Your Uterus is Our Uterus

Or so says Concerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse of Mary Cheney.

Mary Cheney’s pregnancy poses problems not just for her child, but also for all Americans. Her action repudiates traditional values and sets an appalling example for young people at a time when father absence is the most pressing social problem facing the nation. With 37 percent of American children born to fatherless families, Mary Cheney is contributing to a trend that is detrimental to all Americans who will live with the ramifications of millions of children whose anger and frustration at not knowing their father will be felt in the public schools and communities of our nation.

Yes, I’m sure Mary Cheney’s child will be at a significant disadvantage, being born into a wealthy and prestigous two-parent family.

Mary Cheney is among that burgeoning group of adult women over age 20 that are driving the trend of women who don’t want a man in the picture, but want to have a baby. These older women are pushing out-of-wedlock birth statistics higher and higher. At a time when teen births and teen abortions are declining dramatically, older women are having more un-wed births and more abortions, including repeat abortions (indicating that they are using abortion as birth control).

I think it speaks volumes that Janice believes females over the age of 20 are “older women.”

Given the fact that I’ve hit the ripe old age of 23, and at Feministe we respect our elders, allow me to impart a piece of wisdom upon you youngins*: the idea that women who have repeat abortions are “using abortion as birth control” is one of the dumber arguments ever made. Birth control, by definition, means controlling the number and spacing of your children, right? So any abortion would be a form of birth control. One, two, five, or ten, it don’t matter. Consider: if you use a condom once, is it not birth control, but use it twice and then it is?

I’m also amused at her apparent idea that “older” women like me are running around getting pregnant 15 times over and never, ever using contraception because they can just have expensive, invasive surgery instead. Abortion, as I understand it, is no walk in the park. But for a lot of women it is preferable to nine months of pregnancy, childbirth, and then either adoption or a lifetime of parenthood. Most women are fertile for a few days every month for a couple of decades. That’s a whole lot of opportunity to get pregnant when you don’t want to be, even if you do use contraception.

Well-educated, professional Mary Cheney is flying in the face of the accumulated wisdom of the top experts who agree that the very best family structure for a child’s well-being is a married mom and dad family. Her child will have all the material advantages it will need, but it will still encounter the emotional devastation common to children without fathers.

One Georgia high school principal reported, “We have too many young men and women from single-mother families that don’t have the role models at home to teach them how to deal with adversity and handle responsibility. They’ve seen their mom work 60 hours a week just to put food on the table; they end up fending for themselves.”

I don’t doubt that children from single-mother families have a harder time, but it’s clearly simplistic to assume that they have a harder time because they don’t have their dad around. Single mothers are more likely to be poor; they’re more likely to work long hours at low-paying jobs; they often have fewer financial resources to offer their children. But that’s a problem with poverty, with out country’s lack of a social safety net, and with the fact that we like to image ourselves as a meritocracy, when in fact our chances for success are deeply tied to the social position into which we were born. It’s a problem with sexism, wherein women as a group make less than men as a group, and wherein men are more often financially better off after divorce, whereas women are worse off.

Two-parent homes often mean two incomes, which allow children greater access to things like a private school education or a home in a neighborhood with well-funded public schools, recreational activities, academic assistance and private tutoring, a college education, etc. Even if there isn’t a dual income, two-parent families can often provide more support for children, since they’re better able to share childcare responsibilities.

That isn’t to say that single-parent families are deficient in any way. My mom grew up as the youngest of five raised by a single mom, and there was certainly no shortage of love or support in that house. I grew up in a two-parent household, but my parents divorced when I went to college. The love and the support is still as strong as ever — but the financial reality is definitely more difficult.

Of course, this doesn’t really apply to the Cheney-fetus, does it? That kid will be born into a two-parent household, to parents who have been together for 15 years. Mary Cheney isn’t a single mother.

As they grow older, fatherless children tend to have trouble dealing with male authority figures. Too often children in single-mother households end up angry at their absent fathers and resentful of the mother who has had to be a father figure, too. Typically, the boys who have a love-hate relationship with their mother end up hating all women. Numerous of them look for vulnerable women where they can act out their anger and be in control.

Typically, Janice makes totally unsubstantiated assertions about the mindsets of young men.

Mary’s pregnancy is an “in-your-face” action countering the Bush Administration’s pro-family, pro-marriage and pro-life policies. She continues to repudiate the work to which her father has devoted his life. Mary has repeatedly said that “studies” show that children only need a loving home. Her statement is incomplete because the experts agree that for the well-being of children, they desperately need a married father and a mother.

Damn right it’s an in-your-face action countering the Bush Administration’s policies, but not for the reasons that Janice lists. It’s an in-your-face counter-action because Mary Cheney is asserting that her body is her own, and that her decisions around reproduction are no one’s business but hers and her partner’s — and that she certainly isn’t going to allow her father and her father’s friends to dictate how her uterus should be used. She’s making the choices that are right for her. Like millions of other Americans, she’s part of a non-traditional family, and she’s expanding that family to include a child. She’s not apologizing for it. She’s not shaping her reproductive life around someone else’s value system.

That is indeed antithetical to everything the Bush administration stands for. Their policy is that there is one and only one way to live a virtuous life, and that their moral code should not only be universal, but should be the only moral code backed with government funding and support, to the point where they’re willing to flat-out lie and even be complicit in tens of thousands of deaths in order to maintain it. Conveniently, that moral code unilaterally benefits the wealthy, the heterosexual, the Christian, and the male among us (otherwise known as “people like them”). So while I’m no big fan of Mary Cheney, good on her for taking her reproductive life into her own hands, and refusing to tailor her life to the desires of the people around her. Even George has reportedly issued his congratulations. Now if only his administration would extend that same courtesy to women who aren’t the Vice President’s offspring.

*And now, to steal Zuzu’s joke, get offa my lawn.


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33 comments for “Your Uterus is Our Uterus

  1. John
    December 7, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    With 37 percent of American children born to fatherless families

    While single mothers and lesbian couples can both be considered “fatherless families,” they are completely different situations, since a lesbian couple, by definition, is made up of two people. Lumping them all together is like comparing apples to oranges.

  2. piny
    December 7, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    While single mothers and lesbian couples can both be considered “fatherless families,” they are completely different situations, since a lesbian couple, by definition, is made up of two people. Lumping them all together is like comparing apples to oranges.

    I think she just reached for the wrong talking point. I mean, yeah, she’s committing a mortal sin for failing to have a man in the house, but the horrific consequences are slightly different.
    Mary Cheney is a bad person because her innocent little behbee will grow up believing that lesbianism is anything but unnatural and inferior.

    I must confess, the schaudenfreude is making me all tingly.

    They don’t hate us, my gay ass.

  3. AC Serrano
    December 7, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    One Georgia high school principal reported, “We have too many young men and women from single-mother families that don’t have the role models at home to teach them how to deal with adversity and handle responsibility. They’ve seen their mom work 60 hours a week just to put food on the table; they end up fending for themselves.”

    Say what? How does this even make sense? It’s like saying “children don’t learn by seeing or doing.”

    I’m fairly sure working 60 hours a week to feed your family constitutes adversity, and fending for oneself tends to teach responsibility.

  4. December 7, 2006 at 7:03 pm

    At a time when teen births and teen abortions are declining dramatically, older women are having more un-wed births and more abortions, including repeat abortions (indicating that they are using abortion as birth control).

    I would love to know how many of these “older” women are a) already parents and b) married or in a committed relationship?

    Because it is simply not true that *only* single childless women have abortions.

    In fact, already having a child can be a tremendous incentive to have an abortion…esp if emotional and financial resources are stretched. One does not want to *rob* the child who is already here to feed another. Parents always have to make tough decisions, and whether to have another child can be one of the toughest.

  5. DAS
    December 7, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    “We have too many young men and women from single-mother families that don’t have the role models at home to teach them how to deal with adversity and handle responsibility. They’ve seen their mom work 60 hours a week just to put food on the table; they end up fending for themselves.”

    Allow me to suggest a solution: it’s called a living wage law. Perhaps our defenders of traditional values will want to line up behind such a law. Or is ensuring all those who labor have enough to live by the fruits of their labors not a traditional moral value? I know of some feller who might disagree and state that such is an important moral value, but that feller is just some Middle Easterner (who was put to death by the hyperpower of his day, pretty much because he was alleged to be a terrorist), so I reckon red-blooded ‘murkins need not actually listen to this feller, even if they claim to worship him.

    Anyway, as it says in my religious tradition “without bread there is no Torah” … ya wanna talk “morality”? Well, first we gotta talk putting food on people’s table, ’cause having people fed is the sine qua non of a moral society.

  6. DAS
    December 7, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    As they grow older, fatherless children tend to have trouble dealing with male authority figures.

    Perhaps my understanding may be wrong, but I do seem to remember some evidence that children with absent fatherly figures have trouble dealing with male authority figures (although I suspect what the writer of this article has in mind is a different kind of authority — a “strict father” kind of authority which even I, who grew up in a two-parent, stay-at-home-mother kind of house, have touble dealing with as should everyone ;) ). Also, not surprisingly, kids whose fathers abandoned them or are otherwise jerk-offs such that the mother left with the kids (and was better off leaving) have, surprahs-surprahs-surprahs , problems dealing with father-like figures.

    But a lesbian couple raising kids is hardly likely to have problems finding father figures for the kids — it’s a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax. A couple like the Cheney-Poes, is likely to have father figures a plenty — at church, uncles in the family, etc. It isn’t like these kids are growing up in a vacuum.

    And those kids without stable father figures? A lot of the problem is economic and social: and there again, the blame lies in bad public policy — the worst of which actually has been foisted upon us by conservatives, ironically in the name of keeping families together. C.f. my last post — ya wanna talk “family values”? Well, first we gotta talk putting food on people’s tables, ’cause without food on the table, ya don’t get one of those family dinners the “family values” crowd is (having grown up in a family with regular family dinners, quite rightly, IMHO) always talking about!

  7. December 7, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    I love the “women use abortion as birth control”‘ argument. It’s so obvious that they mean, roughly, that having more than one abortion means you’re using it as “responsible” women use contraception. It’s a trasparent ploy to turn sexually active women on each other—oh, those inferior mythical women who are too lazy to swallow a pill like me! The sad thing is this crap works on some IWF types who don’t want to give up either fucking or judging women who have abortions.

    The truth of the matter is that if American women used abortion as their primary method of birth control, this country would look a lot like Japan, with abortion providers on every other street corner.

  8. December 7, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Doesn’t Ms. Cheney realize the awful example she’s setting? Soon homosexuals nationwide will settle into 15-year committed relationships, and raise children in caring, stable homes! AAAAH!

    It’s hard to imagine how articles like that one sound persuasive even to the people who write them.

  9. December 7, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    DAS, you silly man. Don’t you realize that a living wage law would interfere with the inalienable right of every Republican to make as much money as possible on the backs of everyone else? We definitely don’t want that. No, a woman in poverty working 60 hours a week is doing it because she is selfish and won’t go out and find herself a husband, doncha know? She probably uses abortion as birth control too.

  10. Rex Little
    December 7, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    I think it speaks volumes that Janice believes females over the age of 20 are “older women.”

    I think she just means “older than teenagers”, since she mentions teen births and abortions in the same sentence.

    two-parent families can often provide more support for children, since they’re better able to share childcare responsibilities.

    That isn’t to say that single-parent families are deficient in any way

    You contradict yourself here. If two-parent families provide more support for children, then single-parent families are deficient (by comparison, in this regard).

  11. Henry
    December 7, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    How would a “living wage” law work? I ask in all seriousness. At what income level would we define it? What happens when cost of living jumps due to the drastic wage inflation? And how to balance the huge jump in unemployment that a drastic increase in the minimum wage would cause?

  12. December 7, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    In the words of Ivan Karamazov, “Who doesn’t wish for the death of his father?”

  13. December 7, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    You contradict yourself here. If two-parent families provide more support for children, then single-parent families are deficient (by comparison, in this regard).

    Nope. I don’t think that two-parent families can always provide more support for children — note the use of the word “often.” Single-parent households are often able to provide just as much support. I was simply pointing out that single parents often face real difficulties, not saying that their single-parent status makes them inadequate parents.

  14. Dianne
    December 7, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    Gah. I’m mentioning this again for form’s sake because everyone who has read this far already knows this, but…studies of children of lesbian and gay couples show that these children turn out exactly the same by every measurable parameter as their het raised peers. By a few measures they end up healthier, but they certainly don’t do worse. So the actual expert opinion is that children of lesbian couples do just fine and there is no reason to exclude lesbian or gay couples from adoption or artificial insemination (well, ok, there is a reason to exclude gays from the last…but it’s just a technical problem.)

  15. marydem
    December 7, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    How do we know that Mary Cheney and her S.O. aren’t going to allow the father to be involved in this child’s life? Have they said so?

    And, if the father is not allowed to be involved or even privately identified, I think that’s a mistake. Every child should have the right to know who their biological father is. It has nothing to do with money, education or food on the table. It has to do with identity and heritage.

    If you are in a position to plan a child as in this situation, for the sake of the child the plan ought to include the father. I’m not saying that Mary Cheney and her S.O. shouldn’t have sole custody and parental rights, although I understand Virginia will only recognize Mary Cheney’s parental rights and responsibilities. But, at some point, odds are that the kid is going to want to know who its father is and should have the right to know no matter how much she loves her (for lack of a better word) ‘custodial’ parents. What would be best would be a loving support system of all three parents contributing to a happy and healthy child. But, at a minimum, the child should have the right to know who its father is. It’s the responsible thing to do.

  16. Donna Darko
    December 7, 2006 at 9:18 pm

    The Economic Policy Institute’s report “How much is enough? Basic Family Budgets for Working Families”, says, “The level of the living wage is usually determined by consulting the federal poverty guidelines for a specific family size.”

    The three-person family (one adult with two children) budgets we reviewed, as well as our own, generated levels that ranged from about $20,000 to $40,000 in 1996 dollars. All estimates were well above the poverty threshold for a comparable family ($12,636 in 1996);

    * Food: $500 for the minimum amount a family needs to spend for food prepared at home, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Low-Cost Food Plan.

    * Housing: $628 for a two-bedroom apartment that costs no more than 40% of all safe and decent housing, as measured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Market Rents.

    * Health care: $267, an amount that recognizes that not all families receive health insurance through their employers. We use a weighted average of the employee share of the premium for employer-sponsored health insurance and the premium costs for a non-group plan, plus the cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses.

    * Transportation: $222 for miles driven for work and other necessary trips. This amount takes into account different driving distances for cities, suburbs, and rural areas, and is based on the cost-per-mile estimates from the Internal Revenue Service.

    * Child care: $626 for center-based child care or family child care centers, as reported by a local child care cost survey (when available) or in a Children’s Defense Fund study.

    * Other necessary expenses: $338 for the cost of telephone service as reported by the Federal Communications Commission, and the cost of clothing, personal care, household items, bank fees, union dues, reading materials, school supplies, and television as reported in Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

    * Taxes: $313 for federal payroll taxes and federal, state, and local income tax.

    Thus, a family of four in Baltimore would need an annual income of $34,732.28 just to meet its basic needs and achieve a safe and decent standard of living. But at this basic level, it would have to give up many “unnecessary” goods that most families take for granted, including restaurant (even fast-food) meals, vacations, movies, and savings for education, retirement, and emergencies.

  17. Donna Darko
    December 7, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    Sorry, second link didn’t work.

  18. zuzu
    December 7, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Okay, I know Janice Crouse may be a bit ennervated, still, over holding a grudge against her mop for so many years, but that still doesn’t explain why, exactly, she’s talking about abortion in the context of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy.

    I mean, women get abortions when they have unwanted pregnancies. Lesbians are not known for their accidental pregnancies.

    The other oddity is her equasion of abortion with having the baby and not marrying the child’s father. I thought it was a good thing to go through with the pregnancy.

  19. December 8, 2006 at 12:50 am

    Marydem, would you say the same for a heterosexual couple in which the man is infertile, and therefore the woman is inseminated with another man’s sperm? Should the biological father be involved in this child’s life?

  20. December 8, 2006 at 2:37 am

    … Wait, I’m confused. What are we supposed to be hating Mary Cheney for? Not having an abortion? Getting pregnant in the context of her committed relationship? Being over 20? What did I miss?

    I think I need a new score card.

  21. piny
    December 8, 2006 at 4:15 am

    I mean, women get abortions when they have unwanted pregnancies. Lesbians are not known for their accidental pregnancies.

    Hmmmmm…Maybe that’s why Mary Cheney is so dangerous. Straight women will attempt to emulate her, except they won’t realize that their heterosexual relationships are much more likely to result in pregnancy. So they’re basically being tricked into getting abortions. They need a role model mother who is responsible enough to use birth control, not a lesbian who can’t be bothered.

  22. Thlayli
    December 8, 2006 at 5:16 am

    As they grow older, fatherless children tend to have trouble dealing with male authority figures.

    Does anyone really think this is going to be a problem for Dick Cheney‘s grandchild…?

  23. micheyd
    December 8, 2006 at 7:12 am

    but that still doesn’t explain why, exactly, she’s talking about abortion in the context of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy.

    Well I thought it was a perfect illustration of how they can’t handle any discussion of female autonomy. An obsession with what goes in and out of uteri is not complete without some obligatory abortion-shaming.

  24. December 8, 2006 at 8:51 am

    I think when an anti-choicer talks about “abortion as birth control,” they’re envisioning the following dialogue:
    LOON: Women are having casual abortions! Ban it!
    SENSIBLE PERSON: “Casual”? WTF? It’s invasive surgery!
    LOON: Aha! Invasive surgery! Ban it!

    The trouble is, neither side of this supposed double bind is all that binding.

  25. Robert M.
    December 8, 2006 at 10:39 am

    As they grow older, fatherless children tend to have trouble dealing with male authority figures.

    Does anyone really think this is going to be a problem for Dick Cheney’s grandchild…?

    Actually, I think it’s damn near guaranteed to be a problem for Dick Cheney’s grandchild, assuming someone doesn’t find and destroy his phylactery before the child grows up…

    So, let me get this straight: according to Crouse, either you’re under 19, in which case you’re a teen mother; or you’re 20+, and one of the “older women” pushing the “out-of-wedlock” statistics up. Apparently, there is no appropriate age to make any reproductive decision other than worshipfully bearing as many children as your husband chooses to give you.

  26. ACG
    December 8, 2006 at 10:52 am

    What really sucks about all of this is the fact that Mary Cheney did put herself out there as a role model for women. Remember that press conference she had where she said, “I want to be a role model for women. The most important thing to me, even outside of my own happiness and that of my partner and child, is that straight women I’ve never met choose to emulate me. I think it’s great that I’m not allowed to marry my partner of 15 years, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be an unmarried mother, and then I couldn’t encourage straight women to be unmarried mothers also, because I know that’s what they all want”? Brought tears to my eyes.

    I think it’s also great that Virginia goes so far as to deny Mary Cheney her very personhood by passing a law preventing her from entering into any kind of a legal contract with Heather Poe. I mean, if they could legally share custody, make healthcare decisions for each other, and/or open a joint checking account, it’d be that much easier to offer this child a supportive and healthy home. But we all know that the one thing that’s more important than a child’s welfare is an opportunity for the state legislature to smear the queer.

    As they grow older, fatherless children tend to have trouble dealing with male authority figures.

    Does anyone really think this is going to be a problem for Dick Cheney’s grandchild…?

    Hey, if I had Dick Cheney for a grandfather, I’d have nothing but issues with male authority figures.

  27. piny
    December 8, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    For fuck’s sake. When my queer friends are allowed to have their babies in peace, I won’t so much as mention the reproductive activities of the Vice President’s daughter. Until then, of course I’m going to point out that GOP policies on gay family rights are both hateful and damaging to all of us and to our children. Of course I’m not going to pretend that Mary Cheney’s complacency in the face of invasive prohibition is the same as freely choosing any given family arrangement. This is like “tolerance of intolerance” all over again. Pointing out that someone supports policies that ruin lives is not the same as supporting policies that ruin lives.

  28. December 8, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    Hey, if I had Dick Cheney for a grandfather, I’d have nothing but issues with male authority figures.

    No shit.

  29. Clare
    December 8, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    Why don’t people like Crouse scream and yell at widows and widowers who don’t immediately rush off and get a new spouse? These are ‘single’ parent households too, are they not?

  30. Rhiannon
    December 8, 2006 at 1:44 pm
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