(sex)uality: the united states’ “war on women”
At the moment in the United States, there are things happening to challenge women’s reproductive rights. It is being referred to as the “War on Women”. States all across America are passing legislation in record numbers to dissuade, delay or stop women from making choices about their own reproductive health. It has become so overwhelmingly prevalent that even their President has taken notice and taken a stance.
So what are we talking about here?
The first act of legislation to catch my personal attention was House Bill 954 from Georgia. It is commonly referred to by Republicans as the ‘foetal pain bill’ whilst others lovingly refer to it as the ‘women as livestock’ bill. The bill acts to tighten the medical exemptions that would allow women to terminate pregnancies after twenty weeks. In the cases in which the pregnancy is deemed ‘medically futile’ (that is, the foetus would not survive) the ‘abortion’ must be done in a way that would bring the foetus out as if it were alive. When State Representative Terry England spoke in favour of the bill, he compared his own personal experiences of delivering dead calves and pigs on his farm to the experience of these women birthing their deceased children. There are no exemptions in cases involving rape or incest. Similar laws exist in Nebraska, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. The bill is supposed to prevent the foetus from feeling pain during abortion, although the neural wiring that sends pain signals does not develop in foetuses until 24 weeks.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has vetoed funding for rape crisis centres as they would be “duplicative”. Arizona is also banning abortions after 20 weeks, and in the process, defined the lifespan as beginning two weeks prior to conception. In Mississippi, not only has Governor Phil Bryat signed a law to effectively shut down the state’s only provider of abortions, but the house passed an amendment to Senate Bill 2771 which would cause processes involved in IVF to be defined as ‘child homicide’.
As of the end of 2011, seven states have prohibited doctors teleconferencing with patients having medical abortions. Five states require the woman to have an ultrasound before having an abortion. Five states specify requirements for counseling prior to abortion. Utah requires parental consent for minors seeking the HPV vaccine. North Carolina and Tennessee have established or expanded foetal homicide laws. South Dakota extended the waiting periods for abortions to 72 hours. This is a list of just a few of the legislative moves made by the states of America in 2011 to restrict female reproductive rights. 2012 has seen even more.
At this point, you may want to ask me: why I should care what happens in the States? Firstly, empathy. Secondly, any government systematically discriminating against and removing the rights of a sub-group of people is violating human rights. I’m a believer in stopping human rights violations. Thirdly, and perhaps the most salient for the women of Australia, if you are not up on point one: our country has a history of taking American ideals and habits, integrating them, and then doing them with even more vigor. If we aren’t watching TV shows from the US, we are listening to their music. America had an obesity epidemic, we overtook them. What is to stop this kind of women’s rights violation, heck, human rights violation from finding it’s way to our shores? You and me!
I have been following the news coming out of the US for a few weeks now. I have barely seen anything in the Australian news about this. I have a few calls to action for you this week guys. If you feel impassioned to protect the rights of women in the States or your own rights, here are some ways you can make an impact.
First, raise awareness. Share this article or any of the ones we’ve linked with anyone you can reach. Let the people of Australia know what is happening to women. Secondly, write a quick email to Tanya Plibersek MP, Federal Minister for Health and explain that the legislation happening in the States should never happen here. Explain that if they try and tell you what you can or can’t do with your own uterus, they will lose your vote.
There will be no tolerance of this kind of bigoted and discriminatory legislation in Australia. Let’s make sure our politicians know this.
(Image credit: 1.)