Discourse / Editorials / March 2, 2011

Thoughts from the Embers: Women’s rights, right now

Across the country, there is a shift going on surrounding women’s rights, reproductive rights and sexual health. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing and other healthcare services. A bill proposed in Georgia aims to criminalize miscarriages and instate the death penalty in the case of miscarriages or abortions. House Republicans are attempting to redefine rape so that it would only include instances in which “force” is used. On top of all that, the group Americans United for Life (as recently revealed by Mother Jones magazine) is trying to pass bills in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa that could legalize killing abortion providers. And now, as stated in an article by Mother Jones, “The bills are so loosely worded, abortion-rights advocates say, that a pregnant woman could seek out an abortion and a boyfriend, husband—or, in some cases, just about anyone—could be justified in using deadly force to stop it.”

So, what is the main message here?

The message is: you should have voted. As a newspaper, The Knox Student (TKS) urged its readers to vote back in November during election season. Most people understood that the mid-term elections were going to be important, and some of the races were close calls, but still only 20.4 percent of voters in the 18-29 age group actually voted.

We hope that people are convinced now that voting in midterm elections does matter, and it does have a large effect on our day-to-day lives. As many of our readers are college students, who might benefit the most from services at Planned Parenthood, you would think that we are one of the age groups that would want to have the highest voter turnout. But instead, we fail to educate ourselves on the fact that these changes in funding for services like Planned Parenthood, and this attempt to redefine the definition of rape, are partly the result of the shift in the House majority.

Aside from berating all of our readers who didn’t vote last year, we need to focus on what we can do now to put an end to this. While a portion of this country seems to stand on the side of taking away many women’s rights (and reproductive health rights in general), there are still things that people like us (i.e., not government officials) can do to make our voices heard, and maybe make a difference.

Join the “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” campaign. All you need to do is visit plannedparenthoodactioncenter.org and sign the online letter to Congress. The organization has a goal of one million signatures, and they have already surpassed 700,000. After you sign it, forward it to everyone you know. Write letters to your congressperson and tell him or her how you feel. But most importantly, remember to vote in future elections, and when an election rolls around, think about what is happening to women’s rights now, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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