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When Will Republicans Stop Saying Dumb Things About Rape? (Hint: When They Stop Hating Women)

Glib comments about rape by anti-choice Republican lawmakers reveal that the anti-choice movement is deeply rooted in antagonism to women's rights.

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But pregnancy termination is far from the only female-only condition that anti-choicers have worked to define as not-counting because it only affects those born with female reproductive systems. A common argument, floated by the Catholic bishops, is that because pregnancy is natural , preventing it isn’t medical care. Anti-choicers such as Bill O’Reilly and John McCain have even gone far enough to claim that treating erectile dysfunction is medical care in a way that preventing pregnancy isn’t, even though erectile dysfunction is also natural and has far fewer side effects than pregnancy.  The category of medical conditions that don’t count because they only happen to women has expanded to incorporate cervical cancer, as anti-choicers agitate against the HPV vaccine that prevents the disease on the grounds that women who die of cervical cancer brought it upon themselves by not abstaining from sex.  Noticeably, the “you brought it on yourself” argument doesn’t apply to diseases men can get, such as smoking-induced lung cancer or gluttony-induced diabetes.  It’s only female-only conditions such as pregnancy and cervical cancer where patients can have medical care revoked on the grounds of behavioral choices. 

Now that’s being expanded to conditions---such as rape-induced pregnancy---where the patient’s injuries, by definition, are not her fault.  But, as DeGraaf’s metaphor made clear, anti-choicers don’t view women’s medical conditions as actual medical conditions that occur to real people.  Women are treated like objects such as cars, and their medical conditions are seen more like flat tires than health care concerns.   

The lesson of all should be that we cannot expect the anti-choice movement to be content with restricting abortion.  It’s a movement deeply rooted in antagonism to women’s rights, and not just the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies.  Women’s right to be free from violence, to have female-specific medical care treated like actual medical care, and to be treated like full human adults with the right to make decisions for ourselves?  All of these hard-won rights are under assault.  Abortion is just the first battle in what could end up being a long war to reverse the gains of feminism.

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