Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Renewed War Against Women

Planned Parenthood faces a budget cut that eliminate all federal funding. Other federal bills would raise taxes in order to keep women from what is legally allowed to them. A proposed law in Georgia would incarcerate women for miscarriages. Laws in Wyoming that would force women to have no recourse to abortions were barely defeated. Mike Huckabee attacks Natalie Portman for "glamorizing" single motherhood, although she is planning on marrying her baby daddy.

And pundits keep assuring us that the culture wars are over.

The backlash against feminism, which Susan Faludi tracked so well, is still going strong. Women who were granted as a fundamental right the right to choose abortion under the right of privacy of the fourteenth amendment now face increased difficulty in some states of finding a doctor who provides such services. Women's right to choose has been under attack since the opinion was made by the Supreme Court in 1973, but the renewed vigor of today is upsetting.

Abortion is a prickly and dangerous topic. We are dealing with matters of life and death, and there is a large portion of our population who believe that any abortion should be considered murder. This sense of stopping murderers justifies in their minds the assassination of "abortion doctors," such as Paul Tiller, who was killed in 2009 while in his church by such an anti-abortion zealot. Nathan Lane's quip in "The Birdcage" (1996): "Oh, I know what you are going to say: 'If you kill the mother, the fetus dies too.' But the fetus is going to be aborted anyway, so why not let it go down with the ship" is not far from the strategy proposed by Republicans.

I would love to see a time when birth control has increased its abilities and reach to the greater population that abortions become less and less necessary. The morning-after pill has become a great way for women to take precautions if accidents occur. And it should be standard in rape kits nationwide. However, that time has not yet arrived, and when our last president stressed abstinence-only sex education, the existence of accessible birth control has decreased as well.

The hypocrisy that is so appalling is that these attacks on a woman's right to choose and gay marriage go against what the Republicans tell us is the basis of their party: small, limited government. Spending cuts must happen, they say time and again, because the federal government is too large and incapable of doing all that it claims. Yet somehow having the federal government invade doctors' offices and bedrooms to legislate morality is perfectly acceptable. Or, when "national security" is at stake, we should sacrifice some of our dearest liberties to give the FBI and CIA broad powers over American citizens and any foreigners who may appear suspicious.

 The libertarian side of the Republican party should not be in favor of the social conservative issues proposed. Others however can hold a very paradoxical ideology in their minds: Small government when it comes to taxes, but when it comes to very personal issues the government should be in each and everyone's minds. This partly speaks to a view common among many Tea Partiers that the American way of life (corresponding to an inaccurate picture of Eisenhower-era America [he was pro-union and suspicious of the military-industrial complex]). By keeping women and racial and sexual minorities from fighting for civil rights, it will somehow preserve a vision of an America where nice, white people can do exactly as they please.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has argued that Roe v Wade is premised on shaky legal ground. She believes that the opinion should have been argued for women's rights as in charge of their bodies and hence not inferior to the males of the species, rather than the "right to privacy." This shakiness means that it is at risk under the current Supreme Court. Fortunately, John Roberts has never brought onto the docket any case relating to abortion. Is this because he wants to leave the law in place? Or because any action the Court would take would result in great controversy? We can only speculate. It is clear, however, that the decision would be close. The crucial vote would be Anthony Kennedy whose Catholic roots may swing him to the side of Scal-ito, Thomas and Roberts, but then again Kennedy voted with Ginsburg and Breyer on Lawrence v Texas (2003), which ended sodomy laws. It would be a risky proposition any way they proceed.

Of course, the Republicans have no interest in spending federal dollars to help these children when they are born. They want to cut Planned Parenthood because it funds abortion (but not from federal monies), but that is only a small portion of the crucial work that the organization does. It helps prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place by providing birth control and provides to women a battery of health tests and prenatal care. The Republicans literally want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The GOP has no intention of providing dollars to help the foster-care system or adoption agencies, but they sure as hell want lots and lots of babies born. As Margaret Cho said: "Most conservatives believe in the death penalty, but not abortion, which proves they like to procrastinate." Enough said.

Do we really want to return to a time of knitting needles and the risk of dying from infection? I hope we the dangerous implications of GOP decisions.

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