Saturday, March 24, 2012

Are Your Sure There's No "War on Women"?

Are you absolutely certain there is no Republican "War on Women"?   Because I'm a little frightened to be a woman in this country right now, and from where I'm standing I feel like I am under attack. Women are being bombarded with legislature at the state and federal level aimed at taking away our rights.  And Republicans are leading the charge.

First, let's talk about the Blunt Amendment.  In retaliation to the Obama administration's birth control coverage rule, Republican Senators attempted to add the amendment to a highway funding bill that would allow not only religious groups but any employer to reject covering individual aspects of health insurance they find morally questionable, not just contraception. This amendment would essentially require women to ask their employers permission to use birth control pills, get a mammogram or a PAP smear.  Anything.  Fortunately, the amendment did not pass, but what the hell were the Republicans thinking?  Should we require men walk into their bosses' office when they feel horny and announce they are taking Viagra tonight, because they have a feeling they are going to get lucky?  Considering the odds their boss is a man, they would probably say, "That's great!  Glad someone is getting some."  And if their boss is one of the 20 million Rush Limbaugh radio listeners, they will likely ask to watch the video of the Viagra in use. 

But unlike Viagra, oral contraceptives are prescribed to protect a women's health.  Apparently, Rush and his similarly narrow-minded counterparts have trouble understanding this part.  As Sandra Fluke eventually was able to present to Democratic members of the House of Representatives, oral contraceptives are prescribed to regulate polycystic ovarian syndrome which can lead to decreased infertility.  Or in my case, nearly death.

Let me tell you a story.  When I was 15, I began to have a sharp, incapacitating pain in my right side.  Because of the possibility of appendicitis, my mom took me to the ER where I underwent an abdominal ultrasound.  Nothing was found.  And I mean nothing.  No sign of my right ovary.  The doctors told me it was "tucked away."  Over the next 4 years I was in and out of the doctor's office and ER with the same excruciating pain in my right side.  The male doctors told me, "Don't worry your pretty little head about it.  It's just that time of the month."  Excuse me, but how the hell do you know what type of pain I feel?  You are a man, and last time I checked, you don't have ovaries or menstrual cramps. How in the hell do you know what menstrual cramps feel like????  Please let me know.

Eventually, the situation came to a head during my freshman year of college.  Once again I had the awful, agonizing pain in my side.  I went to the college infirmary and was checked over by a physician's assistant.  Nothing was found, and I was sent home.  Two days later, running a fever and throwing up continuously I returned to the infirmary.  I underwent another pelvic exam and a rectal exam.  Lovely.  At that point I was delirious and didn't care.  I just wanted the pain to end.   Fortunately, the infirmary doctor realized what was happening and called the local hospital and a surgeon who would meet me there.  I was transported to the hospital, underwent another ultrasound and rushed into emergency surgery.  I didn't understand what was going on at the time.  All I knew was as they put that oxygen mask over my face and I started counting backward, the pain slowly receded.

When I woke, I was told the surgeon had removed an enlarged ovarian cyst, 9 cm in diameter, that had wrapped around my fallopian tube cutting off the blood supply to my ovary.  Gangrene had set in.  I would have died if my ovary had not been removed.

Recovering from my surgery, I was prescribed birth control pills as a means to save my other ovary giving me the chance of having a child one day.   I wasn't going out and having "lots of sex" as Rush would assert.  I simply wanted the opportunity to have a child.  And since Rush and his supporters seem to have a hard time understanding female anatomy, let me explain. Women are born with a set number of eggs.  We don't get any more.  We don't get a do over.  If one ovary is removed, we lose half our eggs.  Maybe a graphic is better for you, Rush.  To illustrate the point, if we were to remove one of your testicles, you still would have an infinite number of sperm.  An infinite number of chances of having a child.  Women don't get this luxury.  What we are born with is what we get.

But since Rush is unable to comprehend the consequences, maybe we should remove one of his testicles just in case. I don't think he would miss it.

As a woman who has undergone emergency surgery to remove my gangrenous ovary saving my life and then prescribed birth control pills to save my remaining ovary, I am extremely disturbed with the recent controversy over a women's right to access oral contraceptives, and this crazy assertion that women taking the pill just what more sex.

Second, there is the barrage of anti-women laws stomping their way through state's legislatures across the country.  Here is a sample.

Virginia attempted to pass a law requiring a woman to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to having an abortion.  For those of you who have never had a transvaginal ultrasound, it's essentially having a stranger put a dildo up your vagina.  I don't know about you, but if a stranger is forcing a dildo up my vagina, I would think I was being raped.  The act is considered rape by the FBI as well.  So guess what, if you are getting an abortion because you have been raped, you qualify for a two for one deal. You get to be raped again!  Luckily, Virginia's Republicans backed-off and now the law only requires an abdominal ultrasound and has an exception for victims of rape and incest but only if the crime is reported to the police.  Given the current environment on top of everything else, how often do you think incest is reported to the police?

Alabama had a similar proposed law requiring a transvaginal ultrasound. Fortunately, Republicans gained some sense of sanity and changed the wording to allow the woman to choose what type of ultrasound they would like.  Hmmmm, that's awfully gracious of them. But of course, it is the South.  However, while they allow us little women to choose, they miss the whole point of Pro-CHOICE.  It means, guys, my body is MY own, not yours, and I can CHOOSE how I treat it.  AND as long as men are able to overpower women and force women to have sex and then walk away, I have the CHOICE whether to have something growing in my belly or not.  But Republican men don't get it.

Florida is trying to pass a bill that would require a 24 hour waiting period.  I personally believe this is reasonable.  Buying a gun requires a waiting period.  Having an abortion requires a waiting period.  Why not? But the unreasonable portion of the bill is the requirement that all abortion clinics be owned by a doctor despite the fact that Florida's own governor has owned hospitals and is not a doctor. Isn't that sort like big government telling people who can own a medical clinic?  Sounds a bit communist to me.  Are Republicans now communists????

Georgia's law would make an abortion after 20 weeks a felony.  Miscarriages are allowed as long as a woman can prove there was no "human involvement."  WTF????  A woman who just had miscarriage faces arrest unless she can PROVE there was no "human involvement"?  10% to 25% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. I have never had one.  I can only imagine what a woman experiences after finally becoming pregnant and dreaming about a warm, cuddly baby in her arms, going on play dates, watching ballet dances and little league, only to experience the heartbreak of a miscarriage and broken dreams.  But that's not all folks, the woman now faces a felony charge unless she can prove there was no "human involvement."  How the hell do you do that?  Well, let's see.  I'm a human, and my human body determined that my embryo or fetus was not viable and had a miscarriage.  Doesn't that mean a human was involved?  Did we forget that miscarriage is a natural process?!  Let's remember that in Georgia a charge of assault or battery is a MISDEMEANOR.  Yep, a spouse hits his wife and is charged with a misdemeanor.  But a woman has a miscarriage and is charged with a felony.  Makes sense.  NOT!

We haven't even talked about Pennsylvania or Tennessee, but you get the picture. These bills are aimed at limiting a woman's right to make decisions about her own body.

And lastly, the sucker punch.  Republicans are blocking the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  The VAWA was originally passed in 1994 and provides funding for direct services to victims of domestic violence including emergency shelters and counseling.  In addition, the law created training grants and programs to help local law enforcement investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women.  The reauthorization of VAWA seeks to "continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence." (New York Times)  The addition of the new provisions to extend programs to same-sex couples, Indian tribes, and illegal immigrants has Republicans opposing the bill and attempting to block the reauthorization.

From the same New York Times article, Democrats  "insist that Republican opposition falls into a larger picture of insensitivity toward women that has progressed from abortion fights to contraception to preventive health care coverage — and now to domestic violence. 'I am furious,' said Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. 'We’re mad, and we’re tired of it.' "      

You're not the only one, sista!  I am mad too.  No, I am livid.  I am gun-firing, Yosemite Sam hopping, spitting furious! And I am terribly scared.

And here is why.

More than 3 women are murdered by their husband or boyfriend every day in the United States.  Every 9 seconds a woman is beaten.  It is estimated that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. But it's estimated that only 27% of intimate partner violence is reported to police.  Contributing factors for crimes going unreported are embarrassment, shame, fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed and economic dependency.  

How can we as a community and as a nation combat domestic violence if we lack the actual statistics on how deeply the disease runs in our communities? How can we eliminate domestic violence if women are too scared to come forward?  And this recent prolific "insensitivity toward women" will only further contribute to domestic violence victims remaining in the shadows too frightened to speak out.  Because, after all, we must all just want to have sex.  If we get pregnant, we are solely to blame.  And we cannot be trusted to make decisions for ourselves.  Our bodies are not our own, but are owned by the state.  So obviously, we must not be worthy of protection against violence. 

Whether there is an organized "war on women" or not, Republicans have effectively kicked the bee hive.  And while the GOP believes us little women are unable to think for ourselves, they seem to have forgotten a little detail. Women were granted the right to vote in 1920.  They have not taken that right away from us yet.  While the GOP continues to bombard us with laws limiting our rights, women across this country are organizing, planning and strategizing our defense.When November rolls around women will not be home cooking dinner and washing dishes in the kitchen.  We will remember the slut and whore comments, the forced transvaginal ultrasounds, the refusal to pay for women's contraception, and the unwillingness to protect women against violence.  We will line up outside the polling stations, and we will cast our ballots defending women and women's rights.  And as Republicans are voted out of office across this country at the state and federal level, remember we did not start this war.  But because women strive for peace in our families and in our nation, we shall end it.

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