We Need To Regulate Guns, Not Women's Bodies
This past week marked the forty-first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that expanded the right to privacy to include a woman’s right to an abortion. It also marked yet another tragic shooting, this one at a mall in Columbia, Md., that left three dead, including the gunman who committed suicide. On the surface, it may seem like abortion and gun violence don’t have anything in common but the way these issues have historically been framed — abortion as murder and the right to bear arms as essential — reflects how tightly we clutch our guns and Bibles in an effort to maintain founding principles, ones whose merit should be challenged based on our ever-evolving society.
If there’s anything that needs comprehensive reform, it’s current gun laws — not abortion rights.
Our nation is no stranger to gun violence — in fact, it’s often our bedfellow, and the facts are startling. In the first nine months of 2013, there were six mass shootings in the United States with at least 20 of those having occurred since President Obama was elected. What’s even more startling is that half of the deadliest shootings in our nation have occurred since 2007.
After 26 people — including 20 children — were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, the media, public and to a degree, political response had the same message: it’s time for comprehensive gun control laws to be enacted. But, we hear the same message after every mass shooting — we heard it after the shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tuscon, the Washington Navy Yard, the Sikh Temple, the Seattle Coffee Shop, Fort Hood and more. While mass shootings are the form of gun violence that most frequently dominates the media, it’s important to note that a plethora of U.S. cities having higher rates of gun violence than entire nations.
Given the consistent gun violence in our country, it’s getting harder and harder to support the Second Amendment without recognizing that it badly needs to be reevaluted. As Harvey Wasserman wrote for The Huffington Post in 2011 after attempted assassination of Rep. Gabbie Giffords (D-AZ), the Second Amendment “is granted only in the context of a well-regulated militia and thus the security of a free state.” He uses the National Guard as an example of this kind of organization, not armed individuals seeking personal retribution. Wasserman argues that this kind of “murder and mayhem” that has escalated “has been made possible by the claim to a Constitutional right that is not there,” meaning that outside the ‘well-regulated militia,’ the Second Amendment holds little relevancy, especially in our current society.
If you take all this into consideration, paired with the fact that nine in 10 Americans support expanded background checks on guns, it’s logical to assume something is being done to curb gun violence, right?
Wrong. Just over a month ago, The Huffington Post reported that despite legislation being proposed, including one that would have enacted comprehensive background checks, Congress has not passed any gun control laws since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
In a stark paradox, the Guttmacher Institute reported that in the first half of 2013, 43 state provisions were enacted that restrict access to abortion. By the end of 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice America reports that a total of 53 anti-choice measures were enacted across 24 states despite a recent poll that found Americans support Roe’s landmark decision. You can’t debate the facts and if these numbers are any indication of our legislator’s priorities, it’s saying that they’re more afraid of women with reproductive rights than a nation with lax gun control laws.
Since Roe was decided, the anti-choice movement has been carefully executing a plan to turn back the clock on women’s reproductive rights. This effort can best be described as an assault on women’s bodies but is often presented by the anti-choice community as a “safety concern.” It’s a known fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures but opponents have created myths to drum up support for their restrictions, like abortion being linked to breast cancer (it isn’t), a fetus being able to feel pain at 20 weeks (it can’t), in an all-out attempt to frame abortions as unsafe, murderous and morally negligent. Statistics prove that restricting abortion is what makes it unsafe, but facts, shmacts — who needs them when we’ve got all-male Congressional panels debating women’s health care (hint: not this guy)?
It seems pretty asinine that we live in a country whose state legislators are more likely to restrict abortion than enact comprehensive gun control laws (I’m looking at you, Rick Perry). Take Texas, for example. Last summer, the state imposed catastrophic abortion restrictions under the omnibus anti-choice bill HB 2 that have closed clinics and left patients to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion. Texas is currently in a reproductive state of emergency but gun rights advocates fear not, because it’s easier to get a gun than an abortion.
How’s that for warped logic, especially when you consider that family planning and women’s reproductive services are good for the economy. Restricting access to reproductive health care can force women to carry unwanted or intended pregnancies to term, thus limiting her ability to fully participate in the workforce and contribute to the economy. A woman’s right to bodily autonomy and agency surrounding her decisions about pregnancy isn’t just good economics, it’s necessary as we build a more gender equal society. Viewing women as primarily baby-making receptacles does nothing for equality. If anything, it promotes the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, not the workforce.
Efforts that restrict access to abortion and reproductive rights but uphold dangerous gun laws magnifies the disconnect between public opinion and actual representation and reflects the desperation of status quo stakeholders to maintain the three Ps: power, privilege and the patriarchy. There’s no bigger threat to these structures than disrupting their history of power but our current social, political and economic environment calls for change. If we want to save more American lives, it’s not women’s bodies that need regulation — it’s gun laws.