Wendy Davis, the Texas legislator who hijacked the Senate floor for a few hours last month, is the new feminist icon. The woman who fought to keep abortions safe, legal and not necessarily rare deeply into the second trimester of pregnancy was ultimately unsuccessful in her crusade. Nonetheless, she cemented her status as “One Who Speaks For U.S.” The “U.S," of course, is anyone with a set of ovaries.
Another lady who assumed the heavy burden of our gender upon her slender shoulders is Sandra Fluke, the courageous Georgetown law student who raised her voice in solidarity with those who wanted the public to subsidize their sex lives.
Both Davis and Fluke have been embraced by the people who revere the term “choice,” but have very little familiarity with the definition. To them, any choice that does not align itself with their (usually progressive) views is neither valid nor understandable. If a woman is not a supporter of abortion rights, she is and can only ever be a second-class citizen. She is also naive, masochistic and probably a religious fanatic.
If a woman does not think that the government should be forcing third parties to pay for her birth control, she is all of the above and, in addition, a misogynist. They find it hard to believe that we can be repulsed at Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” comment while at the same time feeling that Sandra Fluke represented a giant leap backward for women’s autonomy.
It comes as a great surprise to the social progressives that a woman could actually think with an organ other than her uterus. They harbor a reflexive hostility to anyone who would say that there are some things as, if not more, important than easy access to abortion and the pill. One of those things is religious freedom.
That’s why it’s important to stand up and take notice of women who have a type of courage that is neither appreciated nor accepted by a society that still blackmails dissenters with archaic symbols of bloody coat hangers and chastity belts.
“Women Speak for Themselves,” a grassroots organization of over 40,000 women nationally, was formed in direct response to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate which went into effect one year ago this month. While the mandate has been delayed for certain not-for-profit and religiously-affiliated organizations, the White House has made it clear that it will not stop until every employer in the United States guarantees free birth control for its female employees.
Kathleen Sibelius has tried not to show too much exasperation with her annoying fellow citizens who point to the First Amendment and say, “Excuse us, but you need to take a look at this Madame Secretary.” She has assumed the demeanor of a teacher lecturing to unreceptive students when she explains that the ACA respects religious freedom by not forcing employers to pay for the birth control directly out of their own pockets.
Of course, she fails to point out that this is simply a bait and switch tactic, an accounting trick that still violates the religious liberties of objecting employers.
You get the sense that Secretary Sibelius is one of those women who lionized Wendy Davis and think that Sandra Fluke is the millennial version of Eleanor Roosevelt. Certainly, she’d have a problem with the brave ladies who gathered in D.C. on Aug. 1 and raised their diverse voices against the mandate.
Women like Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a Latino Catholic who stated that “Latino immigrants have come to the United States not looking for handouts...we came here looking for freedom.”
Women like Maya Noronha, an attorney with a Georgetown pedigree who told the cheering crowd “I went to Georgetown Law. But my classmate Sandra Fluke does not speak for me ... I can speak for myself. And, I speak for religious freedom.”
Women like Helen Alvare, the George Mason University law orofessor who founded Women Speak for Themselves. Professor Alvare told me: “No one should underestimate the importance of these women coming together in person to take strength from each other. So many women told me how inspired they were to take action in their hometowns, after seeing how many intelligent and unafraid women are in this fight alongside them.”
And that’s the point. When you are in a city like Philadelphia where liberal voices are usually loudest by default, it is difficult to believe that there are other, equally passionate voices for religious freedom resonating in homes and offices and municipal buildings. When you are constantly bombarded with hagiographic tributes to Wendy Davis and Sandra Fluke, when progressive websites call conservative women “Republic(ASTERISK)nts” (I speak from firsthand experience,) when you are attacked with crude comments about keeping your rosaries off of someone else’s ovaries, it can make you question the strength of your voice.
But train your ear to the wind, and you'll hear a different story.
CHRISTINE M. FLOWERS is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.