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.

A Whirl Wind Week of Politics

This has been an extremely busy week in terms of politics in the U.S. Both good and bad. Here’s a quick wrap up on the steps forward, steps back, excitement, emotion, and disappointment. 

Early in the week the Supreme Court chose to gut the Voting Rights Act. This has been an issue that I’ve always been on the fence about. It didn’t sit right with me that only a few states were singled out to have their voting decisions basically babysat by the federal government, though I did understand why. However, within days of the decision, these states were immediately taking steps forward to take measures that would make voting difficult or even impossible for minorities, young people, and low income communities. After seeing these reports, that’s when the anger finally became apparent within me. One argument used to strike down the Voting Rights Act was that “this is no longer 1965”. It was said that our country has come a long way since those days and measures such as VRA were no longer necessary. However, it is very apparent that in fact some of our country is still living in 1965 and has not joined the rest of us here in 2013. Texas, for example, wants to move forward with its strict voter ID law that would require either a passport or a birth certificate to vote. Passports are not affordable for everyone in this country and a birth certificate isn’t something that many immigrants or people in general have easy access to if any at all. This is just one example that has already come up, but NPR has reported on others as well.

On a good note, the Supreme Court DID strike down DOMA! I sat at my desk at work with tears in my eyes and goosebumps throughout my body as I thought of all the people who have fought so passionately hard for this change. This decision will change the lives of so many in a positive way as they are finally recognized by the federal government for being who they are. I got to celebrate that night with good friends of mine who were ironically also celebrating an anniversary. It was so amazing to see them finally able to discuss their future and look forward to plans that they were unable to have prior to this incredible day. I could go on and on about DOMA, however, I’m going to wait. Sunday is the Pride Parade in NYC and I get to participate with Amnesty International this year. I’m sure the photos and energy of the day will add even more to this celebration that I look forward to capturing. I would like to say congratulations to California though who Human Rights Campaign announced can resume same sex marriage immediately today after years of dealing with the ugly shadow of Prop 8.

Another inspiration of this week was Wendy Davis in Texas. This woman stood for 11 hours–no food, no bathroom breaks, and unable to sit down or lean against anything. She did this to stand up for the women of her state. Texas is working to pass a budget bill that will essentially close reproductive health clinics throughout the state only leaving around 6. Think of how big Texas is. That fact will make these resources inaccessible to the majority of the state, especially women in low income communities. Despite the majority being against her, Wendy stuck it out with an incredible filibuster that caused time to run out before the bill was passed. At the end, dozens of Texas women joined her in support, and as news spread, so did women around the country as #standwithwendy began trending on Twitter. Unfortunately, Rick Perry (who I cannot stand), is of course bringing the bill back to the table. There is a similar budget bill trying to be passed in Ohio, my home state, which saddens me when I think of the women whose health care this will effect. Closing clinics will not stop abortion, it will only cause more unsafe instances such as Kermit Gosnell. And even more than that, these clinics are not just about abortion. They promote family planning education so it doesn’t get to the point of abortion and healthcare such as cancer screenings. 

Immigration reform. Amazingly, the Senate passed the immigration reform bill that was put together by the “gang of 8”. As it has been expressed, the bill is not perfect, but something needs to be put into motion and amendments will then be made to fit our country best. However, to get to that point, something must be passed. It infuriates me that the Senate was able to come together to get to the point, but before it even hits the House the GOP representatives are already saying they will absolutely reject and not let it true. The partisan issue to me has turned into people acting like children and just holding out for the purpose of being difficult and not working together. We will see what happens, but it’s not looking good. And our country wonders why we can’t get anything done. 

Through everything that has happened this week and in general, it’s important to keep the important aspects of life above politics. People seem to forget that we are dealing with actual human lives and that everyone is different. Any inequality or abuses on human rights in unacceptable. This world is not black and white, people’s lives have circumstances that might be different from another’s. I encourage you to open your mind, put yourself in a situation that is different than yours. How would you feel? What would you be facing? Be willing to think differently, have conversations, and remember that politics is not just a game. It is something that has an impact on a person’s life for better or worse. It concerns me when I see the lack of empathy.  For example, as I watched the news the day that DOMA was struck down, I saw same sex couples crying, so emotional and passionate about what their lives would now be like. How can anyone seeing that, those REAL people with feelings, not be happy for the more positive life they are now able to have? I think it’s something to take a step back and think about, don’t you?