Sexual predators aren’t just the monsters who assault and rape. They can also be men who control women and girls by subordinating them not just to their physical desires, but to their moral assumptions, which usually have immoral results. They’re men who, by dint of physical, spiritual, economic or political power — fathers, priests and ministers, bosses, legislators — presume to know what women want, how they should behave, to whom they should submit, what rights they may be denied. Women aren’t above doing men’s bidding. But they tend to be the exception that proves the rule in a society where women’s rights are still younger than the first computer mouse, and nowhere near a done deal.
Just 28 of America’s 1,000 largest companies are run by women. That’s less than 3 percent. Houses of worship are still mostly a man’s game. And Congress and state legislatures are overwhelmingly dominated by men, a reflection of an electorate still more sexist than not when it comes to electing women. There are just 17 women in the U.S. Senate and 78 in the House of Representatives, or 18 percent in a country where men are the largest single minority. State legislatures are barely better, at 24 percent, the ratio in Florida’s Legislature. The results aren’t necessarily better.
Which brings us to the latest example of men as predators in Florida. Their victims in this case are women and girls and their conscience. Hours before the Florida Legislature ended its 2010 session, Republican lawmakers passed a bill that forbids women to have a first-trimester abortion without first paying for an ultrasound and either hearing what their innards sound like or, worse, being forced to hear a doctor lecture them about what’s in their body. Florida law already requires ultrasounds for abortions after the three months of pregnancy, but more than 90 percent of 100,000 abortions performed every year take place during the first trimester.
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Just one female senator voted for the bill in the Senate, 14 female House members did, 13 of them Republican. In other words, a piece of legislation that applies exclusively to women and girls passed with just 9 percent of votes from female lawmakers. The same lawmakers forbade women to use health care reform’s coming mechanisms to pay for abortions, even if tax dollars aren’t involved. So not only are lawmakers blind to a primary cause of abortions — financial stress — they’re also the first obstacles to more decent social services that would reduce the needs for abortions. Afghanistan’s legislature has more honorable votes than that when it comes to crushing women’s rights. The bill is sitting on Gov. Charlie Crist’s desk.
It is almost inconceivable that Crist would not veto it. He just got done vetoing infamous Senate Bill 6, which would have busted the state’s teacher unions and reduced the profession to something on par with Disney hotel maids. Crist won over a big segment of the women vote with that veto, setting up his sling-shot to viable independent status as a candidate. He’s not about to demolish that success by alienating the same voting bloc with a veto of the abortion bill. The only people who’ll use that veto against him are the mullahs of the right who turned anti-Crist against their old darling anyway the moment he quit the tea-stained GOP.
All that is beside the point. Even if Crist doesn’t veto the bill, the courts will demolish it. But larger questions remain. Republican men who preach against government intrusion all day long have no problem getting between a woman’s legs, getting between a woman and her doctor, and worst of all, replacing a woman’s conscience with the fraud of their piety. They shroud the fraud in the emotionally appealing crusade against baby killing. But that’s bunk. No one knows when life begins — not in the first trimester or the third. Not doctors, not priests, not judges, and certainly not lawmakers. Let’s not confuse conscience with conjecture.
No one is arguing that abortions are desirable. They’re not even a “choice.” Abortions are a last, dismal resort. Women bear that burden enough, and alone because men will never know that pain. Anti-abortion laws such as Florida’s ultrasound folly aren’t about easing women’s burdens or even educating them (sex-education curriculums are failing that grade on their own). They’re about punishing women and girls after the fact and nailing dignity on the altar of false morals. And they’re about aborting something else a dwindling but powerful minority of American men revile: the growing rights of women. Men are on the losing end of that battle. But they’re going down swinging, because scorched earth retreats are the trademarks of barbarians. And barbarians are nothing if not, first and foremost, predators.
Pierre Tristam is the editor of FlaglerLive.com. Reach him here.