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On Our Radar – Brian Sims, Gay Feminist

by Jean Ann Esselink on April 28, 2013

in News,Politics

Post image for On Our Radar – Brian Sims, Gay Feminist

“Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” — Brian Sims, who is On Our Radar.

The War on Women broke out afresh this week, when the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted not to allow insurance companies in the state to offer coverage for elective abortions. If you have a good job, (or your spouse does,) and you have your own private insurance in Pennsylvania, you’re in luck, over 80% of private health insurance policies include abortion coverage, and this law won’t affect you. But if you are of more modest means, and you have to buy your new government mandated insurance policy on one of the new Obamacare exchanges, Pennsylvania lawmakers have decided that you will not be allowed to buy a policy that covers abortion, unless your pregnancy was caused by being legitimately raped or diddled by your daddy.

Not to worry though, House Bill 818 takes into account the statistical probability that financially struggling women, denied comprehensive reproductive health coverage, will be desperate enough to resort to a “back alley” or a do-it-yourself abortion. Republican Representative Donna Oberlander, who authored the bill, proudly explained to the press that her bill generously allows coverage for follow up care in case of an infection or a perforated uterus caused by a botched illegal abortion.

And more good news! If a woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy, the House has decided to allow her insurance company to cover terminating it. But there is no “Health of the Mother” exception, so this law will not be so kind to women like our unfortunate friend Sarafina, the young mother with a spinal cord tumor choking off her ability to move. Under House Bill 818, she will end up a quadriplegic, denied the choice of whether to continue her pregnancy or undergo the radiation therapy that could have saved her that fate.

394962_10200512683046213_523340279_nThe logic to this legislation goes like this: A woman not making enough money to support her family will get premium support under Obamacare toward a health care insurance plan. In Republicanland, and judging from the 144-53 vote tally, for quite a few Pennsylvania House Democrats, being allowed to take a tax deduction for the cost of heath care insurance is the same as taxpayer dollars paying for any abortions the insured woman might have. So to make sure no one deducting any part of her health care insurance costs from her taxes can have abortion coverage, no policy offered in the Pennsylvania exchange will be allowed to offer it.

I am sure Rep. Oberlander would like me to explain here that the bill does allow women to buy their own abortion coverage. That self-serving provision allows the lawmakers to seem reasonable, knowing full well poor women are not going to opt for an expensive abortion rider; they are going to cross their fingers and pay the light bill. Many of them are going to get pregnant and deliver babies they never wanted to have and can’t afford to raise. Then these same lawmakers will be back arguing over how to cut off their Head Start and their hot lunches.

You would think there would be husbands, lovers, fathers of women in the Pennsylvania House who would recognize the shortsighted and punitive nature of House Bill 818. But the man who came to the aid of Pennsylvania’s women has no wife and no daughters. What Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims has is a sense of justice, honed in the struggle for gay rights. Brian pulled no punches Tuesday, as he addressed his fellow House members. “As a civil rights advocate” Brian told his colleagues, “I see clearly… that this bill’s purpose is to discriminate against women, and most often, women with less means than many of my colleagues have today.”

536501_10152219262220647_1880247884_nBrian Sims first wandered On Our Radar a year ago this very month. He was quite impressive then, a college football captain who came out to his team, and by the force of his character and personality alone, garnered acceptance and support from his teammates. Brian was running for the State House at the time, a seat he won as an openly gay man. When I read about the attack on women’s rights in Pennsylvania, I was not at all surprised to find that it was freshman Brian Sims who stepped forward to vigorously oppose House Bill 818. “I’m not sure how I find myself in this room, of all rooms, as one of the men who respects women the most.” Brian observed.

The gay man and the feminists. It seems at first blush an unlikely alliance, and yet, on further contemplation, a perfect fit. Who better to speak for women than a man who understands what it means to be told what you can and can’t do with your own body?  Who knows better the value of the “right to privacy” the Supreme Court found in the Constitution than a gay man? What more stalwart friend could women find than the football hero who, when asked by a teammate if he was gay, had the courage to say “Yes, I am.”

Watch the heartfelt plea Brian Sims made to the members of the Pennsylvania House in the video below, and see what you think is the value of such an ally.

The vote in Pennsylvania wasn’t close. Women lost another battle. We have been losing quite a few of them since the 2010 election spread the Tea Party infection across the states. But this battle should be remembered not for the setback, but for the friend women found in Representative Brian Sims, the gay man who stood proudly against the campaign to turn financially challenged women into unwilling incubators. The gay man who said out loud words we have all wished someone would have the courage to say: “Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

Today, with gratitude, Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims is in our hearts, and On Our Radar.


Photos from Brian Sims Facebook Page


tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

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FranckPasco April 28, 2013 at 9:18 am

The quote you attribute to Brian Sims—“Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”—apparently dates from at least 1997, when it was used by Jesse Jackson Jr. It was expressed most recently by one of Jackson's close political allies, Maryland Senator and Constitutional law professor Jamie Raskin on March 1, 2006, during a Maryland Senate hearing on same-sex marriage, as confirmed by Snopes and the Wikipedia article on Raskin

MeSoHornish April 28, 2013 at 11:17 am

Would it be too ironic to say, God bless this man?

MeSoHornish April 28, 2013 at 11:30 am

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…."
From the Treaty of Tripoli. This was ratified unanimously in the Senate and signed by President Adams in 1796. The founding fathers would be appalled at the modern republicans and their creeping theocracy.

LOrion April 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Thanks Jean Ann… a fine piece on a great ally.

James_M_Martin April 28, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I suspect there are more lgbt-queer people who are feminists than might be thought. As long as one segment of the population is not free, none of us is free.

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