Global Women and the US Election
It’s with much anticipation that I literally jumped out of bed today. As much as I wanted to lay snuggled under the covers, my mind just wouldn’t allow it…which doesn”t happen often…This is it, today it is, Election Day, finally, the culmination of a gazillion polls, speculations, and TV shows, but also that of millions of people’s hopes and dreams. As Americans everywhere are already hitting the polls to exercise their right to vote (yes, after all it is a right, what with all the voter suppression, voter intimidation and other despicable tactics being practiced out there), there are other rights that are being much discussed and are highly at stake: women’s rights. Not just American women’s rights, but the rights of global women everywhere…
Remember Sandra Fluke? In what seems a billion years ago in media time, but was just last February, she testified on the contraceptive coverage mandate that was to be a part of the Affordable Care Act. After she was not only denied the opportunity to speak in front of the full committee, but also was vehemently insulted (along with, indirectly, the rest of us wretched women who dare speaking about the use of contraception) by Rush Limbaugh, she, along with the rest of us, was just expected to…well, shut it! Yes, and since then, women have been expected to shut it about reproductive rights, shut it about our right to compete in the workplace for fair and equal pay, and even shut it about whether or not “rape” is really rape and how we should feel about it…Yes, plain and simple, just shut it…Well, that hasn’t exactly worked, now has it?
Amidst the challenges against Roe v. Wade, the insulting extremism displayed against women, the funny yet not-so-funny “binders full of women”, women everywhere are opening their eyes to what this Election could mean for us. Case in point: just last July, the London Summit on Family Planning, a high-profile meeting organized by the UK department for International developement as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, had donors pledge to provide “$2.6 billion over the next eight years” to help 120 million of the poorest women worldwide be afforded family planning information and resources, as reported by the Bay Citizen blog. Yet, there also have been pledges on this side of the blogosphere, to reinstate what is known as the “Global Gag rule”, a policy against the US funding of a number of organizations, including those that educate women on reproductive issues and offer related services.
Amidst debates around whether businesses should be given the option to provide coverage for women’s contraceptives or not, there are 222 million women in developing countries who are struggling to gain access to family planning services. If further legislation is enacted against women’s rights in the US, then these women have even less hopes of ever winning their battles in their own home countries. In 2012 only, help generated in the US towards international family planning amounted to $610 million, as reported by the Citizen Bay blog. $35 million of it was reserved for the United Nations Population Fund, which is being threatened of having its US funding significantly cut, if not completely eliminated. This is despite the fact that US foreign assistance, although certainly not an obligation yet a moral and civic duty nonetheless, comprises only 1% of the US federal budget.
All in all, this election is not about partisan lines, or even candidate preferences, or even (as sad as the reality of it may sound), race…It is about those issues that are crucial to not only this great country, but also the world as a whole. As I, and many others around me, are witnessing this virtual war on women, I am reminded of that time a few months back when, due to an insurance snafu, I had to purchase my own contraception. The tab for a month’s supply: $57. Now tell me, who can afford it, and who should have to afford it, when Viagra is actually covered by insurance?
Have a safe voting day, and God bless this Election Day…