The highest court in El Salvador has decided that a 22-year old woman must continue with her life threatening pregnancy and give birth to a baby who if born alive will die immediately. The young woman has lupus and obstetric complications. She also has a small child at home. The court’s justification is the same spouted by anyone looking to control a woman’s body; they are protecting the fetus. The fetus in question is encephalitic and cannot possibly live as a baby for more than moments. There is an actual child who might very well lose his mother to this pregnancy. That this woman is being forced to endure this pregnancy is barbaric. A court ordered pregnancy is holding her hostage. She will witness her declining health and her growing stomach, helpless to alter the tragic outcome.
That this is occurring in El Salvador is less relevant today than it might have once been. Twenty or so years ago we may have been horrified but resigned. After all, El Salvador is a very religious country. But guess what? So is America now. Not since the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock have we had such a powerful religious influence on politics and policy. In 2013 it’s rather difficult to point the finger at any other country’s religious fervor. Almost without exception all organized religions agree on a few points; there is an invisible entity that guides, there is a polarity of good and evil, and women have a place. It is not a coincidence that as the nation (finally) benefits from the feminist fights of the 1970s we are seeing reproductive freedoms erode. Those longhaired, bell bottom wearing woman marched through the streets with signs reading; A Woman’s Place Is In The House And In The Senate. And guess what? They are in the House and in the Senate. Their numbers don’t come close to representing 51% of the population, but it is an improvement. Equity in sports has a long way to go, but just remember what Billie Jean King had to endure. It is no longer legal to hire according to gender. That women still make less than 3/4 of what men earn, is an issue, but still it is progress.
So if it’s no longer legal to keep women out of office, the workplace or sports, what is a misogynist to do!? Well we know for a fact that sexism in medicine is both easy to engage in and rarely questioned. We know that medications are routinely researched and developed according to a male test subject. We know that great efforts have been made to ensure that men can always have sex (while on life-support if need be) but there is still no hormonal male birth control. Most medical machines and devices are designed for male patients (except for that gem, the mammography machine which if any man had ever to place any of his sensitive bits into would be redesigned in an instant.) When we combine the sexism of traditional medicine with the sentimentality of “it’s for the children” it’s far easier to attempt to marginalize 51% of the population. It’s not for the children; it’s never been for the children. If people cared a whit about the children we would have stellar healthcare and nutrition for all and the best K-12 system on the planet. We came close to that reality once, but I think we’ll all agree that there’s been some serious backsliding. It’s not for the children that we force a teenage girl (who is in fact a child) to endure a pregnancy and birth, or to look at a sonogram of her fetus. (How is it that using technological advances to traumatize girls and women is contemplated let alone allowed?!)
The truth is that any group outside of the power structure will suffer as they progress. We’ve seen it happen to every minority group. Homeostasis is a very strong force. There will always be those who feel that people they view as ‘less than’ are infringing on their rights by having rights of their own. But it’s hard to fathom how torturing a 22-year old woman and leaving her small child motherless makes anyone feel better about themselves.