Right to Life: 3 Dead, 9 Injured

A crazed intruder bearing a firearm enters a professional medical establishment one early Friday morning. While his purpose remains undeclared, he proceeds by terrorizing employees, frightening innocent bystanders, and killing as many patrons as possible. He storms the clinic’s entrance with a barrel gun in hand, opening fire on the establishment, its patients, and the police officers attempting to deter him. He launches bullets at any spectator or law enforcement officer standing in his way. The neighboring mini-mall bustling with Christmas shoppers is placed on lockdown after a man caught in the crossfire enters a grocery store to inform the shopkeepers of what is happening. The gunman is taken into custody after injuring nine individuals and killing three in a shootout that lasts approximately six hours. It isn’t often that you hear of attacking a life-saving medical clinic as being a primary goal of a maniacal extremist — that is, unless the establishment under attack is a Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States.[1]

President Obama reminded the American people following the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs on Black Friday that “enough is enough.”[2] The president was referring exclusively to the lack of effective gun control in America, and while he is correct in his exhausted claims, the same frustrated sentiment can also be applied to the attack on women’s rights in the U.S.

The gunman, identified by police as Robert Dear, reportedly cited “no more baby parts” as the explanation for his crime as he was being taken into custody.[3] There is quite an obvious connection between the fatal Planned Parenthood shooting and the anti-abortion movement. The Rocky Mountain regional offices of Planned Parenthood referenced the current political climate in a statement shortly after the shooting, in which they denounced political extremists within the U.S. for creating a “poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism.”[4] Senator Bernie Sanders unabashedly responded to the attack by stating, “I strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work it is doing, and I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences.”[5] None of the Republican candidates have released statements.[6] As the political right continues to stray further and further away from temperance, the use of misogyny in political maneuvering has only intensified. Until we as a society fight to eliminate the stigma against reproductive health care, inflammatory rhetoric opposing women’s rights will continue to incite potentially fatal consequences.

Although both men and women benefit from the many life-saving services Planned Parenthood (PP) clinics provide, the political and (as of late) violent crusade against PP illustrates the depths of the “War on Women.” Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have been under attack since early July, when a conservative lobbying organization released edited videos implying that the organization’s employees had been selling fetuses obtained during abortion procedures. Despite the fact these videos have been proven to be edited, many state and federal legislators have used them as an opportunity to demonize Roe v. Wade in an attempt to peddle their bona fide misogynist rhetoric.[7] The majority of those voicing discontent hail from the same party that condemns “big government” while telling women who their health care provider should be.[8]

During the second Republican presidential debate, in which 15 candidates participated (only one of whom is a woman), the very issue of a woman’s right to choose remained hotly contested.[9] Seeming flexible to extenuating circumstances was viewed as a weakness; consequently, empathy toward the psychological whiplash of unwanted pregnancies was nonexistent. Presidential hopeful Ben Carson, while answering a  question about abortion in the event of rape or incest, stated, “All you have to do is go and look up the many stories of people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or incest.”[10] Carson, of course, wouldn’t feel the burden of carrying a rapist’s child for nine months, or fear the baby being carried would be born with birth defects given the risks of incestually conceived offspring. Men are, of course, entitled to an opinion about abortion, as individuals maintain opinions on social issues that do not directly affect them every day. However, it is insensitive and ignorant to think we are all capable of being affected by all issues equally. If you’re biologically hindered from becoming pregnant, then using language to insinuate a shared understanding is belittling. “All you have to do” — as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

On the state level, certain politicians are arguably working harder to restrict women’s right to choose. The number of states that have imposed restrictive abortion measures has spiked exponentially since 2011.[11] Texas is one of the states at the forefront of the anti-abortion movement. In early November the state issued subpoenas to all Planned Parenthood staffers (and their families) in a newly formed legislative witch-hunt against the organization. The Texas State government, fixated on delegitimizing the pro-choice movement, is comprised of 142 men and 36 women.[12] Since 2011, Texas has forced 23 of the state’s 41 reproductive health care clinics to shut down, while barring abortion from Medicaid coverage.[13] And Texas isn’t alone.[14]

Less than 10% of the cases Planned Parenthood takes involve abortion, and forcing the clinics to shut down would leave hundreds of thousands of individuals without a primary health care provider.[15] While there have been many attempts to inform the public of these truths, these statistics aren’t news to those fueling the witch-hunt. This is information that has been presented time and time again. Despite this reality, 1.5 reproductive health clinics on average are closing each week.[16] Contraception under employee health plans continues to be challenged by the GOP, despite the fact that contraception and sexual education statistically lead to a decline in the number of women who need abortions.[17] Under Roe v. Wade, states may intervene in abortion-related issues in the second and third trimesters given a state interest is being threatened.[18] How is it that states are identifying viable state interests only now, 42 years after the ruling? The country hasn’t become more religious since 1973, nor have women become less capable of making their own healthcare decisions. What has intensified is the GOP’s use of incendiary language, which, as Senator Sanders noted, can have unintended consequences. Richard Murdock (R-IN), for example, unabashedly claims to feel as though a woman’s pregnancy as a result of rape is simply “something God intended” — as if using 18th century jargon might secure his victory in the next election.[19]

These positions and the accompanying restrictive rhetoric prove that the War on Women is much more than a political jab. Republicans have attempted to silence any opposition by using condescension to imply that accusations of gender discrimination are simply political ploys. Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee criticized Democrats for supporting the funding of oral contraception by implying that it sends a message to women that “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”[20] While these statements are not only frightful and provocative, they are used to imply that women are the only factor in the reproductive equation. Rape cannot be performed without a rapist, and unintended pregnancies would not exist without the insemination of a man.

From the maniacal extremists opening fire on women’s clinics to the legislators set on limiting women’s reproductive rights, what we are witnessing falls under the umbrella of the War on Women, and women thus far have not been victorious. It’s easy for legislators to monitor a social movement — without being directly affected by its outcomes — and form a disjointed opinion. It’s much easier for them to tell us women what to do with our bodies if they don’t have to abide by the same rules. However, if anything, these disheartening truths prove that we cannot settle for the status quo, we cannot support misogynistic rhetoric. Rather than regressing as a society, we must continue progressing towards political and social equality. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously proclaimed, “It is essential to a woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker, that her choice be controlling.”[21] Women can no longer be the subjugates of men, and our laws and our democracy must mirror that. Women everywhere deserve equality, but at the very least the U.S. has the sovereign power to ensure that American women are no longer treated as if they don’t.  

 

References:

[1] Turkewitz, Julie. 2015. ‘During Planned Parenthood Shooting, Fear And Chaos At Shopping Center’. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/us/colorado-springs-planned-parenthood-shooting.html. 

[2] Martin, Jonathan. 2015. ‘Obama Says ‘Enough Is Enough’ After Colorado Shooting’. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/us/colorado-springs-planned-parenthood-obama-responds-to-gun-violence.html.

[3] Wesley Lowery, Danielle Paquette, and Jerry Markon. “‘No More Baby Parts,’ Suspect in Attack at Colo. Planned Parenthood Clinic Told Official.” The Washington Post. November 28, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/no-more-baby-parts-suspect-in-attack-at-colo-planned-parenthood-clinic-told-official/2015/11/28/e842b2cc-961e-11e5-8aa0-5d0946560a97_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_planned-parenthood-315pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory.

[4] Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain,. 2015. Statement Regarding Situation In Colorado Springs. Image. https://twitter.com/PPRockyMountain/status/670371154545082368.

[5] Sanders, Bernie. 2015. Sanders Statement On Colorado Planned Parenthood Shooting. http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-statement-on-colorado_planned-parenthood-shooting.

[6] Atkin, Emily. 2015. ‘None Of The 14 GOP Presidential Candidates Have Responded To The Planned Parenthood Shooting’. Think Progresshttp://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/11/28/3726108/presidential-candidates-colorado-shooting/.

[7] Griffin, Drew, and David Fitzpatrick. 2015. ‘The Real Story Behind Those Planned Parenthood Videos – Cnnpolitics.Com’. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/19/politics/planned-parenthood-videos/.

[8] ‘2015 Republican Debate: GOP Candidates On Planned Parenthood And Abortion’. 2015. TV programme. 4: CBS.

[9] Stein, Sam. 2015. ‘Ben Carson Once Again Compares Something To Slavery, This Time Abortion’. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ben-carson-slavery-abortion_562cd4c6e4b0443bb564356b.

[10] Guttmacher Institute. 2015. State Policies In Brief. An Overview Of Abortion Laws. Washington: Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_OAL.pdf.

[11] Ura, Alexa, and Jolie McCullough. 2015. ‘Meet Your 84th Texas Legislature: White. Male. Middle-Aged. Christian., By Alexa Ura And Jolie Mccullough’. The Texas Tribune. http://www.texastribune.org/2015/01/14/demographics-2015-texas-legislature/.

[12] Ibid.

[13] New York Times,. 2015. ‘Fewer Abortion Clinics In Texas’. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/04/us/shrinking-number-of-abortion-clinics-in-texas.html.

[14] Deprez, Esme. 2015. ‘The Vanishing U.S. Abortion Clinic’. Bloomberg. http://www.bloombergview.com/quicktake/abortion-and-the-decline-of-clinics.

[15] Kurtzleben, Danielle. 2015. ‘Fact Check: How Does Planned Parenthood Spend That Government Money?’. NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/05/429641062/fact-check-how-does-planned-parenthood-spend-that-government-money.

[16] Redden, Molly. 2015. ‘The War On Women Is Over—And Women Lost’. Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/planned-parenthood-abortion-the-war-is-over.

[17] Specter, Michael. 2015. ‘Planned Parenthood Means Fewer Abortions’. New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/planned-parenthood-means-fewer-abortions.

[18] Blackmun, Justice. 1973. Roe V Wade. Washington: Supreme Court of the United States.

[19] McAuliff, Michael. 2012. ‘Richard Mourdock On Abortion: Pregnancy From Rape Is ‘Something God Intended”. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/richard-mourdock-abortion_n_2007482.html.

[20] Bassett, Laura. 2014. ‘Mike Huckabee: Democrats Tell Women ‘They Cannot Control Their Libido’ Without The Government’. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/mike-huckabee-women_n_4653426.html.

[21] Chittal, Nisha, and Bridget Todd. 2015. ‘9 Powerful Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes’. MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/9-powerful-ruth-bader-ginsburg-quotes.

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