Blog, Commentary

The War Against Women

I’m in a depressed funk that started last night and hasn’t stopped.

It started because I was reading about the current movement in Texas to defund Planned Parenthood. It’s not enough that abortion-providers in the state already aren’t allowed to receive taxpayer-generated funds…but even funds that are specifically earmarked for non-abortion activities “free up other resources for Planned Parenthood to spend on its mission to promote elective abortions“. (Also, Planned Parenthood is apparently a terrorist organization.)

So the Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas that do not perform abortions at all sued the state to receive its funding back. When a federal court ruled that preventing Planned Parenthood from participating in the 90%-federally-funded Women’s Health Program would be unconstitutional, the solicitor general in Texas vowed that he would shut down the entire Women’s Health Program altogether. You know, to punish the 130,000 poor women who receive basic medical services through the $40 million dollar health program.

Arizona, never far behind in its drive to return to the 1850s, also banned Planned Parenthood from receiving public funds. Never mind the cervical cancer screenings, the breast exams, the STD testing, the birth control…no, uninsured women can go fuck themselves. Only three PP locations in Arizona are even still allowed to offer abortions…but that’s okay, the rest of them should burn on principle. Because apparently Planned Parenthood’s mission is to build Abortionplexes and get kids hooked on sex.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, doctors are allowed to withhold information about a woman’s pregnancy if they believe it could potentially lead to an abortion. So much for informed consent, right? Why should a woman be allowed to know information about her body?

Oh but wait, if she dies the doctor can then be sued for “wrongful death”…so that’s alright. We’re cool with the fact that the doctor acting in all violation all medical ethics is protected from malpractice suits in all events other than death, right? I guess that whole UN dealio about health being a fundamental human right just goes right out the window. Psyche: the US would never ratify something as silly as a right to healthcare.

Did I also mention that Tennessee wants to make public not only the names of doctors who perform abortions, but also detailed information about the women who receive them? I guess undergoing a medical procedure that the fringe extremists in your party disapprove of means that a right to medical privacy is no longer yours. That’s what you get for being a second-class citizen, kiddo. Never mind that pro-choice activists aren’t the ones showing up at clinics and shooting doctors.

And don’t give me any of your bullshit about being “pro-life”. If the health of the fetus is so important to you, where are the programs for prenatal health? If you value life so much, why do you condemn those born to poor economic conditions as being lazy and worthless? Where are the programs to encourage adoption? If mothers do some of the most difficult work there is, why are single moms derided as being immoral? Why are only married affluent mothers considered hard-working, whereas poor stay-at-home parents are lazy and indolent?

The only consistent message that I’ve seen from the Republicans vis-a-vis social policies is that women are secondary citizens. Why else would Santorum think he had a better understanding about women’s health than women themselves? Why else would the party as a whole contest the landmark Violence Against Women Act, put in place to ensure that even illegal immigrants facing domestic violence would receive some sort of protection? Rather than allowing victims to receive sanctuary from Citizenship and Immigration, the Republicans’ new version of the bill would allow immigration officers to inform the abuser that the victim is seeking asylum. Why? To prevent fraud.

And as for all the non-fraudulent cases of domestic violence in which the victim is already predisposed to remain in the abusive environment for fear of retaliatory violence? Well, I guess they’re on their own.

Tomorrow, North Carolina is voting on an amendment to codify that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Far from being just a bill against same-sex-marriage–which by the way is already considered invalid in this state even if the ceremony took place elsewhere–this could also disqualify civil unions, prevent children of unmarried couples from receiving health care, prevent battered women from receiving domestic violence protection if they’re not married to their abuser….where do I even go on?

If I pay attention to what’s going on around the US–ostensibly the most advanced country in the world–I get depressed. Depressed at how many people seem to believe that I shouldn’t have the right to control my body, that a consensual act in private between two adults could be enough to push me into the ranks of a second-class citizen, where the rights of a ball of cells growing inside of me and depending on my body for sustenance are more important than my rights, where a child conceived of rape can be a gift from god, where a woman who loses a pregnancy or has a stillborn child can be sent to prison for up to ten years because she did not do right by the fetus.

(How can women vote to take away the rights of women? How can men vote to take away the rights of their future daughters? How can people be so little-minded and judgmental?)

Yet if I don’t pay attention, that’s one less vigilant eye on the Republican’s assault on women’s health care, one less angry voice they have to worry about.

I often get frustrated when I’m discussing politics with some of my friends, because to so many of them it seems like it’s a game of semantics. Who can play devil’s advocate? Who can humanize the unthinkable? Who can come up with rhetorical proof that sexual assault is more likely to be provoked by a short skirt? (Who can come up with the least-convoluted argument why women’s clothing is an acceptable excuse for men behaving like under-evolved apes?)

On the flip side, I’m accused of dismissing their opinions because they don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman in this political climate. And on principle, I agree. No one’s opinion should be discounted on the sole basis of their gender.

But please, you need to listen to the women who tell you how scary it is to watch their rights get stripped away. You need to listen to the women in your life who are scared of going out after dark by themselves, because they fear sexual assault, and fear the victim-blaming and victim-shaming that follows sexual assault. You can’t understand how it feels like to be a woman in this political climate if you dismiss everything that women tell you about their experience.

Sometimes I’m told I’m too strident, too emotional. How can I not be? Your rights aren’t the ones at stake if people like Rick Santorum receive a bigger soap box. Mine are.

Let’s imagine a future in which women’s health care was a thing that people cared about, rather than racing to destroy.

Oh wait, that was 1969.

I don’t have a satisfying concluding thesis here, I guess, other than that I hope even one person who reads this post gets a little bit angrier, and a little bit more willing to take a stand.

Because god knows where we end up if we don’t.


2 thoughts on “The War Against Women

  1. John Verdon says:

    This is an excellent well spoken and reasoned rant and rightly righteous. We need to be vigilant about this, but also this is happening out of fear, a type of hysteria arising at least partially from the accelerating rates of change and the sense that old ways of life are disappearing. In my heart, I believe this is a ‘sunset’ type of flaring of a way of thinking that doesn’t reflect the majority. It’s like someone dying of a chronic disease that in the last days appears to be making a recovery before a final collapse.

    Here’s an excellent demographic report this should give you some evidence that women over the long haul are gaining control over their lives. :)

    • Phire says:

      Thank you! I certainly hope you’re right. There are times I wonder if it’s possible for a few thousand idiots to plunge us into another Dark Ages.

      Thank you for the PDF. It’s always good to be reminded of the progress we’ve made, though it’s also sobering to realize how recently it was that it was completely okay to (for example) deny women post secondary education.

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