March 8 is International Women’s Day.
One on the most important issues affecting equality for women is reproductive freedom. traditionally women have been regulated to being kept “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen”. The roles of women as helpers of men and caregivers of children was, and continues to be, major impediments to women.These are often driven by religious beliefs that are almost universally antipodal to equality.
We like to look at Islamic countries and decry the level of oppression that women face, while imagining freedom in our ‘advanced’ western societies, and it is true that there is a major difference.We do not see honour killing and attacks here, women are not forced to be covered from head to toe. They can vote and drive and do all manner of things that are forbidden in religiously fundamentalist societies.
However, there is still work to be done in areas of equal pay and job opportunities. In addition, there are some political groups, again driven mostly by religious beliefs, that would like to see women reduced to baby making machines. Two days ago, the Arkansas Legislature passed the most regressive anti-abortion/women’s health bill in the US, and they aren’t done yet.
The GOP-controlled Legislature on Wednesday overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill banning nearly all abortions beginning in the 12th week of pregnancy, when a fetus’ heartbeat can typically be detected through an abdominal ultrasound. That law wouldn’t take effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends in a month or so, but the Legislature last week overrode a veto of a near-ban on abortions starting in the 20th week. That law took effect immediately.
Next, they have Planned Parenthood in their sights.
State Sen. Jason Rapert, who was behind the 12-week ban, now wants to cut all public funding to Planned Parenthood. And the state’s top anti-abortion advocacy group is urging lawmakers to ban providers from remotely administering the abortion pill via a video hookup – a practice they’ve derided as “webcam abortions.”
Critics say that not only are these direct attacks on women’s rights, but the Republicans are focusing on abortion and women’s health at the expense of health care, education, and economic development. The Governor, who is also against abortion, opposes these initiatives on a practical level.
Beebe, who signed the abortion coverage ban into law this year and has backed other limits on the procedure in the past, repeated his concerns Thursday about the costs of defending the new abortion laws.
“My concern going forward is that they’re unconstitutional,” Beebe told reporters Thursday. “You know, you put your hand on the Bible and you’re supposed to swear to uphold the constitution. It should mean something.”
In addition to expenses incurred fighting unwinnable lawsuits, the state is setting itself for additional health care and other costs, as Texas has recently learned.
Religious attacks on women’s equality hurt not only women, but our entire society. It’s time to stop this bullshit.