"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body."
-Margaret Sanger: A nurse who, in the early 1900s, spent considerable time in jail for distributing pamphlets to women on sex education, contraceptive information, and contraceptives.
If you live in a free country you should have certain specific rights. Certainly one of those rights is having the absolute say about your own life. If one sex does not have this right, there is no equality for either gender.
In that case, freedom and equality become separate issues and that is wrong for all of us.
The state of Ohio is on the brink of passing a law that would severely control a woman's right to choose.
At face value this issue concerning abortion rights might seem to be just another article on the legal battle that has been going on for decades, but it is more than that. It is not just the subject matter itself; it is what it stands for in the issue of gender equality.
While it is fun to point out the differences between male and female in sitcoms and humor books, it is quite another thing to have those differences make one sex terribly unequal to the other.
The topic of procreative rights is really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues surrounding equality for both sexes.
There is a long list of inequalities that have always prevented women from enjoying equal rights.
Let me acquaint you with a few pertinent facts from over the last 40 years.
Did you know that:
- in the late 1950's women could not get a credit card in their own names, buy a house, or sign most contracts.
- equal pay has been a law since the early 60's but almost 50 years later in 2011, women are still paid less than men—even with similar education, skills and experience.
- in the 1970’s banks in most states required a working married woman to prove she could not become pregnant if she wanted her income to be considered in the issuance of a mortgage. The proof she had to supply was in the form of a doctor’s note stating that she had had tubal ligation. The chance of becoming pregnant was seen as "a liability in workforce."
- it wasn’t until 1972 that Title IX came into law aimed at preventing sex discrimination in education and sports. Until then there were educational areas that were considered “male-only”. Women's sports were underfunded and competitive salaries for women in sports were non-existent.
- until 1984, women were banned from joining service and networking organizations such the Jaycees, Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions Clubs.
- in 1993, (in 33 out of 50 states), a man who raped his wife was protected from prosecution under the law, even if he was legally separated from her at the time of the rape. In 2011, spousal rape is still considered a “lesser sex crime”.
- in 2011 some health insurance prescription plans will automatically cover Viagra, Cialis or any other drugs for erectile dysfunction, but not birth control pills. Many health plans do not cover abortion, and many providers do not provide this medical procedure even if the mother’s life is at risk.
- currently in our government, there are only 17 women senators out of 100 and 71 women out of 435 Representatives.
- there is no provision in the Constitution that specifically bans sex discrimination. Section 1 of the Equal Rights Amendment which states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” is still not part of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Equality in a relationship has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the sexes. It is an issue that should affect men as well as women.
When one gender is granted equality under the law both genders benefit. The Family Leave Act, originally created to help women have a maternity leave, is now an example. Both male and female can opt to choose to take an unpaid leave during any 12-month period for family or personal reasons.
In fact, many couples are using it to benefit their child; mom takes one year while dad takes the following one. This guarantees parental hands-on care for the first two years of a child's life.
Any issue that threatens equality of either sex demeans a relationship and demands immediate attention. Equality is a right for both men and women.
On equality, which includes the right to a woman's control over her own body, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best:
"Having the state controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality (with men). Equality should not be seen as women's liberation, it is women's and men's liberation that is important."
Let's support each other so that everyone is guaranteed personal freedom in a country that liberally uses the words, "with liberty and justice for all".
Make the words become a fact.
© 2011 Copyright Kristen Houghton
Kristen Houghton is a well-respected Lifestyle journalist who writes for many media outlets, including The Huffington Post, More Magazine and OWN.
She is also the author of the top-selling book, And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First