In 2022, Women’s Rights are Not a Done Deal | Editorial | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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In 2022, Women’s Rights are Not a Done Deal

If there's one story thread that we can follow throughout this current moment in history, it's perhaps that things we thought were relatively unshakeable truths may not be so true after all.


If there's one story thread that we can follow throughout this current moment in history, it's perhaps that things we thought were relatively unshakeable truths may not be so true after all.

From the pandemic to politics to climate change to the advent of war, this time in history is no benign one. And in many of these realms, it is women who have borne and will bear much of the burden.

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We have seen this plainly over the past two years, when women, already the primary caregivers in many homes, were tasked not just with juggling work and home and motherhood, but also, starting in 2020, with being arbiters of their children's education—all while the norms of work shifted greatly. Some women, "allowed" to stay home, found themselves in a never-ending time warp where all the day's activities took place around a cramped kitchen table. Other women, required by economics and the nature of their work, continued to work outside the home—if they could, that is, because with the crisis-level lack of child care only getting worse during this pandemic, some of those "essential" workers were once again forced to make the impossible decision to stay home with kids who no longer had a place to go during the day. When some now complain about the millions in emergency rental and housing funds that have been paid to Oregon families throughout this pandemic, think of these women—those forced out of the workforce, with few choices left to them but to beseech the government to help them stay housed.

But there are other unshakeable truths we have seen shake, too.

In this modern moment, women of childbearing age have grown up knowing that their right to choose whether or not to have a child is protected, following the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. In that case, which found its way all the way to the Supreme Court, a pregnant single woman brought a class action suit that challenged the abortion laws in Texas. Today, rather than resting easy in the knowledge that this is a fight women won decades ago, the same state—Texas—again is the vanguard in the abortion battle, this time empowering neighbors to turn in their neighbors should they try to have an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. Clinics in nearby states are already surging with extra patients due to the restrictive and vigilante-like law. As if that were not enough, the same state is now investigating the parents of trans children for child abuse.

But that's only the start. The year 2021 saw more than 90 bans or restrictions on abortion pass at the state and local levels across the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a Mississippi case that could stand to overturn Roe v. Wade. With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, some in state and local government see this as their moment to shake the truths that women have relied upon for the past 49 years in order to choose their own lives, and how and when they bear children. We've already mentioned how the current child care crisis is affecting women right now—and that's not even factoring in the lack of paid family leave that plagues the majority of American women. Just 23% of civilian U.S. workers has access to paid family leave as of March 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Every year, the Source Weekly opts to publish a Women's Issue in March, in honor of women, and in the hopes that by highlighting some of the challenges and accomplishments of women, we can move our country forward. This year, perhaps more than others, we are seeing our country move backward—and the people who tend to bear the brunt of these backward movements are largely women and people of color.

Governments that are led by the people will always move and shift, albeit often slowly, by the will of the people—and it is to that point that we end this piece. We may currently live in a political bubble in Oregon, a state that has already codified women's right to an abortion and has made efforts to support women who have had to make impossible choices during this pandemic—but unshakeable truths can be shaken here, too. One action builds upon the next until, nearly 50 years after a truth became imminent, it is challenged again.

"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas."—Shirley Chisholm, The first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress

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