Lady Sybil died at Downton Abbey tonight because two powerful men overruled the doctor who had known her since childhood and the mother whose reasoning powers were not poisoned by the need to be right. Childbirth has always been dangerous and still is for many women. But when men with large egos are given the power to decide who lives and who dies, who suffers and who doesn’t have to, we are all the worse for it. It’s time we faced what is really behind the decades long erosion of women’s reproductive rights.
One of the guests on Bill Moyers’ program this Sunday said that we are living through a time very much like that of 100 years ago when men were afraid of sharing political and social power with women. The most direct way to control women is to control their sexuality.
The issue of abortion rights has never been of much interest to me, but the other night I heard a nun (one of the Nuns on a Bus group) say that anti-abortion activists are not pro-life; they are pro-birth. That makes a huge difference and helps me understand why the same legislators who vote constantly to make it harder to get an abortion are also the ones who vote against increased funding for pre-natal care, infant feeding programs, family leave, subsidized child care, Parents as First Teachers, Nurses for Newborns, and medical services for new moms and their babies.
Now that the anti-women extremists have made it very, very difficult to find an abortion provider, they are going after contraception. So that makes it very clear this is NOT about abortion. It’s about controlling women by controlling their sexuality. The male decision makers in the Catholic Church are steadfast in their dictates and pronouncements about women’s reproductive restrictions, but the lay women and nuns who actually keep the Church running are much less dictatorial about it. Why is that?
I’ve complained for years about using “pro-choice” as a rallying cry. It makes the heartwrenching decision to end a pregnancy seem so trivial. The two women on the Moyers program open up the whole conversation about “reproductive justice” in such a way that makes more sense to me. One thing I know for sure. Men who need to exercise power over women should not be allowed to make any decisions or pass any laws about sex and reproduction.
Watch the video and see what you think.
Susan Cunningham is a retired teacher of American history. She lives near St. Louis, Missouri.