Dorian Cope, 10th March 2012ce
Damn, am I glad I don’t live in America anymore. These are worrying times for our stateside sisters. Since taking control of the House in 2010, Republicans have repeatedly tried to restrict American women's healthcare choices. And at every level of government, contraceptive rights have come under sustained attack from a party hell-bent on sending women back to the Dark Ages.
By conflating the issue of women's health with religion, the Republicans have forced through a staggering 83 laws in just a year and a half that limit women's rights to abortion. Some states now ban abortion after 20 weeks (instead of 26) – implementing religious-fuelled procedural hurdles designed to shame women into changing their minds, including mandatory waiting periods and sonograms, and forcing doctors to recite to their female patients God-fearing, ideological hogwash.
In South Dakota, a proposed bill could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. The Republicans have even introduced a congressional bill that would allow hospitals to let a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life. And the highly controversial Blunt amendment – which would have allowed employers the right to deny healthcare coverage for contraception because of "moral objections" – was mercifully defeated. But only just.
As usual, women of low-income are set to suffer the most. Republicans want to cut the pre-school programme, Head Start, by $1 billion. Over 200,000 underprivileged children would lose their pre-school spots, keeping their mothers economically helpless and house-bound. Republicans also propose to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women and single mothers.
Most seriously, the Grand Old Party has voted to defund Planned Parenthood. And all four Republican presidential candidates want to eliminate the Title X Public Health Act – the nationwide programme that has provided access to health care for low-income women since 1970. (And this wouldn't just put an end to Family Planning for those that need it most; Title X also provides cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.)
We're used to a fundamentalist anti-choice stance from America's far right. But this is what the men who would be the next president are saying: Republican front-runner Mitt Romney (who has done a volte-face on the issue) calls contraceptives "abortive pills” – while fellow candidate Rick Santorum has gone so far as to say that if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, she should think of it as a "gift from God."
Make no mistake. A war against women’s reproductive rights is an all-out war against women. It was only the availability of the birth control pill in 1960 that freed women at last from the age-old tyranny of enforced, non-stop childbearing. But the Republicans have made their aim clear: to catapult women's rights back by decades – and keep women enslaved as second-class citizens.
The only consolation is that these wacko patriarchal policies should guarantee a second term for pro-choice Obama. Women, after all, comprise the majority of American voters. But we should nevertheless be seriously alarmed. This declaration of war against women is not about to go away. And if America’s economy doesn't manage to repair itself soon, you can bet a Republican will be voted into the White House in 2016.
"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother." - Margaret Sanger