• Cindy Mundahl

The Walking Back of Women's Rights: It's Happening Everyday

Image by John Hain from Pixabay.

In case you weren’t already concerned about the future of women in our country, our government is boldly staking its claim to legislate every aspect of women’s bodies. This was the greatest fear among liberal women once the current administration took office and it’s only exceeded our wildest nightmares since that time. There was ample evidence before this president took office that his views and actions toward women were not only disrespectful and sexist, but criminal as well.

The confirmation of the conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite multiple credible sexual assault allegations against him, was another harbinger for women’s rights. It was the giant middle finger of this administration thrust into the face of every woman. This administration continues to stack federal courts with conservative judges who won’t think twice about upholding draconian anti-abortion legislation and bans on contraception. Living the horror of both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Scarlett Letter never seemed so likely.

Now state legislators are reading the tea leaves and attempting to pass some of the most extreme abortion bills in this country’s history. Texas lawmakers recently introduced legislation that would make it possible for women to be charged with homicide for getting an abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. A charge of homicide can carry the death penalty in Texas. You read that right, a woman who has an abortion can be executed AND the physician who performs the abortion can be convicted of a homicide as well. The irony appears to be lost on right to life Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt that his bill would end a life, or possibly two, to save one. In a surprise to no one who follows politics, there is no provision in the bill for the culpability of the individual who impregnates the woman, or for said individual who may wish the mother of his child to have an abortion and assist her in getting one.

Further north, Ohio is doing its best to put women’s rights back decades by passing a six-week abortion ban, which was signed into law this week by Governor Mike DeWine. Named the “Human Rights Protection Act” (again, it’s apparently lost on lawmakers that the bill fails to protect the rights of women, who are in fact human), the law prohibits abortions at 5-6 weeks, or the point in which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It’s unknown if any of the lawmakers voting for the bill understand that many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at the 5-6-week mark. The law will take effect in 90 days unless it is blocked by a federal judge. The ACLU of Ohio has already announced it will sue the state to stop the law from taking effect.

In another blow to females, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled this week that the federal law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) is unconstitutional. A Michigan doctor was the first person to be tried under the law after being accused of performing FGM on over 100 girls over 12 years. According to Judge Bernard Friedman, the practice of FGM is a local crime and should, therefore, be regulated by the states rather than Congress. Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice will not appeal the ruling of this law which has been in effect for over 20 years. Less than two months ago, the DOJ marked International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by issuing a statement reading, “Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a federal crime, and any involvement in committing this crime is a serious human rights violation, which may result in imprisonment and potential removal from the United States. Individuals suspected of FGM/C, including sending girls overseas to be cut, may be investigated by the HRVWCC and prosecuted accordingly.” Words are meaningless unless followed by action, and Barr has already shown us in his short tenure as attorney general that he has no regard for the rule of law.

We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch our rights and those of our daughters and granddaughters be so callously and casually disregarded. I know it’s hard to know which cause to fight for these days. Do we work to gain stricter gun legislation so that our children are safe at school, do we work to save the environment, do we stand up for marginalized communities? The list goes on, but I believe we all must choose one or two passions and fight for them with everything we’ve got. If women’s rights are your passion, we need your time and energy for this battle.

Wondering what you can do to fight for women’s rights? Here are a few actions you can take to make your voice heard.

1. Support lawmakers and candidates that support women’s rights by canvassing for them at election time or making a financial contribution to their campaign.

2. Donate to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

3. Contact your state and federal representatives (Senate and House of Representatives) and ask that they support women’s rights and vote against abortion bans.

4. Support Planned Parenthood.

5. Teach your children about women’s health and women’s rights.

6. Educate your friends, family and neighbors about what’s happening in our government to erase women’s rights.

7. Support Equality Now, an organization fighting to end FGM.

8. Support judicial candidates who have a track record of upholding women’s rights.

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