Vanessa at Feministing directed me towards this shining gem from President Obama:
As you know, I'm pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station. (Emphasis mine)
What. The fuck.
So, we're giving up the health and independence of millions of women in the name of tradition now? Is that how it's going to be? Where is our History and our Tradition going to get us if all we do is use that tradition to justify oppressive, sexist choices? If we use them to excuse giving into pressure from anti-abortion forces?
Tradition is nice, as a narrative force. As an ornamental facet of government, it helps us to remember our roots and take pride in our national accomplishments. It establishes a sense of continuity. It's a Christmas tree. It's an Inaugural parade. It's a reminder of the past. I'm not against it, but traditions are personal and should only be a significant factor in decision making for individuals.
When it comes to government action, its only use is in rituals and celebrations. Tradition is rooted in how things were, and we need to attend to the fierce urgency of now - the women who need abortions, or might need it, and don't have the privilege that I would have of relying on my family for financial help if needed.
But tradition wasn't acceptable justification for having an all-white all-male all the time government, or in any matter of policy. It's an empty word that is unacceptable as justification for legislation - especially when that legislation constitutes lives lost or saved. In matters or women's lives, in matters of health, it is a trite way to say "wait your turn."
I have a tradition myself. It's a tradition of not being pregnant. I expect his support on that. That's just how things work in the town of my uterus.
Obama has a tendency to justify oppression and unfair acts with tradition, with his religion, and then also make the claim that he's "pro-choice" or "a fierce advocate for equality". It's bullshit. It's bullshit, and we need to hold him responsible when he tries to empty his obligation to the people who voted for him. Obama's tradition seems to consist of using words that mean a lot to us - "pro-choice", "equality" - to garner votes and support, and then bailing when it's time to pay up.
I know it's early in his administration, but we've been losing ground for eight years. Now is not the time to quit pushing or wait or turn. Now is the time for those who support abortion rights to let Obama know that we're not going to put up with this. This is our right, and we need support on it. We're the ones who elected Obama. It's time to let him know, as Shark-Fu said, that the bill is past due, and make our collection calls.
Are you pissed, too? Go here to tell someone about it.
Further reading on health care at Angry Black Bitch (quoted above). A Canadian perspective on health care can be found at Womanist Musings.