pissed off feminist fights back: women and their reproductive rights
Alright, people with tits and morbidly curious males, it’s time to talk reproductive rights in the US and whether or not the phrase ‘war on women’ has any meaning to us here Australians. In the course of this article I will be making excessive use of the word ‘abortion’ and the phrase ‘birth control.’ That’s right. This might get uncomfortable.
The World Health Organisation defines reproductive rights as resting ‘on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.’ Sounds pretty simple, right? It shouldn’t be too hard to legislate in favour of women choosing when, where and how they have kids.
The first step towards recognising women’s reproductive rights is the acknowledgment that women are having sex. Yes. In case you didn’t notice, your friends, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, cousins and nieces might just be sexually active. Or they might not be. The key here is choice. Now that we’ve gotten that one out of the way…
Our choices are dangerously limited in states where reproductive rights are considered subjects for debate by male and female chauvinists. If we consider the issue economically, in the US, contraceptive use saves about $19 billion in direct medical costs each year, seeing as employers and government don’t need to spend all their dosh on pregnancy care, delivery and the kid’s healthcare. That’s massive. That could fund all manner of social welfare projects. But instead that money is being spent on medical care for unplanned pregnancies (about half of all pregnancies), for people whose lives are dramatically changing against their wills and possibly their better judgement, but thankfully with the mandate of the Republican party and church groups. Fantastic.
So where is this debate coming from? What’s the back story? The back story is a little thing nicknamed Obamacare aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The deal is that all employers and educational institutions are expected to include contraception in their health insurance plans. That means, if you happen to work in the US and are covered by health insurance, that your bosses are buying you the pill or whatever it is you choose to use to keep them babies away. Or to help with all manner of issues ‘down there’ such as fertility and other feminine ailments. And that’s apparently an assault upon the ‘freedom of conscience’ of people with particular religious and moral beliefs.
The obvious implication of a loss of female reproductive rights in America relates to travel. Let’s say you shimmy off to the US, and you run out of birth control. But you’re holidaying in one of the many states (say Arizona, Colorado or Idaho) who are limiting the accessibility of these products. What are you going to do? What are you going to do if by some chance of fate you fall pregnant? Possibly whilst studying in the US for a 6-month period? In Kansas, pharmacists who are morally or religiously opposed to abortion and claim that certain medications can cause such an abomination, can refuse to sell you the abortion pill, the morning after pill and birth control pills. Same goes for the other states mentioned above, and many others. And there are 46 states that allow health care providers to refuse to provide abortion services. But it’s cool if you’re in West Virginia. They’re on your side. There, you can pop as much birth control and pay for as many surgical procedures as you like.
And what if this was happening in Australia? Would we do anything? Do we care? Well we should. These are our bodies. These are our bodies and our futures that are being debated in American parliament. The imposition of regulation upon our sexual organs and those of our buddies in the US is nothing short of outrageous. We should be angry. We should be appalled. And worse still, we should be terrified. For when a woman loses her right to choose contraception, to vocalise her qualms about this loss, women lose an intrinsic part of their humanity. We regress as a society back into the “glorious” early half of the 20th century and earlier, where women were not given the right to make their own decisions about their own lives. And that is, in a word, bullshit.
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