Bellingham, WA -- Over nine decades after women won the right to vote and four decades after they won control over their own bodies via the Roe v. Wade decision, women today in the U.S. are still under attack. In fact, what has transpired in recent months is being referred to as a "War on Women." After an avalanche of Republican legislation restricting women's access to reproductive healthcare services, on February 29 conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh referred to Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute" simply because she had the courage to insist that private medical insurers include coverage for women's contraceptives within their plans. Limbaugh's comments have been widely deplored and have consequently rekindled debates centered on women's rights that many thought were concluded decades ago.
As a result, women's rights supporters nationwide have coordinated a response with a national day of action on April the 28th. Marches and rallies will be held on this day in communities in all fifty states. As an organization firmly committed to the equality of men and women, Socialist Alternative is helping promote these protests across the country.
To build momentum for the upcoming day of action, the Bellingham branch of Socialist Alternative held an informational forum to "Stop the War on Women!" on April the 3rd. Speaking at this event was Gianna Gargiulo, the Coordinator of WWU VOX - Voices for Planned Parenthood, as well as Socialist Alternative member Sarah White, a Registered Nurse and an activist in the Service Employees International Union. Over fifty people packed the room to hear the speakers and participate in the discussion.
Gargiulo began the forum by recounting in detail the recent events that led to the "War on Women." She then continued by clarifying how Planned Parenthood's existence is continuously in a precarious state due to the routine assailment it must endure from elected officials and certain media pundits. Gargiulo also informed the crowd as to the many beneficial services that Planned Parenthood provides for both men and women and particularly poor and working women. Gargiulo made a clear and concise case as to the social benefits of Planned Parenthood.
Following her, White expounded on the role capitalism plays in the exploitation of women, and how the Democratic Party, despite its rhetoric, in actuality holds an abysmal record in defending women's rights. It was mentioned that former Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were active in repressing women's access to abortions, and that current President Barack Obama revoked the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation that Plan B contraception pills be made available over the counter to women under age 17.
White addressed a myriad of topics relating to the oppression of women in the 21st century. These included the trials and tribulations of domestic workers, the inequality of women in workplaces, and the all too common violence that both men and societies subject upon women. Socialist Alternative members also explained that when domestic work such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly are factored in, women do nearly 70% of all that work. Much of that work is unpaid. The common denominator in all that was discussed was how capitalism plays a dominant role in the objectification, enslavement, and overall abuse of women throughout the planet.
The question was posed: Why should every generation of women have to struggle and fight to defend their basic rights that were seemingly won by the generation before them? It was stressed that in order to end the oppression of women once and for all, the capitalist system as a whole must be replaced by a democratic socialist society that guarantees full funding for a single-payer healthcare system, quality childcare, and living wage jobs for all. The first step in achieving this is to build mass movements in the streets, through protests such as the one on April 28, and link the women's movement with other oppressed groups such as the youth, workers, and people of color.
The audience was quite receptive to this message, and they wound up donating over seventy dollars to help defeat the "War on Women." What was even more inspiring was that one woman who attended the meeting acknowledged that at the beginning of the forum, she was not a socialist, but after she listened to the arguments conveyed by the Socialist Alternative members, she felt that socialism was the best way to liberate women once and for all!