[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I have a picture of myself standing next to the new “Fearless Girl” statue on Wall Street that I recently uploaded to a certain online dating app. I think it is a clever picture choice because instead of writing, “I’m a feminist and think women need to be in leadership positions” in the bio section, I can just demonstrate the idea with a picture. (I could also probably get this point across by using a picture of me dressed up as the Notorious RBG for Halloween, but that’s a little less subtle.)
In response to the picture, one guy asked how I had been marginalized or experienced inequality as a woman? Could I give him any examples? And how would more women in leadership help?
The poor guy didn’t know that I had just sat through a committee meeting where Rep. Norm Thurston stated he was hesitant to give government money to low-income women for IUDs when they are already “making something work” by using other forms of birth control—like condoms or abstinence.
There were a variety of other cringe-worthy moments in the meeting. For instance, Rep. Thurston thought Hepatitis C was an STI. Additionally, some of the committee members only decided to support the bill after they understood how much money the state would save rather than the impact this would have on the reproductive rights of women in the state.
But the thing that stood out to me was that this Health and Human Services 13-member committee only has two women. It is one thing to have women lined up, testifying before the committee in support of the bill. But it is an entirely different thing, a more powerful tool for change, to have women lined up on the committee, voting on the bill.
When this bill, which offers IUDs and other family planning assistance to low-income women on Medicaid, was debated in the full House this week, Rep. Thurston made the argument that the bill is sterilization and the only purpose of the bill was “to prevent low-income women from having babies.”
Whether Rep. Thurston’s ideas stem from his moral beliefs or ignorance about the issue, they don’t reflect reality. Rep. Angela Romero quickly challenged Thurston’s explanation, adding her personal experience using an IUD for health reasons.
So back to the questions: How I had been marginalized or experienced inequality as a woman? And how would more women in leadership help?
The truth is, I aged out of health insurance coverage through my parents last year but now I’m covered through my school. I went on birth control when I was 18 for health-related issues and in the past ten years, have not once had to worry about access to reproductive care. But access to reproductive care and family planning services should not be determined by how good of a job your parents have, or anything else.
While I appreciate that everything the legislature does has to be looked at from an economic standpoint, it is a surreal moment when lawmakers can’t grasp that reproductive rights are a health issue. Luckily there are a good number of male doctors on the committee who are champions and allies for women in this state, along with the two female committee members who spoke up. But the more women sitting on committees, the more understanding and representation women will get in our laws.
The plaque below the “Fearless Girl” statue says: “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”
More women in our legislature would mean that our legislative body would start to look more like the constituents they’re meant to represent. More women would make a difference in combating misinformation and ignorance surrounding women’s organs. More women would make a difference in framing the conversation so that women watching the lawmaking process don’t feel marginalized by their lawmakers caring more about money than their health.
The misconceptions and ignorance surrounding reproductive rights need to be addressed before real, lasting change can take place, and women lawmakers can make the difference.
Spoiler alert: we didn’t go out on a date and I’m pretty sure he blocked me.
Britny Mortensen is a legislative intern for the 2018 winter semester. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]