Limbaugh Is Just Batting Practice: State Legislatures Are Ground Zero For Women’s Rights
March 9, 2012 2 Comments
The least of women’s worries in 2012 is Rush Limbaugh calling them names.
Women are waking up and preparing to rise up all across the country, thanks to Mr. Limbaugh and to state legislatures passing laws restricting women’s rights at an unprecedented speed and level.
We thought all was well so long as Roe v. Wade was not overturned. We are like a woman leaning on her cane and not noticing that the ground has been eroded: as she goes over the cliff, she swears that her cane was fine just a moment ago. It’s not the cane that let her down. A woman can still choose to have an abortion – but good luck finding someone qualified to do it. Nationwide, 88% of counties have no abortion service provider. Fewer than half of ob-gyn residency programs offer training in the procedures required for a first trimester abortion.
Opponents of abortion have drawn the line against contraceptives and sex education – the very things most effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. You may have just begun to hear about this, but it is not new.
Eleven states have given doctors and pharmacists – who may not know the patient or her situation – veto power over women’s health care decisions, because state legislatures value the moral and religious considerations of doctors and pharmacists over those of every woman. National and state legislatures want to give employers, who know nothing about medicine, the same veto power. Who gets it next – the local police? Your dry cleaner?
It’s hard to keep track of all the fronts of this war on women. Personhood bills give a fertilized egg the full rights of personhood from the moment of conception, effectively making hormonal contraception and abortion illegal. Transvaginal ultrasound bills require a doctor, against medical advice, if necessary, to insert an instrument into a woman’s vagina, with or without her consent – an action that in every other circumstance would be considered rape. A bill just passed by the Senate in Arizona protects doctors who withhold information from a pregnant woman if that information might be used to justify a decision to abort the pregnancy – even if the situation threatens the life of the woman or her fetus.
The weapons of misogyny are not restricted to Limbaugh and legislatures.
• In 2010 alone, 19,000 sexual assaults were perpetrated in the military – to which newscaster Liz Trotta said, “What did they expect?”
• In 2012, women earn only 77% of what men earn for the same work.
• In 2011, only 12 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.
• In 2012, women comprise only 17% of the members of the US Congress and, on average, only 26% of state legislatures.
And on and on.
We are the daughters (and sons) of Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi. We must do as they did: we must speak out in public, we must march, and we must be prepared to fight to reclaim the rights that women inherited from their struggles.
There will be a march, a first step in reclaiming the inalienable rights of women, on April 28. It will take place in every state capital in the country. Join us, and tell your friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, and pro-woman men to join us, too.
Understand that there will be resistance. This is why it must be a movement of all of us, not just a few. Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony may have been the leading lights of their time, but they were backed up by thousands of others. If you think the authorities are not threatened by women when they assemble, look at the abuse riot police in Virginia recently gave to peaceful women who protested the transvaginal ultrasound bill there. Women have power; it’s been much too long since they unsheathed it.
Finally, consider this: resistance to women’s rights has always been a problem at the state level. When Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920, it gave women across the land the right to vote. Do you know how long it took other states to ratify?
Georgia (23.7), North (22.4) and South Carolina (9.4) and Louisiana (16) did not ratify it until the 1970’s. And Mississippi (14.9) did not ratify it until 1984. The numbers in parentheses are the percentages of women in the legislatures of those states in 2011.
The march is just the beginning. Women must be better represented in legislatures throughout the country. Run for office, or press other qualified women to do so. Run, or prepare to be run over, again and again.
We still have some choices in America. But the most fundamental one in 2012 is this: do we take over, or do we take cover? Our freedom and dignity depends on each other’s answer.
[See also my article, Will Women Rise Up in 2012?]