Sunday, April 15, 2012

Where is Front Line of the War on Women?

1848- The first women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, NY

1893- Colorado becomes the first state to grant women the vote

1916- Margaret Sanger opens the first US birth-control clinic in Brooklyn, NY

1919- Congress passes the federal women’s suffrage amendment

1936- Birth control information is no longer classified as obscene

1960- The F.D.A. approves the first birth control pill

1963- Congress passes the Equal Pay Act

1965- The Supreme Court strikes down the last law preventing married couples from using contraception

1969- California becomes the first state to adopt a "no fault" divorce law

1972- Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment (it died in 1982 when the required 38 states failed to ratify)

1973- Roe v. Wade establishes a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion

1992- In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirms a woman’s right to abortion

1994- Congress passes the Violence Against Women Act

2009- President Obama signs the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act

Anyone looking at the above timeline should come away with a sense of just how long women have been struggling for equality. “Gender equity” and “women’s rights” are, historically speaking, not concepts with a long and universally accepted track record among men. It’s been a long and difficult struggle for women to get to where they are today. There are still inequities for women vis a vis men, but women today find themselves on a much more equal footing than their mothers enjoyed.

That’s why what’s happening in state legislatures nationwide these days is so disturbing. The severely Conservative legislatures installed by voters in many states in 2008 and 2010 have worked diligently to undermine a woman’s right to control her own body.

The anti-choice movement long ago recognized that a woman’s right to abortion couldn’t be defeated via a frontal assault. With Roe v. Wade the law of the land, those committed to destroying abortion rights have committed to waging a patient and incremental battle. While desiring above all else to see Roe v. Wade overturned, anti-choice zealots know that won’t happen. They understand a woman’s right to choose won’t be defeated by sledgehammer blows, so they’ve chosen to fight with rubber mallets. Patiently chipping away at abortion rights around the margins, the anti-choice zealots have adapted a long-term approach. They recognize that they may not be able to overturn Roe v. Wade, but they can work to eliminate the ancillary components that make abortion available and accessible. That’s exactly what they’re doing…and their efforts are bearing fruit.

TRAP laws, waiting periods, changing the legal definition of conception, and other dishonest but effective methods are showing results. Slowly but surely, access to abortion is being diminished, even as the right to abortion remains intact. Legislatures nationwide have not outlawed abortion directly, but they’ve kicked the supports out from under it. Anti-choice zealots may not be able to outlaw abortion, but by nibbling around the edges, they’re making it nearly impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion.

It used to be that the biggest threat to a woman’s right to choose came from protesters who camped out in front of clinics and screamed at women as they approached the entrance. That tactic is still alive and well, but it’s become secondary in importance and effectiveness to attempts to indirectly legislate abortion out of existence. There’s also the time-honored tradition of harassing providers, their families, their landlords, their vendors, and anyone else who can be targeted. Actual and implied threats are merely tools to be employed in the service of the larger goal of denying women the right to a safe and legal abortion.

The Far Right’s war on women has begun to expand beyond their desire to destroy abortion rights. It’s also spreading to the right to equal pay for equal work, and there are those in Congress opposed to renewing the Violence Against Women Act. An observer of current trends would have to ask if we’re not about to see a gradual rolling back of the rights women have worked so hard to achieve.  It would defy credibility to argue that women’s rights aren’t increasingly coming under attack.

The question is what women, and the men who care about them, will do?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Recent Exposure and Continued Growth of Voice of Choice

I want to welcome our new members and volunteers. Voice of Choice has grown nearly 100% in the past two weeks due to some very favorable exposure. The Washington Post published an article about Voice of Choice that had over 1 million hits.

The reporter, Petula Dvorak, called me on for a follow up interview on April 2. The feedback to the Post focused on two aspects how Voice of Choice approaches the problems of bullying and harassment. First we craft calm and measured responses. We want to send a message so that the people responsible for the anti-social behavior understand that they will be held accountable for their actions and at the same time lower the propensity for violence and hate.

Second, we respect everyone's first amendment rights and we respect everyone's opinions and beliefs. We do not agree with everyone's opinions and beliefs, but in America we respect everyone's rights to freedoms granted by our Constitution, but limited by laws and community standards. 

The exposure that Voice of Choice and our mission has received in the media and in the blogosphere has already had an impact.  Just shining a light on the threatening and offensive behavior or radical activists has diminished the activity.  Most people who know that their behavior is wrong do not want to be exposed or be held accountable, and the credible threat of unleashing an army of people bent on justice is enough to stop about 90% of people from bullying other people. That is consistent with classic bully behavior and it means that our mere existence is effective.

But we cannot break everyone’s resolve, and there is still much work for us to do.  We continue to receive requests from people for help with their harassment issues.  Now, with many more volunteers, we can more effectively come to their aid, and I am in the process of organizing our next campaigns.  Stay tuned!

The growth of Voice of Choice has been amazing, but we are now too big and have too many volunteers for me to work alone. I need at least a part time staff.  I am asking each of you for a donation of $36 for the year ($3 per month) so that we can hire someone. If you cannot afford it, please donate what you can.  And for those of you that can afford it, please help make up for those who cannot.

I believe in our mission,  and I know you do too.  I believe that our mere existence will give pause to people who might otherwise engage in anti-social behavior. Most important, I believe Voice of Choice is becoming a true force in preserving woman’s rights.   And I am grateful that you have chosen to join our effort. 

Todd Stave, Director