Oh how hypocritical we can be. America. Land of the free. Land of Equality. Do we really have equality in America? I submit no. True equality does not exist. While debating recent health care legislation a large percentage of congressional members likened provisions of the bill to “death panels”. Their interpretation envisioned a review panel whose responsibility was to make decisions over life saving treatments — taking the decision out of the hands of the patient’s doctor. Although stemming from a very loose and possibly inaccurate interpretation, these members of congress were so outraged over the very idea of a third party deciding whether or not they had the right to live that they vowed to prevent the passage of any legislation incorporating such authorities. Ironically, however, the very same people who opposed “death panels” in the health care bill now favor legislation that prevents women from managing their own healthcare.
Legislation was recently presented that would not only prevent a woman from making decisions over her own reproductive health but would actually place control of a woman’s reproductive health in the hands of the government and even her employer. How could members of congress be so outraged at the idea of managed healthcare for life saving treatments yet support managed reproductive healthcare for women? I would argue that the largest contributing factor to support of such legislation is that the majority of the supporters have no stake in the legislation – they are men. Even the panel of “experts” called to testify before congress on matters of reproductive health was 100% male. “It takes two to tango” but only ½ of the dancers are experts. As ridiculous as that sounds it’s even more ridiculous that Republicans have moved so far right they now consider the prevention of pregnancy equivalent to the destruction of life. After an uproar from the female community over the lack of females on the panel of “experts”, one of the most outspoken protestors, Sandra Fluke, was invited to testify before congress. Following her testimony Ms. Fluke was labeled as a “slut” who “wants to be paid to have sex” by the ultra-conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. But to add insult to injury the Republican Party refused to denounce Limbaugh. Presidential candidates released statements to the effect that they would have chosen different words. Different words? That’s far from an apology and certainly doesn’t support the equality our government claims exists. I wonder what their position on the use of condoms is? All men who use condoms are diseased pigs? If we’re going to have true equality shouldn’t the same people persecuting women for having sexual relations, *gasp*, be persecuting men for using male contraceptives? Yes. Of course you would be hard pressed to unearth such a statement. These most recent attacks follow the passage of legislation in the state of Virginia where women will now be forced to have an ultrasound in order to receive an abortion. A step designed to discourage women from having such a procedure by adding another level of complexity and possible embarrassment. There are no health benefits or safety precautions associated with the new requirement. In fact these recent actions by state and federal legislators represent nothing more than an attack against a woman’s right to manage her own reproductive health.
Recent attempts to limit women’s reproductive rights can be likened to many other acts of oppression by government. Slavery was once an accepted institution in this country. Even after the abolition of slavery blacks were not considered equals. The policy of “separate but equal“ maintained a racist institution eventually resulting in the civil rights movement. Racism and segregation still exist to a certain extent today, much to the thanks of previous legislation essentially making racism law. Legislation enforcing racial equality has even been necessary. The acts of oppression were not limited only to people of color. Gays have been fighting a war against oppression as well. Marriage equality and social acceptance are both still very real issues. Although gays have made great strides towards equality their fight is far from over. The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is certainly a step in the right direction but until gay couples share the same spousal and adoptive rights as straight couples true equality will never exist. When reviewing the issue of gender equality women are now considered “equal” to their male counterparts. Dating back to the origins of our government, it was believed the woman’s place was at home and therefore women were not afforded the right to vote or the ability to serve in political institutions. In fact women have only been permitted to vote since 1920. Although women have gained equality in nearly every aspect of life there are still two critical areas where women are not equal. In the workplace they receive, on average, a salary that is just 77% of their male counterparts. With regards to healthcare women are constantly fighting for the right to manage their own reproductive health. In fact the recently defeated “Blunt Bill” would have made many women reproductive slaves to the beliefs of their employers.
For all the progress that has been made divides still exist and oppression still takes place. True equality can only exist once oppressive legislation is eradicated and social divides are overcome. When our government no longer compromises on oppressive legislation and rather rejects it completely. We preach equality from one side while legislating against it on the other, making our very system of government a hypocritical institution.