A few weeks ago, Susan G. Komen for the Cure defunded Planned Parenthood. Komen is a leading charity for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Planned Parenthood health centers used funds provided by Komen to make breast exams and preventative health education available to scores of women nationwide, thereby playing an important role in this nation’s fight against breast cancer by providing all women, regardless of age, race, or income, with access to early detection.
While Komen asserted that it defunded Planned Parenthood because of newly established criteria that barred grants to organizations under investigation, many believed the decision was politically motivated. The reason Planned Parenthood was under investigation was because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman. Susan G. Komen’s new Vice President for Public Policy, Karen Handel, had also specifically called for an end to government funding of Planned Parenthood when she ran for governor of the state of Georgia as a Republican in 2010. Despite denials that Handel pushed the newly approved controversial criteria, insiders soon stepped forward claiming that Handel had indeed pushed for the new Komen measures, while also admitting that it was a ruse to defund Planned Parenthood. Susan G. Komen for the Cure eventually apologized, and Karen Handel quit. Still, the fallout from Komen’s significant misstep remains to be seen.
The Susan G. Komen vs. Planned Parenthood catastrophe is just the latest assault in an apparent war against women’s rights that is being waged by the Tea Party movement and the new conservative Right wing of the Republican Party. Four states defunded Planned Parenthood last year. According to The Guardian, in 2011, states like Alabama and Mississippi charged dozens of women with murder because they suffered from stillbirths or miscarriages. The state of Georgia even considered a bill that would require women to prove that naturally occurring miscarriages weren’t secret abortions. Texas now requires women seeking abortions to endure mandatory sonograms and an extended waiting period. Some state lawmakers are attempting to outlaw birth control pills and other contraceptives. Recently, Republicans in Virginia’s legislature introduced a bill that would require women having abortions (even noninvasive, pharmaceutical ones) to have an ultrasound probe inserted into their vaginas, without their consent. This is nothing short of governmentally-mandated rape.
The latest Neanderthal to weigh in on contraceptives was Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum’s Chief super PAC backer, Foster Friess. In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, Mr. Friess joked that women should use aspirin as contraception - by holding it between their knees. Perhaps Mr. Friess’ sophomoric statement should come as no surprise given that the candidate he supports, Rick Santorum, has also made statements against contraception. In 2006, he said that contraception “hurts women.” Mr. Santorum has also said that women shouldn’t be in combat because men become “too emotional” at the sight of an injured woman.
On February 16th, there were hearings regarding a mandate that health insurers (religiously affiliated or not) cover contraception for female employees. It was overseen by a Republican committee chairman and featured an all-male panel. Democrats were not allowed to add a witness, a female affiliated with the Catholic Church, who lost an ovary due to ovarian cysts that could have been treated by using birth control. The Catholic Church forbids the use of birth control.
Everyone should be alarmed at the Right’s attack on women’s reproductive rights. It doesn’t matter what your views are on abortion. Yes, a women’s right to choose is granted under the U.S. Constitution; but even if one is pro-life, one must see the value of a woman retaining rights to her own reproductive organs. Think of your daughters. We’re headed down a dangerous road. If we don’t stand up for women’s rights now, we will revert to an era where women were viewed as property. Say nothing, and women could be arrested and jailed for losing a pregnancy through no fault of their own. Sit on your hands, and young girls could be forced to carry pregnancies to term when they were the victims of incest or rape. Put your head down, and all females could find themselves forced into a life of celibacy, or under pressure to stay in abusive relationships, when birth control and other methods of contraception are made illegal.
If one is pro-life, wouldn’t it be preferable to prevent pregnancy via contraception rather than force women to have unwanted pregnancies, and then face the prospect of abortion, either legally or illegally?
Hey, Republican party! This is a warning. American women have heard the knuckle-draggers of your party express their backward, chauvinistic opinions about women’s rights, and we won’t stand for an agenda that infers that our only purpose is to be perpetually barefoot and pregnant! We are human beings, not furniture, or sex slaves to use at a male’s disposal. Do not talk over us. We women are at the table- and I’m not referring to defeated Tea Party pawns Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann either. We’ll use our vote to protect our reproductive rights, too, and remember, there are more of us than there are of you!
Sisters: let no person, or government, forcibly enter your womb against your will. Rape is rape, even if it’s being performed with an ultrasound probe, or a statute.
Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, speaker,former science professor and tribal attorney. She is a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and LastRealIndians.com. Ruth may be reached via Twitter, Facebook, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.