I’m at my third American Exchange Legislative Council (ALEC) conference, this time in Dallas, and on my first day,...
The year 2013 might have began with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and polls show that a record 70 percent of Americans oppose a repeal of the landmark abortion rights ruling.
Most Republican politicians, however, didn't seem to notice the record-breaking public support for women's rights, and worked to make 2013 a year of endless attacks on women's health services, abortion access, family planning and sex education.
The restrictions on women’s health care choices come at a time when 99 percent of sexually active women ages 15 to 44 have used birth control, according the Guttmacher Institute.
As states with conservative legislatures such as Texas, Wisconsin and North Dakota, have been rolling out extreme, and in some cases unconstitutional, legislation, federal judges have thrown up a number of roadblocks to these laws. But it hasn't stopped the assault on women's rights.
Looking back on this year's War on Women, let's remember some of the highest highs and the lowest lows...
5.) Freedom Rides for Abortion Rights
In July, pro-choice activists with the group Stop Patriarchy embarked on a cross-country abortion rights freedom ride.
“We’re going to all the states with only one clinic left,” organizer Sunsara Taylor said at a kick-off rally in New York City, according to Democracy Now. “There needs to be a massive fight in this country of people standing up and refusing to tolerate this, because women’s lives and women’s future and ultimately the kind of society we want to live in is at stake."
The group explains on its website: "Our mission is to challenge the new generation in particular to reject this culture of rape and pornography, to resist the shaming of women who have sex and/or abortions, to wage fierce cultural and political resistance to wake others up, and to celebrate, fight for, and win the full equality and liberation of women."
From the looks of things, they've only just begun.
4.) Albuquerque Rejects Abortion Ban
In November, the city of Albuquerque soundly rejected a measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The defeat was significant since the only two clinics in New Mexico that provides abortions after 20 weeks are located in Albuquerque.
Despite the win, which preserved abortion services for millions of New Mexico women, 13 states have passed what's better known as "fetal pain" bills, even though a legion of doctors insist that a fetus cannot feel pain at just 20 weeks into in a pregnancy.
3.) Michigan Requires Women to Buy 'Rape Insurance'
In November, Michigan became the ninth state to require that insurance companies charge additional fees for abortion coverage. Critics of these laws call the policies “rape insurance,” because who doesn’t plan ahead for a possible sexual assault? Put simply, this law is just the worst.
Thankfully, State Senator Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic women stood tall and forced Republicans to listen to their heartbreaking personal experiences with sexual assault, all in hopes of driving the point home that this is a bad idea.
“The fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive,” she told fellow lawmakers. “And for those of you who want to act aghast that I use a term like rape insurance to describe the proposal here before us, you should be even more offended that it’s an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women that were raped and become pregnant that they should have thought ahead and bought special insurance for it.”
Despite the pushback from Democratic women, the mostly-male Republicans still passed the rape insurance bill, but the fight continues.
2.) Wendy Davis Takes A Stand
In June, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis launched an 11-hour filibuster of a bill that sought to ban abortion after 20 weeks and impose harsh regulations that would have closed two-thirds of the abortion clinics in Texas. Unlike Senator Ted Cruz, whose faux filibuster came later, Davis was actually able to talk for hours on end without resorting to reading Dr. Seuss.
Even though it looked like she succeeded in stopping the bill, Governor Rick Perry called a second "emergency" session of the legislature, giving Republicans enough time to ram it through. An appeals court later approved the law pending trial, forcing numerous Texas clinics to close down... For now.
Fortunately for Texas women, Davis is running for governor alongside one of her key allies in that battle, state Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who's running for lieutenant governor.
(Editor's note: Look for a feature story about her race in the February edition of The Progressive!)
1.) The Affordable Care Act Goes Into Effect
Thanks to Obamacare, many women started to get birth control without a copay in 2013. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the “proportion of privately insured U.S. women who paid $0 out of pocket for oral contraceptive pills increased sharply, from 15% to 40%.”
At the same time, the Supreme Court agreed to hear from corporations that think their religious beliefs are infringed upon by rules that offer equal treatment to men and women, in hopes that they can deny their employees birth control.
If the court rules similarly to its decision in the Citizens United case, corporations may end up endowed with the right to free exercise of religion as well, while ultra-conservative employers force potentially millions of lady workers to pay out of pocket for birth control.
Featured photo: Shutterstock.com.