Protecting Women's Rights in an Age of Extremism

Community members packed Pohlad Hall at the Minneapolis Central Library in support of women's rights at a forum with Congressman Keith Ellison. Click here to view photos--then be sure to share with friends!

Watch video:

You can also read a brief recap of the forum:

Via MN Progressive Project:

Representative Keith Ellison brought together a group of Minnesotans with the goal to discuss protecting women's health in this age of extremism. Ellison pointed out that extremism isn't just coming from legislators at the state and federal levels but from our Supreme Court. We must remember that all elections matter because those that we elect appoint these judges. And when we don't come out for every single election we end up with a judiciary that holds corporate rights on the same (or higher level) than citizen rights. When this occurs, we all lose.

One of the most talked about points was the lack of women leaders in both the private and public sectors. The United States ranks 90th in the world for the number of women in congress - behind Cuba, Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to former state Senator Tarryl Clark, for the first time in 30 years we moved backwards in women representation at the federal and state level. While women make up slightly more than half of the population, only 16.8% of U.S. Congress are women. An audience member adding that, in Minnesota, only 6 of the top 100 companies are run by women CEOs. Susy Bates of Women Winning commented that women win elections at the same rate as men, women just aren't running at the same rates as men. When women run and are elected, they prioritize and fight for issues important to families - economic, health, child care, education and equality. Sen Clark added that women, regardless of political affiliation, vote more progressively overall than Republican men and even some Democratic men.

Some of the key headlines in this war on women have come from the battle to defund Planned Parenthood. Tim Stanley of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota reminded us of the gut-wrenching attacks on women's healthcare in America. And that these radicals will go so far as to hold American prosperity hostage solely because they don't like Planned Parenthood's mission. Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive medical care and education that is often out of reach for poor women. They believe that access to health care is fundamental to personal aspirations, self-determination, and fundamental to a just society. Sen. Clark reminded us that prior to the Affordable Care Act, women could be rejected for health insurance solely on the basis of 'having the pre-existing condition' of being a women.

This war on women continued with legislator's moves to cut back family planning, eliminate social security and medicare, redefine rape and demonize public workers (60% are women). In Minnesota, we've seen many bills aimed at either lessoning or eliminating protections women have in the state. According to state Representative Marion Greene, the GOP majority has lost their individuality and voice to a small extreme faction. Stating that when countries or states are in financial crisis women overwhelming suffer more than men. This fact is demonstrated with some of the legislation coming from our state legislature: remove pay equity reporting laws, various attacks on choice, ban funding for abortions, gag rule, voter id, removal of the renters credit, no action taken on early childhood education, cuts in payments to family personal care, and transit cuts (55% of users are women and 60% are going to/from work). She doesn't believe that these attacks are purposely singling out women but agrees that it is a purposeful blindness.

What exactly can we do to make substantive change? Vote, donate (time and money) and get others to vote! In 2010, a large block of voters who turned out for President Obama just stayed home. We need make the connection between the home/personal life and what happens in the political realm. According to Fartun Weli (an immigrant women's healthcare advocate), this is especially important for minority communities. Youth and minorities are least likely to make this personal connection and therefore least likely to vote. According to Representative Ellison, issues like the proposed marriage discrimination amendment in Minnesota and equal rights amendment can be rallying cries for voters - on both sides. We just need to make sure we get out there and turn out the vote more than the other side. And EVERY panelist agreed that we need to door knock, door knock, door knock.

Rachel Nygaard
June 21, 2011

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