Lately, there has been a series of unprecedented attacks on women, their health and well-being. These attacks on women are coming at a ferocious pace. They are insidious and many are below the radar screen.
First the attack on the Affordable Care Act that will require women’s preventive health services to be covered in health insurance plans at no additional cost, including annual physicals and women’s cancer and domestic violence screenings. This requirement follows other preventive health screenings for both men and women at no additional cost that are part of health care reform intended to improve health and decrease health care costs. This requirement was a preventive health care recommendation by the independent Institute of Medicine. Polls have shown that 56 percent of women favor insurance coverage for women’s preventive health services including contraception.
Next came the attack on comprehensive reproductive health services by the Republican presidential candidates. Then Rush Limbaugh, a prominent radio personality, personally attacked Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke testifying before a congressional committee about the need to include all women’s preventive health care at no additional cost in insurance plans.
In Texas, the state is expected to forego $35 million in funding from the federal Medicaid Women’s Health Program that funds women’s health clinics across the state, many in poor, Latino areas. This move will deprive as many as 130,000 Texas women of critical health care including prenatal and well-baby care, breast cancer screenings and family planning. And Texas is the state with the greatest percentage of its population uninsured: 25 percent.
In Georgia, there is a push to redefine victims of domestic violence, stalking and rape as “accusers” while victims of other crimes like burglary would still be victims.
Alabama is considering ending its participation in the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program for poor mothers with children, while other states are making slashing cuts to this safety net program designed for times of high unemployment and other emergencies. This proposal in Alabama comes at a time when poverty among women is rising dramatically and is at its highest level in 17 years.
These changes and proposals will take women back decades in terms of our rights that have been established in statute, policy and through court cases.
Why the attacks? Women make up more than 51 percent of the U.S. population.
As women, we have to raise our voices to protect our rights. We must make our voices heard. We must take action through phone calls, rallies and our vote. We must use the power of our connections, and not stop until we are no longer a target.
As women, we should never underestimate our power. We ARE more than 51 percent of the population, and we cannot be ignored.