War on Birth Control


Abortion

Abortion

Speaking bluntly, I believe our nation is deeply conflicted about a woman’s body, especially her reproductive organs. While this conflict can be traced to a Platonic duality of mind and body whereby a man and his mind is valued as superior to a woman and her body, the ensuing cultural impact has situated man as subject/actor and woman as object/acted upon. In the United States, this duality is particularly curious because our nation embraces the value of autonomy as reflected in broad social and political changes of the voting rights for women, the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism and constitutional right to abortion for women. But, a cursory review of media research illustrates this duality in media’s ambivalence toward women who are too thin or too thick, casting them, respectively, as either deviant or normal or in media’s proliferation of make-over television programs for (mostly) women who fail to conform to socially constructed notions of beauty. Brenda Cowlishaw*  warns that we can easily fail to notice its controlling, limiting, structuring presence because of the ubiquity of the subject-object binary in modern western thought. Amused and amazed by entertainment, we often ignore the hegemonic forces that view white, heterosexual males as authority figures and render others as less. Her warning is relevant for the argument I want to make in this post. Despite years of progress toward full citizenship, women’s bodies are increasingly under the panopticon of male regulation and control regarding their reproductive organs, which, consequently, diminishes a woman’s subjectivity and full citizenship. Managing women’s reproductive organs is enacted through gender management called paternalism. As Gurevich**** explains, gender management, in the form of paternalistic body regulation and control, is a way to benevolently limit women’s freedom through social regulation for her own protection. And there’s historical precedence for regulating and controlling women’s bodies, much as we controlled the bodies of slaves, from popular culture’s expectations to the Supreme Court’s rulings to various presidencies and state legislators discourse. I’ll begin with an overview of the expressions of ambivalence toward women’s bodies and continue with a brief overview of the function of legal proceedings then move to Supreme Court’s paternalistic discourse in the Roe v Wade decision and then finish with current discourse about how paternalism impacts women’s bodies in the abortion war.

Ambivalence over Women’s Reproductive Organs

People often freely assert their opinions and policies about a woman’s bodies, particularly her breasts, her uterus, her ovaries and fallopian tubes, and her labia and vagina. Recall the local kerfuffles that have occurred in various municipalities over public breastfeeding or the intrusive school policies against young schoolgirls displaying excessive cleavage or the lingerie manufacturers’ padded bras designed to eliminate the stigmatized nipple. These kerfuffles are more easily recognized as absurd politics when framed against popular culture’s enthusiastic support of film and television representations of female cleavage and full frontal nudity or the tolerance of the multi-billion dollar pornography industry.

A woman’s labia and vagina are another part of anatomy for which there seems to be much conflict. While it’s hard to forget the public outrage and titillation when actress Sharon Stone revealed a crotch shot in Basic Instincts, it’s easy to recall the derogatory terms (like pussy, sugar jar, cunt, bearded clam, beaver, camel toe) people use describe this female territory. The current cosmetic surgery offering, labial reconstruction, illustrates the assumed flaw with a woman’s anatomy. According to most plastic surgery web sites, the procedure is meant to rejuvenate the structure and appearance of a woman’s genitalia.  But the message is clear: Your labia and vagina are disgusting. Despite this disgust, it seems important to point out that most of us have made the trip through a woman’s vagina on the first day of our life. Pardon my pointing out the ick factor of your birth.

As for ovaries and fallopian tubes, little media coverage, popular expressions or snarky remarks are made about them. Think about it. When was the last time you heard a joke about a fallopian tube? When did you share a snarky remark about some woman’s ovaries? But, let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that these body parts are unimportant. Two examples should suffice to illustrate their importance to my argument. First, if a young woman, say 24 years old, requests a tubal ligation because she has no interest in becoming pregnant, she will encounter resistance and, often, disappointment because physicians are disinclined to oblige believing that they know better than the woman knows herself. “She might change her mind about becoming a mother,” the thinking goes. Second, ovaries and fallopian tubes are key players in producing viable eggs and in transporting a fertilized egg to the uterus for implantation. This second action is all too often overlooked in the war of the womb, the site of normal implantation. So, let’s give accolades to the ovaries and fallopian tube then pause to ponder the common denominator in this national angst over these body parts.

The common denominator, I argue, is gender management through paternalism. In examining how legal strategies use gender narratives about defendants who are mothers, Liena Gurevich**** calls gender management a form of paternalistic body regulation and control to benevolently limit women’s freedom through social regulation for her own protection. We can look to the function and discourse of legal proceedings to unpack the power of paternalistic regulation and control.

Legal Institutions as Bastions of Male Power and Control

Consider that legal institutions and their proceedings are forms of governance and normalization to maintain the social and political order and advancement of the interests of professional groups. Simply put, they are bastions of male power and control So, to name two examples, legal decisions have drawn, in the past, on the standards of moral purity with the enforcement of the Comstock Laws against birth control for married couples until Griswold v. Connecticut invalidated the law. The decision that legalized abortion, Roe v. Wade, is another example of male power. Often viewed as a legal decision to give women a choice about reproductive options, Roe v. Wade, written by Justice Blackmun, framed the decision as inherently and primarily a medical decision with basic responsibilities resting on the physician. As Katie Gibson** has noted, the decision has two central constructs that justified his decision: “a controlling ‘doctor knows best’ philosophy and the characterization of the ‘woman-as-patient’ in the apotheosis of medicine. Decades later, we see again the courts deference to male authority and the subjugation of women’s agency. In fact, in a more recent article, Katie Gibson*** claims that Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion in the 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart conveys that majority decision was profoundly wrong and also exposed the law as an instrument of patriarchy led by the Roberts’ rightward leaning court.

Today, the discourse circulating in all levels of legislative activities denies agency to women (particularly if pregnant), confers rights to a rapist over the rights of a woman, compares the fetus to the slave who needs to be rescued while symbolically annihilating the woman, conflates consent to sex to consent to pregnancy and scorns the sexuality of women as shameful and deserving of retribution. In 2013, despite years of progress toward full citizenship, women’s bodies are increasingly under the panopticon of male regulation and control regarding their reproductive organs, which, consequently, diminishes a woman’s subjectivity. Comparing the man or woman who was in the involuntary servitude of the slave owner to women forced into involuntary servitude to the fetus, Kuswa, Achter & Lauzon**** conclude that the state has no justification to exert biopower. The paternalistic rhetoric, that slavery was good for the slaves, that slave owners were benevolent in exposing their superior culture, finds resonance in the management of women’s reproductive organs through the regulation and control to benevolently limit women’s freedom through social regulation for her own protection.

For Her Own Protection

Benevolently limiting women’s reproductive freedom through social regulation for her own protection is evident in targeted regulation of abortion providers that require ambulatory surgical standards such as wide hallways, hospital admitting privileges, drinking fountains and state-mandated (mis)information called counseling. The smokescreen, that these regulations are mandated to protect women, is bogus. These regulations do nothing to facilitate access to abortion, do nothing to ensure a doctor’s quality healthcare, do nothing to improve the lives of women, and do nothing to protect the universality of human rights for women. More to the point, laws against abortion are a form of sex discrimination, a heinous attempt to essentialize woman-as-womb and a de facto denial of women’s full citizenship.

Citations

* Cowlishaw, B. (2001). Subjects are from Mars, objects are from Venus: Construction of the self in self-help. Journal of Popular Culture, 35(1), 169-184.

**Gibson, K. (2008). The rhetoric of Roe v. Wade: When the (male) doctor knows best. Southern Communication Journal, 73 (4), 312-331.

***Gibson, K. (2012). In defense of women’s rights: A rhetorical analysis of judicial dissent. Women’s Studies in Communication, 35, 123-137.

****Gurevich, L. (2008). Patriarchy? Paternalism? Motherhood discourses in trials of crimes against children. Sociological Perspectives, 51(3), 515-539.

*****Kuswa, K., Achter, P., & Lauzon, E. (2008). The slave, the fetus, the body: articulating biopower and the pregnant woman. Contemporary Argumentation & Debate, 29, 166-185.

It’s hard to deny that we are becoming a visually mediated society. The power of visuals to (mis)inform, persuade and threaten is evident particularly when iconic photographs are considered for their power to expose the truths of local and global catastrophes, wars and social unrest. Nick Ut’s Accidental Napalm, and Kevin Carter’s Struggling Girl are images that produce certain truths but they also produce a moral conundrum. Showing these images are representations of reality but they also alienate the public. In fact, the circulation of Accidental Napalm has been considered a pivotal turning point against the horrors of Vietnam War while Struggling Girl forced the world to see the plight of the starving. More recently, Richard Drew’s September 11, 2001 Falling Man was subjected to criticism for being too offensive to publish and for revealing the immorality of the photographer and the news sources entrusted to uphold societal values. Falling Man is troubling because, while it reveals a truth about the World Trade Center attacks, it also exploits the human dignity and privacy of a man and moves us to question the propriety of such a display.  The representation of images have ethical implications in that they are a kind of truth that can be shown but can never tell the whole story. It is with this notion of  (mis)representations that I want to address three lessons about the power of visuals and recommend using visuals in a more provocative, yet enlightening campaign—as a proposal for the 21st century.

Lesson One

The first lesson addresses this tension between propriety and morality for photographers and for activists who choose to capture and use spectacular images of human beings. For example, for antiabortionists, any propriety about displaying mutilated human fetal images is easily set aside out of concern for a larger moral purpose. In fact, in the antiabortion movement, there are those who use grotesque fetal images that, while inducing both empathy and disgust, raise ethical questions about the public display of these dead bodies. Antiabortion activists promote and distribute these visual materials based on a premise that once Americans see images of abortion, they will reject abortion. And while legal debates over the right to display such images erupt on state-run university campuses, outside the walls of progressive churches and, of course, outside the perimeters of abortion clinics, the majority views these prurient displays as morally repugnant and potentially harmful to young children.

Lesson Two

GOP StupidA second lesson is drawn from campaign materials of the antiabortion activists’ use of mutilated fetuses and from the 2012 presidential election.  Both campaigns ignore an essential element—women. While Republicans fell on their collective swords with their anti abortion and rape rhetoric, the so-called prolife crowd (majority Republican) continued with their fetal fetish worship. In hindsight, the lesson is clear. Don’t ignore women and their rights.

Lesson Three

The third lesson addresses the failure of media to address some of the most fundamental and important issues that half the world’s population—women—face. Corporate media, held hostage by capitalistic greed, flourishes on a diet of sensationalism and entertainment. For example, recent news reports focused on Angelina Jolie’s mastectomies but ignored the science about environmental toxins (caused by unbridled, irresponsible industries) that are known causes of cancer. The news of her surgical decision also ignored the enormous costs of media’s relentless messages to young girls and women that their breasts are accessories for voyeuristic entertainment and men’s physical and sexual pleasure. Jolie’s story also ignores a very powerful human right—to be empowered to make a tough choice about her own body.

In another media ruckus over the accessibility of Plan B emergency contraception—political brouhaha about other-the-counter access, age limits and state-issued identification as proof of age—the stories failed to point out the cozy relationship that politics and pharmaceuticals play, failed to address the importance of emergency contraception to those who need it most, and failed to address the personal, social and economic consequences when emergency contraception isn’t available. As with Angelina Jolie’s story about making the choice to prevent cancer, the story about unfettered access to Plan B means women have the choice to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.  But corporate media seldom acknowledges a woman’s agency unless she’s a celebrity.

A Proposal

In the spirit of Jonathan Swift, I propose a 21st century campaign that speaks directly to real women’s lives—the on-the-ground reality of women as they attempt to hold up half the sky.  To begin, I suggest that legislators draft laws that require obstetricians, crisis pregnancy centers and abortion clinics recite narratives with accompanying displays of women killed by unsafe and illegal abortions, with displays of bodies that succumbed to pregnancy-related deaths, and with bodies who, devastated by post partum depression, committed suicide. While it may sound too far-fetched, consider that there are currently laws that dictate what doctors in abortion clinics tell their clients. In particular, there are numerous states that require that physicians provide specific information about fetal development, pregnancy options, abortion complications, and about voluntary, non-coercive decision making about abortion. Euphemistically called A Woman’s Right to Know, the law is the ironic work of conservative legislators—the very same conservative who cry “I don’t want big government coming in and telling me what to do with my healthcare” but actually want big government to tell doctors what they can do to women. So, the precedence is in place for legislators to continue practicing reproductive medicine without any education or without a professional license. Despite the long-standing tradition of fully accredited abortion clinics providing comprehensive counseling about pregnancy options, state legislators use their bully pulpit to impose their morality on others with these laws. What these right-to-know tactics ignore are the realities of illegal abortions and complications of pregnancy. So, it’s appropriate to suggest that legislators enact laws to more fully inform women with a new campaign.

A proposal such a mine would comb the world for images of the approximately 219 women who die worldwide each day from an unsafe abortion. With that many images of dead women, there would be plenty of material to use in pamphlets and in educational materials. Such a visual bounty would provide a deliciously, deadly assortment to post on blogs and to add to the Op Ed sections of local newspapers. As with the antiabortion activists who wear their fetal focused messages around their neck, counter protesters could sport an image of a woman in a blood-soaked bed with RoeEndWomenDyingthe words “Keep Abortion Safe” written in large letters. The thought of such a poster borders on pornographic, unethical and downright obscene. And while such a poster aligns with antiabortion impropriety, at least it’s honest in demonstrating the truth about women who want and need but cannot access safe and legal abortions. Perhaps we could further underscore the situation by showing all the children left motherless because safe abortion is not available.

At the very least, the displays should show the very real complications of illegal  abortions with up-close-and-personal representations of pelvic abscess, septicemia, lacerated cervix, perforated bowel, exsanguination, and gangrene. And should anyone charge that these images are obscene, recall that obscenity laws cover material that deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest, i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts.  A dead woman’s gangrenous bowel or an exsanguinated body certainly cannot be considered titillating. In an effort to ensure a woman’s right to know, as so many conservatives are determined to legislate, a campaign such as this would more fully inform women of all the potential harms.

Let’s face it. The antiabortion activists use fetal images, as they claim, to expose the injustice of abortion. In reality, their images are a misogynistic attempt to shame women and to alter the realities of safe abortion for religious and political dogma. On the other hand, a display of women’s mutilated and dead bodies would expose the discriminatory, immoral violations of their human rights including the dishonorable reality, specific to the United States, that

  • this nation is 19out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality
  • this nation is 50th in world for maternal health
  • 68,000 women nearly die in childbirth annually
  • 1.7 million women suffer a complication that has an adverse effect on their health
  • the annual maternal morbidity is currently between 500-600 deaths

Equally important to my proposed campaign would be evidence of the endless attack on women’s reproductive rights through targeted regulations against abortion providers, through defunding of family planning services, through state-directed funneling of monies to (mostly religiously-affiliated) crisis pregnancy centers, through imprisonment and subsequent poor treatment of pregnant women (often resulting in miscarriage, preterm delivery and poor birth outcomes including neonatal death), through the rise of sexual assaults in the military and through the silent war being waged against poor women through cuts in Medicaid for abortions, cuts in state support (food stamps and welfare ) after one year and cuts in Head Start programs. Finally, a Google map of the United States using hyperlinks could locate the draconian politicians’ current laws as well as proposed legislation to further obstruct or outlaw access to abortion and contraception. Further details of such a map should include their political party affiliation, their religious affiliations and their financial supporters (such as PACs).

Religion_PoliticsMy modest proposal would visually depict the inexcusable health and human rights violations that occur due to the corrosive effects from religion, corporate greed, politics, military and government obstructionism for women of reproductive age, particularly for the poor in urban and rural areas, for minority women, and for those with limited or no access to health care. My campaign would be a much-needed corrective for media’s drive for entertainment and sensationalism, programming that’s foisted on the public as relevant and objective.  Moreover, my proposal would illustrate the true nature of the conservative, right wing as misogynistic, anti-science, anti-medicine and anti-woman.

It’s a modest proposal that I’d like to think Jonathan Swift would admire.

It would be foolish to call their handouts literature.  Literature has recognized artistic value, is written by scholars or researchers, and is the output of a literary writer. No, the anti abortion materials are not literature, not by any stretch of the imagination. It would be more brutally honest to say that the minds creating their works are so malignant as to be horrifyingly amusing. All of the materials creatively stretch and, at times, ignore evidence-based medical research. Visually, their materials use ethically-challenged imagery. Their page designs (or lack thereof) and font choices ignore readability and economy in favor of the “more is better” mentality. And while their stuff is ugly in appearance, their content is made all the uglier with unadulterated propaganda.

Name-calling, a propaganda technique, links a person or idea to a negative as illustrated in “The abortion industry is motivated and driven by money and greed.” Or, in one example, completely dedicated to the Allentown Women’s Center, the fetal image alongside a dime is captioned “Abortion is not the answer. The AWC is not on your side. They are a business. They don’t care about you . . . and they don’t care about your baby! Choose Life. Walk away!” As you can see in
the image, the writer loves random underlining (as of shouting), indiscriminately using a variety of font styles and generously accenting words with exclamation marks. Again, is more better?

Take a closer look at the image of an alleged 10-week fetus and a U.S. dime. The size of a 10-week fetus is 18-22 mm while a dime is 17.9 mm. Is the comparison misleading imagery or an outright lie? And when all else fails, the author uses the propaganda technique of transfer which links the authority or prestige of something well-respected such as church or nation, to something she would have us accept. In an effort to convince an abortion-minded woman to carry her pregnancy to term, the author uses the image of a red heart with a purple cross with the words pro life (appealing to the church).
And beneath this image, the

words “Remember . . .Christ was conceived out of wedlock and so were many famous people including President Obama.”  Now that’s a real doozy of a comparison. Christ conceived by the Holy Spirit and Obama conceived by his father’s seed. The comparison has a ten on the ICK factor.

In another tract, the author again shares the love of rampant underlining, the haphazard use of a garden variety of font styles and several propaganda techniques. Lacking any particular authority, the author, uses the transfer technique, to link the authority of external sources to help the reader make a connection that appears to be credible.  Unfortunately, many of the external sources are from religious organizations (who specialize in religion, not abortion) and a publication house that is no longer in business.

The author unashamedly uses the special propaganda appeal of fear mongering claiming breast cancer connections to abortion and post abortion sequelae. Despite extensive evidence-based research that finds no cancer connection and no mental consequences to abortion, the author plays on deep-seated fears of impending doom. And for good measure, the dangers of contraception are tossed in to further the fear factor and to offer Natural Family Planning as an alternative. And if the reader is not convinced to “just say no” to abortion, the author tosses factoids about sexually transmitted infections. Too bad the factoids are incorrect.  Frankly, I’m thinking masturbation is about the only sexual taboo that’s missing with this hodgepodge.

Both of the above tracts fail miserably to stick to one message. Instead, they beseech the reader to turn away from abortion, provide spurious information on available resources, use high inference language, grotesque yet inaccurate imagery and ask loaded questions. Moreover, instead of consistent, thoughtful message, they bludgeon their reader with their desperate, no holds barred antiabortion agenda.

A particularly absurd piece, that appears to be a glossy bookmark, quotes Dr. Seuss “A person is a person no matter how small” (breaking copyright laws) and displays human fingers holding what is alleged to be an amazing photograph of six-week ectopic-situated fetus. But here’s the rub: At six weeks, the fetus is between the size of the tip of a pen and a pencil eraser. The human fingers displayed are clearly out of proportion to the fetus. The reverse side of this bookmark contains a jumble of statements that offer misinformation and outright lies. For example, week five to six is when the heart begins to beat, not three weeks, as written. Also, it is week six or seven when small buds appear that become arms and legs. Aesthetically arresting imagery does not excuse intentional fabrications.

One of the most spectacularly cynical and perverse tracts that antiabortion activists use is the comparison of abortion to the Holocaust. Printed in Nazi red and black colors, the handout explicitly compares the murder of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust to women having abortions in the United States. Abraham H. Foxman, Anti Defamation League National Director and a Holocaust survivor said, “No Christian who understands Jewish suffering should resort to inappropriate comparisons to the Holocaust to send a message that abortion is wrong.” The tract is exemplary in its propagandistic appeal using the name-calling technique linking abortion as a Holocaust and using the logical fallacy to deliberately promote their antiabortion appeal by suggesting that the U.S. government is like Nazi Germany. Of course, there’s no mention of what American women want for their own reproductive health in this work, no mention that Nazi Germany was pro birth for Aryan women, and no mention that the U.S. government does not target particular groups with mass killings. Why let facts get in the way of a outrageous horror story?

There are anti abortion pamphlets that are professionally designed and then there are anti abortion handouts that are amateurishly cobbled together.  Aesthetics aside, these homemade tracts fail to articulate the compassion and unconditional love that Jesus so passionately offered for all humankind. Looking through a stack of antiabortion activists’ tracts that have been given to women and their companions (and then tossed out), it becomes obvious to me that these activists’  have forgotten compassion and unconditional love. Instead, their handouts consistently use fear-mongering as their number one preferred tactic. Fear tactics, combined with misinformation, outright lies and unethical imagery, create a body of work in the anti abortion industry that any ethical person would be embarrassed to distribute. But from my experiences, the anti abortion activists are not embarrassed and that should tell you something about them.

Last week I argued that Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin’s anti rape, anti abortion stance is shared across the GOP. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, famously said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Despite being a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Akin uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments to date. When news of Akin’s spurious comments about a woman’s bodily response to rape swirled around in the blogosphere and across news desks, pundits connected the Missouri Republican senate candidate to vice president hopeful, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Both Akin and Ryan (along with other GOP colleagues) share the desire for an absolute abortion ban. There ensued a flurry of corrections and clarifications, particularly as Ryan attempted to distance himself from House colleague Akin saying on Pittsburgh’s KDKA, “I believe rape is rape, there’s no splitting hairs.” Then there were others who distanced themselves from Akin. Romney called on Akin to step out of the race. John Cornyn, the Texas Senator who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked Akin to step out of the race. Other big-name Republicans asking Akin to quit were his would-be colleagues, including Missouri’s junior senator Roy Blunt, who issued a joint statement together with former Missouri U.S. senators John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth, and Jim Talent. In advance of the Republican National Convention Tampa, the Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, instructed Akin to not attend. But no one spoke about the reality of the GOP’s platform on abortion. They diverted the media’s attention, focusing on rape, legitimate rape, forcible rape and showing signs of contrition for their blatant misogynistic comments. Among crisis communications professionals, the mantra for repairing a crisis is formulaic: 1) demonstrate you are appalled at the offense, 2) offer your apologies, and 3) offer an easily remembered meme. For Ryan, it was the simple ‘rape is rape’ meme to get the focus off of Akin and off him (momentarily).

For the GOP, Akin created a crisis for the Republican convention’s rollout of their freshly polished version of their 1976 platform. Back then they wrote “We protest the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”

I need to stop here to give a nod to GOP’s obfuscation in the phrase “the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children” and to ask “Can you be anymore disingenuous?” Then in 1980, the GOP’s platform stated that they affirm “support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.” When did the original constitution protect the unborn? It seems to me the 14th amendment quite plainly states that born persons are protected, not unborn. Fast forward to 2000 when 30-something Paul Ryan argued vociferously against any exceptions for abortion. In fact, in this video, Ryan states “Let me just say this to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit, the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it,” Ryan said. “The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless.” In other words, let the women die.

Forward to September 2011, when the five presidential candidates at the Palmetto Freedom Forum were asked whether they would support legislation under Section Five of the 14th Amendment, that would restore legal protection for unborn children. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich said they would support such legislation. Mitt Romney said that he feared such legislation would provoke a constitutional crisis. Instead, he would focus on appointing judges who would return abortion regulation to the states. Then there is the fact that despite a sour economy, Ryan co-sponsored eight bills to that infringe on women’s rights (H.R. 212, 217, 358, 361, 1179, 2299 , 3803 and 3805). One has to wonder how Ryan can say with a straight face that he’s working hard for middle class America. It seems to me he’s working hard for the Catholic Church and for more accolades bestowed on him by the National Right to Life.

Now, it’s Convention week for the Republicans. And despite their denials of their War on Women, there’s ample evidence from all their legislative attacks on women’s reproductive and parenting rights. Readied as a draft for the convention, the draft of the GOP’s 2012 platform statement further demonstrates their draconian battle against women. It reads, in part, “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”  And “We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life.”

So, let’s ponder the implications for each line of the above text, keeping in mind that it’s not the entire text and keeping in mind that the above text was approved by the Convention. The implications bear careful consideration.

#1- Amending the 14th Amendment to give legal status to the  unborn would unquestionably violate the rights of women.

#2- Protecting girls with parental notification from exploitation and statutory rape overlooks the grim reality that parents are often the perpetrators of sexual crimes against young girls including trafficking. And when young girls are pregnant, asking parent’s permission or notifying the parents often leads to disastrous results for the young girls including abuse and abandonment.

#3 – Assist women with unplanned pregnancies is a noble idea and is in effect for many state sponsored and faith-based charities, including Mormon and Catholic faiths. But coming from the ‘let’s reduce the government’ Republicans, it seems disingenuous to add more governmental interventions that are focused on abortion. In fact, the Republican party has been responsible for targeted regulations against abortion providers, all additional government interventions.

#4 – Abortion as an assault on human life is a value judgment that says the sanctity of innocent human life, the zygote/embryo/fetus, trumps the sanctity of woman’s human life. Abortion has saved the lives of millions of born citizens called women. Why don’t they count? When Republicans wave the flag and talk about the American dream, shouldn’t that include women’s American dreams to control their own lives, including their reproduction?

#5 – Women deserve better than abortion is, again, a value judgment coming from an informed mindset steeped in patriarchy and misogyny. Further, the judgment flies in the face of evidence-based research from respected scholars, practitioners and from women’s own stories. Can it be that the RNC wants to deny women’s realities, deny science and, more importantly, deny their war on women? The fact that a recent CNN poll found that the majority (83-88%) of Americans approve of the abortion exceptions for rape, incest and the physical health (screw her mental health) of the mother. Yet, folks like Akin and Ryan want no exceptions. Period. It’s like Ryan said when talking about rape, “ The method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” So, now rape is a method of conception?

#6 – Enable and empower women to choose life makes me recoil in Handmaiden’s Tale-type horror. How does one enable and empower a women to choose life if it isn’t through coercion? Women who do not want to be pregnant, will find a way to end their pregnancy, legal or illegal. How can men like Romney and Ryan be so obstinate, so willfully driven to impose their religious leanings on women? What happened to the separation of church and state? Hell, what happened to women’s rights?
So, this is what the Republicans value in their recent Convention platform that they approved. Ideologues are running the show. Paul Ryan wants no exceptions for abortion. Romney has said he would not oppose abortion in instances of rape. His position, however, puts him at odds with the official GOP party platform and with his little buddy, Paul Ryan. The official GOP platform wants to give legal rights to products of conception and to define ‘person’ as beginning at fertilization with an amendment to the 14th Amendment. Simply they want to make a cluster of cells a legal person while simultaneously annihilating a woman’s legal right to an abortion. Let’s not forget that birth control is also on the firing line amongst the current incarnation of the Republican party.

Writing about the Republican Party, Root columnist, Keli Goff, wrote that they seem “determined to set the health of American women back by more than a century, with targeting abortion no longer enough. Birth control rights are increasingly in the line of fire.” Speaking about the GOP candidates, she compared their treatment of the health, safety and rights of American women to Shari law and wrote , “I’m at a loss to see any real difference between the manner in which Sharia law penalizes women who are raped and the efforts of Perry and his Personhood cohorts to penalize American rape survivors with a nonconsensual pregnancy.” Other pundits argue that the extreme ideologues in the GOP want an American Christian Taliban.

All I can say to voters, think very carefully about your vote in November.

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