Leaping from Our Spheres
The refusal of the US Supreme Court to hear appeals of favorable lower federal court rulings overturning bans on same sex marriage, opening up legal marriage for gays and lesbians in five more states, is being rightfully celebrated. Change of public opinion and change of legal status have come with great and gratifying speed.
However, while the SCOTUS decision not to hear any cases opposing legalizing these marriages protected and advanced prior actions in a number of states, their choice to stay out of the fray leaves another 20 states without such advancements – at least for now. Following the announcement, attorney generals and governors of some of our most socially conservative states wasted no time announcing they were determined to continue to staunchly defend their constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex union.
The gathering a couple of weeks ago in Washington, D.C. of nearly 200 reproductive justice advocates from all over the country under the auspices of the All Above All coalition to restore and sustain abortion coverage for low-income women, was not only high spirited but also grounded in solid messaging.
The role-plays we observed or participated in the day before we descended on Capitol Hill were based on the most recent qualitative and quantitative research. We were briefed, not only on the issue we were there to get some attention for (the last week before a Congressional break for elections), but also immersed in the underlying values that serve as touchstones to remind us why we so persistently support keeping abortion “legal, available, and affordable.”
They were law students, English students, clinic workers, community organizers, exchanging their piercings and bright colored sneakers for conservative business suits and sensible pumps. Only a few had gray hair, or were alive when the Roe V. Wade came down from the Supreme Court legalizing abortion nationwide – or when only a few years later the Hyde Amendment eliminated federal Medicaid funding for these procedures.
One hundred seventy women, most of them young (and a few men) had come to Washington, DC last week, in the last few days that Congress was in session prior to the mid-term elections break, under the auspices of a national reproductive justice campaign All Above All. Organizational supporters included the Unitarian Universalist Association (under whose auspices I was invited), Law Students for Reproductive Justice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and dozens of other groups.
In a letter to President Obama, the UUWF has joined a broad-based coalition of leading domestic and global organizations spanning women’s rights, health, human rights, reproductive justice, young people, the LGBTQ community, faith, and development calling for an end to the incorrect implementation of the Helms Amendment in order to save women’s lives and protect their well being.
The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds “to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning.” For more than 40 years, the law has been incorrectly implemented as a complete ban on all abortion-related services. The letter urges swift action to allow support for abortion care for women who have been raped, who are victims of incest, or who face a life-endangering pregnancy in countries where those services are legally available. Continue reading
A quaint term, for sure, Suffragettes, used to describe women seeking the right to vote for females, especially British women who mounted militant protests in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century.
That old-fashioned word somehow came up for me this past week as we remembered the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th constitutional amendment granting the right to vote to American women in 1920. A victory that was long in coming and not without marginalizing many African Americans.