It’s quite likely that the last several hundred years of human development would have turned out differently if men had appreciated from the beginning that women are able and intelligent creatures — not only able to stand alongside male leadership but in many ways to surpass it. Does this sound like a feminist screed? I hope so!
Impossibly, in the year 2015, the basic right of a woman to choose what happens to her body is still under fire in the United States. Let’s take a look at why this is, and what we can do about it.
Congress and Women’s Rights: A Recent History
It’s not much of a secret that our modern Congress, currently under the feckless stewardship of the GOP, is diametrically opposed to women’s reproductive rights. And that would be bad enough if “being opinionated” was as far as it went. Unfortunately, the modern, usually Republican, statesman has wrapped this dangerously narrow worldview in the tattered banner of “religious freedom” — and it’s with this lazy trump card they’ve been hacking away at the very foundation of the women’s rights movement.
For example: Back in 2012, Congress decided to slap together an all-male task force to discuss birth control through the lens of religious freedom. When a woman attempted to testify before this task force, she was barred from doing so. But in the height of irony, MSNBC played host the very next day to another all-male cast whose job it was to call out the task force for being so sexist. You’d probably be right to suspect that the irony was entirely lost on these men.
But that was 2012. Where do we stand today?
Men! Stand With Women’s Programs
The time has come for men everywhere to signal their support for women’s reproductive rights.
Get involved and learn about some of the causes that you can lend your voice to. Vote for the right public servants and write impassioned letters to the ones we’ve already got. Voice your support for programs like Planned Parenthood — the nation’s largest and most accessible women’s health resource — and educate those around you about the services programs like this provide.
With its more than 700 health centers all across the country, Planned Parenthood provides counseling and family planning services, breast exams, STD screening, PAP smears, educational programs and more.
However, when Congress dragged Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards before yet another male-led panel, the men focused with hawk-like attention on abortion procedures, which, although they ignored this essential fact, account for just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. The whole thing looked unsettlingly like a witch-hunt, straight out of Salem, a spectacle best left forgotten except as a reminder of how frequently history repeats itself.
This organization has faced not one but several Congressional votes over the last few months to cut off federal funding. Inquisitors seem to have forgotten that 528.4 million in federal grants account for just 40 percent of PP’s operational budget — and none of that money is put toward abortion procedures, per federal law.
Unless you’re a religious zealot or a Republican, you’re likely to agree that programs like this can only support women’s reproductive rights. Tell our government to quit messing with it.
We Need Comprehensive Sex Education
Having sex does not constitute consent to parenthood, which in turn means “abstinence only” is not a solution to this problem. If preventing unwanted pregnancies is the endgame here, then properly educating children about sex, instead of sweeping it under the rug, is the first line of defense.
Support the Birth Control Mandate
The right of a woman to access birth control is under fire in this country. The Affordable Care Act, and common sense, holds that the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy is to require health insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control. It’s not a difficult concept, and one that we all should feel comfortable supporting — Republican, Democrat, Christian and atheist.
Pro-Choice Is Just the Beginning
The phrase “pro-choice” is an important one, because it rightly anchors this debate in the concept “bodily autonomy.” Because a human child relies upon a woman’s body to develop, the mother and only the mother has the right to choose what course her pregnancy should take.
This last point is probably the most important, since abortion itself is tragically misunderstood in this country. The latest data suggests that the rate of teen pregnancy and the frequency with which abortions are carried out in this country are both dramatically lower than they’ve been at any point since the early ‘90s — a fact that holds true across the ethnic spectrum. If someone has told you we’re in the midst of a moral crisis, they were lying.
Here’s what very few Americans seem to understand about abortion: It is nobody’s first line of defense. Nobody is out there having abortions because they’re easy, convenient or because it’s “sexually liberating.” And here’s another piece of truth: you cannot outlaw abortion and every single other preventative measure and expect women or anyone else to be okay with it.
It’s true that abortion constitutes the extinction of a potential human life. This is a fact ignored by no one. But it seems that only one side of the debate is willing to accept this procedure as an increasingly rare, and necessary, last defense — a “necessary evil,” if you like. But since it’s become the lightning rod for hostility against women, we all need to get a little bit more civilized about it.
If Men Were Giving Birth to Babies…
Bernie Sanders put it aptly when he said: “If men were giving birth to babies, there would not be a lot of discussion regarding the right to choose.” That’s almost certainly true.
It’s also true that a perfectly civilized and egalitarian society is only possible if every child born into it is wanted and planned-for by both parents. Each of us has a moral obligation to move this country closer toward that ideal, and currently, politics is the only engine with which we can drive that change. Get involved!
As a final note, it’s worth pointing out that the opposition’s endgame is not to outlaw abortion or contraceptives. Rather, it seems like nothing less than an assault on sexual liberation.
It’s fair to suspect most of America is tired of feeling ashamed of our sexual impulses, provided they bring no harm to our neighbors. It’s time we recognized human sexuality and the responsibilities that come with it as a gift. Once we do that, we’ll watch in awe as civilization is transformed before our eyes.
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