Lawmakers seeking to shame women
by Rehka Basu
17 March, 2012
Arizona is now trying to outdo Texas in efforts to shame women seeking to control their fertility. Lawmakers are close to passing a bill to require a woman who files an insurance claim for birth control pills to prove she’s not taking them to prevent pregnancy. Birth control, the Arizona legislators claim, could violate employers’ (any employer, not just a religious one) moral beliefs.
But violating a woman’s dignity and right to make her own health care choices apparently isn’t a problem. Much like a child explaining an unexcused absence from school, she’d have to provide a doctor’s letter. It would need to show an alternate reason — like acne — for taking the pill. This follows Texas’ innately brutal new law requiring abortion-seekers to submit to an invasive sonogram and lecture on the fetus’ development.
In the past year, according to Women’s E-News, states have passed 92 laws that interfere with women’s reproductive health decisions. Bills giving personhood status to a fertilized egg have cropped up all over the country. An Ohio bill would even ban physician assistants from placing or removing IUDs. Collectively, they put fertile, sexually active women in no-win situations. If they try to prevent pregnancy, they’re stymied. If they get pregnant and try to end the pregnancy, they’re stymied. And if they go through the pregnancy and have children, they might encounter the contempt of would-be-President Rick Santorum, who is reported to have said in 1994, “What we have is moms raising children in single-parent households simply breeding more criminals.”
What should women do? The right’s answer was articulated recently by Santorum backer Foster Friess, who recalled women putting aspirin between their knees to avoid getting pregnant. Significantly, he did not propose men do the same, revealing an underlying attitude toward women who have sex that is much like Rush Limbaugh’s: They must be sluts. How long before a bill turns up requiring a woman to get her employer’s, or the government’s, permission to have sex in the first place?
Though plenty of Republicans support birth control and abortion, these initiatives come out of a conservative Republican political agenda. Some fed-up Democratic women legislators are fighting back with tongue-in-cheek bills penalizing male sexuality.
Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner introduced one to require men to get psychological counseling and a doctor’s written warnings to be prescribed Viagra. Illinois Rep. Kelly Cassidy wants to amend a state mandatory ultrasound bill for abortion-seeking women by requiring men seeking Viagra watch graphic videos on its side effects. Virginia Sen. Janet Howell’s bill would require Viagra-seekers to get rectal exams.
In Georgia, Rep. Yasmin Neal introduced a bill banning men from seeking vasectomies, claiming they lead thousands of children to be “deprived of birth” every year. In Oklahoma, Sen. Constance Johnson proposed a “spilled semen” amendment to her state’s “feel personhood” bill — to make “wasting” sperm an act against unborn children. And Wilmington, Del., City Councilwoman Loretta Walsh authored a resolution that declares “each ‘egg person’ and each ‘sperm person’ ” to be equal in the eyes of government.
No one really wants such laws, but the parodies help expose the movement against fertility control for what it is: sexist, humiliating and intrusive. It’s those activists who deserve to be shamed and defeated in their outrageous efforts to undermine constitutional privacy rights.