We Still Have Work to Do Beyond Women’s Equality Day

By Nicole Rapfogel, Field and Outreach Intern

On Women’s Equality Day, we recognized the progress women have made in moving closer to equal treatment under the law and in practice. Gains in reproductive rights have advanced women’s rights, but not all women have the same access and freedom.

To be a woman in the 1950s meant marrying young and bearing several children. With no reliable, reversible form of birth control, sexually active women, within or outside the confines of marriage, risked pregnancy each time they had sex. In 1960, the birth control pill was first approved. For the first time, women could separate sexuality from procreation. With the opportunity to control their own fertility and child spacing, women could delay marriage, pursue education and careers and assert their reproductive autonomy.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration produces new attacks on women’s healthcare every day.  Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court threatens Roe v. Wade and women’s fundamental rights to abortion. Without comprehensive, safe, and legal reproductive rights, women will not achieve equality. Since the Hyde Amendment’s passage in 1976, low-income women have been penalized for abortion and unable to access abortion care through their Medicaid insurance. Countless state level policies evade federal laws to restrict abortion access further, with mechanisms including forced delays (“waiting periods”), medical misinformation, and TRAP laws that put undue requirements on abortion providers.  Trump’s proposed Domestic Gag Rule would revoke the guarantee that Title X patients, predominantly low-income, who are pregnant receive comprehensive and unbiased counseling for all options.

As of 2014, an estimated 225 million women in developing nations had an unmet need for modern contraception, limiting their ability to take a more equal role in their families and society at large. Trump’s Global Gag Rule, which prohibits foreign organizations receiving U.S. foreign aid from even mentioning abortion, further erodes reproductive health access that could improve quality of life for women. The Global Gag Rule prevents women who want to control their fertility for any reason from achieving this basic right and venturing closer to gender equality.

In addition to defunding numerous organizations that believe in upholding reproductive rights, the Trump administration has denied funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA supports programming in over 150 countries that works to fulfill every young person’s potential by promoting their sexual and reproductive rights. In 2016, U.S. support contributed to UNFPA’s work to save 2,340 lives during pregnancy and childbirth, prevent 947,000 unintended pregnancies, ensure 1,251 fistula surgeries, and prevent 295,000 unsafe abortions. UNFPA also focuses on work in conflict zones and ending gender-based violence. Without this funding, millions of women will face additional challenges to their political, social, and economic equality.

While we are grateful to the trailblazers who have made much progress in promoting women’s equality, we will not rest until people everywhere have comprehensive and equitable access to reproductive care. This Women’s Equality Day, join us in the #Fight4HER and support the Global HER Act to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule.

We believe that the fight for women’s equality must be inclusive, intersectional, and address threats to the well-being of allied populations. We will continue to rally against Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination and his threats to reproductive freedom, health care, the environment, voting rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant rights for generations.

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