Viewpoint: More Crucial Than Ever to Join 2020 Women’s March

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Karen Rubin, Columnist

It is disappointing that with all the recent protests – the 25,000 who marched over the Brooklyn Bridge against anti-Semitism, the thousands who turned out to Impeach Trump the week before, the 250,000 in New York and 7 million worldwide who turned out for Climate Action, the 20,000 who marched in New York to protest the cruel separation of migrant families – that there is absolutely no buzz about the upcoming Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Washington DC, here in New York City (at Central Park West and 72nd Street, 11 am, womensmarchalliance.org), and cities around the country.

It is unlikely they will re-create the 470,000 who marched on Washington and millions more around the world who turned out in 2017 in the largest single day of protest in history, vastly outnumbering those who came out the day before to watch Trump swear to uphold the Constitution and protect the nation against enemies foreign and domestic. But it is crucial that people turn out for 2020.

There isn’t even the same buzz as for the 2018 march, so much more important because the protest was less about “converting” lawmakers, but mobilizing voter registration, inspiring women to run for elected office, and driving turnout in the November mid-terms. And they did in historic numbers, taking back the House which put the brakes to the extent possible on the worst impulses of Trump and the Republicans. This is what is at stake if Trump wins in 2020 and sees himself as all-powerful. “I can do anything I want,” he said. “I’m the president.”

In 2019, tens of thousands did march in New York City, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice.

So far, only 10,000 are expected to march in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

Perhaps it is because of frustration that even after such dramatic turnouts, so little is achieved; lawmakers seem not to care a whit, after all, why should they, they win even when they defy the majority.

And women’s issues wind up being surmounted and contorted to issues about race, Zionism, anti-Semitism.
The Women’s March is about all these other BIG issues: war and peace (#NoWarWithIran), climate change, living wage, public education, health care, affordable pharmaceuticals, clean air and water, climate action, voting rights, gun safety, DACA and immigration reform.

But at the heart of all of them is women’s reproductive rights, under threat as never before by a radical right-wingers in Congress and on the courts determined to disregard law and precedent and overturn Roe v Wade (along with Obamacare) which is again before the Supreme Court (39 Republican Senators and 168 Republican Congressmen have signed an amicus brief to repeal Roe).

Some 600,000 women lost birth control coverage last year because of the Trump Administration’s attacks on healthcare; funding for women’s health clinics has been eliminated and artificial barriers to their operation have forced many to close. The Hyde Amendment, banning federal funds to pay for abortions, effectively bans abortion for low-income women.

Roe v Wade ruled that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction – in other words, it was built upon some extrapolation of privacy and property rights. It should have been decided based on the principle of equal protection.

Overturning Roe v Wade would mean that women, unlike men, are not entitled to the same right to self-determination, to make their own judgments and choices for their health, their body, their family or their lives. And like all those other cases that Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued as the leading gender rights lawyer for the ACLU before becoming Supreme Court Justice, it would re-establish the systemic barriers to women (not men) to fulfill all their aspirations and abilities.

It would essentially make women a slave of the state, forced to give up professional aspirations to care for a child, or spend inordinate amounts of money and resources on child care, put women into poverty because all of these social services are also being tied to work while doing nothing to make childcare affordable, taking away food stamps and school lunch. Roe v Wade is way more than mere reproductive freedom, it is about the whole system of gender injustice.

Virginia, only recently in Democratic control, could be the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make it the 28th amendment to the Constitution, though opponents are already challenging the legality, insisting the votes by the other 37 states have expired, and we’ll have to go through this entire 60-year process all over again. We need to march to tamp down that opposition.

Opponents argue there is no reason for an amendment that certifies the equal rights of all people. But based on the policies, laws and lawsuits at the federal and state level, an ERA is more necessary than ever, because as we have seen from the radical rightwing, anti-democratic Supreme Court, precedents like Roe v Wade, one-person, one-vote, or equal protection for all are fungible.
Lately, the movie “On the Basis of Sex,” has been on cable tv, which should be such a stark reminder that not long ago women had no rights whatsoever. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued then, in the first case to recognize gender discrimination, when one of the judges said, “women” does not appear once in the Constitution, she retorted, “Neither does the word ‘freedom,’ your honor.” At the time, Ginsburg realized that she could not argue based on precedent, which for hundreds of years had ratified the inferior status of women, but argued for “a new precedent.”

This is a crucial year for women to turn out, not allow the momentum of 2018 to be lost, but rev up for the 2020 election.

So whip out those pink pussy hats and march for women’s rights on Saturday, January 18. March as if your ability to determine your own future is at stake.

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