Ben Nelson, who has been hostile to health care reform throughout this whole process, has decided that he wants to jump on the train of using sex-phobia and misogyny in order to derail the momentum of health care reform. He’s going to offer an amendment he calls “Stupak Lite”—which probably means that it will have an exception for the health and the life of the mother, and possibly for rape. I’m sure this comes as no surprise. To conservatives, using abortion as a tool to fight health care reform is a win-win proposition. Or win-win-win, since there are three things that can happen.
1) Hatred of female sexuality is used to kill health care reform. Two points—one for raising fears of female sexuality, and one for stopping health care reform. (Hey, maybe soon we can give women 26 years in prison for what appears to be the crime of having a sex life while being youthful.)
2) Health care reform passes, but women who have unintended pregnancies pay for their “crime” of being sexually active while not being rich twice over: once when they have to tolerate getting their uterus scraped and once by having scramble for the cash to pay for it. One point.
3) Health care reform without the amendment passes, but at least anti-choicers have managed to publicize the idea that women who have sex while not being rich are a criminal class that should be punished at every opportunity. One point, because anti-choicers love anything that becomes all about them.
It seems that Nelson is involved in this logic, but the news that’s pouring out mostly inclines me to think he’s even more overt than Bart Stupak in using this amendment to delay and try to kill health care reform. Check this out, for instance.
Nelson said that the amendment’s language was not finished, and that groups opposed to abortion — notably the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — needed more time to review it.
Since when is our government being run by a bunch of celibate men dedicated to a misogynist dogma about women who have sex? Having the Catholic Bishops review legislature about bodies that don’t belong to them, so they can sit around sniffing their hatred for women, is both creepy and contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment, especially since it seems that this entire review process will be done without a single female eyeball falling on the amendment. The whole process makes it very clear how much this is about the patriarchal belief that men own women’s bodies, and that they have a “right” because women are filthy and inferior, due to the slut factor.
I hope the lesson in all this sticks, especially with liberals who continue to see reproductive rights as a second tier issue. Misogyny is a powerful political force in our culture today, which is why politicians like Stupak and Nelson make it their go-to strategy when looking to derail progressive efforts to help all people. Without misogyny, we’d be much further along in this health care reform process. Without misogyny, it’s arguable that we would have had universal health care a long time ago. After all, the reason we don’t have universal health care is that Americans keep electing Republicans, and a big reason Americans keep electing Republicans is that conservative pundits endlessly beat the sexism-and-racism drum, scaring angry white men into voting for Republicans, who they (correctly) see as their allies in the war on female liberation and anti-racism.