Each year during Women’s History Month we remember and honor the gutsy women, both known and unknown, who have fought for any privilege women have today. This year I choose to honor a man, the 39th President of the United States, James Earl Carter Jr.
In 2009, upon leaving the church he had been associated with for more than 60 years, the former president released a statement titled “Losing my Religion to Equality.” The decision, he said, was unavoidable after the church leaders prohibited women from being ordained and insisted they be subservient to their husbands. “The truth is that male religious leaders have had—and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have for their own selfish ends overwhelmingly chosen the latter.”
We have abundant proof of that in the present assault on women. Religious zealots have waded into the political fray, claiming that contraception in health insurance plans violates religious freedom and that proposed laws to mandate medically unnecessary and physically invasive ultrasounds are just efforts to provide women with information. Both claims are bogus. There has been no attempt to restrict religious freedom, and mandated ultrasounds are just a means to shame and punish women.
Idaho State Sen. Chuck Winder made it clear that punishing women who have sex is the real motivation for his “double ultrasound” bill. After all, Winder suggested, women can’t be trusted to make a decision like seeking an abortion because they don’t even understand when they’ve been raped. Whoa. If the Senator spent some time in a prison cell with someone known as Big Bull, do you think he would understand what happened to him?
In an article on the ideological debates about abortion, one doctor said: “What I have learned from my patients is that violent, graphic descriptions or philosophical discussions about when a fetus becomes a person don’t sway their decisions. Whether or not they can articulate their moral, cultural, or religious beliefs, they already follow some internal creed that brought them to my doorstep. They come seeking a doctor, a counselor to guide them through a difficult, confusing choice because they have been inundated with political sound bites, folklore, and patriarchy. What they need are facts and a confidential, non-judgmental space to work out their apprehensions about pregnancy and motherhood.”
It seems that using the Puritanism club to shame and punish women isn’t enough. Although more than three women are, on average, murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day, Republican politicians are balking at re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. If you need further proof that we are in the midst of a patriarchal religious war on women, Wisconsin lawmaker Don Pridemore is happy to provide it. He suggests that rather than divorcing an abusive spouse, you should remember the things you love about him. Right. While he is beating you up, think about the good times. Until he kills you.
Many men who claim to want smaller government seem to see no contradiction in promoting government activism on behalf of one particular concept of religious morality. They have a faith-based presumption that they know all that needs to be known about women’s healthcare. Sorry, guys, but if you can’t get pregnant and you are not a medical professional, then you have no credentials at the abortion/birth-control table.
Conservative politicians who choose to continue down this road should remember that they were all brought into this world by women, and can be voted out of office by women.