The recent controversy over a requirement for health plans to cover birth control, including health plans offered by Catholic hospitals and universities, has me scratching my head. How can contraception be an issue in 2012? Didn’t Margaret Sanger win this fight almost 100 years ago? In reality, the controversy is manufactured. The majority of Americans believe that birth control should be safe, widely available and covered by insurance plans. People under the age of 40 support that notion 2:1.I believe that the opposition is not about contraception or health insurance. It’s about male dominance and female submission. Islamic extremists and Christian right conservatives share a remarkably similar view of the proper role of women in society. They both have a deep, deathly fear of women controlling their own reproduction and thus controlling their own destiny. Women who control their own reproduction are powerful. They have the time, space and energy in their lives for education, employment, political action. A woman with access to education and financial independence has the self-confidence and werewithal to demand rights and respect. That scares the living shit out of conservatives, be they Christian or Muslim. The idea of women as co-equal partners in society terrifies them, and why not? These patriarchs exercised complete control over civil societies for hundreds of years. They aren’t going to give up that control without a fight. They can’t use facts or logic to justify their argument that a woman’s place is in the home. They can only point towards the sky and claim that they speak for God. We must accept their word that God wants to keep us barefoot and pregnant.
I suspect that many women never bought that argument, but they were so physically debilitated by the process of birthing and nurturing child after child that they had no energy left to fight. When a woman controls her reproductive destiny, she lays claim to her physical power. She insists on her right to choose her own path, regardless of what the patriarchy and their Sky God prescribe.
My grandmother gave birth to 10 children over 24 years. The last one killed her, literally. My mother remembered her being terribly sick and jaundiced during the pregnancy. She died within days of giving birth. My mom was nine years old at the time with three younger brothers and sisters, one an infant, who needed looking after.
When I was a young girl, a woman in my neighborhood died from an illegal abortion. She had given birth to four kids in five years. When she found out she was pregnant with number five, she went over the border to Tijuana for an abortion and never came home. Those four little kids were left without a mother.
Does the religious right really want to return to this world?The religious right, be they Christian or Muslim, are absolutely sickened (and probably secretly tititilated) by the thought of women enjoying sex. Seriously, that's what it boils down to. Why? I think it’s because a sexual woman is a powerful woman. She knows what she likes and what she wants. She embraces her own physical power and that power terrifies these men. One thing we know about male hierarchy: it doesn’t share power or relinquish control willingly.
Female sexual autonomy is the bête noir of bitter old men and their patriarchal religion. The next generation finds their fears laughable. They literally cannot understand what all the fuss is about. Women have been in control of their reproductive destiny for over 40 years; my daughters have never known a time when birth control wasn’t available. The genie is out of the bottle. Women fought and died for autonomy. We won’t relinquish it without a fight.