I was thrilled when two members of Congress stood up to the vendetta against Planned Parenthood by telling their personal stories. California Democrat Jackie Speier told of having an abortion when something went wrong with her pregnancy at 17 weeks. Speier said she is “one of those women” her anti-choice colleagues were referring to when they wrongfully make abortion sound like a casual, cavalier experience.
Wisconsin Democrat Gwen Moore talked about being a poor pregnant teenager in her defense of Planned Parenthood as one of the few places that doesn’t treat poor women and their children with contempt.
It was an effective reality check in the debate over slashing budgets. So often Congress talks about dumping programs as if the people affected are certainly not anybody they know.
I’ve never had an abortion so I can’t tell a personal story. Nor have I ever used Planned Parenthood’s services to get a breast exam, treat an STD or obtain birth control. I’ve never applied for public assistance, unemployment insurance or disability. But I have always trusted help would be there if I needed it.
That may be one definition of liberal. You realize your own vulnerability.
There could come a time when you couldn’t afford milk for your baby or were out of a job and couldn’t pay the rent. Or became so ill that no one would ever insure you again. Or you got old and became a bag lady because you lost Social Security.
There’s a notion that people become more conservative as they get older. Not me. I’ve become more firmly liberal. But I’ve been wondering when in life a person starts to lean one way or the other.
I’ve believed in collective bargaining since I was hired as a reporter in San Diego and was given the option of joining the Newspaper Guild. I asked a photographer friend why I should pay dues every month into a union and he gave me the one-for-all talk and said a union job was the only way you could work at a newspaper and be able to feed your kids.
I support women’s rights, including reproductive freedom, because I was part of the revolution that believed and proved that women hold up half the sky. But I remember how it was before that and recognize the forces that would love to toss us back in second place.
I proudly wear the labels of bleeding heart, tree-hugger, climate change believer, public radio junkie and latte sipper. I believe that guns kill people. I have marched on behalf of labor and for reproductive choice and against war and my heart is now in Wisconsin with the nurses, teachers and other union workers.
I was on the side of immigrants from the first time I went to Tijuana and saw people living in cardboard boxes. I became even more an advocate after interviewing kids who started out crawling under a barbed wire and ended up graduating from college.
I became a tree-hugger when I hiked into my first redwood forest and saw, behind the pretty green curtain, a huge gaping clear-cut scar in the earth.
I became an advocate for gay rights when a lesbian couple moved in next door and later when a bright, fascinating man with AIDS allowed me to write about his life and death for my newspaper.
When my husband was starting out in the newspaper business at the Oakland Tribune, he asked an old time reporter to explain the difference between a liberal and a conservative.
“Liberals like people. Conservatives don’t,” the reporter told him.
I don’t really believe that because I know a number of individuals who call themselves conservative and who are kind and care about others. And who would never say “So be it” to people who are losing their jobs.