5 Dirty Tricks Right-Wing Zealots Will Likely Try Next in Their Battle to Control Women
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Has there been a more sustained assault on women's rights in recent memory as what we saw in 2011? Republicans swept the House and many state governments in the 2010 election, and made attacking reproductive rights a major priority, right next to destroying union power and making it harder for students, poor people and people of color to vote. Republicans waged war on women’s ability to pay for an abortion, get an abortion without being needlessly hassled, get an abortion at a location within a day’s drive, or access affordable contraception. It seemed like not a week passed without another outrageous attack on women’s rights. It’s tempting to think that 2012 has to be better, on the grounds that it can’t be much worse.
But I wouldn’t breathe easy just yet. At the end of 2009, we also thought we’d seen the worst, between the Stupak Amendment to the Affordable Health Care Act that eventually will end private insurance coverage of abortion and the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who had survived decades of harassment at the hands of anti-choice extremists. Little did we know that 2011 was around the corner. With that in mind, here are some predictions for where the anti-choice movement will try to go in 2012:
1. Expanded attacks on hormonal contraception. Within anti-choice circles, the myth that hormonal contraception works by killing fertilized eggs has grown from being a fringe belief to standard issue. There’s no scientific evidence to show that the pill works this way -- it actually works by preventing ovulation. But that hasn’t held them back. Anti-choicers view the pill dimly for the same reason they don’t like abortion: It gives women the power to control their bodies, and takes the power out of the hands of their male partners, their families or the state. All the blather about killing fertilized eggs is a post hoc rationalization of a pre-existing hostility to female control over reproduction.
In 2011, the hostility to the pill went from being a extremist belief to a topic of primetime discussion. Because of the personhood amendment that failed in Mississippi, the false belief that the pill kills fertilized eggs received a mainstream airing, often with little to no correction. Now a huge portion of Americans believe, erroneously, that the pill kills fertilized eggs. With that rhetorical battle won, anti-choicers will almost certainly start using the new stigma against the pill to push for more restrictions on access.
Already, they’ve won a major battle in getting the Obama administration to forcibly reverse an FDA decision to allow Plan B, a single-dose form of the birth control pill that prevents ovulation before sperm can reach the egg, to be sold over the counter without age restrictions. Since demonizing hormonal contraception got them that victory, there’s no reason for them not to push for more. Potential avenues include more age restrictions on access to the pill and defending the defunding of family planning on the grounds that the pill is too controversial to be funded with taxpayer money.
2. More assaults on abortion funding. The Stupak Amendment gave the larger anti-choice movement the bright idea to prevent women from accessing abortion by cutting off their ability to pay for it, a move which is easier to sell to the public than outright bans, since the sexualized nature of the abortion debate makes it easy to portray abortion as a luxury instead of a human right. In 2011, we saw House Republicans kick around the idea of codifying the Hyde Amendment with the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Additionally, a handful of states, most recently Ohio , have banned their residents from buying insurance that covers abortion through the state exchanges. Eventually, all insurance will be traded through those exchanges, so alongside the Stupak Amendment, this will mean that women will simply not have the ability to purchase private insurance that covers abortion.