#HandsOffMyBC Rally, White House
I am woman, hear me roar! This is how I felt standing outside of the White House holding up my piddly handmade signs chanting things like, "Not the Church, Not the State, No License to Discriminate", "Not the Church, Not the State, Women Must Decide Our Fate."
Rewind a week: At the request of Planned Parenthood, I sent a message to President Trump demanding that he NOT overturn a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would let insurance companies (employers) off the hook for covering birth control as no cost, no co-pay preventative health services. This provision, which has benefited 62.4 million women, has also lowered the number of unintended pregnancies (especially for teens) to its lowest rate in decades. I can't believe that in 2017 it still isn't well-established that women should be in control of their own bodies. I just can't get my head around this.
Now, fast forward a week: In unlucky Friday-the-13th fashion, the Trump Administration does in fact issue rules, effective immediately, that will allow an employer to deny an employee's right to birth control coverage on the basis that it is against the employer's religious or moral beliefs. So now, your employer's beliefs dictate a woman's right to health care, not the woman, not the physician, but the boss!! REALLY???!!! OMG!!!!!
Advocacy groups immediately filed lawsuits citing the rules illegal and Planned Parenthood sent a text blast calling for a rally at the White House. I cancelled my plans (sorry Dave), made my crappy poster, and charged downtown. This was a cause I was passionate about! I missed the Woman's March back in January and I'd be damned to miss another chance to speak up for women! At the rally, there were a number of great speakers including representatives from the National Woman's Law Center, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Catholics for Choice, the CEO of the YWCA, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, LGBTQ groups, a Unitarian minister, an OB/GYN, and many more. The crowd was enthusiastic, welcoming, and in funny costumes with clever signs to boot.
In addition to the obvious, My Body = My Decision, there are so many other reasons to protect free access to birth control. First, we must never have pregnancy through coercion and without access to pregnancy prevention, it can result in coercion. Second, denying access to birth control becomes an economic issue because women with unintended pregnancies may be kept out of school or the workforce and be unable to be independent or support their families. It attacks the most marginalized of groups by making people once again chose between paying the rent and a grocery bill or paying for birth control. There are complicated medical reasons as well to have free access to all birth control. Woman shouldn't have to chose birth control options that are less desirable simply because of price. The ACA provisions made ALL birth control options no-cost, no co-pay giving women and their physicians the right to chose what is best for each individual (e.g. oral contraceptives vs. an IUD etc.) Finally, many women use birth control to treat other medical conditions such as endometriosis and other medical conditions. Does anyone really want an employer to determine someone's health care? Unless that employer is MY doctor, my answer will always be NO! Lastly, this is not a religious freedom issue. It's purely an issue of discrimination using religion as an excuse. If it starts with birth control, what is next, and where does this misogyny end? This is why this is EVERYONE'S issue, not just women's.
What puzzles me the most about the proponents of this rule is that most of them are against abortion as well. If the rate of unintended pregnancies decreases (which it has under the ACA provisions), so would the need for abortions, right? Why isn't this more clear? This isn't "fake news". In any event, an employer's morality should not effect the healthcare of its workers. Please get employers OUT of the exam room and leave this issue for a woman and her physician. #HandsOffMyBC!!!!!!!!
My Takeaways: (1) Rarely are there issues that simply affect a small group and not everyone. This isn't as simple as a woman's issue or a man's issue. It's a health care issue and a human rights issue that relates to both men and women. Please expand your lens when thinking about important issues and get involved whether you "seem" to be affected or not; (2) The right to free speech and to free assembly is really nothing to take for granted. As I got out of my car at a parking garage on I Street, the parking attendant noticed my poster, asked if I was going to a protest, and told me to have a good time. When I got back, he told me about his experience growing up in Ethiopia where people are often killed, fired, and shamed if they participate in a rally like the one I did today. Unlike me, whose grown up with the privilege but hasn't exercised it frequently, this man, this immigrant, exercises his rights here all of the time -- just because he is free to! In a time when we aren't always so happy with the state of our America, let's remember all of its good and USE it! Our freedoms of assembly and speech should not only be cherished, but exercised.
My all time favorite protesters: Ms. IUD on the left and Pillamina on the right! LOVE, LOVE