(As an opening caveat, we must remember that not all people with uteri are women and not all women have uteri. Therefore, I use the term "women" throughout this commentary to refer to people with uteri with the capacity to conceive and carry to term, including transgender people with the same capabilities.)
As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion and furthering women's reproductive freedoms, we have seen how the political and theocratic right have worked tirelessly to erode these gains by all means possible.
New lately in the mix of twisted proposals includes one offered by a Republican lawmaker in New Mexico who introduced a bill on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown, legally requires victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term. Any rape victim who terminates her pregnancy will be charged with a third-degree felony for "tampering with evidence." "Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime," the bill outlines. In New Mexico, third-degree felonies carry a sentence of up to three years imprisonment.
If passed, the bill makes a child conceived as a result of rape in New Mexico evidence at a court trial. "Your honor, I would now like to introduce this as exhibit C (for "child")," I can imagine the attorney explaining to the judge holding the infant up under the arms for all to see.
So I ask, how can Republicans deny their concerted "War on Women" since the evidence is quite transparent:
In the first six months of 2011 alone, state legislators proposed a record 162 bills. By years end, according to a NARAL Pro-Choice America report, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on eight separate bills to restrict reproductive freedoms. On the state level, 26 states ratified 69 new limits on abortion rights in 2011, and during 2012, state legislatures passed 43 new anti-choice measures. Since 1995, over 750 anti-abortion measures have been enacted across the U.S.
Mississippi residents, through the ballot initiative process, proposed, though voters turned down by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent in November 2011 a "Personhood Amendment" to that state's Constitution, which stated that "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof."
The Republican Party, however, codified a similar proposed amendment, this time to the U.S. Constitution, in its 2012 presidential platform with its "Human Life Amendment" to outlaw abortions without any exemptions: "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 support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."
Last year, Idaho, Alabama, and Pennsylvania, considered, while Virginia passed its ultrasound law forcing all women who choose to have an abortion first to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedures to witness their developing fetuses.
And who can forget the twisted logic of anti-reproductive science Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, who asserted that women who have experienced "legitimate rape" do not get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." And following Akin's foot-in-mouth model, Indiana Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock said that if a woman becomes pregnant after a man rapes her, it was "something that God intended to happen."
Though conservative Republicans scream their mantra of "freedom and liberty through small government," how do these measures enable them to realize their dreamed of freedoms?
What Is Really Going On?
While I do not doubt that many so-called "pro-life" activists truly want to bring more people into the world, and they may act from good intentions, the overall effect results in an attempt to control women's bodies as a way of controlling their minds. This dominant group body/mind controlling impetus is precisely how lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender, and intersex rights directly connect with reproductive rights for all women.
If a patriarchal social and economic system of male domination can keep women pregnant and taking care of children following birth, they can restrict their entry, or at least their level and time of entry, into the workplace, and ensure women's dependence upon men economically and emotionally. If a patriarchal monotheistic religious system can enforce strictly defined gendered hierarchies of male domination by restricting women's reproductive freedoms and decision making, they can maintain power and control over women and young people. When both of these systems converged as they did within the neo-conservative movement, the "War on Women" became inevitable.
With reproductive freedoms, however, come real choices. Women who choose to have and raise children can rest assured that they took charge of the decision-making process. If they wish to or need to enter the workplace, they will determine when or if they would like to give birth as well. Reproductive freedoms help to unlock the imposed gender-role structure of the heterosexual nuclear family, which traditionally has mandated child rearing responsibilities solely upon women while the husbands have had the opportunity to develop careers and social networks outside the home.
Nothing can be more political than attempting to "conserve" the reproductive restrictions imposed on women prior to the 1967 Griswold v. Connecticut U.S. Supreme Court decision, which found it unconstitutional to prohibit birth control devises, and 1973's Roe v. Wade decision to ensure reproductive choices.
Women's reproductive freedoms and reproductive technologies challenge the very notion of compulsory heterosexuality and the foundations upon which the nuclear family rests. Women can choose whether they want to go after the marriage contract, whether and when to have children, and whether to raise children with a man. Basically, women's reproductive freedoms challenge male domination economically, socially, and religiously, and therefore, what can be more political?