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The Voice


The Voice

Women’s health is not just a Woman’s issue Myths about women’s health create a divide between politicians and the female population

    Women’s Month may have ended on March 31, but that doesn’t mean women and women’s issues have faded from the public eye. In fact, in many cases, the news is chocked full of men making decisions for 50 percent of the population’s health, usually with no representative of that percentage present for the decisions. The ones who are, usually are part of the highly conservative sect who agree with the type of decisions that would pose a risk to their own health if they didn’t have enough green behind them to avoid all of the struggle. So, for the most part, the decisions being made in not only the last three months, but for generations, have been directed predominantly at lower-middle-class and lower-class women, those who don’t have the money, time, or access to resources to care for their own health and make ends meet. It’s only been recently that efforts against this group of women have been ramped up and made a priority.

     With a majority of governmental seats now belonging to Republican legislators, it goes without saying that policies will be majority conservative in nature, or have conservative elements in the cases of bipartisan support. What’s incredible is that there is an ever-increasing emphasis on women’s reproductive health and legislating it. Beginning at the very top, Donald Trump, as of March 27, has ordered the end of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Order. This order was signed by Obama and would require companies who want federal contracts to comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws to protect workers from abuse. These obligations included reporting wages and compensation to prove that men and women who were equally qualified and doing the same work were being paid the same, as well as ending forced arbitration. Forced arbitration was a tactic used whereby companies investigated sexual harassment allegations within the company, and studies have shown that such practices resulted overwhelmingly in cases being buried and those who reported sexual harassment being silenced for the benefit of the company. With the ending of this order, all of that and a bag of chips will come crashing back into the workplace, making it a little less friendly for women and other minorities.

     While there are challenges to be faced by women in the workforce, there’s even more concern for women’s private lives. Vice President Mike Pence has cast his second tie-breaking vote in his short term as VP, and this one directly attacks abortion providers. At the end of 2016, the Obama administration passed legislation to stop states from withholding Title X funding from clinics that provide abortions. Title X is the only law which is directed at providing funding for family planning services, which include STD testing, cancer screenings, adoption services, and a plethora of other reproductive services for those who are considered low-income. These clinics also include Planned Parenthood. There is a stipulation that none of the funding can be channeled into abortion services, but everything else is fair game, so women and men can get contraception to prevent pregnancy or could get counseling after a miscarriage, but they can’t get an abortion with Title X funding. Those seeking an abortion must pay out of pocket or with private insurance. So, in essence, the desire of the bill was to see an end to funding of abortion providers, who already do not use federal money for abortions, and in the process, will take away all critical services for low-income families to plan their families and take care of their reproductive health.

     So, between these two, there’s enough struggle for women to go around. But wait, there’s more! State legislators across the country have it out for pregnant women, and want to make sure that women know they should be giving birth, regardless of their financial status, how they got pregnant, or if it’s even safe or if they want to give birth. In Iowa, during a hearing on a bill that would outright ban all abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, a Republican Senator insisted that the bill was “not written for the intent to protect or govern on the side of the woman,” and that, given the scenario of a child dying at 20 weeks in utero, this same Senator said that, if the woman’s life is not in danger, “that yes, she would have to carry that baby.” A woman must carry a dead baby for another 22 weeks and find some way to induce her body to labor only to bury a baby that had been dead and not growing for months, as a way to protect babies that haven’t died in utero. In Oklahoma, legislators proposed a bill similar to Mike Pence’s former state of Indiana where fetus’ with any birth defects cannot be aborted, regardless of whether or not the child will even survive birth. When asked if there are exceptions for rape or incest, a supporter of the bill insisted that both were the will of God because there were some cases of it the Bible, and that pregnancy as a result of either of these “may not be the best thing that ever happened in someone’s life,” but that the pregnancy is something good. Right…

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     These legislations aren’t new in the slightest. States across America have adopted or proposed countless laws which are often based around when the heartbeat of the fetus can be detected, which is sometimes as early as six weeks in pregnancy. While heartbeat bills are usually defeated, the fact that they are proposed at all says something about the goal of the legislators. They aren’t interested in whether families can afford these pregnancies. Often, these bills have no measures to allow women to save their own lives if the pregnancy becomes complicated. And while heartbeat bills are being defeated left and right, their follow-ups, banning abortion after 20 weeks, leave countless women in a position where they must carry a defective pregnancy to term, risk their own health, and possibly have no baby when they leave the hospital anyway. Other legislation thrown into the mix, like requiring burials for these fetuses without the option of autopsies or Texas’ law allowing doctors to lie and tell women that their pregnancy is healthy when in reality the baby may very well die within hours of birth, complicates an already tedious process and makes many women fearful of the possibility of getting pregnant.

     All of this legislation and the comments made by the politicians who propose them, such as calling women “hosts” or implying that they can just think hard enough during a rape and they won’t get pregnant, are symptoms of the even greater problem of a lack of understanding of women’s bodies. American sex education often segregates boys and teaches them that they’re slaves to the hormones about to ravage their bodies and that it’s okay if they want to have sex with everything that has a vagina, because they’re boys and that’s normal. Girls get the gross stuff: periods, pregnancy, STDs, and the social stigma that they should be willing to have sex with their boyfriend/husband, but that they shouldn’t want sex. We’ve created a culture that insults women and turns them into objects of sex and reproduction, much like The Handmaid’s Tale, while we insult men by implying that they’re too stupid and animalistic to be expected to control themselves. Then we send these undereducated men and the overly cautioned women out into a world that will demand control over the women and no control over the men. It’s an insult and a degradation of culture, one that no abortion legislation can fix.

    If Americans who are pro-life want to see a reduction in abortions, then they must face the uncomfortable reality that talking to kids, boys and girls, about safe sex and providing them with contraception and STD tests is the only way to achieve such a goal. In Europe, where comprehensive sex ed and affordable birth control are a standard, abortions and unintended pregnancies are the lowest they’ve ever been. It’s possible for America as well. But before that can become reality, understanding that women’s reproductive health is vital for their overall health and the overall health of the country, then abortions, whether they’re safely performed in a doctor’s office or in a back alley van by a shady dude named Joe, will remain a staple of American culture.

Arianna is a Russian and History major. She is a Managing Editor for The Voice

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