I wrote a guest post for Education for Choice, which I shall also cross post here.
It must be very difficult to be a poor woman in the US right now. Rich, white, powerful men have spent the past few weeks in Congress making life changing decisions that will ultimately determine whether women will be granted control over their own bodies.
Unfortunately, it looks like Congress is winning.
If you follow American politics, you may have noticed that there has been an unprecedented rise of right wing patriarchal traditionalism in recent months- a movement that is callously concentrated on keeping women in their subordinate place.
First came the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. In this bill, speaker of the house John Boehner asserted that funding for abortions should only be provided to women who have been ‘forcibly raped’. With this phrasing, Boehner aspired to realign the definition of rape so that it fitted neatly with his own ideology. ‘Forcibly raped’ quite unsubtly suggests that women who don’t emerge from rape or sexual assault covered in bruises are somehow lying or disingenuous when they ask for help. It excludes victims of incest who are over 18. ‘Forcibly raped’ immediately eliminates those women who have been raped whilst drugged, raped whilst intoxicated, or manipulated and groomed.
Then, Congress voted to strip Planned Parenthood, America’s largest sexual and reproductive health provider of funding – effectively barring access to hundreds upon thousands of poor women across America who can’t afford healthcare.
Currently, South Dakota is considering a law that would make abortion providers guilty of a crime punishable by death.
And now, Republican Rep. Bobby Franklin is campaigning to classify abortion as murder, and wants to put policy in place that would require hospitals to report all spontaneous miscarriages so that women can be investigated for abortion. He’s joined Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker in an all-out assault on abortion rights.
For too long now, the misconception that pro-choice means anti life has warped public debate about women’s reproductive rights. This mistaken logic leads to anti-choicers branding sexual health and abortion clinics as murder houses, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The same people campaigning to ban abortion are often those campaigning to restrict sex education, with the misguided belief that abstinence is the only way to curb teen pregnancy. To assert that young women shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant is absurd. Take a look around at our hyper sexualised culture and you’ll notice one stark factor – the idea of pregnancy has been completely divorced from the concept of sex.
Educating young women about sex and relationships, as well as granting them access to contraception and the morning after pill are all key factors that are likely to reduce the rates of abortion. Pro-choice means granting women the dignity to make their own decisions without governments interfering with and attempting to control their reproductive organs. Motherhood is glorious, but women aren’t baby machines. Much of the abortion debate has been fuelled by ideology; with those in government putting their own beliefs before the health and well-being of women in their own country. A recent US study found that 77% of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will never be pregnant.
It’s a funny paradox that the American republican right occupy themselves with. In the midst of all this passion to rescue potential life, they’ve forgotten actual life – the women having to make these difficult and devastating decisions. The women who own these bodies. In the middle of a recession, America’s republican men and women are more interested in policing women’s bodies instead of focusing on wider social, cultural and economic causes of a catastrophic financial crisis. It seems, in times of austerity, it’s easier to bully and belittle those with no power rather than address real issues. These false bastions of the family are currently channelling all their energy into making the world a harsher place for American women.