Sunday, July 31, 2005

A.S. Byatt Misses the 1960s

I just finished reading A.S. Byatt's novel about the late 1960s called A Whistling Woman. Like many other people I loved her novel Possession, but A Whistling Woman doesn't quite measure up. The problem with this novel is it's supposed to be about the late 1960s in England but really has little to say about that era. The author so is resolutely anti-1960s one wonders why she wrote about that decade.

The story deals with a group of characters connected with the new University of North Yorkshire in the north of England: the Vice-Chancellor Gerard Wijnobel and his fellow scientisits at the university who want to put on a conference on mind-and-body connections; the rebel youth who set up an Anti-University next door who plan to disrupt the conference; Frederica, a TV personality living in London who has family near the university and whose TV crew will film the conference; and Joshua Ramsden, a very mad spiritual leader of a religious cult holed up in a farmhouse near the university. A. S. Byatt does know how to hook a reader into her plot. I excitedly read on waiting for the long-planned for confrontation between rebel youth and university scientists as well as for the religious commune to blow up. Byatt has some very amusing touches as the owner of the farmhouse where the religious cult lives has a sheep named Tobias who thinks he's a dog.

Another pleasure of this novel as well as Byatt's other work is her love of ideas and literature. She has characters refer to metaphor, 17th century English poetry, Alice in Wonderland--it's great fun to see characters know and love their English literature. So many American novelist seem afraid to write novels of ideas but Byatt seems to revel in ideas. Byatt also includes scientists discussing their work and it's also good to have their ideas, too.

One problem with the novel is none of the characters is very engaging. Joseph Ramsden, the leader of the religious communie, is the most fascinating character. Ramsden when a child discovered his mother and sister just murdered by his father. Byatt describes him as a fascinating mixture of deep religiousness and madness. After Ramsden becomes a spiritual leader, Byatt unfortunately drops him as an important character. Byatt is more interested in her dull bourgeois characters--her scientists and London arty bourgeois like Francesca, a TV personality, and her author roommate Agatha--and avoids going deeply into the really amazing characters whose actions drive the story: the rebel youth of the anti-University and the spiritual seekers in the farmhouse.

Another problem is many of these late 1960s literary and scientific ideas in which the older characters believe--in poetry, in psychobiology, experimental psychology, and English philosophy influenced by Wittgenstein-- were very limited to their time. At one point Byatt talks about professors in the 1960s liking 17th century English metaphysical poets--true enough--but neglects that the younger generation found these poets distant and remote and fled this
literature. The younger generation had little or no interest in the older generations' ideas.

Byatt only takes the ideas of scientists, professors, and media intellectual seriously while the author lampoons the ideas of the rebel youth and the religious commune. The novelist makes the youth sound like idiotic poor-mannered know-nothings. Yet these rebel young provide the novel's most exciting moments when they march on the scientific conference.

Most of the creative ideas by the late 1960s were coming from the youth at the Anti-University and the spiritual seekers like those in the religious commune. 1960s rebels made a real critique of scientists--for example, biologists for mistreating animals--but Byatt also describes the members of the religious commune as following a madman--so the religious people must be fools. Yet the religious ideas of Byatt's "fools" have also influenced Western religious life for the next three decades.

What about the idea of feminism? Byatt is first and foremost a feminist writer, incredibly influenced by the ideas of these late 1960s ideas particularly feminisme. The irony is thatByatt fed off the radicalism of the late 1960s which she is subtly denouncing in this book.

One good example is Byatt's treatment of the three main women characters. Byatt opens the novel with a chapter on Frederica and her young son; they are living with Agatha, another single mom with a career, and Agatha's young daughter. The household seems to work but Byatt always calls it an odd family. Jacqueline, a scientist at the univeristy, is the third working woman; she rejects marriage to a fellow scientist and instead concentrates on her research.

Throughout the novel there is some some blather about "Free Woman" who have careers and and also have romance when and if they want it. By novel's end both Frederica and her roommate Agatha have found mates. Frederica and Agatha are each pictured with new mate and child making a new family. Jacqueline is pictured as lonely nun devoting herself to her science. For a novel about the late 1960s the ending sounds like the 1950s: two good women each find a man while the woman who doesn't is sad, lonley creature. Blah blah blah. Byatt is taking a tiny part of feminism--the man cooks; the woman has a career--and incorporating it into the bourgeois marriage.

Skip this book. Go and read A.S. Byatt's Possession which is a wonderful literary who-done-it about literary scholars unearthing a romance between 19th century poets.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Must Read: Lolita in Tehran

Azar Nifisi’s memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran is an amazing book, but the American reviews I have read focused solely on Nafisi, the feminist who teaches women in a underground literature class. These reviews miss the more important point: Nafisi is writing a memoir of herself and other secular intellectuals who first supported the Iranian revolution in which Ayatollah Khomeini gained power. Americans should read this book because we know so very little about Iran of the last twenty-five years. We should be wary: Nafisi is a flawed narrator, telling us only part of the story.

After receiving a PhD in English from the University of Okalahoma and getting married Nafisi returned to Iran in the spring of 1979. As Nafisi says, she returned at a crucial moment both for herself and for the new Iranian revolution. She was immediately hired to teach English literature at the University of Tehran. For two weeks in late January, 1979, after the Shah had been driven out, Dr. Shahpour Bakhtiar, a democratic bourgeois liberal was prime minister, but most of the opposition including Nafisi herself had joined up with Ayatollah Khomeini against Dr. Bakhtiar.

Nafisi, whose father was jailed for four years by the shah, had been a student radical in Marxist Iranian student groups in Oklahoma in the 1970s and was all for destroying the “old,” which she and many other young Iranians thought meant booting out Bakhtiar, the liberal reformist. They wanted a revolution. Then Ayatollah Khomeini became head of state. When talking about her student radicalism Nafisi says, ‘”In the seventies—the mood—not just among Iranians but among American and European students—was revolutionary.” Not true. Radicalism among American students had peaked in 1970 and was subsidizing throughout the 1970s into reformism (only a really tiny minority of U.S. students were revolutionary). In the United States most young women in the1970s deserted the American New Left by the thousands to start reformist feminist groups.

What’s fascinating about this memoir is that Nafisi, the revolution’s supporter, started teaching fall semester 1979 at the University of Tehran where many of the battles of the revolution would be played out in the next two years. Nafisi says that at the university the Muslim students were a minority “overshadowed by the leftist and secular student groups,” but over the next two years Khomeini used the Muslim student groups and his militias to take over the university. Nafisi from her vantage point at the University of Tehran describes how the Khomeini government expeled professors deemed anti-regime, killed leftist students in demonstrations, arrested leftist students, jailed them for years and executed them. Khomeini consolidated his power over the country by purging just such leftists as Nafisi and her students.

In the midst of all this one day Nafisi cancels classes to attend a demonstration of women protesting the government’s policies instituting the veil and “curtailing women’s rights.” Her leftist women students followed the line of their Marxist groups denouncing the feminist protest as “deviant, divisive and ultimately in service of the imperialists” and supported the government. At the protest Nafisi saw vigilantes attack the women with “knives, clubs and stones.” That meeting was a turning point.

She herself first ran into problems teaching Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Two powerful Muslim students repeatedly attacked the novel in class as immoral, decadent western literature, so she had her class put the book on the trial. In her defense of the novel in class Nafisi says Gatsby had a dream of the past that ignored reality in present—living in the dream killed him. She then compares her generation of revolutionaries to Gatsby: “What we in Iran have in common with Fitzgerald was this dream [of revolution] became our obsession … this terrible, beautiful dream, impossible in realization, for which any amount of violence might be justified or forgiven ….” She believed that she, her leftist students, and her Muslim students were all being devoured by their dreams just like Gatsby was. Soon she and her two women professor friends were expelled from the university for not wearing the veil.

To me, this section of the book titled “Fitzgerald” is the most moving and enlightening.
When Nafisi first returned to Iran she had been a leftist who wrote her Ph.D. thesis on Mike Gold, the proletarian novelist and literary critic (actually I love proletarian literature as I left the bourgeois feminists to write about working class women in literature). By the time Nafisi was thrown out of the university, she had abandoned the working class Gold for bourgois writers who focused on women—Jane Austen or Henry James with his strong women characters in his novels Daisy Miller and Washington Square or Nabakov’s Lolita—as well as Fitzgerald.

Nafisi does for me the impossible: gets me interested in Henry James, a writer I have always ignored. She does this by showing how the four writers—Nabokov, James, Austen, and Fitzgerald—all opened up democratic space in the novel where women as well as men had liberty, integrity of the self, choices to make, and the right to happiness. Nafisi says what she likes these novels is summed up in a comment on Henry James: He always had a protagonist who desired “to preserve a sense of personal integrity in the face of outside aggression.” Nafisi becomes a celebrant of these bourgeois novelists who give their characters liberty--the right to protect themselves against outside power.

I think Nafisi is a fine literary critic but often this book lacks humility of self-analysis and reads like one long rage against Islamic fundamentalists. The closest she comes to self-analysis is when she analyzes Gatsby and her own use of the dream detached from reality. Did she regret her past actions being in coalition with Khomeini? She eludes to it but avoids dealing with it head on. She never plainly discusses when she ceased supporting the Islamic revolution and instead became a celebrant of the bourgeois novel of civil liberties.

Nafisi’s book isn’t George Orwell’s Homage to Catelonia or Richard Wright’s American Hunger. Both are great books because they have self-analysis showing how the heroes disillusionment with Communist led to their leaving the party. Even after they split with the Communist Party, Orwell was still a socialist and Wright a fighter for civil rights. Their books leave us not with rage but with self-analysis and humility. Nafisi lacks both the self-analysis and humility. Her book misses greatness.

But Nafisi gives us Iran, a country we need to know here in America as we’ve been cut off from any knowledge of them for 25 years. In 1987 Allameh Tabatabi University promised to hire her if she wore the veil. She made the compromise. Some of her former students rejoined her classes, telling her of years of their imprisonment; rapes in jail; execution of their friends. The suffering toughened the Iranian feminists, young and old. We feminists in the United States had a lark compared to them.

Nafisi describes how Iranianwomen students were still continually harassed at their college for being caught wearing pink socks or lipstick. By 1995 Nafisi can’t stand the harassment at work of herself and her students so she resigns to start her underground class.

When she and her women students talk in her underground class, they never have political discussions. They discuss boyfriend jilting them, being sexually harassed, being beaten by their husbands—very intimate topics. I can not believe they never discussed their own political histories. These were women who were had lived gut-wrenching politics—some had been in jail. So why does Nafisi omit their political discussions? Did the leftists students ever re-evaluate their groups’ alliance with Khomeini in 1979-80? Who knows? Her seven women students, as my friend Keiko Amano said, lack character development and tend to blend into one another.

Nafisi gives fascinating descriptions of how she, her friends, her students and family committ small acts of defiance: her husband’s drinking bootleg vodka; her family has satellite TV; one female student wore outlawed pink socks; another young woman having red nail polish she hides in gloves when she walks on the streets. This part of the book shows the culture resistance in the 1990s—a resistance that must contributed to that political opposition by 2000 when ¾ of Iranians voted against their government.

Dear reader, this a book we should all read. Now over half of Iran’s university students are women. Our mass media is so ignorant of Islamic countries that they neglect to show us in Iran fundamentalists are clearly a minority. Maybe Islamic fundamentalists are minorities in all their societies as they are in Iran? Nafisi is surely not alone but part of a larger movement wanting to bring human rights and civil liberties to Middle Eastern countries.

It is who have to learn about them. Dear reader, you still must read this book if you want to understand more about Iran.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dressing for Global Warming

It's been hot all week here in the West--really hot. I live on the 2nd floor of a two-story apartment so my apartment is hot all day. I need more hot weather clothes. I read in the magazine section about how to avoid heat exhaustion.

Last summer was one long, hot summer with horrble hurricanes battering Florda. Same this summer. More hot! More hurricanes! Scientists say maybe bigger hurricanes are caused by global warming but Bush says no. How about the heat waves? What's the connection to global warming? I bet there's a connection. We also in L.A. might have an energy shortage so we get warnings: "Don't use excess electricity! Turn off computer when not using it!"

So, we need to dress for global warming:
1. Bring water bottle with you at all times. Drink water. More water. Drink some more!
2. Wear a wide brimmed hat that covers your face. Those baseball caps don't cut it. Get a real hat with a wide brim!
3. Use sunscreen with high spf.
4. Don't forget sunglasses.
5. Light colors: white, beige, pastels.
6. Cottons and linens.
7. Wear light colored flowing light weight clothes. No dark. No black. Don't wear those black jeans! Forget about dark blue jeans! Think Arabs in long white clothing!
8. Bermuda shorts are back.
9. For men, tank tops, bermuda shorts, and flip flops.
10. For women, sundresses and sandals.
11. No necktie and no jacket in the office. Only short-sleeved casual shirts. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the government started a national "No jacket, no tie" campaign this month. The Japanese government wants public workers to leave their ties and jackets at home so that air conditioning can be turned down to save energy.
12. Don't get carried away with summer clothes in U.K. offices, particularly showing off the tatoos as U.K. bosses are often put-off by tatoos.
13. If it's really hot outside and you have nothing to wear, make instant cut-offs and tank-tops. Just take that pair of long pants and that much-too-big t-shirt you dislike and a scissors!
14. Light weight sarong--you need lessons to learn how to tie it to make five new outfits! Both sexes can wear a sarong in the South Seas so they can it outside of the South Seas, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Defending Abortion Rights

Last Friday from 5:00-6:00 I participated in the Progressive Jewish Agenda's pro-choice pro-abortion demonstration in Los Angeles at 3rd and /Fairfax near the Farmer's Market. It was a typical Los Angeles street corner demonstration with about 40 pickets on four corners; most were young women with a few men and middle aged women like me. A lot of cars honked in support, but a bus driver did argue with me, saying he's anti-abortion. Most people seemed supportive or neutral. A woman lawyer came down from the Writer's Guild (Screenwriter's ) across the street and held up a handmade sign. A male colleague of hers from the Writer's Guild office also came down. The woman lawyer asked him, "Are you going to join the line?" He said, "No, it's too noisy. The demonstration is making it difficult for people to work." This was at 5:45 pm Friday.

I carried two signs: one in Spanish and one in English. This made picketing harder work but I wanted to reach everybody so I held up my two signs. The Spanish sign said in Spanish, "Reproductive rights are human rights." Great idea. But if I'd make my own signs, I'd say: "Keep Legal abortion: it protects everybody's rights." I think so. People who are against abortions don't have to have them when it's legal. I respect that 100%.

I'd also have new signs: "Legal abortions save lives" and "Illegal abortion causes 83,000 women's deaths globally." Also true. I want to get across the message that so-called right-to-lifers are, I think, right-to-deathers--causing women's death and injuries by the thousands. I think the term "right-to-life" is absolutely untrue when describing those against abortion. I think we should change the image of the word "right-to-life" so it only applies to those for legal, safe abortion.

If we want to have more signs, we can publicly support national health care for all pregnant woman to save women's lives and reduce infant mortality. Since 50,000,000 don't have health insurance in this country (including a number of my friends) we have the highest infant mortality rates in the industrial world. How about a sign: "Reduce infant mortality: national health insurance for all!"

I think that the Republicans have been chipping away at abortion rights for a long time. We can get too involved looking at the trees--Bush's nomination of Roberts--that we loose sight of the forest--abortion rights are getting restricted over the last decade. In some rural areas, there are no clinics available, so poor women who lack money to travel to a nearby clinic don't have access to safe abortion at all. I think we need a strategy of fighting the Roberts nomination as part of an overall plan to reverse the trend against abortion and restore safe, legel abortion rights and access in this country. Also, Republicans support corporations which offer less health insurance to their employees--raising infant mortality. Republicans have policies which causes more infant deaths.

One way to really save lives is join with others this month in peaceful pro-abortion picket lines. It's empowering. It's envigorating.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Poetry as Revolution: Berkeley 7/17/05


SUNDAY JULY 17TH 2005 10:30AM-5PM




On the theme "Poetry as Revolution," it will bring together such notable Bay Area poets as Peter Dale Scott, Jack Hirschman, David Meltzer, Alta, John Oliver Simon, Al Young (poet laureate of California) Sarah Menefee, Kush, and others. They will read and dialogue about the responsibility of poets for envisioning and creating a transformed world community.

This Berkeley Poetry Conference celebrates the 40th anniversary of the renowned Berkeley Poetry Conference of July 1965, that brought together such legendary poets as Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Alan Ginsberg, Ed Dorn, Philip Whalen, Lew Welch, Brother Antoninus, Philip Lamantia, John Wieners, Kirby Doyle and others. Coming from "the New American Poetry " movement, they stressed the spoken word beyond the printed page that engages the world and participates in the cultural revolution, then developing particularly out of the free speech movement in Berkeley.

As Charles Olson said at the time, "Words are value, instruction, action. And they've got to become political action. They've got to become social action. The radicalism lies from our words, alone… Poetics is politics, poets are political leaders today.."

To commemorate the radical spirit of these poets of this event 40 years ago, many of whom are no longer here in the flesh, this Berkeley Poetry Conference is being held Sunday July 17th at the Berkeley Fellowship.
At 10:30 AM, Paul Sawyer minister-poet, a participant in the 1965 conference and former minister of the Fellowship, will develop, along with musicians and other poets, the theme of "Poetry As Revolution" Lunch will be served at 12:15 and featured poets will carry on readings and dialogue beginning at 1PM.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Regaining Bourgeois Paradise in Los Angeles

I have to confess I just read with guilty pleasure Michelle Huneven’s second novel Jamesland. Of course, this is a Los Angeles novel, but for the longest while I read I debated with myself, so what’s so L.A. about this novel?

Set in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, the fiction has three main characters: Alice Bloch, a rather lost young woman who is the great-great-granddaughter of philosopher William James; Pete Ross, a fat 46 year old mentally ill former chef who lives with his mom; and Helen Harland, the new minister of the local Unitarian church. These three become friends, bonding over Helen’s Wednesday night seminars where she has different speakers on the variety of religious experiences rather like an ongoing William James seminar—the author, of course, of the Varieties of Religious Experience. Never being fan of William James, I was amused to find myself in Jamesland—at one point the characters even go to séance.

I thought, couldn’t this novel be set anywhere? Helen is a new minister who goes to some small English town trying to bring God and spirituality back to the congregation who want none of it. Of course, I admitted, I did enjoy about reading about Los Feliz district which is near where I live. Like the characters in the book I, too, have gone on hiking dates in Griffith Park and have gone to those meals in nearby Armenian restaurants enjoying eating exactly the same food as the characters in the book. Huneven, who works as a restaurant critic, describes my favorite meal of lamp chops and rice at the Armenian restuarant.

What bothered me about this book is my suspicion is that really it’s about the restoration of the bourgeois paradise in Los Angeles. How could I, a child of the beats, like such a novel? Alice lives in her great-aunt’s expensive craftman house that she will one day inherit, but has let the gardens gone to seed, never used the fine silver and Limoges porcelain. She’s the bourgeois girl gone wrong: wrong job in a bar; wrong man who’s married. Her predicament is, of course, to go right. She needs to get another job so when someone asks her at a party or on a cruise, "What do you do?" she'll have an answer.

Minister Helen’s predicament is she wants to open her congregation of stubborn secular humanists up to religion that they resist. Finally, Pete Ross, a former chef who owned two restaurants before he cracked up, aspires to have a romance with a bourgeois woman. Well aware that the last thing bourgeois women want is a unemployed fat man who lives with his mom, Pete knows that in order to get his woman he needs to regain his bourgeois status as a man with an accpetable job.

Pete start’s cooking for Alice and Helen in regular Friday evening dinners, and in these dinners they all slowly regain bourgeois paradise. I must confess I fell in love with Pete: so rude but such a good cook! I loved following him around shopping for food, adored the menus and the descriptions of him cooking. Yes, I must confess, I was suckered into rooting for Pete as he has to prove himself in his new job as chef for an expensive new restaurant.

What could be more Los Angeles than this fixation on food that Huneven captures so well? The menus! The farmer’s markets! Opening night at the restaurant! Yadada yah! Yes, it’s a Los Angeles novel about this city’s two great obsessions: exploring 8 million different religions and eating good food. Yes, Los Angeles food has improved in recent years. One can even track bourgeois habits of Los Angeles in its differing attitudes toward food over the decades.

In the 1950s L.A. had only a food "good" restaurants specializing in French food, steaks, and Cantonese. Hippies, those great populizers, followed the beats in exploring mystical experiences from around the world and in eating foods from northern Chinese to Japanese to Mexican to North African to West Africa . Let's not forget two other California populizers: chefs Julia Child and Alice Waters

Huneven has perfectly captured post-hippie post-Child post-Waters Los Angeles 1990s bourgeois cooking based on farmer’s markets and multi-cultural French-Mexican-Asian-North African-Middle Eastern cooking. Yes, Alice and Helen love Peter's meals, each one lovingly prepared. Of course, when Peter meets a Persian rug dealer, he gets a new dish from him, a lamb stew, which he cooks. Yes, these meals are healing for all concerned: they cook and eat their way to sanity! Besides having better food, the new L.A. of Jamesland has much more racial and gender equality than segregated old L.A.--a gay minister substitutes for Harland when she's on vacation.

Jamesland is really a Los Angeles novel after all. This new L.A. of Jamesland has bourgeois Angelinos learning about each others religions in Wednesday night seminars and eating each other’s foods on Friday nights. Pete and Alice find bourgeois redemption. I can live with that. Now if only the Helen Harlands of the world, those stubborn spiritualists, can learn to appreciate secular humanists! The novel's flaw is that Helen isn't portrayed as the flawed comic character she is: one can't push one's spirituality onto others. But generally, this novel is a gentle bourgois comedy that ends well.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy July 4th!

What's patriotic?

The Ten Original Amendments: The Bill of Rights.

Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791.


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.


No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.


In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be con- strued to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Abortions save lives

Sandra Day O'Connor, a swing vote on the Supreme Court who cast the decisive vote to retain abotion rights in 1992, has just resigned. President Bush gets to appoint a Supreme Court Justice to replace her. This battle over the nominee will probably be heated all this summer.

I know a little about illegal abortions because I had one before 1972 and wound up hemorraghing, needing to be rushed to the hospital to save my life. Since this is so personal an issue, I paid attention to the death of Rosaura Jimenez, a young Mexican-American woman who lived in Texas after abortion was legalized. She couldn't afford a legal one so got an illegal abortion and died. Yes, women do die from illegal abortions even after the procedure was legalized.

What bothers me a lot is the characterization of anti-abortionists as pro-life. I find this untrue rhetoric. For 30 years statistics have shown that the legalization of abortion in 1972 has, according to the Guttmacher institute, improved " the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted, and are now a rarity. In addition, women have been able to have abortions earlier in pregnancy when the procedure is safest." The Guttmacher Institute says that rollbacks on abortion rights threaten this improvement in women's health and life.

The Guttmacher Institute gives specific statistics: "In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined ... to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher." Again, thousands of women like myself were seriously injured every year by illegal abotions.

Anti-abortionists dispute these figures, and always ignore that the actual death figures could be higher even than Guttmacher Institute says. After all, abortion pre-1972 was illegal, and illegal activities are invaribly undereported. Thousands of women like myself were rushed to the hospital hemorrahging or with bad infections were also underreported because the reason for our hospital stays was covered up as mine was. Since abortion was legalized in California and a few other states beginning in 1967, one should use pre-1967 figures to gage the harm illegal abortion did to women.

Poor women and women of color had the toughest time getting safe illegal abortions. The Guttmacher Institute reports, "In 1962 alone, nearly 1,600 women were admitted to Harlem Hospital Center in New York City for incomplete abortions, which was one abortion-related hospital admission for every 42 deliveries at that hospital that year. ...In New York City in the early 1960s, one in four childbirth-related deaths among white women was due to abortion; in comparison, abortion accounted for one in two childbirth-related deaths among nonwhite and Puerto Rican women."

Finally, even in 1972 with legal abortion many poor women had trouble getting them: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died. Furthermore, from 1972 to 1974, the mortality rate due to illegal abortion for nonwhite women was 12 times that for white women" (Guttmacher).

All the statistics show that legal abortions for the last 30 years have saved women's lives and reduced by huge amounts injuries from the procedure. Being pro-abortion is pro-life. It's about time we start saying being against abortion endangers women's health and lives. Anti-abortionists are not pro-life. We should quit calling them that. Having a legal abortion is ten times safer for women than having a baby in the United States. One last fact. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 80,000 women around the world still die each year of complications from illegal abortion. If anyone want to save lives, one could save thousands of women's lives around the world by getting them legal abortions.