by Amanda Marcotte
The Republican attack on Planned Parenthood, in the form of the House zeroing out funding for the organization in the continuing resolution on the federal budget, seemingly came out of nowhere. For decades, the kinds of services provided with federal dollars by Planned Parenthood—contraception, STD testing and treatment, cancer screening—had been assumed non-controversial by the Beltway media. The reproductive rights debate was framed mainly as a fight over bodily autonomy versus fetal life, between secular humanists and religious folks who believed fertilized eggs had souls.
So why then an attack funding STD treatment and contraception? Why, all of a sudden, do you have politicians like Rep. Steve King railing against Planned Parenthood not because of fetal life—after all, depriving women of contraception access will likely increase the abortion rate—but because Planned Parenthood is “invested in promiscuity”? Why do you have a conservative figurehead like Sean Hannity arguing not that abortion is wrong because it’s taking a life, but because teenage girls shouldn’t be making out in the back seats of cars in the first place? Why is Gov. Scott Walker not only attacking collective bargaining rights in the state of Wisconsin, but trying to eliminate contraception coverage (but not erectile dysfunction medication) on the grounds of “morality”?
The dusty old argument that female sexuality is a subversive force that needs to be strictly controlled isn’t as dead as we thought. The mainstream conservative movement is bringing it out of hibernation, and this time with a twist: now they’re arguing that women need to have their rights taken from them for their own good.
In the decades prior to Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade–the Supreme Court decisions that legalized contraception and abortion, respectively–the arguments for restrictions on women’s reproductive rights barely needed explanation. Millennia of male dominance, from the mythology of Eve to the The Seven Year Itch, held that female sexuality so threatened the bonds of society that controlling it took precedence over allowing women rights. But after these groundbreaking Supreme Court decisions established women’s right to privacy, opponents of reproductive rights were forced to switch gears. Finish reading this story.