Well, that didn’t last long. And by “that” I mean my recent intention to write more positive blogs about all the wonderful accomplishments happening in social movements.
I really meant that intention.
And then THIS happened.
The Supreme Court struck down Massachusetts’ law regarding a “buffer zone” for women getting an abortion to protect them from protesters.
And THIS happened.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby—whose owners don’t want to provide coverage of certain forms of birth control for their employees, claiming that their right to “religious freedom” should exempt them from the provision in the Affordable Care Act with requires them to do so.
Now, I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little, but I feel a bit like screaming “wake up, everyone! The sky is falling!”
I absolutely support free speech and freedom of religion. But both of those rights have limitations. You are not allowed to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater. The freedom to say whatever you want is limited when it infringes on other people’s rights to safety.
Unless, of course, those “other people” are women making their own decisions about their reproductive lives.
And freedom of religion is the right to practice one’s religion—not to impose it on other people. Does anyone think that in ANY OTHER context the court would decide that a small group of people with a lot of power (a.k.a. your bosses) can impose their religious beliefs on a larger group of people with less power (a.k.a. a group of employees)? That is NOT freedom of religion. Anyone who thinks that yesterday's decision is about religious freedom is either lying to themselves or willfully naive.
Both of these decisions are about politics and power.
It became clear to me as I was reading CNN’s report on the latest decision that some see this as a “win” in their battle to oppose anything President Obama supports—that this decision will somehow lead to the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. There is nothing so childish as making a decision that restricts the rights of women in order to say “take that, Obama!” All I can do is hope that this decision will make more Americans aware of the dangers of having a health care system that relies on employers. If nothing else, this ruling demonstrates the need for a single payer system, one in which no one’s boss gets to have a say in their medical decisions.
Don’t even get me started on the “corporations as people” slant…
Clearly, there are a lot of political implications of this court decision.
But this decision is also about power. The case was not brought by a company owned by Scientologists who want to limit their employees’ access to anti-depressants or by Jehovah's Witnesses attempting to restrict worker access to blood transfusion. This was a case of conservative Christians opposing women’s reproductive rights.
And the decision was another in a dangerous pattern of laws, policies, and court decions that have sought to erode women’s reproductive rights within the USA.
Placing limitations on reproductive rights has been--and always will be--about placing limitations on women’s power.
We should all be concerned about this. And by “we” I don’t mean just women. It is time for more men to join the fight to protect reproductive rights in the USA--as they impact everyone. Safe and affordable access to birth control allows women and families to make decisions about when/whether to have children. Such power decreases infant and maternal mortality rates, increases women’s utilization of educational opportunities, increases women’s employment choices, and on and on. Several studies have shown that the status of women in a country is an important predictor of the general quality of life
My favorite history teacher in high school taught us about the social conditions needed for revolutions to occur. To sum it up in a grossly overgeneralized way (sorry, PVO!) revolutions require people to be at a “sweet spot” of discontent. When things are really terrible people are too busy trying to meet their basic needs they don’t have the energy to fight for more. And when things are “good enough” people don’t see the need to revolt. It takes just the right amount of excess resources and discontent to produce the conditions needed for people to work for change.
I can’t help but wonder where the sweet spot will be in regards to reproductive rights. When will we wake up and realize that the sky is falling—not all at once, but cloud by cloud as lawmakers and the courts erode reproductive freedoms in the USA? Let’s not wait until birth control becomes illegal in the country to stand up for reproductive rights.
Speak out. Protest. Sign petitions. Boycott companies. Support pro-choice legislation. Today is the day.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.