The United States has always had a sexism problem. Women weren’t allowed to own property without a man’s permission until the 1880’s. Women didn’t get the right to vote until the 1920’s. In some states, birth control was illegal until the 1960’s. Abortion was illegal until the 1970’s. Women weren’t even allowed to get their own credit cards until the 1970’s.
Today, women still aren’t paid as much as men and the current government has actually repealed legislation that was trying to close the pay gap. Women rarely find justice in the criminal justice system. They see their attackers given minimal punishment or see them walk free. They aren’t believed or taken seriously when they report crimes. They end up in jail for minor, nonviolent offenses, which breaks apart their families. Women aren’t guaranteed paid maternity leave and if they take time off to care for their children they can lose their jobs. The Religious Right is doing everything they can to take away women’s right to make reproductive decisions. Even in 2017, the United States isn’t a great place to be a woman.
Conservatives in the United States seem particularly bent on making women’s lives hell and they’re working on pieces of legislation in several states that are really harmful to women. The media has accused conservatives of waging a “War on Women” with their anti-women legislation. This may seem like overdramatic language, if you take a careful look at some of the current laws and legislation under consideration around the country, the “War on Women” becomes pretty apparent.
Here are some of the laws that have been proposed or recently passed that prove the “War on Women” is super real.
12 In Georgia, people can take upskirt photos even if they didn’t consent
Upskirt photos are pictures that show a view up a woman’s skirt. If someone consents to having this kind of photo taken, there’s obviously nothing wrong with the situation, but being legally allowed to take them without a woman’s consent is a major issue.
In Georgia, a person sitting hundreds of feet away from a woman could snap a photo as she uncrosses her legs without her ever knowing, and it’s not illegal for them to take that picture or possess it. The ruling came in a case where a man admitted to taking a picture up a woman’s skirt while in the grocery store.
Normally, this kind of photo taking would be prohibited under voyeurism laws, but Georgia’s voyeurism laws technically only prevent upskirt pictures from being taken in private spaces, like bathrooms and locker rooms, not public spaces. So, because the law on the books specifically states that the law only applies to private spaces, the judge felt that he could not rule that the upskirt photo was illegal because the photo was taken in a public space.
Instead of going with common sense and decency and creating new precedent that would cover public space, the judge set the precedent that it’s totally okay to take upskirt pictures, as long as it’s done in a public space. This reluctance to expand existing laws and set new precedent is allowing people to legally take advantage of women.
11 In Texas, it may soon be legal for pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions
A plague has been overtaking the United States and this plague is called “Religious Freedom Laws.” The idea behind these laws is that people should be allowed to refuse to do certain things they believe conflict with their religious beliefs. On the surface this sounds great because the United States protects religious freedom. But under the seemingly logical surface are nasty ulterior motives, namely discrimination.
These laws would allow people to refuse to perform their jobs if someone asked them to do something that conflicted with their personal religious beliefs. Many conservative Christians do not believe in using any form of birth control, so a pharmacist who’s also a conservative Christian may believe that filling a prescription for birth control is in conflict with their religious beliefs. A bill under consideration in Texas would allow them to refuse to fill that prescription. This means that women would face significant obstacles to getting their birth control prescriptions filled. This gives the power to religious pharmacists instead of individual women.
The legal system is being abused by the Religious Right to take reproductive decisions out of the hands of women and put them in the hands of others.
10 In North Carolina, women cannot revoke consent
There’s been a lot of conversation lately about the importance of affirmative consent in intimate encounters. Essentially, only yes means yes. If someone says no to an intimate encounter, they haven’t given consent and to force an intimate encounter would be assault. If someone is bullied into an intimate encounter, that’s a violation of consent and that would be considered an assault. If one party is too intoxicated to say yes, then continuing with intimate contact is an assault. If either party decides that they don’t want to proceed with an intimate encounter, even if explicit activity has already taken place, that means consent has been revoked and to continue would be assault.
But in North Carolina, a court ruled last month that consent cannot be revoked once intercourse has begun as long as consent was originally given. So, if two people consent to intercourse, start having intercourse, and then one of them changes their mind, the other person can legally continue even though consent has been revoked.
Apparently, there was a state Supreme decision from 1979 that said this and it’s never been overturned. This precedent has been used to prevent assault cases from being prosecuted, which means many victims have watched their attackers walk away without consequences. Instead of this precedent being overturned, it’s continually upheld. Activists are working hard to overturn the original case so the precedent can no longer be used.
9 In Oklahoma, an intoxicated person can consent even if they’re unconscious
When someone is extremely intoxicated they’re not in any state to consent to intimate encounters, especially if they’re unconscious. However, a recent case in Oklahoma set the precedent that an unconscious person can, in fact, consent to intimate encounters.
The case involved a teenage boy who performed an explicit act on a teenage girl while she was passed out drunk. The boy was charged with assaulting the girl, but the judge threw out the charges. The rationale the judged used was that the state statutes about consent were not specific as to whether an intoxicated person was capable of giving consent. The judge stated in his decision that he wasn’t willing to make a ruling that didn’t fit the specifics of current case law. In other words, he didn’t want his decision to set a precedent about whether intoxicated people can consent to intimate encounters.
This law shows an alarming misunderstanding of consent, which leads to the legal justification of assaults against women.
8 The federal government is attempting to make it legal for religious employers to refuse to cover birth control in company health plans
In 2014 the Supreme Court announced their ruling in the now infamous “Hobby Lobby case.” Obamacare had made birth control coverage mandatory and Hobby Lobby argued that this violated their right to freedom of religion because they oppose the use of birth control on religious grounds.
Many thought that the assertion was a stretch because it required the assumption that Hobby Lobby, a corporation, inherited the rights to freedom of religion that their corporate owners had. However, the Citizen’s United decision, which ruled that corporations were considered people for the purposes of campaign donations, set the precedent that corporations are people in the eyes of the Courts. So, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby the corporation had the same right to religious freedom as their corporate owners, and ruled that Hobby Lobby could refuse to cover birth control on their employee plans. This was a major win for the Religious Right and a major loss for women’s rights.
This decision didn’t, however, roll back the requirement that all companies cover birth control on their employee healthcare plans. The Trump administration is currently working on legislation that would relax the requirement for employers to cover birth control on employee healthcare plans, which would give employers the legal right to deny birth control coverage. This would mean that millions of women could lose access to affordable birth control, which takes the decision of how to manage their reproduction out of their control.
7 In Missouri, real estate agents can refuse to sell or rent land to abortion providers
One of the main ways the “War on Women” is being waged is by restricting women’s rights to make reproductive decisions, especially about abortion. Disallowing women from making decisions about their own bodies is a clear statement that they aren’t seen as equal to men, who are allowed to make any decisions they want about their bodies.
Many states have passed laws to severely limit access to abortion. Since abortion is legal, states have to be really creative about how they limit access to abortion.
A Missouri bill introduced a new tactic for restricting access to abortion by giving real estate agents the right to refuse to sell or rent property to abortion providers. This means that any individual real estate agent can legally tell an abortion provider that they can’t have the space to create their business. This would make it significantly harder for abortion providers to start new facilities and it means that current abortion providers who are renting space could be evicted and forced to shut down.
6 In multiple states, teenagers must get permission from their parents to get an abortion
Despite what anti-choice lobbyists would have us believe, abortion is actually a relatively safe and routine procedure. There’s very little risk to the woman getting the abortion. But in many states, anti-choice lobbyists have argued that abortion is a dangerous procedure and to ensure the safety of teenagers seeking abortions, their parents must consent to the procedure.
While these laws are supposedly to keep teenagers safe, requiring a parent to sign off on an abortion can actually be dangerous for many teenagers. If the teen seeking the abortion lives in an abusive household, then asking their parents for permission to get an abortion may result in physical harm. If the teen’s parents are anti-abortion, they would likely force the teen to keep the baby. This could result in emotional harm since the teen’s agency is being stripped from them and they’re being forced in to parenthood when they don’t want to be a parent.
Forcing teenage girls to get their parents’ consent in order to receive an abortion is just another tactic to subjugate women. Stripping them of the right to make decisions about their bodies and their futures shows young women that they are not valuable members of society and that their futures don’t matter.
5 In Oklahoma, a woman may soon have to get permission from the man who impregnated her if she wants an abortion
In a world that valued women, pregnant women would be completely free to decide whether or not they want to have an abortion. Abortion would be considered a medical procedure and we would allow women to make the decision to have an abortion just like they would decide to get any other medical procedure. But in the United States, women are so devalued that there’s legislation out there that proposes that abortion should be a man’s decision.
The Oklahoma state legislature is currently reviewing a bill that would require women to get written consent from the man who impregnated her in order to get an abortion. The bill does lay out some exceptions, like if the pregnancy is the result of an assault or if the woman’s life is in danger, but in any other scenario, the “father” of the baby would have to literally sign off on the abortion. The bill even says that a man can demand a DNA test to prove that he is the father in order to prevent the woman from getting the abortion.
So, in Oklahoma, they’re attempting to legalize the belief that a man’s opinion is more important than a woman’s body and that a man has legal control over a woman’s body if she’s pregnant.
4 The federal government is working on an anti-abortion “Heartbeat Bill”
Late last year, the Ohio state legislature passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country. The bill made it illegal to get an abortion once a fetal heartbeat could be heard on an ultrasound. The bill argued that once a fetal heartbeat could be heard, the fetus would be considered a baby and an abortion would constitute murder. The bill was dubbed the “Heartbeat Bill.”
The bill would effectively make abortion completely illegal because a fetal heartbeat can be heard so early in a pregnancy. In fact, a fetal heartbeat can be detected before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. So, if a woman found out she was pregnant and the same week went to get an abortion, it would already be illegal for her to get an abortion because of the “Heartbeat Bill.”
Luckily, Governor Kasich vetoed the bill in Ohio. Unfortunately, the Trump administration were fans of the bill and they proposed a federal level “Heartbeat Bill.” This would essentially ban abortion nationwide. The bill is currently being reviewed by a Congressional subcommittee.
3 In some states, “nuisance laws” are preventing women from reporting their abusers
“Nuisance Laws” are a relatively new legal trend spreading across the country. Essentially, these laws say that there will be legal consequences if too many calls to the police are made from a single residence within a certain period of time. The idea is that if criminals face additional consequences for having the police called on them frequently, they will reduce their criminal activity at that location. The nuisance laws can also punish landlords if too many police calls are made to properties that they own.
In reality, these “nuisance laws” aren’t practical at all. They may work to deter criminals who are having the cops called on them by others, but they don’t help victims who are continually calling the police from their own residences. Victims of domestic abuse often need to call the cops to intervene on a regular basis. Under these “nuisance laws,” victims could be punished for reporting their abuse ‘too often,’ which would lead to them not calling to report their abuse. Their landlords could be punished as well, which could result in the landlord evicting the victims and their families.
These laws are just one more example of how the legal system ignores the real-life impact of their laws on women.
2 In many states, victims of domestic abuse face deportation if they report their abuse
One of the major platforms Trump campaigned on was immigration reform. He promised to deport millions of people living in the United States without proper documentation. He increased the number of agents working for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and directed this agency to conduct raids to arrest people at their homes.
Millions of people are living in fear of being deported. This leads many, especially women, to stay silent about the violence they’re experiencing in their own homes. They fear that if they call the cops to report the violence, instead of being protected, they will be arrested and deported.
Many women experience domestic violence on a regular basis. For many, the only way this violence ever ends is through the intervention of the criminal justice system. But for women who are living in the US without the proper documentation, the criminal justice system is against them. They silently endure the violence they face at home in order to stay in the US with their families. Instead of protecting these women, the US government is ensuring their victimization.
1 The federal government repealed protections for women in the workplace
The Obama White House did a lot to advance women’s rights within the workplace, including passing the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. This order required workplaces to be more accountable with their salary practices and their processes for sexual harassment. The order sought to force companies to report on the gap between men’s wages and women’s wages and it sought to force companies to make it easier and safer for women to report sexual harassment. The intention of the order was to identify companies that were not treating their female employees fairly and prevent them from receiving federal contracts that were funded by taxpayer dollars.
In March of this year, Trump signed an Executive Order that repealed the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. By revoking this order, Trump has made it possible for companies who have track records of mistreating female employees to receive taxpayer dollars to fund their activities. Repealing this order is just another piece of evidence to prove that the Trump administration cares way more about corporations than people, especially when those people are women.
These are just a few of the laws being passed or being considered that are straight up harmful to women. These laws being considered across the country show a pattern of eroding women’s rights devaluing them as members of society. The “War on Women” seeks to systemically strip women of their rights and legalize the beliefs that men are worth more than women and that men’s decisions matter more than women’s decisions. These laws seek to codify sexism. This pattern of anti-women legislation has to end before women are completely legally subjugated.
Sources: Ms. Magazine, The Guardian, Time, Newsweek, Austin’s NPR Station: KUT 90.5, Planned Parenthood, Congress.gov, New York Times, Romper, Mother Jones, NBC News