by Patricia McManus, RN, PhD, CNPM, President/CEO Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Inc.
Recent events have thrown the issue of women’s rights into the forefront of current political discourse.
Historically, matters regarding women’s rights in this country have always been an issue. However, it was thought that the Women’s Rights Movement of the 70s had secured equal protection and rights for women.
Since the 1980s, there have been indications women were in for a downward spiral; one such example is when AFDC was changed to TANF. It was declared as a way to bring women out of poverty.
Though TANF got people off of government assistance, it did not bring most women out of poverty. Ironically, having these women stay home to nurture their children was not seen as laudable.
The depth of the current attacks is astounding, even by today’s standards. GOP dominated State legislatures have made it part of their overall plan to use government (which they profess to hate), as a means to their end.
For example, Wisconsin recently reduced the availability of the “Earned Income Tax Credit” to the poor, who are primarily women. Wisconsin also repealed the equal pay law that allowed women to obtain damages from businesses who discriminate against them.
There has been enough tinkering around the edges of Roe v. Wade to ensure its dismantlement when it gets to the conservative dominated U.S. Supreme Court. To get around the current abortion option, the GOP has introduced “Personhood” laws in several states.
The worst, a recently signed Arizona law, states life begins two weeks after the end of a woman’s last period. There have even been attempts to require vaginal probes. Additionally, Wisconsin just changed the law to require face-to-face visits between a woman and her physician as another tactic to make it difficult for women to get abortions.
Before anyone makes any judgments about my stance on abortion, I personally don’t believe in abortion, but I feel it should be a decision left between a woman and her doctor.
I am not a fan of Planned Parenthood either, but I do recognize the necessary role it plays in the community; they receive funds to provide preventive reproductive health services. But its history of eugenics does not go unnoticed and keeps me on constant alert about their presence in the black community.
There is also the issue of contraception. Women have had to be responsible for their reproductive health since the beginning of time.
The medical advances in contraception have made it possible for women to have more control over their lives, their families and their careers. Now, they are suggesting that the “job creators” should be able to determine whether their job benefits should include contraception.
I remember when I was graduating from nursing school in 1971 some of my peers told me that various employers required that you prove that you were on contraceptives to get a job.
Businesses were concerned about women getting pregnant and having to be replaced. Fast forward 40 years and now you have to prove you are not using contraception for family planning.
So is this a war? The answer is that there has always been and is a war on women.
I am bolstered by the way women, for the most part, have worked together to rise above circumstances. Who would have thought that something like a “Personhood” amendment, that included banning most contraceptives, would have been defeated in a state like Mississippi? Women will rally around the issue of banning contraceptives as well. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will be men who do it, not women.
Women are not a monolith and therefore will disagree on some issues. Neither Democrats nor Republicans can say that they have exclusive domain over women. Yes, women care about the economy, but we can care about more than one thing, and usually do. How women vote has shown that to be the case.