New legislation signifies steps backwards for women’s rights

Jen Vogl, Copy Editor

We are one decade into the 21st century, and already more rights for women exist or have been extended than ever in United States history. However, recent legislation that has been introduced thrust women’s rights back to before the third wave of feminism. These issues should raise everyone’s concern, not just those of more vocal feminists.

The national average for how much women make is 77 cents for every dollar made by men in the same position. Minnesota’s average ranks slightly worse, with women making only 76 cents in comparison.

This is why it was especially disconcerting in Wisconsin when, last month, Governor Scott Walker signed a repeal of the state’s Equal Pay Law, even though women there only earn 75 cents in comparison. The reason given for the repeal was that there were unnecessary lawsuits as a result of the law, and that the repeal will clear them out. However, discrimination lawsuits at the state level, which the law provided for, are easier, faster, and cheaper than at the federal level.

Another issue with the repeal of the law is that most of the dialogue against it comes from male politicians who do not necessarily realize that the wage gap exists. One such politician, Republican Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman, attributed the gap to women staying at home, ignoring the growing number of women in the workforce and the fact that female first-year college graduates still earn five percent less than their male counterparts.

Women’s rights have also been rescinded in regards to those seeking an abortion. New laws in Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia have been passed that mandate that a woman seeking an abortion must first undergo an ultrasound. The law in Texas requires that the doctor performing the ultrasound has to describe the fetus in detail for the woman. While the law allows that a woman seeking an abortion for a fetus with extreme birth defect not be subjected to the description, not all clinics have been made aware of this exception, making for an extremely painful process for both the woman and for the doctor who has to do it or risk losing their medical license, which is the punishment for not complying with the new laws.

The bill in Virginia, even though it was never signed into law, has been making even more headlines because it would have required a transvaginal ultrasound beforehand, and this procedure would have been done with or without the consent of the woman. Even though the woman can “look away” while it is happening, this experience is extremely uncomfortable, especially for those women whose pregnancy was a result of rape.

Again, the main issue with these laws is that the dialogue supporting them comes from men with limited or no medical experience and who are speaking from a position of privilege. Doctors speaking about the new ultrasound laws have pointed out that there is no medical reason for them to exist. The politicians supporting the repeal of equal pay laws have never had to face discrimination in the workplace, so for them it does not necessarily exist.

Pay discrimination is still present in the United States, and the removal of laws to combat this widens the wage gap even further. Also, no matter where one stands on the issue of abortion, women should not be forced to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure designed to cause mental duress. Both men and women need to recognize this and work towards making the gap disappear altogether.