This is a letter to the editor written by Vanessa Fajans-Turner, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 22nd Congressional District in New York. It was not written by the Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”
In 1848 the members of the Seneca Falls convention wrote this powerful statement in the Declaration of Sentiments. This document would launch the women’s suffrage movement in America and, 72 years later, lead to the enshrinement of a woman’s right to vote in the Constitution. On International Women’s Day, it is important to reflect on the great strides we have achieved in advancing women’s rights while acknowledging how those in power still maintain tyranny over women’s bodies.
Last week, Republicans in the Senate filibustered the Women’s Health Protection Act,
legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade and protect the right to access reproductive healthcare inclusive of abortions. This comes as we await the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a ruling that could overturn Roe and cause a historic setback for reproductive and women’s rights in this country.
Abortion is healthcare, but access to quality reproductive health has implications beyond access to abortion. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, despite spending more money on healthcare than any nation on earth. And this rate is unjustifiably higher for women of color: Black women in America are nearly three times more likely to die from birth-related complications than their white female counterparts.
This is a fundamental failure by our government to provide for the health of its people. In both houses of Congress, only 27% of legislators are women. Representation matters: As long as women are still underrepresented in our government and other leadership positions, we are curtailing our ability to advance meaningful work towards equality. And one answer to that should be electing more women to public office to undo the wrongs that have been done, to prepare for those that may be done, and to proactively pursue full equality in everything that we do going forward.
But we also cannot wait to act until our government has gender parity in its ranks. Women’s rights are being infringed upon now. It is the obligation of every person with a platform to advocate for reproductive rights and raise funds to protect access to abortion and other reproductive health care in places where those rights are being restricted. Over the last ten years, state and local governments have passed nearly 500 pieces of legislation limiting access to reproductive healthcare. Action and funds are needed now to ensure that abortions remain accessible to those who need it.
So, on this International Women’s Day, we honor those who fought for human rights and those that will continue fighting for them in the years to come. The women who gathered in Seneca Falls to bring the fight for women’s equality into mainstream American politics deserve no less than our wholehearted gratitude. They also all deserve our commitment to completing the work they began — and fast.