I almost didn’t publish this post. Very nearly just left it in my drafts folder. Felt it wasn’t suitable for my audience. Because I write about romance novels. And love. And family. Happy things. Because I am a happy person. An optimistic sort. But not today. Today, I am not happy. I said before that I am not very political. And I’m not. But when something happens that shakes you to your core, that flies in the face of everything you believe in, I feel strongly that it is our duty to speak out. To whatever audience we have - however small. And you are my audience. So I write. I am drawn to the keyboard to empty my head and order my thoughts. I write.
I am outraged. It has been brewing for some time now, and today it spilled over. Simply bubbled up. Raw, unabating fury. Frustration. Helplessness. We are in an election cycle in this country right now. A tradition every fourth year marked by stunning oratory and divisive rhetoric. And never in my memory has the rhetoric been quite so divisive as it has in recent weeks. I can hardly turn around without being unwittingly immersed in the candidates’ issue of choice. And for reasons passing understanding, the focus during this interminable election cycle remains on Womens Issues. Abortion. Contraception. The Right to Choose.
It is the height of hypocrisy that these men, who can neither carry a child nor take The Pill, seem perfectly content to legislate the thoughts, habits and actions of the ones who can. But this is nothing new. Yes, I am frustrated each and every time these issues arise in the political arena. But I am not surprised. Never surprised.
The source of my fury - the catalyst for my outrage - was a piece of legislation passed by the Idaho State Senate yesterday. One of many perverse attempts by the various state legislatures to curtail the rights of women. Over their bodies. Over their minds. The legislation requires women to have an ultrasound before allowing them to get an abortion. It is a bill similar to laws already in place in 31 other states regarding ultrasounds before abortion. It was not the subject of the law that sparked my outrage, but rather the debate that took place before the bill was passed.
Opponents of the law raised the issue during debate that the law contains no exception for medical emergencies, or special circumstances, such as pregnancies arising from rape or incest. In response, the assistant majority leader of the Idaho Senate suggested that such an exception would be dangerous because women who seek abortion might use rape as an excuse to obtain the procedure where there was actually no rape. Or that women might not be able to ascertain the difference between rape and consensual sex. He later retracted his statements. Said they were misunderstood. But they are out there. And I am outraged.
But this is just one example of the terrifyingly bold effort to restrict womens access to affordable and safe health care. 8 states currently restrict coverage of abortion in private insurance plans. 46 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to provide abortions. 19 states mandate pre-abortion counseling. 26 states have a mandatory waiting period. All of these intrusive laws lay between a woman and her doctor. Making the assumption that women are too naive, or too emotional, to have considered their options and made an effort to understand this frightening and agonizing decision. Nonsense.
I am embarrassed these days to be an American. To hail from a country that’s motto is the “Land of the Free.” I am embarrassed because the Utah governor recently signed a law mandating a 72 hour waiting period. Because in Texas and Virginia a woman now has to have an extraordinarily intrusive ultrasound and listen to her doctor describe what he sees on the screen before she can have an abortion. Because Pennsylvania just proposed a similar law. Because a female state senator from Arizona wants to pass a law requiring a woman to view footage of someone else’s abortion before she can have one of her own. Because the Georgia state senate recently debated a law that would require a woman to continue to carry a stillborn fetus until she goes into “natural labor.” Because Rush Limbaugh called a female law student a “slut” for demanding access to contraception. And still, he has a job. Because Rick Santorum, a candidate for President of the United States, opposes pre-natal testing because it might encourage abortions. And still, he wins primaries.
The rest of the world thinks that we have lost our collective minds. And we have. Yet the anti-choice rhetoric carries on. And there is no end in sight.
During a recent interview, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee said, “it’s time for women to stop being politely angry.” Yes it is. It is time to be furious. Livid. To scream at the top of our lungs. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party, Communist Party, Black, White. These are not the labels that matter. Because we are women. We are Sisters, Wives, Daughters, and Mothers. And it is time for us to speak with one voice. To say that this debate is not about life, or freedom of religion. It is about control. Control over our decisions, our bodies, our relationships, and our minds. Control that is being slowly wrested from our grips. And it is time to say no. No. It is unacceptable. We won’t permit it. Out loud.
I am outraged. But not silent. Not anymore.