Men in state legislatures work overtime to limit reproductive rights
January 15, 2014 12:00 AM
The other day I pulled off my bookshelf a tattered copy of Susan Faludi’s 1991 groundbreaking book, “Backlash.”
The book fell open to this long-ago underlined passage:
“To many men in the antiabortion movement, the speed with which women embraced sexual and reproductive freedom could be frightening. And unlike the rise of the gender voting gap or the increasing number of women at work, this revolution in female behavior had invaded their most intimate domain.
“ ‘Males have almost completely lost control of procreative activity,’ (anti-feminist author George) Gilder wrote; it is ‘now dependent, to a degree unprecedented in history, on the active pleasure of women.’ No wonder, he observed, so many men ‘resist abortion on demand.’
“Men who found these changes distressing couldn’t halt the pace of women’s bedroom liberation directly, but banning abortion might be one way to apply the brakes. If they couldn’t stop growing numbers of women from climbing into the sexual driver’s seat, they could at least make the women’s drive more dangerous — by jamming the reproductive controls.”
It is breathtaking to see just how relevant Ms. Faludi’s writing is 23 years later. She could be describing the legislatures in more than half the states in this country that have severely limited women’s legal right to an abortion in the past three years alone.
The latest heartbreaking story about a sanctioned disregard for women is unfolding in Texas, where 33-year-old Marlise Munoz lies brain dead but unable to die in a hospital in Fort Worth.
Ms. Munoz, the mother of a toddler, was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when she collapsed on her kitchen floor last November from what appears to be a blood clot to her lungs. There is no doubt that she cannot recover, and it is clear that neither she nor her family wants her on life support.
Nevertheless, doctors insist that a Texas law passed in 1989 and amended 10 years later requires them to keep her tethered to life support until her fetus, now at 20 weeks, is delivered.
No one knows for sure how long Ms. Munoz had stopped breathing before her husband found her unconscious on the floor, which could have serious ramifications for her fetus.
“That poor fetus had the same lack of oxygen, the same electric shocks, the same chemicals that got her heart going again,” Ms. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, told The Dallas Morning News. “For all we know, it’s in the same condition that Marlise is in.”
As Amanda Marcotte so eloquently put it for Slate, “if your goal is to legally enshrine the notion that pregnant women are incubators first and humans second, keeping their bodies alive to grow babies long after their minds are gone is a perfect way to do it.”
Stop right there if you’re tempted to tell yourself, “Only in Texas.” The Center for Women Policy Studies reported last year that more than 30 states restrict doctors’ ability to end life support for terminally ill pregnant women.
This is my 12th year as a newspaper columnist. For all of those 12 years, I’ve been writing about a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about her own body. I’m not going to pretend this hasn’t felt increasingly like rolling that boulder up the metaphorical mountain.
In that time, the number of legislative efforts to prevent women from having that control has skyrocketed, including in my home state. Ohio’s perennial tag as a “battleground state” bears particular poignancy for the women who live here.
Republican candidates here ran in 2010 on jobs, jobs, jobs. After sweeping the statewide offices and capturing both houses of the General Assembly, they quickly set their sights on women, proposing more anti-abortion legislation in the first 15 months than in the previous 10 years.
Last July, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, surrounded by men, put his signature on the budget, which included new anti-abortion measures that never even saw a debate. Brave soul that he is, he dodged reporters after he signed it.
As The New York Times’ Erik Eckholm reported last week, state legislatures across the country have used the past three years to chip away at women’s legal access to abortion services. As a result, entire populations of women are in crisis.
Surely, most of these laws will not survive court challenges.
I take heart in that; I really do.
Now, if I could just stop thinking about the thousands of women who don’t have the time to wait.
Connie Schultz is a columnist for Creators Syndicate (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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