By Shanzeh Khurram

Having recently moved to America from Pakistan, I’ve always believed America to be a very liberal, progressive country where people can expect their individual rights to be protected. However, with the Republicans’ “war on women,” I feel like I’ve stepped into the 1950s. It’s shocking how, in this day and age, politicians are trying to pass laws that leave women unable to take control of their own bodies.

The state of American politics certainly surprised me–and not in a good way. One would expect a secular country like America to grant its women freedom and liberty consistent with the “American dream”. Instead there are politicians who believe that a woman, regardless of her faith, shouldn’t have an abortion. Even in developing countries like Pakistan abortion is legal if the woman’s life is in danger.

The Republicans’ stance on women’s issues makes me question whether the American dream really holds true for women. If the conservative Republican Party comes to power, then the whole concept of the American dream, especially for women, will be harmed. This is a country where people, regardless of race or sex or class, can start from nothing and achieve whatever they want if they work hard enough. But with the Republican’s refusal to accept equal pay legislation and provide resources such as food stamps, education, and health care, one would doubt whether women living in USA could actually be whatever they want to be.

A lot of Republican policies limit women’s reproductive rights and, ultimately, women’s freedom. From Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” to Mitt Romney’s plans to end funding for Planned Parenthood, it’s clear that the war on women is not just a myth.

While Republicans claim to be pro-life, their concern seems to be limited to fetuses. Lauren Zuniga’s poem Personhood highlights how Republicans are focusing more on saving fetuses than actual people. Republicans mainly aim to prevent abortions at any cost; after that it doesn’t matter what happens to the baby, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the woman’s life is at stake. If Republicans were truly pro-life, they would support women who choose to have children by ensuring that such women have access to basic child-care and healthcare. Instead, they cut funding that helps these women: Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and do away with safety net programs like Medicare –decisions which, if enforced, will make it harder for women to get medical access and raise their children.

If a government believes that the interests and needs of a person are not its concern, then it certainly has no right to interfere when it comes to women’s reproductive health. Even then Republicans keep trying to pass laws that dictate what women should do without bothering to provide support to those in need. The Republican stance comes off as hypocritical as it fails to step in when it’s really important. The purpose of a government should be to provide a framework where all citizens can expect to have their rights protected, along with providing basic resources such as education and health care, which is something that Republicans fail to do.

It’s fine for a person to have conservative beliefs, but it’s not okay for him to expect everyone else to follow the same values. For a politician to state that women should not have abortions even if they have been raped or their life is at stake is unacceptable. Republican Rep. Joe Walsh even said that with modern technology and science a woman cannot possibly die due to pregnancy complications- a statement that is almost as false and illogical as Todd Akin’s comments on rape. A woman’s body is not a battleground. When it comes to abortion or contraceptives, a woman should be able to decide for herself what she wants without legislators trying to pass bills that limit her options.

It’s 2012 and women should not have to fight for the right to make decisions concerning their bodies. Women can use their vote to ensure that their rights are protected. And it’s not just limited to abortion, gay marriage, or contraception: a person should be able to have full control over his or her life. Individual freedom is what I associate America with, and that’s why I believe that the Democrats, who aim to preserve such freedom and are more concerned with individuals’ rights, deserve to win the elections.