Today is Women’s Equality Day commemorating the anniversary of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote in 1920.
It’s true that we’ve come a long way since those days but I have to wonder if we haven’t come so far just to start moving backward. I watched HBO’s fascinating documentary on Gloria Steinem last week and couldn’t help but notice many of the same battles “second wave” feminists were fighting in the 1960’s and 70’s are the same ones we’re fighting today. Reproductive freedom, access to better, higher paying jobs, equal pay for equal work, the ability to care for our families and our children without sacrificing our livelihoods… or our sanity.
If you’ve been paying attention to politics in North Carolina recently there’s no way you can ignore the fact that we are watching women’s rights moving backward. From the passage of HB 854 the “women know nothing” bill in spite of the Governor’s veto to the widening gender gap of people living in poverty in our state. no facet of women’s lives was spared this legislative session, including our access to health care. (Check out NC Policy Watch’s “Women and the Economy” series for much more.)
Judge James Beaty handed down an injunction on August 19 that barred the special provision in the state budget that defunded Planned Parenthood (and banned us from doing any business with the state) from going into effect. In these difficult times when everyone, especially women, are struggling to make ends meet and to find low-cost, quality health care, you would think that would be the end of it.
Not so. This Republican Legislature, led on the House side by Speak Thom Tillis, has their priorities and are going to stick to them, gosh darn it, no matter who it hurts (aka, women). Just last week Tillis was on the record stating that the Legislature will consider rewriting the special provision to “avoid further litigation” and maintain their desired impact (that Planned Parenthood is unable to receive funding to provide preventative care to low-income women or teen pregnancy prevention programs to at-risk teens).
Clearly Tillis and his army of ideologues refuse to accept the injunction as an indication that legislators have no business spending the state’s money playing out their personal agendas against an organization that does more to provide preventative care to women and actually prevent the need for abortion more than any other.
It’s also clear that they are not interested in the fact that many North Carolinians are struggling financially now more than ever and that the state has bigger concerns (Hurricane Irene anyone?) than how many ways we can deny women health care. And everyday the Legislature spends in session debating such topics is costing us, the taxpayers, $50,000 per day. But like I said, they have their priorities.
That’s the state we find things in this Women’s Equality Day. But now is not the time to despair. Tillis and his fellow ring-wingers may have their misguided priorities but we have never had more clarity on our own. If they believe that “rewriting” this harmful provision is going to “avoid further litigation” they have underestimated us. We will always protect our patients and their right to access affordable health care. And if they think North Carolina women are going to quietly step aside and watch our rights, livelihoods and our families trampled upon, they are sorely mistaken.
You can help us send this message loud and clear. The Legislature reconvenes September 12. Join us for a phone bank on September 8 to get voters on the phone with Thom Tillis to tell him that we will NOT back down.