As spring approaches, there seems to be an explosion not just in Virginia for state legislature-sponsored pre-abortion ultrasound laws. Differing by varying degrees of severity, trans-vaginal probing of women seeking abortions has been proposed by state legislatures in Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
You have to ask, why are we seeing such a rash of virulently anti-choice and anti-female legislation? There’s so much of it happening all at once… hmmm… you’d think it was a concerted effort. Actually, laws like these were first proposed in the mid 1990s. Now there are over twenty states requiring pre-abortion ultrasound. These states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The intent is obvious: personify fetuses and dissuade women from having an abortion. By adding the procedure as requirement to an abortion, it makes the entire pursuit of an abortion far more expensive, thus more difficult to pursue. The law the Virginia legislature tried to pass last week was nothing new. This time, they were caught in the act by diligent bloggers and the press.
But the bigger picture of this situation is not to be found in the printout of a sonogram. We should know by now that the trans-vaginal ultrasound probe is only the proverbial tip of the spear used in an all-out culture war, just in time for the 2012 election campaign. Along with legally questionable restrictions on voter registration for college students, immigrants and blacks, anti-choice restrictions are another facet of the struggle by the Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Bush socially conservative movement to make its last claw-hold on the nation. However, as writer for New York magazine Jonathan Chait says, the electorate could be outgrowing them.
A concerted effort? Absolutely. As Chait writes, the election of 2012 is the last best shot for the social conservative movement, a movement which began in the early 1970s, to disrupt the new movement caused by the 2008 election — the first election of the Uranus-Pluto square and the swerve back to the center-left. The 20th century war on women has been ongoing, especially since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision and the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment to get enough states to ratify it. Since that time, conservatives have been attempting to push back on civil rights — racial equality, women’s progress, and gender equality for lesbians and gays — in subtle and now not so gentle ways well into the 21st century.
The reaction to the last Uranus-Pluto aspect of the late 1960s through early 1970s has been one long culture war under the umbrella of economic and corporate de-regulation. We all know how that ended up. If in this election the social conservatives do carve out a victory reclaiming both House and Senate, or all three branches of government for that matter, that victory may still be short-lived. Most of their support is older, white and soon to be eclipsed by a younger, browner electorate — an electorate that they are desperately trying to suppress.
If allowed their victory, either by apathy as in the case of the 2010 midterms or by voter suppression, undoing the damage left in their wake — as we have already learned from 2008 and now in 2011-12 — may take longer than a generation to fix. Which is why fighting to expose those attempts at restricting contraception access, establishing fetal personhood and mandating invasive ways to coerce women from getting an abortion is a fight we need to keep having energy for.
If we haven’t been hammering away at this one point enough, let me do it again here: this is why we need to take advantage of these next three years of Uranus squaring up against Pluto, to overturn these restrictive structures and the devices used by some (like those trans-vaginal probes) pushing too hard with their social agenda to contain us. Pluto has been known to shatter those who overreach their bounds. Just ask Lehman Brothers. Add Neptune in Pisces and dissolution of the tired old walls becomes inevitable — but we need to apply diligent and forceful effort like the women in Virginia who took to the streets, emailed and called their legislators with enough force to make Governor Bob McDonnell back off from his pledge to sign the trans-vaginal probe bill into law.
The states’ probe laws are both physical and symbolic. Like drone-bombing enemy targets abroad, we’re getting drone-fucked by men and women dressed in suits, ties and misplaced righteousness, ensconced in marble halls of power. The war for women’s rights to determine their reproductive wants or health needs is not going to be easy. Movements are not born overnight, nor do they die quickly. They die hard. They need to be dismantled, just like the right has been trying to do with Roe v. Wade when they decided on an all out, all-encompassing war against reproductive choice. They imbedded themselves in the agendas of political parties and churches, built coalitions with corporate and military interests and worked on getting elected to Congress, to the governors’ offices, and to state legislatures and school boards. They’re still at it. They changed the regard for the phrase “reproductive choice,” tinging those words with shame and secrecy.
Our young people have grown up in a world where they have sex, have access to contraception and know a little something about AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. This is about more than anti-choice laws. These are behaviors and mindsets we must work to break open to our kids’ reality on the ground. They are not interested in moving backwards. And neither should we.