THE WAR ON WOMEN IS FAR FROM OVER.
Not surprisingly, 2015 was worse than 2014 for women’s rights to healthcare. That’s according to the Population Institute’s report card, which gives the U.S. a D+ grade for its stance on women’s health issues. Only 4 states received A grades — California, Oregon, Washington, and New Jersey — while 19 failed entirely.
Mic reports that the country’s grade slipped from a C in 2014. Unfortunately, 2016 and ’17 could see the U.S. fall even further if women voters do not become more politically involved and turn out to the polls this fall.
In 2015 alone, states enacted “more than 50 new abortion restriction laws,” according to Mother Jones. Don’t expect attacks on Planned Parenthood and other providers to slow down any time soon. This may be an election year, but Republicans aren’t pulling any punches to win the moderate vote. GOP candidates have taken stances far more anti-choice than those of their supporters, including outright opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.
A poll from NBC News and Esquire Online found that news in 2015 made everyone angry. As a group, white women were the most likely to say they are angrier now than they were a year ago, although large percentages of people in other demographics said the same. Anger was ostensibly worse for white, right-wing women, as 61 percent of Republican respondents admitted to being politically angry over current events, compared to just 42 percent of Democrats.
Women’s anger tends to draw attention, usually of the negative, she’s-such-a-bitch variety. But this poll could be just one more example of a great divide within the GOP. It’s possible, although not highly likely, that Republican women’s anger might drive them toward more moderate positions and candidates.
Since 2001, right-wing candidates have benefited from the support of “security moms”: women who began to lean Republican thanks to the party’s post-9/11 position on defense and homeland security. But it is possible that the plight of women and children in the Syrian refugee crisis has driven some women voters away from the compassionless GOP and toward politicians with more reasonable stances.
It is also possible that the War on Women has many voters rethinking their party allegiance. Almost all women who have sex with men have used contraception, but Republicans continue to support legislation that would strip women of their rights to health insurance coverage for birth control.
Those angry white women might be an unpredictable vote, come November 8, but the real power will lie with African-American women.
According to The Washington Post, “74 percent of eligible black women went to the polls — and 96 percent voted for President Obama” in 2012. That was in an election with a dismal voter turnout. In fact, both of President Obama’s wins can be attributed to black women’s ballots, as they “voted at a higher rate than any other group.”
Black women founded Black Lives Matter, which continues to fight for widespread recognition of the value of young black men and women’s lives in a country where police officers post public messages to social media that encourage citizens to run over the movement’s protesters.
After two election cycles in which they were the most faithful voters — to the extent that they were actually over-represented at the polls in 2012 — it seems unlikely that black women’s turnout will slip back below that of their white counterparts. Alienated by the attacks on Planned Parenthood and still fighting against police brutality, black women will be the ones to cast the deciding votes in the 2016 election.
It isn’t likely that 2016 will make a good showing when it comes to women’s reproductive health and protections from violence. The lawmakers who used our tax dollars to push those 50-odd pieces of anti-choice legislation through last year will be the same ones casting critical votes in 2016. However, we’re fast approaching an opportunity to change our country for the better.
Current forecasts do not predict a GOP win — not in a country that elected President Obama twice — but that’s no reason for feminists to rest on our laurels. There’s a Senate majority up for grabs, and we’re also faced with the slightly-more-difficult challenge of taking back the House of Representatives.
If progressive women don’t get out the vote on November 8, nothing will change. If we do not vote, we will be liable for several more long years of anti-woman legislation that chips away at Roe v. Wade and attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Collectively, women make up more than half of the American voter turnout in each election year. We are the vote, ladies. But it will all be for naught if we don’t accept the responsibility of that power and head to the polls. The lawmakers who attack our health and our rights have been allowed to continue for far too long. Let’s make 2016 the year of positive change.