Romney Skewered by Candidate He Endorsed?

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock told debate viewers last night that he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, because pregnancy from rape is “something that God intended to happen.” This occurred just as Mourdock’s campaign unveiled a new on-camera endorsement from Mitt Romney.

To his credit, Mourdock’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, later said that Mourdock’s comments didn’t reflect what “my God or any God” would intend to happen. And it’s no secret that most Americans, including Romney by own official campaign statements, reject such extremist views.

But Mourdock’s comments can’t help but damage Mitt Romney by association. Such a wild-eyed position by a candidate he has endorsed drives one more nail into Romney’s campaign coffin by revealing the stark truth about the extreme anti-woman positions the Romney campaign has been forced to take by the extreme right-wing of his party.

Just as Todd Akin did with his misogynistic attempt to parse what kind of rape is “legitimate” and what is not, Mourdock cruelly dismissed women’s moral autonomy and even their right to defend their own bodies against the assaults of their attackers. He even invokes God’s name to justify his position.

This is just one more illustration that the right-wing war on women’s fundamental human right to reproductive self-determination remains in full battle array. This conflict has nothing to do with abortion or babies or what God wants; it is a full-out culture war and its objective is to take away the economic, social, and political gains women have made over the last 50 years. It’s the ultimate way to keep women powerless—locked physically in those binders Mitt talked about.

Sadly, the formerly moderate Mitt Romney has proactively chosen to align himself with retrograde thinkers like Mourdock, and he is likely to pay the price.

This post was originally a response to a question asked in Politico Arena. My answer is here.

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The 2012 Election: Could our reproductive future be even worse than our past?

Double bonus of Sister Courage today! This is a guest post by a woman leader I admire about a woman leader I admire.

Both have made many contributions to women’s reproductive rights, health, and justice. But neither Carole Joffe—author, researcher, and professor at the UCSF Bixby Center—who wrote this piece, nor its subject, filmmaker extraordinaire Dorothy Fadiman, is about to slow down her quest for women’s full equality. It’s my honor to feature them on Heartfeldt.

They raise profound questions voters must consider when they go to the polls. For those who say so-called ‘women’s issues’ are peripheral to the political debate, I say our daughters’ futures hang in the balance. What could be more important?

Watching the haunting images in Dorothy Fadiman’s new compilation, “Choice at Risk,” drawn from her award-winning PBS abortion rights trilogy, is even more unsettling than it was before.

For years, I have shown Fadiman’s films about abortion to students, finding her work the most effective way to communicate to young people both the horrors of the pre-Roe v Wade era—as shown in her Oscar-nominated  film, When Abortion was Illegal—and the continual threats to abortion rights since legalization.  The third film in the trilogy, The Fragile Promise of Choice, offers a searing portrayal of the violence and harassment that abortion providers undergo as they struggle to meet the needs of their patients.

But now, writing these words, I feel that this talented filmmaker, by editing her 2 ½ hour body of work into clips and mini-docs, is showing us in chilling detail, not only our past, but our possible future. A future, moreover, that may be even worse, in some respects, than the pre-Roe era she has so ably documented.

How could anything be worse than the era of the back-alley butchers and women attempting to self-abort in dangerous ways?

Here’s one set of circumstances that could conceivably be worse. Even in the pre-Roe era, the medical community had the authority to approve some abortions, when the life or the health of a pregnant woman was at risk, or when serious anomalies were detected in the fetuses of pregnant women. To be sure, like so much else in American society, class privilege was a factor here as well: middle and upper class women were far more likely to obtain so-called “therapeutic abortions” than poorer women. But at the least, there existed a consensus among physicians, and among most sectors of the general population, that certain situations warranted an abortion, even if the procedure was not generally available.

That consensus, however, is not shared by the contemporary Republican party. The 2012 Party platform calls for an absolute ban on abortion, and contains no language for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or—astonishingly—threats to the life of the pregnant woman. Recently, the Orwellian-named “Protect Life Act,” (H.R.358 passed in the Republican-controlled Congress by a vote of 251-172, (including 15 Democrats who voted with the majority). This bill, among other things, stipulates that hospitals may “exercise their conscience” and refuse abortions to women in life-threatening conditions. Given the slim majority Democrats now hold in the Senate (which has prevented this bill from being voted on in that body), and given the certainty that President Obama would veto such a bill, so far this legislation has gone nowhere.

But what would happen with this kind of bill if Republicans controlled the Senate? And would a President Romney sign such a bill? In recent days, in light of the media circus that has surrounded the Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remark about “legitimate rape,” Mitt Romney has stated that while he supports the overturning of Roe v Wade, he favors exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the pregnant woman. But that is not very reassuring. Because during the Republican primary season, when asked by Mike Huckabee, a leading power broker in the Religious Right, if he supported “Personhood” amendments, Romney’s answer was an enthusiastic  “absolutely!”

Memo to Mitt Romney: You can’t both be in favor of exceptions to an abortion ban and “absolutely” support Personhood amendments. These amendments make clear that a fertilized egg has the status of a living person—under this logic, aborting a fetus conceived as a result of rape or incest would be the same as murder.

But what about when a pregnant woman’s life is at stake? Whose life would take precedence then, the woman or the fertilized egg inside her? While the overwhelming majority of Americans would say of course the woman’s life should be saved, here is what Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the Religious Right had to say about such situations:  “I believe that if you have to choose between new life and existing life, you should choose new life. The person who has had an opportunity to live at least has been given that gift by God and should make way for new life on earth.”

So this is the situation American women face as we head into the November 2012 election: the Republican presidential candidate has, in his career, been all over the place with respect to abortion, but currently, at best, would allow abortion only in very limited cases; his vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, doesn’t even approve of those limited exceptions; the current Republican Congress is on record saying its OK to let pregnant women die in hospital corridors and be refused life-saving care.

Fadiman’s “Choice at Risk” project provides a constellation of easily shared short media bites, all of which bring this possible future into focus.

If women, and the men who care about them, don’t want Mitt Romney picking the next Supreme Court Justices, or Paul Ryan being one heartbeat away from the presidency, or a House and Senate controlled by fanatics deciding on public policy, there is only one way to prevent all this: Vote.

 

Dorothy Fadiman has been producing award-winning documentary media with an emphasis on human rights and social justice since 1976. Honors include an Oscar nomination and an Emmy. Subjects range widely from threats to fair elections to progressive approaches in education to a woman’s remarkable healing from a spinal cord injury.

She is the author of PRODUCING with PASSION: Making Films that Heal the World. Films related to women’s reproductive rights include: 

  • CHOICE: Then and Now: From the Back-Alleys to the Supreme Court & Beyond
  • WOMAN by WOMAN: New Hope for the Villages of India and
  • FROM RISK to ACTION: Women and HIV/AIDS In Ethiopia.

 

Carole Joffe, PhD, is a professor at the UCSF Bixby Center’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) Program and a professor of sociology emerita at the University of California, Davis.  Her research focuses on the social dimensions of reproductive health, with a particular interest in abortion provision. In January 2010, Dr. Joffe’s book, Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, was published by Beacon Press. In 2010, Dr. Joffe received the Irwin Cusher Lectureship by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.  In 2006, Dr. Joffe was awarded the Public Service Award by the Academic Senate of the University of California, Davis.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Will the GOP win the birth control fight?

My response to the question above. What’s yours?

If President Obama caves to the Catholic Bishops on contraceptive coverage, especially on the heels of his recent caving on Plan B emergency contraception, he is toast with the wide spectrum of progressive and middle-of-the-road women who elected him.

If he, on the other hand, engages this controversy wisely, he can recast the debate over contraception properly into one about women’s moral and human right to make their own childbearing decisions, as well as one essential to the health of women and children. In so doing, he will be a hero to the 99% of American women, including 98% of Catholics, who use birth control at some time during their lives to responsibly plan and space their children. And well over 75% believe that contraceptive coverage should be mandated in insurance coverage, as it currently is in 28 states and the Federal employees health plan, in addition to being the standard of care in health insurance in general.

The right is trying inaccurately (deviously?) to create a religious freedom issue with a dash of the dreaded abortion debate thrown in for good measure. Let’s get this straight: no one is trying to force religious institutions that primarily serve their own flock to do anything against their consciences. Those institutions are free to do whatever their faith dictates.

Catholic schools serving primarily Catholic students with primarily Catholic staff using private money are different from large public institutions such as hospitals that are run by Catholics but serve a broad range of the taxpaying public with a broad religious spectrum of staff and use billions of federal dollars to do so (think, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal program and research grants, etc.). Those institutions should no way be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage because they are essentially secular institutions despite being stewarded by religious orders.

But look further behind the curtain, the Bishops and anti-women’s rights members of congress are trying to roll back the clock FOR ALL THE REST OF US on existing laws that rightly require health plans to cover contraception if they cover other prescription drugs.

We women are the 99% on this one, and we’d better speak up or we are in great danger of losing all the hard fought gains that were made during the last two decades to include basic contraceptive care in health plans. It’s only fair, and it’s the standard of good health care to boot.

Read the original post on Politico Arena here.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women See Red, Get Over Komen Pink, and Embrace Power

This commentary was published yesterday on the Daily Beast with the title “Komen Incites Women’s Tahrir Square Moment.” If you haven’t read it there, please hop on over  and give me a share, stumble, and/or comment. There’s quite a lively conversation going on. Then come back and tell me what you think here.

Mostly, I’d like to start a conversation about taking the great passion this kerfluffle between Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood has generated and catapult it into a more vibrant, durable, and most of all proactive women’s movement. Clearly, the huge outpouring was about more than the two organizations themselves. There was a lot of pent up readiness for activism and just plain demanding respect as women–as persons–with brains, hearts, and moral autonomy–not as subjects of society’s political whims or social narratives that we did not write.

Let me get off my soapbox and let you read on….

“I am off to feed my daughter (with breasts that were examined by Planned Parenthood doctors when I had no health insurance).”

Allie Wagstrom, a young mom in Minnesota whom I know only via Facebook, posted this on my page after she heard the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, parent of the ubiquitous pink-ribboned “Race for the Cure,” bowed to political pressure from the right and announced last week that it would no longer fund breast exams and breast health education at Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen’s astonishingly sloppy handling of the situation (for which they have now apologized and semi-retracted) put a black mark in indelible ink on their sweet pink ribbons.

Planned Parenthood Supporters
Planned Parenthood supporters demonstrated following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic on Feb. 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington., Stephen Brashear / Getty Images

Facebook popped a picture of Cynthia Nixon, the lead actor in the Broadway drama about ovarian cancer, Wit, next to Allie’s comment in an advertising tactic. Nixon’s bald head and gaunt face shocked the breath out of me, while social media exploded with the wrath of millions of women who felt scorned by a charity for which they had raced and purchased pink products they didn’t need.

Why this outpouring, even from women who had never openly supported Planned Parenthood? Abortion politics remain an uncomfortable abstraction to many. But we all have breasts. What woman hasn’t had that moment of fear when your heart skips a beat and you’re sure you’ve found the lump of doom?

Fear. Komen’s handling of this debacle is a case study in it. Republican members of Congress and far right anti-choice activists have been using fear of retribution to bully Komen into dropping Planned Parenthood for years, just as Congress held up the federal budget over funding to Planned Parenthood last year and groups like Project Mustard Seed threaten to boycott businesses and funders who support Planned Parenthood.

Komen finally buckled. Spokeswoman Leslie Aun told the media Planned Parenthood was dropped because of an investigation (read: witch hunt) by an arch-Republican House member, Cliff Stearns from Florida. And despite the frivolousness of many inquiries (in my 30 years with Planned Parenthood, congressional investigations were such a routine method of intimidation that we joked our offices should provide permanent space for federal auditors), Komen had a new policy prohibiting funding groups under federal investigation.

At least one of Komen’s corporate funders, Bank of America, is under federal investigation, and many suggested that the “new rule” should work both ways.

But by Brinker’s failed damage-control interview two days later with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the story had changed. Congressional investigations had no impact on Komen’s decision, claimed Brinker, herself a top Republican donor and former Bush appointee.  No, Komen dropped Planned Parenthood after a 20-year relationship because the foundation would no longer support groups that do screening and referrals but not mammograms, Brinker said, as if none of us had been following the story.

Gloria discusses Komen Foundation’s Epic Public Relations Fail and the Rise of a New Feminism on WORQ710, NY City Interview

The political dots connected directly: from the appointment of avidly anti-abortion activist, former Georgia secretary of state, and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel as a Komen senior executive to Rep. Stearns’s conveniently timed investigation, to the new policy announced then retracted by Brinker. The Republican right is out of control, the War on Women is in full battle formation, and it was finally time for women—and men—to be mad as hell and stand up to the bullies. To have our Tahrir Square moment.

That Wagstrom and so many others are furious enough to vow spontaneously to stop Racing for the Cure, boycott Komen’s corporate sponsors (see which household names like Kitchen Aid, Yoplait, and Crayola you want to stop patronizing) and rip up those pink ribbons that have become badges of intolerance tells me something bigger is happening than whether any one organization gets funded.
If this were just about Planned Parenthood or yet another battle over abortion, the outrage would be dissipating. Women’s groups would have screamed their righteous indignation, raised a lot of money, and made no systemic change. Soon, the same Kabuki drama would be played out with another congressional attack or another worthy organization defunded.
But as a friend e-mailed me, “This is not a time to forgive, this is a time to find an alternative.” The American Association of University Women cancelled plans to incorporate a Race for the Cure into their National Conference for College Women Leaders.

When I asked AAUW Policy Director Lisa Maatz whether they’d reinstate the race since Komen changed its position, she replied AAUW is “staying the course” until they see what Komen does long term. She added, “we hope everyone has taken note of what women’s solidarity can accomplish—in the press, on the web, and in our nation’s capital. AAUW hopes to continue to harness this energy and sense of purpose…to turn out the women’s vote in 2012.”

At last, women saw enough red to get over the pink, the fear and the preference to play victim rather than to embrace our own power.

And that’s exactly how to stand down both ideologues who are terrified of women getting a fair shake, and the small but powerful fringe obsessed with other people’s sex lives. Embracing our power is how to overcome the shaming and false allegations toward women’s human right to make their own childbearing decisions and reproductive health services that have saved the lives of everyday women, pro-life in the largest sense of that word. It is how to overcome the right’s demonization of anyone who doesn’t toe its narrow conservative line, whether it’s racist attacks on President Obama’s citizenship, intolerance of gays and lesbians, or disrespect for the moral capacity of women. To borrow the right-wing’s favorite book, Atlas isn’t going to take it anymore; we’re making a collective shrug on this one.

No excuses. No more fear. This is the moment for women to say, over and over and over, “You will pay a price if you try to get your way on our backs.” To win elections in the short haul, and fight forward with a progressive feminist agenda in the long haul.

Now that will be the real race for the cure.

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

What should be the response to the Mississippi “Personhood” proposal?

Arena asked “Should Miss. ‘personhood’ proposal pass?” The answer is NO. And further….please read on to see what else I think about what the proposal means, and what should be done about it.

NO 26The Arena Asks: An initiative in Mississippi Tuesday would impose the country’s tightest regulations on abortion and birth control. Initiative 26 would change the definition of a person to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Should the ‘personhood’ proposal pass?

My Answer: Everyone who is or has a mother, sister, woman friend, or daughter should vote against any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who fails to support a woman’s fundamental human right to make her own childbearing decisions–including whether to have a child or not. Period.

The current attacks on both birth control and abortion signal it’s well past time to go proactive for pro-choice and pro-reproductive justice legislation. It’s time to quit the interminable abortion debate and pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).  FOCA is a civil rights act, thus a stronger guarantee of women’s reproductive rights than the Supreme Court’s now-weakened Roe v Wade decision.

Here is the language of FOCA in its latest iteration:

(a) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.

(b) Prohibition of Interference- A government may not–

(1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose–

(A) to bear a child;

(B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or

(C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or

(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.

(c) Civil Action- An individual aggrieved by a violation of this section may obtain appropriate relief (including relief against a government) in a civil action.

FOCA is a sane, simple, and  just way to put the abortion debate to rest and let the wheels of government move on, unimpeded by the right wing anti-woman roadblocks that have kept us from fixing the economy, health care, education, and other essential social institutions.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Pence Amendment and Planned Parenthood: Do More Than Sign a Petition

My inbox is choking with urgent appeals. Write your Congressperson. Sign this petition. Forward this video. Send money.

Social media is atwitter with people shocked about the “Republican war on women.” Or outraged at the Pence Amendment to defund Planned Parenthood and the move to eliminate the entire Title X family planning program that helps low-income women get health care and prevent abortions, for heaven sake.

The histrionics reach ever higher decibels, escalating shock and fear. From friends, I hear, “I’m speechless. What are we going to do?” From uninformed reporters, “But should taxpayers be forced to pay for abortion?” From frustrated activists: “We need to march.”

Much as I hate to quote Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.”

Ironically, Reagan threw this phrase at President Jimmy Carter who in a debate had made the case for national health insurance. That conflict still rages today, just like right-wing politicians and women’s advocacy groups are still caught in a never-ending Kabuki drama about what on the surface appears to be abortion, but in reality is a much broader assault on family planning, birth control, and underneath it all, women and our role in this world.

No one can change that narrative but us, and we must do it quickly. The good news is we already know how and have the tools at our disposal.

For example, Women’s History Month is about to begin March 1. Clearly we need to heed history’s lessons. We’ve been here and done this so many times. We’ve seen the same kinds of attacks on Title X since its inception in 1970. And we’ve beaten them back just as many times. It’s one of the most durable and effective government programs ever. And until and unless Obama’s health reform plan covers the full range of preventive reproductive health services including birth control methods — an outcome far from guaranteed — the grant-based Title X program will remain a public health necessity for millions of women who lack health insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid.

You might feel outnumbered (though you are actually in the majority), or that you don’t have the money or mainstream media access to be effective. So you must use what you’ve got, and believe me when I tell you that the resources you need are always there if you can see them and have the courage to use them. That’s one of the “power tools” in my book No Excuses, and here are four more:

1. The power of your convictions. One of the most effective of the 9 Ways power tools is “wear the shirt.” Let others know what you think. There’s a personal pay-off too: I found in my experience on the advocacy frontlines that the fastest way to grow your courage muscles is to use them to stand up for what you believe.

2. The power of your voice. Blog it, baby. That’s how the right whips up froths of controversy, makes it into the mainstream media, and scares the pants off politicians. When you blog on the topic, be sure to repost on social media of course, but to multiply your power, send it to your members of Congress, state legislators, and your local media. Turn it into a letter-to-the-editor or use parts of it to comment on other blogs. Make your voice big.

3. The power of your story. The nation has been riveted by two women who had the courage and grace to stand before their congressional colleagues (and C-Span) and reveal how the public policies being debated would have affected them personally. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-OH) told of her experience as a pregnant teen without even a dime to call for someone to take her to the hospital to deliver her baby.

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Rep. Jackie Speier’s (D-CA) story of a medically necessary second trimester abortion got her anatomy wrong but her passion was right on what is needed to counter the right’s lack of compassion.

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We all have stories. We need to share them, for they are a great source of power.

4. The power of the collective -— Sister Courage. Join with your blogging, tweeting, facebooking, tumblring sisters and like-minded brothers to create a citizen uprising of Egyptian magnitude. A virtual women’s Tahrir Square.

In an unforgettable moment for me at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, a group of African women told how they had made spousal abusers social outcasts rather than social norms. They banded together, took their cooking pots, stood outside of the homes of men who had committed violent acts against their wives, and banged loudly until the neighborhood took note and the men agreed to change their behavior. I never forgot that story of the power of Sister Courage and I guarantee you that collectively banging the pots will make a difference in political outcomes.

So send money, sure, and sign those petitions. But know that employing the power tools I shared will make you 10 times more effective. And emulate activists on the right: Don’t wait till you’re asked. Do something and say something whenever you see something.

As former slave Sojourner Truth, who left her master and became a leading orator for abolition and women’s rights and a Methodist minister, once observed, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!”

The next step is up to you.

Cross-posted at Blogher


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Amy’s Story: How I Learned I Matter

Sit down. Pour yourself a cup of tea and know that you are going to need some time to read author Amy Ferris’s story slowly and carefully. It will sear you. It will uplift you. I encourage you to write your thoughts about it here too. Thank you, Amy for sharing it.

First, here’s the cover note Amy sent to me, inviting me to post it so all of you could read it too, then her essay in full:

gloria:
i wrote this essay about a week, week and half ago, on the advice of my amazing therapist. i have been dealing with such deep shame, deep doubt… and she helped me pull this up and out. and on the page.
righting my life. or … writing my life. as the case may be.
i’ve sent it to 3 people for both a reaction and their advice where to place it/put it. three amazing writer friends – two who are survivors, and one who just came out. they were – without sounding too bloated –  absolutely amazed by this essay. they were so taken aback by my truth, my story… this piece.
i wanted to send it to you, after seeing on your blog that you are asking for stories.
this is my story.
it’s very painful.
it’s very raw.
it’s very liberating.
i am so fucking proud to have been able to write it, say it, share it, give it, open up an heart or two. make a difference.
i hope it saves many, many lives.
and i hope, deeply, more than anything, that my story gives women courage to stand in their truth, to tell their story … and that they too realize that their lives matter oh so much.

much love to you!
(I LOVE YOUR BOOK! it’s my christmas gift this year for my women friends!) (OK, I had to leave that last part in! GF)

I do not matter.

I am seven years old.

I am burning. My vagina is burning. I am scared and in pain and it is the middle of the night and I start to scream. My vagina is on fire. It burns and I can feel like my insides are exploding. I have an infection. I have many infections since I can remember. My mother doesn’t come into my room right away. She is right across the hall, a small narrow hall, a size ten shoe length. She can hear me. My dad can hear me.

I am nine years old.

I have an infection. I am peeing and it is burning and I am in pain. I am back at the Pediatrician’s office again, and she tells my mother I have a urinary tract infection again. She tells my mom I need to take cool baths. Not hot, cool. My mother is impatient. Irritable. Smoking. I am in pain. Antibiotics and a soothing cream and cool baths. I am sad and unhappy and in pain.

We stop at Orbach’s so my mom can go shopping. She tries on shifts and shoes and sweater sets. I am in pain and I am uncomfortable and I smile at my mom so she doesn’t get upset with me. She tries on clothes and I sit on a stool and I keep my legs wide apart, so I don’t rub my thighs together because that will irritate my burning vagina more.

We go home.

My mom tells my dad she didn’t find anything at Orbach’s. He asks how I am, she says, she’s fine. She is fine.

I do not matter.

My neighbors, Eddie and James, come over and want to play Doctor. I am eleven or twelve years old.

They are twins, and they are my age, and so, we play Doctor in my backyard. They crack and snap the branches off from the tree and stick the branches up my vagina. I am the patient. They are the Doctors. They tell me that Doctors can stick branches and stuff up a girls “thing” so that they can take her temperature. My mother doesn’t take my temperature in my vagina I say. They say, no, no, you can do this. I know they’re wrong. I don’t tell my mother that Eddie and James came over to play doctor. She’s watching The Mike Douglas Show, and she does not want to be interrupted when she is watching television.

I do not matter.

My finger doesn’t heal. It is crooked and bent and misshapen. I was running and playing, whooping it up with my friends when Andy fell on me by accident and I could hear the snap and the crack, just like a tree branch snapping in half, and it hurt and I ran up the hill and screamed, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, but Mommy was playing mah-jongg and she shooed me away and I went into the Bungalow and she came in, and pulled open the metal ice tray and wrapped my hand in ice, and made me promise, “cross your heart,” that I would sit there like a good girl, and she went back to finish the game, and I heard the ice cream truck, and I heard my mom and my aunt ask for “creamsicle pops,” and sometime later, my mother placed the two perfectly clean licked pop sticks on my middle finger and taped it with scotch tape and that was that.

My finger never healed.

I do not matter.

She gave my brand new Barbie, my brand new “still in the box,” Barbie to my cousin Debbie. She forgot, she said – it slipped her mind – to get my cousin a gift for Hanukah. So when she asked my Aunt what Debbie wanted, it seemed that she wanted what I had.  She gave Debbie my brand new, still in the box, Barbie Doll and promised she would get me a brand new one, “Cross my heart,” she said. I never got the new one, the one with the black and white two- piece. Maybe she didn’t look hard enough, or maybe she went to a store that didn’t have Barbie dolls, like Orbach’s. I must have asked a million times but she did not like my asking over and over and over. It annoyed her.

I do not matter.

Awful horrible, bad, first time, painful, eyes shut, squirming sex. He didn’t love me. He hardly knew me. We had sex. I was 14, he was older and while he was moaning and groaning and saying please, baby, please, oh, yes, baby…. on the Zenith black and white television that was tucked in the corner of the room, Janet Leigh was getting bludgeoned to death in the shower while I was losing my virginity at the exact same time. He was older, an artist and he hung out at Max’s Kansas City and the Ninth Circle, and he wanted to paint me and told me I looked like, reminded him of …a younger, much younger, Ultra Violet, an Andy Warhol starlet. I was fourteen and lanky and had curly sexy mop-y hair and wore lots of make-up and mascara. He was my friend Stephen’s older brother and …

I. Gave. It. Up. For. Him.

I wanted to say no.

I do not matter.

I sat there with a few other girls my age. None of us talked. Names were called. Forms were filled out. Money was exchanged. Names were called again. Nurses took your vitals. You were given a robe. You undressed. You waited. You were asked, “Are you sure?” You said, ”Yes.” More waiting. Then you get called. Rolled in. A needle. The anesthesia kicks in. Count back from one hundred.

Ninety-nine.

Ninety-eight.

Ninety seven, Ninety-six. Ninety-five. Ninety-four.

Nine. Ty.

Thr. Ee.

Ni. Ne. Ty.

Ni.

Ni.

You wake up. You think it’s been forever, but it’s only fifteen, twenty minutes later. Groggy. Alone. Scared. The gown is bloody. I’m wearing a kotex napkin. Bulky. I ache, and I’m empty. Sad emoty. Alone empty. And I look around, and see on either side, the same as me. Bloody gowns. Groggy. Scared, and the nurse comes in with some juice and offers a sip, “here the straw, your lips are dry, sip…. sip… lift your head, sip. Atta girl.” She takes my pulse and checks my vitals and says everything is fine. “Everything went fine,” she says. I didn’t think to ask “boy or girl?” or did you know? Or could you tell just yet?

You lie there.

You wait.

No one is coming to get you.

You’re young.

You had secrets.

Scary, lonely, shameful secrets.

You get rid of those secrets.

You get dressed.

Fill out more forms.

Atta girl, one more time.

You leave.

You are empty.

You are head to toe fucking empty.

You cry and cry and cry, snot nose cry.

You are young and scared and you didn’t say no.

No, I can’t. No, I don’t want to. No, I don’t like you. No, I don’t want to have sex. No. Thank you. No.

I do not matter.

And I leave home.

And fly away.

I am young and scared and have no sense of myself, and I am filled with shame and guilt and make up stories about my life because god forbid I should tell the truth and then NO ONE WILL EVER LIKE ME. No one. I will say I am this and that and come from here and there and no one will know. No one. Because no one will care enough to ask more questions.

I am young.

I am lost.

I say yes again, and one more time.

One. More. Time.

This time the pain is unbearable because of the constant bladder and urinary infections and pelvic inflammatory disease and a rupture and tear and holy shit, I HAVE ABUSED MYSELF.

I HAVE ABUSED MYSELF.

I have hurt my own body. I have torn my own body. I have given it away and tossed it away and I have stood naked in front of a stranger and I have said, here… here… here… and now I am in pain, excruciating pain, and the doctor asks me if I am sure, ARE YOU SURE, and I say, YES, and he says fine, and I am given a Demerol, and a drip, and I am asked to count backwards from 100 and I count to eighty two because I am so ashamed and frightened and then I wake up and I feel so completely alone.

Some juice, some warmth, some compassion, a soft smile, a nod, a comforting hand. “Take care,” she says, the nurse. “I don’t know how to,” I tell her.

You start with NO, she says. Mean it. Say it. Repeat it. No. No. NO. NO. No.

I try. I slip.

I do not matter.

More lies, more doubt, more shame, more guilt, more drugs, more men, more to store away and hide.

I am pinned against the wall.

He is angry. Enraged. Vile. Mean. It’s in his eyes.  They are bulging.

He tells me he doesn’t love me. I tell him I don’t care.

Period.

End of story.

End of bad story.

I do not love him.

I do not want to spend one more moment lying in bed next to him, fucking him, sitting in a restaurant with him, sharing popcorn with him, driving in a car with him, waiting on line at the supermarket with him, ordering sushi with him, going to the movies with him, watching TV with him, cooking a meal with him, giving him a blow job, getting on planes and trains with him, visiting our families – his family, my family – with him.

I do not love him.

Why did you stay so long he asks me.

I was lazy I tell him.

I say it.

I say: I DO NOT LOVE YOU.

I grab hold of his hands, which are pressing down on my clavicles, and I say to him: I do not want to be with you any more. Not one more day. Not one more minute. I am not staying here.

I AM OUT OF HERE.

I AM LEAVING.

I grab a few things. Small things. Personal things. Enough things. I grab my purse, my cash, my jewelry, my beads from my altar, a couple of tee’s, and jeans, and the clothes on my back.

I get in my car and I drive and drive and drive.

And I drive.

And that day, at 7:52 PM

I BEGIN TO MATTER.

I begin to matter.

No going back.

And yes, oh god yes, I slip sometimes.

Backwards. But I catch myself. I grab the railing, or the step, or the handlebar… or my husband.

And I feel scared and ashamed and shameful and doubtful and the self-loathing bubbles up, I am sometimes, but not often, brought back to moments. Memories, times that hurt so deep, that cut so fucking deep that I can actually feel as if my ribs are cracking. I can barely breathe.

I am sometimes, but not often, reminded of that young girl filled with such god-awful pain, crippling self-doubt, no self-esteem what so ever. None. She wanted … to be included, to please someone, to fix someone, to make it better, to mend someone’s heart and soul.

To be seen. To be heard.

To be visible.

To belong.

To fit in.

To be loved.

Please. Oh please. Please. Please. Please.

Please.

Here. Over here. Yes, Me. Here. Yeah, me. Love me. Please. Pretty please, with a cherry, man, on top.

She did not believe she mattered.

She was wrong.

Everything she did – EVERY. SINGLE. THING. SHE. DID -mattered so that someone else, another human being, could feel that they matter.

I matter.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Splitting the Health-Reform Baby: What Women Lost by Winning

This is part two in my three-part series about what the Affordable Health Care Act means in tangible terms to each of us. The first post in the series was Barbara O’Brien’s optimistic “Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody.” Today, in a post that originally appeared in the Women’s Review of Books blog, I address women’s health specifically in both a personal and political context.

Remember, that the Department of Health and Human Services launched a new website, HealthCare.gov, on July 1 to help consumers wade through the new law’s provisions and how they will affect our access to health care. So do check that out, and as always, your comments and ideas are very welcome here.

Let me be clear: Had I been a member of Congress, I would have pressed the “yes” lever for the health-reform bill when it came down to the vote for final passage. It was incredibly important that we start somewhere to make health care accessible and affordable to all Americans. And we can celebrate, as Ms. magazine recounts in “What the Health Care Bill Means for Women,” that contraceptives will be covered, gender rating that discriminates against women has been eliminated, and preventive services such as pap smears will be covered without co-pay under the new plan.

But sometimes when you win you lose. Continue reading “Splitting the Health-Reform Baby: What Women Lost by Winning”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Go See Words of Choice and Support Women’s Access to Abortion

If you want to do good for women and see some good theater at the same time, here are some events you won’t want to miss this weekend!

Words of Choice, dynamic pro-choice theater company from New York, is bringing attention to choice this weekend where it is needed most: in the nation’s Capitol.

On Friday, April 23 at 7 pm, Words of Choice will appear in DC in partnership with the amazing DC Abortion Fund for an event that will raise funds to help women pay for abortions. The performance will be in DC at the Lankford Auditorium, 1200 U St., NW, in the True Reformer Building. A brief discussion follows the 70-minute performance.

The DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that makes grants and no-interest loans to DC women who cannot afford an abortion. “We hope to make choice a reality because we believe that a woman’s right to health care should not depend on her wallet,” it writes.

Tickets are $20 and $40. See www.wordsofchoice.org for ticket purchasing information.
Or go to DCAF on Network for Good.

On Sunday, April 25 at 4:30 pm, Words of Choice will be performing at the First Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in Silver Spring MD.  The performance at Montgomery College (Silver Spring/Takoma), Health Sciences Auditorium 122, (7977 Georgia Ave. across from the Performing Arts Center) is free and open to the public.

A discussion will follow with Jill Morrison, reproductive rights specialist at the National Women’s Law Center, Claire Moses, editorial director of Feminist Studies and professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland, and moderated by Regina Oldak, former chair of the Montgomery County Commission on Women, a Board member of Planned Parenthood Metro Washington, and counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. Planned Parenthood Metro Washington will be on hand with literature and information.

Words of Choice is making sure that reproductive freedom is heard and seen at this Human Rights Art Festival, which includes over 150 artists and arts activities.  “It’s an honor to be bringing reproductive justice topics to this weekend festival celebrating human rights and the arts that speak to them,” said Cindy Cooper, creator of Words of Choice.

Words of Choice ˆsmart, funny, endangeredˆ will feature Crista Marie Jackson, Carl H. Jaynes and Claudia Schneider, under the direction of Francesca Mantani Arkus. This cast traveled to Colorado and Kansas in 2008, and performed there with Dr. George Tiller before he was murdered.  These performances are dedicated to Dr. Tiller.

See the Words of Choice promotional trailer on YouTube and learn more about it at its blog.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Historic Health Care Vote Leaves Women Feeling Shortchanged

After last night’s historic health care vote in the US House of Representatives, I feel a combination of relief that the (flawed but symbolically important) bill passed and fury that the ban on abortion coverage will not only remain but will remain by virtue of an executive order issued by the hand of a president who during his campaign pledged to repeal the Hyde anti-abortion coverage amendment. In my often expressed opinion, repeal of Hyde and full integration of reproductive health services including abortion is what the president and the pro-choice groups should have demanded in the first place. For if they had, we not would have ended up with this travesty for women’s health. The pro-choice women in the House fought hard, but without the president, Speaker Pelosi, and pro-choice groups standing firm behind them, they were left twisting in the wind.

Linda Lowen, who writes the Women’s Issues column at About.com, suggests that one intangible benefit to women will be a huge increase in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stature and power. Jen Nedeau, who manages the Not Under the Bus campaign, describes a sense of betrayal shared by many—and how to move forward, in this exclusive written for the Women’s Media Center and reprinted with permission. Kindly scroll down to see one specific action you can take to help right the wrong done–and indeed the only action that can. Let me know your thoughts.

So this isn’t radical reform.  But it is major reform.  This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system.  But it moves us decisively in the right direction.  This is what change looks like.”—President Obama

So this is what change looks like? Throwing women’s rights under the bus in exchange for health care?

Something about this doesn’t feel like change. Something about this feels all too familiar. Once again, women’s rights are being used as a bargaining chip for political gain. Once again, the right to choose is not left in the hands of women, but left in the hands of male politicians who will never be faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

Yes, it is true that Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked incredibly hard to get the votes to pass the bill that now makes it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against women with higher premiums than men or deny coverage to women who have had Caesarean sections or survived domestic violence.

Yes, it is true that bill will make health care more accessible for women and families across America by controlling costs and offering a public marketplace where those without insurance can buy their own affordable coverage.

However, these very important advancements cannot disguise two major attacks on women’s choice.

The first attack was passing a bill that contained Ben Nelson’s Manager’s Amendment.

The second attack is the Executive Order from the White House reaffirming the Hyde Amendment ban on federal funding of abortion and effectively extending it beyond its current application. In the Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein discusses how the “executive order enshrined the Hyde Amendment and expanded its reach into the new private insurance exchanges created by the health-care bill.”

At the end of the day, more than 30 million uninsured American’s can now have access to health reform, but it is abundantly clear women’s health is not considered a priority.

If you are a pro-choice advocate, this is not the change we hoped to see, particularly from a Democratic President and Democratic Majority Congress.

The bill that was passed contains language that has the potential to create a nation completely divided by access to abortion.  With the Nelson language intact, it is possible for abortion rights to be completely stripped from the hands of low-income women, who are disproportionately non-white, by the predominantly male-led state legislatures.

According to the Guttmacher Institute , “nearly half of all pregnancies to American women are unintended and four in 10 of these end in abortion.” Guttmacher also reports that unintended pregnancies have increased by 29 percent among poor women while decreasing 20 percent among higher-income women.

As the bill stands at this point, if a state opts out of abortion coverage in the exchange, women who cannot afford a private insurance plan would have few viable options for seeking access to abortion. That means reproductive choice is no longer left with women individually, but given to the state. After last night’s historic vote, it may feel like the health care reform battle is over. But for millions of women across America, it has really just begun.

Today CREDO launched an action taking a firm stand against anti-choice Democrats who betrayed women across America saying, “It’s time for pro-choice donors and members of Congress to stop funneling money to the anti-choice candidates via the DCCC.”

You can sign CREDO’s petition and take the momentum of ”Yes We Can” pass health care to “Yes We Can” repeal the Hyde Amendment.

It is time to finally give women across America—not just those who can afford private health care, but every woman—a real choice when it comes to their body, their destiny and their future.

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC.  WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.