Once upon a time in America, men lorded over women, screwed any woman they could, and women and children paid the price. That quaint world lives on in the Family's C Street house, home to Sen. John Ensign, former home to Gov. Mark Sanford, and home to the new celebrities, Reps. Bart Stupak and Joseph Pitts. They'd like to revive that old-time religion throughout the land. Thanks to the Democratic Party they are one big giant step closer to their retro dream.
Lest you're also feeling nostalgic for a simpler time, here are some features of that lost world you might want to consider. Not too long ago children born to unmarried women had their birth certificates stamped "illegitimate." Why? You might suppose this was to enforce universal chastity on all. Nope. Just women. Nine out of ten men had sex before marriage. Four out of ten women weren't virgins at marriage, but most of that premarital sex was with their fiances shortly before the wedding. Almost 40 percent of men reported extramarital affairs at the time; among women just over 10 percent fooled around. Who knew Don Draper was Everyman? The real purpose of the state's stamp of disapproval? To deny children and their mothers any legal claim on the father's income and property. Not until 1968 did the Supreme Court rule that 'illegitimate' children had the same legal rights as legitimate ones.
I bring up this tale of the real-life consequences of the double standard because we need to be clear what is at stake in the Stupak-Pitts antiabortion amendment in the House Health Care Reform bill. Even if some Democrats who voted for the amendment did so because of deep convictions or from fear of the wrath of the Catholic Church, the main thrust of the measure is to condemn women for being sexually active. (If this seems a stretch to you, take a look at the comments section across the blogosphere. Women have to 'take responsibility' for their sex. Who knew humans had figured out asexual reproduction?)
Jumping into bed with the extreme anti-abortion Christian Right is a criminally stupid strategy for the Democratic party. We know the Democrats have become terrified by exaggerated warnings of doom in 2010 from Beltway insiders. Here are 10 numbers they might want to contemplate instead:
1. 10 million more women than men voted in 2008.*
2. 6 out of every 10 votes for Obama were from women.
3. 1,040. A very conservative estimate of the minimum number of times an average American woman who wants two children will have sexual intercourse not for procreation during her fertile years.
4. 1 out of 4 middle-class and low income women have, since the recession began, put off a gynecological visit or are having a hard time affording birth control.
5. 8.7% of women using oral contraceptives get pregnant in the first year of use; 17% using condoms do.
6. 1 out of 2 pregnancies in the United States are unintended.
7. 19% of American children under 18 years of age live in poverty.
8. 35% of American women will have had an abortion by age 45.
9. 61% of American women obtaining an abortion have at least one child already.
10. 80% of Americans think abortion should be legal in some circumstances. 41% think it should always be legal. 10% think it should never be legal.
"I'm angry, I'm still angry. I thought we would get a break." This from a woman, who campaigned hard for Obama, about the Stupak-Pitts amendment. Democrats beware. (Particularly those of you who voted for this amendment. Names here.) Similar outrage is boiling among women, your most reliable and most neglected supporters.
* Additional statistics for this article come from the U.S. Census and the General Social Survey.