I’VE ALWAYS FOUND it ironic that the people most vehemently opposed to a woman’s right to choose are men. Given man’s near single-minded focus on sex, his aversion to birth control (most would rather wash their hair wearing a ski mask than put on a condom) and his insistence that men weren’t made to be monogamous—Must-make-baby-must-populate-earth—it’s pretty freaking hilarious. And ironic, of course, considering that the human male, unlike the seahorse, doesn’t get pregnant. (I know what you’re thinking: And praise be to John Wayne and all the cowboy angels in heaven, that’s the case.)
Rest assured if men did menstruate—manstruate—they’d get a week’s paid leave so they could take to their beds to moan and channel surf, eat Hershey bars and masturbate to relieve their wicked cramps. (I really do pity men, a species cursed with a lower pain threshold than women.) Or they’d check into the modern equivalent of a male menstrual hut—a private club where men could be men: walking around in their underwear scratching themselves, eating liverwurst and onion sandwiches, smoking cigars while playing pool, or perhaps engaging in light sword-play. Manstrual blood would be a sacrament.
But I digress.
Historically, the majority of the citizenry and lawmakers fighting against a woman’s right to choose have been men, and the majority of them still are. If forced to visualize the faces of the GOP’s Fetuses First! agenda, the first to come to mind would most likely be male. Maybe “Slick” Rick Santorum, with his position that even “a rape baby” is a gift from God, even if it’s drunken Uncle Mike who impregnated Suzy. Perhaps when you shut your eyes you see the good-looking governor from Texas, “Round-Up-all-the-Women-and-Make-`em-do-my-Homework” Rick Perry. (Unless they’re pregnant, in which case, probe ’em!).
There’s always Newt. Fully confident that he’s the one to make the right decision when you reproduce. And if elected, he may choose for you to do so on the moon. Which, if elected, will be colonized by babies born to mothers who had no choice but to give birth to children they didn’t want, couldn’t afford, or couldn’t care for. The moon orphanages will be packed with children born with rare diseases, crippling and painful birth defects, and severe mental retardation. Once the children are grown, they can enlist in the moon army and set their sights on invading Mars.
Finally, if hypnosis didn’t work, there’s Michele Bachmann. A wild, slightly frenzied, got-my-micro-bullet-vibrator-turned-up-to-11 expression on her face, as she declares she’s “pro-choice”. No, no, pro-choice as in women should be able to choose whether or not to get cheese on their Whopper. And whether or not they eat the bun. Michele Bachmann, if she is really human and not a built-for-sex robot who escaped from Dick Cheney’s lair, is a woman.
Yes, women can be members of the He-Man Woman-Haters Club. (Okay, they can’t eat in the main dining room, or wear pants, but they get to pay twice as much in dues!) Not only that, it’s clear that their ranks in the forefront of the War against Women are growing.
It took the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s announcement that they were severing ties with Planned Parenthood, de-funding the oldest and largest provider of health and reproductive services for women in America of $700,000, to wake me up. Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Komen Foundation, a pro-“life” veteran of the George W. Bush administration who donated $200,000 to the Bush campaign, has wanted to break with 95-year-old Planned Parenthood for years.
Komen must have suspected that there would be some protests. After all, they didn’t exactly shout the news they were pulling out of Planned Parenthood from the rooftops of churches, but sent out a press release two days before Christmas—hoping, I suppose, that any negative attention would be drowned out by choruses of “Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Hot damn, I got an iPad!” Or perhaps defunding Planned Parenthood was meant to be a Christmas present for radical right-wing Christians in the party.
For years, Komen had been feeling the pressure from the right and virulently anti-choice groups like Bound4Life (whose ubiquitous red bracelets broadcast the message PRAY VOTE & OBEY), as well as the League of Southern Baptists who, to protest Komen’s involvement with the Planned Parenthood, stopped their Hope Bible program (a dollar of each sale was donated to Komen), leaving the League with a warehouse full of pink Bibles. Now if that doesn’t make you want to take the Lord’s name in vain, you’re a better man than I.
What was to be the elegant solution to Komen’s problem—an audit alleging that Planned Parenthood had spent public money to provide abortions—was set in motion by avidly anti-choice senator Cliff Stearns (R-Florida). But he wasn’t the architect of the operation. That would be Komen vice president Karen Handel, who was forced to step down once it became clear who was pulling the pink strings. Those hoping to see some little bit of contrition, or an apology, were disappointed. There was not even a whiff of tail-between-her-legs shame. (The hounds of hell don’t have tails). Instead, she insisted that the media had mischaracterized “the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it.” Why use the strategy, Karen, and not just come out and say what you mean: the master plan.
The fact that Handel refused a severance package was seen by some—even her detractors—as evidence that she was in fact a decent person, a woman of character, and not the beast she’d been made out to be.
Hey, my unicorn just pooped blue marshmallows; would you like one?
Oh, please. Surely a package would contain a gag rule, and a contractual obligation not to work for another organization like Komen. More than that, though, Handel’s refusal to accept a severance package sent a clear loud message: You can cave, Komen, but you can’t buy me off with hush money. This anti-abortionista is not for sale.
While that shit-storm of little pink ribbons may be in rearview window now, the fun has just begun. Komen’s decision to cut off Planned Parenthood is scary. Not one dollar of that $700,000 ever went towards providing safe and legal abortions to girls and women in need, not a dime was spent on counseling services or contraception, not one penny was spent on What’s that rash? and Why does it hurt when I pee? pamphlets. That $700,000 was dedicated entirely to breast and cervical cancer screening—a sum that covered twenty percent of Planned Parenthood’s yearly costs, and over five years translated into screenings for about 170,000 women.
The irony is that a group dedicated to saving the lives of women wanted to prove its pro-life bona fides by no longer providing cancer screenings or referrals that could save the lives of thousands—a fact that the Komen clan chooses to ignore.
Another female face that has come to haunt my dreams belongs to the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer. While Jan (or Janice, or Jana-lana-ding dong, as they call her in the locker room) may have a gender-neutral first name, her position on women’s health and reproductive rights is anti-woman all the way.
(On Wednesday Brewer appeared before the Supreme Court in Washingtonto defend her state’s controversial anti-immigration bill, Senate Bill 1060, against charges that it’s racist. Which of course it is. So, I suppose I shouldn’t take it personally; clearly she hates anybody who is the least bit interesting.)
In Arizona, anti-woman, pro-zygote GOP lawmakers gave final passage to three anti-abortion bills that truly break the sanity barrier. The first bill prohibits abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy, except in the case of medical emergencies. “Eighteen weeks!” you say. Wait, it gets better: in Arizona, the beginning of pregnancy, or “gestational age,” can be calculated up to two weeks prior to conception, or the first day of the woman’s last period. Now, that’s immaculate.
Brewer explained her ruling in a statement: “This legislation is consistent with my strong track record of supporting common sense measures to protect the health of women and safeguard our most vulnerable population–the unborn.”
The second bill mandates how public school curriculums address the topic of unwanted pregnancies. Silence is golden! Prioritizing birth and adoption, posting signs in health care facilities warning girls against “abortion coercion” and suggesting that douching with a solution of equal parts Coca-Cola and Clorox will keep your lady parts clean and sweet smelling.
Okay I made that last part up. And I shouldn’t even joke because I remember as a girl there being a rumor that if you douched with Coke after sex you wouldn’t get pregnant. Well, Hello Mr. Pib, Dr. Pepper…
But this part is true: Brewer has ordered the state health department to create a website to educate citizens about abortion alternatives, including images of fetuses.
The third bill shields doctors from being sued for withholding any health information about a pregnancy that might cause a woman to seek an abortion. For example, rare genetic mutations, birth defects, knowledge the fetus will not survive to term.
Should a woman who is carrying a child with a fatal defect decide to terminate her pregnancy, she is required to undergo counseling, including “perinatal hospice”. Not only that, the same prior-restrictions—a mandatory ultrasound, notarized consent for minors, 24-hour waiting period—still exist.
On April 13, CrAZy Jan signed the so-called Women’s Health and Safety Act into law, flat out banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in situations where continuing a pregnancy could result in the mother’s death or would “create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” This, however, is to be determined by a physician’s “good faith clinical judgment.”
Good faith judgment is scarce these days. Over the last two years six other states—Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Nebraska—have also enacted 20-week bans, citing dodgy, hotly-debated medical research that suggests a fetus begins feeling pain at 20 weeks of gestation. This from the kind folks at Crazy Labs, the same people who keep suggesting abortions will give you cancer—as will choosing to remain childless. Warning: considering abortion curses your child to be born with the face of a chimpanzee. Ironically a mammal that appears more evolved than a jackass.
As hard as good faith is to find these days, it’s been twice as hard to find a Republican woman willing to stand up to the He-Man Woman-Hating GOP, the majority of them seemingly happier to stand by their men. Not all, though. Republican senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska did call her boys out: “It makes no sense to make this attack on women. If you don’t feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and daughters.”
Maybe some of them did.
This week the Senate voted on the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which was signed by Bill Clinton in 1994, and which at the time NOW hailed as “the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in two decades.”
The GOP has vehemently opposed renewing VAWA, which investigates and prosecutes violent crimes against women, citing, among other reasons, the proposed expansion of efforts to reach Native American tribes and rural areas, the increase in legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, and the expansion of protection to include victims of stalking and same-sex couples.
The good news: the Senate voted 68 to 31 to renew VAWA, with 15 Republicans (10 of them white men) doing the obvious right thing. Still, that leaves 31 white males who believe that women aren’t entitled to be protected against physical assault. Sigh.
Ladies in the GOP get busy. Clean up your house. I’m watching you.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of strong opinions will be in want of a forum to express them.