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The Election Anniversary is a Battle Cry For Reproductive Rights Activists

"I refuse to hand off a world where my daughters, or anyone's daughters, are less free than I was when I was their age."

by Dawn Laguens
Nov 8 2017, 4:30pm

Image via Flickr.

This is an opinion piece by Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

On Election Day 2016, my triplet daughters turned 18. What we thought would be an empowering moment for them to come of age in the era of our first female president became a nightmare overnight.

As a mom (especially one who started her career organizing for economic, racial and gender justice in the South), the results of the election made me question much that I had told my kids about our country — that the future, as Dr. King said, would bend toward justice, that they and their friends would live freer and fairer lives than the generations before.

But in my job I'm privileged to spend my days working for reproductive health and freedom - for a world where your body and your pleasure are your own - and I refuse to hand off a world where my daughters, or anyone's daughters, are less free than I was when I was their age.

"Every day for the last year, women across the country have been doing the work of pushing back against the racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobia and transphobia that is front and center in the agenda of the president and his advisors."

Of course, my daughters, like women everywhere around the country, are not sitting around waiting for me to stand up for them. They are taking action.

Just a few days after the election, one of my daughters informed me she'd be walking out of her high school with most of her classmates to march through the streets of Washington D.C. The photos and videos she sent me from that day were just a preview of what was about to be unleashed.


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Every day for the last year, women across the country have been doing the work of pushing back against the racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobia and transphobia that is front and center in the agenda of the president and his advisors. In fact, it is overwhelmingly women who are organizing, marching, speaking out, and calling their representatives.

Women - especially women of color - organized and led the largest demonstration in U.S. history the day after the inauguration.

During the fight to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA), one estimate indicated that women were making 86 percent of calls to Congress.

EMILY's List, the organization that has helped elect scores of women to office, reports that 20,000 women have rushed to the organization to express their interest in running for office - and more call every day.

Even the media's usual male-driven blockbusters were eclipsed by the prescience of the Handmaids and the power of Wonder Woman.

If we didn't know President Donald Trump's feelings about the role and place of women before the election (say if he had never admitted on tape to using his position of power and celebrity to kiss and grope women without their consent), his record over the last year should make it clear to everyone.

Consider that every version of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act not only included a provision to block millions of patients from going to Planned Parenthood for care, but also would have kicked millions more women off their insurance and decimated coverage for maternity care.

"It's a world I never imagined we could face a year ago."

Thanks to the women who stood up at town halls to take on their representatives, who carpooled to Washington to speak out and organized phone banks to demand a health care system that works for everyone, every single version of the repeal bill failed. Somehow, John McCain got most of the credit (imagine that!) when it was the principled stand of two women - Senators Collins and Murkowski - that made his vote matter.

Unfortunately, even as we won in the halls of Congress, we haven't been able to pry the pen from Donald Trump's hand. On his first full day in office, Trump put in place the most expansive and life-threatening Global Gag Rule in history. A gag rule means that doctors and clinics who participate in government healthcare programs are prevented from providing, or even discussing, abortion with their patients - even when legal, even if the situation threatens the life or health of the woman. Now there are threats of enacting the same horrible policy here in the U.S.

Just last month, the administration rolled back the ACA rules that require insurance plans to cover birth control, letting bosses decide whether one of the top health care products used by women is allowed to be covered.

With the Trump administration literally stacked with extreme anti-women's health zealots, we can expect even more attacks on access to birth control and safe, legal abortion.

A memo leaked last month shows that the administration plans to slash funding for the nation's family planning program in half, and could put in place strict rules for health care providers who participate, forcing them to either lie to their patients or stop seeing them altogether.

It's a world I never imagined we could face a year ago.

I've had the privilege through my children and my work to meet thousands of today's amazing and resistance-leading young people. I am certain that no one could ever succeed in making them handmaids. But I believe there are people who are trying. So on this anniversary, if you haven't already, grab your lasso and your shield - we're going to need all the Wonder Women we can get. And to be clear, we could use some supermen too.

Planned Parenthood just launched the #Fight4BirthControl campaign to "engage employers and everyday people ahead of the January 2018 deadline when many companies could drop birth control coverage." During a limited but crucial window, employers, lawmakers and the Trump administration need to hear what you think birth control coverage should look like in the United States.