Where is there a war being waged on women? If you’re following the liberal media narrative, the general assumption is that the main threat to American women comes from five conservatives on the Supreme Court. But though the news has been largely buried amid the blitz of hysterical and anguished commentary about abortion, events in Afghanistan point to a stark reality that most Americans might prefer to ignore.
Last week, the Taliban issued an order that all Afghan women must be covered from head to toe if they dare to venture out in public. The measure is part of that country’s regression back to medieval rules denying women the freedom to be educated, work or live in any way but under strict Islamist traditions, in which they are largely treated as property.
This is the natural consequence of President Joe Biden’s disgraceful abandonment of Afghanistan last summer. Biden’s bugout left Americans and Afghan allies at the mercy of the Taliban and an astonishing decision to gift our enemies with vast stores of American aircraft, weapons and equipment.
But also left behind were millions of Afghan women who’d enjoyed a taste of freedom for 20 years while American forces and their allies held Kabul and most of the country. Among the hardships they now face is being banned from all secondary and higher education. They also can no longer work except in primary schools or health care. Travel is segregated by sex, and rules even extend to which kind of cellphones they can possess. These restrictions are strictly monitored and enforced.
Afghan women’s unhappy fate is something to ponder while we discuss the leak last week of a draft of a Supreme Court decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion throughout the United States. Rather than focus on the constitutional issues, the debate has centered on emotional rhetoric about the plight of women in states where, if Justice Samuel Alito’s draft does represent the court’s final ruling, they’ll be unable to obtain legal abortions.
Americans are deeply divided about abortion and that discussion will likely heat up more once the question is returned to the democratic process in state legislatures, which is where it was until 1973, when a liberal 7-2 court majority invented a constitutional right to terminate pregnancies. Post-Roe, the public debate will return to whether (and when) an unborn child’s right to life takes precedence over the right of a woman to choose an abortion.
That’s a debate in which women will play a leading role on both sides of the issue. Lost on the red-cloaked activists is the fact that even if abortion is banned in some states, the laws of the United States will still guarantee the rights of women as full citizens.
They’ll be free to take to the streets and to the polls on Election Day, and change the laws they dislike.
We are not living in a real-life “Handmaid’s Tale.”
The women of Afghanistan, betrayed by Biden’s lame hopes that the Taliban might behave better after their victory, should be so lucky. Like women in other Islamist countries, like Iran, where they are forced to wear a hijab, banned from sports events and subjected to all sorts of segregation, they know what a real war on women means every day.
They’re living in a genuine dystopian nightmare and must face up to the fact that, for the most part, their liberal sisters in the West couldn’t care less about them. To the contrary, the American left is quick to regard any criticism of fundamentalist Islam as Islamophobia, not a defense of liberal values.
As much as Americans will remain at odds about abortion, events in Afghanistan are a reminder that if you’re really interested in defending women, the best place to start is in nations under the thumb of Islamist theocrats, not at the Supreme Court.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS.org.