Women see an Equal Rights Amendment as a means to stop legislative, legal and economic discrimination on the basis of gender, improve earnings, and increase quality of life
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Asheville Chapter of the National Organization for Women earlier this week announced a “Bitter Pill Rally” Saturday, July 26, in response to recent Supreme Court decisions limiting women’s rights. Leaders cite the pressing need to direct the attention of North Carolina legislators to the immediate improvement of women’s rights at the state and national levels. The “Bitter Pill Rally” is 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at Vance Memorial.
Speakers will focus on an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution to stop codified legislative, legal, and economic discrimination on the basis of gender.
The announcement comes within days of the Supreme Court landmark cases of McCullen v. Coakley and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The former ruling decreases the buffer zones between violent protesters and women exercising their right to safe, legal abortion, and the latter upholding corporation’s rights to make decisions about women’s private health care, including contraception. Under the Hobby Lobby ruling, corporations are granted rights as persons – rights not currently guaranteed to women themselves.
The rulings are a “Bitter Pill” for women to swallow both in western North Carolina and across the nation.
Today, women constitute more than half the U.S. work force and 52 percent of registered voters. One in three women also live and raise their families or retire in abject poverty, reported National Public Radio. In western North Carolina, like the state, 59 percent of women aged 16 and older are either employed or looking for work, according to recent figures from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. The report for Asheville-Buncombe and Madison counties states that 73 percent of all women with dependent children work, and 25 percent of women in the area are single heads of households with dependent children.
Women in Buncombe and Madison counties earned only 85 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available.
“That 15 percent difference would go a long way toward creating opportunities and sustainability for women and girls,” says Debbie Metcalf, president of Asheville NOW.
Women Are Not Equal Citizens
The decision from the all-male majority, all-female dissenting Supreme Court is a blatant illustration of the reality that women are not equal citizens in the United States, say Asheville NOW women’s rights leaders.
“We have to ask who it serves to create circumstances intended to economically disenfranchise women during mid-career by limiting access to health care, including contraception,” Metcalf says.
“The Supreme Court’s decision increases the financial burden of health care on working women everywhere. As a working woman, I am aware we already pay 68 percent more in out of pocket costs than men for our health care,” Metcalf says.
“The court’s ruling will not have the same affect on men’s reproductive health care, as coverage will continue for vasectomies and Viagra,” she notes.
North Carolina’s Anti-Woman Legislation
In 2013, the state’s openly anti-woman General Assembly packed inflammatory legislation into a motorcycle traffic bill, SB 353, which was signed into law July 29, 2013, in an attempt to legally erode women’s right to bodily autonomy when it comes to reproductive health. Opponents of the measure suggest state legislators have effectively turned back the clock on reproductive rights to pre-1963.
“Contraception is vital to a healthy family,” says Lorrie Cummings, a gynecologist, Asheville NOW officer, and former owner of FemCare. The Asheville women’s health center recently closed its doors amidst unwarranted political controversy covered by regional media syndicates and the national MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show.
“It’s a 21st century family issue which should be as important to men today as it is to women,” Cummings says.
Economic Impact on Working Women, Families
When contraception is not affordable or available to working women, it negatively impacts the family’s income for years. It also increases the likelihood that children and women over the age of 65 live in poverty, says Cummings.
Studies show women are more likely than men to cut back on employment when they are parents.
“Derailment of earning potential and a lack of adequate health coverage significantly and directly affect women in the present, increasing stress and economic difficulties,” says Cummings.
Therefore, the question of women’s health care, including contraception, is a human rights issue which affects each member of the family – not only women, she says.
Currently, the least expensive birth control alternative for women is about $300 per year for a generic pill, compared with about $1,000 out of pocket to receive newer, better options.
“Until women have the same level of control over their reproductive lives as men do, we are not fully American citizens,” Cummings says.
The “Bitter Pill Rally” of the Asheville Chapter of the National Organization for Women will be 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at Vance Memorial. For more information, email email@example.com.