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March 6th, 2014
Lamar Hankins: The plan to destroy women‘s constitutional rights

Freethought San Marcos: A column

Human beings are constantly trying to change reality. I don’t object to this characteristic. In fact, I’ve spent a good deal of my life opposing some of the worst realities of the species:  war, poverty, racism, sex discrimination, environmental destruction. What I have never tried to do is diminish anyone’s constitutional rights. But this is the chosen work of some in this country when it comes to women’s control of their reproductive processes.

By reproductive processes, I mean not only childbirth, but also contraception and termination of unwanted pregnancies, whether because of personal circumstances, the health of the fetus, or the physical or mental health of the woman. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, determined that women had the constitutional right to control their reproductive processes, essentially unhindered, prior to and through the first six months of a pregnancy. Previously, the court had found that women had a right to contraception, a right at that time denied to women by some states.

The contraception decision did not create much opposition, but Roe v. Wade set off a storm of opposition, mostly by those with religious objections based on the belief that life begins at conception. But, under our Constitution, when life begins is not a matter that can be decided by religious dogma or doctrine.

For the last forty years, a cabal of authoritarian, mostly religiously-inspired people has worked to diminish women’s constitutional right to control their bodies in ways large and small. This work has made exercising the right increasingly difficult, if not impossible for many women, and it has led to a campaign of harassment and dishonesty, not of principle.

The campaign of harassment began by picketing reproductive clinics, screaming at women who are patients at those clinics as they enter and leave, advocating the murder of doctors who practice in the reproductive rights field, putting economic pressure on such doctors and their clinics, picketing their homes, frightening their families and staffs, and actually killing some doctors and staff who worked at or operated women’s clinics. These are the earlier responses to Roe v. Wade. As much horror as their viciousness should evoke in civilized people, they were at least honest and transparent. But their effect pales in comparison to the legislative harassment of women and women’s rights.

Using legislation to achieve political goals is nothing new in a republic. But the legislative harassment that underlies this current war against women stems from the history of harassment, not law. Harassment is behavior intended to disturb or upset, especially as it is repeated over and over again. It intentionally threatens or alarms its target. It torments, annoys, bothers, or troubles another. Its purpose is to exhaust and intimidate the other person. Harassment constrains and causes such distress that the targeted person becomes too tired or fearful to go on. When legislation and harassment are melded together, they destroy women’s reproductive rights.

Legislative harassment is both dishonest and deceitful because the reasons given for the legislation are bogus and mere smoke screens to hide the real purposes of the legislation – to destroy women’s constitutional right to make their own reproductive decisions. Legislative harassment puts so many roadblocks and procedures in the way of women receiving full reproductive rights that those rights are destroyed:

  • requiring vaginal ultrasounds against a woman’s wishes
  • requiring a pregnant woman to view an ultrasound without regard to her wishes
  • requiring her to listen to a legislatively-mandated spiel about the condition of the fetus
  • narrowing the six months of little state intervention to five months or less
  • requiring physicians who perform pregnancy termination to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital
  • requiring the facilities where pregnancies are safely terminated to become expensive surgical
  • facilities
  • limiting the use of “morning-after” pills
  • making it difficult for women to access other methods useful to prevent pregnancy, such as the   insertion of the Para-Gard IUD
  • eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood (which spends 97% of its resources promoting women’s health, not terminating pregnancies)
  • prohibiting public hospitals from having agreements with reproductive rights clinics for emergency care for their patients who have complications from surgical procedures
  • using ballot measures to pass more restrictions, such as so-called personhood state constitutional amendments that would grant rights to fertilized eggs and make no allowances for ending a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life
  • banning in vitro fertilization and most birth control
  • pushing to allow the public to vote on women’s rights directed at preventing women’s access to essential medical treatments, prohibiting public funding of full reproductive rights, ending constitutional-privacy protection, and prohibiting insurance coverage for reproductive rights

These changes in law are dishonest. They harass women. Yet, advocates of such new legal requirements claim that they protect the health of pregnant women or protect the rights of the fetus. But the Supreme Court decided forty years ago that the Constitution protects the lives of people in existence and the viable unborn. None of the proposed measures are necessary to protect the health of women, the only grounds on which they can be constitutionally supported because they have little or nothing to do with protecting viable fetuses.

The Constitution does not permit religious beliefs to be foisted on anyone. So, few of those who support these legislative harassment measures will admit publicly that the purpose is to limit women’s access to reproductive rights in order to fulfill a religious agenda.

I had not thought much about this forty-year campaign as one of dishonest harassment until I listened to the February 22, 2014, interview with Katherine Spillar on Freethought Radio, a weekly podcast of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (which is also broadcast on a few stations, including one serving Texas A & M students and faculty). Spillar is the Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, now a quarterly publication dedicated to the rights of women, and the Executive Vice-President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

As Ms. Magazine recently reported, “Texas has lost more than 60 family planning clinics, most of which provided birth control, screening for sexually transmitted infections and other services, not abortions” as a result of these relatively new legislative harassment measures. Supported by this recent history, Spillar characterized the actions of those opposed to women’s reproductive rights as a war against women:

“There is no question that this is a war on women. …Women’s lives are literally at stake in this. Not only our literal lives, but our health, our ability to be autonomous human beings, and to pursue work, and to live our full lives.”

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-host of Freethought Radio, added:  “Margaret Sanger pointed out that if you can’t control your own fertility, there is nothing else you can control about your life if you are a woman.”

The proponents of legislative harassment believe that such harassment of women who seek the full panoply of rights guaranteed them under our Constitution is fair and just. It is fair and just to them because it fits with their worldview, which suggests that whatever they deem moral (that is, in keeping with their religious beliefs), should be applied to everyone.

It is the tip of the theocratic staff pulling open the constitutional tent so that rights once held as inalienable can escape into the ether, never again to serve as a guide to freedom and liberty for all, especially women. This kind of legislative harassment leads to second-class servitude to an ancient value system derived from a 4,000-year old religion. This value system came into being long before the advent of the biological sciences and the Enlightenment teachings that should inform our lives in the 21st century.

If legislative harassment is seen for what it is, perhaps it can be stopped. But stopping it will require the action of all women and men of goodwill who support the full equality of women.

LAMAR W. HANKINS, a former San Marcos city attorney, has written the Freethought San Marcos column for the San Marcos Mercury since 2008.

© Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San Marcos

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14 thoughts on “Lamar Hankins: The plan to destroy women‘s constitutional rights

  1. “…if you can’t control your own fertility, there is nothing else you can control about your life if you are a woman.”

    That seems to be the point. Easy and free access to contraception prevents abortions, so it obviously isn’t about that. What is happening in the 21st century in nothing short of astounding. Women and men who believe that women should have rights: we need to show up at the voting booths this November. Better yet, during early voting in October. Thanks, Lamar; we appreciate men like you.

  2. Recycled propaganda designed to draw otherwise reluctant voters to the polls while blinding them to real things going wrong all over the place. I am sure some appreciate Lamar for doing their bidding. I do not believe women are as monolithic as the Progressives seem to think. And while the last 40 years have shown us we will not achieve a super-majority one way or the other on the abortion issue, we can certainly all agree that whether one has to drive 40 miles for an abortion or 20 miles for an abortion does not matter if one does not have money for gas to go 5 miles. And again I think there is a consensus that folks drive an extra 20 miles for things far less significant than terminating a pregnancy.

    Besides, Lamar’s list mentions very few things that do anything more than shift the cost burden to the person making the choice and away from the other 50% who believe the choice is immoral. It is never enough for the Progressives to enshrine a choice or decision as a right, until they get those who disagree to pay for it as well.

  3. With the closing of the last two clinics in the Harligen/McAllen area (home to some of the poorest Texans), a woman desiring an abortion must travel 150 miles to the nearest clinic. In addition, with the 24 hour rules, she must either stay overnight or make the trip twice.

  4. It’s not always about abortion. It’s about obtaining contraceptions. And adequately health care. And now, those will now not be available because the clinics are closed. It’s about making women second class citizens – once again. This saddens me deeply.

  5. Try reading ” Texas Through Women’s Eyes” for a better understanding.
    Brad, I don’t expect you to make the effort. But it will be your loss.

  6. The leap in logic that I do not get is the concept that women are “second class citizens” unless We the People are willing to provide contraception for them free of charge.

    Someone else’s medical bills – contraception included – are NOT my responsibility. I don’t think it’s particularly cruel to suggest to a woman that if she can’t afford contraception, then she should most likely refrain from being sexually active.

    After all, contrary to the position seemingly advocated by many liberals, women *are* capable of thinking with their brains and not their “lady parts”, right?

  7. Perhaps the problem is men who are not capable of thinking without their “men parts.” Contraceptives would not be necessary if the guys could keep it in their pants. But, they don’t. And most do not bother to use the cheapest form of contraceptives. So, it falls on the woman – who also has to bear the child and raise the child. Often without the support of the man. It’s a two-part problem. And the double-standard lives on…

    Of course, we wouldn’t dare want to teach our children about sex education in our schools, now would we? LOL

  8. Women are the ultimate gate-keepers when it comes to sexual activity. It’s THEIR right to say yes or no, and without that consent, nothing happens. And the same goes for him possibly not wanting to use contraception – “no glove, no love”.

    Except in cases of rape (which is a whole different issue/discussion), it’s absurd to blame a woman’s proclivity for sexual activity on men who can’t “keep it in their pants”.

    Or are you trying to make the argument that today’s strong, modern, liberated female is somehow incapable of simply saying “no” to a horny dude?

  9. If only Ed Duvin, author of the essay “In The Name Of Mercy” would have had the same passionate feelings about abortion as he did the euthanization of animals. If only…

  10. Married with children, but thanks for showing us (yet again) how you gather information… guess at stuff. Too bad you guess wrong so often.

  11. I wasn’t trying to guess at information Dano. I was hurling an insult at you. I’m very happy for you that you found your very own “gate-keeper.”

  12. I know. You’ve been soundly defeated within the confines of the debate on the topic at hand, so you go to personal attacks. It is, after all, your M.O.

  13. “The proponents of legislative harassment believe that such harassment of women who seek the full panoply of rights guaranteed them under our Constitution is fair and just. It is fair and just to them because it fits with their worldview, which suggests that whatever they deem moral (that is, in keeping with their religious beliefs), should be applied to everyone.”

    I agree that the reasons stated for recent statutory abortion restrictions are disingenuous. However, they are a response to an even more disingenuous decision of the Supreme Court. When the Court in Roe could not find the word “privacy” in the Constitution they found it instead hiding in the “penumbra” surrounding the Constitution. The only problem is that there is no penumbra surrounding the Constitution. They made it up.

    The Court found a right to privacy there because It was fair and just to them because it fit with their worldview, which suggests that whatever they deem moral (or immoral), should be applied to everyone. Dishonesty only breeds more dishonesty.

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