After three hours of mind-numbing debate, and on the eve of a holiday weekend, the House passed an amendment sponsored by an Indiana Republican congressman, Mike Pence, which effectively cuts off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. As Politico reports, the measure won by a comfortable margin of 240-185, with eleven Democrats voting in favor.
Rep. Pence has reportedly been involved in the movement to deny a woman's right to choose for years, and contends that Planned Parenthood has been too invested in facilitating a procedure that gives women control over their reproductive destiny. Some Democrats took to the House floor, and lambasted the bill calling it "a war on women."
Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, from New York, asserted that the Pence measure is unconstitutional in that it discriminates by targeting a specific group, or organization.
Meanwhile, from out of so-called left field, California Congresswoman, Jack Speier, confessed that she legally aborted twenty years ago before she was in Congress. She spoke on the House floor, late Thursday night, and rightly suggested that deciding to have an abortion is about the most difficult decision any woman has to make.
But, later in a press release, according to the Associated Press, Rep. Speier walked back her emotional disclosure by saying she didn't want to have an abortion, that "the fetus slipped' from her uterus," and "could not survive," thus distancing herself from women who choose to end their pregnancies because the procedure was clinically necessary. Sounding more like Sarah Palin than a congresswoman from San Francisco, Ms. Speier then said, "I lost the baby."
It's precisely that kind of talk, and that kind of thinking that emboldens mostly white males to try to roll the clock back to the days when the true mark of manhood was keeping their women barefoot and pregnant.
Sister Speier is invited to join the 21st Century, and accept the fact that she did not lose a "baby," but a fetus. Engaging in even casual relations with the kind of thinking that blurs boundaries between those two entities is setting the table for the kind of thinking that produces an amendment like this in the first place.
Make no mistake, defunding Planned Parenthood isn't about reducing the number of legal abortions, or a return to family values at all. It's about a bunch of middle-aged white guys, and their enabling spouses, trying to return to the good old days when men held the purse strings. The measure to defund Planned Parenthood isn't about limiting access to legal abortion, it's about limiting access to the boardroom where women's presence is now being felt.
Women now represent a majority of the workforce and, according to a New York Times article last February, 60% of college enrollment is female, and has been for at least a decade. Women tend to have higher grades, and as the Times reports, men tend to "drop out in disproportionate numbers."
While there are now more working women than men, we are a far cry from gender equity when it comes to pay which may go a long way toward explaining why there are more women in the work place. Just one year before President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, equal pay legislation, in 2009, women reportedly earned 22% less than men. Not only do women work for less, but women are still willing to do jobs that men would never consider doing.
Maybe it never occurred to Mr. Pence, or his patriarch colleagues, that the college degrees they covet, and the jobs they think they're losing to women are not Planned Parenthood's responsibility, but instead that of big business which continues to rake in greater profit by underpaying women.
Maybe those who voted in favor of the Pence amendment don't have daughters because, if they did, they'd also realize that what Planned Parenthood has done for nearly a century is to supply women with the information, and the tools, necessary to make responsible reproductive choices, and avert unwanted pregnancies. To make an organization founded in 1916, long before Roe v. Wade, synonymous with legal abortion is to take ignorance to a whole new level.
The Pence amendment isn't really about patriarchy any more than it's about Planned Parenthood. It's about economic empowerment, and reifying an infrastructure of domination that has as much to do with empire building as it does gender equity. The vote in the House is a chain reaction that has mostly affected rich white males, a concern that the pendulum is swinging, and that they will no longer be the ones doing the dominating.
The bill now goes to the Senate where, hopefully, it will be stopped, but it's frankly scary that a measure like this would even see the light of day, or late night in Congress.
The president has taken a major step toward solving the problem of putting more men back to work by giving women equal pay, but there are those who want instead to put us flat on our backs and ensure that the only kind of "labor" we know about is the kind that lasts a matter of hours.
Causes Jayne Stahl Supports
Free Speech, human rights, and abolition of the death penalty.