Monday, February 27, 2012

POLITICAL WORLD : The (Continuing) War Against Women


“ABORTION is legal because of Roe v. Wade. It’s here to stay.” ---Anonymous and much too prevailing.
In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Since then, politicians have tried to limit abortion with laws like parental consent, spousal notification, barred “partial-birth” abortion, required waiting periods before getting abortions, required vaginal ultrasound with monitor facing the woman along with doctor’s verbal description, and laws barring government funds of abortions. . . .

Chip, chip chip. So, how are we doing now in 2012?

Let’s begin by comparing these two photos:

2003 Then President Bush signs legislation banning so-called “partial-birth” abortions   Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

2012 House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on religious liberty and the birth control
Both photos are prototypical scenes of men making decisions about women’s health care rights.  Decisions that can send women and doctors to jail. These laws can ultimately send women to back alley abortion hideouts---remember those?

Now, let’s look at some recent flurries targeting women’s health rights:

The "Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012", introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), would allow any company or institution to refuse coverage of contraceptives based on religious beliefs.  The employee’s religious beliefs do not matter.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is further pushing to amend the Affordable Care Act to allow any employer to exclude any health service coverage, no matter how critical or basic, by claiming that it violates their religious or moral convictions. Again, the employee’s covictions do not count.

House Republicans voted recently to strip federal funding solely from Planned Parenthood in a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) who hopes Roe v. Wade is soon be reversed. By starving PP and therefore the health services that PP provides to so many women, such as contraceptives, HIV tests, cancer screenings, STD tests, breast exams that are now critically threatened, Mike Pence and the GOP attempt to thoroughly crush Planned Parenthood (even though PP does not spend federal money on abortion services).

The House passed an act to further prevent taxpayer money from funding abortions that allows hospitals to deny even emergency abortions to women who have been raped if the rape is not proved to be physically fought off: for example, if the victim was drugged or verbally threatened and then raped, or if the victim was a minor impregnated by an adult.

House Republicans also passed the “Protect Life Act”, known by women’s health advocates as the “Let Women Die” bill. Under this act, hospitals that receive federal funds can reject any woman in need of an abortion procedure, even if the abortion is necessary to save her life.

Some states are pushing bills to force women who try to obtain an abortion
to first have a transvaginal ultrasound of the fetus (what do you call it when someone tries to force something into a woman’s vagina against her will?). Further, doctors in Texas and Kentucky are required by the new law to verbally describe the image to the patient if she won’t look at it.
So, from Bush’s gag rule (which Obama over-turned) that forbade doctors (whose international foundations received US$) to even mention abortion as an option, now we have GOP politicians requiring doctors to use explicit language describing the fetus to women who are required to have their vaginas probed.

In Ohio, Republicans are trying to pass a bill to ban abortions when a heartbeat is detectable with no exception for rape or incest.  This could ban abortions possibly as early as 6-7 weeks into pregnancy (many women don’t even know that they are pregnant at this stage).

In Virginia, a bill passed defining personhood as started at conception and "provides that unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth."  This opens the floodgates to now also ban contraceptives and stem cell research.

The House Committee on the Judiciary recently conducted a legislative mark up of the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.  This bill could criminalize doctors who provide abortion services and would provide legal recourse for the family members of a woman who decides to have an abortion.

Now let’s hear what people are saying in defense of this War Against Women:

“The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.” ---Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate for 2012

"I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute," ---Rick Santorum, who old 'This Week' host George Stephanopoulos

Referring to the contraceptive debate:

“The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion.” ---Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell whose sense of freedom does not include women’s health choices

“Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s OK; contraception is OK. It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”---Rick Santorum who thinks he knows how things are supposed to be for all women

“[Mr. Obama had carried out the worst] attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance [in the history of the country]”. ---Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate

“We are still afraid that we are being called upon to subsidize something we find morally illicit.…What right does a federal bureau have to define the who, what, where and how of religious practice?”---Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York who has no problem with his religion defining the who, what, where and how of all women

Addressing the Federal defunding of Planned Parenthood:

"Nobody is saying Planned Parenthood can't be the leading advocate of abortion on demand, but why do I have to pay for it?"
“What’s clear to me, if you follow the money, you can actually take the funding supports out of abortion.”---Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) who single-mindedly hopes to destroy PP which could then lead to the banning of all abortion.

 Regarding the banning of abortion even in cases of rape:

“Well, you can make the argument that if she [the rape victim] doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life.…And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time… I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”---Rick Santorum, presidential candidate for 2012

Regarding the required invasive transvaginal ultrasound and the required verbal description of fetus by doctor:

Referring to placing the screen before the patient and requiring doctors to point out the physical features of the fetus and saying that it does women a favor--- “When someone is already under a great deal of stress, the burden should not be on the person to ask,” she says. “The responsibility should be on the provider to tell, or in this case, display.”---Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for National Right to Life

Now, let’s hear what people who advocate healthcare rights for women say:

Regarding the recent hearings on contraception coverage:

“Where are the women? It’s outrageous that the Republicans would not allow a single individual representing the tens of millions of women who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.”---Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) before walking out on the hearing

Regarding Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to allow any employer or insurance plan to deny coverage based on religious or moral reasons:

“…a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.”---Igor Volsky, of ThinkProgress

"Sen. Blunt’s proposal would render the notion of health insurance meaningless, and give businesses and corporations effective veto power over their employee’s health care decisions," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood

About the Federal defunding of Planned Parenthood:

“I’m concerned that some of these restrictions on reproductive health are going to whip through Congress and people aren’t going to see it coming.”--- Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus

“This is about preventing low-income women from getting basic health services…. But it seems that the radical right-wingers behind this witch hunt care more about controlling women's bodies than they do about keeping those women healthy or even saving their lives….
It's hard to believe that, in the year 2012, elected officials care more about a political agenda than saving women's lives.” Shelley Berkley, senatorial candidate.

"There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood. …Planned Parenthood has a right to operate. Planned Parenthood has a right to provide family planning services. Planned parenthood has a right to perform abortions. Last time you checked, abortions were legal in this country." Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)

Regarding recent changes to abortion laws:

“There are no other situations where the legislature injects itself into the examining room and dictates how physicians practice,” said Dr. Scott Spear, medical director for Planned Parenthood in central Texas and the Austin region.

[Requiring vaginal probes] “It feels like old-school punishment of women for sexual impropriety, and I think that’s why people are responding so viscerally.”---Tracy Weitz, sociologist and expert on abortion care, UCSF

[Requiring ultrasound probes] “For a long time it was about shaming women and now it’s about humiliating women.”--- Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute

“This is only the latest in a slew of thinly veiled attempts to erode and reverse fundamental reproductive rights of women, while further stigmatizing those women who seek out this care.…Republicans are advancing extreme legislation that is dangerous to women’s health, disrespects the judgment of American women, and is nothing less than the most comprehensive and radical assault on women’s health.  This is yet another blow in the war on women...”
"These actions …would severely hurt women's rights and insert the government in private decisions about abortion and are nothing short of an all-out war on women…Republicans are seeking to impose an ideological agenda on the country."--- Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)

Referring to Santorum’s view that rape victims should not have abortions:

“The problem with Santorum’s sense of humanity is that it doesn’t seem to extend to the victim.…Robbing a woman [if pregnant from rape] of the choice to decide what to do with such “horribly created” consequences only contributes to the victim’s trauma. What’s more, Santorum’s argument forces a woman in these circumstances to share his religious beliefs and “accept what God has given to [her.] ….the fundamental point is that that should be her choice — not the government’s, and certainly not Santorum’s”. ---By Tanya Somanader of ThinkProgress

So it’s chip, chip chip.  Rights are only protected as much as they are intelligently, legally, vigilantly, continuously guarded. If Rick Santorum thinks a raped woman carries a “gift” in her violated womb, he has the right to that belief. But he has no right to make that same rape victim carry out the pregnancy against her own will. Not yet, anyway.
Chip, chip chip…


New York Times/The Caucus by Katherine Q. Seelye

New York Times/Ultrasound: A Pawn in the Abortion Wars by Erik Eckholm

The Nation/2012: Year of the Woman? By Katrina vanden Heuvel

THINKPROGRESS HEALTH/ GOP Ups The Ante, Introduces Legislation To Allow Any Employer To Deny Any Preventive Health Service by Igor Volsky

The Nation/The Conservative War on Women’s Sexuality by Ben Adler

HUFFPOST/Politics/Rick Santorum’s Birth Control Views Challenged By Women’s Groups by Anna Staver

New York Times/Obama Shift on Providing Contraception Splits Critics by Laurie Goodstein

The Woman Behind the Politic World Section:
Lesa Martin, after retiring from a career of professional ballet and graduating from UCLA, has sparked a wonderful career as a multi-media artist. She has shown her work in the SF Momma Rental Gallery, and has many ambitious plans concerning enticing new paintings people are itching to see! Multi-faceted Mrs. Martin is also deeply engaged with politics, nose buried in the New York Times daily. Here, she brings us a real, accessible woman's perspective on politics. Enjoy!

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