Yesterday was International Women’s Day. But you couldn’t tell by the rabid war being waged by a wretched cadre in our political and media systems. All over the country, legislation curtailing women’s reproductive freedoms is currently being pushed by republicans in state and national congresses.
In Georgia, female representatives walked out in protest over the latest insult to women’s freedom passed by republican majorities. Overall, more than 430 bills have been submitted that limit access to contraception and reproductive services this year alone. These arrows of oppression are launching at a higher rate than even last year which saw a total of more than 1100 bills assaulting women’s health. The most egregious bills include mandatory invasive ultrasounds, now the law of the land in Texas. But some are simply quibbling, insulting, and demeaning examples of men attempting to exercise power over women’s sexuality.
The attacks are being driven by an extreme religious institution that has dominated the republican party and the nation’s airwaves. These religious and media attacks have, at their root, an ancient and black tradition of misogyny. For a brief time during the twentieth century, this anti-woman, dominionist world-view was rolled back in favor of liberation. But now anti-enlightenment forces have gained ground and are using their power to roll back the clock on women’s freedoms. The battle we find raging in our systems of power, though not new, is very destructive to our civilization, to our marriages, to our opportunities as individuals and as couples, and to the ability of the poor to climb up out of poverty.
Harm to women’s freedoms is harm to us all. Indeed, our society’s civility can be judged by how we treat the most defenseless among us. And women, who are physically less powerful than men, and are seen as kinder, gentler, are a favored victim of bullies and of institutional bullying.
But there are more practical issues involving women’s reproductive freedoms that impact us all. And we should all, men and women both, think long and hard before we allow them to be removed.
Contraception Prevents Poverty
In the past, women who were poor were often also shackled with unwanted pregnancies. Women already suffering from poverty and finding themselves needing to care for a child or two, or three, or four often had only one option — marrying a man who could provide for them. This constraint limited the role of a majority of women to bearing and caring for children. It also reduced the options of couples. A man was almost universally forced to work to help feed his growing brood. And with each new child, the financial options of families became more and more constrained. On the other hand, families who plan their children are enabled to hold two incomes, to reduce the total number of children, and to increase their quality of life over time. All these options reduce instances of poverty.
Contraception and Family Planning Reduces Population Stress
Worldwide, there are now over 7 billion people. According to almost every scientist who studies Earth carrying capacity, this number is higher than what is sustainable. Over the next 20-50 years, the hope for maintaining a livable world rests, in large part, on civilization’s ability to restrain population. This restraint involves reducing the birth rate to bring population back into balance with resources. Most systems researchers show a sustainable civilization is one in the range of 2-4 billion individuals. There is absolutely no chance to reach this number without access to contraception and family planning services.
Though these numbers and notions may seem academic, they have absolute impacts. There are limits to the amount of arable land, materials, fossil fuels, food, fish, and pollution sinks in the world. High population rapidly depletes all of these resources. And since Earth is the only planet we know able to support human life, once these resources are depleted or destroyed, they are gone for good.
So population restraint is about poverty, death, and war restraint. It is about preventing famine. It is about giving the world time to transition to renewable energy. It is about reducing the impact of climate change. It is about increasing access to material resources and opportunities for each individual.
Equality Multiplies the Power of Civilization
Imagine what would have happened to England had Elizabeth never been queen…
Women are intelligent, clever, compassionate, kind, able to navigate social difficulty, able to compromise, and enable systems of cooperation and personal development. They possess unique qualities that provide powerful and intangible benefits to the civilizations that elevate them. Art, knowledge, science, all multiply in societies in which women are sexually liberated. But societies that sexually repress women tend to be more narrow, war-like, and poor.
At risk in the current war on women is the dream of a vital and civil society. Those currently leading the assault on women, the contraception and family planning denying, the slut shaming, the bitch calling, and all the other nastiness, are an existential threat to the true system of liberty and equality that has flowered throughout the development of our nation.
Some have said ‘the American experiment is over.’ And it is those same cynical, narrow souls that are fighting a broad war to end the greatest experiment in liberty and equal opportunity the world has ever known. We should be all be shamed that we have allowed this cancer to grow on our soil. We should be terrified that we have let it mar our beloved. The fair ladies who have helped us so much and have elevated America to such a position of greatness.
The moment we let these freedoms die is the moment we have allowed them to cut out the very heart of America. The very heart of us. Will we allow them? Will we let them continue to advance this darker America? A place of struggle that only creates opportunity for an increasingly narrow and mean-spirited elite? A place where the fairest among us are once again only consigned to the shadows?