July 2011

Value personal sovereignty? Watch it

By Katharhynn Heidelberg

It is easier to exploit fear than to appeal to reason.

If you’ve been reading my past few columns, you’ve probably begun to recognize a pattern. I wish that weren’t so — which is to say, I wish it weren’t necessary for me to keep writing about politicians’ attempts to roll back the clock on women’s rights.

But it is necessary, and though my views on abortion are as nuanced and gray-areaed as anyone’s, the latest rush by politicians to prove their “conservative” bona fides by restricting this legal, medical, private procedure is a threat to women. They are asserting legislative control over women’s bodies, when there is no comparable medical procedure for men with which they may interfere.

If there were, and politicians tried that (as if!), they would be out of office tomorrow, possibly with a good coating of sticky pitch and fluffy down. If you’re female, though, your rights take a back seat to those of a fetus. You are, as Susan Faludi noted in “Backlash,” nothing more than an incubator with legs, and your only value lies in the ability to reproduce.

In the past months, despite all their bluster about “fixing the economy” (while out of the other side of their mouths, saying the market is best left to regulate itself), Regressive conservatives have pushed through a number of anti-choice laws.

Several states have banned abortion after 20 weeks. As an individual, this doesn’t trouble me much, because as an individual, I can’t imagine why anyone other than a rape or incest victim would want to terminate a pregnancy that is five months along for nonmedical reasons. With proper intervention, a 5-month-old fetus is viable outside the womb. This must be why only 1 percent of pregnancies are terminated after five months, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The states are therefore addressing a nonexistent problem — and the creepy part is, it isn’t about “saving lives.” It’s about intimidating women by making abortion as difficult as possible.

Such legislative efforts are mild compared to other moves afoot. The rogues’ gallery:

Louisiana Rep. John LaBruzzo’s proposed bill that would have banned all abortions, even for the victims of rape and incest; even when a woman’s life was jeopardized. This regressive, sexist, chilling bill was killed by the La. Legislature — not because it’s, hello, wrong, but over fears the state could lose billions in Medicaid dollars.

The Hyde Amendment — the very law that prevents federal funding of abortions — requires that rape and incest victims be allowed to have abortions, and allows states to cover abortions in those cases. LaBruzzo’s law made no such provision, and that put the billions on the line.

Not that he’s repenting. “There is nothing in the statute that says, ‘The penalty is that we’re going to pull all of your money,’” he said. “It’s permissive. If the rape and incest exception applies, then you may or may not [fund abortion]. My bill says you may not.”

Does it also say why you hate women so much that you’d compel a rape victim to carry her pregnancy to term? Or why you’d force a 12-year-old girl to bear her perverted uncle’s child? Or why you would sentence a woman to death by compelling her to bring to term a pregnancy that will kill her?

When ideological purity is more important than real people (those viable outside the womb), we have a serious problem. It’s worth noting that, per Roe v. Wade, the question of viability is a medical one, not a political one. The High Court has held that even after viability, abortions to save the mother’s life, or for her health, can’t be banned — and again, that this is a medical, not political question.

But LaBruzzo and his ilk don’t see females as real people once they are ex-utero. They will never put what is fair to women, and in a woman’s best interest, above their pet wedge issues.

Indiana. The state cut funds for Planned Parenthood — an organization wrongly tagged as an abortion mill. In fact, only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities are abortion-related (despite Jon Kyl’s insane exaggeration in April); the rest are reproductive health services for women and men alike, especially for poor women and men.

Indiana now finds itself in a tangle similar to what Louisiana is trying to avoid: billions of Medicaid dollars are on the line. Turns out, ya can’t randomly decide which agencies provide care to those covered by federal/ state programs and still keep the money, reports the Associated Press.

In a rare showing of actual spine, President Obama told Indiana to cut it out, or be cut off. Unfortunately for him, this amounts to extortion — and it won’t work. After all, if the Regressives in Indiana actually gave a fig about po’ folks, they would never have de-funded Planned Parenthood in the first place. Obama’s gambit allows them to add insult to injury by claiming the high ground.

Rick Perry. Remember Regressive Ricky? He’s the fellow who thinks women are so unaware of what an abortion is, that he signed into law a requirement that they obtain a sonogram before having an abortion. Last month found the Texas governor in Los Angeles, pandering to a crowd of Hispanic voters opposed to abortion.

Not that event organizers were cynical enough to say that. “After he found out about this event, he wanted to unite himself to anything we were doing to end abortion,” said actor and attendee Eduardo Verastegui. Mmm. Hmm. Perry’s presidential aspirations have nothing whatever to do with his decision to travel out of state and talk to a sizable voting bloc about a wedge issue.

It may be that Perry is genuinely opposed to abortion on moral grounds. But when he talks about it, it is for political gain, and not to “save babies,” or to “protect women,” and it certainly isn’t out of any respect for life. If it were concerned about that, he would not rail against life-saving embryonic stem-cell research, let alone mischaracterize it as “turning the remains of unborn children into nothing more than raw material.”

Moves toward “life at conception” laws. The problem: These proposed laws don’t even get the definition of conception correct. When egg meets sperm, that is fertilization. But a fertilized egg must be implanted before there is “conception.” Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fertilized eggs fail to implant in the womb, and there is no pregnancy. Will the women to whom this happens be jailed for failing to exert their will over their physiology? How will anyone know it’s happened? Who’s policing every woman who’s having sex?

And could that be coming? I don’t have to stretch my imagination much to see an America in which states that have banned abortion also take steps to prevent women from seeking abortions elsewhere — rights to privacy and freedom of movement be damned! And once prosecuting women for having abortions out of state takes hold, Regressive zealots might see a need to make blessed sure a woman leaving their fair state is either not pregnant, or still pregnant upon her return. Again, rights be damned.

I am woman, my Regressive friends. And. I. Vote.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is a journalist in Montrose, Colo.