The most visible graphic on the National Organization for Women’s website this past week is the one at the top right corner, which reads, “Support Women’s Rights — Contribute to NOW.”
Browsing the site, one finds admonitions to support family leave policy, observe Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Health Awareness Week, and support a bill that would provide “emergency” contraceptives to rape victims.
Nowhere on the website of the nation’s best-known women’s rights group is there a single mention of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who at this writing is starving to death after her husband ordered the removal of her feeding tube.
While the political battle over Schiavo’s fate has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, NOW has ignored it entirely, instead focusing on issues such as family leave and gay rights. Since March 15, NOW has praised San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer’s ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry in California, cheered Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in the House, mourned the death of Wanda Alston, a “lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community leader,” and urged that Americans sign a petition to have Congress renew the Voting Rights Act of 1965 “before the scheduled expiration date in 2007.” (FYI: The Voting Rights Act is permanent law that does not expire.) On Jan. 20 NOW called for Harvard President Lawrence Summers to resign for his comments that women might be less apt than men to pursue academic careers in science. Summers merited another mention on March 18. NOW President Kim Gandy inaccurately characterized Summers’ remarks when she asked her readers, “Remember Harvard President Larry Summers, who suggested that women were biologically incapable of doing as well as men at math and science?”
Amazingly, NOW has completely ignored Terri Schiavo, who would appear to be the ideal poster woman for left-wing feminists. There is evidence that the heart attack that brought on her brain damage may have been triggered by an eating disorder. Schiavo, who was overweight as an adolescent, had become obsessed with her weight. Her feeding tube was ordered removed by her husband, who has been living with another woman, with whom he has two children, for years. Yet the plight of this utterly defenseless woman dying on her husband’s command has elicited not a word from top officials of the nation’s top feminist organizations.
(For the record, I don’t think Michael Schiavo’s living arrangements prove his motivations are mercenary. He may well be acting out of compassion for his wife. But it is the sort of circumstantial evidence leftist feminists typically would use to demonize a husband.)
A search for “Schiavo” on feministmajority.org produces no hits. Feminist Majority has spent its time recently highlighting abortion issues in Indiana and South Dakota, women’s rights in Afghanistan, and a change to Title IX.
The Ms. Foundation for Women has focused this month on a “Global Week of Action for Women’s Rights” and “Realizing the Power of Women of Color.” No mention of Terri Schiavo.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom sent an alert on March 15, warning its members on March 15 that Congress has yet again approved spending money on the U.S. military. The group published sample letters to the editor for its members to send in opposition to nuclear weapons. And it announced that it will focus on two issues over the next three years: “Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East,” and “Save the Water.” Schiavo did not make the cut.
Women’s Action for New Directions, which, according to its website, “empowers women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism,” was busy in the past month arranging vigils to remember the Iraq war dead, organizing letter-writing campaigns opposing cuts in the federal budget, and celebrating “progressive women elected to Congress.” Evidently there was no time left over to comment on Schiavo’s case.
Women’s Human Rights Net actually reprinted on its website this month a short “Position Paper on Women With Disabilities,” published by Disabled Peoples’ International. It read in part, “Disabled women and girls are much more marginalizes (sic) and mostly invisible to policy makers. Disabled women and girls are subject to massive human rights violations without regard to their age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, class, religious and other status. WE (sic) no longer accept being objects of violence and discrimination and we insist on respect for and protection of our human rights.”
Of course, there was no mention of Terri Schiavo in this paper or anywhere else on the website — or on the site of Disabled Peoples’ International.
Had Schiavo been a transgendered activist for nuclear disarmament, perhaps America’s left-wing women’s organizations would have taken notice of her travails. Alas, she was merely an unlucky young woman who had become emblematic of the right to life movement. In other words, she collapsed on the wrong side of the political fence.