Wow. After the sexual politics of last week, is there anything more to say about contraception, abortion, women’s right to choose, perceptions of religious liberty and coerced female penetration – not to mention the widespread male anxiety about female sexuality that all this has made apparent?
Yes, indeed. I think we elders need to remind others what is at stake.
Although some (definitely not all) fundamentalist women go along, it is mostly men taking part in this argument about control of women’s vaginas.
Not to overdo since it has been published in about ten million places by now, let’s start with the photo of all those men and no women testifying at a Congressional hearing about insurance coverage of birth control last week:
At the risk of overdoing it twice in one day, let’s also take one more look at the statement on the subject of contraception from one of presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s largest contributors:
After this video went viral (in about six seconds), Santorum tried to disavow his connection to Foster Friess but that’s an embarrassingly disingenuous move from a man whose super-PAC accepted $331,000 from Mr. Friess in 2011 and who has famously said elsewhere, “I think [contraception is] harmful to women; I think it’s harmful to society.”
Women of all political and religious stripes responded swiftly and loudly against the troglodytes who would move the nation into Handmaid’s Tale territory. But it’s about a lot more than just who pays for birth control.
With the many local attacks on women’s health throughout the nation, it is going to be a battle just to maintain what we’ve already won and thought had long been settled.
Now, you might think that a blog by, for and about elders – which includes, of course, post-menopausal women – would not have a dog in this fight. If so, you would be monumentally wrong.
We elders are the first generation to benefit from reliable birth control and legal abortion. Now, decades later, we are the only ones alive who can testify to what life was like before: a zillion unwanted babies, lethal backstreet abortions and not much chance for college or careers beyond motherhood. (Remember the jokes about MRS degrees?)
If we do not prevail over right wing fundamentalists who would keep women barefoot and pregnant (I had thought that phrase was buried forever), we will be the last generation to control our own reproduction.
All the sexual antagonism last week comes on the heels of a frightening number of state initiatives to limit women’s health access. Just a few:
• Already on Kansas, there are only three abortion providers. Now, recent proposed legislation would, among other restrictions, require women seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram and also require doctors to tell women of a long discredited link between abortion and breast cancer.
Most unbelievably, the bill would exempt doctors from malpractice suits, according to Alternet, if they
”…withhold information from patients that might lead those patients to seek an abortion. In other words, a physician could choose not to tell a woman something important about her own health if the doctor thought the woman might seek an abortion because of that information.”
• The Virginia legislature has passed the now infamous vagina bill that will require women seeking an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound procedure – that is, coerced and medically unnecessary vaginal penetration.
• Oklahoma appears to be on the verge of passing a personhood bill. According to Reuters [emphasis added],
”The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 34-8 to pass the ‘Personhood Act’ which defines the word person under state law to include unborn children from the moment of conception.
“The measure now goes to the state House where pro-life Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than a 2-1 margin.”
• And in Iowa, proposed legislation outlaws abortion entirely:
”The bill, House File 2298, introduced by Rep. Kim Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill, is an outright ban on abortion, and includes criminal penalties of up to life in prison for those who perform abortions.”
(An Alternet story by Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley is a good overview of the most outrageous local initiatives to limit women’s reproductive rights.)
This all looks to me like a coordinated attack on women by, mostly, men but also the women who blindly follow them, and their success is not impossible. Don’t forget that the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment was due largely to a woman, Phyllis Schafly, and her Eagle Forum.
My sense is, however, that women are not going to allow anyone to undermine the reproductive rights we have. As has been pointed out in relation to the Catholic bishops’ objection to President Barack Obama’s quite reasonable compromise on insurance coverage for contraception, 98 percent of Roman Catholic women in the U.S. have used birth control at one time or another along with 99 percent of women overall.
However, as the inroads against abortion in individual states indicate, we cannot be complacent nor think other women will handle this for us. We must all speak up and speak out again and again until this is over.
Oh, and one more thing: unless you want these attacks to continue through at least 2016, pray, light candles or whatever it is you do to summon the gods that Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee; I don’t believe anyone this sanctimonious can be elected:
“The whole sexual libertine idea; many in the Christian faith have said, well, that’s OK, contraception is OK. It’s not OK, because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: Happy Valentine’s Day