Why women need secularism

Jason Getz AP Gale Walldorff holds a historic sign of a woman saying “Don’t tell me what to do,” during … Continued

Jason Getz

AP

Gale Walldorff holds a historic sign of a woman saying “Don’t tell me what to do,” during the “Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice” Protest Monday, March 12, 2012 at the state Capitol in Atlanta. The rally Monday comes after the Senate last week passed measures banning abortion coverage under state employees’ health care plans and exempting religious health care providers from having to cover birth control.

The first presidential election in which I voted was 1976, with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford running for office. The election arrived on the heels of a tumultuous time in America: Nixon had resigned in disgrace and there was a dark mistrust of politics. Carter came in as the Washington outsider and carried the South (unusual for post civil-rights Democrats) because of his evangelical roots. As it turned out, Jimmy Carter was a big disappointment to the evangelical Christians – he believed he had the duty of upholding the Constitution and the wall of church-state separation. Like Kennedy, he believed his religion was private and not the basis for presidential decisions.

Only 12 years before those elections, the Civil Rights Act had been passed, and the year before the election, the twenty-year conflict in Vietnam finally came to a close. For some, the changes were frightening, but for others there seemed to be a renewed sense of hope: political change, changes in the long-standing social structure, and the idea that we would never again get ourselves into a long-drawn out conflict with little chance of resolution.

For me, as a young woman just starting her adult life, the women’s liberation movement and the inclusion of ‘sex’ in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act gave me something very powerful. I did not have to follow the paths of my mother, grandmothers, or their mothers before them. I could have a career. I didn’t have to find a husband to make me a complete person, and I could decide when or whether to have children.

Now, here I am, 36 years older, and I am watching in horror as those opportunities are being threatened by theocratic Christians.

I can’t help but think of my niece. She is far too young to understand the repercussions that could come if the radicals are able to successfully eradicate the right of women to direct their own reproduction. She is too young to understand the full implications of this new ‘war on the womb’ on her future. Yet, it will be she, not me, who will pay the ultimate price of religious enslavement to the biological heritage of being female.

She doesn’t understand.

But I do.

That’s why I need to be at the Reason Rally on the Mall this March 24.

The “war on the womb” is not just about the bizarre notion that a blastocyst should be considered a human being, thus banning all forms of viable contraceptives. No. It is much more insidious than that. It is the radical Christian version of the burka–designed to keep women in their place, subservient to men.

If women can’t determine their own reproduction, women will lose in the workplace, in education and in the right to live their lives as they choose. They will lose all they have gained over the past decades in terms of equality and opportunity. This holds true whether a woman is single, married, or divorced. Couples will no longer have the right to plan their own lives–to plan, for example, the number of children they want and when they want them. Some politicians and activists believe it is their ‘God-given-right’ to interfere in the most private of decisions of both women and men. They want to own the family and police the bedroom

I have to say, I am really angry. I am beyond the age of having children, so it has little to do with my personal life-style or life-choices any longer. But I know from experience how important those choices were to me as I entered adulthood and the work force. I made personal decisions, and had the means to follow my dreams and ambitions. Such choices that were never afforded to my mother or grandmother. I want my niece, and others like her, to be able to make her own decisions about her life and her body. I want her to dream and work and struggle for whatever she wants to achieve. I don’t want her dreams to die at the hand of those who would take this broad future away from her.

Please join me in rallying for taking back our rights as individuals from those who seek to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us. Stop the new radicals from enforcing their fanatical views and ignorance by way of the government. Don’t let them cloak our daughters in invisible burkas.

R. Elisabeth Cornwell is executive director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, United States.

More On Faith:

Richard Dawkins: Who would rally against reason?

Fred Edwords: The great atheist ‘coming out’

David Silverman: Why we need a Reason Rally

  • WmarkW

    This is all terrific. Now please explain to your sistren that the 23% wage gap is not for NEARLY the same work, but is caused almost entirely by differences in hours worked, seniority, education, physical demands, work-life balance, safe and clean enviroments, and women’s preference for personally rewarding work and high socialization at somewhat less pay.

  • WmarkW

    This is all terrific. Now please explain to your sistren that the 23% wage gap is not for NEARLY the same work, but is caused almost entirely by differences in hours worked, seniority, education, physical demands, work-life balance, safe and clean enviroments, and women’s preference for personally rewarding work and high socialization at somewhat less pay.

  • JDale_123

    What exactly does that have to do with anything?

  • SODDI

    I agree with this column.

    A lot of this fundamentalist anti-woman stuff, the attacks on birth-control, on women’s sexuality, is a not-so-subtle play for the frustrated male entitlement crowd, They USED to control women’s bodies (or rather the patriarchy used to) , but now they can’t. It rankles. They want it back. If women succeed, it must mean they are failing.

    But, as wise man Ken Kesey once wrote, “You don’t make yourself any bigger by making someone else smaller.”

  • ccnl1

    What women (and men) need to do is read and take heed of the following:

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent sex-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. …

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of Californ

  • WmarkW

    I’ll bet you anything that when the role of religion in restricting the civil rights of women comes up, pay gaps will be presented as one such violation.

  • nilknarf1

    You do not mention the effects of sex education, probably because sex education is so abysmal in this country due to self-righteous christians keeping it out of the schools.
    To really study the effects of sex education one must go to the more-civilized and realistic countries of Europe… where the numbers would be a lot better.
    But what you have said does not pertain to the subject at hand – the republican war-on-the-Womb. I’ll bet you’re not on the women’s side on that subject.

  • blankballot

    I want you to be able to get and use birth control.. But if I am not having sex with you, I have absolutely no obligation to pay for it and you have absolutely no right to use the sword of government to steal the money from me to buy it or to force a person of faith to be a party to your violation of their religious beliefs by being forced to pay for your birth control.

    I want you to be able to butcher as many of your children in your womb as you want to butcher,, but,, don’t force me to participate in the butcher by forcing me to violate my religious beliefs through the forced payment of taxes or mandatory purchase of insurance coverage for a procedure I will never need.

    Understand,, I am on your side. But it you are going to have the religious freedom to control your reproduction by artificial means and even by things that are abhorrent, then you must also give me the religious freedom not to pay for your abhorrent behavior.

    You women were rightfully demanding the religious freedom of self determination.

    With the freedom to choose comes the responsibility to pay for it yourself.

    blankballot.us

  • amelia45

    From a Washington Post article on 2/20/12 (I think)

    “Decades ago, near the end of the Age of Aquarius, a Republican congressman from Texas argued passionately that the federal government should pay for birth control for poor women.

    “We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather, are using it as a political stepping stone,” said George H.W. Bush. “If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter.”

    Title X, the law he sponsored that still funds family planning for the poor, passed the House by a vote of 298 to 32. It passed the Senate unanimously. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, enthusiastically signed it.

    That was 1970.”
    _________________________________

    George H.W. Bush was right then. So, who is it now who has sensationalized the issue, who are the militants, who is using the issue of birth control as a political stepping stone?

    The Republicans.

    What happened? The issue is the same today as it was back in 1970. Access to contraceptives is a matter of public health. We had a sense back then of creating something that would make a difference to women and to families.

  • PhiloKGB

    You don’t have the religious freedom to dictate on an individual basis where your tax money or your contributions to the insurance pool go. You just don’t. I don’t know how to make this any clearer.

  • Catken1

    Does that mean that if your employer thinks you have too many children, and has a religious commitment to ZPG, they can require you to pay the entire cost of insuring all children and pregnancies past 3?

    Choices cut both ways. And frankly, extra pregnancies cost everyone in society a lot more than birth control and even abortion do.

  • SB11

    Fine. Then I get to choose what I don’t want to pay for. . I don’t want to pay for your child birth expenses. None of them.

  • zengardener0

    Practicing Abstinence, has a horrible success rate, because most people cannot do it.

    It’s no wonder, either. Practicing abstinence is abnormal sexual behavior.

  • zengardener0

    Practicing Abstinence, has a horrible success rate, because most people cannot do it. /n/nIt’s no wonder, either. Practicing abstinence is abnormal sexual behavior.

  • Sara121

    Sex between consenting adults is normal and healthy, for reasons that have nothing to do with baby making.

  • ccnl1

    “You all” might want to reread my comments a bit more carefully to include the comments under “See More”.

    e.g. Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the “stupid part of the USA” and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

  • NoahFect

    “…then you must also give me the religious freedom not to pay for your abhorrent behavior.”

    I’ll bet your “religious freedom” had no complaints when your taxes were used to invade Iraq and kill thousands of people who never did anything to us. Amirite?

  • jlt50

    I wonder how many of my insurance dollars helped pay for the deliveries and subsequent medical bills of families like the Duggars, who have 19 (or however many it is no) children?

  • MK61

    As a 50-year old woman with a doctoral degree and owner of a small business, I find the anti-women sentiment arising this season baffling. Don’t families win when young adults make sensible family planning choices, when women can participate fully in educational opportunities and the workforce? All I can think is that some men are threatened by the feminine competition and are using religion as the means to lash out.

  • cjs17

    Is the photo caption trying to be funny? That’s not a “historic sign”. That’s a picture of Amy Pohler from Saturday Night Live.

  • Catken1

    Then what makes you think that repeated, condescending lecturing from an anonymous Internet commenter will make things better?

    Why not just dismiss the rest of us as “more stupid than you” and go on with your perfect, mistake-free life?

  • lordpasternack

    While I agree with much of the sentiment of this article – I wouldn’t say that it’s just secularism that women need – but a culture that recognises their status as equals and their right to reproductive autonomy, within reasonable legal limits. That isn’t necessarily interchangeable with ‘secularism’.

    In China – a completely secular nation, for what it’s worth – women’s reproductive autonomy is threatened in practically the opposite direction. They are forbidden from having more than one child – and any who dare to try are liable to forcible abortion and/or severe sanctions and social stigma. And due to entrenched patriarchy that is entirely SECULAR in nature – the vast majority of VOLUNTARY abortions are of female foetuses, and innumerable healthy female infants are abandoned – sentenced to live short, miserable lives in overcrowded orphanages. Entirely secularly.

    Patriarchy, misogyny and anti-choice sentiment are bigger than religion (though that may be easy to forget, when wrapped up in your own particular culture). Women need a bit more than mere secularism.

    It’s also a matter of fact, for what it’s worth, that no-one, except fundamentalist Catholics, opposes barrier contraceptives (or sterilisation) – and no US politicians have banned hormonal contraception nor abortion outright (yet). They have simply been playing political games to pander to the fundamentalists, to make these resources much more restricted, prohibitive, stigmatised and stressful for women seeking them. I think it’s important to be clear and rational about this state of affairs, while quite rightly attacking it.

    And I highly suspect that your own niece is among the LAST of the next generation of women we REALLY need to worry about being affected by this – since she is no doubt lucky enough to have a family supportive of her reproductive freedom and proper sex education, with the will and the economic clout to make sure she receives this, come hell or high water. The very fact that a young person in

  • LorenLemos

    “…differences in hours worked, seniority, education… work-life balance, safe and clean enviroments…”

    These should not break down along sex lines. If they do, that’s a very clear sign that we have not reached male-female equality.

  • LorenLemos

    “…differences in hours worked, seniority, education… work-life balance, safe and clean enviroments…”

    These should not break down along sex lines. If they do, that’s a very clear sign that we have not reached male-female equality.

  • dxkapp

    And I don’t want to pay for your viagra!

  • ccnl1

    If you are on the Pill and don’t take it daily and then get pregnant, what do you call said situation? Stupid!!! If you are guy and your girl friend gets pregnant because you failed to put on a condom, what do you call that? Stupid!!! So why is it that the rest of us have tolerate such stupidity and irresponsible activity????

  • ccnl1

    One more time, some the results of stupid and irresponsible sex:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain STDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of STDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

  • Lizardo

    I don’t agree with the anti abortionists, but to conflate that as ‘anti woman’ is inane. Issues of abortion affect women because women maintain a monopoly on reproduction. Give up the monopoly and the issue won’t be ‘all about you’

    The feminine competition???

  • somegal

    “Issues of abortion affect women because women maintain a monopoly on reproduction. Give up the monopoly and the issue won’t be ‘all about you’ ”

    LOL. yeah man, i’ll give up that monopoly in a jiffy if science finds a way to have guys carry that baby. would you carry a baby for 9 months lizzie?

  • SODDI

    I think Lizardo and his male supremacist ilk never quite understoodt the whole biology of reproduction thing.

  • ccnl1

    What women and men need to do is read and take heed of the following:

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent sex-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. …

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the

  • larryclyons

    nice bit of repetitive cherry picking that.

  • lordpasternack

    Hello Lizardo. There are numerous rather obvious differences between early-pregnancy abortion (when the vast majority of abortions occur) – and post-partum infanticide. Would you appreciate them explained to you?

    As to where men fit into this concept – well, currently, they can make use of condoms, other barrier contraceptives, spermicides and vasectomies – while in the future they may be able to use some kind of hormonal contraception that renders them functionally infertile for the duration of their use of the contraception.

    As to what they can do if they impregnate a woman, and want a different outcome of the pregnancy from what the woman wants – well, they can’t do a lot – besides forcible abortion, or chaining her to the bed for a few months to make sure she doesn’t abort – both of which being utterly, utterly contemptible, I’m afraid.

    It would be a lot easier if we laid eggs – to sort those sorts of disputes – but biology doesn’t always pander to our modern, egalitarian philosophies.

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