Last week my daughter and I were walking to school, holding hands, swinging our arms and trying to run away from our shadows when she looked up at me with her nearly 4-year old cherubic cheeks and said, “Mommy, when I grow up, do I have to be a mommy?”
I reflexively responded, “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. No one can tell you what to be when you grow up, you get to choose and mommy will help you.” And then my throat caught.
I came of age in what I would call, relatively speaking, the Golden Age of Choice. (New York City, liberal bias so stipulated.) In the 90′s when Roe was largely re-affirmed by Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania vs Casey and, parental notification notwithstanding, barbaric back alley abortions suffered by petrified high school girls, undergraduate co-ed’s, single working gals and young wives, were the stories we heard to remind us how good we had it. Although it was not something anyone ever talked about, girls I knew had safe and legal abortions, often accompanied by their mothers. Those with steady boyfriends and courage asked for, and received, birth control pills from their doctors.
By and large this was the reality into my late 20′s. I was fortunate to not have had an unplanned pregnancy and therefore never forced to make a difficult choice before I was ’ready’ to have a baby. I was also lucky to have good health insurance which made birth control easily accessible. My accessibility to economic freedom and good health seemed as certain as my right to consume oxygen.
When I learned that I had given birth to a daughter, it was my assumption she would have every opportunity to choose any path she saw fit; that her options for health care would be even better than mine and that obstacles I faced in the workplace would just be stories I told her, you know, about the old days.
Then came the healthcare debate and the demonization of Planned Parenthood, an organization that spends over $10.6 million per year on health services for men AND women, and exactly ZERO federal dollars on abortion services. Hyperbole like ‘Obama-care is socialism’ and ‘Planned Parenthood does the devil’s bidding’, did little to disguise a dangerous subtext: women should not be left to make their own reproductive and health decisions, and they are probably hussies anyway.
But it got worse. Personhood (sorry infertile parents to be) became a thing, the morning after pill was re-branded as abortion (science be damned) and aspirin was reintroduced as a viable method of cheap birth control (there are no words). Now a man who voted against the Fair Pay Act and who authored EIGHT of the most staunchly restrictive anti-choice bills ever brought to the halls of congress will, in one week’s time, be officially nominated as the Republican candidate for the vice-presidency.
Indeed the rabid commitment of some elected officials and media personalities to restricting women’s health care choice and reproductive freedoms has now given rise to, what we can only hope, is the final insult. A candidate for the United States Senate, Todd Akin (R-MO), has sought to suggest (and bear in mind this is not the first time he’s done so) that there are varying degrees of rape (because, it would seem, women are prone to exaggeration).
As a woman who has sought to be financially independent and as a mother, these attacks on reproductive freedoms look, smell and feel vindictive. With abundant evidence of the Pill’s positive impact (visit The National Bureau of Economic Research www.nber.org) on a woman’s financial well-being, amid the backdrop of long-term economic contraction, one is forced to wonder what is truly driving the last two years of unfathomable attempts to rollback access to family planning options. While a demonstrable wage gap persists (see GAO study October 2003), gains have been made and the data suggest that 8-10% of the narrowing which has occurred can be attributed to the Pill. (Cue raised eyebrow.) Since prostitution is illegal and therefore not included in the government’s labor statistics, we can reasonably conclude these gains do not result from a boom in earnings from whoring, as Rush Limbaugh might suggest. (No citation needed here, methinks.)
Nowhere is anti-choice extremism more evident than in the halls of the United States House of Representatives. Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Todd Akin, among others, have actively and repeatedly sought to eliminate access to abortion services under any and all circumstances. ANY and ALL circumstances. As if to suggest women spend their lives wishing and hoping to find themselves in the position of needing an abortion. Because just in case this wasn’t already obvious, we don’t.
And just as an aside, while I have you’re attention: while we’re telling folks what to do with their bodies and questioning their ability to make their own decisions, we need be reminded of our moral imperative to protect the rights of anyone with $100 and an internet connection who wishes to purchase an ak-47. ’Cause, ya know, that makes sense.)
We have been barraged with the sounds of choice clawbacks. Men talking about women’s health and choices in the abstract, seeming to have never contemplated the notion that a woman’s decisions are the sum total of myriad inputs and not a singular emotional, ignorant reflex.
And so it is that on August 21, 2012 there are 77 days until election day. A day on which all Americans will be able to (theoretically)exercise their most basic freedom and choose our president. To the voting booth we will carry five years of economic hardship and uncertainty; 11 years of two endless wars; and billions of dollars in debt for which we are now ALL responsible. I will carry my daughter and lift her up to pull the lever for Barack Obama without hesitation or reservation. I will tell her that we are giving Obama our vote because some people are trying to take away our voice and he speaks for us.
I supported Barack Obama’s candidacy for President in 2008 because I believed he was the right person for the job. As a country we were in dire need of new ideas, intelligence, hope, and yes, change. This time around I am fighting for Barack Obama’s election for one reason: my daughter.
Please join me in supporting the health and freedoms of all our daughters by voting for Barack Obama on November 6.
P.S. Confirm your voter registration TODAY. Most state deadlines are coming soon.