Viewpoint: It’s Women’s History Month but Trump’s attacks on women’s rights show need for new ERA

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Hooray! It’s Women’s History Month!

I know it because Trump issued a proclamation, saying in part, “The equal opportunity of women in every facet of daily life is an essential feature of a free and prosperous society.”

To quote Trump in his insane speech to CPAC, “Bullshit.”
Everything that Trump and his rightwing theocrat Republicans are doing is aimed at reducing women to chattel, to restore that idyllic time when “America Was Great” because men could wield levers of power over women and minorities.

Ironically, if the ERA failed to win passage (by three states) in 1982 because of hysteria over abortion rights and gay rights, now, the ERA is more important than ever because of the government’s attack on women’s reproductive rights, essentially making women a slave of the state, undeserving or incapable of having the same right or ability of self-determination as a man.

Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes said as much, referring to a pregnant woman as a “host body” rather than a sentient being. He wasn’t the first, just the most recent.

And it is ironic considering this statement: “They want to replace individual rights with total government domination.”

Sounds like what the theocrats want to do to women, but Trump was referring to “Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism.” (Universal health care! Green New Deal!)

The clear and present danger to women is most implicitly expressed in the rise of personhood laws around the country, which essentially give a fetus more rights than the mother harboring it.

The conceit of government presuming to make judgments for the unborn, over the woman’s judgment and her right to self-determination is an abomination. This from lawmakers who balk at the notion of universal health care because government should be limited and could care less about the child once it’s a living breathing person (personhood!), and for the so-called “pro-life” claque which refuses to constrain access to guns that kill 33,000 people a year and maim hundreds of thousands more, and the hyper-religious who turn a blind eye to the parents and children being incarcerated and cruelly tormented, at the southern border.

“A society that embraces a legal concept of fetal personhood would necessarily compromise existing ideals of individual freedom,” the New York Times wrote in an extraordinary 7-part series. “If a fetus is granted equal rights, women who become pregnant may find their most personal decisions coming under state control.

“Would a woman who chooses to smoke cigarettes or drink wine during pregnancy be charged with a crime? What if a judge rules or a police officer believes, she is risking the life of a fetus by, say, climbing a mountain, or riding a roller coaster, or undertaking a humanitarian mission in a war zone? Who will decide whether a pregnant woman diagnosed with cancer may undergo chemotherapy?

“Every health decision facing a pregnant woman that might affect the fetus would be up for scrutiny by prosecutors, the courts and expectant fathers. A pregnant woman would cease to exist as an autonomous person. Her womb would become a legal battleground.”

And that is actually already happening, where women who miscarry are being prosecuted – at the same time they are shutting access to prenatal health care. Now the Religious Right wants to pass laws that would incarcerate a doctor who performs an abortion and the woman who gets one and withhold contraception, essentially forcing women to become pregnant.

Trump is moving to dismantle Obamacare and eliminate the protections that removed the expensive “precondition” of being a woman (that is, making gynecological services and obstetrics an add-on premium), boasting to CPAC, “We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history.

And we got rid of the individual mandate, which was a big deal. Which should lead to the ending of the disaster known as Obamacare.”

Now he is pleased as punch to be signing an Executive Order that would bar organizations that provide abortion referrals or even information about abortion, from receiving federal family planning money under Title X.

This goes so far beyond the Hyde Amendment, which already bars federal money from going to pay for abortions. Rather, this is aimed at shutting down Planned Parenthood, which often is the only health care provider for millions of Americans who are uninsured or under-insured – that means STD tests, birth control, cancer screenings.

Some 4 million people including 1.6 million who access care through Planned Parenthood, would have their care jeopardized. (21 states are filing suit against the abortion gag rule as an “extraordinary overreach” by the US Department of Health.)

Meanwhile, during Trump’s government shutdown, the Violence Against Women Act lapsed. You don’t see them rushing to restore it. And Betsy Devos is dismantling protections against sexual assault on college campuses.

There is a societal benefit of paid parental leave – to keep women’s intellect, experience and skill in the workplace, while allowing them time to bond with their baby, without robbing their savings or retirement, as every other industrialized nation has and a few states (thankfully New York is one).

There is a societal benefit to affordable, accessible child care so that parents can return to work, and their children are in a place that enhances social and intellectual development that doesn’t cost more than their own take-home salary or college tuition; every other industrialized nation has it, but not the US.

All of this confirms: We need a new Equal Rights Amendment that asserts once and for all, so women are not vulnerable to the misogynistic machinations of Kavanaugh, Gorsuch,Thomas, Alito and Roberts who couldn’t argue that there are no legal protections of women’s equal rights in the Constitution.

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