It's tempting to compare the Syrian terrorists—who are forcing women's clinics to close—to Republicans. But ISIS is far worse than anything we can imagine.
Abortion access, birth-control access, the ability to prevent and treat STIs, early detection of breast cancer and cervical cancer: All of these sexual-health-related issues are coming to a head these days in the United States. State by state, and bill by bill, those who oppose full-spectrum reproductive health care are dismantling the system created to ensure some form basic health coverage for all one brick at a time.
That said, while the GOP appears to have declared a war on women, you can’t successfully compare the U.S. to ISIS, tempting though it may be. No, not even if the GOP is the one to compare everything they don’t like to ISIS.
According to the UK Independent, the city of Raqqa—which has been the center of operations for terrorist group ISIS in Syria—is having a health crisis because extremists are forcing women’s clinics to close. Because of strict gender segregation, male gynecologists are being harassed and terrorized out of performing any services or treatment on female patients, and there is no female staff who can see the patients, leaving them without care.
“A lot of doctors have [already] left, especially gynaecologists who were barred from practising their work and [threatened] with death,” Abu Mohammed, founder of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is tracking the atrocities occurring in the city, told The Independent.
The article is horrifying, reporting on the complications of untreated sexually transmitted infections and miscarriages that are occurring as a result, often to girls who haven’t even reached their teen years yet due to a rampant push for child marriages and frequent births because “women are tasked primarily with producing the next generation of fighters,” as The Independent puts it. Also horrifying is the number of people who apparently are drawing parallels between this and the sexual health care situation in the United States as clinics close across the country.
Obviously, there are some similarities that can’t simply be brushed aside. Thanks in part to the defunding efforts pushed by local lawmakers, a number of cities in the U.S. are also seeing surging rates of sexually transmitted infections in their areas. In Indiana, the closure of the sole testing site for HIV in Scott County in 2013 may have played a large factor in the 2015 HIV outbreak in that area. After years of telling students to just say no to all sexual intercourse until marriage, a Texas high school last May boasted the dubious honor of having 1 out of every 15 students testing positive for chlamydia.
Regardless of the fact that the country—largely due to GOP influences—is becoming increasingly regressive about sex, it is still a far cry from the atrocities being committed upon women and girls under that regime, and it is diminishing of the severity of these crimes to try to equate the two. While both ISIS and the leaders of the social conservative right have a moderately similar idea of the “traditional” role for women – one of nurturer and mother, a person who should be in charge of family while men are running the political and business sphere of society – the comparison simply doesn’t go any further.
As The Independent reported back in May over the same situation in Libya, the terrorist group’s actions revolve around obtaining and impregnating child “brides,” often second or third wives of fighters in the organization. The families of these “brides” agree to these arrangements in hope of having protection themselves, and keeping their children safe from an even worse fate. While in America we often make off-handed references that women are treated like property or that legislators don’t believe that we should have control over our own bodies, there is no comparison between our political and medical system and a culture that believes that isolating and impregnating 12 year olds is part of their religious mission.
Make no mistake about it, the U.S. is on a regressive cultural bent. Even with years of documentation proving that abstinence-only education is not effective, politicians continue to funnel money into the programs. The closure of Planned Parenthood clinics, especially those which don’t even offer abortions but act as the sole option for health screenings or contraceptive drugs and devices for those who are uninsured and underinsured, has divided communities into heated camps over whether non-procreative, non-married sexual intercourse should be accepted or not. When anti-abortion activists say they abhor a “contraceptive mentality” or want to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut because even married couples shouldn’t be trying to prevent pregnancy, we are truly being thrown back to the 1950s. Still, this barely registers on the scale in comparison to the human-rights violations that happen every day to the women and girls in countries controlled by ISIS.
For a supporter of equal rights and especially reproductive rights, comparing our eroding access landscape to the plight of those who are literally forced and coerced into sexual intercourse and birth is the equivalent of an abortion opponent declaring abortion is like the Holocaust or slavery. Using these equivalencies, even in jest, minimizes the tragedy and the pain of those who were victimized.
Is the GOP a regressive party that believes “traditional family values” means every child should be raised within in a two-person, heterosexual, legally committed family unit, ideally with a father who goes to work and supports a mother who stays home with the children at least until they reach an age where they should be in school? Yes, much of the political apparatus appears to enforce those cultural ideals. Do they think sex should happen only within wedlock, eliminating most need for contraception and especially STI treatments, and that in the event of an unplanned pregnancy married couples should just consider themselves blessed, and if you aren’t married you should do so immediately or consider giving up the child after birth? Without a doubt. Are they eager to defund anything that thwarts either of these beliefs, and claim that they are simply looking out for the moral fiber of our country? Of course.
Does this make them ISIS? Not a chance, and it belittles us to claim otherwise.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
Become a member at DAME today to help us support our independent, fearless reporting so we can continue to shine a light on the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. Every dollar we receive from readers goes directly into funding our journalism. Become a supporter today.
AN INDEPENDENT FREE PRESS HAS
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT.
Your financial support helps us continue to cover the policies, social issues, and cultural trends that matter, bringing the diversity of thought so needed in these times.