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(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.)

4 thoughts on “(sex)uality: the united states’ “war on women”

  1. Thank you for writing this article! I knew a little of what was going on in the United States in regards to this, but I was unclear on precisely what all these laws actually meant for women.

    And you’re absolutely right: I’m not sure Australia is so far behind. Yesterday, at my uni, a petition was going around for people to sign in favour of women keeping the choice to have an abortion or not- I am not sure of the specifics, and whether it is something in our government or not, but it definitely made me want to look into things further.

  2. Yes, Australia does have an unfortunate track record for blindly following US trends. Didn’t WA try to get a fetal personhood law through a while ago? (I can’t remember where I heard this or if it’s accurate, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)

    I am critical of the “obesity epidemic” though – possibly you should have a closer look at that from a fat acceptance point of view before using it as an example. Just struck me as a bit off.

  3. I am quite certain that Tanya Plibersek and the Labor Party would never ever legislate to infringe on a woman’s right to choose.

    You may recall that it was Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party who fought vigourously to have RU486 banned in Australia, and Julia Gillard fought hard (and won) against that bill when she was Shadow minister for Health.

    Tanya Plibersek, a member of EMILY’s List, is a known supporter and advocate of a woman’s right to choose. For those who don’t know what EMILY’s List is, it is an organisation who’s sole purpose is to have progressive, pro-choice women elected to parliament. They won’t support any woman in any way, if they do not agree with EMILY’s List policies.

    In short, perhaps you should be contacting the Liberal Party, in particular Tony Abbott, and the Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton.

  4. Hi guys,
    Thanks for your comments. Raelke, I agree, it is definitely an area I would like to learn a whole lot more about.

    Jo, I apologise that my choice of example was out of place. I guess I was thinking in my head of things like super-dooper sized soft drinks (like at cinemas where the smallest post-mixed drinks are like over half a litre) and other poor health related habits that influence health at a broad level. It certainly wasn’t meant as an attack on beautiful curvy individuals.

    And Deahnna, thanks for your comment. I wasn’t accusing the health minister of not being supportive of women’s health. At present, she is the go to politician for health issues and therefore the person to express one’s own support for the reproductive freedom of Australian women. I think the more vocal we are about what is acceptable legislation, the less likely it is that what is happening in America will happen here.

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