COMMENTARY: Deja vu: Time to defend girls’s rights | Columnists




CONSERVATIVE MEN, especially those who have power and those who feel threatened by women, have stopped for centuries at nothing to prevent the female half of the population from achieving equality under the law. After we won the legal right to vote in 1920, American women continued to fight hard for other rights: equal employment, salary, health care, personal liberty, and freedom from sexual harassment.

We thought we had gained ground but, all the while, there has been an ongoing agenda to take away the progress we made and prevent further gains. Those efforts came to fruition in June 2022 when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, which had been the law of the land since 1973, and rolled back women’s rights to the early 1900s.

Women make up more than half the adult population in the United States. In 2020, women earned 83 cents for every dollar earned by men (US Census Bureau). In the last 30 years, the marriage rate has declined, and more single women are heads of households, from 18% in 1990 to 23% in 2019. Among married households, the share of women heading those households increased from 22% in 1990 to 46% in 2019. How do lower salaries for women benefit anyone?

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Women’s health care has also lagged behind men’s in diagnosis, treatment and research. Not long ago, women with menopausal complaints were diagnosed as “hysterical” and given tranquilizers. Before 1973, many women died from complications of back-alley or home-remedy abortions.

The current Supreme Court decision severely restricts women’s access to reproductive health care, invades privacy and limits medical choices that should be made only by a woman and her health-care professionals. Since June, several conservative state governments have quickly passed bills regulating reproductive health, ranging from limiting access to birth control to totally outlawing abortion and encouraging citizens to report women suspected of having an abortion so they can then be prosecuted for a crime.

How does criminalizing women for their reproductive choices benefit society? What happens to the married couple or the single mother who has children and can’t afford to support more? Who is going to support these children after they are born?

The very people who are fervently anti-abortion, claiming they are “pro-life,” also oppose government support and health benefits for poor and under-employed families. Where are the resources for child care so the mother can return to work? Where are the facilities or support to care for children who are born with multiple or severe disabilities? These new state laws don’t even begin to address the mental health effects on unwilling parents and unintended children.

There is a positive side to all these assaults on women’s reproductive health care. Women in large numbers are mobilizing, and not just marching in the streets. Women are registering to vote, and women are voting. In Kansas, voters rejected—by a wide margin—a state constitutional amendment that would have restricted abortion. Clearly, this November’s election will make a difference in our health care for years to come.

Women need to support and vote for candidates such as Abigail Spanberger, who on the day of June’s Supreme Court decision, defended women’s rights to accessible reproductive health care and the right to make their own decisions.

It is up to women to take control of this situation at the ballot box and make our voices heard. Stand up, get out, vote, and hold all your public representatives accountable.

The authors are retired professionals who have lived in Culpeper County

for decades.

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