Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's My Body, Damn It!

Greetings Friends,

Okay, I admit that my use of the image of a wire hanger might be puzzling (I "borrowed" the idea from the Huffington Post), but it certainly grabs one's attention.

For the past few days I've been listening to anyone with a voice and an electronic device communicate their disdain for the comments Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) made about a woman's decision to seek an abortion in the event she becomes pregnant as a result of being raped. They are as follows:

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

Before I read these comments on CNN.com on Sunday, I had never heard of Rep. Akin. Since then, I have learned that he is a "longtime hero" to the antiabortion movement, one of many evangelical Christians who believe that "during a rape, the trauma sets in motion biological blocks so a woman cannot conceive a child." Oh really? That sort of thinking might encourage other biologically ignorant people to believe that the "trauma" of a woman's first experience with sexual intercourse might trigger similar "biological blocks" that would prevent her from getting pregnant if she is not using some form of birth control. Funny how so many young woman wonder how they get pregnant after having had sex only once. As the saying goes, "once is all it takes," whether the sex is consensual or not. It is a biological fact. These "blocks" evangelical white men speak of, simply do not exist. But, how would they know that? They are, after all, men.

A woman's legal right to seek an abortion has been in place since the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade. The court decided that a Texas statute forbidding abortion unless it became necessary to save the life of the mother, was unconstitutional. The justices arrived at their decision by stating that, according to the Constitution, a woman's right to an abortion is a private matter. They did however, include the following statement in their decision:

"State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother."

What that means, in plain English, is that a particular state can make it very difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion, if it chooses to do so. And that's what many American politicians, including Todd Akin, have devoted their careers to doing for the past 39 years.

In 1973, I was 6 years old. I have effectively lived my entire life knowing that it is my right to have an abortion if I choose. I cannot begin to imagine what life was like for women when abortion was considered a criminal act, performed in secret, and often to the physical detriment of the woman. Granted, I don't believe the decision to have an abortion is one that should be made lightly, but I do, however, believe that I as a woman, have every right to make that decision for myself. A group of men, white, black, blue, purple, or any other colour, have no right to make that decision for me, regardless of the circumstances. And, to further muddy the waters, said men have absolutely no right to define rape as "legitimate" or "illegitimate," or to make nonsensical statements about a woman's biological ability to become pregnant.

I could go on for pages about how evangelical Christians and other religious groups choose to ignore science by making ridiculous claims about biological blocks and other issues that have no basis in fact. That has been done and will continue be done as long as humans walk the earth.

What I will say, however, is that the right to free speech should be cherished and not perverted by individuals who seek elected office to gratify their own egos. Todd Akin and his brethren are not interested in protecting women from themselves. They are nothing more than narcissistic agenda-pushers who attempt to bully people into believing in their skewed vision of a perfect world. Sorry, gentlemen, but there is no such thing as a perfect world. We women have the right to govern our bodies as we please, just as you do. That is one biological determinism that you and God can't do a damn thing about.

To women of my generation who might not realize how infuriating this is, do a little research about what risks were involved in obtaining an abortion before Roe v. Wade. I ain't spoon-feeding this to you, ladies; this is something you must make an effort to be aware of. 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hands Off the Milk and Gas!

Greetings Friends,

I'll be the first to admit that a trip to bulk-behemoth Costco is never a pleasant experience, but for things like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent and various other products, I'm willing to suck it up and brave the crowds every few months. For some people, though, Costco is Mecca, the place where they shop for outsize configurations of groceries, cheap clothing, gas, and just about anything they can stuff into their vehicles.

Earlier this week I spotted a story about the Bellingham,Washington Costco location being overrun with Canadian shoppers (Bellingham is right on the Washington/British Columbia border), and locals getting pretty steamed about being invaded by their neighbours to the north. Especially industrious residents on both sides of the border have even set up duelling Facebook pages to rail at each other about the store's overcrowding, fast-disappearing pallets of milk, and long lines at the gas station. I won't even get into the parking lot issues because I have no idea just how awful B.C. drivers are. I can, however, go on for hours about Quebeckers and their proclivities behind the wheel. That's a topic for another day.

This Costco scenario got me thinking: all my life I've been listening to my nutter-butter Canadian family members wax rhapsodic about how much better they think life in the United States is. I've mentioned this on several occasions, but when it comes to cross-border shopping, my family is not unique in their stance that Americans have no idea how lucky they are when it comes to endless retail options. Another story I read confirms this: the CBC reports that Americans enjoy 23 square feet of retail space per person, while Canadians have only 14 square feet per person. This is actually not too bad considering that Canada has only about one-tenth the population of the U.S. But, Canadians being Canadian, it's one more reason to bitch about living in the shadow of the U.S.A.

Americans, on the other hand, should be grateful that their northern neighbours are willing to put up with annoying border crossings and other inconveniences to contribute to the ailing U.S. economy. In all the times I've cross-border shopped in my life, I never heard anyone in the Buffalo, New York area complain about Ontario residents "invading" their space. There are a plethora of retail establishments located within scant minutes of the Peace Bridge, which connects Buffalo with Ft. Erie, Ontario, and I've never once read anything about people in the Buffalo area wanting to ban Canadians from their stores. If anyone has, I'd sure appreciate hearing about it.

Going to Costco, as I've mentioned, has never been particularly enjoyable. The locations are always crowded, the shopping carts big and unwieldy, and the patrons are a bit, shall we say, overindulgent. I'm not suggesting that anyone should pass up great deals on staples like milk, eggs and bread, but when you're buying cheese in blocks the size of Toyota Corollas, it might be time to reconsider just how much of it you really need. I can't say the same for toilet paper, because I am a staunch advocate of having no less than 36 rolls in the house at all times. 

The lesson we should take away from this international "incident" is that Americans and Canadians, while we look the same for the most part, have wildly varying points of view when it comes to our cross-border relationship. This is yet one more example of how ignorance can cause a shit storm, albeit one that could have easily been avoided.