But there is a war on women citizens of this country, and it's aimed at taking away their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...rights that citizens--male or female, black or white or brown--are supposed to hold. Religious opinions of one (minority) segment of the population are being imposed on all, attacking the rights of women to make their own choices. Last time I talked about the GOP's war on women's lives, and how the GOP's reproductive policies placed women's lives in peril. This time I'm talking about some of the same policies, but from a slightly different angle--women's right to the second of the inalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence: liberty. Freedom.
Freedom is the right to make choices for oneself. Fundamental to other social freedoms is the right to make choices about one's own body. The right to bodily integrity--the right to refuse touch, for instance--underlies the right to accept or refuse medical treatment, or to accept or refuse sexual congress. It is this concept--that of bodily integrity and the right to choose whether or not to be physically forced--that underlies the concept of sexual assault and rape.
It is noteworthy that spokespersons for the GOP regularly deny the existence of rape and claim that it is rare, that most complaints of rape are lies, or at best the woman didn't quite understand that she was being raped. State Senator Chuck Winder of Idaho, for instance. Several GOP politicians have argued that post-rape contraception isn't needed because if it's really rape, the woman can't get pregnant. State Representative Henry Aldridge of North Carolina, for instance, and Pennsylvania State Representative Stephen Freind, who theorizes that a 'special secretion' results from rape and prevents pregnancy. On the basis that women "can't get pregnant if it's really rape" the GOP assumes that the desire of rape victims for contraception or (if they become pregnant) an abortion is faked. It's noteworthy that this kind of thinking began (as some of the datelines show) back in the late '80s at least--the GOP has been working toward denying women freedom at least that long. New laws passed in multiple states this year--by GOP state legislatures and signed into law by GOP governors--forbid abortion in cases of rape or incest on these grounds--the problem doesn't exist, so all pregnancies are the result of willing sex, and thus the woman "got herself pregnant."
Many other freedoms are affected by the loss of freedom to choose whether or not to continue a particular pregnancy. Pregnancy status and the need to care for a child after birth affects a woman's opportunity to get an education, to obtain certain (most) jobs, to travel, to protect herself from assaults, to earn a good living, etc. Before birth control and pregnancy termination were available, women's options--their freedom to choose--was limited by pregnancy and childbirth. Some still want it that way. The GOP Governor of Wisconsin, for instance, repealed a law providing for equal pay for equal work--for women, minorities, and the handicapped. One of his enthusiastic supporters, state senator Glenn Grothman, claims "money is more important to men." Forced pregnancy--abusive pressure from husbands and boyfriends, including sabotaging birth control, to force a woman to bear their child--is still a serious problem, especially from men who are brought up thinking women have worth only as "baby-makers." It is used by some to keep a woman dependent (the old "barefoot and pregnant" control mechanism)--at the extreme, easy to spot, as in the case of Jacey Lee Dugard, but less easy when a husband (supported by a fundamentalist church) insists on a woman having more children than she wants (as in the case of several women who later killed their children and themselves.) But GOP spokespersons concentrate on "saving marriages" and getting women to return to abusive spouses. Wisconsin state representative Don Pridemore thinks women should stay in abusive marriages for the sake of the children, despite substantial evidence that an abusive marriage is bad for the children, not just the woman.
Under new laws created by GOP legislatures and signed by GOP governors, pregnant women can be arrested, jailed, prosecuted at any hint that they may have attempted an abortion: take for instance the case of Christine Taylor, in Iowa, who went to the ER after a fall to see if her baby was OK. Other states have passed laws requiring police investigation of miscarriages, on the assumption that all miscarriages are actually abortions. Since my own mother lost several pregnancies to late miscarriages in the late 1930s and early 1940s before I was born alive, she would have been a target of such vicious notions...and if imprisoned and even executed for "murder" as some state laws now allow, I would not be here today. Women have been forcibly confined to bed rest or other treatments under laws that privilege the unborn not only over the woman herself, but her other children, as in the case of Samantha Burton, in Florida. For those with a taste for legalese and logical and factual error, here's a link to the current version of the Georgia law against "prenatal murder" which also criminalizes miscarriage, and makes most abortion illegal even in cases of rape, incest, and the death of a fetus (in other words, it claims to be saving the life of "person" already dead. Apparently the Georgia legislature was convinced by Terry England's argument that women are just like cows and sows, and should be forced to hang onto a dead rotting fetus inside them rather than abort it. ) Georgia would allow the death penalty for a woman convicted of a criminal miscarriage. The Arizona law defining the start of pregnancy as occurring before the sexual act that resulted in a fertilized egg, another counter-factual law, passed the GOP-dominated Arizona legislature.
Using material provided by an ultra-conservative group that sends draft bills to GOP legislators, 37 states with GOP dominated legislatures have passed bills restricting women's freedom--their freedom to make reproductive choice. Others have restricted women's freedom in other ways, such as the Wisconsin repeal of fair employment treatment (affecting not just women, but minority and handicapped workers.) GOP politicians have spoken out against women working outside the home, women gaining quality education (or any education in some cases), women in the armed forces (and as a USMC veteran I have a huge problem with dissing women in the military) and have made it clear that the GOP as a whole thinks women should live restricted lives--with far less choice than male citizens have. (Cutting funding for preschool child care/HeadStart centers can force working single mothers to quit working...but is the GOP willing to give them enough money to raise their kids in decent housing, with healthy food? Well...er...no. As soon as a mother isn't working, has no income, and needs help...she's a "welfare mother" and automatically bad.)
The new laws restricting voting rights in many GOP dominated states impact women as much as they do minorities and the elderly, since women have been denied the right to vote, under the new laws, when they could not provide additional information males do not have to provide (marriage certificate in addition to birth certificate, to prove that their married name--which they've been using for years--is theirs.) Voting is, of course, the primary political way of expressing choice--the freedom to vote is essential for engaging in the political process. But again, some GOP politicians have expressed regret that women ever won the right to vote. If women vote, they might figure out that the GOP is doing everything it can to keep them barefoot and pregnant...and they might vote for a Democrat.
Women who grew up before the Women's Movement of the '60s and '70s--especially those growing up after WWII, like me--are very aware of how limited girls' and women's lives were supposed to be back then. The careers book all seniors were given in my high school considered very few 'careers' for women (and only for single women--teacher, nurse, secretary) because it was assumed all girls would marry and have children, and have to quit working. Girls interested in forestry, for instance, were told to marry a forest ranger. Girls were steered away from math and science classes. Female college students who wanted to enter medical or law school faced the quota system--usually fewer than five percent of an entering class would be female--and were steered firmly away from the most lucrative specialties in those professions (the rare female physician might be a pediatrician or a gynecologist, but not a surgeon or a cardiologist.) All women expected to be shunted aside, paid less, promoted rarely. The forty years of freedom--of almost-equal access to many occupations, of much greater (though not complete) equality of pay in many occupations, the right to own property in one's own name, the assumption that a woman is in fact a citizen, with a right to make her own choices and speak with her own voice...is now under attack by the GOP.
It is a war on women. It is war on women's liberty waged by the GOP over the past several decades, in the unholy alliance of religious bigots who want a theocracy, and "fiscal conservatives" who deny any responsibility for the "general welfare" (as the Constitution puts it.) It is a war designed to force women back into second-class citizenship or even lower--by defining them as having no worth but for their ability to bear children--and waged with the age-old weapons of sex and lies. Women who are not free to make their own choices regarding their own bodies--who can be arrested, detained, imprisoned, even killed for making those choices--or even being thought to make a choice of which someone else does not approve--are not free in any real sense of the word.
It is a war women must win, and the GOP must lose.
Once again: Anonymous comments are screened, and if the commenter does not identify himself/herself in the comment, or shows the telltale signs of trolldom or disrespect, that comment will be deleted. Such a comment showed up.
Have the basic courtesy (and guts) to identify yourself fully and show respect both to me, as account owner, and other guests.
As before, I realize that some of you do not have LJ accounts and have no way to post except as Anonymous--but those who pass muster are those who offer their identity in the comment and are respectful.