By Jim Hightower
The most aggressive and virulent right-wing attacks on women today involve eliminating women's reproductive rights. Again and again, we're seeing small, pious, tightly organized, male-dominated groups in our society insisting that they are the chosen ones, the autocrats ordained to rule over all women on the deeply personal, intrinsically private matter of choosing (for many different and difficult reasons) whether or not to seek an abortion.
Ironically, these authoritarians are mostly self-proclaimed small-government conservatives, yet they demand that the government be given practically unlimited power to control the minds and intrude most intimately into the bodies of women.
American culture has progressed from "Father Knows Best" to the birth control pill, then to Roe v. Wade, on to the emergence of women as bosses and powerful congressional leaders and to the likelihood that females will soon rise all the way to the American presidency. In the quick span of a half-century, women have organized and mobilized to achieve a more democratic social order that includes sexual freedom, rising economic independence, greater visibility in public life and a heightened control of their own destiny.
The struggle is not, as the Right wing piously claims, about some precise time limit for abortions or "protecting" the health of pregnant women, but about reasserting power over uppity females. If a woman can be barred from controlling her own uterus, then everything else she thinks she controls is in doubt.
Yet, in a recent Gallup poll, 80% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with less than a fifth supporting the anti faction. So, what gives?
It's not what gives -- but who. There's a surprising funding source that surreptitiously supports the no-abortion zealots: corporate America. The involvement of these superrich entities has drawn practically zero media coverage, and you certainly won't see corporations up front at rallies or proudly listing their brand names as sponsors of anti-choice groups. But who do you think financed and helped organize the hundreds of legislative, gubernatorial, congressional and judicial campaigns of current officeholders who're now pounding women with the harshest, most oppressive and goofiest laws against reproductive rights and equality?
The Koch network of corporate billionaires is one stealth backer. Also, the long list of corporate blue-chip funders, the dark money conduit of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other storehouses of corporate cash regularly disburse truckloads of Big Business dollars across the country to elect those extremist candidates. Not that top corporate executives actually agree with the war on women. But they also don't care if abortion is outlawed, because they're rich and can quietly arrange any abortions their families choose.
Brand-name corporations willingly finance hordes of anti-choice candidates as part of an obscenely cynical political bargain in which "pro-life" morphs into "pro-corporate." The greed-heads need boneheaded candidates who'll go to extremes ("Protect the holy sperm!") to gin up their ideological base, get elected and then dutifully serve the corporate interests. The same corporate giants also finance the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has written and pushed many bills to take reproductive rights away from women.
But another well-funded group, Americans United for Life (AUL), has become a primary legislative front group for the anti-choicers, hawking the most extreme program. It's not only intent on criminalizing abortion, but it was also the instigator in 2011 of the national witch hunt trying to destroy Planned Parenthood. Claiming to be a "charity," AUL shyly and slyly refuses to tell us where it gets its money.
Anti-abortion absolutists like AUL, along with yahooing legislators and Supreme Court justices who serve them, are exultant: "We're winning everything!" they exclaim. A two-legged ego like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has even calculated that he can ride the women-bashing wave all the way to the White House in 2024.
But sometimes you lose when you "win," because you get to sipping your own bathwater and thinking it's champagne. As an old Texas saying puts it: "Don't piss off momma. If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." And momma sure ain't happy about losing her reproductive rights.
In particular, it's the younger generation -- women as well as men -- who're newly focused on this abusive power elite. As my longtime friend Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, correctly called it: "They have energized a whole new generation of young activists, and for that I'm grateful." It's that movement that matters. It's fueled by the democratic populist spirit of ordinary but strong women who will not be put down.
Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes "The Hightower Lowdown," a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.