By: Amanda Fox
The term “War on women” is tossed around so much lately that you could easily begin believing it is nothing more than a hollow buzzword being used to attract attention. As a woman, I wish that was the truth, but the fact of the matter is that there is a very real war on women being waged in the US. It is going on abroad as well, but this week we want to focus on what is happening right here at home.
What is the “War on Women”? Depending on who you ask, it can be any number of things. Generally speaking, however, the war on women is being loosely defined as a concerted effort to deprive women of self sustaining upward mobility by denying them the ability to make the basic choices needed to control their lives. Plenty of people would claim that is far fetched. They would tell you that it is impossible to be done and even if it could be done, it would be so evident that everyone would rage against it – something those people would claim is not happening.
Those naysayers would be wrong. There is a concerted effort to keep women from having the same control of their destiny afforded to men and there is an evident and very vocal uprising against it. The problem is that too many people are choosing to ignore it – or they are actually in support of it. It’s easy to say that, but what people want is evidence.
We can begin with a recently concluded study in the New England Journal of Medicine that has tracked the effect of the 2/3 budget cut ($111m to $38m) to birth control spending in Texas during 2011. Usually, it would take a few years to track demonstrable changes, but in this case the changes were so drastic the impact was immediately felt. For starters, due to actual family planning services being the last in line to receive available funding, 53 clinics that provided birth control and family planning initiatives closed in one year.
Keep in mind, the remaining clinics did not magically make up for the shortfall in service provision. There was no phantom money that was diverted from elsewhere in the budget to help defray any of the shortfall. The simple fact is fewer people were served and in some of the less urban areas of Texas, there was no service at all. Just a long drive with the hopes of being seen in another county. Even then, some of the clinics that once provided services for free had to begin charging for services just to keep their doors open.
That has opened up another set of issues such as women choosing less effective means of birth control, taking chances by skipping the pill now and then to try to stretch out the time between purchases and women foregoing birth control altogether. Many are also opting to do without being tested for STDs as their cost is rarely covered by clinics anymore due to cutbacks. The short term result is more unplanned pregnancies, a rise in the level of STDs and healthcare programs for the indigent run by county hospitals being pushed far beyond their breaking point. And this was all done in an attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
We’ve seen the impact on the small scale, but now it is time to change gears and look at the big picture. How much legislation aimed at women’s health and rights has really been proposed or gone through? What do they all really mean to women in the right here and right now?
The biggest issue, to many women, has been the immediate threat to reproductive rights. During 2011/2012, 1100 provisions related to RESTRICTING the reproductive rights of women were introduced at the state level. Of the 944 provisions in 2012, over half were aimed at restricting abortions. The main focus of these bills has not been to defeat Roe v. Wade so much as circumvent it by narrowing the legal window to obtain an abortion, allowing limits on insurance coverage of abortions and implementing mandatory invasive ultrasounds prior to being granted the ability to obtain an abortion.
Speaking of abortions, as we can’t avoid them in this discussion, in 2011, 135 pieces of legislation were passed which aimed to restrict the ability of a woman from obtaining a legal abortion.
Government mandated transvaginal ultrasounds became a mandatory procedure prior to abortion in some states during 2011/2012. For those unaware of the how and why of this, if a woman’s pregnancy is not very far along, a traditional ultrasound produces no image. To rectify that, a transvaginal probe is inserted in the woman’s vagina to capture what is essentially an image of a blob or something a bit egg-shaped. The procedure serves absolutely no medical purpose and is very close to the definition of rape in almost every state. In states like Louisiana where that was already the law, they have tried to push it a little further to get a bill passed requiring that the fetal heartbeat be listened to as well even if it has to be audio enhanced to the point of being more an interpretation of the machines software than an actual heartbeat.
The “fetal pain bill” passed in Georgia (HB 954) states that no abortions may occur beyond the 20th week of development with NO exceptions – even cases of rape or incest. Not surprisingly, Arizona passed an even more restrictive measure that states no abortions beyond 20 weeks, but they start the clock on that at the time a woman completes her last menstrual cycle meaning the window is trimmed down to about 18 weeks in all actuality. Ohio wants to go even further with their “fetal heartbeat bill” which would not allow an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That would cut the window to obtain an abortion to about 6 weeks.
And now for the quick and dirty rundown of the presentation:
The 2011 budget proposed by House Republicans included a $758m cut to the WIC program which assists low-income pregnant women and children under 5 meet basic nutritional needs.
In 2012, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker repealed the state Equal Pay Enforcement Act which provided the victims of workplace discrimination the ability to reek redress in court. Support for the repeal was provided by Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) on the basis that young men are more money conscious about their earnings because they may be breadwinners one day.
In an epically failed move to save money prosecuting domestic violence cases, Topeka, Kansas, decriminalized domestic violence using the logic that since it was still a crime at the state level, Shawnee County would be forced to absorb the legal costs. The result was 18 people that were charged with domestic violence were released because there was no one to provide them with a swift trial while everyone argued over jurisdiction and who was really responsible for picking up the bill .
In a move to cut the amount of Medicaid money spent on abortions, the GOP has tried to redefine rape creating categories like, rape, forcible rape, violent rape, legitimate rape, illegitimate rape, date rape, acquaintance rape, non-forcible rape and rape reduced to lesser sexual assault charges. You can thank the Republican proposed 2011 “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” for this gem of illogical thought.
Staying with violence, The GOP moved to block the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act which provides programs and assistance for battered women such as safe shelters and recovery programs. GOP Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued it was a distraction to a more important small business bill on the docket.
In September, 2012, the Missouri legislature overrode Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of SB 749, which attempts to allow employers to refuse to provide contraception coverage to their employees, even though it directly contradicts federal mandates against such discrimination.
The the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that doctors can be forced by the state to flat out lie to patients, contradicting years of scientific evidence, by telling women considering abortion that they are more likely to commit suicide if they choose not to carry to term. Their “logic” was based in not being able to prove that everyone who had an abortion would never commit suicide. Seriously.
A Colorado district court ruled that a for-profit business could excuse them self from providing employee insurance that covers contraception on the basis that it was at the core of their religious beliefs to not use contraception. This is believed to be the first time a court upheld that you could in fact force people to abide by your religious beliefs in order to not have them not infringe upon your religious beliefs. Take a second to read that again because they really ruled in favor of that.
As an FYI, during this time-frame we are working with (2011/2012) there have only been three bills aimed at legislating the reproductive rights of men – each filed in protest to bills against women, with no hope of passage. They were designed, however, to help demonstrate that reproduction is a two way street.
An Oklahoma bill sought to make it illegal for a man to ejaculate anywhere but in a vagina because any other action would be taking an action against an unborn child.
A Virginia bill got very creative in detailing that men seeking prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs would be required to undergo a cardiac stress test and rectal exam. Prior to that, however, they would need a letter from a recent sexual partner attesting to their impotence which they would present to the sex therapist they would be required to see in order to get a prescription.
Georgia took a different angle, proposing a bill that would outlaw vasectomies because “Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies.”
Take an objective look at what is presented and decide for yourself if you believe there is any merit to the somewhat widely held belief that there is a real and present “War on women” being waged right now. You don’t have to agree with us, but you can see that a lot of legislative time and taxpayer money has been spent trying to, or in some cases succeeding in, legislating the lives of women – particularly their reproductive rights. This isn’t just about birth control or abortion, it is about protecting abused women and children as well as providing them with fully funded programs like WIC that are under attack as well.
A “successful” war on women, earmarked by the passage of legislation that would restrict women in ways that are inequitable in comparison to men, is a failure for all. It means men and women in favor of these measures fail because they have resorted to subjugating another human being. It means children suffer because their mother’s may not have adequate prenatal care or nutrition benefits for either of them during the nursing and early developmental stages. It means they may have no safe haven to turn to in cases of abuse. It means everyone loses because women are put in a position in which all they can do if they cannot afford proper birth control and family planning counseling is not have sex or take their chances and burden the state with any children they are unable to support – not to mention the social stigma that would come with that.
In the war on women, there is no winner.
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