Monday, April 2, 2012

Dispatches from the war on women

The website iVillage has been compiling data about the condition of women's lives in the United States here in the second decade of the 21st century. They researched such sources as the 2010 U.S.Census, the National Women's Law Center, National Partnership for Women and Families, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence. What they found makes for appalling reading.


They ranked the fifty states according to their protection of women and families and of women's rights. The assault on women's rights is a nationwide policy objective of the right-wing to "put women in their place," and there are few bright spots in the data that they found, but five states were particularly bad. According to iVillage, these five are the very worst of the worst:     

5. Kentucky 
Over 77% of the women in the state live in a county without an abortion provider and nearly 20% of the women live in poverty. Not even a quarter of the women in the state have a college degree.
4. West Virginia
Like Kentucky, West Virginia has a tragically low number of women holding college degrees with just 17.8%. Poverty is also a problem with the median income approximately only $29,651. West Virginia is also the only state that doesn’t protect a woman’s right to breast-feed in either public or private.
3. Arkansas
In Arkansas abortion is pretty much legal in name only. Only 3% of the state’s counties offer them. Just about one-quarter of the population doesn’t have health insurance and the median income is only $29,148 a year.
2. Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s attack on reproductive choice has been relentless this legislative session with personhood measures and restrictive anti-abortion measures. The entire region only has six abortion doctors and the state has outlawed insurance coverage for abortion. As it stands 1 in 4 women in the state already live without health insurance and the state does not have a single female elected official in Congress. The good news is Oklahoma’s overreach was just hemmed in by the federal courts.
1. Mississippi 
Mississippi women earn the lowest average wages in the country and has never elected a woman to Congress or as governor. 22% of the women of the state live in poverty and 68% of Mississippi women are overweight or obese.
For me, about the only surprise here is that Texas isn't among the five worst. In fact, it only ranked 38th. Just wait until our state legislature meets again. I'm betting they can win the race to the bottom.

The pattern that the researchers found in their study was that states where women do not have access to affordable higher education, reproductive health care, and representation in Congress are the most virulently and shamelessly anti-women in their policies. This war - and never doubt that it is, in fact, a war - is not just about abortion. It is about women's ability to control their lives and their destinies. It is about the most basic right of women to control their own bodies.

In countries around the world, sociologists find that the improvement of economic conditions, as well as the health of the population, is tied to the ability of women to receive education, health care, to control the size of their families, and to participate in government. Thus, the most advanced societies on the planet are generally considered to be those of northern Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries, where women are most free to control their own destinies. The United States, in this as in so many other arenas, threatens to fall back into the status of a Third World country. This is where the right-wingnuts want to take us. Let us hope that, in this election year, women will be cognizant of this threat to their autonomy and that they will flood the polls and vote for those who represent their interests. Otherwise, by the next election, we may not be able to vote at all. 

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