The Women’s March 2017: An Improvement, Not a Final Achievement

By Sunday morning, the Women’s March 2017 had a Wikipedia page. It became a historic event, with people all over the world marching in response to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump and the threat to various progressive values that it meant. Although, it should be noted that the march was framed as pro-woman generally, focused on intersectional feminism rather than being solely anti-Trump. The photos depicting the hundreds of marches from every continent left me in awe. Responses from many UNC students who travelled to D.C., or any of the other sister marches across the country described the gatherings as moving, inspiring, a sense of true solidarity. But amidst the celebration of successfully spurring a worldwide phenomenon, there have also been many voices decrying the hypocrisy and perpetuating division associated with the feminist movement.

I have heard so many different opinions about the march, and the feminist movement in general during the last few days. I will not denounce the march, but I won’t call it a total success either. I am proud to have marched in Asheville, and I am proud of my friends who travelled all over to march too. It is important that we discuss how the march succeeded, but also how it failed.

The actual messages of the organizers of the march and those who spoke were beautiful and inclusive. America Ferrera gave a powerful speech reminding everyone that the US is made up of far more than the people who voted for the current government: “The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance.” Janelle Monae began the chant “Sandra Bland! Say her name!,” joined by the “Mothers of the Movement.” One UNC student I spoke to who travelled to D.C., said that she thought that the most poignant words were from Tamika Mallory: “Welcome to my world, welcome to our world … for some of you it is new, for some of us it is not so new at all.” In other words, for all the women there who suddenly felt oppressed by the election of a man who has spewed such blatantly sexist rhetoric, remember how long women of colour have dealt with far worse struggles.

Despite such intersectional messages and reminders, there can be no denying that many women did not feel motivated to participate because of their long sense of alienation from the feminist movement. As Jenna Wortham of the New York Times Magazine put it, “who didn’t go to the women’s march matters more than who did.” We have to take note of why many women felt that a march, framed as representing all women, did not actually represent them. One of the most frequently shared images from the march was of a woman holding a sign saying, “don’t forget white women voted for Trump.” It’s true; 53% of white women did vote for Trump and 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. Black women “show up for white women to advance causes that benefit entire movements; the reciprocity is rarely shown.”

It is severely problematic that many many women of colour do not feel included in the feminist movement and as the results of this election demonstrated, many white women value their racial privilege above seeking gender equality. Finally, there also needs to be a much larger push to include transgender women in conversations about gender equality. Many people felt that the emphasis on symbols of vaginas, uteruses and ovaries excluded transgender women. Cis women need to acknowledge that the fight for gender equality extends far beyond their day-to-day interactions with sexism, and transgender women are currently fighting for basic rights and freedoms.  

White women need to realise that their cause is much stronger if they treat minority and transgender women as true sisters and embrace the beautiful notion of intersectional feminism for ALL women. Most feminists in theory agree that women of colour and transgender women should be welcomed, but they must be more active in pursuing those beliefs.

Another UNC student I spoke to said that she was disappointed that the turnout of people was not more intersectional. However, she hoped that the speakers emphasizing an inclusionary message was an indication that in the future, it would be more likely for women of all different backgrounds to stand together.

I loved that there was one mass response to the divisiveness and hatred that Trump used to win the election. However, those women need to open their arms and be more outspoken about their support for the women and men fighting for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, refugee rights, immigrant rights and disability rights. I think this march was a step towards improvement, not necessarily an accomplishment in itself. We should acknowledge how wonderful such a massive, peaceful demonstration is, but also realize that it shouldn’t be enough. I hope that it is a sign that women will acknowledge one another’s differences and varying priorities and stand up for one another and all social justice causes together. 

 

Edited for clarity on 1/25/17 at 12:00pm.

I Stand With Planned Parenthood

Since its inception over 100 years ago, Planned Parenthood has been a consistent and accessible source of vital healthcare for millions of people, including women, men, trans people, and gender non-conforming folks. On October 16th, 1916, the nationwide healthcare group opened its doors. Ever since then, anti-abortion activists and the Grand Old Party have tried to seal them shut.

In 2015, Republicans nearly shut down the federal government by threatening to defund Planned Parenthood over doctored videos alleging illegal activities, which were ultimately ruled false.

Unsurprisingly, the GOP used similar tactics when they recently unleashed a vicious attack on Planned Parenthood by describing future plans to take away funds allocated for the group. On Thursday January 5th, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said defunding the extremely popular group, which Americans support funding for 2 to 1, will be included within the GOP’s attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

According to the organization, which has offices in all 50 states, an estimated 2.5 million individuals rely on Planned Parenthood for fundamental healthcare and services, including: family planning, birth control, abortion, pre- and post-natal care, STD testing, and cancer screenings, to name some.

Additionally, 1 in 5 women will rely on Planned Parenthood for reproductive healthcare throughout their lifetimes. Clearly, these statistics are staggering and illustrate the organization’s vital role in American society.

Cutting off women’s access to healthcare, specifically access to reproductive services, is oppressive. When women are stripped of their bodily autonomy, those in power effectively limit or erase women’s ability to determine their life’s path.

Coupled with the gutting of the ACA, as well as threats to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding and Medicaid reimbursements, millions of Americans will soon be left without healthcare if Republicans continue these damaging attacks, which all signs strongly point to.

Despite their rhetoric of “fixing a broken system,” it is clear that Trump, Ryan, and the rest of the GOP are simply interested in and committed to ripping healthcare away from people who need it most.

On Saturday, millions of protestors marched for women’s rights, many in support of reproductive justice. I, like countless other Americans, am tired of conservative politicians and activist vilifying this incredible, compassionate organization.

Throughout our lives, we’re constantly taught that America is The Land of the Free. A place supposedly built on values of equality, justice, and liberty. But until all people are able to obtain quality, affordable, and easily accessible healthcare, none of us will be free.

Can Trump Actually Overthrow Roe v. Wade?

In several speeches and interviews, President-Elect Trump has claimed that he will overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, throwing each of the 50 states back into their pre-1973 forms (in which most states were firmly against abortion. With a Republican-controlled House and Senate, as well as the prospect of Mr. Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, who will most likely share the same conservative leanings, many have been thrown into panic, wondering if their state will soon decide to outlaw abortion in the next four years. However, while there has been much concern around this, can Trump really cause the reversal of a Supreme Court decision? Even as President, will he have the power to overturn a decision made by the highest court in the United States? Two possible ways could be 1) the Supreme Court itself reversing its decision, or 2) Congress creating laws that slowly erode the provisions of the decision.

In the past, rulings have been overturned if the Court finds that they have erroneously made a decision that violates Constitutional rights. Justice Harry Blackmun, when writing the original Roe v. Wade decision, cited the first, fourth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution, saying that they protected a woman’s right to privacy, and that outlawing abortions (before the baby can live outside the womb) was therefore unconstitutional. Thus, the decision cannot be overturned on this basis. However, this decision was also based on the assumption that prenatal life is not considered one of the “persons” protected under the Constitution as well. The only way Roe v. Wade could be overturned on this basis would be if scientists came up with a consensus on when life begins in the womb, and thus when the fetus is protected under the Constitution. While there are many differing views, there has not yet been an agreement, and there is not likely one to be made soon.

One of the more likely ways that abortion rights could be affected is through Congress. While it would be extremely difficult for the Republican-led House and Senate to start the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision, it would be easier for them to create legislation that slowly eroded at the provisions of the decision, in order to make abortions so difficult to receive that they were basically obsolete. While not yet obsolete, legislation has moved in this direction in some ways. The Hyde Amendment has restricted Medicaid from funding abortion in almost all cases since 1976. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 5 women from ages 15-44 rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. In addition, this policy has been applied to other healthcare programs reliant on the federal government (like that for federal employees and military families). The Federal Abortion Ban of 2007 prohibits abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy. Currently, Arizona Representative Trent Franks is pushing for a federal law that bans all abortions after 20 weeks. In addition to these specific measures, states can also limit abortions in their jurisdictions, by limiting insurance coverage and placing undue restrictions on clinics, among other things. Protestors outside of Planned Parenthood clinics often discourage women from getting abortions, as does the required anti-abortion counseling mandatory in 35 states and waiting periods in 27 of the same states.

For the most part, while the Supreme Court has handed down a decision that allows abortions under the Constitution, federal legislature and states have found ways to slowly chip away at the provision. While there are other nuanced ways that this decision could be overturned, it is not likely that the decision will be completely overturned by Trump in his four years of presidency. However, the Republican-led Congress may pass laws that further restrict the ruling, and individual states can further restrict those decisions. Although no definite decision may be made in the near future, it is possible that these types of decision may become issues that are brought before state and federal legislatures. As college students, we have the privilege to be old enough to be active in our government’s processes, and I suggest that we take the time now to stay up to date on what’s happening in our state and our country.

For Further Reading:

PlannedParenthoodAction.org

https://www.guttmacher.org/laws-affecting-reproductive-health-and-rights-2013-state-policy-review

https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/counseling-and-waiting-periods-abortion