I stumbled upon an interesting term on the internet recently – “Jane Crow” laws. My first reaction was a bit of offense that a racist practice from the past is being manipulated in a completely unrelated context. Then I thought…is it unrelated? The context in which the term was used was in regards to the unfair arrest and incarceration that pregnant women have been facing recently, “establishing a separate and unequal status for all pregnant women,” according to a recent study done by the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law and published on January 15th. The study, Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public Health, illuminates how the legalization of abortion spurred the flexing of laws and intervening with pregnant women’s lives in order to have more control over their pregnancies. This creates a “separate but equal” mentality: however, in this scenario, more closely resembles a “separate and unequal” status for pregnant women.
Does it stop at pregnant women? Sadly, no.
Raise your hand if you thought that maybe, just maybe, Romney not being in office would spur some tangible progress for women. Raise your hand if you, as of the first month and a half of 2o13, have been let down.
The issues concerning the VAWA – Violence Against Women Act – almost act as a symbol for the continued GOP War on Women. First, Republicans couldn’t decide whether or not to protect Native American women under the act. Then, it wasn’t passed at all. Now, Senate passed it with perfect ease, however with the new provisions, the Republicans of the House may find further problematic addendums to hinder the process. “They (Senate) voted 93 to 5 to include a provision targeting human trafficking, and 100 to 0 on a provision to ensure child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance. They rejected amendments by Coburn to consolidate certain Department of Justice programs and to allow grants for sexually transmitted disease tests on sexual assault perpetrators .” With only concerns such as funding coming from government or other sources stopping Congress from passing VAWA last year, I can only assume the new provisions with result in a grinding halt, and hope otherwise.
Does it stop there? Don’t be idealistic. Of course not.
New Mexico, courtesy of Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), just proposed HB 206, which would (in the case of an open rape trial) make an abortion of the resulting fetus a third degree felony, classified as “tampering with evidence.” Third degree felonies in New Mexico result in up to three years in prison. The bill states that “tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.”
Now, most of the arguments defending the bill go something like “the goal is punishing the person who commits incest or rape and then procures or facilitates an abortion to destroy the evidence of the crime,” not necessarily criminalizing all abortions. However, the implications of the bill are that the victim of the rape must, in turn, carry the fetus to term and deliver the child. You could claim that if the victim terminates the pregnancy, she is guilty of a felony, even perhaps “assisting” the prosecution. If she assists her attacker, then was it really a rape? Go ahead and tell me that it’s a stretch. Go ahead and say that in the history of sociopolitical problems, no written word has ever been manipulated, misconstrued and distorted by people in order to get what they want. Think about the “Jane Crow” laws. With a woman pregnant due to rape in New Mexico, would a “Jane Crow” law hurt her in the context of HB 206?
The issue here is that people who are proposing these bills, people who are causing and enabling this sort of behavior, are (in their own point of view) doing so with understandable motives. The Republicans, for example, said that VAWA wasn’t passed due to being unable to agree to financial terms in the bill. Yeah, financial terms. I’m not saying they’re unimportant. But what’s more important, getting all the eensy quirks of the financial aspects just right or actually passing a bill that protects women and saves lives? What is worse, losing one part of evidence or forcing a rape victim to carry her rapist’s baby to term? What are our priorities in all of this?
They say their priorities are the women. Keeping them safe, doing what’s right. But is it, really? Do our actions reflect this?
Fish are the last to recognize water. When you’re in the thick of it, you may not see it. When it permeates you, you don’t smell it on you, for you’ve become desensitized. Look at yourself for a moment. You may say you are a feminist and/or support gender equality, but have you ever victim blamed, called a girl a slut, or used sexual coercion? You may say you are not racist or homophobic, but have you even laughed along or cracked a joke that would make you blush were you in certain company?
I think one of the first problems is our society. We as a society are guilty of victim blaming, so it’s hard to do “what’s best” for a rape victim if, in the back of our minds, we think it could be partly the victim’s fault. This, in all likeliness, comes from two areas – our lack of education and our Puritanical surroundings. If we aren’t too scared of sex to educate people about it, and if we keep Christian ideals regarding sex and gender away from our legislation, a large part of this would be solved. There is always sexism in the media, in the workforce, etc – but we have to take the first step before we get there.
Think about it. Are you aware, or are you underwater?
“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale