Why? Colleagues, friends and family of both genders and all political persuasions continue to shake our heads in disbelief. The dialogue today is stunning. Shocking. Are we really going to have a “new” discussion about women’s role in society, reproductive rights and ability to think for ourselves?
It is 2012 and the national conversation has centered on several issues that disrespect, disregard and dismiss women. It started long before a group of men wanted to discuss the government’s role in paying for birth control. We have been waging this war for over a century. Recently, it started surfacing again when several state legislators across the country proposed new rules and regulations that would prevent women from getting access to healthcare. Some have succeeded already (Texas, Virginia) and others are still sadly working to limit access and care. (Arizona).
We’ve seen the debate cycle through various forms, all with a strong movement to limit women’s access to affordable, necessary and reliable healthcare. The subtext of it all that seems to be the most shocking is the derogatory tone of the dialogue. As a women, it says to me “shut up and sit down”. Really? Um, no!
I have the ability and can afford to stand up. What happens with the poor? Those that don’t have access to women’s healthcare and family planning? The new discussions go far beyond just limiting birth control and forcing women to have unnecessary ultrasounds to prevent abortions. No to mammograms, no to ovarian cancer tests. Access to preventative care that can SAVE lives. Where is the logic? If we limit reproductive healthcare, aren’t we going to force more demand for abortions? Unwanted pregnancies seem to be the impetus for abortion, so wouldn’t access to affordable family planning help prevent abortions? Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Vital and Health Statistics, 2010, Series 23, No. 29.
Aside from the discussion of a women’s right to choose, the bigger and broader debate today is how we got back to this discussion 40 years later? 90 years later for equal rights? What has changed in the country that puts women’s rights at risk – again?
Some may argue that women took for granted that we achieved equality without the need to make it a protected right. We assumed we are in control of our own health and well-being. Women’s health should not be up for discussion. It’s not political. Saving lives is not political. If women did “assume” we were in control, was this an assumption of grand illusion? It appears so.
Women have fought for rights that men have been granted solely by their gender. Look at the suffrage movement and fight for the right to vote nearly a century ago. It appears that our rights should not be taken for granted and the fight is not over. We must press on. Future generations of women depend on us. Women need affordable healthcare. Women need to be in control of their own bodies. Women need equal pay for equal work. Women need the same rights as men. It’s not political.
So, in case it needs to be said, we pay taxes. And, we vote! The “War on Women” will continue, there is no doubt. I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” We won’t put aspirin between our knees. We won’t accept zealot misogynists and bigots telling us to shut up and be happy with our diamonds and dinners. We won’t go back to being submissive house help. Our nation can’t afford it economically and women want more and have proven our place in society!
We are women in the board room, women in political office, women CEO’s, working moms, we are women in every profession. We are scientists, technologists, chefs and journalists. We are single moms, we are married women, independent women and women with a voice. We are rich. We are poor. We are fighters. We protect and we give birth. Every one came from a mother! We all exist because of a woman. So, why the war?
Most importantly, we are the women that vote. We won’t fight this war for long. You see, we just assumed it was over. Women are equal. Maybe it is time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment that was first proposed in 1923. Maybe then, the war would be over! Maybe.