I find myself somewhat depressed by what’s going on in this
moment. A year ago, millions of us watched with great hope the inauguration of
President Obama. I did not expect him to be a miracle worker, given the
overwhelming crises he inherited from George Bush — an economic meltdown, two
wars, an out-of-control deficit, and a crisis of faith in our government and
public institutions. The Office of the President had lost all credibility as
the multiple lies and manipulations of the Bush-Cheney administration brought
our country to its knees.
President Obama had a full-blown mess on his hands. He
needed to prioritize saving the economy, ending the wars, combating terrorism,
enacting health care reform, and restoring trust in the government before he
could get to the main issues I wanted as a reproductive justice activist. I
fully understood that we had elected a neo-liberal to beat back a neo-fascist
agenda. So his support for Wall Street, for corporations, for moneyed interests
– while disappointing — was not surprising. He had to have centrist,
pro-business politics to get elected. After all, this is the America I know,
love, and criticize.
The author talks about the racial and economic dynamics of abortion, STDs, teen pregnancy and health care.
What was truly disappointing was the way President Obama
flinched every time support for abortion came up in policy debates — from the
stimulus bill to healthcare reform. As Sharon Camp from the Guttmacher
Institute puts it, "He can’t make eye contact with abortion," an observation
those of us in the reproductive justice movement can’t help but agree with. His
failure to stand up for the human rights of women — and to trust us — began to
make me wonder about his commitment to those of us who were his core
constituents and helped elect him. He’s like the prom date I had last night who
can’t remember my name this morning.
In many ways, his failure of leadership on abortion rights
has made things worse. In the healthcare reform debates, we have Democratic
politicians increasing restrictions on access to abortion. President Obama
openly supported the Hyde Amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds for
abortions for poor women, women in the military, and women receiving healthcare from the Indian Health Service. Instead of dismantling Hyde, he’s
defending it, while not understanding that a country that can be persuaded that
poor women are second class citizens who don’t deserve funding for abortions
can morph into a country that believes that all poor people don’t deserve
funding for healthcare at all.
So as I continue SisterSong’s work of building a movement of
women of color for reproductive justice, I wonder what the New Year will bring.
Will we finally begin to see White House leadership help us save the lives of
women of color who desperately need us to stand up for them? Will national
political leaders wake up to the reality that poor women and rural women in
states like Kentucky suffer most when the federal government compromises on
access to reproductive health care? Will
President Obama offer policies to substantiate his brilliant rhetoric? Will he
support our human rights to have children, or to not have children? To parent
our children in safe and healthy environments which are the cornerstones of
The tea baggers on the right who loathe his agenda are
the least of his problems. The diminishing faith among those in his core base
should really worry him. How can we be motivated to come out to the polls when
we doubt whether our needs are his priority?