14 March 2012

When Religious Freedom Isn't

The news these days is full of things pertaining to 'religious freedoms', particularly in America. Most of these are proposed legislations championed by religious zealots, not to preserve their freedoms, but to quash other people's. Religious freedom is the freedom to believe (or not) in whatever you like, and act according to your own conscience and morality. Dictating what other people are allowed to do with their own body is not religious freedom, it is theocratic oppression. I find it ironic that many of these same people harshly criticize Islamic states for their treatment of women, and yet are just as guilty of misogyny, albeit using different means.

I am speaking of several new laws which have passed or are about to be passed, such as this blatantly discriminatory one in Arizona, which will allow employers to withdraw insurance coverage for birth control unless provided with proof that it is prescribed for non-sexual purposes, such as acne or hormone control. So firstly, a woman would have to show her employer her medical files, detailing her menstrual, skin, or other personal problems, just to be able to get a prescription covered that is perfectly legal and covered by the insurance plan already. How does this support anyone's religious freedom, exactly? Secondly, and more importantly, a woman who has every right to have her prescription covered for whatever reasons she uses it, can have that right taken away by some bigoted fanatic who thinks everybody should live by his/her rules. Not that any woman isn't entitled to have sex whenever she chooses to, but under this law, even a married woman who has decided with her partner that they are not yet ready to have children can have her coverage taken away.

Why, you may ask, is this law being passed?
Because it is the opinion of some batshit crazy asshats  right-wing christian fundamentalists that a birth control prescription amounts to 'whore pills', a notion popularized recently by a man in dire need of a brain aneurysm, Rush Limbaugh. Rush clearly doesn't understand how birth control works, as his statements indicate he seems to think it works on a per use basis, just like the viagra he uses (which will remain covered, by the way). This attitude has also had farther reaching effects than just legislation, however, such as in the case of this devastated teenage girl, whose classmates found out about her prescription (for serious uterine medical conditions) and immediately started calling her a slut and a whore - with their mothers' permission. How sick is that? Not only was Rush Windbag calling every woman in the world who uses birth control a whore, he's got the other zealots doing it too. These laws are ostensibly to protect the employer's religious freedoms, so that they do not have to support choices they disagree with. I am so angry about this blatant misuse of religious freedoms that I think I'm going to let Erin Gloria Ryan, from jezebel, explain it:
"Rights of religious people to practice the treasured tenets of their faiths, the tenets that dictate that religious people get to tell everyone who is not of faith how they're supposed to live, and the freedom to have that faith enforced by law. Freedom®."

But wait! It actually gets worse. No, really.  Kansas has a scary bit of legislature in progress that would allow medical practitioners to withhold vital information from a pregnant woman about her health or the health of her fetus in order to prevent them from having abortions. It would also require doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer and would prohibit state employees from performing abortions on the job.  will also take away health coverage for abortions and levy an additional 'sales' tax for the procedure and associated expenses. There are no exceptions for the coverage or tax; not if the woman was raped, not even if her life is in danger. Oh, the icing on the cake is that the doctor who did not tell a woman about a serious health risk concerning her pregnancy cannot be sued for malpractice. That last part is also true in Oklahoma

Although U.S. federal law makes abortion legal, many states have enacted laws based on one group's religious ideology which make it difficult or almost impossible for women in those states to obtain one. 

  • Utah passed a bill which allows women and girls to be charged with murder for having miscarriages, and recently increased the waiting time to get an abortion to 72 hours - the longest wait time in the U.S. 
  • Nebraska has enacted a law making making tele-med abortions a felony, thus removing the option from thousands of women, and proposed a bill that would essentially legalize the murder of abortion providers, allowing the use of justified homicide in defence of a fetus as a valid legal argument.
  • This propsed bill in Pennsylvania is actually backed by a woman, and I can only imagine the psychological issues she has to be such a traitor to her own sex. It will force women to have a transvaginal ultrasound, listen to the fetal heart beat and show pictures of their fetus to an abortion provider in order to have an abortion. Always. Let's examine this, then; the state is going to force women to have an object inserted in their vagina. That's called state-sanctioned rape. They will do this even if the woman was impregnated through rape. They will do this even if it is a 12 year old girl who was raped. As Foster so aptly puts it, "Clearly, the GOP is saying to women, ‘Either adopt our beliefs, or be humiliated and violated.’". This law is similar to ones already in effect in several other states, such as Texas and Virginia, which require ultrasounds before abortions, and in which the technician is required to offer to show the image to the woman. 
  • Ohio now wants to pass a bill that would make abortions illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks - sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. 
  • There's also the law passed last year in Virginia which requires abortion clinics to meet the same building codes and facilities required by hospitals, a move which is completely unnecessary and will likely shut down most clinics. 
  • Texas made huge cuts to  planned parenthood services and women's health care, and many states have laws like Georgia, that prevent abortions after 20 weeks. 
All of these bills, laws, taxes and policies have two things in common. They all target women's rights to their own body and choices, and they are all supported by christian fundamentalists (all republicans) who claim they are exercising their 'freedom of religion' through oppression, cruelty and the imposition of their outdated morality on everyone else. They are constantly talking about how they are being persecuted, when in fact they are the ones doing the persecuting. I think it's time they were told that they can't get away with stripping women's rights and freedoms away, before America starts to resemble Saudi Arabia. 

Some women lawmakers (evidently not stricken with the same insanity that affects Kathy Rapp, of Pennsylvania) are proposing bills in a poetic protest to many of these oppressive measures. In Ohio, Senator Turner has proposed a bill that restricts the use of  PDE-5 inhibitors, such as Viagra, to help protect men from risks associated with them. She joins two women already proposing similar measures. In  Illinois, state Representative Cassidy sponsored an amendment that would force men who want Viagra to watch a graphic video of the drug’s potential side effects to a bill which would force women to get ultrasounds before an abortion. Senator Howell's amendment to a similar ultrasound bill in Virginia would require men to submit to a rectal exam before being able to obtain Viagra. It's a start, but people have to be aware that this is going on. Protest discriminatory and unconstitutional laws wherever you can before they're entrenched everywhere, and much harder to fight.

Update on proposed ultrasound bill in Pennsylvania: Republican Governor Corbett apparently has no idea that a transvaginal ultrasound is almost always needed to see a first trimester fetus, as he says to women "you just have to close your eyes". Yes, that will make the state-sanctioned rape all better, you misogynist asshole.

Update: Yet an other gross violation of privacy and human rights in Tennessee; treating women who get abortions (and their doctors) just like registered sex offenders.

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