by Suba Narasimhan
So I made the mistake of actually sleeping eight hours last night. I say it was a mistake because I wasn’t hyper-vigilant, and overnight the fine people at the North Carolina General Assembly approved another straightjacket of a bill, and tonight, it will reach the House Floor for a vote.
House Bill 693 (a.k.a. the WTF Are They Thinking Bill) is receiving much less coverage than the Sex-Selective Abortion Ban. However, if it passes, it will amend the state’s current parental consent law extending restrictions to other services beyond abortion and have far-reaching implications on how doctors interact with their teenage patients.
This bill keeps minors from accessing services lawmakers see as potentially inappropriate. HB 693 requires written and NOTARIZED (when was the last time any of us notarized anything?) permission for teens to access birth control, but also for sexually transmitted disease and HIV screening, mental health services, and substance abuse counseling, and prenatal care.
As a long-time resident and fervent lover of NC, I am livid over the Legislature’s attempts to curtail all forms of public health and frustrated by our State media’s lack of coverage about it. Craig Jarvis at the N&O wrote a very short article on HB693 but it was trumped by adorable baby lemurs. Dammit, we have priorities! However, HuffPost and ThinkProgress picked up the slack.
I could fume about a million huge issues but let’s stick to two:
1) Not all minors live in environments that are safe where they can confide in adults: We cannot make legislation based on ideal families with ideal communication.
2) Stigmatizing minors who reach out for medical help and assuming they are engaging in risky behaviors is dangerous: We can’t blame teens when they do the right thing and access medical help.
This bill will change medical practice across NC. More importantly, it keeps an already underserved population from accessing early intervention health services just because they either can’t or won’t confide in a parent or guardian. This is downright dangerous and goes against the tenets of public health and medicine. It seems that REP Whitman seeks to remove the vital role of the physician to bridge the gaps in communication between patient and parent. Yet again, NC proves that M.D. is actually spelled R-E-P.
Cheers NC! Here’s to turning back time to 1960 – but at least it’s a good day to be a notary.
Suba Narasimhan was born in Michigan but raised in Eastern NC. In 2010, she received her MPH in Maternal and Child Health from UNC. She is a Family Planning Researcher who loves loves baby lemurs, reproductive justice, and a good strong cocktail. She can be reached at email@example.com
By Erin Arizzi
On the web today there has been quite a bit of discussion about whether last night’s State of the Union address was good for women. Or rather, whether it was good enough.
Maya at Feministing (and others) point out that Obama addressed women using relational language (as mothers, wives, and daughters) rather than addressing them as citizens. It’s true that this language is expressive of the patriarchal values and attitudes that continue to shape political rhetoric in this country. If you think these ladies are being crazy feminists, try to imagine a politician giving a speech where he addressed men using language like this:
“We know our economy is stronger when our husbands, fathers, and sons can find decent paying jobs in a strong domestic economy”
Weird right? It’s weird because we don’t tend to consider men in terms of their relationships with women. Men are the assumed subjects of political address, and thus, women are addressed in terms of their relationships to men.
And that really sucks. Writing this is getting me all annoyed about it in a deeply philosophical way. I want to tell you all about Simone de Beauvoir’s diagnosis of this very problem back in the 1940s, and demonstrate my rage over the fact that we are still having this conversation. But that’s not why I am writing this post.
I’m writing this post because in spite of the things that Obama did not say about the state of women in this Union in last night’s speech, I think it was a good speech for us. He did not say anything about abortion, choice, Roe v. Wade, or reproductive health justice. I would have loved for him to say those things. But he did say a lot about the systemic problems that keep many Americans from achieving their dreams.
Here are some examples:
“Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.”
Universal preschool is not just good for kids, it’s good for women in a few different ways outlined really wonderfully here. Briefly, it’s good for single moms, for working parents, and for educators. Preschool is a safe place for kids to go while their parents are at work, and more preschools mean more jobs for teachers. There’s also the matter that preschool is a great predictor of future academic success for kids. It’s a serious win win.
“And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.”
Obviously we need the government to enact this law, which will help amend the gender pay gap. But what I really love about this part of the speech is that the POTUS does not stop at equal pay for equal work. He keeps going:
“We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. … Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.”
My jaw dropped when he said these words. They are very reasonable words, but considering the power American Corporations like Wal-Mart now hold (at the expense of the American worker), these words felt downright radical. Many of the beneficiaries of an increase in minimum wage (I think it’s safe to say, the majority) would be women. Women are vastly overrepresented in service sector jobs.
There was more, of course. The president offered his support to The Violence Against Women Act, and he mentioned more than once the bravery of our women in combat.
Maybe I was blown away by the President because I’m writing from North Carolina, and right now, I am hungry for old-fashioned liberalism. But I was blown away, because even if he only said the word “women” seven times, the policies he outlined in his speech– if he can manage to get them through– would transform the lives of not just American women, but all those who are misrepresented by political rhetoric (the tired, the poor, the huddled masses).
Erin Arizzi is a the Communications Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. She is also a PhD student and teaching fellow in Communication Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a Masters Degree in Rhetoric from UNC-CH, and a BA in English from Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
by Erin Arizzi
Imagine what we could do if we didn’t have to worry about keeping abortion legal? Seriously. Here are some of the things I would be doing if I wasn’t losing sleep over the anti-choice legislation the NC Legislature is likely to try to pass this session.
- Sex Education: Let’s decrease the need for abortions. I have been teaching UNC undergrads for six years and I can tell you, abstinence-only education leaves a lot to be desired! My students are shockingly under-educated when it comes to birth control. They could do with an old-fashioned put the condom on the banana tutorial.
- Gender-Pay Gap: Women still make about 70 cents to the man’s dollar. This is exacerbated by issues of race and class. But the fact remains, women make less money than men. It’s a really complicated situation that I would love to wax on about, but alas, I’ve got other things on my mind at the moment.
- Paid Maternity Leave: I would LOVE to see our government enact legislation that helps support working parents by giving them paid maternity and paternity leave. Wouldn’t that be awesome? While we are at it, why not talk about child-care in the workplace?
- Gun Control: Don’t even get me started about this one. Someone needs to stand up to the NRA, why not feminists?
- Living Wage: Women are vastly overrepresented in the service industry, and I think that’s maybe why Wal-Mart gets away with blatant sex-discrimination. I would like to see America’s retail and food service workers get paid enough money to live. Call me crazy, call me a Marxist, but that just seems reasonable.
I could literally go on all day. But I won’t, because the fact is, my right to choose is being threatened. And even though this is personal, it’s not just about me. I’m a highly-educated woman in my late-twenties, with a car that works, and access to cheap birth control through my health insurance plan. I’m not likely to find myself in the situation where I need an abortion, but if I did, as a triangle resident, I would not have to drive far to find an abortion provider. I’m concerned about the 86% of North Carolina women who live in a county where there is no abortion provider. I’m concerned about the presence of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (which outnumber abortion-providers 8/1 in our state) which have been proven to give vulnerable women misinformation about abortion, pregnancy, and women’s health. And more than all of that, I’m concerned that the NC Legislature is going to enact more anti-choice legislation this session.
So, I guess all the other issues will have to wait until a time when a woman’s legal right to abortion is no longer under attack.
What would you be doing if you weren’t worrying about keeping abortion legal? Leave a comment and let us know.
Erin Arizzi is the Communications Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. She is also a PhD student and teaching fellow in Communication Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a Masters Degree in Rhetoric from UNC-CH, and a BA in English from Villanova University in Pennsylvania.