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When Men Are Deciding What Women Are Entitled to, It's Time to Occupy

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So, what have we got in this latest reproductive rights crisis? The one where the Catholic bishops and the president are debating and deciding what rights we American women will have? Well, sadly, ad nauseum, and once again, what we've got is no woman sitting at the decision-making table.

What year is this? Oh, you say it's almost 2012? Yikes. If I were an ostrich, I'd bury my head in the sand. But I'm not. I'm an organizer. And, I never say "die." So, I'm thinking it's time to head for the hills with a group of girlfriends, and figure out the next occupy movement. Maybe it's OPA, Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue, or maybe it's OC, Occupy Churches. Whadaya you think, girlfriends?

This situation is patently ridiculous. Really.

You want proof? Just consider the alternate scenario: Say, all the bishops were women, and the president were a woman. Would that group be conjuring up ways to limit the ability of their sisters to control the number of children they have, or when they have them, or with whom? Nope. Not a chance: In fact, this alternate scenario is impossible to imagine as anything but a spoof.

Speaking of spoofs, here's who those bishops really are: Thugs. (No one explained it better than Monty Python.)

Yes, I know, movies about thugs can be good, and, sometimes, they can even be funny (like this Monty Python one). But politics by thugs is an all together different thing; a thing that's never funny, for thugs aren't supposed to get to make the decisions in a democracy.

Thoughtful people of goodwill are.

But denying women birth control is no kind of goodwill. Not by a long shot. No matter how it's couched. No matter if the male who makes that decision (trying to cover up his true feelings about women's equality -- not) talks about "conscience," or "morality," or "ethics," say. Nope, not hardly.

Girlfriends: Grab your pocketbook when you hear those words; the thugs are about to hit you over the head with their scepters (see above), and you'll need your pocketbook to hit them back.

I'm fond of the phrase, "all politics is local," because I think bearing it in mind helps us to understand policy discussions and decision-making and develop strategies that defeat efforts to hold us girls back. At the same time, I always bear in mind a corollary mantra, "all politics is personal."

Of course, this latter truth can cut both ways. It cuts badly when the personal experiences and knowledge of women aren't at hand and taken into account. It cuts well when our presence and experience (are accounted for).

How do I know this? Well, let me count the ways of four decades and counting.

For instance, it's no coincidence that anti-rape and anti-domestic violence laws were first (and only) proposed (and passed) when women achieved meaningful numbers in state legislatures. Because these women knew personally about rape and domestic violence, they did something about it, to end it.

Another proof point is the actions of the U.S. Senate. When push comes to shove there, when it comes to protecting women's health, it's the women senators (and only they) who stand-up, and say what needs to be said; wonderfully, sometimes led by a Catholic member of the group, Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Senator Mikulski's website notes her "...lifetime commitment to women's health." To prove it, she lists numerous accomplishments. But, my favorite is this one: "Ending gender discrimination by insurance companies, so being a woman is not considered a pre-existing condition."

I like that one the best because it states so clearly what's going on with the bishops right now: It's being a woman that's the problem for them, too.

Two centuries of American political annals ago, Abigail Adams said it first, about not forgetting the women, and what we need and deserve. But the bishops and their co-conspirators have, and continue to, these men sitting behind closed doors making life and death decisions about our lives.

Yes, it really is only when women are the decision makers that things go well for women. It really is only when the politics is personal to us and by us, meaning it includes us sitting at the decision-making table.

I'm hoping that Sen. Mikulski and her colleagues will call out the bishops sometime soon, and demand that the President ignore them, and do the right thing. Meanwhile, however, it's up to the rest of us girls. For, know this: as surely as we are sitting around wishing that the next few weeks could be nothing but fun and games, the bishops are having big fun, but they are playing a game we can't abide: Scheming how to keep us barefoot and pregnant, back in those hills with no way to escape. That's not a game we can allow them to win. So, let's remind this president not to forget the women either, even if the bishops would.

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