A few thoughts on the props

Sounds like Ahnold’s big failure day. After all that fuss over a special election, one of the most expensive in California history, all the props failed. I’m sad 79 didn’t pass and ambivalent about 80–I am stoked that everything else failed, although concerned that it was by a narrow margin. I think that the governer lost a lot of potential votes from moderates who were displeased by the waste of money and time on this election, and they voted against his props reflexively. In many senses, the election was a costly waste–but I help the guvernator learned his lesson.

It concerns me that 61% of the state voted against prop 79, and 58% against 78. It’s clear that a lot of voters don’t bother to educate themselves–anyone who read the material for those props would have believed that 79 was the better measure, I believe. 78 clearly had a great deal of weak points, and wouldn’t have covered as wide a range of Californians. It also concerns me that 61% of the state’s voters apparently doesn’t care that there are a lot of Californians without health insurance and/or access to affordable prescription drugs. Which, you know, keep them, like, alive. And stuff. And make them valuable contributors to the work force and society. But one of the pleasures of living in a profoundly capitalist world is knowing that you aren’t valued as an individual unless you make a lot of money and line the right pockets with it. It’s good to know that small children with leukemia, old people, middle aged veterinarians with cancer, and other such members of our society can continue to rot without treatment, ultimately costing the state (and society) more than if we had helped them buy the drugs they needed, when they needed them. It’s curious to me that this country has such a big fear of “socialized” medicine, to the point that voters have a knee-jerk reaction to any kind of reform of the health care industry.

It also troubles me that almost 50% (well, 47.4%) of our voters apparently think it’s vitally important to prevent minor girls from having anonymous, safe access to abortion services. The Chronicle’s article about prop 73 was very telling–the journalist mentioned that in states with notification laws, abortion rates decline. Well that’s a pretty obvious statistic. In state with notification laws, safe, legal abortions decline because women don’t have access to them (perhaps they are estranged from their parents, or wards of the state), because women are afraid (of confronting family members with different values than their own), and because those states tend to foster a “baby killer” attitude toward women who choose to terminate their pregnancies.

Abortion is a difficult political issue–perhaps one of the most difficult. The fundamental crux of the problem is a disagreement about when “life” begins, and at what point an organism which has a parasitic relationship with its host should be considered an independant entity. Yet, abortion is not an “agree to disagree” issue. I have a fundamental problem with someone else exerting control over my body, whether it be a politician, partner, or fetus. It’s curious that one of the strongholds of the anti-abortion movement can be found in a group of people whom, politically, tend to feel very strongly against state control over their lives. Curious that they apparently have no problem with enslaving women for nine months to satisfy their moral needs.

The thing is, I have several friends who are profoundly against abortion. I don’t have a problem with that. Truth be told, I am against abortion, as a general rule, as well. I think most people are–in general, people who choose to abort usually reflect very carefully before making the ultimate decision. However, I also believe in the right to choose. And luckily my pro-fetus friends also believe in the right to choose. All of us hold personal moral convictions about which we may feel very strongly–but that doesn’t mean that others should hold them as well, or that we should pass laws to enforce them. This is why we don’t have a “mandatory veganism act of 2005.” There are a lot of vegans out there, and there are a lot of meat eaters. The two communities manage to coexist well enough, and even to engage in thoughtful debate sometimes. Perhaps one of the reasons that both get along so well is that there is little legal investment in the murder animals/don’t murder animals, murder plants debate. The supreme court is not arguing about whether or not meat should be banned. And, alas, more people are not engaging in profound reflection before picking up a pound of chicken breasts at the supermarket. But maybe they should.

There are also consequences to unwanted children which the right seems to be unwilling to address. During pregnancy, a mother has a lot of influence over the developing person inside her–she can choose to drink, take drugs, eat harmful foods, and be exposed to teratogenic chemicals. Or she can choose to avoid these hazards. In addition, I am a big believer in the idea that external environment does affect foetal development. Is the mother happy she’s pregnant? Listening to good music? Eating good, healthy food? Looking forward with joy to the birth? Or is she miserable that she’s pregnant, working three jobs, and eating poorly as a consequence? Which of these zygotes is more likely to develop into a happy human being?

On the extrauterine front, unwanted children usually enter the foster care system, which is a travesty. The Humane Society of the United States makes more of an effort to care for abandoned animals than Social Services does for unwanted children. A large part of the failure has to do with funding–why does the right insist that all women should be forced to have children while cutting social programs which help children access schools, healthcare, and well balanced, happy families? Even Mother Theresa agrees–if you wish to pass a law forcing women to complete their pregnancies, you need to back that law up with a commitment to social programs for those unwanted children. ALL OF THEM. Not just the cute white ones. The black and latino babies, those born with birth defects and into poor situations–if you care about babies, why stop when they’re born?

Finally–a note about voter turnout–I haven’t been able to gather statistics yet, but what I do see looks dismayingly low. Hey Californians! Where the fuck were you?!

[California props]