Yesterday I boarded a 6:00 am train from Newark to DC to attend the Pro-choice Advocacy Day. I eagerly looked around for placards, buttons, t-shirts, or groups of women and men who were on a mission. Instead I saw briefcases and business suits. I reasoned that people were coming on planes, cars and buses as well. I read The New York Times, certain that a news article, op-ed piece or editorial would promote the day. Not even a blurb. There was a great deal about unrest in Libya, the budget crisis and the Tea Party, hunger in Asia but nothing about the attack on women’s health care. I became concerned that the media was pushing the issue to the back. Let’s face it there is nothing sexy about women needing health care. It just is not as interesting as bombing a country or shutting down the government. Then I walked through Union Station. Again, no signs. There was no mass response to the urgent call sent out by Planned Parenthood. Where were the pink shirts of Planned Parenthood and the blue Naral ones? Where was the outcry? Have attacks on women become so routine that they are not seen as threats?
When do women and the men who love them wake up and realize what all the new laws in State Houses and the Federal Government mean? When do they understand about Title X? Title X provides health care to 5,000,000 women a year. This funding goes to provide routine breast exams, cancer screens and pelvic exams. At the rally yesterday we heard stories from survivors whose lives were saved by having had routine exams at Planned Parenthood. Most of the women were in their late teens or early twenties and had had paps smears which found the abnormal cells. Thanks to this care at Planned Parenthood they were living and had been able to have families and healthy lives.
When do our citizens understand that attaching socially restrictive riders to the Continuing Resolutions to the budget are a way of controlling women? When will they understand that there is already a federal statute that says there is no use of federal funds for abortion? These amendments have one agenda – to deny women health care.
Take the issue of the rider that wants to restrict the District of Columbia from using its local taxes for helping low income women have abortions. These states’ rights Republicans are meddling in the DC local rule. Maybe rights don’t apply when it concerns women’s health and reproductive rights?
Look carefully at the language in HR 3. Among other points like redefining rape, there is a restriction for women who pay for their own health care and who have had abortions having to report it to the IRS to prove that they did not use federal funds to pay for the abortion. Additionally, they cannot use pretax dollars to pay for this legal procedure. This law would also tax businesses who provide health care that covers abortion. This in effect is raising taxes on women and businesses. The part where a patient has to disclose private medical decisions and care is certainly a violation of HIPAA – maybe privacy is not for women? There is also an attempt to prevent people who pay for their own insurance and whose insurance is in a state insurance exchange from getting abortion coverage.
At the rally on the mall the intensity was palpable. Women and men of all ages carrying signs and wearing pink t-shirts loudly shouted for the rights of women and booed those who would take away these rights. There were eloquent speeches and pledges from Senators Schumer, Boxer, Murray, and Lautenberg, Representatives Delauro, Slaugher, Kapps and DeGette as well as Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, David Eigenberg and Connie Britton. Everyone on the stage and on the mall understood that this is not about abortion. It is taking away health care and reproductive choice for women. It is about putting women back almost a century. If you control health and the uterus, you can be masters of the workplace and the home.
Today I opened The New York Times and finally found one small article on page 18 where the importance of the issue was not understood nor was the impact of seeing hundreds, possibly thousands of women on the Hill in offices analyzed. Radio and TV did not point out that while the deliberations on the budget, which hinge on the socially restrictive measures that are attached are being fought, that voters who care about women’s health and rights were fighting in DC as well. Yes, we are invisible and penned in by a group of men who would take away our rights, our health and all the while pretending it is to save money and the unborn. I am frustrated and angry.
To borrow a quote: the conservative are interested in shrinking government so small that it will only fit in your bedroom and your medicine cabinet. And I say “no more, never again!” And I also believe that it is time for the millions who sit silently by to join us next time in DC and to join us in voting these people out.
It is time to take our country back from those who are trying to make us disappear behind their type of fundamentalism.
Gail Yamner, President, JAC