Saturday, June 16, 2012

Your Uterus...Male Rules: Your Uterus...Male Rules: Abortion, Sexism, Birth Control and Why Feminism Matters

By Carlos M. Camacho

Courtesy of Dave Bledsoe

Welcome to the United States. Land of liberty and justice for all...unless you happen to be a female. The attack on women and women's rights is not new. Men have been trying to limit women's rights for years and women and their allies have continued to fight for them. If this is news, I recommend that you read several books or watch films on the subject.

"I always feel I have to take a stand, and there's always someone on hand to hate me for standing there" -Ani DiFranco 

The recent attacks on women comes from several places and it is hard to place, but one thing is certain: This is a sexist attack on women. Why? There are various attempts to legislate women's health and bodies. Determining what medicine women should take, the hoops they have to jump through to get those drugs or any medical procedures and the shame women are made to feel for wanting medicine while men are given a free pass when it comes to medicine for them which has a very different function than the one women want to take. I think the blatant sexism here is pretty evident. If it's unclear above that's because I left out the terms we are bombarded with. We hear birth control, emergency contraception and abortion and get so charged up rather than thinking of them as necessary medicines and medical procedures but the treatment is not the same for Viagra and similar medicines for men. We also tend to lose perspective on important issues, especially when we are uninformed and are removed from the issues like most men are because the birth control issue does not directly affect us. 
Some may ask at this point: why are you talking about this? I have a simple answer. Many of the strongest opponents to women's rights are men (also see below)so I, as a man, am taking a stand and hoping that my brothers may do the same. I also feel that there is a need for more men to speak up in support of women, instead of continuing to degrade, shame, and oppress women of all walks of life.

The push against birth control in its current form has been seen as a rebellion against Obamacare with states wanting to limit birth control growing from a concern with religious institutions having to break from their religious rules and moral codes. This push goes beyond mere protection for religious institutions. Bills have been introduced in Idaho, Missouri and Arizona that include secular insurers and businesses as well as religious groups that object to contraception, abortion, and sterilization. What about Viagra? Surely if we are stopping women from getting birth control/contraception we are stopping men from getting Viagra and other ED drugs right? Wrong, which adds another dimension to the problem. Clearly, regulating one's menstrual cycle (one of the uses of birth control) is not seen as important as men getting an erection.

These initiatives are coming from men in the Grand Old Party in several states including those running for the nation's highest office. What exactly is it at hand? There are anti-abortion laws in Kansas, for example. Abortion is one of those things that gets people angry and some people can hardly discuss it civilly, if at all. Women should have the right to abort. No counseling beforehand, no waiting periods, nothing. If a woman wants an abortion she should have a right to get one in a safe environment that is sanitary and does not shame her. Having the option does not mean one will use it. Many people do not marry even though they have the right to (if they're heterosexual) so abortion should be allowed especially since it is legal (Roe. V. Wade). Quick note: there is no such thing as partial birth abortion. It is a term used to attempt to ban all abortions while not speaking of a specific procedure (intact dilation and extraction), which some seek to ban.
Courtesy of Barbara Fister
Heading east we find the regurgitation of tired old lies claiming that abortion causes breast cancer and if that's not enough, birth control causes prostate cancer in male children. There is no proven link between abortion and cancer according to the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. Lying. They are resorting to lies to stop women from getting abortions. Fear mongering. It is disgusting. To add insult to injury we are putting so much in the way to abortions if you can get past the lies. There was a bill being pushed in Alabama that wanted women to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound but now, apparently, Sen Scofield is back peddling because of the protests that have arisen. It is beyond unnecessary and it is invasive. Why is it that we had to get to this point?

This is about more than just abortion and the right to choose. This is also a fight for equality. HB2625, in Arizona, would allow employers to fire women who use birth control. Yes, in the United States. In 2012. Arizona is no stranger to controversy as of late, passing a "papers please" law and banning ethnic studies and now, women using birth control could be fired (if this passes). The same would not happen for men taking Viagra. It is sexist to the core.

If trans-vaginal ultrasounds, firing women for taking medicine, and stopping abortion is not enough, the GOP frontrunners are putting the war against women on the front page. The U.S. has a struggling economy, war overseas, and many domestic problems, but we are talking about something that should have been decided and done with long ago. Please, don't take my word for it. Over at women were able to comment and share their voices, often ignored by the GOP talking heads [emphasis from Lori (the post's author)]:
Trillion said, “There were times that I did go without birth control because I could not afford it…. It wasn’t that the price of them were high, 20 dollars for a month supply through the Planned Parenthood flex plan, it was more so the fact that my job was low paying at the time…20 dollars can be a lot when you are working minimum wage and trying out yourself through school.”
On the flip side, Elle describes the perks of universal access. “I owe SO MUCH to free contraception. I take it for granted far too often, but my adult life would have been radically poorer (socially, sexually, physically, intellectually, financially, everything-ly) without it. What else can I say? It should be a fundamental human right for all of us, not just the privileged Euro-few.”
It disgusts me that we even have to talk about birth control access in 2012,” writes KittehWhiskas. [A sentiment some of my friends and I share]
Letha Colleen Myers writes “Without PP I would have had nothing. (I get teary eyed just thinking about it. No matter how much money I make in my life I always give them some of it.)”
And Caitlin estimates “that in the last calendar year, I’ve spent at least $600 on birth control and birth control-related doctor’s visits. And that’s with one of the most kickass health insurance plans, in a liberal state with easy access to contraception and a Planned Parenthood literally right around the corner. I should not be the exception. Everyone should have access to affordable reproductive healthcare.” Word.
Copyright Carlos M. Camacho
These are the voices that need to be heard. Must be heard. This is why feminism matters. As seen above, women support Planned Parenthood and that does not matter at all to Mitt Romney. He splits no hairs either saying outright "Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that." Just like that. Rick Santorum is "reflecting the views of the church I believe in" in his disapproval of birth control as morally wrong even though 99% of sexually active women have used it at some point. Newt Gingrich is very problematic approving of personhood bills, and sees the President's plan to allow women to get birth control without a copay as an attack on religion. In Texas, the de-funding of Planned Parenthood (PP) led to Texas's losing all funding for medicaid for breaking their contract (caused by the de-funding of PP. Apparently poor women's overall health doesn't matter as long as you're stopping PP. The part that makes it worse is that the discourse is out of touch. According to Julie Davis at Bloomberg:
"Americans overwhelmingly regard the debate over President Barack Obama’s policy on employer-provided contraceptive coverage as a matter of women’s health, not religious freedom, rejecting Republicans’ rationale for opposing the rule. More than three-quarters say the topic shouldn’t even be a part of the U.S. political debate."

Courtesy of Dave Bledsoe
What a perfect time to discuss women's oppression and why feminism matters; it is women's history month as well, which is the kicker. Feminism is a movement organized around the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Equality is more than just saying men and women are equal because that is not and never was enough. It it believing it and living it out on a daily basis. This means honoring everyone's bodies. I am not an expert on feminism and some feminists would say that as a man I have no right discussing it. Jessica Valenti had this to say about it in her book Full Frontal Feminism (a MUST READ):
"As far as I'm concerned, [men] can call themselves whatever they want, so long as they're down to do the feminist work."
I respect the right of women to have a choice in what happens to and with their bodies. Whether this is contraception, abortion, birth control or the right to go out on a date without a fear of rape. We have allowed society to blame, oppress, and take away women's rights for years and it is time that we listen to women. Honor their innate rights as Americans and as humans. As a man, I hope that I can inspire other men to respect women and women's rights. Feminism will challenge how we live as men but that should be a sacrifice that we are all willing to make to have a better future. With more women participating and being respected for it we can forge a better future.

"I am not an angry girl/but it seems like I've got everyone fooled/every time I say something they find hard to hear/they chalk it up to my anger/and never to their own fear
and imagine you're a girl/just trying to finally come clean/knowing full well they'd prefer you/were dirty and smiling" - Ani DiFranco

For more information about birth control, emergency contraception, abortion and feminism see below:

Feministing.Com -Feminist Blog founded by @JessicaValenti 
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Abortion Federation
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Planned Parenthood
Pro-Choice Public Education Project 
Feminist Majority Foundation
National Organization for Women
National Organization for Men Against Sexism
Men Can Stop Rape
Women's Voices. Women Vote. (The Voter Participation Center)

Cross-posted from the Rogue Scholars Society

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