Category Archives: Roe v. Wade

Hot Air

Abortion

Ever since I first became aware of the abortion debate, back in 1970 when I was 14 and the Roe v. Wade lawsuit was filed in US District Court, I’ve had the feeling that a lot of pro-abortion advocates had a guilty conscience.

Blackmun

Justice Harry Blackmun Wrote The Eventual Decision

The name they called their movement — pro-choice — seemed a kind of misdirection, sort of like a red-handed kid saying to his mom, “But I didn’t really shoplift that record, I didn’t hide it or anything, I just carried it out of the store and nobody stopped me so, y’know, it’s their fault. It’s not really stealing. Honest.” Even as a tender teen, I couldn’t figure out why people fighting for abortion rights didn’t say they were pro-abortion.

Now I know the pro-abortion people didn’t all have guilty consciences. Some, maybe, yeah. But the vast majority of them didn’t feel that aborting an unwanted fetus was a mortal sin. Or even a venial sin. [For those of you who weren’t raised in Catholic schools, the Church makes distinctions between gross sins and easily forgivable ones.]

Still, all the arguments made by the “pro-choice” crowd were weighted down with excuse-copping and apologies. By the time Ronald Reagan was canonized into the Presidency, most “pro-choice” politicians were saying things like “I’m not in favor of abortion but I believe a woman should have the right to choose.”

Which sounds like a losing argument if I’ve ever heard one.

Bumper Sticker

Okay, Then Where Do You Stand?

The abortion rights argument often went, If woman are denied abortion, the babies they don’t want may be neglected, beaten, emotionally abused, tormented, starved, thrown in Dumpsters, and so on, a litany of horrors guaranteed to turn women seeking abortions into harpies that would terrify Adolph Hitler.

And some people wonder why the concept of feminism is not universally embraced. Feminists, Ma & Pa Murrica surmised, want abortions, plus they’re prone to throwing their babies into Dumpsters.

At times it seemed the “pro-choice” argument really was, We want every woman to have the right to an abortion and we’ll work like hell to make sure none of them ever gets one.

Like most liberals and Democrats of the last 45 or so years, the “pro-choice” people were mealy-mouthed, obsessively equanimous, tepid, and apologetic. The truth is the American electorate — hell, the electorate in any country on this Earth — despises people like that. We want — and by we, I mean human beings — leaders who are bold, strong, and confident. One of the reasons why the Conservative movement thrived in this holy land even after the supposed death of the Right in 1964 was that people like Saint Ronald “brazened it out.” The Right Wingers who would eventually take over this country stuck to their principles even when it seemed they were a minority of a dozen. Reagan himself refused to soften his rhetoric in the face of all sorts of advisors and friends urging him to do so.

Reagan won the presidency in 1980 because he appeared to tower above all the other mere politicians. He was so adept at brazening it out that even when he and his people were caught beyond a shadow of a doubt selling arms to Iran to finance the Contras in Nicaragua, he not only denied wrongdoing, he claimed the evidence simply wasn’t there.

It would have been like that shoplifting kid saying, “I didn’t steal anything. There was no record. There wasn’t even a record shop.”

And getting away with it.

Today, thanks in large part to pols who emulate Reagan’s appearance of towering strength and “pro-choicers” who shrug and alibi too much, abortion rights are being eroded and chipped away from one end of the country to the other.

That’s why I’m eager to dig into Katha Pollitt‘s new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Pollitt has been clanging the bell for feminism — unapologetic feminism — for years. She writes for The Nation as well as pretty much every other magazine and newspaper that claims to have the ear of the Left.

Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Adam Gopnik reviewed her book in The New Yorker this week. He wrote:

“Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights” has two major originalities. First is its lack of bowing or scraping for its pro-woman position. Abortion, in Pollitt’s view, must be seen not as a moral compromise requested by poor, weak women—we’re sorry, and we promise we’ll make it rare, but please, forgive us, we’ll still need it in extremis— but as a positive doctrine of women’s control over their own bodies, and of their own lives and destinies. Abortion, she insists, is a right integral to women’s own autonomy, not a privilege to be used as infrequently as possible.

Now, there’s an argument I can get behind.

In fact, if someone were to ask me, I’d say a woman’s pro-abortion argument should go like this:

I want to fuck. I want it as much as any man. It is in my nature to want it. I do not necessarily want to be saddled with the lifelong responsibility of caring for a human being because of it. No one else’s personal morality nor particular religious viewpoint should interfere with my ability to fuck and abort if I so desire. I am in charge of my own body!

Okay, clean up the language a little bit, sure. But still, present the case like this and the “pro-choicers” just may have a winner. It certainly couldn’t do worse than the arguments they’ve been offering since Roe v. Wade.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Well, the future for me is already a thing of the past.” — Bob Dylan

A PEEK INTO THE FUTURE

When I was a kid I would have this scifi-like fantasy that I’d been transported into the past, say, into my mother’s Little Sicily neighborhood on the Near West Side of Chicago or my father’s Polish enclave on the Northwest Side.

There, I’d be celebrated as The Kid from the Future, the one who knew all the answers, whom other kids and even adults would visit to learn about the wonders of the Space Age 1970s.

“Aw sure,” I’d say casually as my wide eyed audience would hang on my every word, “we sent guys to the moon. Nothin’ to it. We saw it on TV.”

Gasp

Or, “Everybody has a refrigerator and air conditioning, right in their homes. And our cars are low and sleek.”

This little conceit presaged “Back to the Future” by fifteen years or so. Only, unlike Marty McFly, I didn’t have to hide my true origins. I’d be a big shot. Newspaper reporters would flock around me, grilling me about events to come.

“Be prepared,” I’d warn dolefully, “there’s a horrifying world war on the way.” Reporters and kids alike would glance at each other in apprehension. I’d calm them. “But we survived it,” I’d say, as if I had experienced its horrors myself.

Gasp

So play along with me. Let’s pretend we’re the people from the future. We find ourselves in Bloomington in the year 1973. It’s January. It’s drizzly and the temperatures are hovering in the high 40s. We’re sitting at a table in a new little vegetarian diner called The Tao, surrounded by locals. They have a ton of questions.

The political science professor asks, “What’s going to happen with all this Watergate business?”

The campus ROTC officer asks, “Now that President Nixon has ordered a halt to offensive action in Vietnam does that mean the war is over?”

Newly-appointed Hoosiers football coach Lee Corso stops by. He asks, “Does George Foreman have a chance against Joe Frazier?”

A woman wearing a blue “ERA Now!” button asks, “What will the Supreme Court rule in the Roe v. Wade case?”

A soft-spoken philosophy major wearing long hair and a tie-dyed T-shirt asks, “Have the people of 2012 achieved a state of higher consciousness?”

We, of course, have all the answers. “Nixon’s going to resign in a year and a half,” we say. People’s jaws drop.

We continue. “Sorry to say, the war’s going to go on for a couple of more years.” The folks in our audience shake their heads.

“Put your dough on Foreman,” we advise the coach. He says, “Not so fast, my friend!” and points out that Frazier is a 3:1 favorite. “Trust us,” we assure him.

We turn to the woman wearing the blue button. She shifts in her seat excitedly.

“The Court,” we say, “will rule in favor of Roe.”

The woman thrusts her fists in the air, throws her head back, and shouts “Yes!”

The semi-circle of people around us begins to talk among themselves. The woman is giddy. So is Lee Corso. The ROTC officer speculates that with two more years of fighting, maybe — just maybe — the United States can pull out a victory in Southeast Asia. We haven’t the heart to set him straight.

“What else can you tell us,” someone asks.

“Let’s see. Oh, Ronald Reagan will be elected president in 1980.”

“Ronald Reagan?” the political science professor says, shocked.

“Yep. Not only that, he’ll be reelected in one of the greatest landslides in history. And get this: we’ll re-fight the Vietnam War in the ‘Rambo’ movies and we’ll win!”

Our National Do-Over

The young woman’s shoulders slump. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she says.

“Nope.”

On the other hand, the ROTC officer’s mood improves considerably.

“Cheer up,” the political science professor says to the young woman, “Nixon’s going to quit.”

We interrupt him. Nixon, we reveal, will transform himself into an elder statesman. He’ll write books about world affairs. When he dies, his successors in the White House, both Republican and Democrat, will eulogize him.

“That’s odd,” the political science professor observes. “The future looks awfully baffling.” He turns again toward the young woman. “Still, at least the divisive issue of abortion will be settled. You’ve won.”

Not So Fast

“Um, hold on a second there, Professor,” we say. “The abortion issue not only won’t be settled, it’ll be hanging over the country like never before. States will curtail access to abortions. Candidates will run on planks of little more than rolling back Roe v. Wade. In fact, as we left 2012 to come visit you here in 1973, the State of Indiana is fighting with the federal government over abortion. Governor Mitch Daniels and Republican legislators want to cut off Medicaid payments for low income women’s abortions. The feds say the state can’t do that but Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller has promised to fight for the cut off.

“In fact,” we add, “if states like Mississippi have their way, abortion will be outlawed, period.”

“But I thought you said the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roe,” the young woman says, plaintively.

“Um, uh…, well, yeah,” we say. Then we shrug.

The people forming the semicircle around contemplate all this for a moment. Finally, the soft-spoken philosophy major  breaks the silence. “You haven’t answered my question,” he says. “Have the people of 2012 achieved a state of higher consciousness?”

You and I glance at each other. Someone’s got to break the news to him. “Well kid,” I say at last, “you really don’t want to know.”

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

People’s ParkLunch Concert Series, Scott Frye, acoustic country blues; 11:30am

Lower Cascades Park, Sycamore Shelter — Bloomington Serious Mac Users Group annual picnic; 5:30-8:30pm

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsThe Art & Poetry of Shana Ritter; 6pm

Jake’s NightclubKaraoke; 6pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Ken Wilson; 6-8:30pm

◗ IU Ford-Crawford Hall Summer Music Series, The Steve Houghton Trio; 7pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Music Series, Chamber music by the Cecilia String Quartet; 8pm

Cecilia String Quartet

The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington — Team trivia; 8pm

The Player’s PubBlues Jam hosted by King Bee & the Stingers; 8pm

The BluebirdBloomington’s Got Talent, hosted by Leo Cook; 9pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

THIS MEANS WAR!

Steven Higgs of the Bloomington Alternative ran a fascinating twoparter this month on the 1971 opening salvo in the right wing revolution that has turned this holy land into a corporatocracy. Don’t miss it.

Less than half a year before he was nominated by Richard Nixon to become a US Supreme Court Associate Justice, the then-rightist Lewis Powell wrote an explosive memo detailing what he saw as the coming war for free enterprise.

Powell, you may recall, retired in the middle of Ronald Reagan’s second term as president. By that time, he was seen as a moderate, a compromiser, the guy who could talk to both Antonin Scalia and Thurgood Marshall. In fact, many felt Powell was even too liberal for a Court and a nation that had moved dramatically rightward in the preceding 16 years.

Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, an even more conservative jurist, to replace Powell. Now Kennedy is seen as the moderate, the compromiser, and, occasionally, too liberal for his own good.

The right has come a long way, baby.

Powell

Anyway, Powell, a big-time corporate lawyer and legal advocate for the tobacco industry, wrote that American capitalism was under attack on a variety of fronts 41 years ago. Everybody, he wrote, from Ralph Nader, the media, academia, the federal courts, communists  and “New Left”-ists, to outright revolutionaries were gunning for our sacred economic system.

Powell wasn’t speaking metaphorically either. He was convinced liberals were out to destroy America. His screed sounded like nothing other than a typical Rush Limbaugh upchuck.

For instance, Powell quoted a Fortune magazine diatribe against consumer advocate Nader:

“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer.”

Nader, Powell asserted, was dangerous.

Dangerous

Funny thing is, a mere six years later it was learned that Ford Motor Company bosses knew their Pinto model was liable to explode in flames in rear-end collisions. Those execs also knew a certain number of Pinto drivers and passengers would die as a result. They decided that the deaths and resulting financial damage claims were simply the cost of doing business.

Dangerous, indeed.

In the Powell Memo, sent to members of the US Chamber of Commerce, he suggested corporate America and political leaders devote themselves to the “constant surveillance” of school textbooks and eliminate left-wingers from schools and positions of power.

“There should be no hesitation to attack,” he advised corporate leaders.

Yeesh!

Higgs concludes that the memo was “a literal call to the political arms that have (sic) subsequently driven the nation’s devolution from democracy to oligarchy.”

I suppose the only difference between today and 1971 is that, back then, the only people who would spout such psycho garbage were toady corporate lawyers. Now, the corporations have an entire Tea Party to parrot their paranoia.

LIZZ WINSTEAD’S BABY

Lizz Winstead created the fabulously successful Daily Show franchise that we think of as Jon Stewart’s baby.

It isn’t.

Winstead

Stewart came aboard two and a half years after the show was born. He replaced the smarmy-snarky, celebrity-gossipy Craig Kilborn as host. Toward the end of Kilborn’s run, he granted an interview to an Esquire magazine writer in which he suggested that Winstead would happily blow him. It was the last straw in Winstead’s long-standing battle against the comedy boys club that was taking over her show. She quit soon after.

Since her Daily Show stint, Winstead’s career has soared and dived. She co-founded the ill-fated Air America Radio network. She writes occasionally for the Huffington Post, has produced a few TV and radio shows, and now hosts a weekly New York City radio news wrap up program called “Shoot the Messenger.”

I was reminded of Winstead while reading a neat book called “¡Satiristas!: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians,” by Paul Provenza and Dan Dion. It was published by itbooks, a HarperCollins imprint, in 2010. In it Provenza chats with dozens of funny people about their art.

Winstead is included in the line-up. She tells Provenza that part of her comedic sensibility emanates from her conservative Catholic childhood home in Minneapolis.

She recalls facing her first adult dilemma as a teenaged girl.

“[T]he first time I ever had sex, in high school, I got pregnant. I knew I wasn’t having a baby, bu the way to get an abortion was so insane. Being brought up a Catholic, I didn’t know where to go, but one day I saw a sign on the bus for a place that said, ‘Abortion options.’ I thought, ‘Oh, there are many options.’

“So I go to this place, and it was run by some group called The Lambs of Christ. This woman comes out wearing a lab coat, so I’m thinking she’s some kind of doctor. Then I realized the women at the Clinique and Lancôme counters wear lab coats; she’s not really a doctor, lab coats are pretty much available anywhere. She shows me blow-ups of mangled fetuses and a picture of a kid on a bike. I’m like, ‘A bike?’ It was insane. I left completely confused. As I walked out the door, she was yelling after me, ‘Just remember, the choice you make is mommy or murder.’

“I thought, ‘I’m sixteen and here’s an adult, a “person of God,” impersonating a physician, just scaring the shit out of me.’ Even as a kid, I was, like, ‘That’s fucking weird.'”

Winstead’s 51 years old now, meaning the encounter took place 35 years ago, probably sometime in 1977.

Just four short years after the US Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.

Nashville’s The Tennessean newspaper reported Friday that 24 states passed new abortion restriction laws in 2011, more than any previous year.

Talk about fucking weird.

MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING

Written by Bruce Springsteen, performed best by Cyndi Lauper.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Christopher Morley

BARRY’S OKAY — JUST OKAY

I have no idea why but I feel I must defend Barack Obama these days — tepidly, of course, because his presidency has been rather ho-hum, for my money.

For all the excitement he generated among the commie, pinko, homo, abortion-crazed, tax-happy, put-the-white-man-in-jail, apologize-for-America, femi-nazi, Manchurian-candidate-cabalist population of this otherwise holy land when he was merely candidate Obama, Boss Obama’s reign has been pretty much a let down.

Every Right Winger’s Wet Nightmare

Many of my lefty pals feel their blood pressure reach quadruple digits when the current POTUS is mentioned. The radical lawyer Jerry Boyle goes so far as to call him a “traitor” (to the left‘s cause — not, as the other side would have it, to the nation.)

How can a guy be a traitor when he was never part of the club?

If anybody had paid a bit of attention to how he voted when he was Senator Obama, they’d know he was, in truth, the biggest Rockefeller Republican since that very man who passed from this vale of tears at the age of 70 while banging his secretary on her desk back in 1977. (Yeah, yeah, I know — allegedly.)

The Original Rocky (Bust In The Senate Gallery)

Anyway, as I’ve pontificated before, perhaps my happiest day as a voter and taxpayer in this greatest nation in the history of our corner of the Solar System was when Barack Obama was elected president. Not that I expected him to outlaw guns in cities, care for the sick, tend to the poor, pull the soldiers out of Iraq and Afghanistan the next day, and order the summary executions of Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon, but because the election of a (half) black man demonstrated that these United States had grown up a bit since, oh say, the 1970s.

That and the fact that Obama wasn’t George W. Bush nor was he craven enough to have chosen as his running mate a MILF-y knucklehead from Alaska.

Every Right Winger’s Wet Dream

The fact that Obama has surrounded himself with so many unindicted felons from the Goldman Sachs mob makes me want to retch. Then again, I never expected him to name among his advisers Dennis Kucinich, Howard Zinn, and Rachel Maddow.

So, that’s my roundabout way getting to the fact that I am categorically, incontrovertibly, without question or fail, voting for Barry come November. As long as nobody better comes along.

You think I want to see Roe v. Wade overturned? And all those Wall Street baboons given free reign? The privatization and profit-ization of basic human services? The digging for oil in every citizen’s backyard? Rush Limbaugh smiling?

Hell no, babies. I’m a staunch(ish) Obama man from here on out.

TRUTH — REALLY

Bloomington author Julia Karr waltzed into the Book Corner Monday, carrying the galley copy of her forthcoming book, “Truth.”

It’s the follow-up to her successful 2011 release, “XVI,” a murder chiller set in a dystopian future.

‘Truth” will go on sale a week from tomorrow with a book release party Friday, January 20, at Boxcar Books.

Julia Karr

Karr brought in “Truth” for our town’s Book Babe R.E. Paris, who’s reviewing it for Ryder magazine.

I was chatting with another customer at the time, a man whom I don’t know. When I told him he was in the presence of a big time pen lady and then told him about all the other successful authors in town, he said, “No kidding? I had had no idea this was such a center for authors.”

It is, pal. It is.

BLOOMINGTON’S BOOK BABE LOOKS BACK AT 2011

Speaking of R.E. Paris, I mentioned yesterday that she looks at the year in publishing in the current issue of the Ryder. Peter LoPilato, the Ryder’s majordomo, has been kind enough to let us run selected pieces from the magazine in these precincts.

The Ryder

So, let’s take a look at R.E.’s retrospective, no?

2011: The Year in Books, by R.E. Paris

In which I discuss some interesting titles from 2011, note others, and leave out yet many more worthy of mention among the hundreds of thousands of books published last year.

Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt, (Norton), is a very readable history of the intellectual inheritance of the Renaissance. Greenbaltt shows that history ties the modern world to the classical one…. read more

TRUE FAITH

New Order was born of Joy Division after that band’s lead singer committed suicide. Joy Divison had led the post-punk movement in the late 1970s and New Order took the sound to a new level with its incorporation of then-new electronic technology.

And, BTW, New Order has a bit of a Bloomington connection. The video for “Round & Round” featured the face of super-model and recent local divorcee Elaine Irwin (go to the 3:15 mark.)

Elaine Irwin Decorates New Order’s “Round & Round” Video

Anyway, here’s “True Faith”:

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