March is Women’s History Month, but what year exactly? 1950? 1850? And on International Women’s Day, March 8, how exactly does the United States fare vs. the rest of the world? Some 28 nations have now had a woman as their head of state – the best we have summoned is vice president, speaker of the House, 12 women governors serving at the same time, four U.S. Supreme Court justices, and a smattering of women CEOs of major corporations.
Progress? Some might say so, but it’s precisely because of the progress women have made since 1972 – the Roe v. Wade decision and gender discrimination legislation that followed – that there is such an aggressive, punitive, violent backlash to strip away the very rights that made progress possible.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at her 1993 Senate confirmation hearing, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. … When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
We’re fighting that battle all over again.
And the war on women has turned into a hot war as a federal appeals court struck down a 30-year-old law that barred people under domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns – putting all Red Flag laws at risk.
This defies the epidemic of gun violence against women and children (gun violence now is the leading cause of death among children). In fact, when an abusive partner has access to a gun, a domestic violence victim is five times more likely to be killed. Over half of the killings of American women are related to intimate partner violence. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
There is truth to the statement that in the United States a gun has more rights than a woman. So do rapists and abusers.
The decision also puts truth to the lie that the anti-abortion crusade is “pro-life” – indeed, maternal mortality is expected to increase by 24 percent from the United States’ already woefully high levels for a “modern” industrialized country because of the abortion bans triggered by the radical ideologues on the Supreme Court.
South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh wasn’t given the death penalty for shooting to death his wife and son, but some states are making abortion a capital crime and even indicting women who miscarry for homicide. Florida and Texas are proposing to track women’s cell phones to keep them from traveling out of state to seek reproductive care; young athletes must report their menstrual cycle. In Texas, each member of the rapist’s family can sue a woman and her doctors for terminating a pregnancy for statutory damages not less than $20,000; vigilantes are incentivized to individually sue anyone who assists a woman terminate a pregnancy.
One in five pregnancies result in miscarriage and those women need the same procedure to save their lives that technically is “abortion.” But now, even women suffering an ectopic pregnancy, bleeding profusely, or carrying a fetus that is not viable or has actually died, are forced to be at death’s door before they can receive care. And then their doctors would have to wage an “affirmative defense” – proving they were justified to render medical care – to avoid prosecution that could cost them their professional license, monetary damages, and prison.
“Our rights are eroding at an alarming and grotesque speed – the forced birth movement landed with a vengeance,” declared Joy Ann Reid on MSNBC. “Draconian laws are designed to punish rape and incest survivors – cruelty so profound that women and girls will suffer untold harm.”
Beyond the substantial and scary risks to health and life are how the new laws tether a woman to her rapist, her abuser, financially, emotionally, legally – perpetuating the cruelty and control over her.
The Biden administration has attempted to offer some off-ramps in the face of 24 states passing abortion bans taking away reproductive rights from 30 million women. Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum to safeguard access to reproductive care, including easing access to medication abortion, help ensure women can receive emergency medical care, protect patients’ privacy and access to accurate information about their reproductive rights, and combat discrimination in the health care system.
A key element of the Biden administration’s effort was to approve major retail pharmacies such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS to dispense medication to protect abortion access and reduce maternal mortality. Medication – not surgery – was already the method used in 54 percent of all abortions prior to the Dobbs decision overturning a woman’s reproductive rights.
Now you have an anti-abortion group bringing suit against the FDA for having authorized the use of mifepristone, despite the fact the drug has been used safely (sends fewer people to the ER than Tylenol or Viagra) for 20 years and administered to 5 million women. If the radical rightwing Texas judge rules to rescind the FDA’s approval, mifepristone would not just be banned nationwide – 40 million women would be under that thumb.
And Republican attorneys general already have issued letters to the major pharmacies threatening legal action if they dispense the abortion medication. Walgreens has already caved- essentially spitting on Biden’s executive order.
But how on earth does this group even have standing? How can they show they were harmed vs. the 40 million women whose lives would be upended by losing bodily autonomy and control over their own health, their future and their family? And how come Big Pharma hasn’t reacted to this brazen attack on its industry? Could you imagine if Viagra were challenged? Each and every one of these retailers that refuses to provide abortion medication should be boycotted.
It is important to recognize who is on the side of women and who isn’t.
President Biden called on Congress to pass a federal law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade so all women in every state have the right to choose.