Today, August 26, is the 30th Anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. This is a day to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, which granted women the right to vote.
Nearly a century has passed since then and a great deal has changed in the landscape of women’s rights. Women have greater financial opportunities than they did 40 years ago: they are attending college in record numbers; they’re leading Fortune 500 companies; and, on the surface, appear to be closing the gap in this centuries-old quest for equality.
But, this year has seen a rapid and aggressive push back against one of the most fundamental tenants of true equality for women — access to legal reproductive care.
What does reproductive care have to do with equality? Without the right to bodily autonomy, without the ability to control what happens to their bodies, women cannot be equal.
Forcing women to carry pregnancies to term reduces them to the function of their reproductive biology and strips them of the authority of their own selves. There is no equality when a woman is prevented from terminating a pregnancy. There is no equality when a pharmacist stands between a woman and her prescribed birth control. There is no equality when the law makes personal, medical decisions for women.
At the turn of the 20th century, women were fighting for the right to vote. As a direct result of their unwillingness to back down, our right to vote is secure. I’d like to be able to say the same for our right to access safe and comprehensive reproductive health care services, as we move through the 21st century. But, today that access is threatened by elected officials all over the country. We must exercise our right to vote and cast those votes for officials who will fight to preserve and expand a woman’s right to comprehensive reproductive services. Our votes will be an act of homage to the suffragists who came before us in the fight for women’s equality.