Right wingers adamantly proclaim that free markets are necessary for freedom. So why do so many of these liberty lovers insist that women be constrained?

The right has been relentlessly pushing laws that limit women’s autonomy. The most extreme measure is on the November ballot in Mississippi. There, voters may amend the state constitution to define a “person” as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

If this law passes, a woman would not be able to get an abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or if her life were in danger. Miscarriage could become a police investigation. And at least some (possibly all) forms of contraception would become illegal.

Similar measures are being planned for future elections in Florida, Montana, Ohio and at least five other states.

Slate’s XX Factor reports on the consequences of such a law being passed in Mexico:

The main result has been a doubling down in the criminalization of women who have abortions, or even miscarriages... The penalties for a woman who has an abortion range from six months to four years.

XX Factor goes on to report that one woman got a 23 year sentence for what she says was a miscarriage. Now consider that about one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. (In the U.S. today women are prosecuted for stillbirths, even when prosecutors lack direct evidence linking poor health choices to the stillbirth.)

Personhood activist, Ed Hanks, says society isn’t comfortable yet with punishing women and their doctors for abortions, “because abortion has been ‘normalized.’” He hopefully adds, “As the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest.”

When women aren’t being limited by penitentiary walls – or by their own deaths – another prison arises when contraception is banned – a goal pushed by plenty of conservatives. Some abusive men even destroy contraception hoping to trap wives or girlfriends into dependency by their need to care for children.

The 20th century’s most loathsome regimes focused on controlling women’s reproduction. The Nazis closed family planning centers and outlawed abortion, eventually making it a capital offense, says Steven Conn, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State. Stalin banned abortion. Ceausescu outlawed contraception and made miscarriage subject to criminal investigation. Today China forces abortion and sterilization. Conn observes:

The day after the evil Ceausescu had been executed, the National Salvation Front issued two decrees; it lifted the ban on the private ownership of typewriters, and it repealed the laws that policed pregnant women.

America’s right-wing extremists look eerily similar to these despots, lending an ironic twist to their claim of being all about freedom through free markets.

Markets must be free. But women must be controlled?

Cross-posted on BroadBlogs

Originally posted to BroadBlogs on Mon Nov 07, 2011 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, Pro Choice, and Community Spotlight.

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