By Elizabeth DiNovella on December 23, 2013

The year 2013 might have began with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and polls show that a record 70 percent of Americans oppose a repeal of the landmark abortion rights ruling.

Most Republican politicians, however, didn't seem to notice the record-breaking public support for women's rights, and worked to make 2013 a year of endless attacks on women's health services, abortion access, family planning and sex education.

The restrictions on women's health care choices come at a time when 99 percent of sexually active women ages 15 to 44 have used birth control, according the Guttmacher Institute.

As states with conservative legislatures such as Texas, Wisconsin and North Dakota, have been rolling out extreme, and in some cases unconstitutional, legislation, federal judges have thrown up a number of roadblocks to these laws. But it hasn't stopped the assault on women's rights.

Looking back on this year's War on Women, let's remember some of the highest highs and the lowest lows...

5.) Freedom Rides for Abortion Rights

road trip women


In July, pro-choice activists with the group Stop Patriarchy embarked on a cross-country abortion rights freedom ride.

"We're going to all the states with only one clinic left," organizer Sunsara Taylor said at a kick-off rally in New York City, according to Democracy Now. "There needs to be a massive fight in this country of people standing up and refusing to tolerate this, because women's lives and women's future and ultimately the kind of society we want to live in is at stake."

The group explains on its website: "Our mission is to challenge the new generation in particular to reject this culture of rape and pornography, to resist the shaming of women who have sex and/or abortions, to wage fierce cultural and political resistance to wake others up, and to celebrate, fight for, and win the full equality and liberation of women."

From the looks of things, they've only just begun.

4.) Albuquerque Rejects Abortion Ban

lady doctor


In November, the city of Albuquerque soundly rejected a measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The defeat was significant since the only two clinics in New Mexico that provides abortions after 20 weeks are located in Albuquerque.

Despite the win, which preserved abortion services for millions of New Mexico women, 13 states have passed what's better known as "fetal pain" bills, even though a legion of doctors insist that a fetus cannot feel pain at just 20 weeks into in a pregnancy.

3.) Michigan Requires Women to Buy 'Rape Insurance'

angry woman


In November, Michigan became the ninth state to require that insurance companies charge additional fees for abortion coverage. Critics of these laws call the policies "rape insurance," because who doesn't plan ahead for a possible sexual assault? Put simply, this law is just the worst.

Thankfully, State Senator Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic women stood tall and forced Republicans to listen to their heartbreaking personal experiences with sexual assault, all in hopes of driving the point home that this is a bad idea.

"The fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive," she told fellow lawmakers. "And for those of you who want to act aghast that I use a term like rape insurance to describe the proposal here before us, you should be even more offended that it's an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women that were raped and become pregnant that they should have thought ahead and bought special insurance for it."


Despite the pushback from Democratic women, the mostly-male Republicans still passed the rape insurance bill, but the fight continues.

2.) Wendy Davis Takes A Stand

Wendy Davis

Photo: Albert H. Teich /

In June, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis launched an 11-hour filibuster of a bill that sought to ban abortion after 20 weeks and impose harsh regulations that would have closed two-thirds of the abortion clinics in Texas. Unlike Senator Ted Cruz, whose faux filibuster came later, Davis was actually able to talk for hours on end without resorting to reading Dr. Seuss.

Even though it looked like she succeeded in stopping the bill, Governor Rick Perry called a second "emergency" session of the legislature, giving Republicans enough time to ram it through. An appeals court later approved the law pending trial, forcing numerous Texas clinics to close down... For now.

Fortunately for Texas women, Davis is running for governor alongside one of her key allies in that battle, state Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who's running for lieutenant governor.

(Editor's note: Look for a feature story about her race in the February edition of The Progressive!)

1.) The Affordable Care Act Goes Into Effect

three lady doctors


Thanks to Obamacare, many women started to get birth control without a copay in 2013. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the "proportion of privately insured U.S. women who paid $0 out of pocket for oral contraceptive pills increased sharply, from 15% to 40%."

At the same time, the Supreme Court agreed to hear from corporations that think their religious beliefs are infringed upon by rules that offer equal treatment to men and women, in hopes that they can deny their employees birth control.

If the court rules similarly to its decision in the Citizens United case, corporations may end up endowed with the right to free exercise of religion as well, while ultra-conservative employers force potentially millions of lady workers to pay out of pocket for birth control.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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