New attacks on women take fascistic turn

From the new March-April 2012 issue of News & Letters:

Editorial

New attacks on women take fascistic turn

The depths of this society’s inhumanity have been laid bare by the intensity of the war on women’s bodies, minds and lives. Poor women are taking the brunt as those in power in state and federal governments mount an assault so reactionary that birth control, something considered a settled fact of life, is actually in jeopardy. While women have always fought back, these new outrages have brought more women to the fore, enraged by the invasive and uncaring Taliban-like onslaught.

That is seen in:

  • The escalating anger and widespread demonstrations over the religious Right’s attack against President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employee insurance plans, with the exception of houses of worship, to cover women’s contraception. (See ‘Let women speak!’, page 2.) While Republicans tried to frame it as a question of “religious liberty,” few women saw it that way. Their view was confirmed by the refusal of California Congressman Darrell Issa to allow any woman to testify before his all-male panel to discuss the question. Casting aside pretensions that this is about religion, Senators Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio’s bill would exempt both insurance purchasers and providers–be they religious or not–from covering any services that go against either their “religious beliefs or moral conviction.” Luckily the bill–a license to let prejudice reign–was defeated in the Senate.
  • The overwhelming condemnation of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s bow to right-wing anti-abortion fanatics in their move to defund Planned Parenthood. Their reversal because of the outraged response was greeted with skepticism. (See “Komen and capital vs. self-development,” page 2.)
  • The proposed Virginia law mandating that women be compelled to have an invasive transvaginal ultrasound before an elective abortion, brought out over 1,500 furious women and men who stood, arms linked, at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond in silent but seething protest. Even Vice-President wannabe Governor Bob McDonnell recognized he’d stepped over the line, so he had his minions craft a bill only slightly less oppressive because he thought the backlash might hinder his political aspirations.
  • Taking the tactic from the Arab Spring, two angry women decided to plan a “We Are Woman March on Washington DC April 28th, 2012.” It caught fire. In only a few days 12,000 joined and by the time you read this it will be thousands more. Remarkably, this does not come from the National Organization for Women or NARAL Pro-Choice America, who act as if the only way women can do anything is to send them money. This is a grassroots effort and is comprehended as such. You can find them at:http://www.facebook.com/UniteWomen.

There is certainly much for women to unite against, beginning with the almost unbelievable hoops they must jump through to get an abortion, such as: “burdensome” waiting periods of 24 hours and longer; forced viewing of unnecessary ultrasounds; and state constitutional amendments defining life as beginning at conception, thus treating abortion as murder.

Kansas, ever the sewer of anti-abortion actions and legislation, is considering a bill that encourages doctors to lie, giving them the right to withhold needed medical information from a pregnant woman. Doctors would not have to tell a pregnant woman if her health would be compromised or her fetus damaged if she continued her pregnancy. The law protects the doctor from malpractice for refusing to tell her the truth about her medical condition so that she wouldn’t seek a needed abortion–even if it results in harm to the woman or baby.

FORCED CHILDBIRTH AND NO HELP AFTER

The biggest and most sustained attack in this war on women has been waged against poor women, starting with the Hyde Amendment in 1976 that cut all public funding for abortions. Laws that require women to make two trips to clinics, often hundreds of miles away from their homes, increase the cost. Congress has kept the District of Columbia, poorer and Blacker than almost any state in the nation, from using its own tax revenues to pay for poor women’s abortions.

The attack on poor women runs deeper than an attack on their reproductive health as Congress and the states cut programs for the poor, including the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program that helps poor mothers feed their children. Republicans want to slash at least 10% of WIC’s funding, throwing 700,000 women and children off the program.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services will enforce a law in March prohibiting doctors and clinics affiliated with organizations that provide abortion services from receiving state Medicaid funding. The rule denies funding even to institutions that do not directly provide abortions. It could shut down the Women’s Health Program and deny health services to approximately 130,000 impoverished women. These are only two examples, but there are plans to cut food stamps, all funding to Planned Parenthood, Medicaid and Medicare–all programs that women depend on more heavily than men.

A NEW SOCIETY OR BARBARISM

What brings this onslaught against women to such an inhuman crescendo is multifaceted. Partly it is that those trying to control women’s bodies and minds consider women as less than human–as things that should do their will. They see women’s liberation as well as Black, Gay–really all genuine liberation movements–as a threat to the way they think things ought to be. It is more than just despicable misogyny of Republican politicians. It is a sign of the degeneracy of 21st century capitalism as it moves faster and faster toward fascism.

The stakes are always, in the end, either freedom in a new society based on new human relations, or fascism. The forces arrayed against women and others fighting for freedom have chosen fascism. They have not yet given it that name, but that is the path they’ve chosen.

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