Friday, January 24, 2014

Why are American women letting their rights slip away?

This is one of those columns where I've been meaning to make this point for a while, but the proper opportunity never came up. Then a PR representative from Planned Parenthood asked if I wanted to talk to Jane Curtin, the TV actress and comedienne. "Umm, sure," I said. "About what?" It was such a busy week, that I promptly forgot that she was calling until the phone rang and it was her — very smart and smooth, and we had an interesting conversation. 

     What’s wrong with women?
     I know I risk being called a sexist. But just look at the situation.
     Consider any random men’s group. For instance, take the ... ah ... National Rifle Association. The NRA has some female members, it says, but it won’t release data; we can assume the NRA is predominantly male.
     How does the NRA stand up for itself?
     Tooth and nail. Fang and claw. Take a bullet that nobody in their right mind needs — a .50-caliber military-grade bullet, for example — and let the ability to own that utterly legal bullet be threatened. Let the government say, “You know, we probably shouldn’t let such high-caliber ordnance be sold to the public ...” and the NRA does what? Scream and cry and rush the ramparts, writing letters, holding protests, puffing that little change into a vast conspiracy to shear them of all rights and dignity and stick them in concentration camps.Who is Villain No. 1 to the NRA? The evil entity rubbing his hands together cackling wildly, hot to yank away the public's guns? That would be Barack Obama. And what has Barack Obama done in the past five years to keep a single bullet away from the gun-obsessed portion of the public? That would be absolutely nothing.
     Now, back to women.
     What's wrong with women? Their rights, not to own as many guns as they can afford but to control their own bodies, won after a century of struggle and effort, are being systematically nibbled away all across America by Republican state legislators keen to drag the country back to the bucolic, male-dominated Eden of their imaginings. They've conjured this notional harm — to unborn fetuses, whom nature sloughs away by the millions every day undecried — and use it as a spear point to push into the heart of women's rights to control their daily lives.
     Wait, there's more. The Republican Party — one of the two big parties in our country, if you aren't paying attention — has made rolling back abortion rights the cornerstone of its 2014 midterm campaign.
     Where's the howl? The "Occupy" movement did a far better job of standing up against, well, whatever was bothering them.
     In their defense, women are busy living their lives, working, raising families or both. Some fuss in Texas just doesn't send them to the ramparts in Chicago. Mostly, that is.
     "Texas is far away, and everybody knows Texas is nuts," said Jane Curtin, of "Saturday Night Live" fame, plus other hit TV shows. Curtin called me to help Planned Parenthood — which would be the NRA of women's rights if it had an army of foaming fanatics, but it doesn't, depending on us rational people, always in short supply — promote its honor Thursday of Sen. Dick Durbin who, despite being a man, acts if women are adults who can make life decisions.
     Scary times, eh Jane?
     "I think it's pretty scary," she said. "When have rights ever been taken away?"
     Umm, I thought, lots of times and places. Women in Muslim countries who could go about freely in decades past but now find themselves cowering in purdah. But manners held my tongue, a big factor here: Who wants to go to bat for a procedure like abortion? Which is exactly why fanatics use it as a hammer to beat down women.
     "They're chipping away, as much as they can, in bits and pieces, this surge of laws on the books and rights being stripped," Curtin said. "If people would understand what was going on. ... All of this work they did, and [achieved] Roe v. Wade. The thought of taking it away I find pretty frightening. It's becoming virtually impossible for women to have control over their reproductive health. It's a scary time."
     Yes it is. And I don't understand why more women aren't terrified. If a distant state, crazy Texas for instance, passed a law that said you couldn't join a synagogue until a minister told you a few Bible stories, I'd be panicked. If in Florida a new law required photos of slaughtered cows to be displayed over the Kosher food section in supermarkets, since cows feel pain, that would be a fire bell in the night. And I'm not religious.
    Last year 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions. The Supreme Court is weighing the right of zealots to abuse women entering clinics. My gut tells me that as these intrusions grow, the sleeping might of female citizenry in this country will stir and manifest itself by pushing back. But they're sure taking their sweet time. "It's a woman's prerogative to be late," I tell my wife, when she tarries getting ready to go out for the evening. "But don't push it." Don't wait too long on this. The curtain is already up and the performance of that classic, "Let's Force Women Back in Time," is well underway.


  1. I don't know who runs Planned Parenthood, but I do know that NARAL [National Abortion Rights League] & NOW [National Organization for Women] were pretty much taken over by lesbians some years ago
    Now, I have nothing against lesbians, because I really don't care who loves who or who sleeps with who. I'm in favor of gay marriage.
    But that sure did turn off a huge number of women, especially those from more conservative areas.
    But far worse, it led to the anti-abortion groups & their allies in right wing politics to attack them & like the majority of women, those groups didn't really fight back.
    There aren't any feminist terms [to use a word that's becoming verboten] in this country, that are the equivalent of "Feminazi" or similar insults thrown around by Limbaugh & his ilk that describe him is a really mean & vicious way that denigrates him, other than calling him fat. He's not even that fat anymore.

  2. Two comments: first, there are good arguments for abortion rights, but "the right to control your own body" isn't one of them. The government has a Constitutional right to control your body in all sorts of ways as long as there is a reasonable explanation for it. They can draft you into the army and make you march through Saddam Hussein's hometown carrying an American flag if they want. Most abortion rights supporters have never even read Roe v. Wade, which many feel is more about doctor's rights then women's rights.

    As to the NRA difference - two other explanations. 1) Money - the NRA used to be more moderate but now is controlled by Big Gun - polls show its membership is more moderate and open to reasonable gun regulations. So it might not be about the membership at all.

    Second, some of the gun regulations are absolute: you *can't* get such and such gun, carry it concealed, etc. I think there's a, for lack of a better term, "classist" feeling that these regs just make it inconvenient to get an abortion, but if a women wants to they can travel to a more lenient state, get that RU pill, etc. As long as they or their daughters are going to be ok, they aren't too bothered. It's the same way with the drug war - as long as white middle class kids aren't going to go to jail for smoking pot, they can do what they want to those inner-city thugs.

    1. I guess that's three comments...

  3. We need to support both abortion rights and gun rights. Both are vital freedoms. Repeal all gun laws and all abortion laws now.


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