The morning of the US election verdict: things were still looking uncertain. And, if the fact that the world's most powerful nation seemed so indecisive, and the most powerful man in the world was about to gain his power by a sliver of states and an army of lawyers, was not worrying you enough, what about the fact that the women of America were seemingly unconcerned about the fate of the rights that govern their own bodies?
Sitting staring unsatisfied at my newspaper, that could only inform me of what it could not inform me, I was having to assume that roughly 50% of women were voting for Romney and the Republicans. How practically 50% of American women could vote in favour of such an overtly misogynist candidate was a mystery to me. Romney's electoral campaign was so vicious in its attacks on women's' health and rape victims that it led you to wonder if Romney had forgotten that Americans weren't voting in the 19th century.
As success of Obama (read: the overwhelming triumph from female voters) has proved, this presidential election boiled down to the fact that this president could - and, in Romney's case, was intending to - crush essential guardians of women's freedom, chance at equality, and prosperity. When the time came, the women of America were having none of it. Some of them weren't keen on voting Obama, but my god they weren't voting Romney.
The difficulty with America is shown in the stats: what we British may not fully grasp is that we are talking about a country where a staggering 51% believe abortion is morally wrong, and, even more concerning, 14% of people believe abortion should not be permitted, even if the pregnancy in question has been caused by rape (we are talking, of course, about a country where 'forcible rape' occurs every 6.3 minutes. And that's without factoring in all the rapes that are discounted by this worrying defining addition of 'forcible'.) Yet one in three women under the age of 45 have had or will have an abortion.
No matter how shocked you are by these figures, look even closer: what is truly shocking about them is the number of people they quantify. So 14% believe abortion should not be permitted, even if the pregnancy is caused by rape. 14% of the UK is just under 9 million people. 14% of America is almost 47 million people - around 70% of Britain. Can I, as a British woman, imagine living in a country where 47 million people believe that if I were to become pregnant from being raped I should be forced to give birth to that child, no questions asked? I'm fortunate enough that I don't, so I'll admit that no, I cannot imagine a country like that. The thought terrifies me. And the thought terrified the whopping 68% of single women who voted for Obama. A whopping 68% of single women who chose to hold on to that thing called control of their uteri, thank you very much.
We could also punch the air upon hearing that Todd 'legitimate rape' Akin and Richard ("pregnancy from rape is something God intended to happen") Mourdock, both lost their positions - and, soul-warming as a cup-a-soup on a cold day, Akin lost to a female candidate.
What American women did over the past days is something we Brit girls can learn an important lesson from. They looked at the Rick Santorum's declaring that birth control should be illegal (remember that? I'd almost forgotten - but yep, he actually said that), looked at the Todd Akins telling them the rape they experienced wasn't proper rape, and looked at the scores of male politicians constantly dictating what they can and can't do with their bodies, and they put their feet down in defense of themselves and their rights. Maybe we Brits should start looking at Jeremy Hunt and ask how it is he has suddenly such an extensive knowledge of how it feels to carry the responsibility of a child inside his uterus?
In the aftermath of this election it is only really the gnawed ends of my fingernails and the slightly haggard smile I managed as celebration that betray my deeply concerned emotional investment in Obama's win. It is only those chewed-up fingernails that betray the truth: that the ripples in the pond are often actually tidal waves. The UK have already seen a recent soar in anti-abortion action: if the other half of our 'special relationship', the country whose politics influence us the most, had elected an anti-abortion president, where would we be heading? The possibilities were indeed very real, and very, very scary.
Women of America, you have totally, utterly inspired me. Between bandaging my fingernails and sighing a huge sigh of relief, I can only think to say: you really really do go, girls.
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