It’s been another bad few weeks in a bad year for women.
Texas lost federal funding for a women’s health program after refusing to comply with the requirements of the program. This will affect affordable health care access for an estimated 400,000 women. Utah passed a 72 hour waiting requirement for women seeking abortions. Virginia’s governor signed a bill requiring a mandatory ultrasound for women seeking abortions. In Ohio, there are proposals to legally limit the use of IUDs as birth control on the basis that preventing implantation of an embryo is tantamount to murder. And that’s just the last few weeks.
In 2011, a record 916 bills involving reproductive rights were introduced in states all over the country. That trend seems to be continuing at the state and federal level into 2012. Just last week, the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any employer to deny birth control coverage to any employee for any reason, was narrowly defeated. And that’s just within government: Rush Limbaugh and other conservative personalities – including the GOP presidential candidates – have eagerly jumped into the women-bashing fray.
But hope is far from lost. All around the country, women are fighting back. Here’s a look at some of the awesome warriors for women in legislation.
Ohio State Senator Nina Turner
Senator Nina Turner, a prolific Cleveland Democrat who has co-sponsored nearly 100 bills during her tenure and one of the most impressive lawmakers in the state, recently proposed a bill purporting to protect and defend men’s health. A pointed tongue in cheek reference to the numerous bills aimed at protecting women who are presumably incapable of making their own medical decisions, the bill requires men seeking Viagra to present a signed affidavit from their partner affirming that they have had problems with their sexual performance. A sex therapist would also have to confirm that the erectile dysfunction was not attributable to psychological problems before a prescription could be written.
Of her controversial bill, Sen. Turner said, “The men in our lives, including members of the General Assembly, generously devote time to fundamental female reproductive issues — the least we can do is return the favor”. Hopefully her colleagues will appreciate her dedication and generosity as much as we do here at Lawsonry.
Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman
Representative Stacey Newman of St Louis, MO has also thrown her hat into the ring when it comes to the contraception wars. Rep. Newman recently proposed a bill that would restrict access to vasectomies – for the good of men’s health, of course.
Rep. Newman’s bill would decree that vasectomies could only be performed on men in situations of life-threatening illness or injury. The bill would also restrict the location of vasectomies to medical facilities fully compliant with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services regulations for full service hospitals. That way, the outpatient procedure would only be performed in hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers, ensuring complete health and safety for those rare cases in which the procedure is deemed legally necessary.
At long last, men will no longer get these operations of convenience for selfish reasons that fly in the face of the Bible and the Catholic Church. Hallelujah for Stacey Newman!
Oklahoma State Senator Constance Johnson
A personhood bill was recently introduced in the Oklahoma Senate that would grant fetuses “at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state”. Clearly a perfectly reasonable an enforceable law that should take first priority in these trying times.
Not wanting anyone to be left out, the ever diligent Senator Constance Johnson proposed an amendment to the bill. Her amendment states that “any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child”.
Sen. Johnson clarified that she did not expect that the amendment would be accepted and made law, but wished to highlight the “absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women”. As much as her efforts are appreciated, the reasonable Sen. Johnson is unfortunately greatly outnumbered in the legislature of one of the most conservative states in the union: the bill cleared the Senate 34-8 on February 16th. Despite this, we wish Sen. Johnson the absolute best in her future battles for reason to prevail in state laws.
The Women Democrats of the Georgia Senate
As the Georgia Senate voted on and both an anti-choice bill prohibiting federal employees from using their benefits to pay for abortion, and a bill determining that religiously affiliated employers did not have comply with the HHS birth control mandates, eight of the nine elected women of the Georgia Senate walked out of the Senate chambers.
Senators Freddie Powell Sims, Gloria Butler, Donzella James, Nan Orrock, Miriam Paris, Horacena Tate, Gail Davenport, and Valencia Seay staged a walk out to protest the ongoing war on women. Sen. Nan Orrock said, “What we’re seeing here is an ideological battle that’s being waged to make women a target, to take our access to our Constitutional right of privacy and also our ability to make our health decisions with our doctor and our own best judgment. And it’s government intruding into that decision. The origins of this bill are ideological, it’s coming from an extreme, right, fundamental point of view. And that doesn’t bode well for women in Georgia.”
Much applause for these wonderful women senators, and their brave stand against the anti-choice tactics of their overwhelmingly male colleagues.
The battle rages on
It is worth noting that of the ten women profiled here, seven are African American women. They may be vastly underrepresented in elected office, but they are certainly making up a majority of awesome state legislators. A hearty thanks to all of these amazing women for standing with all of us in the battle for women’s rights and health.
Certainly the battle for women’s rights is only just beginning. But with women as smart and capable as these standing up and speaking out, there is hope for reproductive rights yet.