American women’s reproductive rights face relentless attack

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American women are facing a barrage of attacks from the religious right and the elected officials who represent their interests.

The last time I looked, American women do have the vote. But you’d never know it.

Here’s a smart and lucid recent post about our current, increasingly embattled fight for access to contraception, with lots of helpful links.

The latest monstrosity?

A law in Virginia requiring a woman who wants an abortion to undergo a transvaginal probe.

From Dahlia Lithwick writing at Slate:

So the problem is not just that the woman and her physician (the core relationship protected in Roe) no longer matter at all in deciding whether an abortion is proper. It is that the physician is being commandeered by the state to perform a medically unnecessary procedure upon a woman, despite clear ethical directives to the contrary. (There is no evidence at all that the ultrasound is a medical necessity, and nobody attempted to defend it on those grounds.) As an editorial in the Virginian-Pilot put it recently, “Under any other circumstances, forcing an unwilling person to submit to a vaginal probing would be a violation beyond imagining. Requiring a doctor to commit such an act, especially when medically unnecessary, and to submit to an arbitrary waiting period, is to demand an abrogation of medical ethics, if not common decency.”*

Here’s a CNN story about the state’s move to declare embryos as persons with legal rights:

Women’s rights advocates say these legislative and ballot efforts around the country to establish fetal personhood are part of a move to place greater restrictions on women’s access to abortion.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen more and more attempts to restrict abortion directly,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that describes itself as advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights through research and policy analysis. “These efforts around redefining ‘person’ are a little more of a back door approach, because they don’t use the term abortion. They’re not an outright abortion ban. Instead they’re using a less obvious approach in a way that does not exactly indicate exactly how far they go.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, new laws in 24 states in 2011 restricted access to abortion services, while according to the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, the number of “anti-choice” measures being implemented in states has risen steadily over the past decade, from 303 in 2001 to 713 in 2011.

Let’s review….

The United States is still facing the highest unemployment since the Depression.

Income inequality is at a record high.

Millions of home-owners are in foreclosure.

And legislators are focusing their energies and animus on.…our reproductive freedoms?

28 thoughts on “American women’s reproductive rights face relentless attack

  1. I just don’t understand what is happening in this country and why people continue to let it happen. I get why they are attacking women, because if women would actually gather our power together and force change men would lose all their power. But, there are those women who are hypocritical enough to support these repulsive measures in the name of religion, as long as their own power isn’t affected. I’m so tired of all of this. I’m so frustrated.

    1. I am truly puzzled why no feminist organizations (are there any?) have not truly made this loathsome movement something to rally us around. If people can riot in London and Athens and Syria for their rights, why are women not doing it here?

      1. A while back you wrote a post about women no longer claiming their voices. (As a matter of fact, I think that was the first post I responded to). I think that is true. We have become too complacent. It seems like many women seem to think that the battles of the Women’s movement were won, and so nothing else had to be done. We don’t have any true female leaders anymore to lead the cause. The only women who have stepped forward in leadership are the hypocrites I mentioned above–the ones who fight a Tea Party battle, but would be the first in line if their rights were affected. The strongest female voices we have come from reality tv or media, but they are not the voices we need. I know we have a few examples of powerful women, but the ones with the most power now are not the ones that will cause the rally that will create change. I wish I knew the answer.

      2. We face tougher battles than, it seems, ever before….but where are our Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan or Robin Morgan — from the 1970s????
        Naomi Wolf…Katie Roiphe…who else rep’s the younger feminists, but who (anyone?) is even trying to rally them/us? I see and hear no organizing principle other than the usual — dysfunctional — banners of traditional political parties.

        I find it hard to believe that every Democratic woman is pro-abortion any more than every Republican woman opposes it.

        The women’s voices in the media are largely impotent…they are “brands”, entertainment, lucrative franchises, not political leaders willing to take some heat, (and possibly lose ratings and income.)

      3. Maybe it is time to take up the banner. But where does one begin when the loudest voices are the ones that have the money/connections to be heard? Something to ponder and write about, I think.

  2. I’ve been reading about some of this contraception debacle in the news, but I feel like i’m missing something – what is the basic point of it all? Chasing votes? Raising the national fertility rate? Pacifying the Catholic church’s huge future injection into an ailing economy? There’s gotta be some ulterior motive… right?

    1. I agree. I do not see the upside….but then I am not Catholic nor Republican. I can only assume it is the usual throwing of red meat to the Republicans and the religious right — in an attempt to muster every bit of political power possible to bring down Obama and the Democrats in the Presidential election in November 2012.

      I cannot understand why these tactics do not backfire by alienating millions of women and bringing them to vote *against* this insanity.

      1. I can’t understand that either, especially considering the long term (economic and otherwise?) implications of having more mouths to feed, taking more women away from the workforce etc. And that’s not even touching on what it does to the dignity of being a female individual in this day and age. I hope the madness is temporary. Surely politicians have more pressing issues to consider and present in their case for winning the vote?

  3. I lampooned the issue on my blog over the weekend about the Committee hearings excluding women from the testimony. The weak argument for this preposterous move was the Republican chair’s notion that the hearings were supposed to be about Religious liberties, not women’s reproductive rights. What I really believe this was all about however was nothing more than political theater on the part of the Republicans in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the President in an election year. Simply appalling.

    If you were to tell me thirty years ago that the world would witness a rise in Theocratic rule and influence in politics, I would have thought you to be barking mad. Strange times we live in.

  4. One of the under-explored aspects of this is that the American public has, I think, been convinced by a wide range of rights erosions in the name of anti-terrorism to accept as necessary and even reasonable the idea that to be “safe” we have to let government do what it thinks is “right”–and that reasonable, “good” people have nothing to worry about as long as they remain “good”. So only terrorists are subjected to rendition and torture, and only “sluts” get tranvaginalky raped for a medically unnecessary ultrasound. Horrifying.

    1. Good point.

      The demonization of female sexuality in the U.S. right now is astonishing to me. It’s as though the entire feminist movement….never happened. Where are the furious women willing to be seen and heard?!

      1. I’m not sure these people have truly realized they have a “choice” though. When you are raised to be misogynist or bigoted or anything else of that nature, and on top of it a fear of a god standing behind those beliefs – can you really see what your beliefs are as “choice”? Many followers of religion don’t see a choice – it is what it is. But of course, there are many issues here – lack of education and culture being a few things that come to mind for me, and yes, as you said, including apathy from the rest of us.

  5. Then….isn’t our job to educate them? Then they can make an *informed* choice…

    although I’d not want to sit anywhere near a woman who thinks a transvaginal probe — unwarranted — is a great idea.

  6. Pingback: I Have Something to Say!!! « Woman Wielding Words

  7. I am Australian, liing in Australia. However, I see the same tendency for the religious right to set up “issues” that will take away rights – from women and from men as well.
    I do not agree with abortion, and would never allow one on myself (though I am now past the age anyway), but I do agree with a person’s right to make that decision themselves. Each person should be allowed to make that decisiion according to their own conscience.
    I am appalled by the upsurge in the power of religious right who have no respect for individual rights, but want everyone to live by their own blinkered and distorted view of the world and spirituality.
    I do not know the answer to this, apart from encouraging women who are not blinkered by religious dogmatism to make their voices heard.

    1. It is shocking to me that, in 2012, the religious right carry such power in the U.S. I lived in Canada until I was 30 and took for granted full rights over my body…it feels like 1930 now here.

      I have no idea why American women are so complacent and silent in the face of the Talibanization of their world.

  8. Me

    As some above have said, I think part of the problem is complacency among younger women. They weren’t around when the feminists of the 60s and 70s were fighting for many of the rights they take for granted today. I’ve heard some young women say that the feminist movement is no longer needed and is an “anachronism”, despite the fact that full equality has never been achieved.

    And, then, of course, is the “Phyllis Schlafly” factor; privileged elite women who have some stake in keeping the system just the way it is. Add to this women who are afraid of the unknown and vote against their own interests, because they’d rather deal with the devil they know instead of facing change.

    As a young woman in the late 70s, I never thought we’d be having to fight for these basic rights all over again in the 21st century.

    1. I find it depressing as hell that women then — why not now? income inequality? — were able to gather enough of a consensus to take action and win major battles for us all. Now….nothing.

      I do not get why privileged women could possibly stand to gain from denying other women (of any income level) the essential rights to birth control or access to safe and legal abortion. There is no causal relationship between my having access to these and denying them to others making my life better in any way. Other than pure shitty selfishness!

  9. I’m with you in not understanding why women aren’t speaking out. We are so underrepresented at all levels of the political process, yet there are more women who are eligible to vote than men. And religious right would care as much for the welfare of the child once it is born as they do for it in the womb, maybe we wouldn’t have so many children living in poverty. Great post.

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