February 19, 2012
No compromise on women's health care and reproductive freedom
Women's access to health care and family planning again made news this week with the brouhaha over whether the Catholic Church should cover contraception for their female employees. And, once again, politicians tell us we must find common ground with right wing fetus fanatics at the expense of quality health care. It's time for feminists to demand no compromise when it comes to our health care and reproductive freedom.
After pressure from the reproductive rights movement, President Obama announced that free contraception would be offered to all women as part of the Affordable Care Act. Not surprisingly, the Catholic Bishops and Evangelical Christians protested. Within days, Obama attempted a "reconciliation" which would allow church-affiliated institutions objecting to contraceptives on religious grounds to opt out of paying for the coverage. And it would be up to the insurance companies, not the employer, to inform the covered employees about the free contraceptives (and we all know how eager insurance companies are to notify clients about free services).
In response, the Catholic Church, far-right religious leaders and FOX News commentators upped the ante by agitating for regulations to allow any employer to opt-out of providing comprehensive health insurance for "moral" reasons. U.S. Representative Darrel Issa, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, hosted an all-male panel, refusing to allow a young woman to testify about women's health care and the need for contraception at a hearing about contraception. Why? Issa said at stake is religious freedom, not reproductive rights. To contend that a discussion about contraception isn't about feminine health care is absurd. Issa would not even allow religious organizations that agree with Obama's policy to testify.
Also this week, senators in Oklahoma and legislators of the House in Virginia passed laws that conferred "personhood" on an embryo. The fetus fanatics have made their point clear. They intend to erase every gain made by women in the last 40 years, starting with the right to control our own bodies.
Trying to appease the ultra conservatives is a losing strategy. For decades moderates have attempted to find a middle ground with neo-cons. This has only pushed the discussion farther and farther to the right while earlier gains are eroded. We're a long way from debating whether women should get full equality under the law -- now the debate is whether a fertilized egg has equal status with a person.
Why the need to control women's lives? Well, let's be blunt, we're a valuable commodity -- free labor in the home, underpaid labor at work. Big business would lose billions if they couldn't pay women of color a fraction of what they pay white men and white women. And to provide childcare, education and paid maternity (and paternity) leave cuts deep into the bottom line.
It's time to hit the right with a feminist left. From Arab Spring to Occupy, rebellion is in the air. Vocal supporters of women's reproductive freedom forced the Komen Foundation to reverse its decision to stop funding mammograms at Planned Parenthood. Young people are standing shoulder to shoulder with feminists, unionists and community activists to defend immigrants, social services, people whose homes have been foreclosed, and public education, and fight against corporations and war.
And with the upcoming elections we can back candidates that truly support us -- no more compromises, no more deals, no more sacrificing women at the altar of political expediency.
Radical Women has endorsed two staunch feminists -- Stephen Durham for president and Christina López for vice president. They are running a write-in campaign on the Freedom Socialist Party platform. Durham and López's proposals clearly put the needs of women, immigrants, the poor and people of color first. Radical Women promotes this campaign because we are tired of politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties who owe their allegiance to big business and banks. This year vote for the greater good, instead of the lesser evil! Go to www.socialism.com to find out more about this campaign.
The time is past to "make nice." Women desperately need free abortions and birth control, affordable healthcare, quality public education, union-wage jobs and an effective social safety net. Let's break through this "business-as-usual" politicking. We need to build a tough feminist movement that's ready to make its voice heard. Not the church, not the state -- women will decide their fate!
National Executive Committee
National Radical Women
747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone 415-864-1278 * Fax 415-864-0778