Care No Matter What
Recently, American women came under attack. And I’m not talking about a dozen women, or even a hundred women. Earlier this year, each and every one of the estimated 160 million women living in the United States of America was threatened by an attack which, had it succeeded, would have set women’s rights back to the early 1900s. Now, this attack was not from some foreign invader or alien species. This attack was initiated by men and plotted in local and national government chambers, and was waged against an organization that fights tirelessly for all women’s reproductive health and rights, Planned Parenthood. This was not the first attack, and it will likely not be the last.
Anti-abortionists and their supporters in Congress routinely cause trouble for Planned Parenthood. This year, abortion opponents tried yet again to destroy the organization, including attempting to prevent them from receiving federal funding. This effort was spearheaded by the United States Senate, which currently is composed of 80 men and 20 women. This makes me and many others question why a group made up of 80% men is making decisions that will primarily affect women.
Currently leading the fight for women’s reproductive rights is Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood. Since taking the position in 2006, Richards has led Planned Parenthood and millions of supporters through a barrage of attacks, ranging from physical attacks on clinics and service providers, to attacks by various government branches on the organization’s policies. Over the past several years, Richards has truly embodied Planned Parenthood’s slogan: Care. No Matter What.
I agree with Richards – every woman deserves access to care. In September I watched as Richards testified before congress. She argued that defunding Planned Parenthood would leave thousands of women, especially poor women living in rural areas, without access to healthcare services. During her five-hour testimony, many of the congressmen questioned her in an interrogative way, refusing to even let her answer, and not accepting the answers she provided. At the hearing, several congresswomen came to Richards’s defense, including Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, who called the committee chairman’s line of questioning about Richards’s $520,000 salary “inappropriate and discriminatory,” and accused the Republican of “beating up on a woman … for making a good salary.” “In the entire time I’ve been in congress, I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary,” Maloney said. With support from congresswomen like Maloney, Richards did not back down; she did not give in to these men who tried to twist her words and her mission. Men often feel entitled to make decisions on behalf of women, if for no other reason than that’s how it has traditionally been done. It’s 2015 though, and this is not how our world should function anymore. It is none of congress’ business how much Cecile Richards makes. It is also not their place to make decisions that should be decided by individual women and their healthcare providers.
In our modern age, why do we continue to allow men to make these decisions? I think that much of this stems from the fact that in 2015 women are still not equal to men. Women still make, on average, 78 cents to a man’s dollar, only 20% of Congress is female, and of the Fortune 500 companies, only 25 are run by women. Women are still treated as inferior to men – from dress codes telling young girls how to dress, to the fact that rape culture is such a big part of our society that 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail. These statistics show that the patriarchal nature of our society, as well as the belief that women are inferior to men, are both alive and well. Because men feel superior, they feel that they have the right to make decisions for women. And as women are regularly kept from positions of power, they often have no way to stop it.
When Glamour Magazine named Cecile Richards their 2015 Woman of the Year this past October, it was because she does an amazing job of protecting women’s healthcare rights. Says Richards, “There’s not a mother in the world who wants her daughter to have fewer rights than she did—and for me, it’s the 2.7 million people Planned Parenthood serves each year who make everything I advocate for possible. Women, men, and young people deserve quality healthcare and fundamental rights. I will do this job every day to protect them.” As Cecile Richards continues to fight for the rights of women, she has inspired many young people, like myself, to join her. We know that the fight won’t be over anytime soon. It is up to us to insist on our right to healthcare, and to full equality.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.