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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Social and legal discrimination against women has been a major part of human history since Adam and Eve. In the not-too-distant past, women could not own property, could not vote, were subjugated at home, at church, in educational institutions and in the workforce. So it should be no surprise to learn of the reproductive discrimination that is currently in vogue within the community of right-wingers. The elephant in the room has always been abortion rights or the pro-choice movement.
Most states before 1973 regarded abortion to be illegal. In that year, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision allowing abortion to become legal drove the social conservatives batty. Politicians looking to satisfy their voter base have sought to overturn that decision by systematically chipping away at the law of the land. This has resulted in an assault on Planned Parenthood and its clinics where abortions are legally performed.
Abortion will be a controversial issue as long as legislators can profit politically by catering to the wishes of a non-thinking constituency. One only need read the letters to the editor in The Roanoke Times to fully appreciate that remark. The religious argument, which primarily defines the controversy, is that the fetus is a person.
In national politics, one would think conservatives might have learned something from the voting demographics in the 2012 presidential election. Mitt Romney’s pledge to gut Planned Parenthood didn’t help him get votes. Comments by two Republican candidates such as “legitimate rape” and pregnancy from rape “is something that God intended to happen” also didn’t help. Congressional House members seem to have amnesia when they are trying to legislate the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Republicans control most of the state legislatures and are now using their power to push through bills that strip down Planned Parenthood. In 2011, nearly 1,000 bills in state legislatures were presented to restrict women’s rights to legal abortion services.
By year’s end, 135 of those provisions had been enacted by 24 states. The abortion restrictions took many forms: bans, waiting periods, ultrasound, insurance coverage, clinic regulations and medication abortion. In a few states, abortion doctors were publicly identified and demonized.
What people don’t realize is that Planned Parenthood is about more than abortions. Its functions include birth control, regular checkups, testing for sexually transmissible infections and prenatal care. Many clinics screen for depression, cervical cancer, osteoporosis and high cholesterol. They are found primarily in rural areas where many people lack health insurance. Two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women, and since clinic services are relatively cheap, they are an economic and psychological necessity to those who use them.
Still, state Republican legislators continue to submit bills that would deny women reproductive rights. Their heavy-handed tactics are an insult to Americans who thought the U.S. represented freedom and the rights of individuals.
Instead of tackling the issues that really matter to most of us, they continue to dabble in legislation concerning the teaching of evolution, banning the word “gay” from schools, banning contraception, putting children back to work, allowing Ten Commandments in public places, proclaiming a day of prayer to combat drought, etc.
There are many who like to think that those who have abortions do so without regrets. Yes, they do have regrets but are forced to choose abortion for many reasons: medical, economic and social. Would those who deny them this freedom to choose prefer they go to a back-alley abortionist, use a coat hanger, swallow a poison or commit suicide? Will you continue to support abortion restrictions while restricting contraception that would reduce them? Will you take it upon yourselves to adopt and provide for all those unwanted babies, as Virginia Cox recently opined in a recent letter to the editor (“Become advocates for free birth control,” Jan. 31)? It’s always easy to demonize others when the demons are not at your door.
With population growth devouring limited resources, I suspect current abortion debates about personhood will become mute in years to come. Restricting families to two children may become a necessity as in China today. As Cox said in her letter, “Promote free birth control now, and we won’t have to talk about the abortion issue.
It’s about time women have the same privileges and rights as men. Must we continue to punish them for wanting to have the right to control their own bodies? The answer may arrive when the Catholic Church designates a woman as pope, but that isn’t likely anytime soon.
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