02/29/2012 05:13 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2012

Time to Beat the Drum

We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore! This year's presidential primary season has evolved into all-out war on women, or at least our health. Rather than focusing on the economy and jobs, Republican presidential candidates, conservative pundits, and state legislatures with ultra-conservative members are putting their energies into social ideology issues that challenge the use of contraceptives and social policies impacting us. Let's make 2012 another "year of the woman" by electing only candidates sympathetic to women's well-being.

Why are so many women in an uproar??

  • Susan G. Komen versus Planned Parenthood fiasco.
  • Comments by Rick Santorum and other Republican presidential candidates that "birth control" is inappropriate. Santorum would oppose it as president.
  • Insensitive comments by a wealthy Santorum supporter referencing an old "birth control" method of a woman holding an aspirin between her legs to prevent pregnancy. Not funny! The Rhythm Method and Abstention also work. Now that's funny.
  • The striking image of an all-male panel, mostly clergy, assembled by a congressional committee investigating use of contraceptives. The groupthink panel was discussing what we women should do with our bodies without including any of us in the discussion.
  • The impending Virginia law banning most contraceptives based on a "personhood" definition defeated in Mississippi and Colorado. Such policies are also being taken up by a dozen other states.
  • And yes, Virginia, you now need a vaginal ultrasound before you can decide whether to opt for ending a pregnancy.
This is déja vû as we repeat HIStory and retreat to the 1950s. I am well aware of the longstanding suppression of women after nine years of research for Put the Blame on Eve. Attacks like these against women are not new -- but they do spotlight the resurrected battle cries and politization of an election year by patriarchal white men. Such sexist, unrealistic approaches find their roots in ancient times when men justified their actions through interpretations of biblical references. "Women," they said, "are inferior to men and incapable of making their own decisions." Women were treated as possessions, as support people who were not allowed to be educated. Not allowed to speak in church. Women had no voice.

Didn't I read somewhere that our foremothers and enlightened men helped change that attitude in the process of achieving women's suffrage in 1920? Wasn't state opposition to birth control addressed by a Supreme Court decision in 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut? Ah, yes, now I remember: Appeals were considered for General Statutes of Connecticut, 53-32 and 54-196.

"Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned." (53-32)


"Any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires, or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender." (54-196)

Connecticut's statutes were held to "invade the sanctity of a man's home and privacies of life." The Court in deliberating the case stated that "if upon showing of a slender basis of rationality, a law outlawing voluntary birth control by married persons is valid, then by the same reasoning, a law requiring compulsory birth control also would seem valid. Both types of law would unjustifiably intrude upon rights of marital privacy which are constitutionally protected."

Women use contraceptives for other health issues such as migraine headaches, menstruation regulation, and cancer treatments. Yet with a sweeping generalization opponents would ban them all. Why do we hear little mention of condoms or vasectomies? Recent candidate Rick Perry had a vasectomy despite his attacks on family planning services used by low-income Texan women. Why is there such conservative uproar against contraceptives women use, and so little mention that most insurance companies pay for vasectomies and Viagra? There seems to be a disconnect between opposing birth control, which might prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce abortions, and supporting Viagra, which increases performance and pleasures for men. For both men and women to responsibly enjoy sex, the use of contraceptives is essential.

Bishops of some churches are vocal lately in their criticism of contraceptives. Their convictions are based on the need to increase their flocks in the early days when the religious movements were struggling to build their ranks and share their message of hope. Sex was demonized except as a means to an end: pregnancies. The more conceptions the better as so many infants were stillborn or short-lived. Today prenatal care helps prevent such tragedies and we face global overpopulation with a potential for food and drinking water shortages. We must be responsible.

I was inspired by a February 19, 2012 Hartford Courant column by Maura Casey, former editorial writer for the New York Times. In "Catholic Women Must Speak Out" she says we can't allow priests, bishops, Republican candidates, and male commentators to pretend they speak for us. "We don't want to debate canon law," she writes, "we don't feel like experts. Yet we are: On being women." She says legions of sane Catholic women disagree with the Church's position: "Silence... is a luxury we can no longer afford."

Are just a few loud wannabe presidents creating all the fuss to pander the votes of sympathetic voters? Do vestiges of ancient anti-woman theology still rule our cellular memories? Should we view things differently in the twenty-first century?

I've been warning women, especially young women, in my writing and presentations to be vigilant and protect their rights. Since war has been declared against women's rights, action is now required. Beat the drum, women! This is NOT a time to remain silent!