Does the “War on Women” Make Issues One-Sided?

By Naaima Khan, Engage Minnesota

Since the introduction of the budget bill in Congress with multiple funding changes, activists have responded fiercely to what has been labeled “The War on Women.”   The budget bill, among a variety of measures that affect women’s health, includes a cease on funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest reproductive health care provider.  Other controversial measures that the bill proposes include elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women, as well as measures to stop funding agencies associated with providing abortions.

In the response to the War on Women, a lot of the rhetoric has been focused on women’s right broadly.  However, it’s important to note that, for activists, the focus of the War on Women is specifically in response to limiting the health care choices of women, namely those of getting an abortion and using contraception.   As we all know, abortion has been a raging debate in the United States that has ebbed and flowed, but always remained in the shadows of the nation’s conscience especially since the passage of Roe v. Wade.  This media battle is perhaps the latest resurfacing of this issue in the public domain.

As a Muslim woman, I too value the question of rights that the debate focuses on.  In Islam, most contemporary jurists who study Islamic law (scholars) agree that contraception is a permissible method for women to plan or delay pregnancy.  The question of abortion is not as clear cut.  All schools of Muslim scholars agree that for a woman to perform abortion past 120 days after conception is prohibited because that is when, according to Islam’s teachings, Allah breathes the spirit into a fetus.  The tough question is grappling with the other widely accepted opinion that an abortion is prohibited 42 days past conception. 

Given the teachings of my religion in regards to abortion, it’s too oversimplified to say that I can take a stand for or against agencies that assist women in getting an abortion.  Ultimately, I believe that no one can force women to make a right decision; everyone must be responsible for their own actions.  Yet, on the other hand, I understand that getting an abortion past the first four months of pregnancy contradicts my religious views on what is permissible.  But does government have the place to regulate women’s health choices?

In liberal media, the response to this question is a resounding no.  But I would like to offer that this question should open up a discussion on what role the government can play in regulating the harm that can result from getting abortions at later stages.  We should also consider that if we are arguing that we want absolutely no government intervention in terms of women’s health choices, what place does government have in regulating other affairs, such as carbon emissions and other moral questions within society?

While I agree with people who are challenging the regulation of women’s reproductive choices on a broad level, I can’t say that I blindly agree that government has no part to play.  The answer, I believe, is more complicated than that.  One thing that I absolutely agree with is that funding for cancer screenings, breast exams, and other important health services for low-income women should be maintained.  Regardless of their stances, women should be empowered to grapple with these issues, form an informed opinion, and contribute to the larger discussion.  They should not feel like they must take a polarized stance on issues because there is a “war” against them.

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