Op-Ed: Shutting Down Our Rights – The Feminist Wire

Op-Ed: Shutting Down Our Rights

By Kari O’Driscoll

If the House of Representatives’ most recent attempt to obliterate the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act is any indication, politics in this country have turned upside down.

Those who disagree with the implementation, indeed the very existence, of the Affordable Care Act have decided that they don’t have to play by the rules to get what they want.

Here we go again.

Since Roe v. Wade was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1973, there have been many who have worked day and night to subvert it, pervert it, and prevent it from being the law of the land.  All this despite the fact that, every step along the way, the rules of engagement were honored and the law was enacted and found to be constitutional.

Opponents of legal abortion have spent the last forty years placing prohibitions on abortion based on age, marital status, gestational development and military service.  They have patently refused to accept it as law and are tireless in their efforts to make it a logistical impossibility to obtain a safe abortion, going so far as to restrict funding and shut down clinics across the country.

The fight over the Affordable Care Act–a fight that has led to a government shut-down–is  similar to the struggle for abortion rights in this country. Because a vocal minority has strong objections to “Obamacare,” they are holding the rest of us captive while they work to defund and dismantle this vital program. This ideological war has been going on for decades, only in the fight against abortion rights, the targets have been women of childbearing age. Those who are screaming about being denied affordable healthcare, thanks to a powerful group of Tea Party legislators, are finally beginning to understand what women have been up against since 1973 and before.

While it may seem absurd to many that a law which has been passed, signed, and determined by the U.S. Supreme Court to be constitutional is still up for debate in Congress, this is nothing new. A larger, more gender-balanced swath of the population is feeling the effects of ideological embattlement and this makes for a bigger pushback from the public. But the fact remains, there are ways of reversing or overturning laws in the United States and the politicians in power right now have no intention of playing by the rules.

What might happen if they find other laws they’d like to dismantle in this same fashion? What might it look like if they decide they don’t like women having the right to vote? What if they begin a series of campaigns designed to restrict voting rights to women who are married, white, or vote like their husbands? It may sound far-fetched, but consider the redistricting policies of the last several years. Recall the arguments–still ongoing–over whether immigrants should have the right to vote. Think about how politicians retain their power: by staying in office.

Have some lawmakers become so unwilling to accept anything they don’t personally endorse that they refuse to listen to the will of the people they are elected to represent? Or is it that they are only willing to listen to the people who think just like they do? This group of politicians has become so convinced of their right to impose their brand of logic and morality on the American people that they show no remorse or compassion for those who are stepped on along the way. This tide has swollen in part because of the victories they have enjoyed with regard to limiting abortion rights and other women’s health care services. The Right is emboldened by parental consent laws and “defunding” of Planned Parenthood.

Reversing the government shutdown does not guarantee that the Affordable Care Act will remain intact. If we let history guide us, we can be assured that this very vocal, wealthy, racially privileged minority will continue to fight to strip it of its teeth. Let’s hope they don’t resort to bombing clinics that treat patients who benefit from it.


Shutting Down Our RightsKari O’Driscoll is a writer with a background in medical ethics and quality assurance. She writes about social justice, women’s issues, and parenting for the BlogHer Publishing Network at Her work has appeared in Buddha Chick Life magazine, The Cancer Poetry Project, and anthologies about reproductive rights and breastfeeding. She is working on her own book about reproductive rights. She is active with the Women’s Funding Alliance and committed to helping girls and women use their unique perspectives to make the world a better place.


  1. Nancy Beacham

    October 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I hadn’t thought of the connection before, but this makes a lot of sense. And the rejiggering of legislative districts in recent year, we have wound up with a powerful extreme minority in power that have no fear of not being reelected. Scary! Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  2. Eric R

    October 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Because a vocal minority has strong objections to “Obamacare,”

    Kari get real, over 50% of America opposes the ACA. The GOP is taking a stand (putting on a show) for the voting base as the Democratic party would do if the tables were turned.

    The ACA is about money, not for the little person… for the big companies and our own government to squander.

    • Kari O'Driscoll

      October 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Eric, whether or not 50% of America opposes the ACA, the move by a small minority of lawmakers to shut down the government to voice their opposition is reckless and irresponsible. There are established avenues lawmakers can take to reverse this law if it is indeed the will of the people (although the last election cycle might indicate that the American people are willing to try something that may offer healthcare to the millions of uninsured in this country). Refusing to engage in the political process the way it was designed to work is a power play that leaves a lot of voices out of the democratic process this country was founded on. This op-ed is less about the ACA or Roe v. Wade and more about the power-grabbing tactics of the moneyed few.

  3. Dee Ready

    October 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Dear Kari, I’m with you all the way on this, but I do think that many of the politicians who are recalcitrant in this shut down that was based on reversing affordable health care ARE representing the wishes and the will of their voting constitutes. Because of the gerrymandering that has taken place in state after state, these representatives comes from districts where the majority of the electorate agree with their anarchistic views about government.

    The truth is that they representatives reflect those views. It’s all about getting reelected and retaining power. They get reelected in their districts by becoming more and more conservative. They have no desire to look at the will of the entire country. They are, at heart, cowards.

    When I think of them, I remember history lessons in high school and learning about the impeachment by the House of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and the subsequent trial in the Senate. One of the Kansas senators–Edmund Ross–cast the deciding vote in the trial. He was from Kansas, which is one of the most conservative states in the US today. Ross was a man of integrity. He had convictions that went beyond his state to the good of the country. Because of his vote, an injustice did not take place.

    I really know little about government, but some things just stick in my mind as they are so blatantly unjust and selfish. Peace.