I entered the primary race in March of 2011, when the incumbent Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Though I had taken exception to many of Shuler’s votes against our President’s proposals (and continue to be disappointed), his vote against an organization that provides essential health care services to tens of thousands of women in North Carolina alone, and to their families, was my last straw. To add insult to injury, during that same week I learned that Rep. Shuler was co-sponsor of an amendment that would have redefined rape under our health care laws to only include violent rape by a stranger. Date rape, marital rape and incest would no longer qualify.
I had to wonder what planet he came from.
(Note: In September I was honored to serve as the volunteer auctioneer for an art auction to benefit Planned Parenthood here in WNC.)
In a larger sense, my view is that human beings have a right to make their own health care decisions, and only a woman has a right to make reproductive choices for herself. It is a wonderful thing when two parents make those decisions together and the man involved elects to stick around and share responsibilities, but we all know that model fails over and over again.
More than half of the babies born to women under age 30 find themselves in single parent households. And the biological truth is that a man’s involvement in baby-making is very brief. It is the mother who endures nine months of pregnancy with its attendant risks. It is the mother who is almost universally the principal caregiver and nurturer, and often the nutrition source as breast feeding has come back into general popularity. It is the mother to whom courts have historically assigned custody in the event of divorce. (Though the law has swung toward shared custody, in no small part because many men prefer not to pay child support.)
Women must be accorded the full right to determine their future plans. Men should attend to their own responsibilities around baby making and then sit down and shut up. The all-male panel of experts convened by Republican legislators, to testify concerning contraceptives would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening. Old men seem ever eager to tell young women what they can or cannot do. And as a woman I met in Bryson City observed, “If they can prevent you from having an abortion today, they can just as easily force you to have an abortion tomorrow.”
Another of my proposals goes further in the area of valuing families. I believe we should provide a stipend to a mother for the first three years of her first two children’s lives. The parents would be required to participate in self-organized parenting groups (somewhat like current baby-sitting co-ops) in which one of the parents and the children would participate on a regular basis—to share ideas, information and skills. The intent is to permit more time devoted to nurture and interaction during those critical formative years when much of our socialization occurs.
To those who’d argue that this is too expensive, my reply is that it would let one parent step out of the work force, thus opening up employment for the unemployed who are currently receiving benefits. Better socialized children are better students, less likely to disrupt the education of others in their classes, more likely to finish school, and less likely to end up in prison. My argument is that we are shifting the expense to where it actually does some good, instead of simply paying people who are out of work, or paying to imprison people later.
You hear a lot of candidates for public office touting their “family values.” I actually value families.