My fiancé [inadvertently, I think] helped me clarify a point I was trying to make in my last post and in my discussion with my friend. Yes, I understand and agree with Voltaire’s quote: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death your right to say it.” But I also agree that it comes with another quote of his, from Dictionnaire Philosophique: “We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.”
Peril, risk and hazard. There is danger in some forms of “free” speech, and we know this, because we have laws in place about libel and slander and posting on facebook that you’re going to blow up a school. Using free speech to express an opinion – however misguided I may believe it to be – is perfectly acceptable and an absolute right. Using that same speech to strip away my humanity and my basic rights, however, is where the line gets drawn.
On July 17, 1980, the United States signed the treaty set forth by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Among other things, “CEDAW protects a woman's equal right to life, health, and to decide on the number and spacing of her children. The full protection of these rights requires the removal of obstacles in access to abortion services, and will also require the state to provide services in some circumstances. The United States is already bound by international human rights commitments in this regard through its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and through its membership in the Organization of American States.”
If we have already decided that this is a basic human right, why is it now ok to allow one vocal minority to try to rip it away by force? Can we repeatedly make the argument that slavery is beneficial and force all black people to only engage in unpaid manual labor? Is it not enough that we’ve already heard this argument and already dismissed it as invalid?
Isn’t part of what makes us a developed, first world democracy the fact that we protect the basic human rights of ALL of our citizens? (Except the GLBT ones, of course, but that’s for another debate.) Aren’t they considered basic human rights because they are inviolable and cannot be denied?
I think that there are certain minimum rights that you cannot re-negotiate or sneakily legislate away. You can add rights, but you cannot strip them.
You can argue until you’re blue in the face that two cells meeting and falling in fertilized love somehow equals a person, but what you can’t argue is that my right to life ends because of those two cells.
You can argue that Aryan Germans are the superior race, but you can’t argue that all Jews need to be eradicated because of that.
You can argue until the peril, risk and hazard associated with free speech make you a danger to the rights and lives of others.
You are free to swing your fist as much as you want, but your right to swing ends –say it with me now – where my nose begins. Similarly, you are free to swing your asinine pseudo-religious opinions around all you want, but that right ends where it jeopardizes my rights, my health and my life.
And you certainly can’t hijack a democratic government (I’m looking at you, ALEC and Personhood USA and all your cronies) and legislate your vicious, deceitful hatemongering into law.
I don’t know how we stop this awful freight train to hell we’re currently strapped to, but we have to do it. We cannot continue to legitimize arguments that deny women basic rights. We cannot sit idly by while 38 states currently have some sort of right-restricting ‘personhood’ bill on the books or in the works. Women are dying, right now, across the US, because a bunch of religious zealots think the Constitution is crap and we don’t deserve basic human rights.
This is not an academic exercise – our rights and our very freedom are under attack and we have to keep fighting. So I’m going to keep writing, keep blogging, keeping shouting at the top of my lungs to defend what’s mine, and I hope you’ll do the same.