President Joe Biden on July 8 signed an executive order aimed at protecting women’s rights to abortion across the US. “We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court working in conjunction with extremist elements in the Republican Party to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy,” Biden said in a televised address to the nation.
Deriding the Supreme Court’s decision two weeks ago to overturn Roe v. Wade as “extreme” and “totally wrong,” the president backed up his stance with a recent abortion case that made headlines across the country.
The executive order gives authority to the Justice Department to make sure women can legally travel out-of-state for abortion care from states that have already outlawed, or severely restricted abortion access. It also addresses the elevated risks for patients, providers and clinics, including efforts to protect mobile clinics offering care for out-of-state patients.
Besides, Biden said he will provide leave for federal workers traveling for abortion-related medical care, setting up a potential model for private companies to do the same. Amazon and Starbucks are among the largest companies that have already announced expanded health benefits for out-of-state abortion-related medical care.
Aborting the Real Debate on Women Rights Issues
Notwithstanding enactment of various laws, at the practical level women of Europe, the US and other western countries continue to be a subject of sexploitation, opines Soroor Ahmed
The recent United States Supreme Court judgement overturning the 1973 abortion law has come under heavy fire and critics are charging as to how backward the lone self-proclaimed Super Power of the world is. At the same time it has sparked off a race among different countries as to which one has taken lead in giving rights to women.
Many self-appointed champions of women rights in Europe and also in India started making tall claims as to how ahead they are in comparison to the United States.
While India enacted Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTPA) in 1971 the US legalised abortion two years later and now its Supreme Court has over-ruled it.
Several European nations enacted the law even before, yet it is also a fact that some Catholic-dominated countries of this continent and South America strongly resisted any such move till the 21st century. For example, Ireland and Spain made it legal in recent years – 2018 and 2010 respectively.
It needs to be mentioned that about a decade back an Indian origin dentist died in Ireland after some complications while she was in family way. As abortion could not be performed because of the strict ban, she succumbed to it. This incident in particular pressurised the government there to change the law.
Curiously, the feminists of India and West now take different stand on abortion – especially on the way it is practised. While in the West they demand full right for women to take their own decision, in India the women groups argue that MTPA has been grossly misused for carrying out female foeticide. The declining gender ratio further confirms their stand. The advancement in medical science has helped determine the gender of the baby in the womb.
Seeing this rampant preference for male child, the Government of India banned the practice of gender determination. Yet it is going on in an illegal manner.
Apart from that, abortion in India has been used for population control, and thus was widely criticised by the women groups, who had initially supported the demand for legalising it. In India, according to an estimate, 8 women die due to unsafe abortion every day.
The problem is that any debate over women’s right – be it in the East or the West – becomes a subject of controversy because it is not looked in proper perspective. Instead of debating the issue of abortion seriously, more focus is given on which country or society is more forward looking and progressive and which is not. A blame game starts and the real issue is not discussed.
The truth is that the record of the West is not as good on the issue of women’s right as it projects itself. Notwithstanding enactment of various laws, at the practical level women of Europe, the US and other western countries continue to be a subject of sexploitation. Crimes against them like rape, domestic violence, murder, divorce, etc. continue to rise in spite of the fact that educationally, economically and socially the society is much ahead of many Third World countries.
Perhaps that is why, commenting on the recent US Supreme Court ruling, Karl Sharro, a commentator on Middle East, who had taught in Department of Architecture in American University of Beirut, teasingly wrote on Twitter: “Afghanistan has a moral responsibility to invade the US to protect women.”
Ever since the advent of Industrial Revolution the West has been trying to score brownie points over rest of the world claiming that it is more civilized, cultured, educated and liberal in approach. As European colonists, in most of the cases, replaced the Muslim empires in the Middle East, North Africa and Indian sub-continent, they always tried to prove that they are superior to others.
They would claim that Muslims and other people of the East do not treat their women as the West used to do. This race is continuing even now.
So when the judgement came on abortion in the United States, the liberal media went overboard in claiming that this ruling is not the reflection of the situation all over the West.
Without objectively discussing the judgement, most of them started stating that a majority of Americans oppose it and that the European societies as such disapprove it.
The liberal lobby in the West is busy stating that the judgement is just an aberration and that things would soon be set right, when the fact is that about half of the States in the US have Republican governments which support the ruling.
Whatever be their argument, the fact remains that this judgement has provided an opportunity to once again look back at the two centuries of struggle for women’s right.
A close look of the whole development would reveal that the empowerment of women was more by accident rather than design. During the peak time of Industrial Revolution, when there was a sudden demand for hands, the capitalist class pressed into service women and children into factories.
As they became ready to work on the much lesser wages than males, women and children were involved in cottage and small industries while men were sent to work either outside their villages/towns or even outside the countries – to colonies throughout the world. Then started an era of sexploitation of women who would work for 10 to 12 hours at much less wages.
None else but Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in Das Kapital took up this issue. They also discussed as to how the dress of women started getting shorter. All this was a part of capitalist design and not a plan to develop and educate the people. Against the general perception the literacy rate in Europe was very low both for males and females in the 19th century.
The struggle for better wages and less working hours started later in Europe and the United States and by 1880s the situation grew out of hand. The May 3 firing on the crowd in 1886 in Chicago was one such instance of workers taking to streets against rampant exploitation.
The small but influential upper echelon of the western society was not ready to accept this demand, yet was gradually compelled to concede several of them.
But the World War-I and World War-II completely changed the situation in Europe. As about nine to 10 crore people died in them, most of whom were in Europe and were males, there was acute shortage of hands to work in factories and other service and manufacturing sectors.
Besides losing such a large population in devastating wars, equally high number of males suffered serious injuries or got maimed and were unable to work for whole life. This compelled women of all age groups to come out in large numbers to fill all the posts and positions held by men. This phenomenon, by default, empowered them. It is only then that the demand for more rights emerged especially in Europe where they outnumbered men in many fields. They started demanding voting rights, equal pay and better working hours.
Had the West been really sincere in giving equal rights to women, France should have been the first country to give them the voting right as it had witnessed a Revolution in 1789 with Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as the main slogan. The truth is that women voted for the first time in France only in 1945 in the election held after World War-II. In India women exercised adult franchise in the first election held in 1952.