The Oppression of Women, By Women

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law the single most restrictive abortion bill in the country. It is being called “the heartbeat bill.”

The legislation will prohibit the administration of an abortion procedure if the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which often occurs as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.

Most women don’t even realize that they’re pregnant until the six-week mark since that’s usually the amount of time it takes to insure that you’ve missed your menstrual cycle, thus prompting the usage of a pregnancy test.

So, this bill will essentially prohibit women from receiving an abortion before many of them even know that they’re pregnant.

This in effect takes away any autonomy women in Iowa have over their bodies and their reproductive rights.

The only even remotely redeeming aspect of the bill is that it does not apply to victims of rape and incest, nor does it apply in situations in which the mother’s life is at risk.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood have both announced their intentions to take legal action against the legislation.

“It’s especially disturbing that the passage of this bill comes at a time when Iowa legislators have also led a devastating assault on access to family planning and contraception, especially for poor and rural women. They are imposing their own strict religious and moral codes on the entire state, with tragic results.” – Mark Stringer, ACLU of Iowa Executive Director

Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-IA) explicitly stated that the bill is designed to provoke a Supreme Court hearing in the hopes of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which affirmed women’s right to access abortions:

“This bill will be the vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. There’s nothing hidden here about the agenda.”

Even more depressing than the ongoing conservative agenda to drag women back into the early 1900s is the fact that it was a woman who signed the bill into law in the first place.

Reynolds assumed the Iowa governorship in 2017 after the resignation of then-Governor Terry Branstad after he was nominated to the position of U.S. Ambassador to China.

She is the first woman to hold the office in the state’s history.

And she chose to use that power to oppress and restrict every single woman in her constituency.

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred. If death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life? I’m not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in.” – Reynolds

Women making decisions for other women is at the heart of both the feminist movement as well as the reproductive rights movement.

All too frequently, the women who end up in positions that enable them to make decisions for other women are white, conservative, and Christian.

It is no secret that the pro-life movement is centered around religious ideology, which in itself is highly problematic considering we live in a country which was built on the premise of the separation of church and state.

To enact legislation that will affect an entire population based off of sectarian religious values and ideologies is inherently discriminatory, prejudicial, and oppressive because it forces non-Christian, non-religious individuals to live their lives by religious standards that they neither agree with nor prescribe to.

It is a violation of an individual’s right to freedom of religion as well as an egregious assault on women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and reproductive rights.

This is why intersectionality in all theories, movements, organizations, and aspects of daily life is so essential.

The term was coined by legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 and is primarily used in the discussion of critical theory.

“When feminism does not explicitly oppose racism and when anti-racism does not incorporate opposition to the patriarchy, race and gender politics often end up being antagonistic to each other and both interests lose.” – Crenshaw

Intersectionality basically teaches us that different forms of oppression cannot necessarily be examined independently, and that they need to be considered holistically in order to truly understand the oppression that different groups face.

For example, a black Muslim woman faces a variety of intersecting forms of oppression including religious prejudice, racial prejudice, the transgenerational trauma of slavery if she is from the U.S., workplace discrimination, sexism, pay and housing discrimination, medical discrimination, and hiring discrimination.

All of those conflating factors make life as a black Muslim woman much more difficult and oppressive than, say, life as a white Christian woman.

Because of the layered and complex ways in which different systems of oppression intersect, it is imperative that we put more people in power who represent oppressed and marginalized groups so that we can take the decision-making power out of the hands of those who have no understanding of the obstacles marginalized groups face on a daily basis.

“Intersectionality is important so each of us can understand where we stand in the struggle for freedom, as well as where we stand to help others, who may not have the privileges we have,” – Jamia Wilson to HuffPost at the Women’s March in 2017

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