Roundup: Abortion No Longer a “Wedge issue” in Western States; “Troubling Ramifications” of Cosmetic Genital Surgery

Abortion Won’t Work
as a "Wedge" Issue in Western States Anymore

Laura K. Chapin, a Democratic strategist and consultant for
the No on 48 campaign in Colorado, says that in
the wake of the resounding defeat of Colorado’s
personhood amendment, California’s parental
notification initiative, and South
Dakota’s abortion ban, we can conclude that voters in
Western states will no longer be tempted by anti-choice ballot initiatives. Writes
, "Ballot initiatives are tempting for abortion opponents because
they at least partially sidestep the complications of the legislative process.
This is especially true in states like California
and Colorado
that have very low thresholds for getting something on the ballot."  But the strategy backfired – the extreme
amendments demonstrated to voters that pro-choicers are the true moderates and
that votes showed that residents of Western states would rather focus on practical
issues that affect their daily lives. 

TIME Examines "Troubling
Ramifications" of Cosmetic Genital Surgery

I don’t want to read about it either, but if you’re
going to, you couldn’t do much better than Laura Fitzpatrick’s "Plastic
Surgery Below the Belt
," in TIME, on the rise in cosmetic genital surgery.  Aside from pointing out that the surgery isn’t
medically indicated and can result in health complications as well as decreased
sexual pleasure ("The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
issued a committee opinion last year warning that women may experience
scarring, chronic pain, obstetric risks or reduced sexual pleasure; a similar
statement was issued in July by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists"), Fitzpatrick quotes sexologist and psychologist
Leonore Tiefer saying: "Promoting a very narrow definition of what women’s
genitals ought to look like – even for those women who don’t want surgery, it
harms them."  Fitzpatrick also
points out that cosmetic genital surgery can have "troubling ramifications"
beyond our own borders.  

This kind of
cosmetic surgery can interfere with advocates’ ability to fight forced ritual
mutilation in places like Africa, where the
practice is still common, says Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of
international women’s rights watchdog Equality Now. Designer vaginas "are
considered reasons for not throwing stones, so to speak, at other
cultures," she says." 

Fitzpatrick concludes
quoting social worker Laura Berman: "The best way to start enjoying your body could be far
simpler than surgery: ‘You may need a new boyfriend.’" 

Chinese Woman Allowed
to Continue Pregnancy

Chinese officials were threatening to force Arigul Tursun, a
six-months-pregnant mother of two, to have an abortion, but she has now been
freed and allowed to continue her pregnancy, reports
ABC News
.  However, she was
apparently only released because, said the local population control committee
chief, "she wasn’t in good enough health to have an abortion."  Some Republican
lawmakers have suggested
that this case proves that US funding should not
be restored to the United Nations’ international family planning agency, UNFPA.
But UNFPA is not engaged in any way in
coercive sterilization or forced abortion, and works with the Chinese
government to promote a voluntary approach to family planning. 

Want to Know More
About the New HHS Secretary?

For the back story on Tom Daschle, listen to the New
York Times’s Peter Baker talking
about the Senator’s background and likely
priorities at HHS.  And Rev.
Debra Haffner responds
to the appointment.

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  • invalid-0

    Isn’t this blog about respecting women’s choices regarding what they do or do not do with their bodies? You don’t like it when anti-choicers stigmatize abortion, but what gives you the gall to stigmatize female cosmetic surgery of any type? Whatever happened to respecting women as competent moral agents and respecting what they do with their bodies because their vagina/uterus is frankly none of your business.

    P.S. I love the last line from Berman “The best way to start enjoying your body could be far simpler than surgery: ‘You may need a new boyfriend.'” Don’t own and control your body’s destiny, just get a man to make you happy! Way to go RH for betraying feminist principles.

  • betty-brown

    yeah, it’s so against feminists principles to speak out against plastic surgery for women that is rooted in this sick concept of what a woman’s body should look like.  and it’s really the same thing to be against women having surgery, with it’s many risks and pain and financial cost, all in the name of being perfect for a man – and fighting to keep a woman’s right to abortion and reproductive health.

    p.s.  i love your confusion over what the last line actually means.  ‘cos the writer was really saying that the way to happiness is getting a man.  no, the writer wasn’t saying that if you have a boyfriend who expects you to undergo surgery to better fit his ideal of a woman you might want to get a different boyfriend vs. getting surgery.



    truth?  is truth unchanging law?  we both have truths, are mine the same as yours?

  • emma

    I get what you’re saying, and I absolutely agree that woman are, as you wrote, competent moral agents whose decisions are entirely theirs to make.


    I agree with betty  brown regarding the message that might have been intended by ‘you might need a new boyfriend’ – I thought of it more like trying to encourage women to make sure they were happy with any surgery, rather than being pushed into it by a guy. If you’re fine with yourself, but your boyfriend wants you surgically enhanced, ditch him, I wouldn’t have added the part about finding a new boyfriend, necessarily, as being single and being in a relationship are both great, as long as you’re happy with that.


    Sorry, I’m totally falling over tired right now! Please excuse incoherence.



  • heather-corinna

    Through all of the history of feminism and feminist theory, not just honoring, but looking at the choices we make as women critically — particularly in terms of who they truly benefit, what they may or may not be influenced by — has loomed large.  Most feminist theory has never boiled down to "If women want it, it’s all good, so don’t go asking questions."


    I think, Fem87, if you take a look at Leonore Tiefer’s work, you’d be hard-pressed to find it counter to most feminisms.  The aim of what she has been doing with this project, is to examine things like this to help women suss out who appears to be primarily benefitting from the medicalization of sex (namely, pharmaceutical companies and surgeons, as well as the patriarchal status quo).  One big reason to do that is that marketing and advertising for this stuff has far outweighed critical and bonafide health-based and feminist analysis.  Working to provide more accurate information for women to base their decisions on, and some extra analysis, is something done in the interest of helping women to assure that whatever choice they make in this regard, it’s an informed one, and one informed by something other than a surgeon’s desire for another condo, or by ignorance about our own bodies.  Someone’s motivation for critique matters in my book, particularly when we’re determining if something is feminist or counter to feminism, and the kind of motivation Tiefer has is in direct alignment with the whole history of feminist women’s health.


    As well, if you look at the full ACOG statement on cosmetic genital surgery, I think it’ll also be obvious why this is an issue within the interest of a reproductive health organization.  


    Put it this way, since you’re bringing up an abortion comparison: if abortion providers marketed abortion not as the termination of a pregnancy, but as a procedure which could also fix depression, improve unhappy relationships, and repair poor body image for everyone who had one, I think (I hope!) we’d expect or demand some analysis and critique of that.  Cosmetic genital surgery is rarely billed/advertised plainly as a way to physically alter or remove genital tissue: often the marketing makes all kinds of promises that don’t bear out, haven’t been studied or are patently misleading, as well as so often preying on women’s lack of understanding about their own genitals.  And as the ACOG statement makes clear,one of their primary concerns is the total lack of published, peer-reviewed study on both the safety and efficacy of these procedures.

    Asking questions and taking a critical look at something in the interest of women, women’s health, and helping women to keep from being hoodwinked by someone who just wants their cash isn’t stigmatizing anything, in my book, and is strongly feminist. By all means, feminisms vary, but this kind of thing really does have a long tradition in feminism.


    I agree, the way Berman was quoted was clumsy, to be sure, but I think we can safely presume (especially knowing the work of the Berman sisters as a whole), that her intent in that statement was to express that when a partner disses your body, the problem isn’t the body, but the partner.

  • emma

    Heather Corinna, yeah, I agree with that, too. I was going to add some more nuanced points along those lines, but I was seriously almost too tired to be able to find the keys on the keyboard.


    Thanks for that. :)