To say that I’m baffled would be an understatement. I’m used to abortion being a hot issue in every presidential campaign—it has been since I’ve been old enough to vote, but this whole discussion about legislating birth control is throwing me off. It’s making my head spin. Really, there are serious contenders in the presidential race that think that birth control is morally reprehensible? How is this not a joke? How is this happening? Or more importantly, where is this coming from?
Earlier this week an Indiana state representative refused to sign a resolution honoring the 100-year anniversary of the Girl Scouts because he says they are a “tactical arm of Planned Parenthood.” Sure, nobody puts too much weight on the opinions of one state representative from Indiana, but his willingness to so blatantly slam the Girl Scouts, an organization known for providing girls with self-esteem building opportunities, indicates a problem. The problem is that many people are still threatened by the idea of smart, independent women who are in control of their own reproductive health and in the GOP’s effort to out-conservative each other, they’ve started saying offensive things—out loud—things that would have been unacceptable in a different climate.
So who are “they” and why are they feeling so threatened? Well, they’re the minority for one thing. Most Americans believe that affordable birth control is just fine. So why is this issue even coming up? Why is President Obama’s plan for across the board access to birth control being made out to be evil? It defies logic. Present day economics dictate that for most families both parents have to work. Would having more children help lessen the financial burden for families? No, it would not. Would keeping women out of the work force help families be less dependent on the government for their basic needs? No, it would not. Without birth control would there be fewer abortions? I don’t think so. Is President Obama going to make everyone use birth control? No, he is not.
Why is birth control even an issue then? All I can come up with is that the GOP presidential candidates are so clueless as to how to tackle the issues our country faces today that they’re focusing instead on an issue that will take the spotlight off of the fact that they have no ingenuity. They don’t know how to address our economic woes or how to begin a discussion on how we’re going to power a country that can’t continue to rely solely on coal and oil for its every need. Instead they’re going back in time. They want to return to 1950, to a time when America seemed on top of its game, women knew their place, most homosexuals were in the closet and there weren’t so many pesky laws in place to keep environmental degradation in check. Those were the good old days—unless of course you were a person of color, a member of the LGBT community or a woman who wanted to limit the size of her own family.
As a woman born in 1968 it’s been relatively easy for me. But some of the things I’ve been hearing lately from the Republicans running for office have served to remind me that my freedoms haven’t been in place for such a long time. My own grandmother was twenty-one years old when women were granted the right to vote. Until 1936 birth control information was considered obscene and was prohibited from being distributed through the mail. The equal pay act was passed only five years before I was born. When I look at the timeline of women’s rights I see that I’ve been lucky. I was able to have a say in the size of my family. I haven’t been paid less than my male co-workers simply because I’m female. I’ve been allowed to vote!
So I guess I take it personally when a group of white, wealthy men start dissing the Girl Scouts or suggesting that women shouldn’t necessarily have access to affordable birth control. I look at the girls from my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and I’m proud of the young women they are becoming. They’ve canoed through the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve volunteered in our community to make it a better place. They’ve been positive role models to younger troops. They’ve learned to be true friends to each other. In a couple years these girls will be launching out of our small town and into the bigger world. They’ll be well prepared. I know they’ll do a good job of reminding the world that smart, independent, empowered women need not be feared, in fact they make the world a better place.