Equality eventually: All men and women are created equal until we talk about pregnancy

Equality eventually: All men and women are created equal until we talk about pregnancy

July 4th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Independence Day is truly a day to celebrate, but we have more work to do.

Our Founding Fathers fought for American independence and wrote a fine framework for freedom -- for men.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That wonderful sentence is probably the best-known portion of the Declaration of Independence, ratified on July 4, 1776.

But it was 72 more years until, in 1848, the first Woman's Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. It was there that convention organizers Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann McClintock, Martha White and Jane Hunt improved on the Declaration with new words and a motto: "All men and women are created equal," and they demanded social and political equality for women. The idea got a headline or two, but little more.

It would take still another 72 years before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution would pass in 1920, giving women a right to vote in this great and free country -- a full 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Equal pay laws, equal credit laws and other equality measures followed.

But still a struggle continues for full equality.

Just ask Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, who breathed new life into a long-aborted Texas Democratic Party as she filibustered for 11 hours to defeat the first but not final effort to ban Texas abortions after 20 weeks. You can also ask choice advocates in Ohio and North Carolina.

All three states in recent weeks have been in the crosshairs of "TRAP" legislation -- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.

The Roe v. Wade case and subsequent Supreme Court decisions prevent states from banning abortion outright, but state legislation can make abortion more difficult. The newest tool is to nitpick the clinics and doctors out of business with new state "standards."

In Texas, "standards" were about facility sizes and doctors' hospital admitting requirements.

"We're really regulated already," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, who runs five Texas abortion facilities. "Primarily what we're talking about in this bill is the physical plant -- the size of the hallways, locker rooms, closets." She estimated it would cost at least $4.5 million to bring her facilities up to the new code -- which wasn't necessary.

The Texas bill, and another like it in North Carolina, also requires that doctors performing abortions have hospital-admitting or transferring privileges within 30 miles of the clinic in question.

Hospitals -- always sensitive to protests and political pressures over funding -- often decide not to enter into those agreements with abortion providers. With no privileges, the doctor can't provide abortions, so the clinic closes.

That strategy already has closed at least two Ohio clinics after Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill there Monday banning public hospitals from entering into such transfer agreements.

In North Carolina, the anti-abortion bill started as a Sharia Law ban sent over from the House, and it wasn't made available to the public online until just before the floor debate started. Senate Republicans passed it after only 90 minutes of pubic notice.

Nine other states also have hospital "transfer agreement" requirements, including Virginia and Tennessee, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy group.

Proponents say the transfer agreements ensure speedy treatment for a patient who suffers complications, but opponents say hospitals are required to accept emergency patients with or without an agreement.

The fight for reproductive freedom isn't new. In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first U.S. birth-control clinic in Brooklyn. The clinic was shut down 10 days later, and Sanger was arrested. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, and she eventually won support through the courts and opened another clinic in New York City. Her American Birth Control League in 1942 evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In the meantime, it was 1936 before a federal law prohibiting the dissemination of contraceptive information through the mail was modified and birth control information was no longer classified as "obscene."

Then in 1973, Roe v. Wade established a woman's right to safe and legal abortion, overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states. Abortion rights were reaffirmed in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case that successfully challenged Pennsylvania's effort to reinstate restrictions previously ruled unconstitutional.

Yet women (and men) still must fight for this simple freedom -- choice -- over and over.

Imagine a law that says a man can't have a vasectomy.

Conversely, imagine proposed legislation to deny men Viagra.

Good heavens. The filibustering in this great, free country would never end.