Alaska Dispatch, April 27, 2012 by Rachel Higgins Lalki
Throughout history, women have played an integral role in developing communities across Alaska and the entire United States. From doctors to mothers, we work in every corner of the job market. We are contributing members of society, and for that we deserve same level of respect given to our male counterparts. For nearly half a century, our country has made great strides to protect the rights of women. Sadly our nation’s political rhetoric has shifted dramatically in recent years, taking a giant step backwards in the pursuit for gender equality. This war on women is detrimental to our communities and it’s time to tell lawmakers “enough is enough.”
Since the 1960’s actions have been taken to ensure women have access to affordable reproductive health care. By 1972 the Supreme Court had struck down multiple bans on providing contraceptives to women in the US, and in 1973 the Court established a woman’s right to safe, legal abortions. Under the Nixon Administration, Congress passed the Title X Family Planning Service Act in 1970; a bipartisan effort to provide Americans with low cost access to contraceptive services and supplies. All of this progress has unraveled in recent years as conservative lawmakers and political pundits call for the elimination of abortion rights and restricted access to birth control.
In the past year, eight states across the nation have passed laws mandating vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Additionally, there have been countless attacks on Planned Parenthood – an organization which provides vital reproductive health services to so many women. In 2011, Congress tried to defund Planned Parenthood by eliminating the Title X Family Planning Program. While this measure did not pass, such actions would be devastating to our state as nearly 10,000 Alaskan women seek Title X services annually. Additionally, seven states have either fully defunded or to attempted to defund the organization.
Here in Alaska, we are no exception. In 2010 Governor Sean Parnell vetoed a bill adding another 1,300 children and 218 pregnant women to Denali KidCare, saying the program funded “hundreds” of medically necessary abortions annually. That same year Alaska signed onto a lawsuit with over 20 other states to overturn the President’s Affordable Care Act – a landmark bill which provides American families access to low cost healthcare. And just two months ago, a state lawmaker introduced legislation which would require women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion.
These legislative attacks don’t stop at reproductive health care either. While the Governor continues to hold rallies across the state, Alaska’s domestic violence and sexual assault rates are an at all time high. Rather than finding real solutions to these problems, millions of dollars have been spent on television commercials telling people to “choose respect.” On a national level, Congress refuses to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act because it was broadened to include protections for immigrant women and members of the LGBT community. It’s time to put an end to this political posturing and start making decisions to actually stop domestic violence.
On the business front, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 – however in 2010 women still earned only $0.77 for every $1 earned by men. Additionally, there have been growing attempts across the country to wipe out gender equality in the workplace. Most recently Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker eliminated the state’s equal pay act while Congress still refuses to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
On April 28th, Alaskans will join a national effort to continue fighting for gender equality. UNITE Against the War on Women is a grassroots organization which was formed in response to the growing attempts to suppress rights of women in Washington DC and across the country. I encourage all Anchorage residents to come take part in this historic event. If you have a mother or ever loved a woman, this matters to you.