Waking the Sleeping Giant

The attack on women’s rights, rights long believed settled, has been on a steady increase over the past four decades. A return to near medieval religious orthodoxies has forged an alliance with conservatives determined to march backwards to a day when workers and women had few rights. Through most of this time the Giant, women’s organizations and supporters, slowly diminished and fell asleep. Granted, activism and feminism are clearly not dead, but their gigantic voice of the 60’s and 70’s is very difficult to hear.

In Wisconsin, the poster child for the attack on workers, the senate passed SB202 that repeals the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. "It really takes away the teeth and the enforcement aspect of equal pay in Wisconsin," said Sara Finger, director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health (WAWH). The National Committee on Pay Equity shows that women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make. In Wisconsin, according to WAWH, it is 75 cents, making an estimate that a family in the state can “lose more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay."

In Indiana, Rep Bob Morris wrote a letter to fellow Republican members of the Indiana House saying that he will not support a resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America because it promotes homosexuality and abortion. Ashley Sharp, spokesperson for the Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michigan, states that it leaves sex and reproduction questions to parents. The group accepts transgender youth on a case-by-case basis.

Next comes the assault on contraception coverage by health insurers. A debate that should have been about preserving a woman’s access to birth control became a religious freedom issue dominated by clergymen. Who can forget the all-male phalanx on the first panel to testify at the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform in Washington?

Texas Director of Health and Human Services Tom Suehs signed into law on Feb 25th, a state ban on giving Medicaid funds to any doctor or clinic affiliated with organizations that provide abortion (government funds are already barred from directly funding abortion). The law may shut down the state Women’s Health Program, which funds basic health services such as mammograms and Pap smears for over 130,000 low-income Texas women–44 percent provided by Planned Parenthood.

When Susan G. Komen for the Cure withdrew its support for Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screenings, the Giant finally opened an eye. An enormous retaliation from contributors and women forced the decision to be rescinded. However, the pink ribbon organization sustained some shredding of its reputation and lost supporters for its worthy cause along the way.

In Virginia, the backlash against the Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill has caused the Legislature and the Governor to bring this back to committee. One delegate, David Albo, indicated that he experienced the vengeance of Lysistrata.

There are signs that the Giant is becoming alert to the threats. Nationwide protests are beginning but it is more important to galvanize women as a voting block. We can change the course of events but we must act at the ballot box. We have been complacent for far too long, if we don’t repudiate this trend with our votes, the we are complicit in the outcome.

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