruel, incompetent, and corrupt than we warned last year. The president has continued to falsely bash Americans and American institutions, eroding the fabric of our democratic society.

If you add up the hateful things Trump has said about women, Muslims, Mexican-Americans, American cities, FBI, Intelligence agencies, journalists, free press, judges, Congressional Democrats (and Republicans!), his own “loyal” staffers, foreign allies, (and fill in blank___!), and then add up who Trump has endorsed or failed to condemn…

…it becomes clear that he has no interest in protecting Americans, and upholding American laws and American ideals.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans remain complicit. It is up to us to “Show me what democracy looks like!” See you this Saturday!!

Women’s March in Chicago

Sat, January 20, 2018

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM CST

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LOCATION

Downtown Chicago –

302 S. Columbus

Chicago, IL 60604

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OTHER LOCATIONS NATIONWIDE

Victory Today, March on Saturday, and No Work on May Day

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Today roughly 2,000 women, men and some children, gathered at the Women’s Rally in the state Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois. It is a long haul to make it to Springfield from most of the state. Many people, like me and my son, took the day off from work and school. It was worth it. Unlike the Science March Chicago  and the Tax Day March Chicago (which were awesome by the way) this rally was directly aligned for legislative impact. Today HB40 was passed in the House 62-55. This bill is intended to protect women and doctors from an automatic trigger to criminalize abortion and abortion counseling the moment Roe v, Wade is overturned (a real possibility now that Gorsuuch was confirmed for the US Supreme Court). The Senate will likely pass it, but Governor Rauner flipped his position, balking at one piece on state employee and insurance coverage for abortions, even though he has personally donated thousands to Planned Parenthood. Please put pressure on Rauner to sign.

Meanwhile, there are many other bills pending that deserve attention, such as the Equal Rights Amendment, important language changes to Equal Pay Act (to stop the common practice of employers to ask job candidates to disclose past salary), Learning with Dignity (feminine products in schools), etc.

I met Daniel Biss at the rally today, a state senator who spoke eloquently at the Tax Day March, and again today. Based in near north suburbs of Chicago, he seems to have the right mix of integrity, compassion and political savvy and activism. He is one to watch in the next race for Governor.

Coming up: This Saturday, April 29 at Noon in Federal PLaza, Chicago is the People’s Climate March. Spread the word, people don’t know much about this one. We are going after all. Hope to see you there!  Also May 1 is the Labor March.

Keep writing to your US Senators and Congressmen to demand an independent investigation of Trump-Russia collusion. This is criminal to the point of high treason, way beyond the “lock her up” pay for play Trump activities. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are watching Fox propaganda/whitewashing or not reading news at all, so get busy triangulating your news sources or give me a ring for a jumpstart.

Karaoke, Community, and April Action Items

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Life is busy, especially when layering on political action to our routines. So squeaking out a full weekend for the annual Temple retreat this weekend was a little more stressful than usual, knowing weekend chores awaited our return home. But true to the purpose of a retreat, and the express purpose of this one, I emerged refreshed and with a renewed commitment to community. We discussed unity, compassion fatigue, implicit bias (read Blind Spot), and Jewish spiritual teaching. I even had the cathartic experience of belting out “I Will Survive” in a karaoke improv moment. (See my suggested lyrics further below)

So with a renewed energy, let me share a few action items on the horizon. Check your energy level and then check your calendar. Let me know if you want to join me for any of it. Life is contagious, let’s catch it together:

  1. April 5 (Wednesday) – Advocate for women in Springfield, Illinois. Register (free) to join the first Illinois Women Moving Forward (IWMF) advocacy event.
  2. April 15 (Saturday) – Tax March in DC and other cities Learn more. (And I also suggest we carry signs that ask for independent investigation of Russian interference)
  3. April 22Science March on Earth Day in Chicago,  Washington, D.C. or check elsewhere. Please make this one huge! I think of this as more of a Facts Matter March and frankly I think the week-later Climate March  (April 29) should be combined with this one.

Seriously, try this at home

I Will Survive” sung by Gloria Gaynor, written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. Lyrics parodied by citizenstacy.

Once I was afraid, I was petrified
When I woke up to a president who cheated and who lied
I spent oh so many nights just thinking how he’d done us wrong
And I grew strong, we must all learn to get along

And how he acts, from outer space
Trying to divide and make us fight because of race
I should have checked that voting box, 
I should have locked it with a key
If I had known for just one second he’d be four years bugging me

All right now go, walk out the door, don’t stay around now, you’re not welcome any more
Weren’t you the one who tried to break me with your lies, you’d think I’d crumble, submit to all those Russian spies? Oh no not I. I will survive. For as long as I know how to love I know I’ll be alive. I’ve got all my life to live and I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive. We will survive. 

I took all the strength I had not to fall apart, just trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart. And I spent oh so many nights reading news to make you cry, but now I hold my head up high.

I March with Women! (pause) I go to meetings! (pause) I talk to strangers, (pause) Bring happy greetings. (add your own awesome actions) (Repeat chorus). (March in place)

PHOTO OF GLORIA GAYNOR ATTRIBUTED TO: Docklandsboyhttp://flickr.com/photos/mogwai_83/335530580/

It Takes a Woman. To Save a Village.

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Today, in honor of International Women’s Day and a call for action following the Women’s March, a group of women (and my father and ten-year old son) took off for the day and toured Jane Addams Hull House Museum in Chicago.

I was humbled by the sheer breadth and depth of what Hull House accomplished in its many decades of service to our city and our nation. Also what women accomplished at a time when they did not yet have the right to vote. And most notably, how so much of what they accomplished persists today, to the benefit of all Americans, such as the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, occupational health and safety laws, the NAACP and ACLU.

A remarkable aspect of the settlement house was its commitment to serving the needs of the whole community, which meant dining halls, reading rooms, classes in citizenship and skill-building, child care for women who worked, new concepts like kindergarten, the first city playground for children, etc. This was not a single-issue settlement. It was about improving lives and community as a whole.

Also worth noting was both the neighborly and scientific approach taken by Hull House social workers. The map pictured above was developed by their study and intimate knowledge of the surrounding area and helped them understand the extreme poverty that existed. They deduced that families were making so little money weekly that children were forced to work, and work inordinate numbers of hours. Their studies and persistence led to child labor reforms we take for granted today.

Hull House workers settled in and served a neighborhood community, affording them a holistic view of a variety of community needs and solutions to those needs. This work is complex and issues are intertwined. Solving one problem might mean several solutions are simultaneously needed. Conversely, solving multiple needs can sometimes point to one powerful solution. Knowing the difference is critical, and it takes careful study and intimate knowledge and understanding of the needs. We are tempted today to treat Poverty, Child Care, Health Care, Equal Pay and Women’s Rights as separate issues. But they are inextricably intertwined. For example, equal pay for women will lift whole swathes of children out of poverty. Our modern-day politics either relies on statistics, or scoffs at them. Can we plant powerful people from both major parties on the frontlines–of poverty, rust belt, or immigrant communities–so they can get an up close and personal view?

Jane Addams’ example is an inspiration to us all. Interestingly, a woman from Finland joined part of our tour and she told us that she was very eager to visit the museum because in her country they are very aware of Jane Addams and her contributions to social work. In contrast, some women in our group who live in Chicagoland had never been to the museum and were not fully aware of her accomplishments, let alone her lessor known talented and dedicated female colleagues.

After learning more about Jane Addams and the residents at Hull House, who were mainly women of wealth and privilege intent on doing social good, I am more convinced than ever that women must take up the cause to heal and lead this nation. We are not fully empowered, so that helps us understand what it means to be a minority, and the good that is lost by marginalizing people. But meanwhile, women are not a minority, so that means we have the power of numbers, and many of us have the power of privilege and resources of being white and wealthy. We can and should step up to bridge the gap in our nation’s politics that would otherwise divide and weaken us all.

While it takes a village to raise a child, it may very well take a woman to save a village.

 

Her Body, Her Choice! Act Now in Illinois

If someone tells you they are pro-life, then I think it is fair to say, “Happy to hear that, then I presume you also support resettling refugees from war-torn countries, and you agree with ObamaCare (ACA) to make sure 45,000 Americans do not die every year due to lack of health insurance, you did not support the killing  and injury of more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians in our misguided war, and you believe that protecting our environment is critical to saving lives too (237,000 annually by year 2020). Fantastic. If you are pro-life, then be pro-life.

If, however, you see that gag rules and prohibiting abortion (such as Trump’s Executive Order overseas) only succeed in increasing abortions and endangering the liberty and health of women, and if you see that services such as education and access to birth control are the  most effective ways to decrease abortions, then please read on.

Illinois law will automatically make abortion a criminal act the moment Federal law changes. Pending legislation (HB40 in Illinois) and hearings are needed to change that. Please act now to fill out  a witness slip for the Feb 8 Health and Human Services Committee Hearing. Click on the witness slip icon for Sara Feigenholtz “Abortion-Various”, select Proponent, Enter NA for organization and title, select Record of Appearance only instead of oral or written statement. This mimics as if you actually showed up at the public hearing to show your support. Your name and home town might be read aloud into the record of the hearing. After Feb 8, continue to put pressure on the Illinois House to pass this bill. Spread the word. 

We cannot return to the days when women were unable to legally discuss health options with their trusted doctors. And we should not back away from respecting a woman’s privacy and empowering her to make decisions for her own body and health. At the Women’s March in Washington, I loved the moment when women chanted “My Body, My Choice” and the men around us responded, “Her Body, Her Choice”.  Well said.