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Mars

Mars

There is a popular relationship book from a couple of decades ago called Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus which was written by John Gray, a relationship expert. While some of his ideas were and are controversial, there is some merit in some of his basic ideas – that men and women have very different thought processes and ways of handling stressful situations, so different that they might well be from other planets and that our inability to at least understand the opposite sex is the foundation of a lot of the clashes that occur within relationships.

In 2014, that lack of understanding has made its way into the political arena. Much talk has been going on about the “war on women” being undertaken by Republican legislators, particularly those affiliated with the Tea Party. Certainly there is a war on reproductive rights. While some Republicans are beginning to realize that gay marriage is a war they can’t win, they continue to carry the flag for pro-life and anti-abortion causes.

While Roe vs. Wade remains in full vigor, Republican think tanks and lawmakers have been finding legislative ways around that landmark decision and some have worked so well that legalized abortion is endangered in some places. Rather than attack abortion itself, they are going after the places that provide them. Take Texas, for example.

In 2013 the Republican dominated legislature of the Lone Star state enacted draconian legislation that essentially made it nearly impossible for abortion clinics to operate. The new laws stipulate that clinic doctors must have admitting privileges at a local hospital (defined as being within 30 miles of the clinic). That would be fine and dandy if a), it were medically necessary and b), if hospitals were willing to grant those privileges. As many progressive activists foresaw, the inability of many clinics to get those privileges (since Texas hospitals, not wishing to be affiliated in any way with abortion clinics, chose to refuse to grant those necessary privileges) which forced a pretty significant number of those clinics to close.

When the law was enacted there were 44 clinics providing abortions and other reproductive health services to women in the state of Texas. At present there are less than 20. When the second part of the bill begins in September – which requires abortion clinics to have an ambulatory surgical center which most do not it is believed that there will only be six clinics in the entire state able to perform abortions. Six.

As you might expect, things are looking grim for Texas women. Many are resorting to self-inducing through herbal remedies or with vaginal insertions. It is 1962 all over again in Texas – and soon will be in other states that are looking to enact Texas-style legislation. While I’m unaware of any women having died as a result of a back alley abortion in Texas or complications from induced miscarriages, I do believe that sooner rather than later some poor desperate woman is going to die because she couldn’t get the abortion she wanted and needed. And that is blood on the hands of Governor Rick Perry and the mostly male Republican-dominated Texas legislature. This is why Wendy Davis heroically filibustered the despicable attempt to cram this despicable bill into law at the last minute during a special legislative session.

Many raise the flag of the sanctity of life and wave it fiercely as they defend their support of Texas Senate Bill 5 but that’s absolute crap. It’s a lie. These same conservatives who scream “sanctity of life” when it comes to abortions have no compunction to executing criminals in the state with the greatest number of executions in this century, nor are they concerned with the sanctity of life when they resist stricter and more detailed background checks for gun sales. If they cared so much about the sanctity of life, they’d be against capital punishment and private ownership of guns. They’d also be pacifists. I’m fairly sure that most of these legislators are for none of those things.

The problem is that these legislators in Texas and other states where they seek to make it harder to get abortions are only making it impossible to get medically supervised and safer abortions. They aren’t reducing the number of women who will want them, and that’s really what they’re after – to control our own sexuality. The Bible-thumpers who make up the majority of the Pro-Life movement have this absurd and naive notion that by taking abortion out of the picture, people will stop having sex. What they really want is to enforce their own religious beliefs on everyone else.

That’s what it boils down to. Yes, the war on women is largely a religious war. The fact that the ERA has never been passed, ensuring equal pay for comparable work between women and men, is also a function of the Biblical view that women are inferior to men and are meant to serve men. Talk about being from an entirely different planet.

These anti-abortion laws are abominable and must be stopped and those that have passed must be repealed. If one woman dies because she is unable to get the care she needs when making the decision to terminate a pregnancy it is one woman too many. For a party that claims to be all about free market solutions and against government interference in commerce and the lives of its citizens, they are making a mockery of their own platform. What are these laws but government interference into the businesses that provide these services, and interference in the lives of women seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? It has already been determined that women have the right to control what happens to their own bodies; this is political chicanery circumventing that right.

Yes, men are definitely from Mars. Who else but followers of the God of War could enact legislation this reprehensible, this invasive? This is war and when there is war between the sexes, as Joe Jackson put it so eloquently, there will be no people left.

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Damsels in Distress

Back in the 1950s, women occupied a subservient place in society. Yes, there was a certain understanding that without women, men would be hopelessly unable to take care of themselves (an understanding that persists today and is, quite frankly, as objective as the old stereotypes that women are inferior drivers and unable to vote properly because they’ll always vote for the “cute” guy.

In the 60s and up through the last forty years or so, women began to demand changes, ranging from the ability to choose a career and be paid comparably for it (a change that has yet to actually occur even though it’s been mandated legally), the ability to control what happens to their own bodies and deny an unwanted pregnancy from reaching term if they choose to, and the right essentially to live with the same rights and privileges as men do. Not all of the things that the women’s movement has worked for has come to pass, and some of them have carried with them unforeseen consequences, but women have come a long way, baby.

But the pendulum seems to be swinging. There seems to be a move on the part of the radical right to erode the rights of women. Bill Maher has described this as a War on Women and while I think that might be a little overly dramatic (as election years will do), the sentiment isn’t far off. I’m not sure why the right think that alienating a large chunk of the voters as young to middle aged women comprise is going to win them the election, but I suppose it can be chalked up to taking an ideological stand.

So there are bills being raised by state legislatures (often encouraged by Tea Party governors) that will require women to get sonograms before they can get an abortion. Seven states so far have passed this bill – Texas, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. An eight state’s bill (North Carolina) was also passed but is awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge. State governor Bob McConnell of Virginia and State Senator Clay Scofield of Alabama had also introduced legislature to require women to get the extremely invasive transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion, which requires the insertion of an eight to ten inch wand into their most intimate parts. After public outcry, the two politicians withdrew their bills but still the other legislation remains that women before being able to get their abortions must listen to the heartbeat of the fetus and listen to the doctor give them a clinical report of the status of the fetus.

I can understand wishing those young girls who use abortion as a means of birth control to think twice about what they’re doing. I can also imagine the agony of a woman who is electing to abort a very-much wanted fetus because severe birth defects have been detected listen to a litany of the medical condition of the baby she’s already made a heart-rending decision to abort as is what happened to Carolyn Jones in Texas.

There is no medical reason to force a sonogram on a woman before performing an abortion. There is also no good ethical reason to force a woman to listen to a baby’s heartbeat before aborting it – it verges on the cruel. In some states, the woman can opt out of listening to the sonogram but in others she has no choice. It’s clearly an attempt of Bible Belt states to legislate Christian morality, and I find it heinous and disgusting. Can you imagine the outcry if Jewish lawmakers in New York enacted laws to force men to cover their heads and wear long beards? I find it ironic – and hypocritical – that decisions about the reproductive rights of women are often being decided solely by men, often without any input whatsoever from women or medical professionals. And as for taxpayers paying for contraception, that is a complete and whole-cloth fabrication. The only medical  care that taxpayers fund is Medicare and Medicaid and those who qualify for those programs are in nearly every case past or nearly past the childbearing years. What is being fought for is for employer-funded insurance programs to pay for it or at least reduce the costs for it.

I also find it incredibly self-righteous and hypocritical that hysterics who think that abortion should be illegal and that every pregnancy should be brought to term are the same bastards who are cutting funds for child care programs, housing programs, educational programs and school lunch programs that these unwanted children would desperately need once born. You’re literally damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

High-profile figures in the right – including commentator Rush Limbaugh and former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum have made disparaging remarks about women seeking contraception as part of their health care plans. In fact, Limbaugh went so far as to say these women are “sluts” – as if enjoying pre-marital sex is somehow solely the province of men because as we all know, if a woman is in need of birth control, the reason is in all likelihood that she’s having sex with a man – who doesn’t receive the same sort of disdain for being sexually active than a woman does. Let’s hear it for the double standard, shall we?

Despite the leading title of this essay, women are strong enough and smart enough to fight their own battles. However, I think that it is time for feminists and those who support them to return back to the front lines because the battle for women’s rights is far from over and in fact, we are in danger of actually losing ground that had been gained thanks in large part to the activists of the 70s and 80s.

Standing with women in defense of their rights is as necessary as standing with gay, lesbian and transgendered in acquiring their rights, and as necessary as standing with African-Americans and Latino-Americans in defense of their rights. We owe the women of this country our support and respect, the latter of which seems to be eroding by the minute.

I’m not advocating tax-funded abortions or contraceptives here – only that women who elect to get those things are able to get them without the interference of state legislatures, moral crusaders or politicians looking to appeal to the Christian right. It is that right that Roe vs. Wade granted women forty years ago – and a right that is in danger of being dismantled by a determined opposition.