Abortion? Yep, it’s a men’s issue, too.
On the October 13th, the GOP-led House of Representatives passed a bill with the truly perverse name of “Protect Life Act”. Folks such as the United States Council of Catholic Bishops and extremist religious groups like the Family Research Council cheered, as the reproductive and women’s rights activist looked on in horror along many ‘regular’ people. I don’t live in America so even if it got past the Senate (unlikely) and President Obama signed it (thankfully, he basically said ‘no way!’) this law wouldn’t affect me personally. However, when I read the news in the morning I felt as if someone punched me in the stomach. In this vote, American congressmen (yes – mostly white, middle aged men) essentially said that women’s lives really don’t matter that much. 251 democratically-elected representatives from the “land of the free and the brave” believe that government money should not be spent on saving American women’s lives. Because this bill isn’t even about abortion per se – I understand how this is a difficult issue for some – it’s (among others) about providing emergency obstetric care to women who will die if they do not receive an abortion. The majority of members of the American House of Representatives think a woman’s life is not worth saving if it involves sacrificing that of a fetus (which will die anyway with the mother). Please read that again. I strongly believe that whatever you think of abortion, your (or a politician’s for that matter) opinions shouldn’t condemn women to death.
There’s more to this bill. According to the representatives who voted it through, ‘protecting life’ involves more than not allowing for abortions – it actually includes coercing women into having children they do not want/ cannot afford to raise by allowing health plans to refuse to cover birth control and other women’s preventive services. And whatever else these guys are doing, they are not representing the will of the American people — 66 percent of Americans think contraception should be fully refunded! There’s a great analysis of this bill and its consequences at RH Reality Check and I won’t go into more details here. Rather, I want to take a closer look at why is it that at a time when unemployment, the deficit, and the economical downturn should perhaps be the issues legislators are worried about, instead they come up with grand-named pieces of potentially lethal, bigoted, and hugely misogynistic legislation (I admit that I sometimes have the tendency to exaggerate, but that’s definitely not what I’m doing in this sentence).
Going to bed on the 13th (time change – I’m in London) I really hoped I’d wake up and breathe a sigh of relief that all these people in their fancy suits had come to their senses. My bad – they haven’t. It actually got worse as the day progressed because on my own national front (Poland) things aren’t so dandy either – Catholic pharmacists are petitioning for the right not to sell contraceptives because they’re against their morality (my question is: would they ask a man coming into to buy Viagra to produce a marriage certificate? Surely premarital sex must be against their beliefs.)
What is it with reproductive rights that politicians think they can just legislate away? Well, maybe there are too many people who fondly remember the days before Roe vs. Wade and sort of miss the time when women were forced into getting unsafe back-alley abortions (because study after study shows that de-legalizing abortions does just that – it doesn’t stop women from getting them, it just makes it more dangerous). And how did we get talked into believing that reproductive rights (including the right to abortion and refundable contraception) are somehow exclusively “women’s issues” (which are obviously less important than non-women’s issues, such as economy, although women constitute over 50% of American society – and yes – they actually care about the economy as well). Well for starters, the reason women even need contraceptives or an abortion is because men are very much in the picture. Somehow, the discourse around these issues has managed to completely ignore the reality of the situation – we get pregnant and worry about getting pregnant because we have heterosexual sex. Perhaps this is just stating the obvious but let me remind y’all – heterosexual sex involves men. Men who may – or may not – want to become fathers. Men who have mothers, wives, partners, sisters, friends, aunts, female colleagues…you name it. Men who care about their sexual partners and about other sexually active women who are not their partners. The majority of these men really would not like women to die a completely preventable death in a public hospital because it was policy to not provide emergency abortions.
However, we shouldn’t oppose barbaric laws and support basic human rights just because they may affect people we know and love.
So why do politicians go on legislative hate-trips and busy themselves passing bills, which have no chance of becoming the law of the land? I suppose they’re making a statement – to their rich super conservative donors mostly, and right-wing radicals who are listening closely. There are still people who believe that women should fall pregnant just about every time they have sex (and they’ll explain it either as a blessing or punishment for slutiness) and then stay at home with their ‘little ones’ tending the hearth and house. Men, on the other hand, should bring home the bacon, never show too much emotion (if they’re not watching a football game) and be appropriately praised for ‘helping their wives’ and changing the occasional diaper or watching over the kids while she goes to the hairdresser. The H.R. 358 (oh so inappropriately called) “Protect a Life” Bill is about more than abortion and respecting women – it’s about respecting individuals’ choices and letting them live their lives as they choose, and not as politicians think is appropriate. I’m just a gal from the former Soviet block, but this looks like an American value to me if I ever saw one.