Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Abortion. Just a Distraction

Sometimes I have the television playing as I am working. As result, I am going through a lot of movies and television series on Netflix and Amazon.

I just finished four seasons of Boardwalk Empire. Though loosely based on real people, it does not actually reflect true events. Still, the historical backdrop, particularly the first two seasons, was very interesting and enjoyable.

One of the things I noticed was the poetic language. The series shows both the time when our language was elegant and cultured, intelligent banter and social graces, as well as the change to “getting straight to the point” by the younger generations.

The second thing I noticed was an exploration of background social issues: racial, ethnic, and gender struggles.

The series does a particularly good job of exploring different perspectives on women’s health, including abortion. Without getting to any spoiler alerts, one of the themes concerned a woman who had a miscarriage because she drank raw milk, which contains bacteria that can lead to a miscarriage.

As one of the characters strives to create an education program to teach women about their bodies in order to reduce preventable miscarriages, she encounters resistance from doctors, administrators, and the Catholic Church. Words like “vagina” and “pregnant” were deemed too vulgar to say in front of women.

After all the struggles to bring women’s health education to women, the original woman admits she knowingly drank the raw milk in order to induce a miscarriage because she could barely provide for the several children she already had, she could not refuse her husband sex, and birth control was not an available option.

Fictional television series or not, this was indeed the history of women’s health in the United States.

When I was young I remember riding with my mom around the city of Little Rock in Arkansas. There was a women’s clinic on one of the main streets. Many times protestors stood in front of the women’s clinic, almost spilling onto the streets, with their anti-abortion signs. I was young and did not really understand what it was all about but I knew that it irritated my mom. Once I asked her why. She replied that if they really cared about children each one would adopt an orphan in a shelter instead of just harassing women going to the clinic.

During my teenage years I remember hearing about abortion clinics and medical providers being attacked – bombings, anthrax threats, and shootings.

Over the years the abortion debate had toned down – or maybe I just thought so because I moved out of the south to Arizona.  But recently it has come back, more heated than ever. The rhetoric has mainly been confined to the pulpit, political speeches, and social media. 

But in 2015, the violence started again. First, four arson attacks on clinics in California, Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington. Then a man decided to open fire on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on November 27, 2015, killing 3 innocent people. [I am constantly confused how killing random people to save unborn children makes sense.]

Though none of the incidents have been labeled as terrorist attacks, all fall within the definition of terrorism – the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political gain. The definition of terrorism describes the act and specific motive, not the number of perpetrators or victims involved.

Much has been said about why such incidents, clearly using violence to cause fear and intimidation against anyone possibly connected to abortions, are not labeled as terrorism. A lot of arguments center around the idea that the terrorism label is reserved only for violent acts perpetrated by Muslims, regardless of the motivation. Other arguments suggest labeling such perpetrators as terrorists would have major social and political consequences because primarily white "Christian" men commit these crimes.

However, I would like to suggest a different reason for why abortion-related violence is not labeled terrorism.

It is about women and controlling their bodies.

We have a history in this country, the world really, of believing that the “piety” of women is somehow the soul of society. If our women are “good,” there is hope for society. If our women are “bad,” all hope is lost. Somehow it all boils down to sex... well women's sex anyway.

The concept of “protecting” women has turned into “controlling” women. There is a difference.

But the attack on women’s health is actually the most concerning. Studies show that women and girls are even less educated today about how their body works than in the recent past. Studies also show that more women are having more health related pregnancy complication due to the lack of knowledge about their own bodies.

That is the real war on women – removing access to, and knowledge about, women’s health is the ultimate threat to women’s survival and ability to thrive.

Abortion is just a distraction. An issue people can be passionate about. An issue allowing clinics that provide much more important services - access to women’s health education, sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment, and pregnancy prevention methods - can be attacked and potentially closed for business.

History shows abortion does not need to be legal to be done. Regulated abortion simply makes it safer.

These clinics not only provide access to a wide array of women's health services, but they do so with total privacy. Something many women depend on even more than the services themselves. Without these clinics, many women would have no access to women’s health information or options at all.

Some states are even outlawing home birthing centers and midwifery – both having a long history of safety, success, and benefits in our society.

The question is, why would we as a society want women to be uneducated about their own bodies and without access to a variety of health services?

Why would we want to limit women's knowledge and options?

The answer is not to simply outlaw abortion.

We need to stop believing that it is, so we can focus on the real threat to women.

Our freedom.

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