As About.com‘s Linda Lowen reports, President Obama has now basically implemented the Stupak amendment banning the new insurance exchanges from covering abortion even if the premium is privately paid. I’m a little out of joint by the outraged protestations of pro-choice organizations. Because here’s the reality:

Outraged about Obama’s de facto implementation of the Stupak amendment? Well get this: They have also excluded birth control from the first iteration of the new health plan rules! It is incredibly naive to assume, as Dana Goldstein suggests in the Daily Beast, that these new rules will be amended to include birth control. That is unless very big and very smart campaign is mounted.

Women are 52% of the voters and up to 60% of voters who support Democrats. We have the power to rise up and hold Obama to his campaign promises. And now is the time to do it. No excuses and no fair complaining about the result if we fail to do so.

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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.

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after 35 years, I’m tired of arguing about what is the most persuasive language to bring the most people into what we have for some decades now been referring to as the pro-choice fold. And frankly, I have moved on–or outward, as I prefer to say–to the bigger canvas of women’s equality and power, not just between the navel and the knees but also in politics, at work, and at home.

However, thanks to the perpetual obsession about women and sex by those who want to outlaw abortion, I find myself drawn in once more to the fray over the rhetoric of–well, whatever you want to call it. Historian Nancy L. Cohen started the latest public discussion of the terminology in her Los Angeles Times op ed proposing that we switch from “choice” to “freedom.”

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Katha Pollitt, The Nation columnist and author of a new book of poetry, The Mind Body Problem asked a great question today on a media listserv we’re both on. She wanted to know what we thought were the places where women and/or feminism made advances, went backward, or were treading water.

How do you think women advanced during the last decade? (We can deal with the backward steps in another post…at the beginning of a new year and new decade, let’s start with a nod to the advances.)

Here are my two top-of-mind, unfiltered answers that I sent to Katha, mostly to the positive.

1. The rise of social media has given women the opportunity for a much bigger voice individually and collectively. The asynchronous, information-rich technology and the ability to create “rooms of one’s own” appeal to women who have for so long been overtalked by louder male voices. As a result women are over 50% of bloggers and 57% of the people on Facebook and Twitter. Social media offer a way to connect, share, find support systems, and organize. Women tend to isolate and think they have to solve their problems–often problems caused by systemic barriers–alone. But with social media, they can find answers to their questions and if they choose they can organize to solve problems whether in the private sector or politically. Having been recognized by advertisers as the purchasers of over 80% of all consumer goods, women could also use their online and social media presence to reshape the consumer economy.

The bad news is that this power remains largely in the potential category because women have not used it strategically to mass their voices. Power unused is power useless. This is the name of a chapter in the book I’m writing now and I am sad to say I have all too many examples.

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Lilith Magazine asked me to review Michelle Goldberg’s The Means of Reproduction. The book waspublished earlier this year and at first I thought this review would be a bit dated. As it turns out, given the health reform debate in which women’s reproductive health is once again the battering ram for Republicans who want to kill reform and controversial fodder for the pundits, the subject matter couldn’t be more timely. In particular, Goldberg’s discussion of the damage done globally to women’s health by the Helms amendment shouts the warning about what might well happen in the U.S. if the Stupak-Pitts amendment prevails.

Michelle Goldberg’s captivating book, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (Penguin Press, 2009) is perfectly timed to remind those who came of age post-Roe v Wade and might think they can relax under an Obama administration, just how much work is left to do. An investigative journalist and author previously of Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism, Goldberg has imbued this long-running story with fresh power by telling it in her young feminist voice.

The Means of Reproduction is a sweeping history of U.S. foreign policy on international family planning that spans four continents and the covers issues such as birth control, abortion, HIV/AIDS, their intersections with environmental concerns and economic development, and the gender politics of all, while staying in intimate touch with how America’s policies affect real women globally.

The story begins during the 1960’s cold war when Republicans like John D. Rockefeller and, yes, George H.W. “Rubbers” Bush led the charge to secure U.S. funding for international family planning, convinced that population pressures threatened national security. Then as now, family planning proponents met predictable adversaries. Goldberg writes, “There is one thing that unites cultural conservatives throughout the world, a critique that joins Protestant fundamentalism, Islamists, Hindu Nationalists, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and ultramontane Catholics. All view women’s equality and self-possession as unnatural, a violation of the established order. Yet in one society after another, we can see the absence of women’s rights creating existential dangers.”

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Folks have asked me to post this speech that I gave at the Brooklyn Museum Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art on September 13. Today, September 14, would be the 130th birthday of the founder of the American Birth Control Movement, Margaret Sanger. So here you go!

I just got back from my high school reunion in West Texas. It was a long journey from teen mom with little sense of power over or intention for my life to a movement leader and an activist for women’s human right to reproductive self-determination.

So when I tell you I’m amazed to be here with you, so near 46 Amboy Street in Brownsville, where Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic 93 years ago next month—believe it! This is hallowed ground.

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Yesterday, Bristol Palin was all over the media talking about her own teen pregnancy and that prevention is best. Though she focused on abstinence, she acknowledged teens need to know about birth control.

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Today, the president’s budget (.pdf) says in clear terms that the U.S. government won’t be wasting our tax money on abstinence only ineffective sex non-education any more if he has anything to do with it. Who would have thought that conservative abstinence-only proponent Gov. Sarah Palin’s splash onto the political landscape would have helped created the impetus for this sweeping policy change? This is what makes politics so eternally fun! Here’s the relevant language from the budget-now we have to keep the pressure on Congress to follow suit:

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