The far right’s war on women

Things are rough here in the United States. The economy stinks, unemployment remains stubbornly high, and as a nation, we aren’t happy with the direction we are going. As 2011 starts to wind down, many of us look eagerly to 2012 and hope the new year will bring something other than complete and utter shittiness. This mood is not altogether different from the end of 2010 when large numbers of veteran lawmakers nationwide were fired, and a Republican party—buoyed by a strong job creation message and a certain beverage-themed band of political malcontents—made sure the Democrats got their asses handed to them on Election Day.

Sometime between then and now, the whole “Americans aren’t working” thing must’ve slipped down into the couch cushions and out of sight. The Republicans have controlled the political conversation for almost a year now, and although the nebulous concept of “job creation” is a cause célèbre whenever they are within 300 feet of a camera, the real obsession seems to be with the goings on inside a woman’s lacy unmentionables. (And no, I’m not just talking about John Ensign here.)

Whether it be the HPV vaccine in Rick Perry’s Texas or the steady stream of legislation flowing in and out of our government dealing with Planned Parenthood and Title X funding, these issues are once again front and center, and for all the wrong reasons. It horrifies me that people like presidential candidate Miss Congeniality, R-Minn., are so vehemently against HPV vaccinations in the first place, let alone so much so that this issue is elevated to national prominence in multiple presidential debates.

“Ninety-nine percent of American women will use birth control at some time in her life,” states Elisa Cafferata, president and CEO, Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates. “Is this about ‘fiscal responsibility’ or is this about controlling women through legislation?”

Controlling women through legislation is exactly the goal, if a local anti-abortion group gets its way. The Nevada Prolife Coalition has filed an initiative with the Secretary of State’s office that if passed would take away a woman’s right to choose. The petition would prohibit “the intentional taking of a prenatal person’s life” and defines a prenatal person as “every human being at all stages of biological development before birth.” No provisions for rape, incest or life of the mother. Lemonade out of lemons, indeed.

The petition is similar to a failed 2010 petition pushed by Personhood Nevada, a radical anti-abortion group headed up by none other than Richard Ziser, a man made famous by his spectacular loss to Harry Reid in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. That petition was rejected by Carson District Court Judge James Russell, who found the language too vague to be properly interpreted by the voters. Under that petition, any being possessing a human genome would be granted due process rights, effectively prohibiting abortion.

Personhood Nevada, ever undeterred by an embarrassing loss, has vowed to resurrect this discredited petition, which means we could be faced with two radical anti-abortion initiatives, both of which marginalize women and draw attention away from what we really need to talk about in this state, which is how are we going to get hundreds of thousands of jobless Nevadans back on the payrolls and off the welfare rolls.

In 1990, Nevada passed the Freedom of Choice act, and if by some fluke either of these vague, misleading initiatives actually makes it on the ballot in 2012, I hold out hope Nevada voters haven’t gotten that much dumber since 1990. We are notorious for our fierce political independence, and Nevada is one of the few places where “smaller government” is a reality, not just a bumper sticker slogan. So far we’ve managed to keep the long arm of Carson City out from under a woman’s skirt, and no man or his petitions should be able to change that. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.