TEARS FOR NEW ORLEANS, AND US
As horrified as I was by the destruction in New Orleans and Bush’s lack of understanding or caring, it wasn’t until I read Patricia Williams’s “The View From Lott’s Porch” [Sept. 26] that tears ran down my face. The gall the right has shown is nothing less than sinful. We need to take our country back now!
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
I have always found images more powerful than words (which is probably why I’m an art historian), and I choked on the cover of the September 19 issue. You may have intended to say only that Alan Greenspan is too powerful (thus a king) and too conservative, but the picture is squarely in the tradition of anti-Semitic caricature and cartooning, especially that of the nineteenth century in France and the twentieth in Germany. I don’t believe you wanted to convey that message but you did, powerfully.
THE ARTIST REPLIES
New York City
I have been a caricaturist for more than thirty years and am very familiar with this kind of response to caricatures of public figures who have recognizably ethnic features. Of course caricature is about exaggeration of features to make a point. In the past, racial caricatures were employed to make points about masses of people. Minstrel shows, vaudeville, Puck, Harper’s Weekly, Simplicissimus, Der Stürmer were places it could be found with varying intensity and orientation. That world, I am happy to say, is dead and buried. Racial caricature is gone today in popular media, with the exception of groups parodying themselves, the only circumstance where it is now permissible. I make political art today, in the twenty-first century, under a strong belief that a caricature of an individual will be seen as just that. This caricature of Greenspan (done by yours truly, graduate of the Yeshiva of Kings Bay, Brooklyn, 1968) is as much an attack against Jews as a drawing of Bush is a caricature of all WASPs.
SPEAKING OF ABORTION…
Katha Pollitt’s well-written “Feminists for (Fetal) Life” [“Subject to Debate,” Aug. 29/Sept. 5] contains a few discrepancies. Pollitt implies that Feminists for Life wants to make all abortion illegal without exception. Like the early American feminists who worked to enact legal protection from abortion, FFL does support legal protection for women and children. But FFL’s work focuses on addressing the root causes that drive women to abortion. FFL is not a litigious group. Our advocacy work on college campuses, Capitol Hill and in the workplace focuses on resources and support for pregnant women and parents. If abortion becomes illegal, we don’t want women driven to back-alley abortions because they still lack the financial resources and emotional support they deserve. The work of eliminating the root causes of abortion will continue whether abortion is legal or illegal.
Since we are both pro-woman and pro-life, we refuse to choose between women and children. FFL believes that physicians and other medical personnel should treat both patients and do what they can to save both of them. Situations in which pregnancy threatens the life of the mother are extremely rare. Late-term abortions are never medically necessary. Emergency C-sections are often the medically appropriate response to save both woman and child. Viability at this stage of the child’s development is generally very good, especially with advances in neonatal care. Babies weighing less than a pound are surviving.
As for first-trimester scenarios, most are to save the woman from ectopic pregnancies. Since the child has no chance of survival, and the woman can survive if the pregnancy is ended, doctors must do what they can to save her. To let both die would not be pro-life. At this time, uterine transplants to re-implant the child in the womb are not possible, but if they become a viable option, it would have enormous ramifications for the abortion debate.
We do not support exceptions that discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
Pollitt’s article suggests FFL wants doctors who perform abortions to serve prison terms. Imprisoning doctors is not a goal of FFL. Because FFL works to eliminate the root causes of abortion–primarily lack of practical resources and support–FFL would support legislation to punish people who pressure or coerce women into abortion. Legislators and judges will decide on an appropriate range of sentences for violating the law. These could include fines, community service or prison time.
Finally, Pollitt suggests that FFL admits there is no correlation between abortion and breast cancer. We do not. Scientists are divided about this. FFL believes that women deserve to know the truth, supports further research and proposes that pro-life and pro-choice researchers work side by side to discover the truth. We are not doctors, nor is FFL a medical research facility. FFL believes that women can handle the truth about their bodies and the impact of childbirth, miscarriage, abortion, etc.
VASU MURTI, Feminists for Life
Author, The Liberal Case Against Abortion
Katha Pollitt categorically denies that anyone who opposes abortion may qualify as a feminist. Yet from at least Mary Wollstonecraft until the 1960s, this was the majority position in British and American feminism at the very least. Early feminist leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage opposed abortion as violence against fetal lives caused by violence against female lives: the denial of sexual/reproductive health education, including information about fetal development and family planning; the denial of the right to voluntary motherhood (achieved through voluntary abstinence, contraception and/or outercourse); women’s economic disempowerment; men’s sexual and parental irresponsibility and violence; and the utter dearth of social supports for mothers.
This analysis remains apt, as does their focus on the expansion of women’s choices rather than the secondary issue of the law. Although pro-life feminists are an often disbelieved, excluded and censored minority in the United States today, we persist, and we are discovering feminists like us in other countries–like Kenya’s Wangari Maathai. If Pollitt would look at the big picture of feminism, perhaps she would see that we are an integral part of its past, present and future.
MARY KRANE DERR
Co-editor, Prolife Feminism Yesterday and Today (www.fnsa.org)
When it comes to the question of whether a woman should be able to obtain an abortion, labels like “feminist” and questions about “when does life begin” are side issues, diversions. In two sentences, this is what I think about the abortion question: When any government– whether federal, state, county, city or church government–denies any female access to birth control–whether the Pill, condoms, RU486, the morning-after pill or abortion–then that government is forcing that female to become a breeder. And that, my friends, is slavery.
From a mother of four, grandmother of two (so far) and a woman who has suffered five spontaneous abortions (miscarriages): I do know what I am talking about.
How about this: Illegal abortion is terrorism against women, and the procedure done under those conditions is torture. Too much? Too extreme? Fuck them all, left, right and center. I was there. It’s accurate. And I was one of the lucky ones–incredible friends who took care of me during the endless night before and the bloody aftermath. So I’m here to tell you: Men have to go to war to find the kind of courage it takes for a woman to go down this path. Millions of us found it before Roe v. Wade and I really wouldn’t mess with us! No shame. No regrets.
New York City
Vasu Murti claims that Feminists for Life does not want to criminalize all abortions, it just supports “legal protection for women and children”–from abortion! What sort of doublespeak is this? The position of FFL is precisely that of the Catholic Church, which permits the termination of a life-threatening pregnancy if, and only if, the fetus has no hope of survival. Ectopic pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg is implanted outside the womb, is the usual example. If, however, a woman is pregnant and at risk of dying from a heart condition, or from having to postpone chemotherapy, she’s out of luck. Medically necessary abortions may be rare, but to say “late-term abortions are never medically necessary” is just propaganda, on a par with Congressional diagnoses that found Terri Schiavo to be in remarkably good health.
Murti is similarly evasive about FFL’s scaremongering over breast cancer. If FFL thinks women “can handle the truth about their bodies,” why not give it to them? Instead, the FFL website uses old research that makes abortion seem a risk for breast cancer and ignores the more recent research that debunks the connection. That’s just not honest, and given that Serrin Foster, head of FFL, told me the breast cancer claims might be taken down since FFL are “not doctors,” I’m surprised the bogus material is still posted, and that Murti defends it.
Mary Krane Derr says I am wrong to say a feminist cannot oppose abortion. Actually what I said was that a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child. A feminist can certainly oppose abortion for herself, and probably many do. The question is whether a feminist can favor substituting her will and beliefs and judgment in this most personal matter for that of the woman who is actually having the experience and must bear its consequences. Can a feminist say, “You must have that baby no matter what you want, and I’m devoting myself to making sure that if you do abort it will be as dangerous and humiliating as possible” to a 12-year-old? A rape victim? A woman in poor health? A woman who already has all the kids she can manage? A woman who feels with every fiber of her being that she is not able or ready to be a mother? That doesn’t sound like sisterhood to me.
LET THEM EAT JET SKIS
Port Jefferson, NY
Congratulations to Steve Brodner for his brutally incisive “Surf’s up, Dude!” [“Comix Nation,” Sept. 26] and bravo! to The Nation (yet again) for having the courage to publish it. It says everything.
In “Sex & the Single Reporter,” last week’s “Exchange” column, Debbie Nathan accidentally cited the blog Radosh.net as that of Ronald, instead of Daniel, Radosh.
In the same issue, in Roberto Lovato’s “The War for Latinos,” an editorial error placed the launch of a campaign to educate Latinos about military recruitment in schools in August 2004 instead of this past August 24.