It’s difficult to know where to begin to attempt to understand the current right-wing’s bizarre attacks on women’s reproductive rights. As Margaret Talbot wrote in the New Yorker’s (March 19th), “The Talk of the Town,” [Here]
It would be hard to imagine a more unlikely historical moment than this for birth control to become a matter of outraged political controversy.
We certainly agree. Talbot went on to offer an interesting and very convincing thesis for “why now.”
She began with a widely quoted Guttmacher Institute analysis that 99% of American women who have been sexually active have used contraceptives. Guttmacher added that 98% of Roman Catholic women have used contraceptives. In the current argument with the Catholic bishops about birth control coverage in employees’ insurance policies, Talbot wisely quips: [Here]
...the Catholic hierarchy was basically asking the federal government to do what its own teachings apparently could not: to remind Catholic women of the evils of contraceptives in such a way that they would actually stop using them.
Talbot also quotes from a recent book, The Richer Sex, by WaPo reporter Liza Mundy, which provides us with some powerful clues as to what might have stirred up some angry male egos, not to mention their ever-ready testosterone pumps. Did you know that 40% of working wives now earn more than their husbands and that, by 2030, it is projected that the percentage will be 50%? (Can’t you hear Rick Santorum yelling in the background about how women shouldn’t be working outside the home?)
Moreover, today half of college and university undergraduates are female but, by 2019, it is estimated that the percentage will rise to 59% and 61% of graduate students will be women!! (Can’t you imagine Santorum and his pals still complaining that Obama is a snob for wanting high school graduates to go to college?)
All of the above are arguments for rightwing males to keep “their” women at home. (Let’s add, ...barefoot and pregnant.) To that sentiment we’ll also include the voice of Santorum, still yelling in the background about contraceptives, “...It’s not O.K. because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” [Here]
Talbot also pointed to other recent social trends that should stir concerns in us all, but there is nary a word of worry from the politically conservative right. For example, the fact that over half of the births occurring to women under thirty are occurring to unmarried women has not occasioned a Republican peep or a tweet. The irony is that one of the largest group of folks who are loudly advocating for marriage are same-sex couples and you know the right wing’s attitude about them!
Another battle is brewing with the Republicans in the Senate over renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. GOP Senators are concerned about special provisions in the act about Native Americans and immigrants. They also do not believe the bill goes far enough to exclude LGBT victims. [Here] This landmark Act was originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 to largely bipartisan support [Here] but not this year. I guess the GOP thinks that beating immigrant women and lesbians is perfectly acceptable.
None of this fully explains why conservatives have thought that it is fair game to attack women’s reproductive systems. The 2012 Obama Presidential reelection campaign has given them the when and Citizens United has opened corporate coffers, providing the wherewithal. Margaret Talbot and other feminists have given us some partial why’s, but questions remain.
Perhaps we didn’t make ourselves clear forty and fifty years ago when we marched and yelled and organized. It is clear that we need another larger, louder and even more strident Women’s Movement. We need today’s young women to take up the cause and take to the streets. Sandra Fluke can help hold our banner high. Let the first stop for us be gaining female majorities in the Senate and the House.
And this time, let’s make sure our candidate becomes President.