Memorial Day

The Chattanoogan published a scathing anti-war opinion piece for Memorial Day:

The only way to truly honor our war dead and those that have fought in our wars would be to tell the truth about why they died and why they fought and why there must come a day – in honor of them – when we must put a stop to needless war and the killing and maiming, the ruining of lives and the heartbreak and suffering that comes from it.

The last time an American soldier died or fought for our freedom was World War II. That is the plain fact and the plain truth. To say that any soldier since World War II fought or gave up his life in order that we might enjoy our freedom is a horrible mistake in reasoning.

It is a horrible mistake because it is not just a mistake but a mistake that perpetuates and promotes our insatiable appetite for needless war and needless death and suffering under the guise that it was all for the cause of freedom.

(I admit, I was much more impressed before I noticed that this is Chattanooga’s “alternative” newspaper. You expect to see this kind of thing safely penned in the alternative ghetto — I was hoping it had escaped into the mainstream press.)

I honor the humanity of all of those, not just soldiers, who have lost their lives in war. I honor the fact that the soldiers this day is meant to commemorate sacrificed their lives to do their duty as they saw it. And I hold in contempt those who corrupt the notions of honor, and sacrifice, and duty, so that they may continue to wring political power or monetary gain or a sense of vicarious importance from the deaths of their fellow human beings.

Still alive

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy — among other things, I’m sort of splitting my maternity leave in two and have actually been back at work for the past few days because we were so shorthanded. I find that I can stand spending the day away from my daughter a lot better if I think of it as giving her a chance to spend a lot of time with her father. I’m not looking forward to the day I go back to work for good, though. I think about those countries where parents get a year of paid family leave and I just want to cry. Then I think about women here in the U.S. who can’t afford to take off even the amount of time that I’m getting, and I want to cry even more.

Amnesty International update

Consistent Life has more on Amnesty International’s recent decision to add advocacy for abortion rights to its mission.

Although AI keeps claiming that the decision was made in consultation with its membership, this move is in fact being made without the knowledge or input of most members and against the wishes of many who have made their opinions known. As recently as May 2006, callers to AIUSA’s office were being told that AI took no position on abortion and that there was no movement to change that — yet AI claims that it has been consulting the membership for two years. The membership of the UK branch voted against adopting the new policy, but the branch adopted it anyway; similarly, AIUSA conducted a little-publicized online survey about the new policy in the members-only section of its website, but has never announced the results. I’d like to think that even supporters of this policy change would be disturbed by the high-handed and sneaky way in which it was imposed.

AI is being disingenuous in another way. The organization claims that it takes no position on when life begins or whether the unborn have human rights. However, nowhere in all of the explanatory material about the new policy is there any indication that anyone other than the mother might have anything at stake in abortion. Effectively, then, AI’s position is either that unborn human beings have no human rights, or that their rights don’t matter.

For an organization which so prizes freedom of conscience, AI is showing remarkable contempt for the consciences of many of its members. Its FAQ answer to the question “My neighbor says that AI is violating human rights by adopting this policy. How can I respond to this?” is patronizing and dismissive: “While some religions believe that life begins at conception and that, therefore, abortion represents a violation of the right to life of a fetus, international law is silent on the point when life begins.”

Of course, that’s no answer at all. It doesn’t even take the question seriously.

Members who believe that Amnesty’s new position condones human rights violations (and contrary to AI’s apparent belief, not all of them are religious) are being patted on the head and told that they can simply work on other issues. Anybody still believe AI’s assertion that they listened to people on all sides of the issue before making their decision?

Altering the system to fit women’s lives, for a change

The Christian Science Monitor ran a story last week, “Housing holds back moms in college”, about colleges starting to provide housing and other needs for student mothers (ht: Mother Talkers).

There’s a lot of good news here. It’s the kind of thing that Feminists for Life’s College Outreach Program has been working on for years — improving options for pregnant and parenting students by recognizing that their needs are just as legitimate as the needs of the childless, and fighting to get those needs met. (I was hoping that the College Outreach Program might be mentioned, but no luck. If you have experience with the program, I would encourage you to send a message to the reporter and/or the editors of the Monitor to let them know about your work for the advancement of student moms.)

Unfortunately, making college more accessible to mothers is seen by many as a sort of luxury or favor to mothers, rather than a matter of justice.

“Institutions should do whatever they can to aid in this process,” says Chelsea Toder, a co-president of VOX, a branch of Planned Parenthood. But, she asks, “If you provide housing to undergraduate mothers, how about married students? … [Or] students who have to care for family members? Everyone has things in their lives that limit them, and it is difficult to figure out when you must alter your own life and when a system should be altered for you.

This is exactly the mindset that pro-life feminists have criticized for years — that we have to alter ourselves and destroy our children in order to fit into a system that was made by and for people who can’t give birth.

Yes, it’s true that institutions can’t adapt themselves to each and every unique situation of people’s lives. But motherhood isn’t some exotic and unpredictable circumstance; over 80 percent of women in the U.S. have or will have children, and over four million women have babies each year. We recognize that it would be unjust to exclude people with physical disabilities from higher education, so colleges must accomodate them. We don’t seem to have come to that recognition with regard to mothers yet, even though motherhood is much more common.

Besides, I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of single fathers walking around on college campuses.