Friday, March 16, 2012

Occupy Your Body: What You Can Do To Stop The War Against Women

In case you’ve spent the last few weeks with your fingers in your ears and your eyes closed, humming loudly, here’s what’s been going on in the news:

--Texas lost $40 million of federal Medicaid money, which funded 90% of the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program, because Texas excluded Planned Parenthood from its program. The institution was excluded because, in addition to birth control, cancer screenings and mammograms, Planned Parenthood also provides abortions. This broke federal Medicaid rules, which state that qualified family planning providers cannot be discriminated against. Now, the 130,000 low-income women who benefited from the WHP have nowhere to turn for their medical and contraception needs.

--Arizona is trying to pass a bill which would allow employers—not just religious organizations, but pretty much any employer—to a) deny coverage for female employee’s contraceptives, and b) fire a female employee if they find out she’s using contraceptives.

--And this is on top of Republican presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum making snide, sexist and downright derogatory comments about contraceptive coverage for women.

Let me start off by saying this is not a pro-life/pro-choice rant. This—especially what’s going on in Arizona—trancends that debate. Quite simply, it is an attack on women and their right to gender-specific health care.
I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on the birth control issue by saying, “But some women need birth control for medical reasons (ovarian cysts, heavy/irregular menstruation, etc).” 

You know what? Shit on that. Shit all over that. We shouldn’t have to qualify our need or desire for birth control by necessity of a medical condition. Every woman deserves birth control simply because we have the right to choose whether we want to conceive a child. Period. This issue isn’t going to be resolved by ranting or tongue-clicking, though. We need to take action. Here’s what I suggest we do:

First, write to the state legislators who are authoring and supporting these bills. If you live in an area directly affected by this legislation, write to your representative and tell them in no uncertain terms that, if they support these laws, you will not vote to re-elect them. If you don’t live in these areas, write to Texas’s Lieutenant Governor and the President of the Arizona State Senate, and tell them that you’ll withdraw all revenue from their state (by not ordering from businesses based in their state, or vacationing there, etc) until the bills are scrapped and/or the laws repealed. Even if you don’t live in a state affected by these laws, it’s important to express your adamant displeasure with their actions. It doesn’t matter where you live; we’re all Americans, we’re all women, and we’re all in this together.

Second, write to your representatives on the national level, and urge them to draft and support legislation and close the loopholes currently allowing laws which restrict women’s access to birth control and healthcare to be passed on the state and local level. If you don't know who your lawmakers are, is a great resource which will even send your message for you.

I know it can be intimidating to write letters like this, so I’ve included the letters I’ve written below. Feel free to use these as a guideline, or just copy and paste. Send it to your friends, post it on Facebook, do whatever you want to get the message out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman past childbearing age, or even a man. Please, just write.

Dear Federal Legislator:

Recently, states like Arizona and Texas have either drafted bills or passed laws which restrict women’s access to birth control and appropriate healthcare, like mammograms and other cancer screenings, because either the institutions which provide these services also perform abortions, or because the state is choosing the rights of employers over those of employees.
I’m writing to ask that you sponsor—or, at least, support—legislation which guarantees women affordable access to their healthcare rights on a federal level, so that states like Arizona and Texas cannot circumvent or deny those rights to their residents.

Dear State Legislator:  (non-resident)

I recently learned that your state has either passed or is attempting to pass legislation which would restrict women’s access to gender-specific healthcare such as birth control, cancer screenings, and mammograms. I am not a resident of your state, but please know if your government continues to back such laws, I will be as careful as possible to make sure that none of my money ends up supporting businesses in your state. Women have the right to affordable healthcare, including birth control, and your rights as a lawmaker don’t include restricting those specific rights.

Dear State Legislator: (resident)

I recently learned that you have either passed or are attempting to pass legislation which would restrict my access to gender-specific healthcare such as birth control, cancer screenings, and/or mammograms. As a resident of your state, please know that your continued support of such laws will guarantee my lack of support at the polls next election. Women have the right to affordable healthcare, including birth control, and your rights as a lawmaker don’t include restricting those specific rights.

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