When President Trump signed a resolution last week that gives states the power to withhold federal Title X family planning funds from Planned Parenthood, he spotlighted once again the evil history of misogyny in American culture.
Hatred of women is the primal prejudice. It is the context and source of all other bigotry. That the dominant male-entitled social structure of the United States, the patriarchy, should be based on a validating demonization of the gender it oppresses fits with the practice of most tyrannies. By creating an enemy, a wickedness within, a dark force that must be controlled, the powerful generate an enormous energy of fear that feeds its power.
Despite the gender underclass suffering from a glaring power differential, one in which the powerful have the gall to defend unequal pay for equal work and the malice to assign female health a secondary priority to male privilege, the malign and degenerate patriarchy of this administration has no shame.
The current attack on women’s health is as despicable as the cowardly uprising by patriarchal power (both its sexes) to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. The ERA had a simple message that male entitlement couldn’t stomach. The amendment read, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The conservative attack on Planned Parenthood, lead by the President, is a direct assault on the defeated principle of the ERA. It has virtually nothing to do with abortion, except in the minds of conservative propagandists. Federal money cannot be used to fund abortion procedures. That’s been outlawed since the mid 1970s by something called the Hyde Amendment which blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and a threat to the mother’s life. In the Pense/Trump era, even those exceptions are under assault. The Hyde Amendment, however, does not restrict states from using their own money to fund abortion procedures. Seventeen at present have no restrictions against doing so, including New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, all blue anti-Trump states.
The political attack on Planned Parenthood is not about religious scruples. It’s about hate mongering built on misogyny, race and class, a hatred of minorities and women with low incomes or who can’t find a job, as many as four million in America and more than half of them without insurance.
Withholding federal funds deprives these women of basic family planning counseling dealing with contraception, fertility issues, sexually transmitted diseases, screening for breast and cervical cancer, and medical care during pregnancy. Abortions are the exceptions.
Withholding federal funds from Planned Parenthood will slow it down, but it won’t wipe it out. A little more than a third of its $1.3 billion annual revenue in the United States comes from the government, the rest comes from non-profit and private donations. Planned Parenthood’s resilience as an organization comes from the tempering of antagonism and the violent hostility it has faced over the years. Its strength and courage arises from the moral necessity and life and death nature of the work it performs.
Planned Parenthood has been the object of hate crimes and anti-abortion terrorism since founder Margaret Sanger became its first president nearly 100 years ago. The organization’s motto, “Care, no matter what,” speaks of its defiance of fear in the face of what amounts to a never abating siege. Sanger herself always said that abortions would not be needed if birth control was available to every woman.
Patriarchies see birth control in the hands of women as an assault on their command and control over their households, finances, inheritance, and rigged status in courts of law.
Anti-abortion terrorism on Planned Parenthood clinics should be called more properly anti-woman terrorism, often in a religious disguise. Whatever it’s called, it is terrifying in its violence and frequency. Doctors, nurses, clinic receptionists and security personnel have been shot and killed. Clinics have been subjected to hundreds of arsons, literally countless death threats and demonstrations, acid attacks, bombings, anthrax threats, assault and batteries, and even kidnappings.
In the 1990’s in Albuquerque, powdered substances were mailed to Planned Parenthood clinics during an anthrax scare in the Congressional mailroom which had left the whole nation on edge. Bullying around clinics has been terrifying clients for decades here. In 2007 a Planned Parenthood building was set on fire, windows were broken out in another, and the office of what the New York Times called a “nationally known” abortion provider in Albuquerque was destroyed by arsonists. Eight years earlier, in 1999, a Planned Parenthood “surgical center” was destroyed by fire.
But in 2013, the voters of Albuquerque put a stop to a nascent, national movement supporting municipal anti-abortion referenda when they defeated a move to ban abortions after 20 weeks. In a record turnout of some 87,000 voters about 55% voted against the ban. When put in historical context the Albuquerque referendum might have been the first in the nation and perhaps among the last.
This year, the legislature defeated three anti-abortion bills, according to Progress Now New Mexico (PNNM), all of them generated out of the House of Representatives. A bill proposing a 20 week abortion ban was defeated. A bill called the “Forced Medical Intervention Act,” or the “Born Alive Bill” would have “blocked women, their families, and their healthcare providers from making personalized medical decisions,” PNNM says. And a third bill, “The Partial and Late-Term Abortion Bill,” would have banned and “criminalized abortions later in a pregnancy under any and every circumstance, whether the life of the mother is in danger, or the fetus is no longer viable….”
New Mexico’s humane, moral and anti-sexist views on women’s health will surely come under attack repeatedly through the Pence/Trump years. The outrageously blatant misogyny of the far right will keep stirring the bigotry of the violent fringes and the absolutist convictions of religious literalists who seek to impose their religion on the rest of us. It seems that fate has decreed that misogyny will be as hard to eradicate as any pernicious virus. But New Mexico is on the vanguard of creating a healthy future for all of us. Misogyny is seen here for what it is – the toxic core of all inhumane disrespect, of all suffering caused by political and social malice, of environmental degradation which endangers public health and the wellbeing of everyone. Despite all of our fiscal difficulties, New Mexico has taken a lead in combating sexism and its inherent threats to women’s health. It’s an accomplishment we can be very proud of.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it
(Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey)