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Amplifications: Women’s rights are human rights

Women are still not protected by the Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment has never passed.

Pinned to a wall above my desk is a bumper sticker. I have carried it from office to office for three decades. It reads: “Feminism is the Radical Notion that Women are People.”

I glanced at it today after opening up Facebook and reading the following headline: “Arkansas Passes Law Allowing Rapists to Prevent Victims who want An Abortion.”

I should not have been surprised, considering the current political climate, but I still thought my head would explode. In many states women simply do not have the right to control the health of their own bodies. Rights we took for granted have been (and are being) whittled away.

Women are still not protected by the Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment has never passed, though I remember the demonstrations in 1976 and discussions about it over the years. Massachusetts ratified this bill in 1972, but only 37 states have ratified it to date. The states that have not passed the amendment are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia.

Technically, abortion is legal in all U.S. states, but there are “trigger laws” which can, and do, regulate the rules around a woman’s right to have this medical procedure. To date, 19 states have made it difficult to get an abortion, and this is only going to get worse now that Trump has stacked the Supreme Court with conservative men. (The toughest states in which to get an abortion: Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Louisiana.)

It is obvious to me that women will have more control over their own bodies if we first obtain equal protection under the law. I have failed to understand why men think they have a right to the events going on in our bodies. It has never made any sense to me and when I have asked about this in the past I have been quickly shut down. I was once told by a conservative and religious man that, “it’s complicated.” He left it there. I could only assume he did not think my simple-minded female brain would understand his reasoning had he deigned to explain it to me.

The truth is very simple: men do not have babies. Women who do not believe in having an abortion need never do so. And if our present government really wants to be pro life, they should start with living human beings currently in need of food and fuel and housing.

The very idea of a victim being sued by her perpetrator to have a baby she does not want sounds like the plot of a futuristic novel. It is surreal to me that a woman could be victimized twice. Thankfully, the ACLU is on this and has struck down similar laws in other states.

What lawmakers forget is that anyone having an abortion is in a miserable position. No woman wakes up and decides she is going to spend her day having a medical procedure that will stay with her for the rest of her life, whether it was a good decision for her or naught.

I have spent years defending this opinion. In the past, when I marched to keep clinics open around Boston, I was consistently appalled, and sometimes frightened, by the religious zealots who would follow me to my car and videotape me, or leave (misspelled) messages stuck to my car. These were people who knew, absolutely knew, that it was a sin to have an abortion. Yet the clinic in Brookline I most often defended was shot up by a man who hoped to end abortions. He killed two people.

People who believe that abortion is a “sin” frighten the hell out of me. That kind of certainty always scares me because it leaves no room for discussion or to even consider the human condition. It is an assumption that our principles are based on religion and not civil laws. Or science. Or basic humanitarianism. If you really love your fellow human, give them education and access to medical care. You give a rape victim a choice as to what happens to her body after she was pinned down and those choices were taken away. That is a woman in need of compassion, not further punishment.

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