As we observe Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, which commemorates the day on which the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was certified in 1920, it’s important to take the opportunity to take stock. How far has the United States come in terms of women’s rights — and how is it stalling, or going backwards? The news in many quarters seems positive. More Democrat women are running for office in the 2018 midterm elections than ever before, and the #MeToo movement continues to drive public conversation. But there are some fundamental rights for American women remain at risk.
Everything from the proposed “domestic gag rule,” which would ban any healthcare facility that receives federal funding from advising on or providing abortions, to the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in July — and the threat of his potential replacement, Brett Kavanaugh. Many activists suggest that Kavanaugh’s nomination follows President Trump’s promise to only nominate anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, and his past comments and rulings on abortion rights signal that he’d vote to weaken the law. Nearly half of the states across the country continue to have abortion limitations in law, and the specter of Roe being overturned is very present.
Sexual Harassment At Work
Trump rolled back the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order in 2017, which in part aimed to help sexual harassment victims at federal companies from being forced into secret arbitration proceedings with their employers. And while #MeToo, the movement begun by activist Tarana Burke, has brought allegations of sexual harassment across many industries into the spotlight, the problem remains pervasive. The Financial Times noted that in advertising and media alone, 40 percent of women said they’d been harassed, and revelations continue to roll out from tech startups to agricultural workers. Federal protections are disappearing, and grassroots movements are looking to be the sole way forward to force change.
Human Rights Watch has noted that, as a result of Trump’s roll-backs of various equal pay protections, “Large employers and federal contractors will not be required to provide disaggregated information about employees’ compensation to civil rights enforcement agencies.” Guess what? It’s now as easy as it ever was to pay women less than their male counterparts if you’re employed by the government.
Domestic violence survivors are being faced with some serious challenges under Trump’s presidency. The progressive think tank Center For American Progress noted in 2017 that proposed cuts to federal spending by the government would probably have catastrophic consequences for women who’d survived domestic violence, including limiting the funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Violence Against Women Act. Healthcare cuts could also mean that insurers could stop supporting domestic violence counseling because being a survivor would be classed as a “preexisting condition,” as Vox reported.
The National Women’s Law Center explains in its analysis of Trump’s proposed 2019 budget that national funding for women’s health is seriously under threat. “It decimates the Medicaid program — which not only provides access to vital care for over 17 million nationwide women enrolled in the program, but also supports nearly 4.4 million health sector jobs held by women nationwide,” they note.
And proposed changes to health insurance could leave millions of women uninsured or facing inflated premiums because they’ve been pregnant, been treated for domestic violence, or had a Caesarian section. Being a woman, warn women’s health advocates, would be a financially damaging pre-existing condition under these laws.
This makes for a pretty disheartening picture. But the landscape also has space for something important: you. Get out there, make your voice heard, and make it clear that erosions to your rights are not something you’re going to take lying down.