So far this year, there have been race riots, a global pandemic, the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression, the President was impeached, and World War III almost started. To make matters worse, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg lost her battle with cancer on Friday, September 18th. Justice Ginsburg’s passing deserves every recognition, her legacy every praise—however, it is imperative that the fight for gender and social equality not lose momentum. With so many societal problems in need of urgent attention, why are elected officials devoting scarce resources in an attempt to curtail the rights of women?
Imagine you are on Jeopardy!.. “American HIStory for $1000, Alex.” The question reads, “In this year, Congress decided it was not their place to govern what happens to a woman’s body.” One contestant posits an answer, “When is ‘It hasn’t happened yet’?” DING! DING! DING!
Justice Ginsburg once said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” A quick review of the state of U.S. politics in 2020 reveals that out of 535 members of Congress, only 127 women hold elected office. The other 76.3% of Congress is composed of men with an average age of 58 years old. Simply put, middle-aged men who most likely do not have a womb, nor will they ever carry a child, are making decisions about what should happen to a woman’s body – and they say chivalry is dead.
Over the summer, the case of June Medical Services v. Russo went before the Supreme Court, where it was held that a Louisiana law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital was unconstitutional. Though this may seem like a victory amid all the negative news in the world right now, an open seat on the bench poses a substantial threat to reproductive rights. The fight for or against abortion has become less about women’s rights and more about male control and preserving the limited rights women currently retain.
In his campaign for presidency Donald Trump promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In late June, the Supreme Court heard an almost identical case to one they had decided in 2016, except this one was from Louisiana. Even with a majority-conservative bench, Chief Justice Roberts, a conservative himself, agreed with his liberal colleagues that preventing women from seeking pre-viability abortions violated the Constitution. Not to worry – Justice Kavanaugh, the trusty Trump appointee, infused his dissenting opinion with anti-abortion rhetoric.
Now that we are just weeks away from the presidential election, Trump has been throwing Hail Marys left and right to secure his votes from right-wing supporters. For instance, the Trump Administration recently implemented a regulation of the Affordable Care Act, upheld by the Supreme Court, which would allow employers to limit birth control coverage based on their religious beliefs.
Let’s pause for a minute. The United States is leading the world in COVID-19 cases, but it is also the only one of 33 industrialized countries without universal health care. The Affordable Care Act is the closest we have come to adequate health care at low costs, and still the Trump Administration wishes to restrict coverage in areas such as abortion. Women and allies of reproductive justice have fought tirelessly to protect the right to abortion for decades, and they certainly aren’t going to stop now.
The upcoming presidential election is important for so many reasons. The only way that we can move forward as a country, and to honor the death of a woman who paved the way for millions, is to support women’s rights, secure access to abortion and put the right people in charge. A woman’s uterus is not meant to be a weapon for men to wage in a political war.
Days before her death, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter that read: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” We’ve seen what four years with the Trump administration has done, and we simply can’t risk another four. Now more than ever, it is absolutely vital that Americans cast their ballots–any way they can–to vote for a better future.