Last week, the United States completed its 20-year mission in Afghanistan. After having flushed out the violent and retrogressive Taliban from the main population centers, the presence of Western troops meant that women and girls in the country would now have the chance to receive an education, go out into public without having their nearest male relative escort them and come out from behind their veiled existence. Today, those who were unable to leave the country are now going to have to think of a better and freer life in a fantastical way.
The Taliban claims to want women to participate in society, but their immediate actions post-American troop protections shows they have not changed at all. Those girls and women who could flee, have already done so or have gone into hiding until they can arrange safe passage elsewhere. Also, in the 20 years since Taliban control over the country, things have changed. The old adage “how you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris?” is not hyperbole today. Freedom makes people take the time to reflect upon their status and to find solutions to lives once spent in the shadows. Nowadays, women and girls have access to the Internet and to cell phones. The Taliban cannot control them any more than the ayatollahs in Iran can control angry Iranians in the streets protesting water restrictions. The United States and her allies over the past two decades have brought a modicum of “normal life” to Afghanistan. Before yesterday, our news media were filled with stories about those who were able to buck the system and achieve positive and life-changing results either in Afghanistan or abroad.
Contrasting the situation in Afghanistan with what we are now seeing in the state of Texas, we can reflect upon the one thing that spurred the feminism movement here in America: namely, that when women realized that until they controlled their own bodies that they would never be able to achieve their dreams of higher education or engage in occupations that offered them respect and income to sustain themselves. Alongside with this sentiment in 1960 was the first use of oral contraceptives. Now, the power of women could not be denied. They entered the workforce and improved our national economy in ways large and small.
A vocal minority, primarily religious evangelicals, protested this newfound freedom and wanted a return to the days when women were literally kept “barefoot and pregnant” and at home. Until yesterday, their views were considered too extreme and unsustainable. Thanks to the efforts of Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, their dreams of returning women and girls to the home were fulfilled. The Republicans that control the legislature in Texas are picking up where Afghanistan’s Taliban left off. They must be so proud of themselves that they forgot to ask their daughters and wives if they wanted to be relegated to the background of society once again. They failed to consider the serious life-threatening ramifications of having a 13-year-old child impregnated by a rapist who will now be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, thus giving her a daily reminder of the crime against her person. The next step in Texas will be forced marriages, something the Taliban are expert at provoking.
Perhaps the most disgusting proof of the decline of the humanity of those in the Texas legislature is the fact that bounties can now result in people “turning in” those seeking legally-sanctioned abortions. Abortions are still the law of the land thanks to Roe v. Wade. But Texans have now poked Roe in the eye by interfering in what is a highly traumatic and life-altering personal event for any woman of any age. For those very same Republicans who refuse to take life-saving COVID vaccines because they are concerned with losing their “personal freedom,” interfering in the life of a total stranger moves the bar even lower. Sadly, there is no cure for hypocrisy.
President Biden has now stepped in and is promising the Federal government will have a role in protecting these women who are now subject to extortion by bounty hunters. However, unless he is planning to deputize thousands of U.S. Marshals to protect women going to and from abortion providers, as was the case following the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, where black children had to be escorted to their schools, this may prove to be a tough nut to crack. Sadly, women and girls are already used to hearing and seeing screaming hordes of anti-abortionists on their way into women’s health clinics. Covering them with unrevealing clothing ala Taliban will not protect them from those who wish to send all women back into the shadows of society. They need our protection now and they are entitled to it as we once were granted after 1973.