It's been a tough couple of weeks for women in America, and it's only getting worse. They've seen the government twist itself in knots over whether or not religious institutions should have to cover contraceptive products for women, including birth control pills. But that was just the beginning. There are two other major bills pending in Congress that will directly impact women's health, and a third that is working it's way through Virginia state congress that could eliminate a woman's right to abortion.
The first bill in US Congress that is being debated has to do with an exemption to the Affordable Care Act. The bill was produced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo), and would not only provide the protection to the church, but would allow any employer to deny health coverage based on religious or moral conviction. However, it does not set up any safeguards to protect against abuse of this power, meaning an employer could deny coverage of anything they wanted if they claim it is being denied on moral or religious grounds. That means, denying coverage could extend to gay couples, interracial couples, single mothers, or those of differing religion. All the employer would have to do is say they are denying coverage for moral reasons.
The second bill, produced independently of the ACA, is a reauthorization of the VAWA act that was originally passed under Clinton. It has been reauthorized each time it's come up with major bipartisan support. However, this year, it faced some opposition for the first time (not enough to stop it, but enough to send a message). The opposition, led by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said that they objected to a few new provisions that were added this time around. Specifically, the additions extended rights to LGBT couples, illegal immigrants, and gives authority to indian tribes to charge non-indians for domestic crimes against members of their tribe. In the case of the illegal immigrants, the bill would expand the availability of visas for domestic violence victims so that they may be more likely to come forward. While I can understand the objections in an academic sense, I can't believe that congressmen would vote against a bill that not only protects women, but seeks to expand that protection. If someone were to murder an illegal immigrant, isn't that investigated and isn't the person arrested and charged with murder? I should hope so. That's because illegal immigrants still have representation under the law. If an illegal is beat to a pulp by a partner, shouldn't they feel like they can come forward and seek protection?
Finally, Virginia has seen its House of Delegates pass a Personhood Bill which could cause a major issue for women's health. The bill would acknowledge any fertilized egg to be considered a living person with legal protection. That means a woman who is pregnant and is in a car accident that causes a miscarriage could sue for loss of life. However, the bill does not provide any limits on what the Personhood aspect could affect. For example, the bill could potentially outlaw abortion or birth control. It could mean legal action if a woman has a miscarriage. And as if that weren't enough, the bill also requires any woman seeking an abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound. It is the definition of adding insult to injury. As a way of attempting to protect women against this legislation, the small minority of Democrats in the VA House proposed an amendment that would have protected BC from being marginalized by this bill. At the time, the GOPers were saying that their intent was not to disrupt women's health services. However, they blocked the amendment that was proposed that would prevent that disruption. That tells me that they have every intention of limiting women's access to BC and health services.
So, all in all, not a great time for women in America. It's astounding to me that there can be such blatant disregard for women's rights in America in the 21st century. We have seen the wholesale dismantling of the gains women have made in America in the last 100 years. Their access to abortions, free or reduced health services, contraception, and legal protection from abuse is being challenged in the houses of government across our nation. It is unacceptable for America to be a land where every person is not equal and has the freedom and ability to seek what they need. I truly hope that we as a nation can steer off of this dangerous course that is bringing us closer and closer to full-on discrimination.