The Importance of State Actions
Gains and losses for women’s rights are occuring increasingly at the state policy or legislative level. Many restrictive policies and legislation and too little progressive measures are emanating from state legislatures and from Governors’ mansions. From access to abortion and family planning to voting rights, economic equality, DREAM acts, and LGBT rights, the actions of state lawmakers are critically impacting social justice and human rights issues.
We’ve taken to the streets – now it’s time to take to the halls of the state capitals. Elected officials often underestimate the power of determined students. For example, the state legislature in Virginia was considering a bill that would require every woman seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound. Women, including many students, rallied against the measure, and after a protest of over 1,000 women and men lining the sidewalk to the state capitol, the Governor removed the dangerous provision from legislative consideration.
Legislative state attacks are aimed at more than abortion access. Family planning, collective bargaining, educational opportunity, immigration reform, and civil and human rights are areas that anti-woman policymakers have set in their sights. We must act!
What’s At Stake
Attacks are occurring on a wide range of issues affecting women. Here are just some of the attempts to roll back women’s rights we’ve seen so far.
Abortion and Family Planning
State legislatures have passed laws, and Governors have signed laws into measure, slashing family planning funding, banning abortion at 6, 12, and 20 weeks, and putting TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws in place aimed at closing clinics.
Civil Rights, LGBT, and Immigration Rights
Many states have enacted voter suppression laws in an attempt to prevent students, people of color, women, and low-income individuals from voting. These laws limit the number of early voting days, make it harder to vote by absentee ballot, and also require specific photo IDs at the polls in order to vote at all. State legislatures have also been key in banning same-sex marriage and adoption rights. Both anti-immigration laws and positive reforms such as DREAM acts are being introduced and passed.
Economic Equity and Workers’ Rights
In 2011, Wisconsin made national headlines with an anti-union law aimed at predominantly female professions, e.g. teachers, social workers, and nurses. Since then, worker’s rights and collective bargaining have been under repeated attack. Some bills passed by state legislatures aim at exempting predominantly male unions, such as firefighters and police, from the negative impacts of the laws while leaving predominantly female unions like teachers vulnerable.
Legislatures are slashing funding for higher education and state universities and colleges. The Ryan Budget introduced and passed in the US House doubled interest rates on student loans and cuts funds for Pell Grants.