Ohio Needs A Wendy Davis.

I’m angry. Why am I angry? Ohio is my home. I am a woman. To watch a group of white men blatantly strip away the rights and resources to women after those who have worked so hard to get them infuriates me. Moving to New York City, people from the urban northeast don’t know too much about good old Ohio. Many people picture it all cows and cornfields (which honestly is what my town, no, my village actually is). What they don’t realize, is everything there is to love about it. Though I am someone passionate about culture and diversity, people don’t realize how friendly Ohio is. How beautiful and peaceful the wide open spaces are, but at the same time how, believe it or not, progressive some of the cities and universities have become. In fact, I found my love of diversity and fighting for rights at Ohio University. A university that had one of the best international programs in the country and students from around the country and world from all different backgrounds, all of which I loved learning about.

Ohio

That love and sense of home is what boils my passion when I hear about nonsense legislation that gets nation wide attention such as Kasich’s latest budget bill. Some may think that this is typical for Ohio, ignore it, and move on. But it’s not…it’s disgusting and unacceptable. Even though Governor Kasich did take the time to veto 22 line items, he very much deliberately left in the ones that would cause a huge blow to women’s progress in Ohio. In fact, the bill has very similar qualities to the nationally popular one in Texas that has Wendy Davis fighting hard against. I loved her, her fight, her passion, her strength and courage. Ohio is in desperate need of a Wendy Davis.

Headlines read again and again “budget bill will close abortion clinics” or “budget bill will cut abortion funding”. The expected debates quickly take hold: prolife vs prochoice. However it’s not that simple. The “a” word is not that simple. In fact, using it so often without researching the deeper measures of this legislation is hiding even more of the issues that will become detrimental to the wellbeing of many Ohio women. I think very few women are “pro abortion”. Women don’t WANT to get abortions. The irony is, the more of these resources that get stripped away, the more abortions (and unsafe abortions at that) will occur. For those who strongly oppose terminating a fetus, what better way to avoid this than providing the health education and family planning measures to help avoid getting to that point? Some 99% of women use a form of birth control. Regardless of what belief you might have, what gives anyone the right to take away something from that kind of majority? Here’s a quick look at what Ohio women are facing:

  • Rape clinics could lose funding if they are caught counseling victims on abortion.
  • Reproductive health clinics will close due to lack of funding making them less accessible to women in those areas. This is more likely to occur in areas already facing economic hardships, which is often where women need them most.
  • Planned Parenthood and similar organizations will be last on the list to get “left over” state funding. Whatever that means.
  • Reproductive health clinics are forced to cut their ties with public hospitals. This leaves only private hospitals, which are often religiously backed and therefore me refuse any sort of partnership.

So what does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, women are going to be lacking sexual health education, access and understanding of contraceptives and family planning options, cancer screenings and overall healthcare for those who can’t afford to see a private physician, counseling, and will lose an overall place to turn to that they’ve been able to rely on when they have nowhere else to go. When all of these issues add up and a woman in difficult circumstances does become pregnant, there is a sense of panic. This same point that someone might come to is exactly why so many women ended up at Kermit Grosnell’s horrific clinic in Pennsylvania. Once they do end up in an unsafe situation after feeling like she has no other options (mainly because she has little chance of knowing them without these resources) the clinic will not be able to quickly and easily get her to a hospital to help either her or her unborn child. What kind of sense does this make?

I want to see abortion numbers go down as much as the next person. However, taking them and these resources away so abruptly will do the opposite. We have already learned this lesson over the years, why are we back here again? Why are we going to let history tragically repeat itself? People need to open their minds before they open their mouths. Every person’s circumstance is different. Put yourself in various positions and really see the struggle that some women are facing out there and how much they rely on this help. Whether they are a victim of violence or of poverty, or not a victim at all; everyone is fighting their own battle. Just because this may not affect you directly, think outside of the box. Realize that this is a bandaid on a bullet wound. Well, more like pouring acid on a bullet wound really. Women are people, and people have a right to their own bodies and their own choices. Let your beliefs be where they are, but open your eyes and see that not everyone is the same and can’t be treated as such. Though this might not affect you and might just make you feel a bit more settled in your mind that your “religion is being respected” as you sit at home on your comfortable couch, realize that this is causing so much more damage to others that will last throughout their entire lives.

Wendy

I’ll never forget Leymah Gbowee’s speech at the Women in the World Summit 2012 when the “war on women” and reproductive rights was reaching its height. This African woman called on American women and asked, “where are all the angry women?” And where are we? If this strikes a chord in you like it does to me, you aren’t wrong. Don’t be afraid to stand up and fight this much needed fight. Women are strong and influential. As I read more about the legislation I was shaking with anger. This is my home. This hits me right in the heart. Shame on these men. I’m calling on you Ohio. Fight.

UN Declares Contraception Universal Human Right-What Does This Mean for The World?

Yesterday, the United Nations declared access to contraception and family planning a universal human right stating:

“Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

This is a huge step for so much of the world. I don’t consider myself a major “feminist” by any means, however, it is just common sense that women make up roughly half the world. Therefore, if half the world is left behind or oppressed there is no way that the rest of society can effectively move forward. The unfortunate part remains that people immediate associate contraception to mean sex and irresponsibility. It is completely the opposite, well, the irresponsible party anyways. First of all, women have the right to choose their lifestyle. So even if it is solely to protect themselves for sexual reasons, they are being safe. Then there are those who are in committed relationships or married. Having this lifestyle should not mean that having sex with your partner could always lead to the possibility of a child. By planning in your relationship how many children and when you will have children allows the woman to pursue her career and achieve leadership positions that will benefit society. This also benefits the children that the couple will have since they will be in a healthier environment.

In developing countries, there are unfortunately circumstances that come up against women where contraception is needed to avoid the results that danger and violence can often cause. Many girls must travel great distances to get to school which often makes them targets of abduction and rape. Whether rape as a weapon of war, forced into child marriage, sex slavery/trafficking, etc., these crimes are often focused primarily on women and girls. Access to contraception can help them keep some power and control over their lives. When I was in Ghana, I saw first hand that many schools had no bathrooms, making it difficult for girls to come to school during that time of month. Contraception provides an opportunity to regulate this and control symptoms that may otherwise keep them home, eventually causing them to be so far behind that they drop out. Mothers in developing countries who have multiple children would now be given the chance to control the spacing between children. Therefore, delaying pregnancy, finishing school, succeeding in jobs, saving money, and lifting themselves and their family out of poverty.

In the U.S., Obama’s affordable care act is known to have access to free contraceptives. Many people are disturbed by this thinking that the government is forcing to pay for something that may not believe in. However, there is no way everyone’s tax dollars will go 100% where they agree. It’s not possible to make everyone happy. Secondly, if your concern is your religion, religion is personal. Religion is not the law, and not everyone has the same beliefs as you. Therefore, you can not harm the health and quality of lives to others because you believe in something that works for you. I’m still unsure why religion has so much control over laws and policy when it should be a personal relationship. There are so many different religions in the United States. Law must focus on the well-being of people overall and not give in to a few religions that may hinder others. Another issue in the U.S. that is extremely popular to argue on is the economy. But it has been proven that by having money go into providing family planning services for women will gain revenue as an end result. The money that is put in then goes back into society as these women succeed into leadership postions and careers that allow them to establish and support themselves, rather than not finishing school or moving ahead in work causing them to sink into poverty relying on government assistance programs. Again, if you leave behind half of your society because they are women and therefore have reproductive health issues that must be addressed, there is no way to move forward. Being a woman is not a pre-existing condition, and should not be treated as such. Men certainly aren’t going to stop wanting sex, and neither will women. So the fault should not fall on women who are trying to be responsible so they don’t fall behind by using methods that are much less reliable.

I will never forget the 14 year old girl we met in Ghana, who was so intelligent and inspiring to speak with. On the last day we found out she was pregnant, would have to quit school, and work to support her family instead. That was her life. No responsibility was even considered to be put on the boy. It was heartbreaking. These are things that could so easily be avoided. People often put a stigma on the issue that causes it to slow down rather than moving forward and succeeding. It is a shame, and I am thrilled to see the United Nations take this important step forward to push the world to take action in supporting women and therefore supporting the world.

To learn more, the UNFPA released a full report here: http://www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/swp/2012/EN-SWP2012_Report.pdf