Sonntag, 12. August 2012

War on women-reproductive justice and reproductive freedom

"Freedom" is one of the most common words in our time. We talk about religious freedom, political freedom, economic liberty and even the term “reproductive freedom” is used. Dr. Edith Breburda

The American Civil Liberties Union has defined reproductive freedom as: "Everyone's right to form intimate relationships and to decide whether and when to carry a pregnancy to term.” The ACLU believes that “Government has to respect and support reproductive freedom as an essential to women's equality, autonomy and dignity.” This term seems to amount to little more than the chemical “liberation” of women for a state of infertility.

We all know that we engaged into wars to (re)gain freedom we lost due to some injustice. At what time has any person experienced a period of reproductive freedom? This is not a biological or natural state and not at all a God-given freedom. But why do we mention reproductive injustice in such context? It is as if biological facts of life are unbalanced, and females could not enjoy life because of bearing the burden of childbirth. Remember Sandra Fluke who felt discriminated against by Georgetown University because the Jesuit University refused to pay for her contraceptives.

Was Georgetown University or even nature itself responsible for the injustice Sandra Fluke experienced? If an institution does not cover the costs for chemical sterilization are they discriminating against women? And can we thus speak of a "war against women"? (Somarriba "Is nature sexist? April 30, 2012 (

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Chris Rickert wrote May 3, 2012, about a so-called "War on Women". He wondered if the wars on terror, crime, drugs, poverty, etc. weren't enough. For Rickert women are discriminated against in Wisconsin and the main weapons of attack are the state laws tightening access to abortion, stressing abstinence in sex education classes and cutting funds for Planned Parenthood. The Democratic counterattack against all these measures is significant, according to Rickert because women have the right to be defended.

Is Chris Rickert’s opinion widespread? Janet Morana and Georgette Forney wrote in an April 25, 2012, article, "Ready to fight the real war against women?” that the “Entertainment media devalue talented, beautiful women by expecting them to be provocatively dressed. It seems that the value of females depend on unlined faces and her silicon implants. Does it matter that those implants will leak or break and might cause cancer? Do we consider that hormonal contraceptives are linked to cardiovascular diseases, cervical, liver and breast cancers, high blood pressure, infertility or stroke?” The writers quote Angela Lanfranchi, a New Jersey oncologist, who asked: "Why would you want to put a Class 1 carcinogen in your body three out of four weeks, when you are fertile 100 hours a month?" This oncologist’s concerns and similar ones are belittled in the media. Contraceptives, sterilization and abortion are rather seen as the means of choice to gain reproductive freedom.

Mary Rose Somarriba, in an April 30, 2012, article raises the question of whether reproductive freedom and reproductive justice will deliver females from the cards that nature dealt them? What are we dealing with? A kind of rebellion against our own biology? Or do we want sexual license without consequences–or maybe only with health consequences?

The Obama administration is requiring that all health insurance must cover the costs for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion. The US Supreme Court upheld President Obamas health care law. Yet we have excellent medical means to prevent serious medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Why aren’t those preventive services free of charge? Proponents of this HHS mandate argue that giving these contraceptives and abortifacients free to employees and students, serves reproductive freedom and justice. Does it mean females have a right to sexual liberty? A liberty that would overthrow patriarchal traditions of marriage and sexual ethics? And must religious institutions, which par excellence uphold moral and ethical norms, now betray the natural law, or be found guilty of discriminating against women?

Merle Hoffman, an activist for reproductive rights reveals in her recent memoir, "The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom", that she was running an abortion clinic herself purely to make money. She discloses the reasoning of those who champion reproductive freedom. She writes: "Even if abortion ends a life, it is defensible in the pursuit of true reproductive freedom for women. The anti-choice movement claimed that if women knew what abortion really is, if only the providers had told them the truth, they would never have killed their babies... But women did know the truth, just as I knew it, deep down, when I allowed myself to recognize it. Mothers saw the sonogram pictures, knew that .. as antis say-- abortion stops a beating heart... I wasn't immune to the physicality of abortion... but I quickly came to realize that those who deliver abortion services have not only the power to give woman control over their bodies and lives but also the power-- and the responsibility-- of taking life in order to do that. Acknowledgement of that truth is the foundation for all political and personal work necessary to maintain women's reproductive freedom." Hofman further writes, "the comparative history of abortion is actually the history of power relations between states and their female population... The battlefields are different, but the war is always the same.. True reproductive freedom for women is never under consideration."

The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights and freedoms to include that individuals should decide freely and responsibly the timing of their children. Today women often decide to defer pregnancy. The service of fertility clinics to freeze egg cells for an annual storage fee of $440 is increasing. It is seen as a way to free women from some of the biological constraints of fertility. In this way motherhood can be pursued when the personal circumstances are optimal for a child. From this perspective in-vitro fertilization should belong to the category of reproductive rights and freedoms and one might wonder why health insurances does not cover this very expensive infertility treatment. Women over the age of 39 are even required to accept egg donations. Is it only a treatment for wealthy couples? (E. Breburda, Promises of New Biotechnologies, ISBN-10: 0615548288, ISBN-13: 978-0615548289). Will the new HHS mandate grant reproductive justice for the poor people?

However, abortion, contraceptives and in-vitro-fertilization are techniques that destroy human life at its very beginning. The question remains, should we be allowed to employ modern biotechnologies just because we have the means and financial resources? Modern societies seem to disregard ethics and morality but have no problem upsetting nature itself.

Dr. William E. May wrote in the Foreword of the book Promises of New Biotechnologies: "We have a responsibility for the well-being of our human descendants and the environment in which we live. In the preface to the book Bishop Klaus Küng- St Pölten- Austria wrote: “We are recognizing hybrids, stem cell research, clones and other technologies. Many admire the new techniques. Only few question them. Moreover, the world is proud about the outcome of the modern biotechnologies. They are appreciated as a sign of progress…” He then continued: “Nevertheless, the relevant question is what humans are allowed to do. The answer depends on the question what is a human being. The only answer is pointing to our relationship with God (emphasis added), our dependency on Him as His creation.”

"These words in some ways express the main message of this remarkable book," writes Dr. May. He concluded: "In the chapters of her book Breburda takes us on a guided tour of the “achievements” and “promises” of these biotechnologies. In doing so she discloses that an unintentional effect of overzealous British efforts to produce genetically enriched food for cattle was the Mad Cow disease. She shows how the artificial insemination of horses in the 18th century led to the development of the new reproductive technologies of in vitro fertilization, its permutations and combinations, the cloning of animals and efforts to clone humans, and how all this has resulted in the dehumanizing of women—valued now only because they produce oocytes—to various maladies suffered by the children thus manufactured, and other tragic consequences. She shows how genetically manipulated antibiotics have led to resistance to such antibodies with the consequence that new kinds of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and hematological diseases have sprung up, along with miscarriages and the increase of genetic abnormalities in mammals and men. I could draw this list out much further, but from what has already been said we can see what Brebruda does in the different chapters of her work. Breburda’s fascinating study is intended to help ordinary people understand the complexity and perils of the new biotechnologies."

Published in Kathent: (Un-)Fruchtbarkeitsmedizin: Ein Krieg gegen Frauen? 05.05.2012

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