Friday, December 30, 2011

2012: Resolved: Stop the Assault on Women’s Health

It’s really very simple: Anybody who opposes reproductive health services for women is unfit to hold public office in this country. Period.

These people—they are mostly Republican men, but some Democrats are also in league with them—will not admit they really hate women, but that is the only way I can read their relentless assault on reproductive choice. By their actions, they reveal a deep-seated hatred of and contempt for women.

Why else would men campaign so fiercely against clinics, such as those of Planned Parenthood, that provide a range of health services, including STD testing for men as well as women, breast cancer screening, birth-control information, pregnancy counseling and abortions?

The precedents for these efforts to control and subjugate women date back to the pre-scientific era when superstition reigned and hysterical mobs burned women who provided birth-control information as witches. Yes, there are present-day precedents, too—most notably the Taliban, whose members forbid girls to go to school and publicly stone women accused of adultery.

In the Republicans’ vicious assault on women’s health, which has been going on since Reagan’s administration, Republicans reveal themselves as right-wing zealots attempting to impose certain religious views on everyone—men as well as women.

Catholic bishops, too, are overstepping our Constitutional separation of church and state by, most recently, lobbying for a loophole in health care that would allow doctors or nurses to refuse, for religious reasons, to perform abortions, even to save a woman’s life. Besides violating separation of church and state, this position is extremely dangerous. The same argument could be made to withhold antibiotics or cancer treatment or any other life-saving medical procedure because of religious belief.

There’s a vast difference between belief and science; the former relies on faith, the latter on evidence. There’s also the gross hypocrisy of the position. The bishops’ vow of celibacy hasn’t precluded sexually abusing children and then covering it up. How dare these men, who know nothing of pregnancy, birth and child-rearing, issue dogmatic proclamations about women’s reproductive choices? This form of theological bullying is unacceptable.

During these past two years, the Republican assault on women’s health has accelerated—bills to prevent women from buying their own private health insurance to cover abortion; attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and close clinics that provide a range of reproductive health services to women; bills that would define a fertilized egg as a “person”; bills to spread ignorance and misinform women about abortion; bills to spread anti-woman poison throughout the world by cutting funds to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s foremost agency for family planning services.

In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s New Year’s gift to women was to sign the Board of Health’s so-called “emergency” regulations for abortion clinics. These medically unnecessary regulations require women’s health clinics to meet the same strict building standards as new hospital construction. Although the governor proclaims the regulations will protect women’s health, they will do just the opposite by making reproductive health services inaccessible to women. Ultimately, McDonnell and his Republican colleagues’ intent is to close abortion clinics, making it impossible for Virginia women to obtain medically safe abortions in the state.

Finally, there is the blatant hypocrisy of the right-wing zealots who decry the intrusion of big government everywhere but a woman’s uterus. It’s okay for women’s bodies to become state commodities, controlled like agricultural crops.

We have seen during these past two years, a Republican party that celebrates ignorance, rejects science, embraces superstition, and wages war against half the U.S. population. Their policies would take women back to the Medieval age before birth control—a time when men as well as women were enslaved by the gonads. Before birth control, the only form of family planning was the cruelest form—infanticide. Do those who lobby so aggressively to deprive women—and men, too--of reproductive choice, really want to undo all the advances of medical science?

Birth-control technology truly sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It gives us the ability to choose how many children we will produce or whether to have any children at all. Contraception frees both sexes from enslavement to their reproductive biology.

“No woman should be a mother against her will,” wrote Margaret Sanger, the pioneering American advocate for woman’s reproductive health services, in 1920. Yet today, on the cusp of 2012, retrogressive politicians and medieval churchmen are trying to turn back the clock and ban birth control.

The meaning of the contraceptive revolution is that births can be limited by rational means, and that sex can be enjoyed without fear of pregnancy. This is not to say that children will be less important, that the miracle of procreation will lose its impact, that marriage and families will be denigrated. Rather, these aspects of life become more precious because they happen by choice and not by chance. With fewer children, women and men have more time to devote to themselves, to each other, to enjoying the wondrous adventure of helping their offspring grow into successful adults. Most of all, real liberation is not just freedom from sexual taboos and discrimination; it is the freedom—for both women and men—to discover and develop all the multifaceted aspects of human nature, not just the reproductive aspect.

Through birth control, women have the option of being freer than females of any other species. And that seems to scare the shit out of the current crop of Republicans and right-wing zealots.

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