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The Right-Wing War on Women

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Women have come a long way since my grandmother's day. Many of us now have successful careers outside the home, and society no longer expects us to rely on a husband for a good income and an identity unless we want to. Many of us are leaders in business, in the arts, and in the community. And we have the right to choose whether or not to be mothers.

Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but it's not for everyone. And it shouldn't have to be.

Apparently, however, there are some folks in Washington and across the country who feel otherwise. Apparently, there are folks out there who would like to return this country to the 1950s, when a proper woman's place was in the kitchen or the bedroom, dutifully beholden to her husband's every whim, and without the right to sovereignty over her own body.

The religious right has made abortion a central topic in the last few elections, even though surveys consistently show that most Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly blocked the over-the-counter sale of the morning-after pill Plan B. They have done so even though over-the-counter availability of Plan B would not only help prevent unintended pregnancies, but would also likely reduce abortions.

Activist pharmacists are refusing to do their job (that is, filling prescriptions per doctors' orders) if the prescription would allow a woman to have some control over the consequences of her sexuality. (At the same time, it seems that no Viagra prescription will go unfilled.)

And now we have an activist judge on the Supreme Court who believes that a woman's uterus is her husband's property.

Yes, you read that right.

In 1991, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Judge Samuel Alito, now our new Supreme Court Justice, supported spousal notification for abortions, even when the woman's life might be at stake. He brushed aside the concern that battered women could face consequences if forced to discuss abortion with a violent spouse. And he ignored the plight of women whose husbands were not available to provide the necessary consent because those husbands had perhaps abandoned the family and moved with their mistresses to other parts of the country. It didn't matter. You had to get his signature or else you had to carry the pregnancy to term. Pay no attention to the consequences to the child. In "Justice" Alito's world, women are chattel.

What are these men afraid of?

Did they all have domineering mothers against whom they're now rebelling by asserting control over women in general?

Is it a testosterone thing? Are they so insecure in their masculinity that they must repress women in order to feel like "real men"?

Is it about the cheerleaders who wouldn't give them the time of day so many years ago?

Or, more likely, is it a straw man solely constructed to incite mindless emotional support from a complacent, under-informed electorate?

In politics, it's all about control. And, with conservative men in the majority in politics, it's easy and convenient to legislate control over women.

If men could get pregnant, abortions would be like Jiffy Lube. But, instead, they pay endless lip service to "family values" while enforcing cowardly discrimination and repression against the female half of the population.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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