By Abby Dees
Thinking Out Loud
If you’re like me, you don’t think a whole lot about birth control. You probably don’t have much heterosexual sex, though I shouldn’t assume, and you likely believed that we’d come to a grudging truce around a woman’s right to control her reproductive life. In the 80s and 90s, of course, abortion was the battleground of the culture wars; nowadays we all know that it’s about the gays.
Which is why I have this queasy feeling that I’ve time traveled back about 30 years. Abortion is the hot topic and I notice that plastic jewelry and jumpsuits are back at Macy’s. No one’s talking about gay marriage, and women are on TV explaining why having sex for pleasure doesn’t make them sluts.
Has the far right (and by that I also mean the 2012 Republican presidential candidates) given up on the gays? Are fundamentalists going retro? It would be nice to imagine they’ve gotten tired of us. Maybe we can worry about other things now, like whether Martina Navratilova has had some work done.
But don’t relax just yet.
The far right still has its sites on us. Today’s crusade against women’s sexual autonomy is only a redecorated version of the same moral outrage that has always given them such good political traction. There’s good reason for LGBT people to pay close attention to what’s happening to reproductive rights:
Consider the new breed of abortion laws, such as a Texas law that forces women seeking an abortion to endure an internal ultrasound, a detailed description of the fetus, audio of its heartbeat and a 24-hour waiting period. This isn’t about any health concerns, just morality. In fact women report that the experience is degrading, complicated, and, in essence, medical rape. They’re being put through the wringer for making personal choices about their bodies. Sound familiar?
Women can exempt themselves from part of the requirement by signing a sworn affidavit that they got pregnant through rape or incest. In other words, they didn’t mean to have sex; someone made them. If the real issue here were the sanctity of life, I don’t see why rape should let anyone off the hook. But proponents of these laws say they exist to “protect women.” I’m aware of this word, “protect,” when I see the harm done to LGBT people in order to “protect” the family.
A bill recently passed the Arizona House that would force doctors to lie about the breast cancer risks associated with abortion (there aren’t any, by the way) to scare women out of terminating their pregnancies. This protects women from the truth, evidently. Hiding the facts has been a frequent anti-gay tactic too. For example, the Prop 8 people successfully sued to permanently seal the video record of the federal Prop 8 trial, a record that beautifully demonstrates the importance of LGBT rights. In Tennessee, legislators are trying to forbid any discussion about LGBT lives in school, as if ignorance were a moral virtue.
Almost all of this moral hypocrisy is wrapped in the mantle of religious freedom, as in, “Your laws about equality and respect for people trample on our religious rights.” The far right howled when Obama pushed for contraception coverage in business run by religious institutions. If you heard any Rush Limbaugh last month, you heard some of the story. What you might have missed amid all the outrage about Rush’s “slut” and “prostitute” language is how he reframed the debate so that people who are restricting women’s freedoms were presented as the real victims – victims of religious persecution. This is a continuing trope also used against LGBT people for ostensibly forcing our lifestyles on God-fearing folks, in violation of their 1st Amendment rights. It’s a clever trick.
All of this shows how quickly issues that we thought were settled ages ago suddenly become debatable again. History proves that progress can turn on a dime, but I don’t really think that’s happened yet. Still, we’re far from being able to sit back and chill, assured that anyone’s freedoms are here to stay.