The Women’s March: A symbol of the devolution of women’s rights in the 21st century

Thousands of demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. They fought for their reproductive health and their rights. Photo by Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Earlier this month, in response to Texas’s outrageous six-week abortion plan, another Women’s March took the streets of major cities by storm. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Abortion Care Network and many other organizations helped to organize this march about five years after the massive 2016 Women’s March.  

Hundreds of demonstrators showed up in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Austin to fight for reproductive justice and assert the right women have over their own bodies.  Posters at the demonstrations read messages like “Women Can’t Be Free if They Can’t Control Their Bodies,” “In the name of justice … Save Roe v. Wade,” and “Bans Off My Body.” While the Texas abortion ban after six weeks is ludicrous because most women don’t even know they are pregnant that early, Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson reminded demonstrators in D.C. there have been restrictions on abortion rights nationwide. As Johnson stated, “This year alone we have seen nearly 600 restrictions in 47 states, so no matter where you live, no matter where you are, this fight is at your doorstep.” 

I repeat: 600 restrictions in 47 states.  

There have been 600 plus times when U.S. government officials — composed of 62% of white non-uterus possessing males — have made female reproductive decisions on their own. Statistics like these suggest progress of women’s rights in the 21st century has moved backward. Sure, there have been great milestones of progress for women for more than a century in the United States, such as the following:  

  1. 1848: The Seneca Falls Convention was the first congregation of women to discuss the economic, political and religious oppression of females. 
  1. 1920: The 19th Amendment was passed, which allowed all American women the right to vote. 
  1. 1948: Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to be elected to both the House and the Senate. 
  1. 1963: Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which guaranteed equal wages for the same work, regardless of race, religion or sex.  
  1. 1973: The landmark decision of Roe v. Wade was made, which protects the right of women to have abortions with little government intervention.  
  1. 2007: Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House. 
  1. 2016: Hillary Clinton became the first woman to lead the ticket of a major political party. 
  1. 2020: Kamala Harris is elected the first female Vice President.  

But honestly, who cares if women got the right to vote as early as 1920 or how Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President in 2020 when women to this day still have to prove they have a right to their body, to their livelihoods?  

While fighting for women’s reproductive health and rights is the moral thing to do, it is economically beneficial to states if they advance reproductive justice. Planned Parenthood programs, the right to choose an abortion and various types of accessible contraceptives would reduce the number of unwanted children that enter the overwhelmed foster care system and homeless shelters. Via legislation, states should expand access to abortion care, increase access to many types of contraceptives, fund family planning services and increase reproductive health counseling via telemedicine.  

Women’s marches like the one earlier this month are not symbols of progress, but are instead signs of serious struggle against true democracy in this country. The need for women to reclaim their rights through mass demonstrations serve as constant reminders of the fixed position of women as second-class citizens in the United States. 

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