Trump’s recent comments about abortions aren’t as surprising when looked at in the context of the Republican party’s treatment of women.
Responding to Donald Trump’s comment that he wants to ban abortions, and once made illegal, for any woman who continues to have abortions, “There would have to be some form of punishment,” Bernie Sanders called this “shameful” and continued that “I don’t know what world this person lives in.”
Though Bernie’s statement about the world Trump inhabits appeared rhetorical, I would tell Bernie and others that the Donald is living in the here and now, in a world fabricated by the Republican Party, one that already punishes women on a daily basis. Though not many in the Party would expose their true feelings as clearly and loudly as Trump, I am certain many others advocate punishing women who chose to have abortions.
Ever since the historic Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, in 1973 legalizing abortion, the National Republican Party Presidential Platform has consistently taken a so-called “pro-life” (anti-abortion, anti-choice) position. For example, its 2012 platform proclaims:
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
We see the concerted effort primarily by Republican national and state legislators to severely restricted women’s reproductive health care options across the country. For example, in Texas, Governor Rick Perry signed into law a ban on abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy. The law also mandates that women’s clinics upgrade their ambulatory surgical centers, it increases restrictions on the use of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486, and it requires all doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. These “Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers” (TRAP) abortion bans attempt to close as many clinics as possible that provide abortions, rather than make these clinics any safer for clients.
This latter requirement on hospital admitting privileges of doctors stands as the cornerstone of a new Alabama law, which opponents view as a measure to eventually restrict all abortions in the state. And who can forget about the Virginia law that forces women seeking abortions to undergo transabdominal ultrasound procedures at least 24 hours before an abortion. The original version of the bill included the even more extreme invasive procedure of transvaginal probes. A number of states offer extremely biased anti-abortion counseling to pregnant women, mandatory ultrasound procedures, and waiting periods before which an abortion cannot proceed.
State legislatures and Governors, primarily led and enacted by Republican majorities, passed 92 abortion restrictions in 2011 alone, and in 2012, 43 restrictions in 19 states.
While the landmark 1965 Griswald v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision invalidated a Connecticut law that restricted the purchase and use of contraceptive devises, Republicans have proposed and have, unfortunately, won a ruling to permit employers and health insurance companies to refuse coverage for contraceptives.
Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in a number of states argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.
By a 5 to 4 decision, the Court struck down the contraceptive mandate, the regulation approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees.
Though the Republican Party might have an interest in bringing pregnancies to term in nearly all situations – even in instances of rape and incest, and regardless of the wishes of the women involved — even a cursory investigation of the Party’s stands and actions on the major issues of the day, proposed and in many cases acted upon by current Republican legislators and executives on the national, state, and local levels, this gives us a picture of a Party that is anything but “pro-life” for the living. In actuality, the GOP conducts itself as a Party that stands for life until birth; then one is left to fend for oneself.
Combined with their pronouncements opposing women’s reproductive freedoms, obstruction to contraception, they correspond perfectly with monotheistic patriarchal fundamental attempts to control people’s bodies in order to control their minds.
When patriarchal social and economic systems of male domination attempt to keep women pregnant and taking care of children, they can restrict their entry, or at least their level and time of entry, into the workplace, and ensure women’s dependence on men economically and emotionally. As women produce more and more children, expanding numbers of little consumers emerge to contribute to the Capitalist system ever increasing profits for owners of business and industry. The patriarchal system necessary to control women’s bodies amounts to imperatives to control women’s minds and life choices.
And when patriarchal social and family structures converge with patriarchal religious systems, which reinforce strictly defined gender hierarchies of male domination, women and girl’s oppression and oppression of those who transgress sexual-, sexuality-, and gender binaries and boundaries became inevitable.
In other words, women have been and often remain constructed as second-class and even third-class citizens, but certainly not as victims, because through it all, women as a group have challenged the inequities and have pushed back against patriarchal constraints.
So, is there a Republican Party, a political right wing, war on women? I find it quite obvious. I see a war on women to control their bodies, which is nothing less than the attempt to control, to colonize, women’s minds and their very lives for the purpose of maintaining patriarchal domination.
So yes, Bernie, we all already inhabit a world in the here and now that punishes women for asserting their choices. Trump, even though he back tracked from his initial statement about punishing women, is merely saying what many in his Party believe.