A Muslim Feminist’s Perspective

In light of the controversy over Burqas and the discussion here at our little blog I found this article particularly interesting.


Sarkozy’s Anti-Burqa Policy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy his declared that burqas, a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers all but the eyes, are “not welcome in France”. His reasons seem pretty good, as he said that burqas are a symbol of women’s subservience, not a religious symbol. Which is all very nice, but who gave him the right to decide?

I really don’t know that much about the culture of burqas I guess, but from what I’ve gathered I really don’t think that choosing to wear a body-covering garment should be forbidden by the government. A law that says all women must be covered in the company of men would be discriminatory, but so is forbidding women from wearing a certain kind of clothing. Thoughts?

Faith-based Initiatives & Abortion

Another thing I found in my federal budget digging (and oddly exciting activity) was a little document that President Obama is apparently applying to his Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, Title X of the Public Health and Services Act. Most of the act seems pretty good, supporting sex ed programs and the like, but Section 1008 struck me as troubling. The little passage states that “None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Hmm. Apparently just saying that you’re not anti-choice doesn’t mean you’ll fund programs that mention non-medical abortions… If we’re going to choose something about the President’s plans for Family Planning, please let’s use his support for PHS Act Title X, and not his appointee to run faith-based programs.

Faith-Based Initiatives and Abstinence-Only Programs

I’ve been reading lots of blogs with VERY negative comments about President Obama’s pick for Director of Faith-Based Initiatives, Alexia Kelley. She’s anti-choice, which apparently means it’s time to attack the President. I get the argument, like it or not, government money goes to Faith groups for many social initiatives including family planning education. If she’s anti-choice and Catholic, it’s easy to see how Kelley could funnel money to abstinence only programs. Even a few kids who don’t get taught about contraception is a problem, right?

Well, that’s something I’d agree with, but after an afternoon of pouring over¬†2008, 2009 and 2010 Health and Human Services budgets as well as the President’s 2010 Budget, I am pretty well convinced that she CAN’T just give money to Faith-Based, Anti-Choice “family planning” programs. Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative very clearly limits funding to evidence-based programs that promote abstinence and delay the age of sexual activity but ensure that when people do start having sex, they will more frequently use contraception.

In fact the President’s 2010 Budget Request, grandly entitled “A New Era of¬†Responsibility”, “Supports State, community-based and faith-based efforts to reduce teen pregnancy using evidence-based models. The program will fund models that stress the importance of abstinence while providing medically-accurate and age-appropriate information…” (Emphasis mine)

So basically what it comes down to is that the choice of family planning programs (apparently our federal government feels uncomfortable actually using the word sex… Ever…) is way above the head of Alexia Kelley. Not that I’d mind seeing as many pro-choice federal employees, especially in HHS. But let’s all calm down. Obama’s funding for comprehensive family planning programs essentially replaces Bush’s abstinence-only funding, so our government is really only funding programs now that have been proven to work. Obama’s not crazy or trying to keep today’s children in the dark. He’s just put someone with a religious perspective in charge of Faith-Based Initiatives. And really, can you blame him for that?

I do have a little issue with some abortion wording in Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Initiative, but let’s leave that for another post.