we will not go back

I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves. – Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women

In high school I first became involved with Planned Parenthood and NOW, not old enough to vote, but old enough to get pregnant, old enough to get an STD, old enough to know that women had the right to make decisions about their reproductive health.

About sixteen years ago, at a NOW rally in Pan Pacific Park, carrying a sign that said “WE WILL NOT GO BACK,” I was naïve enough to think those words were printed in remembrance. “Going back” certainly wasn’t a concern, right? It was unimaginable.

I attended a small high school – classes were taught with a mix of lecture and discussion in an environment where our opinions were respected, our voices heard. We had a women’s health class taught by a great teacher. A teacher I’m in touch with to this day.

We regularly had guest speakers – women’s health educators, a midwife, a fabulous lady from Planned Parenthood – it was a great class. One day we welcomed a new face. She came to discuss teen pregnancy and options that a girl in such a situation would face (a reality show not being one of them).  But something wasn’t right. And one of my friends finally asked, “You haven’t said anything about abortion.” The woman grew quiet. Our teacher, unaware until that moment that this woman worked for a crisis pregnancy center, politely had her collect her graphic pamphlets and go.

Now the girls in my class held varying personal views on abortion but there was a consensus that choice was essential. That women had the right to govern their own bodies. And we were upset. We trashed the pamphlets the woman “accidentally” left behind.

Oh, do not mess with the convictions of smart, strong-willed, adolescent girls.

If those girls had known that fifteen years later women’s healthcare, women’s rights, were going to be in such a precarious state, well, I think we all might have pulled an Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club and bought fake IDs just so we could vote.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Planed Parenthood is losing funding across the nation at a terrifying rate. Women are driving across states to fill prescriptions when their local pharmacists find it morally objectionable to do so. All sorts of vital services for preventative healthcare are growing harder for women to receive unless they have the luxury of a health insurance that includes access to services that keep them well – both physically and mentally.

And that is why I am encouraged to hear that as of yesterday, the Institute of Medicine made their recommendations to the government that birth control should be defined as preventative care and made available at no additional cost to those insured.  Because even for those fortunate enough to have insurance, the co-pays for contraceptives can be more than one can afford. And, as research shows, unlike men, women are more likely to hold off seeking health care because of cost. Women delay vital screenings because taking care of our bodies costs more. This is so wrong it makes me sick.

But this report is a step in a very important direction. Against the tide that has been putting the lives of women at risk.

Because we will not go back. We cannot go back. Let those posters remain a remembrance of things past. Of a past we never want to see again.

(I am writing today as part of the National Women’s Law Center Birth Control blog carnival. It is not a paid post, but simply a project I believe in. For more information, visit the NWLC, here.)

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