Letter: Women need to stand up, speak out

From: Patricia March


Over the last few months, many things have happened that have caused me to reflect on the status of women in 2017 America.

The country has elected a president who has felt free to sexually assault women without shame or consequence. We are treated to legislators joking about women being pepper-sprayed in the face, locked in car trunks and “being too ugly to sexually assault.” In that vein, a Texas lawmaker proposed a bill that would criminalize abortion (even in cases of rape and incest) because that policy “would force women to be more personally responsible for their sexual behavior.” Really? It seems to me that this basic lack of respect for women and their right to make their own decisions shown by officials elected to represent them and protect their rights is a much more pressing problem facing our society today.

Pioneers of the women’s movement understood that a woman’s control over her own body and fertility determines her destiny, so they dedicated their lives to fighting for that control along with the other rights women enjoy today. Not so long ago, women weren’t allowed to vote, attend college, manage their own money, apply for credit, receive an inheritance or enter into a contract. Indeed, women could even be legally fired from their jobs if they became pregnant.

No other 20th century invention transformed women’s lives like birth control because it has allowed women to have choices. The ability to plan and space their pregnancies has greatly contributed to maternal and infant health for those who choose to become pregnant. The number of women completing college is six times what it was prior to birth control becoming legal, allowing many more women to pursue advanced degrees, have careers and make significant contributions to society. Yet, it wasn’t legal even for married couples to use birth control until a Supreme Court ruling in 1965.

For the last 100 years, Planned Parenthood has been a forceful voice for women, while providing compassionate care, accurate medical information and critical services. Now those who want to dictate to women how they should live their lives are working hard to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood through aggressive and inaccurate media ads and targeting legislators who do understand that it’s women themselves who should decide what’s best for them. Poor women in many states have already seen a significant reduction in services. Yet cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood is plainly counterproductive because those funds are not used for abortion services and their loss will only mean many more unwanted pregnancies and therefore many more abortions.

It is time for women who feel it is their right to exercise control over their own reproductive health and want to see abortion remain rare but safe and legal to stand up, speak out and be counted. We can no longer assume that the rights we have today will be there tomorrow for ourselves and our daughters without our taking action to defend them.