I have a piece at The Guardian today, the last of the predictive pieces before the inevitable postmortem. It’s about the grim reality that, even if President Obama and the Democrats score a victory today, the damage that has been done to reproductive rights will take years to repair.
In addition to legislative changes, the last two years have seen a shift in the national discourse around reproductive rights, in which positions that were once considered extreme – removing rape and incest exceptions from abortion bans – became mainstream Republican positions. In the space of just a few years, America has become a country in which an organization dedicated to defeating breast cancer pulls funding from clinics that provide breast cancer screenings in addition to abortions and STI tests, and where politicians with presidential aspirations discuss whether or not the birth control pill should be banned.
To those unfamiliar with these issues, it may seem as though the right’s fixation on rape, the pill, and ultrasounds has sprung out of nowhere. The truth is far more sobering. A generation ago, when my mother was a vocal young feminist, the pro-choice movement made slow advances towards decriminalising contraception and abortion – advances that culminated, of course, in the success of arguing a case before the US supreme court and securing 1973’s historic Wade v Roe ruling. Similarly, the right’s desire to throw up as many obstacles to abortion as possible – mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, higher costs, the impossible-to-meet requirements for clinics known as Trap laws – has been brewing for some time. Nor did the desire to target hitherto uncontroversial forms of contraception like the pill and the IUD spring fully-formed into existence in 2011. Of course, it was largely thanks to GOP electoral victories, fueled by Tea Party enthusiasm and extremism, that those plans were finally turned into policy.
Electoral advantages and groundwork aside, it’s my belief that the misogynistic hostility towards women’s bodily autonomy, the desire to turn back the clock on gender equality, is part of a reaction to the election of the nation’s first African-American president. The sense that America has rolled dangerously far down an undesirable road has not only brought out the hideous racism that until now had mostly lain dormant and covert, but has also fed a desire to undo what the left sees as progress toward gender equality and what conservatives view as the dismantling of everything they hold dear. The re-election of President Obama will, in all likelihood, serve to deepen that sentiment on the right.
You can read the whole thing here.