Sunday, March 04, 2012

Barefoot and Pregnant

What do we hope for our progeny
In a time of growing misogyny
When women are seen as the enemy
Who must not be allowed to be free
And the state must control their reactions
Through clergy and conservative factions
So the greater half is reduced
And occasionally seduced
For cheap labor and motherly chores
To be labeled as sluts and whores

Turn off the time machine. Here we are back in the 1950s and going hell bent for leather for 1919. Let us remove all the restrictions on the corporations that got us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and start controlling women instead. It is a trade-off. The purveyors of “small government” suddenly want to bring back the nostalgia of a never-to-return agrarian society where women did chores and had babies and did not vote. In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Now, the Commonwealth of Virginia is actively preventing women from exercising the right to privacy of her own bodies by imposing an invasive and medically unnecessary procedure of enduring a uterine ultrasound examination. Worse, the procedure is mandated by the state and the woman cannot opt out for any reason, religious or otherwise. While the forced procedure is conducted, the woman may or may not view the images produced by the state and for the state. That is her choice. Would you prefer to call it a Nanny state or Fascist state? That is your choice.

Meanwhile the GOP applauds itself for fighting for freedom. They champion freedom: freedom from health care, freedom from the safety net, freedom from fair taxation, freedom from the 4th Amendment. You know, freedom. We can hide those freedoms under the rock of religious freedom if anybody objects. There is still more delicious irony in this attack on women. The same bishops of the Catholic Church that used to talk fervently about each of us forming a good conscience before making big decisions has joined the parade of nannies to “guide” our women based on their collective clerical conscience. These bishops are so perceptive that they know what evil lurks in the hearts of women although they were absolutely blind to the actual sexual abuse that occurred in its ranks pledged to celibacy. You should be amazed. Pope Pius XII, hardly a wild-eyed liberal, approved the use of hormonal treatment for women (Enovid, then) to avoid or eliminate dangerous conditions such as excessive bleeding or ovarian cyst formation in 1958, the year he died from complications related to hiccups. Now the American bishops have eschewed the Pope’s advice and decided that women are too irresponsible to use medical advice to form a good conscience and prevent harm to their own bodies. Incidentally, about 60% of prescriptions for the “pill” are for reasons other than birth control, but the bishops and the GOP are not about to listen to some evil physician or, worse, a woman and, God forbid, a female physician.

Virginia is not alone in condemning/assigning women to be members of the permanent underclass. Other states are rushing to enact anti-contraception laws and some are defining personhood as beginning at the moment of conception or even before a zygote is implanted in the womb. Paragons of high virtue such as Rush Limbaugh with 4 marriages and no children are calling women sluts and prostitutes for using contraceptives regardless of their personal conditions or medical reasons. No, this could not be political, could it? Nobody would viciously insult women and castigate them for exercising what used to be rights. It also appears that Rush and others attacking women have no clue how reproduction works on the biological level. Rush speaks of using ”more and more pills” to have all the sex these women want. Of course, I will give Rush some slack since he has had no children and yet is stuck on Viagra and Oxycontin. Some may say addicted. He may not understand the process at all. One pill per day is not enough for Rush, so he must think that it is not enough for women, either.

Politically, it seems that this urgent and violent obsession with women exercising their rights is a losing proposition that cannot endear women to either the ultraconservative clergy or the ultraconservative party. Think again. If legislatures such as Virginia and other GOP controlled bodies can put rules in place that place the state in charge of each woman’s body, what difference will a woman make in her own decisions. What women think will not matter. They are irrelevant.

As I ponder the potential reasons for this abusive and regressive policy, I arrive at only a couple of reasons. The reasons reverberate in both the GOP and the bishop’s council. The first and most trivial reason is that the Tea Party has assumed control of the Republican Party and that Tea Party tail is wagging the GOP dog. Boehner has shown fear of the Tea Party and has only talked about the economy while everything done in the House of Representatives from HR 1 on has been aimed at promoting a conservative cultural agenda. Conservative bishops who have done nothing to promote the Church or build its membership are pleased that attention is being directed at the “sinfulness” of others rather than their own. What need have we for forming our own consciences when we know that women are using contraception…98% of Catholic women are using it? And Pius XII be damned, we know better than to allow women to make decisions on their health. We even know that more abortions will result from this demand for purity, but what of it, if we achieve our lofty goal of appearing to prevent

Women, including non-Catholics such as Ms. Sandra Fluke, would abuse access to health care for their personal pleasure. And there should be no restrictions to Viagra or vasectomies because that is different and does not affect the true cause of the problem; the women themselves. The second and more substantive reason is that women have begun to strive for equality in everything including equal pay for equal work. Wisconsin has prohibited equal pay for women with Governor Scott Walker proudly leading that charge. This may seem insidious, but think of the effect. By pushing women to a permanent lower economic status, they will become more dependent on men and less likely to gain economic power. They can safely go back to the kitchen and nursery where they belong and two income families will have a lower profile thus returning us all to the glories of the farm. It is politically ingenious and bishops will love it. Everything will finally be back in its proper place. Yes, women may have less money for frivolous things like shoes, but they won’t need them as long as they are pregnant and in the kitchen where they belong. Oh, by the way, America will be more competitive for it with lower wages and no uppity women using their consciences. The American dream can be created by Rush Limbaugh, at least 4 presidential candidates, myriad bishops, the entire business world and nearly everybody except women. It is ironic that Protestants were included in the Church prohibition thus illustrating that by claiming religious freedom, a Catholic University imposed its views on women of a different persuasion. Is that not the basis of the claim by bishops that their religious rights were being curtailed? “It is against our principles as Catholics?” Really? Is not establishment of religion a specific prohibition of the First Amendment? Adult Protestant women students must accept the tenets of Catholicism to receive health care? Obama quickly placed the responsibility on health insurance companies. That not only gave a fig leaf to the Catholic Church, but it complied with the First Amendment. It also permitted women to exercise their consciences. Still the bishops complained. “Separation of Church and State” is denounced by Santorum, but that is what has kept us from fighting a “Christian Taliban” at home.

Conservatives still have to work on repealing the 19th Amendment. Zealots might find ways to nullify it. Fortunately, women represent more than half of all voters. They provided 53% of voters in 2008. It may be that women vote their consciences. That seems to be a refreshing possibility.

George Giacoppe
06 March 2012

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