The GOP’s War on Choice.

Posted: February 23, 2012 by Carly Bea in Uncategorized

Requiring that pregnant people undergo pre-abortion ultrasounds, cutting funding for family planning services, and even “personhood laws” that grant a fetus the same rights as a human… do these concepts seem illogical and even perhaps absurd? It’s not so for Rick Santorum and quite a few others involved in politics today. The plethora of “anti-choice” bills that have been put on the table, and in some places, passed, is disconcerting to many who consider themselves to be pro-choice. Some go as far as to call the recent culmination of incidences a war on women, mainly citing the GOP as the driving force behind the recent cuts to reproductive healthcare.

Dennis Altman begins to touch on some of these issues in his discussion of the globalization of women’s bodies.  He emphasizes that in the past, many societies have “sought to limit women’s sexuality by defining it in terms of their reproductive role” (61). Societies do this by creating laws that restrict sexual expression, especially when it may be deemed as threatening to the “control of male reproduction” (61). Altman also argues that “the idea that governments should seek to regulate population through a mixture of persuasion and coercion” is largely a modern one (62).

Globalization has encouraged the nearly worldwide spread of ideas. In places where individuals have access to the internet, information about what is going on in another country is very easy to access. This dispersion of ideas and discourse can have both positive and negative results. It can encourage members of a group who identify similarly or have related concerns to join efforts, collaborate with each other, and generate new ideas and solutions. Contrarily, the internet can be used to perpetuate untrue information, and can allow governments to engage in “international programming,” making it easier for them to gain control over the population – usually women. (62).

Of course, the internet is not the only way that ideas are being spread more rapidly across nations. As representatives from various countries come together in conferences, opinions are exchanged regarding reproductive health, some of which result in “deep cultural clashes,” especially when abortion and contraception are mentioned (62).  When leaders with drastically different religious and cultural backgrounds come together, opinions will no doubt differ, and arguments are bound to arise.

So, what does this mean today? Altman’s book was written only eleven years ago, and the effects of globalization have only increased in this short span of time. In the past year, attacks on reproductive health care have become so frequent and unreasonable that they have become known by some as the “War on Women” (or, more accurately, war on people with a uterus).

Who is behind this “War on Women,” and what exactly is taking place? Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the people suggesting that reproductive healthcare be restricted – or even terminated – are groups of white men.   Over the past two years, Republicans have voted to “slash family planning funds for low income women,” attempted to prevent people from purchasing insurance plans that would cover abortions, and even introduced a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to carry out emergency abortions needed to save the pregnant person’s life.  A group that is not widely known is largely behind these propositions – the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  After the 2009 health care debate, in which they advocated for the bringing down the healthcare reform bill because it did not prevent insurance companies from covering abortion, they became one of the most powerful advocates in the anti-abortion disputes. Members of the Conference of Catholic bishops spoke to priests around the country, asking them to encourage their individual congregations to oppose the entirety of the healthcare reform bill if it were to include abortion.  Now, the Conference of Catholic Bishops claims that President Obama is not seeking common ground with religious groups, and say they are being discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, a host of laws that restrict choice and/or limit the availability of adequate reproductive health care are being passed all across the country.  One such bill was recently passed in Oklahoma, where senators decided that life begins at conception.  So, if the individual carrying the fetus were to die during childbirth, could the baby be charged with murder? Seriously, though, this is a huge problem: doctors are afraid that the bill will jeopardize reproductive medicine, including a few types of birth control.” The bill is now headed to the House, where it is expected to pass.  If it does, it will give a fetus all of the privileges and rights of a person.

If that isn’t scary enough, in Virginia, a bill presumed to pass the legislature this week would require doctors to carry out an invasive procedure that could constitute a sex crime. Essentially, an individual who wished to undergo an abortion in the first trimester would have to first go through a “vaginally invasive procedure,” after which they would be offered images of the fetus. The image would then remain in their medical file for seven years. Now, Democrats are attempting to dissuade Republicans from allowing the bill to pass by arguing that the bill would criminalize doctors under a local statute known as object sexual penetration (OSP), which carries a five-year jail sentence. According to a recent poll, most Virginians oppose the measure and feel that it is “emotional blackmail” – making individuals who are pregnant feel bad about their choice to get an abortion.

In Texas, where Rick Perry has cut Medicaid funding to hundreds of thousands of people, Republican legislators often refer to family planning clinics as “abortion clinics,” even though none of the 71 family planning clinics that receive government funding provides abortions. Perry is not the only presidential hopeful that is so adamantly opposed to choice; Santorum is even against contraception, staying that states should have the power to outlaw birth control.

These are just a few of the bills that have been passed, or at least discussed, in recent months. There are, unfortunately, many more. Supporters of such bills claim that they are “pro-life,” but in a world where 47,000 people die from complications arising from an unsafe abortion worldwide each year, how pro-life is their stance? To me, it seems clear that those in power do not truly care about the “unborn” – instead, they wish to maintain control over those capable of getting pregnant. Jon Stewart sums it up well: “You’ve confused a war on religion with not getting what you want.”

Thanks for reading!

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