Jim Crow For 21st Century Women

Studying history just to memorize a bunch of names and dates is a waste of time and energy. Don’t mistake the meaning of my words; I believe in the study of history. The value of studying history is learning from it and not repeating the mistakes of the past. Jim Crow was one of America’s biggest mistakes. It made a group of Americans second class citizens because of the color of their skin. Today a politically powerful group of Americans is trying to make an entire gender of Americans second class citizens simply because of their gender. Let’s explore.

As a result of the Civil War the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868 which made American born former slaves citizens and gave males over 21 the right to vote. With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 the right to vote was extended to include all female citizens over 21. In 1971 the Twenty-sixth Amendment gave the right to vote to all citizens over 18 regardless of gender. (I was a beneficiary of that.)

Well into the 20th Century although legally African-Americans had the right to vote the reality was quite different in most southern states. Poll taxes and literacy tests (which often had nothing to do with literacy) prevented African-Americans from registering to vote. On paper they had a right but not in reality. There were also economic and physical repercussion, but for the sake of this discussion I want to limit the dialog to legal barriers. That was the era of Jim Crow.

Today’s Republican Party is attempting to practice a modern day version of Jim Crow with women as the oppressed. One of the big arguments against Brett Kavanaugh was that he would be the fifth Supreme Court vote to overrule Roe v Wade. That 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteed American women’s right to choose whether to abort or carry a fetus to full term.

Older American women remember when they were denied that right. Young women grew up taking it for granted. I was among those who didn’t think (and still don’t) that the Republicans will make a full frontal assault on Roe and have the Court repeal it. What I expect is a series of cases going to the Court that will chip away at the right by making legal abortion almost unattainable by imposing unreasonable and unnecessary obstacles. I also expected executive branch actions that will make securing a legal abortion less attainable for the vast majority of women especially those from lower social-economic backgrounds.

The Trump admiration is proposing what is being called a gag rule. The long and the short of it is that under the new guidelines pregnancy counseling centers would lose all federal funding if they mentioned abortion as one of the possible alternative women had to choose from. These centers (i.e. Planned Parenthood) are often the best (and sometimes only) option particularly for young women of lesser economic means (i.e. poor women and students).

This is a gift to Trump’s (largely borrowed from Mike Pence) base. The religious based women’s health centers never mention abortion. Selective information does make your prejudice sound like the truth to those purposely kept ignorant.

Abortion is a very personal decision for a woman to make. I certainly don’t think a bunch of largely old, fat, white guys (I resemble that description) should be making that decision for them by legislation or purposely withholding pertinent information.

As of March 4th there was already one lawsuit filed against the policy change; (by California Attorney General Xavier Beccera leading a coalition of 20 states.) The rule change is not scheduled to take effect for about another 50 days so there is still time to act. Just because the law says you have a right doesn’t guarantee you will retain it unless you are willing to protect it.

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