Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"A War on Women" is an understatement

I am starting to feel insane. I think I am going mad. What the WHAT?! Is this moment, I’ve heard so often referred to when people say ‘it has to get a lot worse before the masses wake up and take action’? Is this it? Is this ‘the worse’ some were waiting for? Are we finally ready to collectively take to the streets?

On the one hand my activist soul is deeply moved and nourished by the women of Egypt who were in the streets creating their country’s revolution and then yesterday returned to the streets to make sure that world hears that they will settle for nothing less than being an integral part of designing where their nation goes next. I’m thrilled by the thousands of activists who are in the streets in Wisconsin fighting attempts to take away collective bargaining and the gutting of unions (and yet as I write this reports are in that the Wisconsin State Legislature passed a bill stripping nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers[1]). And I was moved by the speech that Rep. Jackie Speier gave about her own abortion experience, making the political personal as her colleagues in Congress attempt to de-fund, limit, and criminalize abortion in this nation.

But day after day I’m flooded with updates, blogs, reports, articles…to say it is like a train wreck you can’t turn away from is an understatement.

Iowa, North Dakota, and Georgia are all pushing bills referred to as “Personhood legislation” that attempt to criminalize abortion and various birth control methods. In Iowa’s case their bills would do two things…1) the state would be mandated to recognize and protect “life” from the moment of conception (House File 153) and 2) would expand state law to allow reasonable force (including deadly force) for the protect of an individual or third party. Criminal defense attorneys have argued that take together these bills allow for the legal and justifiable killing of abortion providers.[2]

Georgia has a bill proposed (by Rep Bobby Franklin who is also responsible to trying to make rape and domestic violence ‘victims’ into accusers last year) that would make both miscarriages and abortion criminal and illegal…even carrying charges of a felony with a penalty of life in prison or death.[3]

Ohio is having zygotes testify in favor of their House proposed bill, the “Heartbeat Bill” which would outlaw abortion as soon as a fetal heart beat is audible.[4]
20 states are currently putting up bills to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks (Nebraska has already passed such a bill based on an argument of ‘fetal pain’ which has never been proven and completely negates the woman’s experience)

New York Times reporter, James C. McKinley, reported on the brutal gang rape of an 11-year old girl in Texas by writing “They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”[5] As if any of these things justify or excuse rape…EVER, for any woman, of any age!

And the Congressional bill getting a lot of air time but is not explained fully is HR.1 that the U.S. House has already passed and goes to the Senate for a vote next week. This bill would eliminate Title X funding for health care providers that also provide abortion services (even though Title X funds are strictly separated from abortion services and goes solely to contraceptive care and education). The bill also prevents any abortion provider from receiving Title X funds in the future. And while much of the nation is talking about the impact on Planned Parenthood, who is named specifically in the bill, an important fact to note, by the way, is that many reproductive health centers also receive Title X funding and will be devastated by the passage of this bill…and don’t have the ‘household name’ for fundraising the Planned Parenthood does. This will absolutely devastate access for women nationwide! Especially poor, young, and rural women.

Other cuts included in HR.1 are teen pregnancy prevention grants, maternal and child health block grants, substance abuse treatment programs, job training programs, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) nutrition programs, AND a variety of housing programs, educational programs, and workforce preparedness programs[6]

And unfortunately I could keep going with my list…and I haven’t even begun to mention international issues (despite yesterday’s 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day). What strikes me particularly hard is that these attacks are not even attempted to be covert or veiled. Oh no…these are BLATANT attacks on women. Even the New York Times posted an article declaring that the Republicans are waging a WAR on women…hardly a radical feminist source of information.

So are we ready? Will we take to the streets? Will we take stand? Raise our voices? Legislators left the state of Wisconsin in protest to the attacks on labor issues….do we have legislators willing and ready to do the same for women’s rights? What will you do? What is your action? If not now, when? What more has to be lost before we finally stand collectively and say NO MORE?!

Actions to take right now:

I never tire of the famous Margaret Mead quote...and it seems ever so relevant now...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

[1] NPR, March 9,2011
[2] Reported in Right Wing Watch, Feb 24, 2011 and The Iowa Independent
[3] Mother Jones, Feb 23, 2011
[4] The Nation, March 7, 2011
[5] NY Times, “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town” March 8, 2011
[6] See overview of cuts in HR.1