What’s driving the war on women’s rights?

The anti-women faction of the Republican Party is dominating the discussion in mainstream politics–and the Democrats’ response has been to let them – Published on Socialist Worker, February 29, 2012.

… HOW, IN 21st century America, could these Neanderthals be setting the terms of the debate about what women should be able to do with their bodies?

Most people, of course, don’t support banning birth control or preventing rape victims from obtaining abortions. Fetal “personhood” laws have been put on the ballot as referendums and failed–most recently in Mississippi, where the measure lost by a wide margin despite the state’s generally conservative electorate. 

No doubt, the Republican Party establishment as a whole isn’t fanatically devoted to outlawing abortion or returning to the days when women were kept out of the workforce. Either outcome would pose a few problems for Corporate America, for example. But none of them will stand up to the anti-women fanatics who are speaking for the party.

That’s because the far-right social conservatives play a useful role for the Republican Party as a whole. They are the attack dogs–foaming at the mouth and straining at the leash–that whip up the party’s right-wing base in an election year to go to the polls and “protect” conservative values … //

… THIS HAS been the dismal picture for too many years, and it’s why the case of Virginia, where the right wing didn’t get its way, is so instructive. It was only after a barrage of public criticism and activism that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell backed off his support for the two anti-choice measures, and then the Virginia state Senate subsequently delayed the vote on the ultrasound bill and sent the personhood proposal back to committee until 2013.

Discussion of the proposals spurred expressions of outrage from thousands of women and men that the ultrasound legislation would have forced women to undergo the equivalent of state rape.

Even more importantly, the action of some 1,400 protesters at the Virginia Capitol building was instrumental in delaying the Senate votes. When a Senate committee first advanced the personhood bill, pro-choice advocates inside the General Assembly chamber cried out: “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame on you!” Once ejected from the building, protesters lined the sidewalks, chanting, “What do we want? CHOICE! When do we want it? NOW!”

According to the Associated Press, “Molly Vick of Richmond said it was her first time to take part in a protest, but the issue was too infuriating and compelling. On her lavender shirt, she wore a sticker that said ‘Say No to State-Mandated Rape.’ Just beneath the beltline of her blue jeans was a strip of yellow tape that read ‘Private Property: Keep Out.’”

Of course, our rights certainly aren’t safe because a few legislators backed off slightly. In Virginia, a “compromise” on the ultrasound bill, which passed the Virgnia Senate as this article went to press, would still require women to undergo a less obtrusive ultrasound. This is still an unacceptable restriction on a woman’s right to choose.

This election year, we’ll be told many times that we have to vote for Barack Obama and the Democrats in order to keep abortion legal against the threat of a President Romney or Santorum.

But we should look to the protesters in Virginia for the real example of how to stand up for our rights. And we should remember this, too: It wasn’t a Democrat in the White House that gave women the right to abortion, but a fighting women’s rights movement in the 1960s and ’70s that made all the difference.

That’s the kind of movement that neither party wants to see today–and the kind of movement we have to build. (full long text).

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