Reversing a century of progress (Letter to the Editor)
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court abandoned 50 years of established precedent and took the truly unprecedented step of stripping American women of the reproductive rights that the court, regardless of its political configuration, had recognized and protected for more than half a century. In their unconscionable decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the conservative majority on the court revealed itself to be a complicit partner in the Republicans’ long and well-orchestrated campaign to reverse nearly a century of progress on civil rights, voting rights and equality, and deprive women, people of color and our LGBTQ+ community of their basic human rights and protections against discrimination and violence. We tend to think about this Republican campaign as an effort to roll back the clock or return to the past, but it is all about the concentration of power in the future. In a country that refuses to provide affordable childcare or health care or address issues such as poverty or affordable housing in a meaningful way, there is no more effective way to disempower women than to remove their reproductive autonomy. We must see this for what it is.
The United States has long had the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations. We lag woefully behind the developed, industrialized world in all matters related to women’s health care, and due to our lack of action on this issue, the number of women who die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes in America rises every year. The court’s decision further devalues and endangers women’s lives.
We must call out the vulgarity of those who invoke the concepts of “freedom” and “liberty” as code words for the singular mission to rob large segments of our society, based on gender, race and sexual identity, of their most personal freedoms and liberties. This horrific decision will have far-reaching and devastating consequences for all of us, perhaps unforeseen even by those who right now think they have scored a victory. The empowerment and enfranchisement of all members of our society makes us a stronger, more stable, more productive and prosperous society.
It is difficult in this moment to not be overcome by hopelessness and powerlessness, but the hope lies in our power as voters. Our legislators in Washington must step up and enact federal legislation to protect the health and safety of American women; our governors must follow the example of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and pass measures to protect women’s health care and reproductive rights. If they won’t, we must make them answer for it at the polls. Elections matter. The court just handed us another urgent responsibility to take action for our children, for future generations. We may not be able to hold the Supreme Court accountable, but we can turn our feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness into hope and power with our vote.
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