Nel's New Day

March 17, 2012

Make Sperm Equal to Women

When I was growing up, men had more rights than women. Many of us didn’t even pay attention. After all, we were allowed to vote. What more could we want?

Because of the second wave of feminism,  girls were allowed to take the same classes in high school as boys, sports teams became more equal, and women were even allowed on juries by the end of the 1970s. Many of us weren’t even aware that we weren’t judged by a jury of our peers until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1975.

By the end of the 20th century, the third wave of feminists made us believe that we were headed toward equality even if our salaries still lagged behind those for men. After almost a century of progress, however, women have a new competitor for equality: sperm.

The GOP is now convinced that sperm rules. It appears that the sperm has the inalienable and God-given right over that of women. Catholic bishops successfully fought our right to birth control until 1965, and now they are working to remove this right as well as women’s right to make a choice regarding abortion.

Seven years after the religious leaders lost the ability to control women’s access to birth control, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government could not prohibit women from stopping the reproductive process after the egg’s fertilization. The court’s decision matched early Catholic policies.

Based on Aristotle’s three embryonic stages, St. Augustine determined the abortion in the first trimester should not be regarded “as homicide, for there cannot be a living soul in a body that lacks sensation due to its not yet being formed.” Pope Innocent II concurred at the beginning of the 13th century when he declared that abortion was not homicide until “quickening,” the feeling of the fetus movement, a time made specific over three centuries later by Pope Gregory XIV after 116 days. This rule wasn’t changed until 1869.

Almost 90 percent of all abortions are done within the 116-day window with 60 percent in the first eight weeks. Ones that occur later are almost always because of state-enacted delaying laws or serious medical issues.

While Republicans are working hard to erase our reproductive rights, they neglect the children.  States with the most punitive laws for abortions spend the least on education, facilitating adoption, and nurturing poor children. Those same states have fewer insurance mandates to cover hospital stays after childbirth. With its sonogram mandate for abortion, Texas cut its family planning budget by almost 70 percent, eliminating services for nearly 284,000 women. The sperm rules.

Women across the country are campaigning to gain equality with sperm. With almost a dozen states requiring transvaginal ultrasounds before abortion and more states leaping on the bandwagon, some women have gone to Facebook pages to protest–those of Republicans who are convinced that they know more about women’s health than women and doctors do, Republicans who believe that limited government and reduction of regulations stop at women’s bodies.

One Republican suffering from women’s ire is Virginia’s state senator and Republican caucus chairman Ryan McDougle. Despite his frantically deleting messages on his Facebook page, he hasn’t kept up. And even when he erases them, someone has already copied them. These messages are all over the Internet. Kansas governor Sam Brownback is getting the same treatment. The following is one of the more benign entries that appeared on the McDougle’s Facebook page:

“Hi senator. I seem to be irregular and my cramping is pretty bad- so bad that I can’t sleep at night or get anything done. Imagine being repeatedly kicked in the crotch for hours, but move the pain up to the whole lower abdomen, because that’s the only way I can describe it to someone who doesn’t have a uterus that can cramp so badly that it restricts blood flow to surrounding tissues. I thought you would be concerned.”

Another way women are fighting for equality with  sperm is to keep it from entering women’s bodies. Liberal Ladies Who Lunch, a women’s right group, is asking for a sex strike in April to oppose conservative infringements on our bodies. According to the group’s call to action, this protest doesn’t rely on picket signs and chants to get across their message. “Younger men and women may not remember the ‘good old days’ when the only reproductive choice we had was to deny men access to sex. In truth, if we lose our hard won rights to medical care, birth control and pregnancy choice, it won’t only affect women. Men will have to go back to the days when they waited for or paid for sex,” explains the group.

In Virginia, former lawmakers have formed the Women’s Strike Force, a political action committee with the goal of defeating state lawmakers who pushed for legislation to prohibit or restrict a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. “The steps that have been taken by lawmakers in Virginia and states across the country to deprive women of their reproductive rights are a slap in the face to every American wife, mother, sister, and daughter in our country,” former Del. Robin Abbott, the group’s co-chair, said. Former Del. Leslie Byrne said, “As a former member of the General Assembly and Virginia’s first woman in Congress, I fought for women’s rights in the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. We must move the Commonwealth and the nation forward, not backslide to denying women rights.”

A week ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the following statements at the Women in the World Summit:

“In America, in Tunisia, anywhere in the world, women should have the right to make their own choices about what they wear, how they worship, the jobs they do, the causes they support. These are choices women have to make for themselves, and they are a fundamental test of democracy.

“Now, we know that young woman in Tunisia and her peers across the region already are facing extremists who will try to strip their rights, curb their participation, limit their ability to make choices for themselves. Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world. And it seems clear to me that to do that, we have to live our own values and we have to defend our own values. We need to respect each other, empower all our citizens, and find common ground.”

That is what women in the United States are now doing—defending our values. Let’s declare equality to sperm.


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