Issue: With a self-professed sexual predator in the Oval Office working to roll back healthcare for women around the world, the fight for women’s rights has shifted to a new front. Every other day, our phones seem to buzz with news that another high-powered TV anchor, Hollywood executive, or otherwise powerful man has been brought down after a critical mass of women came forward and shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Despite society seemingly becoming more equal for women on the surface, the wage gap, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the lack of women in positions of political and business leadership show we still have a long way to go.
Additionally, the slew of state legislatures that have gone out of their way to restrict access to abortion services and other reproductive healthcare show that Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood were far from the end of the fight for women’s right to autonomy over their body. Disturbingly, 42 states allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions, 27 require women to undergo a waiting period after receiving counseling before receiving an abortion, 18 of which mandate that women receive counseling prior to any abortion. Early
on in his term, President Trump signed legislation that will allow states to refuse funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides a host of non-abortion related reproductive health services including birth control, STD testing, and cancer screenings.
Additionally, Title X, the only federal grant program dedicated solely to family planning and reproductive health services for low-income and uninsured patients, has nothing to do with abortion. But House Republicans have said limiting abortions is the primary reason for continued attempts to cut millions and millions from Title X, even though abortion is explicitly excluded from the program’s coverage.
Ironically, cutting Title X funding might actually increase the incidence of abortions. Family planning services at Title X funded clinics helped prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies in 2008, which would have caused more that 400,000 unintended births and more than 400,000 abortions. Republicans are targeting Title X because roughly a quarter of its funds are allocated to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions in addition to its preventative care services. Although Planned Parenthood has long been banned from using this federal money for abortions, conservatives continue to argue that the money it receives from Title X frees up other money that can indirectly be used for abortions.
Proposal: Now is not the time for Democrats to compromise on our values. At a time when women’s rights to make medical decisions about their bodies are under unprecedented threat, we cannot afford to compromise this crucial plank of our platform. Simply put, access to abortion should be a litmus test for Democrats. If our leadership thinks this is something we can take or leave, they’re wrong - we refuse to concede to Republicans when it comes to our values. We as a country should never legislate our private or religious beliefs onto the public.
The silver lining of electing the most blatantly misogynistic President in decades instead of our potential first female President has been the activism that arose in the wake of 2016. The Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration demonstrated that women’s rights activists in this country are more organized than we’ve been in decades. It’s time to take the most meaningful step we can towards achieving true equality by rally around a national campaign to finally revive and pass the Equal Rights Amendment, originally introduced in 1923 and failed ratification by the states in 1982, which was designed to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex and seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.
In the meantime, we can make more incremental progress towards equality by undoing much of the harm the Trump Administration is currently doing. First, we need to pass guidelines for protecting victims of sexual assault on college campuses and in communities throughout the country. Then, we need to implement air-tight protections for women’s right to reproductive health care. State legislatures must be prohibited from restricting access by limiting the number of clinics, mandating unnecessary counseling, or implementing undue burdens on patients.
We must as a country act quickly to prioritize access to safe abortions for all (regardless of documentation status), access to affordable birth control and contraceptives, ending pregnancy discrimination or any form of reproductive health discrimination, and working to achieve financial stability for all families through paid family leave. We must also finally repeal the Hyde Amendment.
The most appropriate way to frame these pressing issues facing our sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, mothers, and friends is simple – reproductive justice is economic justice.