I knew it couldn’t just be my imagination that 2011 has brought the rhetoric around reproductive health and rights to an all new level. It couldn’t just be me that thinks that the “dialogue” this year has been more aggressive, more extreme, and surely the most downright crazy it’s ever been.
Reading Amanda Marcotte’s most recent piece on RH Reality Check (one of my favorite writers on this fantastic blog) totally validated that it’s not just me.
The debate around abortion has been pretty static but 2011 moved a different battlefield to the frontlines. Unfortunately it was one we thought we’d already won. Looking at the events of 2011, you would never know that 98% of women will use some form of birth control in her lifetime. If you were a total outsider looking in, you would almost certainly think that birth control was something extremely controversial, probably only used by a very small minority and perhaps even dangerous. Of course it is neither of the latter and is uncontroversial for the vast majority of Americans. Unfortunately those that DO find it controversial have all seemed to find themselves elected to public office.
2011 marked the year of the War on Contraception. If you need proof check out Marcotte’s RH Reality article for an itemized list but be warned you might want to pour yourself a drink beforehand. Starting first thing this year we saw Congress go to great lengths (almost resulting in a government shutdown) to try to defund Planned Parenthood such that low-income women and men couldn’t access preventive health care services like lifesaving cancer screenings, STI testing and, yes, birth control through their trusted health care provider.
Once Congress failed, state legislatures across the country decided to pick up right where they left off by defunding Planned Parenthood on a state-by-state basis. Of course that happened right here in North Carolina resulting in our current lawsuit against the state. And don’t forget there was that extreme personhood amendment in Mississippi that would have outlawed abortion, IVF, and many forms of birth control that was thankfully defeated although nothing was certain until the absolute eleventh hour.
Then there are the two most recent fights at the federal level over insurance coverage for abortion starting when the Obama administration decided to add birth control to the list of preventive women health care services that will be covered without a co-pay by insurance companies. As we’ve written before, this caused a fight with anti-choice activists who are now trying desperately to find loopholes in the law since they generally make it their top priority to punish women for having sex, thinking of having sex, being capable of having sex, etc.
And finally the big stink around Plan B. This is probably the most bitter pill for me to swallow (pun intended) perhaps because the wound is still fresh and perhaps because it was an insult delivered by our own “pro-choice” President who claimed on the campaign trail that he would be making such decisions based on sound medical science. And then proceeded to refuse to allow Plan B to go over the counter without age restriction, a decision which doesn’t only keep it out of the hands of young women under the age of 17 who may desperately need it but also denies access to women of all ages whether they lack identification, can’t make it to the pharmacy during the appropriate hours or, most likely, who are just too ashamed to ask for it.
And at the end of the day, wasn’t that the point all along?
I would say that 2011 went a long way toward putting women exactly where the anti’s want us. Let’s hope that 2012 brings a renewed sense of purpose for all of us as we stand up and fight back… and a prayer for a small dose of common sense to be delivered to our opposition wouldn’t hurt either.