For Women: From “Yes We Can” to “We Must”

I do not generally post about politics on 4WomenWorldwide because, quite frankly, the importance of the issues discussed here bypasses partisanship or political parties. To me, they are simply questions of our humanity.

At the young age of about nine, my grandmother started to talk with me about politics and though I didn’t care or want to engage then, I took many lessons with me from our countless discussions over dinner and under her apple tree. For her, respect for another persons’ political opinions always came down to one thing: “Shelley, have they thought it through?” she would ask me.

Within this framework, I have generally not been in the business of telling people how to vote – as long as the person on the other side of the isle had cogent arguments, I could swallow his or her opinion as a thought-out perspective.

But this election season is different. This election I urge you all to vote Democratic, in both national and local elections, for the sake of women’s rights. Why, you may ask?

As a country we are witnessing an assault on women’s rights that threatens to take us back decades, to days where women’s rights were not understood or expected to change; we were viewed as outside the political process, valueless with issues that did not deserve attention.

Today, the Republican party wants to bring us back to the dark ages where this is again our reality. For as long as I’ve been old enough to form my own political opinions, I have tried to apply my grandmother’s wisdom and accept the views of those I didn’t necessarily agree with, as long as they had thought it through.

But in this era of the 24-hour news cycle where misinformation abounds and the crux of the issues are often buried or overlooked, it is more difficult to know who to trust and where to turn for the “truth.”

Here is the Hard Truth.

Number One: Anti-Abortion Laws: In Republican-run Virginia, a proposed bill would have required a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a trans-vaginal ultra sound. Because abortions often take place within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, (so the argument goes) this specific procedure is required in order for the doctors to see or hear anything – and means that a doctor must insert a probe into the woman’s vagina in order to complete the procedure.

As was noted by many women’s rights advocates and journalists, this incredibly unnecessary invasion would be equivalent to a coerced penetration that would constitute rape under Virginia law. Ultimately, Governor Bob McDonnell backed off of this specific proposition but, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 20 other states have attempted to pass similar laws, including Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

At this stage, many of these laws require that a woman seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound and that the doctor completing the procedure explain the baby to the expectant mother. Though this is certainly not a part of the law, it is clear that these provisions are nothing more than an attempt to change the woman’s mind and promote the pro-life agenda.

Number Two: Abortion and Rape: Indiana Republican candidate for Senate, Richard Murdock, recently made headlines thanks to his thoughtless and enraging comments against abortion in the case of rape, where he argued that even in “that horrible situation … it is something that God intended to happen.”

Nope, I’m not kidding:

I will take a moment here to note that Mr. Romney endorsed Mr. Murdock and touted his potential election as being the 51st vote needed to gain the majority in the Senate. Romney has since backed away from Mr. Murdock, saying that he does not agree with this extreme view. But, I hope, the damage has already been done:

Let’s think this through. A woman is raped. She gets pregnant and is not only traumatized by what happened to her but now has to deal with the fact that this assault on her body resulted in pregnancy.

Nothing about this is what “God intended.” Here, I will defer to Melissa Harris Perry, a rape survivor herself, whose letter to Mr. Murdock says it all:

“As we heal, we learn not to judge ourselves or to judge our fellow survivors, because we learn that judgment can wound as deeply as assault. If a woman finds herself pregnant after a rape, we do not judge the choices she makes … Somehow, through the angst and misery of that experience some … women [find] a way to love and embrace the children they bore from rape. So I do not doubt the compassion or judge the choice of a survivor who carries a rape pregnancy to term.

“But the whole point is choice. Consent. You see, Mr. Mourdock, the violation of rape is more than physical. Rapists strip women of our right to choose, of our right to say no, of our right to control what is happening to our bodies. Most assailants tell us it is our fault. They tell us to be silent. Sometimes they even tell us it’s God’s will. That is the core violation of rape– it takes away choice.”

It takes away choice. What will our country look like if men like this are elected into power? In some ways, I am completely dissillusioned by the Washington Establishment. There are many decisions that President Obama made with which I disagree (see drone strikes, immigration, maintaining tax cuts in 2010) – But I have confidence that this rampant assault on women’s rights would not come from this administration or from the left. It comes from the Republican party that is set on taking away all that our foremothers fought for, all that they brought to us. For them, for my grandmother, for my children, for you and your loved ones, we cannot let this extreme Republican agenda win. No, President Obama and the Democratic party are not perfect; but they will not strip women of their right to choose or devalue the experience of rape victims.

In the context of today’s political landscape, the “yes we can” slogan that rallied millions four years ago means little. But we must vote Democratic if we want women’s rights in this country to gain any traction.

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