Marking today as “International Women’s Day”, it should be incumbent on all citizen activists to commit to this year as being “Recovering Women’s Rights Year.” As with any good movement of the people, it will start in Wisconsin with the recall of Scott Walker (which at the moment would result in a woman being elected Governor) and four State Senators.
It has been known for years that Rush Limbaugh is a bigoted blowhard. His “apology” means nothing based on his history of chauvinistic opining on women’s health and reproductive rights issues. The ferocity of the attack on women’s health in the GOP-led Wisconsin Legislature this year has been unusual; especially for a state with a tremendous legacy of supporting women’s rights issues. The Wisconsin GOP is following the lead of national GOP interests, ignoring medical and scientific fact. Republicans repress women’s health issues by legislating to an ethical standard based on 19th century beliefs. The GOP is also ignoring the progression of women in Wisconsin for over a century.
In a speech given in 1920, Margaret Sanger captured the opposition to women’s rights succinctly, and the same could be said of the GOP actions today:
“Legislation…Enacted, avowedly, to protect society against the obscene and the lewd, they make no distinction between the scientific works of human emancipators…and printed matter they are ostensibly aimed at. (They) unite to suppress the scientific work and the birth control treatises which would enable men and women to attain higher physical, mental, moral, and spiritual standards.”
The Wisconsin Legislature has attacked women’s rights in the areas of not only reproductive rights, but in attaining equal pay for equal work. Assembly Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), long a staunch women’s rights advocate, addressed the regression of GOP policies in a recent Cap Times editorial:
“It is time to stop the attacks. If women don’t stand up now and demand to be treated as full citizens, as equal and capable participants in the social, economic, civic, educational and political life of our state and country, we will continue fighting the same battles as our mothers and our grandmothers over and over again.”
SB202 repealed the penalties and potential for punitive damages established for failing to pay women equal pay for equal work, as mandated by Federal Employment Laws. In Wisconsin, women make approximately 78% of what a man makes for equal work. Since the passage of “Equal Pay for Equal Work” establishing penalties, Wisconsin has closed the gap in wages every year since 2009 Act 20. Despite GOP talking points, penalties have worked to deter companies from participating in willfull discrimination. Part of Mark Pocan’s statement regarding SB202:
“The Equal Pay Enforcement Act Democrats passed last legislative session assists victims of wage discrimination by allowing them to press charges in circuit court, rather than just federal court. Additionally, the state law allows workers to sue for punitive damages, a deterrent to violating the federal law. There should be no room for discrimination in our society. Workers deserve the right to receive equal pay for equal work regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability. That’s why I supported the Equal Pay Enforcement Act last session and I opposed its repeal this session.”
SB507 is Glenn Grothman’s (R-West Bend) bill which would literally force a state agency on Child Abuse Prevention and Neglect to emphasize single-parent households as a significant risk factor for child abuse. The bill would have the most significant effect on women – who comprise the majority of single-parent households. While the bill will most likely not receive a vote in committee, it is a demonstration of a regression to 19th century ideas regarding women, children, and families.
The greatest lapse has come in SB306, which changes notification protocols and penalties for abortion and plan B contraception practices between a patient and their physician. Even the Wisconsin Medical Society testified against the bill:
“The proposed legislation would make it difficult for women to obtain certain medical procedures, creating many more requirements than best medical practices currently require,” said Society President–Elect Tosha Wetterneck, MD, MS. “The Society is concerned whenever government inserts itself into medical care decision-making– no matter the medical procedure in question.” The bill interferes with the patient-physician relationship by requiring onerous procedural hurdles, and physicians could face criminal charges even when caring for patients in ways accepted by the latest medical science, Dr. Wetterneck said.”
In complete ignorance and intentional disregard for all scientific, societal, and medical evidence to the contrary, the current incarnation of the GOP is taking women back to the 19th century. The interest is in controlling and suppressing the feminine vote, which historically swings more progressive; and controlling the direction of women’s lives and self-determination – just as the case a century ago.
In 1890, activist Mary Elizabeth Lease wrote, “For twenty years the market value …has gone up, and the market value of Labor has gone down, till today the American Laborer, in bitterness and wrath asks which is the worst – the black slavery that has gone, or the white slavery that has come. We seek to enact justice and equity between woman and man.”
No truer nor more relevant words have been spoken at any time. For the sake of our society, we must make EVERY day women’s day to restore what has regressed in less than one year. And it starts in Wisconsin, again.