"Countries with higher levels of gender equality have higher economic growth. Companies with more women on their boards have higher returns. Peace agreements that include women are more successful. Parliaments with more women take up a wider range of issues - including health, education, anti-discrimination, and child support." ― Ban Ki-moon
I can't believe that I have to write about the necessity of protecting and expanding Women's Rights in the year 2017. The election in November 2016 illustrated that this fight is far from over, and that we must remain ever-vigilant. We continue to see images of rooms full of men developing laws and crafting policies that affect women. We continue to hear about attacks on women's rights in state legislatures across the country.
This. Is. Unacceptable.
Our government must not just represent us. It must be representative of us. The United States Congress consists of fewer than 20% women. Women account for only 20% of the country's mayors. State Legislatures are composed of only 25% women. We must change this.
If you believe that women's voices should be heard, give women the microphone. If you believe that women should be involved in policy-making, put women in the rooms where the policies are being made. If you believe that women should be involved in writing legislation, elect women to the offices responsible for writing laws.
In addition to electing women to legislative bodies, we must:
- Defend women's reproductive rights and provide access to free and low-cost contraception.
- Advocate for equal pay for equal work and economic justice in wages, pensions, and earnings.
- Address and eliminate sexual assault and other forms of violence against women.
- Secure equality for women through the Constitution by ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.
We owe it to our mothers and grandmothers who fought before us, and to our children and grandchildren who will come after us, to continue to fight for equality for all women.
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court, citing privacy protections in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, ruled that women have the right to an abortion. Since then, this Constitutional right has been under constant attack.
Across the country, state legislators have introduced dozens of bills to try to erode this right, with the goal of eventually overturning Roe v. Wade. These laws have imposed undue burdens on women in many states when trying to access abortion services. At the national level, the results of the 2016 election present the real possibility that this right could be overturned.
As a physician, I am appalled at the distortions and misrepresentations used to justify these legislative attempts to infringe on this right. Lawmakers have used disproven statistics and discredited theories to justify their legislation under the guise of protecting women's health.
As a woman, I am appalled that legislators seek to impose their judgement on these most private decisions, and that they are attempting to insert the state into the doctor-patient relationship. Only women and their doctors know the reasons why an abortion is necessary, and only women should make this decision.
Robust research from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization shows that attempts to make abortion illegal do not reduce abortion rates, and instead leave women to use unsafe methods to end their pregnancies.
We know there are ways to significantly reduce abortion rates:
- Comprehensive Sex Education. Multiple studies have shown that when teens and young adults are given comprehensive sex education, unintended pregnancy rates and abortions are reduced.
- Access to Reliable Birth Control. Long-acting contraceptives have been shown to reduce abortion rates by over 75%.
- Eliminating Socioeconomic Barriers. Women who have access to paid maternity leave, comprehensive medical coverage, and child care are far less likely to choose abortion when an unintended pregnancy occurs.
We must protect a woman's right to seek an abortion, while using proven methods to reduce the need for abortions.