The return of "This Week in Patriarchy" starts off on a hopeful note, with a new year and a new presidential administration at the head of the country that is actually concerned about women's issues. Some major changes in regards to women's issues took place this past week, and it gives your author hope that we are finally overturning some of the harmful policies towards women and families enacted by the Bush administration. And although it may be too soon to say, perhaps I actually have some optimism these days, in that we can start looking ahead on these issues rather then constantly checking our backs to protect against the constant threat to the progress made throughout history that was so prevalent during the past administrations.
In a move that I have yet to see in my lifetime from a Democratic president, President Barack Obama acknowledged the 35th anniversary of the ruling of Roe v Wade this past Thursday with a strong statement on the impact of Roe on women's rights and health:
"Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women's health. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women's fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.
President Obama went on to talk unapologetically about his consistent record for choice, and gave a nod to those against the federal funding of unproductive programs such as abstinence-only sexual "education" by restating his commitment to provide accessible and affordable birth control to those that may want it, along with comprehensive sex education to help temper the concerning trend of an increase in teenage pregnancy after over a decade of decline. And in a refreshing change, Obama finished off his statement not by apologizing for his pro-choice stance, not by throwing bones to the anti-choice crowd by preaching on about the evils of family planning, but by laying it out in a fairly straight-forward matter – regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, the crux of Roe v Wade is based on the idea that women are equal citizens of our country, and is necessary to help advance the issues of women everywhere:
"But we also know that Roe v. Wade is about more than a woman's right to choose; it's about equality. It's about whether our daughters are going to have the same opportunities as our sons. And so to truly honor that decision, we need to update the social contract so that women can free themselves, and their children, from violent relationships; so that a mom can stay home with a sick child without getting a pink slip; so that she can go to work knowing that there's affordable, quality childcare for her children; and so that the American dream is within reach for every family in this country. This anniversary reminds us that it's not enough to protect the gains of the past – we have to build a future that's filled with hope and possibility for all Americans."
A nice thing to hear from the leader of the free world, but the cynic would have to wonder, is this all talk? Happily, no. The day after Roe's anniversary, Obama put his words into action, repealing the horribly damaging Global Gag Rule, a policy designed to yank funding from non-governmental women's health care clinics across the globe if they so much as hinted that abortion was an option for women. A policy enacted by the former administration, it put low-income women at a disadvantage and hindered women's access to basic health needs such as gyneological exams and simple family planning practices. Being that this can only lead to more disease for women, and ironically, more unplanned pregnancies and thus more abortions, this policy was obviously nothing more then red meat thrown in the pit to appease the Republican's anti-choice base with little regard to the impact such policies would actually have on women and families, and was long overdue to be abolished. I had figured that this would happen, but never expected it to come so soon after the President's inauguration.
This week also saw the return and passing of the Lily Ledbetter act, designed to overturn a 2007 court ruling claiming that unfair wage practices must be taken up within 180 days of the initial hiring of the employee being discriminated against, regardless of their awareness of the unequal pay situation. Using an unreasonable amount of time as a limit in which to file a claim and ruled on at a time where unequal pay is still an issue, it was speculated that the ruling was merely designed to hinder women that were actively being discriminated against, whether as a nod and a wink to corporations that actively discriminate, or just a play to the crowd that can't handle competing fairly in the workplace and enjoyed the good old days where they didn't have to. Either way, an unacceptable ruling that burdens women, and it couldn't of been overturned a second too soon.
And have I mentioned how much I'm loving Hillary Clinton this past week? I always had the hope that she'd return to her more feminist-minded self of old once her political ambitions were settled, and it appears she's not going to disappoint:
"Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to help millions of oppressed people around the world. And of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country on every continent."
The United States is long overdue to address the plight of women around the globe, in such issues as poverty, education, violence, and war crimes such as rape. I can only hope that Clinton keeps true to her word, and we can begin to ease some of the suffering that for so long we have dismissed as unimportant.
Although I am pleased with the events of the past week, it still holds that those who actively work to dismantle women's rights or feel their misogyny should be supported by law are still out there. This is evident from the strange obsession with Krispy Kreme's "abortion" donuts to health care workers that are getting so bold under their freedom to treat women as second-class citizens that they actually have the gall to remove a woman's chosen birth control method from her own body. And as long as they are out there, there will be a political contingent that will cater to them. Those that fight against equality are still vocal, the Supreme Court is still close to having an anti-choice, anti-equality majority, laws such as the "Partial-Birth" Abortion ban are still putting women at risk, the Hyde Amendment is still denying low-income women the opportunity to fully realize their reproductive rights, among with many, many other issues that need to be examined and challenged. So although we can rejoice in the obvious change that is happening right before our eyes thanks to our new Obama administration, the fight is far from over.
So let's get to work.