Women’s health means rightwing stealth. At the last minute, the Stupak/Pitts Amendment was attached to the Health Care Reform Bill. This amendment violates the underlying principle of health care reform, as articulated by President Obama, that “no one will lose the benefits they currently have.” Truth is that under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment, millions of women would lose benefits they already have and millions more would be prohibited from getting the kind of private sector health care coverage that most women have today. Ie: millions of women would lose private coverage for abortion services and millions more would be prohibited from buying it even with their own money.

People are often surprised that we are still fighting this battle for freedom of choice after so long. I’m not. I’ve come to understand that anti-choice and opposition to contraception has nothing to do with pro-life or pro-fetus; it has everything to do with power and who has it. It represents a mindset that values women mainly for their services as wives and sexual partners to men and as producers and rearers of children.

Reproduction and sexuality are keys to women’s empowerment. If a woman is able to determine the reproductive and sexual aspects of her life, it means she can also control and determine many other aspects of her life. When women are robbed of reproductive health and contraceptive decision-making, they loose an essential element of what it means to be a full human being.

This is a power struggle that has existed from the very beginning of the 120-year fight over reproductive rights. Every dictator—Stalin, Ceaucescu, Hilter—has made anti-choice a central component of their agenda. The anti-choice movement has used different strategies over the decades, growing more strategic and virulent in reaction to the modern U.S. women’s movement. Granting personhood to the fetus is only the latest incarnation and now the Stupak/Pitts Amendment shows how clever the movement has become. Most folks blame the Bishops without realizing the most pernicious part of it all.

Reproductive health has to be understood from a woman’s point of view. How a woman manages her fertility comprises a whole spectrum of factors — her relations, sexual and otherwise with her partner; her economic and psychological circumstances; her status within the family and in the community; her future security. Health factors are only one among all these others and since childbearing and child rearing is a complex social and economic undertaking that affects a woman’s economic, social, sexual, and emotional life, and the life of her family and her community, this undertaking cannot be decided by a medical doctor who is weighing it from the point of view of health risks, or of policy-makers who may view it subjectively as a moral issue. This makes the woman an “object” and it dismisses her knowledge about her own body and her own life and instead of enhancing her dignity and self-respect it belittles and disempowers her.

It reflects a mindset that believes that women cannot be trusted to make decisions that will be good for their families and society; that what is good for a family and a community and a society or even a woman’s own health is something that must be determined by others who “know better” and then imposed on her.

The strategy of the anti-choice forces today is not to oppose abortion frontally but, instead, to wage an incremental assault in a long-term effort to win the hearts and minds of the American public. The Stupak/Pitts amendment is a good example.

Let’s not let this pass.

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