08/28/2012 12:30 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2012

Women and Rights in 2012 -- What We Stand to Lose and Why

Everyone please repeat after me: "Vagina, vagina, vagina!" Silly? Sure it is but it makes a profound statement to anyone who says that the word is "vile," "disgusting" and not to be mentioned it in front of women or "mixed company."

Two weeks ago, while the Michigan House of Representatives was taking up some of the most restrictive anti-choice legislation in the country, Rep. Lisa Brown, who is serving her second term as a state representative for Michigan's 39th district, used the word "vagina" in a speech on the house floor.

It was in the context of this bill that Rep. Brown said, "Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"

She was referring to a 45-page bill that would have sweeping legislation aimed at adding restrictions and regulations to abortion practices. Right to Life has said the package "represents the largest collection of pro-life legislation ever addressed at one time" by Michigan lawmakers. Planned Parenthood calls the legislation the "biggest assault on women's health in our state's history."

In a debate on a bill that is going to impact women, the word "vagina" seems very appropriate. But her colleague, Rep. Mike Callton, thought otherwise. He was offended by the word. He told anyone who would listen that what had been said by his colleague was "so vile, so disgusting, that he could never bear to mention it in front of women or mixed company."

If the word "vagina" is vile and disgusting to you, Rep. Callton, what word would you use? The word "vagina" is rightly taught in elementary school health classes, along with the word "penis." Why? Children should know the proper terminology and so should we all. "Vagina" is a medical term for a part of the female anatomy the same as "penis" is for the male anatomy. Didn't you learn this?

But "shock" over the use of the word "vagina" is just a bump in the road concerning the ongoing assault against the possible restriction of women's rights. When did this disturbing discussion about women's rights -- and we must include the right to have a say and control over our own bodies -- begin in the 21st century? I thought we had rights, hard fought-for, hard-won rights.

Was the first shot against women's rights fired by Foster Friess, the billionaire who backed Rick Santorum's failed presidential bid when he boldly stated that women should simply place an aspirin between their knees rather than use "artificial" contraception? What is it about women having control over their own bodies that seems to frighten some grown men? Is it the word control itself? Come on, gentlemen, I would hope you have better things to do than to see women as beings for whom you must set limits and monitor. For our own good, of course.

We own our bodies the same as men own theirs. I pretty much feel that mine was given to me at birth. Like anything I own, I want to be able to make my own decisions for it. Making decisions about our reproductive lives should be personal and private. Losing that right limits women's quality of life. In 2012, what is going on?

Granted, anti-abortion feelings have always fueled conservative politics. They fought to eliminate funding for Title X and Planned Parenthood this past year. They would have destroyed programs for not only free contraception, but Pap smears, breast exams, and HIV testing for low-income and indigent women. What was all the sound and fury about? Senator Jon Kyl, who led the fight, stated that the reality of monies for Title X were going mainly to fund abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. His math was way off. Truthfully less than 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are for abortions. It also turns out that Planned Parenthood is legally prohibited from using the funds to cover any expenses related to abortions. Please check for true facts, Senator Kyl, before you "mis-speak."

It took us a couple of struggling generations, but in recent years, women have gone from being seen as second-class citizens to the status of full and equal partners in American life. This stems in no small part to our ability to make our own decisions on both birth control and abortion, our own say over our own bodies.

If the right to make decisions concerning our reproductive lives is severely limited by law then we need to be concerned about losing other rights like equal pay, equal job opportunities, equal competitive sports programs. We cannot afford to let this happen. Taking away women's rights is the highest, and unfortunately most legal, form of bullying.

I once told a male boss who delighted in belittling the female staff members that, "Just because you urinate standing up doesn't mean you're superior to us." He didn't like my statement but he got the message loud and clear.

Maybe those who want to revise and limit the rights of women should be told the same thing. Or better yet, perhaps they need to be reminded that Americans with vaginas also vote.

And, gentlemen, you can be assured that those of us with vaginas will vote to uphold women's rights.

© 2012 copyright Kristen Houghton

"And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First" ranked in the top 100 books by Tower
Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious new book, No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon available now on Kindle, Nook, and all e-book venues.
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