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?

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At this point in the presidential race, students like myself do not have time to sift through crooked statistics and tired rhetoric. We have enough of those things on our plate already, considering that we’re reviewing for midterms.

Romney and Obama could have saved us the trouble. Most of the students I spoke with at New York University, which I attend, were already informed about the policy issues addressed during the televised train wreck. And those who were undecided said that they were still thinking through both policies because the debate offered little to them.

“I thought both candidates did an excellent job at talking their way around some key issues,” John Facey, a junior studying creative writing, said.

The candidates were just picking on each other like boys in the school yard. One friend likened Jim Lehrer’s authority to that of a high school substitute teacher: only after the fifth warning did the kids eventually settle down.

And just like almost every American who watched the debate on Wednesday, the student voter population was left scratching their heads once Lehrer finally called it a night.

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Do you know the term “October Surprise”? It was coined in 1972 when 10 days pre-election, incumbent President Nixon sucked the remaining oxygen from Democratic candidate George McGovern’s anti-Viet Nam war campaign message by declaring that peace was at hand. Ever since, the term “October Surprise” has been used to describe pre-emptive strikes by one prospective leader designed to strike a powerful blow to the opponent’s election intentions. Or, as in the fun fictional case of “Wag the Dog,” to help the candidate deflect attention from his own brewing scandal.

What October Surprises do you predict this year? Let’s keep a running list here.

 

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Researching candidates is key when deciding who you will vote for in the 2012 presidential election. However, deciphering fact from opinion about how they would lead the country on major issues can be overwhelming—especially for a first-time voter.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, our demographic (college-aged females) plays a pivotal role in this election. Our choice, come November, has the power to determine how much we owe after college, who we can marry, and how long we can stay on our parents’ insurance plan.

So what can the two major presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, offer us? Here are just a few key points in the election that concern our demographic.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on CNN yesterday morning that Democrats have a “very excellent chance” of taking back the House in November – pointing to Mitt Romney’s selection of running mate Paul Ryan as a “pivotal” moment in the campaign.

The Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to win back the majority.

Politico’s arena asked: “Does it seem likely that the Democrats could retake the House? With a 10 percent congressional approval rating, are Americans even paying attention to House races?”

Here’s my take:

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Growing up, I always asked Mom lots of questions. Questions like “What does ‘superfluous’ mean?” and “What’s an endocrinologist?” were common, and quite commonly, Mom replied:

“Look it up in the dictionary.”

Nowadays, I still have questions. They’re a little more difficult for Mom to answer, so her reply is more like:

“Look it up on the Internet.”

It’s very easy to give up on answering a question when the answer is not easily found. From questions in an exam, to solving a problem with university administration, to learning how to vote, I’ve found myself at bottomless pits of questions that don’t have answers on SparkNotes.com or FAQ pages.

I was in this predicament when I attempted to vote through an absentee ballot. I didn’t know how to get a hold of a ballot or where to vote or what to send. I was clueless! I expected that all of the information would be readily available on one government website, which would make it easier for college students.

I was wrong.

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Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National convention last night was brilliant rhetorically and substantively. It was delivered with the passion of someone speaking her truth, the spark of a woman deeply in love, and the skill of a lawyer who knows how to build an arc of persuasion.

There was no ridiculous “I love you women!” moment in Michelle’s speech. There didn’t need to be because she actually communicated with women how her husband’s policies—from equal pay to reproductive rights—demonstrate that he respects and values them.

When Michelle said of Barack, “Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are,” she drove the ball straight home with voters. And she touched the hearts as well as minds of anyone watching.

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Last night as expected, Ann Romney’s speech covered her husband’s image in warm fuzzy love.

The New York Times suggested that Ann Romney’s speech, which highlighted the hard work she put in to raise five boys and battle two serious illnesses, may have zapped some of the energy away from her husband.

How and why any woman can drink the Kool-aid Ann Romney served up is a topic for another day. But no amount of Ann’s love and charming demeanor can obscure the realities of Mitt Romney’s intent if elected.

Politico Arena asked me whether Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention would persuade voters, including women, that her husband is someone we can trust.

Indeed, Americans can trust Mitt. There was never any doubt, and it didn’t take a speech by his wife to tell us the many ways we can trust him:

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Mitt Romney’s traveling press secretary lost his cool with reporters covering the candidate’s overseas trip. Aide Rick Gorka told reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it” after they shouted questions at Romney during his visit to Pilsudski Square, near the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“Kiss my ass; this is a holy site for the Polish people,” said Gorka to reporters. “Show some respect.” Gorka then told a reporter to “shove it.” The aide later called members of the press to apologize, calling his actions “inappropriate.” Romney has not held a media availability for his traveling press corps since taking three questions outside 10 Downing Street in London last Thursday.

The Politico Arena question for today was: Was this an instance of aggressive reporters overstepping their bounds? Or do presidential candidates need to be more accessible to media outlets?

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