“Paddle” is a euphemism. “River” is a metaphor. The “trouble standards” are odious political currents, rushing us down the course of slippery slopes, floating on hypocrisy, and ripe with harmful selectivity.
The Supreme Court of the United States, (herein referred to as SCOTUS for brevity), our “highest court”, has handed down two decisions in the last five days which directly harm the rights of women. In the Buffer Zone ruling, SCOTUS held that pro-life protesters had a 1st amendment right to have “quiet conversations” and provide “counsel” to clinic goers, and that the 35 ft. buffer zone was in violation of those rights. A decision which, in consequence, emboldens said “pro-life” protesters to harass and bully women as they seek normal and necessary medical care. Listen, a while back, I encountered a local group of “pro-life” Catholic protesters, outside a clinic a few miles away. It was happenstance that I was there, but now I wonder if it was just a giant neon arrow pointing me in the direction of things to come. I was furious, at the time, at the sheer arrogance of righteousness presented in groups like that.
THEN: I offered a protest of my own body [I stood/sat in the sun on that busy street, with both middle fingers extended until they left, on two separate occasions], almost without understanding fully why I felt compelled to do so. The second time, I wore this shirt:
It’s a simple answer to the presumptuous title of “pro-life” – women ARE life. We are alive. We live. If you are not for women, you are most definitely NOT pro-life. Live and let choose.
I know, the middle finger is reactionary, and even divisive. I know. But it was a pure reaction, and in light of continuing political attack, I am even more sure that my body was the appropriate and silent tool for that offensive. Now, what did I get for it? Abuse shouted at me from strangers passing by, thrown water bottles, snarky comments from the protesters themselves. The police were called. The police didn’t ask the protesters anything, but rather, asked me to stop what I was doing because it “wouldn’t do any good”. Outrage doesn’t begin to cover the fallout of those protests. I was by myself and I felt it. Their supporters are vocal & hostile, their detractors are scared. I will say that there were a couple of positive affirmations and one lovely gal brought me cold water. Still, I felt a target on my person [body] each time. Though we were on a public sidewalk, I didn’t feel as though I had any protections.
Now these groups will be further encouraged by this buffer zone victory. In the case of the group I encountered, their protests are contrary to their own pontiff’s wish that they STOP focusing so much on doctrine and dogma, and instead focus on kindness and understanding. To openly defy the head of your own church with mass-produced signs (I’ve seen the SKU numbers on them) and 2-hours-per-Saturday meet ups to “counsel” & “pray” at clinic patients is an organized political move, not a faith based move.
The recent legislative backslide across most of the southern states and much of the mid-western states as regarding women’s access to necessary contraceptive and legal abortion services is hair raising. These developments have not only created a dangerous situation for women, which includes access restriction, intrusive procedures, and financial hardships, but for the nation’s integrity as the “land of the free”.
In the Hobby Lobby ruling, SCOTUS held that a privately held for-profit corporation could exercise it’s rights to religious freedom [under the RFRA of 1993 umbrella] like an individual citizen, to (selectively) deny contraceptive choices to its employees based on “closely held” religious beliefs. This is the first time that a corporation has been deemed able to exercise religion as a basis to deny a natural individual citizen a right she is legally entitled to by the law of the land.
THE MANY FACETS
1. Religious Freedom -
To paint this as a victory for religious freedom is to essentially place one narrow interpretation of Christianity above all other religions. It is a value placement by the highest court of the land, assigning priority to a singular Christian viewpoint. What it essentially creates then, by subtraction, is a Christianity/version ‘Merica thrall over the entire scope of any other Christian thought on the matter. And, possibly worse, it ignores all other religious groups’ thoughts and positions on contraception and women’s rights. While I’m not going there yet, what will happen when the breadth of this decision expands and impacts other deeply held and “sincere” beliefs? What will corporations-as-religious-individuals choose to object to next? Christian, non-Christian, your religion is not being protected by this ruling. Religious freedom is either for ALL religions’ benefit or it is nothing more than political bullying in the guise of morality.
2. Corporate Rights -
SCOTUS appears, in recent years especially, to be at the beck and call of corporate interests. It was a SCOTUS ruling which opened the door for legal precedent as pertains to corporate personhood, i.e. finding in favor of corporations as individuals, able to exercise individual rights, even to the detriment of the rights of actual (natural) individual citizens. In light of yesterday’s decision, perhaps especially so.
Secondly, the Hobby Lobby case is a direct (and transparent) attack on the beleaguered Affordable Healthcare Act (herein AHA), and its inclusive contraceptive coverage. So, what we have here, as regarding corporate rights, is a case which offers double-bang for its
“pro-life” anti-choice buck: a.) a pro-selectively-Christian “moral” referendum for the partisan battle over “abortion contraceptives”, and b.) a pro-corporation-as-religious-individual offensive against the “coercive government’s” AHA requirements. It is a thinly veiled partisan retaliation against the current administration which places any bystanding women’s bodies solidly in its crosshairs.
Individual Women’s Rights -
“Individual” rights isn’t correct, is it? In this situation, individual rights is too inclusive. Men, as individuals, can still get Viagra (for sex) and vasectomies (for contraception) from Hobby Lobby, as employees. So, it is *not* individual rights but rather specifically (and with chilling & unabashed selectivity), women’s rights as individuals. Further, it calls into question whether women receive legal protection as individuals at all.
Continuing that train of thought, I would say, without hesitation, women merit individual legal protections, as natural citizens of these United States; I can’t believe I have to further clarify that statement, but they are right to expect legal protection over and above the unnatural “corporate individual’s” right to exert opinion-based “legal” strictures.
Merit, however, is a pregnant word in our country, isn’t it? It seems besides the point, as merit alone pales in comparison to political and monetary heft. SCOTUS has sent a clear message to all individuals that personal body autonomy is only for some and is less important than political agendas which carry the force of financial might.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RBG herein) wrote a strong 35 page dissent on behalf of the four justices who failed to carry the winning opinion. Her dissent is reasoned, concise, persuasive, factual, and admonishing. It warns the Court of the mire in which it is entangling itself. The majority opinion draftee, Alito, representing the vote-carrying Five-Old-Men, including Swing-Vote sock puppet Kennedy, scoffs at RBG’s concerns, essentially dismissing them as hyperbole. As much as I admire the women of the Court just for getting on the SCOTUS, and for standing their ground for women – as much as I admire RBG for her vociferous defense of women’s rights and vocal admonition regarding corporate personhood – I am deeply troubled by the ineffectiveness exhibited.
There are more women on the SCOTUS than ever before, and that is a wonderful thing symbolically. Still, if they are unable to defend and affect the outcome of cases which cut a huge swath of corrosion through the rights of individuals who make up more than half the population of the Land, are these women justices anything more than a symbolic placation? Token vaginas placed for political correctness but with no impetus for change? And, in the face of their support of the buffer zone strike-down and their lack of teeth regarding Hobby Lobby – were they ever more than a symbolic tip of the hat? This is 100% demoralizing to consider.
I know. It hurt me to write those last words. I am frustrated and furious. Emotions ARE a part of recent developments in reproductive care for women. It IS PERSONAL. What could possibly be more personal than family planning?
At the heart of the concept of freedom is choice; specifically, individual choice as separate from common sentiment. Individual freedom of choice is, in the U.S., based on a citizen’s options and personal preference. That choice should always belong to him or her. Forcing individuals to choose a path other than their own inclinations [through denial of legal and available options and restriction of access] corrodes individual freedom and corrupts every Body involved. Individual or corporate, choice is necessary to define a citizen as “free”.
Following that, women are specifically and continuously being stripped of our choices. It seems clear today that our status as free citizens in our own country is in peril. Corporations have choice, women do not, or at the least women have less choice, therefore, women are not free.
This hurts EVERYONE.
Everyone is impacted by the loss of and attack on women’s rights. Thank you to everyone, male and female, who has spoken out against the prevailing political landscape. I humbly ask that you continue to do so.
Women, we must shed our exhaustion and worry – and DIG IN. If it wasn’t clear before, please understand: the battle just walked up to your front door and rang the doorbell. Don your armor (educate yourself). Open your door with a smile on your face and a glint in your eye. Kick the proselytizers OFF THE STOOP. What we allow is what will continue. Do not allow any more. And VOTE.
I should be clear here: I am not anti-religion. I am pro-choice. I am pro-human. I am for body autonomy. I trust women to make their own choices.
I will stand hard and fast against ANYONE who, for ANY REASON, tells me how I should or can make personal decisions in which they are not remotely indicated or involved. Extreme clarity: If my husband wants to talk to me about my choices, he’s earned the right with 21 years of love, support, and understanding. If a stranger standing outside a medical clinic wants to show me pictures of bloody fetuses and shout “Murderer! Baby killer!” at scared teenage girls (under the guise of “gentle counseling”) – well, to put it mildly – I REJECT THAT WHOLLY. And I am ready to assert MY 1st Amendment rights NOT to put up with it. And my 14th &19th Amendment rights, dammit.
I will fight for your right to choose, body and soul. I don’t even ask that much commitment from others, just leave me alone if you disagree. BECAUSE: your disagreement with my choices in no way entitles you to any rights over me.
I have two children. My daughter deserves body autonomy. So too does my son, and any partner he chooses down the road. Countries with good records on family planning availability are more economically and socially sound. Google it.
It is terrifying, specifically as a woman, that my standard of treatment as a human and/or care as a patient, and as a natural citizen of my country, is subjugate to the disagreeing opinion of a corporate entity. Where does that stop? Herein lies the “broad” sweep of the Hobby Lobby decision. Though Alito’s opinion crystalized that this case pertains only to contraceptive care for women, it is now only a matter of time before other “closely held” beliefs are presented as grounds for restricted access or denial to [for example] blood transfusions, organ transplant, et al. The precedent has been set and the window is open to flies on the pie.
There is a lot of chatter about single-payer as an answer and debate about the efficacy of healthcare being tied to employment income. I am going to sidestep these issues right now in the interest of maintaining focus on what is intrinsically scary about these rulings instead … but the internet is your friend. Embrace it.
Scary doesn’t begin to cover it. Harrowing. Denegrating. Frustrating. Agonizing. If I were Christian, I’d be appalled at the presumptive intrusion into the private lives of individuals. Beyond that, there is a deep sadness in me.
I sincerely question my country’s ability to provide legal protection to my children. They are potentially faced with fewer choices than MY MOTHER’S generation. Backwards is never the way forward, regardless of any deeply held convictions or disagreements.
Let me repeat: BACK IS NEVER THE WAY FORWARD.
Now, more than ever, forward is needed. Also, togetherness. As always, I believe men and women working together is the key to equality. Still, women, we must unite and relentlessly pursue our unequivocal and equal status as individual citizens, with the full and merited compliment of choices.
This is still the home of the brave. Be BRAVE.