Misogyny and misplaced outrage

As the world watched the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with delight, the community of Santa Fe, Texas, mourned the death of 10 children, the latest victims of yet another school shooting.

Local children light candles during a vigil held in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.

It seems like every month another school shooting takes the lives of more innocent children. While survivors of communities like Santa Fe pick up the pieces, US politicians are quick to point their fingers at anything and everything as a reason for why it happened. Anything and everything, that is, apart from gun control.

Following this latest shooting, Texas Governor Dan Patrick blamed violent video games, movies, family break-ups and even bullying on social media for the reasons why these mass shootings take place. What is most galling, however, is that he also blamed abortion for devaluing human life and spurring the same shootings.

This comes the day after US President Donald Trump announced that clinics providing abortions or referring patients to abortion providers will lose their federal funding. It is, in essence, a domestic gag rule that mirrors the global gag rule the President implemented on his first day in office.

The domestic gag rule and Governor Patrick’s remarks are further symptoms of a much larger problem; the harmful and misogynistic narrative of the "right to life" movement that is becoming so influential on US politics today.

This narrative perpetuates a dangerous assumption that a woman is always secondary to her pregnancy. It advocates that at the point of conception, she should relinquish her agency. The decision as to whether she will continue her pregnancy is taken out of her hands and placed under the auspice of politicians who position themselves as acting in the interests of protecting the life of a woman’s unborn child. These are the very same politicians who refuse to take any meaningful steps to protect children in schools from mass shootings.

A woman wipes away tears during a prayer vigil following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texa.

The problem with the domestic gag rule is this; it will enshrine the misogyny of the "right to life" narrative in government policy and practice. It will place further restriction on healthcare professionals providing women with information about their pregnancy options and it will further erode a woman’s right to make decisions about her life and her future.

America has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world. It also has the highest number of children killed in school shootings in the world. These are the things that should outrage US politicians; not a woman’s reproductive autonomy.

Michelle Thompson is chief executive of Marie Stopes Australia, a national not-for-profit provider of sexual and reproductive health.

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