Posts From March 2012

Contraception talk a flashback to Mad Men days

Last week, the calendar marked International Women’s Day, but you’ll have to excuse me for not really noticing this milestone: I was too busy dodging the latest bullets lobbed in the war on women.

On that day, for example, Republicans observed the event by debating a new bill designed to restrict abortion rights. Specifically, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a March 8 hearing on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would make it illegal for anyone other than a parent to accompany a teenage girl across state lines for the purpose of getting an abortion—regardless of the circumstances.

The hearing was just the latest in a series of events underscoring the power religious conservatives are trying to exact on women. Apparently, we haven’t come a long way, baby. Witness the Susan G. Komen for the Cure-Planned Parenthood defunding debacle. Or Rush Limbaugh infamously branding Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified to Congress on the need for health-care supported birth control. Then, there’s the state of Virginia’s attempt to require women to be subjected to a medically invasive ultrasound prior to undergoing an abortion.

And, of course, there’s House Republicans’ attempt to introduce a measure allowing employers to opt out of birth-control coverage (and other reproductive-related services) by claiming a religious or moral objection. And don’t forget Foster Friess, the wealthy Rick Santorum backer, who helpfully explained his views on contraceptives, which, amazingly, sounded as though they were lifted directly from a Mad Men script.

“Back in my day, [women] used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” he told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Frankly, I can’t believe we are even still having such discussions in the year 2012. Birth control? Abortion? These are the causes my mother and her peers fought for in the 1960s and 1970s. Why are we still talking about this? It’s appalling and frightening and not only strips a woman of the right to have control of her body, it’s incredibly dangerous.

Still, while this ongoing battle is an abysmal indication of how easy it is to chip away at pro-choice rights, I’m extremely grateful to conservatives for making this an issue of national debate in the months leading up to the presidential election.

In new poll numbers released earlier this month, for example, a Wall Street Journal and NBC News survey shows that 51 percent of women want Democrats to retain control of Congress—a number that’s several percentage points up from a similar poll conducted last summer. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among women has increased from 40 to 45 percent in the same time period. Oklahoma Sen. Judy McIntyre perhaps best explained the shift in political support after at a recent state protest against the Personhood Act.

The bill, recently passed by the Oklahoma senate and expected to be signed into law by the governor, would bestow personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. “The Republicans have awakened a sleeping giant,” McIntyre said. “When you get women stirred up, particularly the young women who are used to being able to make decisions about their own bodies, you are going to be challenged and challenged hard.”

So, go ahead and threaten to take away our rights—you’re not just pissing off a nation of women; you are spurring them into political action. See you in the voting booth. 

This post originally appeared in the SN&R.