Earlier this month, on May 4, 2011, the House of Representatives passed H. R. 3, a highly controversial bill commonly known as "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" by a vote of 251-175. If passed by the Senate, H.R. 3 would make the Hyde Amendment--which has already banned federally-funded abortions for the past 30 years--a permanent federal law, and further restrict womenÂ’s rights.
Earlier this month, on May 4, 2011, the US House of Representatives passed H. R. 3, a highly controversial bill commonly known as "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," by a vote of 251-175. If passed by the Senate, H.R. 3 would pave the way to make the Hyde Amendment--which has banned federally-funded abortions for the past 30 years--a permanent federal law, and add further restrictions to women’s rights.
The bill, introduced and sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R) of New Jersey, and cosponsored by numerous politicians including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, would also set in place strict procedural requirements for private insurance companies that cover abortions and deny tax credits to small businesses that purchase health insurance plans offering abortion coverage. It would also establish the possibility that IRS agents would be forced to ask questions during audits about whether a woman who had received an abortion had been raped or was the victim of incest.
While many pro-life and anti-choice groups across the nation support the H.R. 3, including Family Research Council, American Family Association, United States Conference of Catholic, Concerned Women for America, and National Right to Life Committee, what surprises many is that the communication giant AT&T contributed to Rep. Smith’s campaign, while both AT&T and Verizon Wireless contributed to Rep. Bachmann’s campaign. It appears the two mega-phone companies are now interested in effecting national policy regarding women’s rights. This has led some to ask, “What, exactly, is the current state of feminism in the United States?”
While many relate feminism in America to the so-called “bra-burning” protests of the 1960s , the formation of the National Organization for Women in 1966, and the Women's Lib marches of the 70s, movements aimed at helping women achieve equal rights in the US can actually be traced much further back in American history--to the suffrage movement of the 1920s, abolitionists' movement of the mid- 1800s, and to the woman many consider the “the mother of feminism,” Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, penned in 1792.
From these early movements, theories about the origins of inequality, and, in some cases, about the social construction of sex and gender developed and manifested in a variety of separate disciplines. Even as far back at the mid-19th century, activists have campaigned for women's rights regarding contract, property, and voting, while also advocating workplace rights (including equal pay and opportunities for careers). Women's rights relating to bodily integrity, autonomy, and reproductive rights have also been key issues, as has domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.
Today, feminism is a vast collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women--overlapping with those of women's personal rights. But while feminism is mainly focused on women's issues, some feminists argue that men's liberation is also a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles. Thus, “feminists”—individuals practicing and supporting feminism—may be of either sex. And while a growing list of both men and women have fervently supported women’s rights in the US, some wonder how much headway has actually been made if giant corporate entities like AT&T and Verizon are willing to risk their completive edge by waging what some are calling their “war on women”?
A closer look at H.R. 3 reveals what amounts to an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to restrict insurance coverage for and reduce access to abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America estimates that 13.5 million women who currently receive health coverage through Medicaid and other government-sponsored programs, would permanently lose access to abortion coverage if the measure becomes legislature.
Turing IRS agents into what Mother Jones terms "abortion cops," tasked with determining whether a woman used any kind of tax benefit to pay for a procedure not precipitated by rape or incest, the bill would essentially "redefine rape"--which many consider a major setback for women's rights. Marcus Owens, a former IRS official, told Mother Jones that if a woman received a tax credit for medical costs related to abortion, "on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger. It would be fairly intrusive for the woman."
The true hurtle for Republicans determined to bring H.R. 3 center-stage will come in the next few months as they reach out for more support. Some proponents maintain that "If you don't move the ball down the field," as Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) has stated, "it's never going to get moved." Others favor a more straight-forward political technique in the Senate by seeking Democratic votes in favor of H.R. 3 in exchange for Republican votes on the upcoming debt-ceiling hike confrontation. Rep. Bachmann, who cosponsored H.R. 3, has stated that she was "proud" to vote for this bill--and is hopeful it will pass the Senate vote.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless taking sides? What does this say about the current state of feminism in America?
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