COMMENTARY: Occupy Your Womb!

Why have birth control and women’s reproductive rights become such a controversial hot topic in the last few months? Didn’t women fight and win that battle decades ago?

Sure, it’s a presidential election year and the party not in power is trying to win back the White House by going under our skirts. But the efforts of the religious right to send women back to ancient time when sex was supposed to be for procreation purposes exclusively has been going on forever. To give you an idea of what’s been happening, last year, Republican legislators introduced 916 anti-choice bills in Congress and state legislatures.

But the present war on women drums began to beat louder when a few weeks ago, a group of Catholic bishops refused to accept the provision in the Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) that health insurance plans must include birth control for female employees including those of Catholic-run hospitals, schools and charities. The church itself is exempted.

What is in itself a woman’s right, the personal decision to use birth control pills or devices, is now, sometimes embarrassingly, a matter of discussion on cable news, political debates and congressional hearings. It’s even more embarrassing when the majority of commentators are males.

“Where are the women?” asked New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney facing an all-male panel at a congressional hearing on contraceptives a week or so ago. The women are answering “Here” as they begin to understand the magnitude of what’s at stake and getting their war rouge on for what’s to come. Some battles have already been won, such as stopping the various efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and changing a law in Virginia that would have submitted women to an involuntary and medically unnecessary vaginal probe before she could have a legal abortion.

Family planning is a must in contemporary society for all kind of reasons. Women know that if it weren’t for The Pill, we would not have advanced to the levels we see today. Although the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960, it was not available to all women in all states until 1972. This changed women lives, since the ability to control fertility without giving up sexual relationships allowed them to make long term educational and career plans.

But it was not all about co-eds having fun sex on campuses. Poor married women in also heard the call. In 1974 country singer Loretta Lynn wrote “The Pill,” a song about a mother of multiple children who says “No más” and declares her independence from her traditional role of wife and mother. The song was banned from the radio then, but now you can listen to it in YouTube.

Let’s not allow our right to control our reproductive capacity to be banned. This issue is vital for Latinas. We have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country and way too many abortions. What we need is more access to birth control and sex education and less guilt to empower our next generation so they can lift themselves out of poverty.

So, if you don’t care about politics and think your vote doesn’t count, think again before it’s too late. The way things are going, you may find yourself shopping for chastity belts.