The Continuing Fight for Women's Rights

Last week at the Legislature, I made a speech on the Roe decision, women's rights, and the pervasive misogyny of our society. A slightly edited version was printed in the Ithaca Times this week , and I'm posting it here now. The fight for equality must continue. ~~~~~ Today is an important day. 174 years ago today, on July 19, 1848, 300 women and men gathered in Seneca Falls, NY, to speak out about the inequality facing women, demand the same rights and freedoms that men held, and make known their discontent with the way this country was progressing. The Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention was the first convention of its kind in American history. From that convention, it took more than 70 years for women to gain the right to vote in 1919. Voting is a key right, for sure, but there are so many other freedoms not afforded to women. Sometimes the fight for equality goes slowly. Sometimes it goes backwards. Like right now, after the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe

Women's Rights are Human Rights

When women's rights are threatened, I tend to lose my shit. With yesterday's major attack on Roe V. Wade and women's right to safe health care, I was livid. Instead of letting loose in an emotional diatribe, which is also a valid form of expression in times like these, I decided to stick to some facts. I currently have a platform on which I can stand and shout my thoughts, and so I did so at last night's Legislature meeting. 

·         Across the history of human time, women have used abortion to maintain their personal choice of if and when to become a mother. Midwives, herbalists, and elder women knew the practices and procedures to safely end pregnancy and were called upon to support women in their decisions.

·         It was not until the mid-1800s that governments began outlawing women’s right to have abortions in the United States. White, male doctors formed the American Medical Association in 1847 and decided that they should be the arbiters of the abortion practice. Women, particularly Black women, who worked as midwives threatened the white male power structure and were attacked and discredited accordingly. Black healers and midwives, in particular, were painted as unprofessional at best, barbaric at worst. By the 1880s, all states had restrictions on abortion and the practice became stigmatized.

·         In 1970, New York was the first U.S. state to legalize abortion.

·         In 1973, the Supreme Court considered the Roe v. Wade case. It decided that the constitution protects a person’s right to privacy and thus to terminate their pregnancy. The government has no right to limit abortion practices.

·         Regardless of legality, women have abortions. Women who cannot find safe medical care often turn to dangerous home remedies which I won’t outline now. But they involve violent self-harm and many, if not most of these actions result in serious medical emergencies.

·         In 2017, approximately 22,000 women and girls died from unsafe abortions. And while historically, and in modern times, white, wealthy women could sometimes quietly find willing doctors or travel to another state for a safe abortion, this option did not, and generally does not exist for Black, indigenous, and poor women.

·        Unsafe abortions and death occur more often in places that do not have safe, legal abortion options.

·         Also in 2017, there were approximately 1,081 violent acts against abortion providers in the US, by people who claim they are “Pro-life.”

·        Many states have and are now enacting laws that deny access to abortion even in the case of rape or incest. So, a 12 year old child could be raped by her father, become pregnant and be forced to carry that fetus for nine months and then raise that baby with no resources, support, or health care. Some of these same lawmakers say that it is too uncomfortable, too restrictive, and completely unconstitutional to force a child to wear a mask over their face and nose during the pandemic while at school for 6 hours.

·         Today, approximately 1 in 4 women will have an abortion at some point during her childbearing years. I have had an abortion. Many women I know have had an abortion. If you don’t believe in abortion, then by all means, don’t have one. But this is NOT an uncommon medical procedure

·         Whether and when to become pregnant and if to abort that pregnancy always was and always will be a decision that should be made by the woman facing this issue. It is a right of privacy. It is health care. It is a personal choice.

This is a tiny list of the history and reality of abortion and women's rights, and there are a lot of resources for further reading. Below are links to more information and some of the websites and articles I read in my research.