Image Credit: thinkprogress.org
It seems as though there is a never-ending conversation surrounding women and their right to make decisions about their own bodies. So in March when Donald Trump made a comment that women seeking abortions should be subject to “some form of punishment”, all I could think, as I heaved a sigh of frustration, was haven’t women been punished enough already?
Although Trump took a slight step back to change his statement by clarifying he is “pro-life with exceptions”, I feel the misogyny embedded in our nation’s political ideology came through yet again, no matter what Trump says in an attempt to repair the damage. Saying women, or the doctors providing abortions, need to be “punished” in some way just further perpetuates the idea that women simply cannot make their own educated choices about their bodies, specifically their health care.
Sadly, Trump is not the only politician or public figure to make offensive comments regarding women and abortions. Senator Marco Rubio insists that women are “pushed” into choosing abortions so that Planned Parenthood can make money by selling fetal tissue. Rubio does not understand that only two out of 700 Planned Parenthoods nationwide supply fetal tissue to researchers, and only one location reimburses the women. This fetal tissue is donated by the individual, not illegally gained, and is supplied to researchers for science. Science aided by fetal tissues has helped discover the polio vaccine, rubella prevention, Parkinson’s disease treatment, and much more. I find it interesting that politicians are mad at the women “pushed” into getting abortions, but do not contest the amazing scientific discoveries made possible by women donating to science.
The list goes on. For example, Texas State Representative Jodie Laudenberg compared a rape kit to an abortion. She was working for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks when she said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out. The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.” Laudenberg is obviously uneducated about the medical procedure of a rape kit, which only provides DNA evidence about the perpetrator of rape or sexual assault, and does not have anything to do with “cleaning out” the vagina to prevent pregnancy. It is shocking to hear that the same people making laws about women’s issues are not even fully educated about the issues.
This is not even touching on the long list of politicians who apply their religious ideology to rape. GOP Senator Richard Mourdock, who opposes abortions even for cases of rape and incest, said, “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Along these lines, one of the most appalling comments to me, was Missouri Representative Todd Akin, who said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” This exemplifies a blatant lack of understanding of the female body and how sexual reproduction even works. Akin then went on to say that the morning-after pill is “a form of abortion”, which, yet again, only shows the lack of education these politicians have on women’s contraceptive methods, even though they claim they have the legitimacy to talk about them. Contrary to what Akin has imagined, the morning-after pill, or emergency contraception, is simply a pill to take that can reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex. This form of contraception is not the same thing as an abortion pill.
Even touching on this handful of comments made by politicians is disgusting, and sadly, we see these political opinions trickle down to the public. This type of ideology is then used to justify violent attacks against women by anti-abortion extremists. This includes both violent attacks at clinics as well as harassment and intimidation tactics aimed towards those trying to go to a clinic. As reported by the National Abortion Federation, there have been 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion or “pro-life” violence. This statistic only touches the surface of this violence, as it does not account for the 600+ threats of anthrax poisoning, 100 butyric acid attacks costing over $1 million in damages, or the 200+ arson and bombing attempts. All of this violence and harassment is done solely to disrupt and terrorize the patients and staff in these clinics.
Additionally, the Feminist Majority Foundation reports finding that 67% percent of clinics surveyed experienced anti-abortion intimidation tactics such as blocking cars of patients, videotaping and photographing patients, posting pictures of patients online, recording license plate numbers of patients, filing unnecessary lawsuits, and harassing phone calls and emails, among other tactics. This harassment not only affects the clinic’s ability to stay safe and open, but it induces fear in the patients coming in, as well. The patients may then need more sedation due to this induced anxiety, which can further complicate the medical procedures taking place. Not to mention, not every person in a health clinic is there getting an abortion, and may be there for other health concerns, and sadly, these tactics create an unsafe and stressful environment for everyone.
Through all of this political banter and extreme violence, it feels like there is no consideration as to what the woman is going through. In fact, abortion stigma is overwhelming: 66% of women said they feel that others would look down on them if they knew about their abortion, 58% of women said they want to keep their abortion a secret, and women in the age group between 19-24 live with the most stigma and worry of judgement. Although it is up to the individual to decide how they want to deal with an abortion – whether secretly or openly – it should not be swayed by how much they fear others will berate them. One can see how politics and extremists produce a culture of stigma and misunderstanding about abortion. It is undeniable that this stigma has a negative effect on women and the judgement they may face or the anxiety they may have.
Just this passing comment made by Donald Trump may not seem like a huge deal. However, for me, it brought up a lot of emotions, caused by the buildup of offensive, uneducated comments made by politicians, the violent attacks by extremists, and the stigma surrounding abortion. Women are already subjected to this seemingly endless bombardment of hatred, critique, doubt, interrogation, and outright misogyny surrounding their abortions. I feel that our country can take steps forward by trusting women to make the right, educated decisions for their own bodies. In addition, the lawmakers of America need to put forward a better effort to educate themselves about women’s bodies, contraceptive choices, reproductive choices, and experiences. For far too long women have been hurt by stigma and violence. For far too long our country has doubted women and deprived them of their autonomy. For far too long laws have been created to govern women’s bodies.
So again, I ask, haven’t women been punished enough already?