Have you ever been reading through Facebook and come across a story, eagerly clicking a story only to be disappointed when you realize it’s actually a fake headline from “The Onion?” This week has been the opposite of that.
There is so much wrong with this bill in Michigan I don’t even know where to start, but I’ll try. The gist of it is that abortion will not be covered by any private health-care plan unless it threatens the life of the mother. This includes cases of rape. In black and white and at its worst, this means that if you live in the state of Michigan and become pregnant due to rape, if you do not have the additional rider your state government so generously offered you, your health care will not cover or even subsidize an abortion. So now, aside from dealing with the trauma of sexual assault, and aside from dealing with the physicality of becoming pregnant, and aside from dealing with the stigma that already comes with being raped, if you are strong enough to still stand up and demand an abortion, you have some more difficult decisions to make. There’s basically three options for you here: go to a back-alley doctor that you can afford, have the child and give it up for adoption – because you certainly need more mental anguish and pain at this point, or have the child and try to deal with it. Sounds great, right? Certainly a decision someone in a fragile mental state who has just been violated in the most personal of ways should have to make.
Of course, supporters are all bent out of shape that it’s being called “rape insurance,” saying that’s not what it is, it’s simply not covering a procedure that not everyone believes in. Untrue. Rape insurance is exactly what it is. That is telling a woman that has become pregnant due to rape that she should have had the foresight to purchase said rider. That is telling women everywhere that, when deciding on their health-care coverage, they need to think about just how likely it is that they’ll be sexually assaulted and how they would respond should the unthinkable happen. That is telling mothers and fathers that when deciding on what coverage their young daughter needs, there is a price on their body should it be violated. This is blaming the victim at its very definition, and you aren’t going to convince me otherwise. “Oh, not every woman wanting an abortion is a rape victim!” This is correct. And not every sixty-year old with a Viagra prescription is banging his secretary, either. But plenty of them are – should we start questioning their motives for needing it?
Moving on. Is there a bigger piece of shit than defense attorney Scott Brown, who successfully argued his client out of a 20-year jail sentence for killing four people while drunk, other than possibly the judge or this kid’s father? I don’t really think so. If you haven’t seen this yet, the short version of this story is that Ethan Couch, a wealthy teen in Texas, robbed a Wal-Mart, got wasted to more than twice the legal limit, went out driving in his truck looking for more booze, and killed four innocent people, injuring and paralyzing several others. His attorneys used the defense of “affluenza,” arguing that he was too privileged, overindulged, not taught that there are consequences to actions because his parents did not instill these values in him.
I’m not even lending credence to the fact that this was an allowable argument. To me, this is a pretty clear case of mommy and daddy have money, paid off the judge and psychologist and hired a brilliant attorney. (I said he was a piece of shit. I stand by that. However, he did his job, and certainly did it well.) If Ethan had been a poor child with a crackhead for a mother who had been exposed to drugs, violence, and rage his whole life; if he had been left to fend for himself from a young age because his father wasn’t around to teach him right from wrong and went out and shot and killed someone, does that mean he gets a free pass as well? What’s the difference? How should he have known better when Ethan Couch couldn’t have? I bet there are an awful lot of gangbangers down in Cook County that would like to know. This decision is more than proving the argument that money fixes everything, but that isn’t the biggest issue. The biggest issue here is that this ruling sets a precedent that allows the defense, “I didn’t know any better.” It opens up a whole new world of loopholes and defense attorneys arguing that there are logical reasons for breaking the law. I’m not saying that money bought Ethan Couch a happy life or that he doesn’t have problems. But he is NOT a child that doesn’t know right from wrong.
Which brings me to my next point. Little Hunter Yelton in Colorado – him, we expect to understand that there is apparently a fine line between being a child and being a sexual predator. A six-year-old boy who kissed his “girlfriend,” on the hand during class was not only suspended, but suspended under the reason of sexual harassment. How heartbreaking, on so many levels. One, that this child, expressing his affection for a little girl, now has to be taught what sexual harassment is; his mother now has the fun task of explaining sex to a six-year old who probably has only been using the big boy toilet for a couple of years. Two, that we made this happen. We did. Everyone is coming down on the school district – how dare they? What were they thinking? It was an innocent little kiss, how could they label him like that? Folks? The school district did exactly what they had to do. We tie their hands in matters like this. Same as the children who get suspended for pointing a finger like a gun, who innocently bring a knife that their grandfather gave them to show and tell, who get suspended for picking up a drunk friend because it violates school policy. We have forced our schools to adopt a zero-tolerance policy, and then when a situation arises that showcases the ridiculousness of said policy, we turn around and blame the people that we are insisting enforce it.
I remember my first crush – I was in kindergarten. His name was Bobby Rossi. I don’t remember much about him other than he had brownish hair and I think he wore a plaid shirt. Did he ever kiss me on the hand? I have no idea. I was five and my memory of that time is pretty much limited to riding my bike and having a Cabbage Patch doll. But I do remember Danny and Scott and Joey and Jeff when I was in elementary school; I remember giggling like only little girls can and teasing (or, let’s be honest, I’m sure I was the one being teased,) about kissing a boy. How do we teach our kids about healthy relationships between boys and girls? We don’t allow for innocence anymore. If parents today could see some of the “love letters,” that were passed around in my elementary school, we’d probably all be hauled down to the counselor. Not because they were overly sexual – I’m pretty sure I was at least 13 before I completely understood how sex actually worked, and even then I was a little cloudy about the logistics – but because they were outright professions of affection. “I love Joey and when I grow up he’s going to be my boyfriend forever and ever like my mommy and daddy.” What do teachers today do with that note? Is it a conference? Do we have to tell Joey’s parents that there’s a little girl bound and determined to trap him into wedlock? Do we tell the little girl she needs to find another way to be happy and that boys aren’t always the answer? One thing is pretty clear – we’re not going to leave it to the kids to figure it out. We’re too suspicious; we’re too focused on the underlying meaning. We don’t consider that children are children, and at the core, they don’t have ulterior motives. They say and do what they think and feel. That’s it.
One thing is clear. For all of our intelligence, we live in one fucked up country. In one week, we’ve set women’s rights back about thirty years, let a murderer go free because he’s rich, and slapped a first grader with the label of sex offender for simply acting like a child. One week. Let’s make the next one better, shall we?