Markets Must Be Free; Women Must Be Constrained

Right wingers adamantly proclaim that free markets are necessary for freedom. So why do so many of these liberty lovers insist that women be constrained?

The right has been relentlessly pushing laws that limit women’s autonomy. The most extreme measure is on the November ballot in Mississippi. There, voters may amend the state constitution to define a “person” as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

If this law passes, a woman would not be able to get an abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or if her life were in danger. Miscarriage could become a police investigation. And at least some (possibly all) forms of contraception would become illegal.

Similar measures are being planned for future elections in Florida, Montana, Ohio and at least five other states.

Slate’s XX Factor reports on the consequences of such a law being passed in Mexico:

The main result has been a doubling down in the criminalization of women who have abortions, or even miscarriages… The penalties for a woman who has an abortion range from six months to four years.

XX Factor goes on to report that one woman got a 23 year sentence for what she says was a miscarriage. Now consider that about one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. (In the U.S. today women are prosecuted for stillbirths, even when prosecutors lack direct evidence linking poor health choices to the stillbirth.)

Personhood activist, Ed Hanks, says society isn’t comfortable yet with punishing women and their doctors for abortions, “because abortion has been ‘normalized.’” He hopefully adds, “As the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest.”

When women aren’t being limited by penitentiary walls – or by their own deaths – another prison arises when contraception is banned – a goal pushed by plenty of conservatives. Some abusive men even destroy contraception hoping to trap wives or girlfriends into dependency by their need to care for children.

Last summer I wrote of despots who controlled women’s reproductive rights. But it bears repeating:

The 20th century’s most loathsome regimes focused on controlling women’s reproduction. The Nazis closed family planning centers and outlawed abortion, eventually making it a capital offense, says Steven Conn, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State. Stalin banned abortion. Ceausescu outlawed contraception and made miscarriage subject to criminal investigation. Today China forces abortion and sterilization. Conn observes:

The day after the evil Ceausescu had been executed, the National Salvation Front issued two decrees; it lifted the ban on the private ownership of typewriters, and it repealed the laws that policed pregnant women.

America’s right-wing extremists look eerily similar to these despots, lending an ironic twist to their claim of being all about freedom through free markets.

Markets must be free. But women must be controlled?

Reposted on Daily Kos November 7, 2011
Also republished in Daily Kos by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, Pro Choice, and Community Spotlight.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 7, 2011, in feminism, gender, politics/class inequality, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. This is the paradox many who call themselves pro-lifers: as long as the fetus (or – if this creative amendment passes – the fertilized egg) is in the womb, life is precious and sacred and whoever puts an end to it is the worst kind of sinner who shall roast in the fire of hell. Curiously, some of these very same life-cherishing people fiercely stand against any social improvement that could bring equality and well-being to so many.

    So basically, once that fetus for whose rights they fought is born, their job is done: they saved a life, and they can piously move on to the next quest. But wait – this newborn needs health care; and loving parents; and decent conditions to start off; and this fetus may have a sexual orientation that is not quite what some pro-lifers see as appropriate.

    And all of a sudden, all the fuzzy warm caring goes away… once the fetus becomes an actual living human being, it does not deserve to have a decent life. Not really. Not if it wasn’t lucky enough to be born to the “right” family and have all the “right” traits intact.

    It seems that concentrating so hard on taking away the rights of weaker groups (I don’t say minority groups since women are actually a majority, the last time I checked) leaves no energy to try and improve the life they fight to keep. Well, so much for caring.

    I recently saw a button that says: “If the fetus you save is gay, would you still fight for its rights?”. That pretty much puts such people on the spot: picketing for-life and against-gays with the same conviction doesn’t exactly fall under the category of highly logical acts, unless we’ve all missed the fine print that says ‘Pro-life (*as long as it the way of life I approve of)’. The same goes for being pro-life and anti-healthcare-reform.

    It’s quite shocking to see the world going backwards. Here’s a thought: people usually try to control what they perceive as a threat. So one has to wonder: why are women such a threat to America’s right-wing extremists? I believe Freud would’ve had a field day with this.

  2. Oh – CNN breaking news has just informed that:

    “Mississippi voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that defined life as beginning at the moment of conception, CNN projects based on reported results.

    The measure would have made it impossible to get an abortion in the state and hampered the ability to get the morning-after pill or birth control pills that destroy fertilized eggs. Disposing of unused fertilized eggs could also have become illegal, making in vitro fertilization treatments more difficult. The measure could have led to a nationwide debate about women’s rights and abortion while setting up a possible challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which makes abortion legal.”

    Perhaps sanity has not completely left the building? (well, not yet, at least)

    • THANK HEAVENS!!!! Good news. Earlier polling had it ahead.

      And MS is the most conservative state. If it won’t pass there, other planned ballot measures are unlikely to pass, either.

      Whew!

  3. I think that it is unfair to illegalize abortion. Before the baby becomes independent, in which I mean he/she can breathe, digest and excrete, he/she relies on the mother’s body. I think that the fetus, which has not developed all organs and thinking, is merely some cells inside a woman. Thus, I think that a woman should have control on whether to give birth to it or not.

    Besides, miscarriage is not something that human has full control with. Some women are not born with healthy bodies; some women’s work and living environment are harmful to the development of the fetus; some women lack the education of how to keep the growth of fetus healthy. Therefore it is unfair to punish women if they miscarried.

    Other than miscarriage, pregnancy is not controlled by women also. As mentioned in the article, some men “destroy contraception hoping to trap girlfriends or wives”. Even if men really use contraception before sex, there is still a possibility that sperms leak out to the vagina, successfully meeting with women’s eggs. Furthermore, as in general, men have greater upper body’s strength, women are unable to avoid intentional raping. Due to the above reasons, getting pregnant is not a mistake because women do not have full control on this issue. From my point of view, as it is not a mistake, why should women be punished by the authority?

    I think that this article reflects contemporary gender inequality in the United States. I reckon that because of the tradition values internalized by the seniors and media, some people still believe that women are inferior to men. To narrow down the gap between two sexes, social movement and time for people to understand the truth are essential. However, I believe that someday everyone will discover how abnormal it is to treat women and men differently, creating unfairness in societies.

  4. To focus your blame on “the right” is a little too targeted, as we witnessed in the Mississippi elections, probably the most right-leaning state in our union, which resulted in a failure to pass the proposed measure. I think, without a doubt, that this measure was not passed because it offered no alternative for those carrying a child resulting from rape or incest.

    Informed right wing supporters, for the most part, understand that overturning Roe Vs Wade is not feasible, and therefore, should not be a defining issue on whether someone leans to the left or the right. If any federal legislation were to overturn R Vs W, the power would move to the states, and fortunately for us in California, abortion would continue.

    The problem most middle-of-the-road republicans, as well as independents, have is the extraordinary amount of state sponsored abortions. Everyone’s moral compass falls in a different place, and for those who believe abortion should no longer be legal, well, they have to live in our society which condones abortion. BUT, should their tax dollars be used to fund something for which they are morally opposed?

    We, as a society, have also become exceedingly tolerant of the various uses of abortion, most notably taking on its new role as a method of contraception. We have even gone as far as to develop the “morning after pill”, which in itself is a means or abortion and contraception, respectively.

  5. I am utterly impressed. I found you through a link a girlfriend posted on Facebook, and you are absolutely knocking it out of the park with how rationally you present all these… touchy topics.

    About this post on abortion, I couldn’t agree with you more. How are we to be free when we have no choice as to when we procreate? I suspect that folks who are insistent that women should not have the choice are likely folks who have never had (nor will ever) an excruciating pregnancy. The female body doesn’t just pop it out easily.

    To say that a woman really ought to suck it up when they’ve gone and done “the nasty” and have the child – and if they don’t want it, should give it up for adoption– is absolutely ludicrous. It’s not even always about not wanting the end result (a baby). Sometimes it’s about not going through the serious physical changes that accompany pregnancy. But regardless of the reason behind not wanting to procreate at a particular time, a baby should never be the punishment for sexuality.

    • Thank you! And thanks for the additional perspective.

    • A baby should never be a punishment for sexuality.

      That. Yes.

      And furthermore, a baby should never be a punishment period. Pregnancy results not only from the woman’s sexuality. It can also result from abusive relationships, rape, ignorance about the human reproductive system, inaccessibility of contraception, poor choices resulting from substance addiction, etc.

      And no matter how the pregnancy occured, even if you could have taken every precaustionagainst it but simply did not bother to – it is still your body. I’m not saying that an abortion is a good thing and it’s okay to do it lightly, but a person has an innate right to decide what to do with their own body – especially so in regard to something with such far-reaching consequences. And until the fetus develops enough to be able to exist outside of that body, I just don’t see how a woman can be put second to the fetus. Like she’s some kind of an incubator-box that must know her place. Seriously.

  6. Criminalizing women who have abortions or miscarriages is nothing short of abuse. How about instead limiting sex for men? If he is the almighty seed planter and provider, he should be limited to having sex to only when he is ready to have, and to help create, and to care for, a new life (aka a baby). He would need to wait and see if he was successful in his attempt before even being eligible to engage in the act again. If he was not successful he may be subject to a health trial to determine if criminal action should be taken against him because of personal neglect to his health. He will most certainly be judged as imperfect because after all, in this fantasy world, his main purpose is to be the seed planter. If he is imperfect or inferior, he is certainly no longer an ideal candidate either. Further, an act that causes him to ejaculate without the purpose conceiving a child, with or without his consent, will become illegal, because “personhood” begins at the source, the sperm. Is there any injustice experienced here that is any different from controlling women’s reproductive rights or placing the liability of “personhood” onto the woman? I don’t think so. It is just a different perspective on who is constrained and how. I’d actually vote for constrained markets and freedom for all people.

    • I wonder if it has ever occured to these legislators to imagine things this way. Probably not, though it should have. Would have put things in perspective nicely.

  7. The society and culture define men and women differently. Men are the leaders and women are followers. Women’s lower status makes them have many unfair treatment and they can’t get the same rights as men. Illegalizing abortion is unfair to women. Women are not as strong as men, so they need to be protected. Men can’t control women, and women are not supposed to be limited at home to do housework and take care of children. Women should have their own lives, and get equal rights. The law claims that everyone is equal and can have freedom. However, illegalizing abortion will take away one of women’s main rights and freedoms. There is no reason that women should be controlled by men and family and the society. The law and society should offer the freedom to women instead of controlling them.

  8. It seems like men fear how much women can easily reject them and by getting them pregnant they can force them to be married to them out of the need to care for their children. Also it seems not only unfair but unreasonable arresting a woman for having an abortion. what if she has a miscarriage? Someone can say she had an abortion instead and then she well go to jail for something she couldn’t control. A woman should have the right to an abortion because what if she can not care for the child? The child will grow up in a tough life or end up in an orphanage where they will always wonder why they were not wanted by their birth parents. I do believe though that the choice to have an abortion should be not only the woman’s choice but also the man’s because it is also his child. It is the woman’s body creating the baby and all and she has a right to not have someone’s child but it isn’t only hers, it is also the guys so she may have more power over it but he should be able to have some say in it. overall women shouldn’t have to be controlled in this way and should have their own say. They can also be leaders and not just followers.

  9. It seems like men fear how much women can easily reject them and by getting them pregnant they can force them to be married to them out of the need to care for their children. Also it seems not only unfair but unreasonable arresting a woman for having an abortion. what if she has a miscarriage? Someone can say she had an abortion instead and then she well go to jail for something she couldn’t control. A woman should have the right to an abortion because what if she can not care for the child? The child will grow up in a tough life or end up in an orphanage where they will always wonder why they were not wanted by their birth parents. Point is that a woman has the right not to have a child, it is her body and giving birth is a scary thing to go through. Although I think the father has a right to want his child but the woman still should have more power because it’s her body. Overall, law and society has to stop trying to suppress woman and realize we live in an era where we know we can have more equality and they should stop being afraid that we can do things better than they can and make things better. They need to suck it up and accept that we are here to stay and we are not to be controlled like slaves and servants.

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