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LWV ABC Blog
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||
LWV ABC Blog
Michelle Witte, Executive Director of LWV Minnesota, spoke at the Women’s March in Anoka on October 2. She delivered a thoughtful message about the health of women and children and the Rights of Women being linked to the improvement of health in our democracy.
Following is the text she spoke from at the meeting. Photo credits to Sue Dergantz.
Women’s Health = Democracy Health - Women’s March Abortion Access Rally, 10/2/21
Hello and welcome to all of you who are lifting up your voices today in support of the constitutional right for a woman to control her reproductive choices.
Now, you might be wondering, what is the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota doing here at this rally? What does the League of Women Voters have to do with Abortion Access?
Well – let me give you a bit of a history lesson. The LWV was incorporated 102 years ago, on the eve of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which expanded voting rights for women. As soon as the suffragists achieved this new milestone in our democracy, which took 72 years to achieve, they transformed all the suffrage associations into the League of Women Voters, because getting the vote was not the end for women – it was just the BEGINNING of what women saw possible, in improving lives for families. Women did not want the vote for the PRIVILEGE it presented, but rather for the JUSTICE they could now seek within THEIR government, by being truly represented at the tables of power. Of course, we know it took much longer for ALL people of color to truly be able to exercise their right to vote and to be represented within the government – and we’re still on that journey today. But I want to make this so very clear – that the reason women were fighting for this right is they wanted to make a difference in the lives of women and children. Women in 1920 immediately fought for better standards of living for women and kids – setting a limit on women’s work day to “only 12 hours a day.” Starting kindergarten for children. Setting work place safety and hygiene standards. Getting the right to vote was the beginning of being able to successfully advocate for the rights and needs of women and children.
And the biggest start to advocacy was becoming educated… the LWV still today, while we’re nonpartisan, meaning we don’t endorse political parties nor candidates, we DO encourage being educated on candidates, and taking action on important issues – issues that have been studied extensively, and have achieved a consensus within the membership. And one of those key issues was in 1983, just 10 years after Roe V. Wade, when the League came out with the following position on abortion access: "Public policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices. (1983)." We have held this position for 38 years – and it is now a position held by over 60% of most Americans.
Now I’m not a women’s health expert, but what I would say is ultimately at the core of the Texas Abortion Ban is the POOR HEALTH of our democracy. As it turns out, these issues are LINKED. The health of women and children and the RIGHTS of WOMEN have always been linked to the improvement of HEALTH in our DEMOCRACY. As racism was challenged in the 1965 Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act, and as access to education and HEALTHCARE has improved for women in our country – do you know what else improved? Women’s ability to control their reproduction. Unwanted pregnancies and teen pregnancies are AT ALL TIME LOWS, thanks to expansion of rights, education and health care to women.
I think we can clearly see in the example of the new Texas Anti-Abortion laws, that Texas FAILS it’s DEMOCRACY HEALTH CHECK-UP on many statistics, which are OUT of normal range:
Closing access to women and people of color to vote and to serve in the legislature, to fairly represent the population of Texas, ultimately equates to what we’re all here about today – closing access to LEGAL HEALTH SERVICES for women.
So why is the League of Women Voters here again today? Because so many issues we’re facing in our country today can be directly attributed to the POOR HEALTH OF OUR DEMOCRACY. And because just like winning the right to vote, the only thing that will improve our democracy is people like all of you here today, continuing to speak up for these important rights that we also know are those agreed upon by the majority of the country.
In order to uphold abortion access -or voting rights or climate change, or any of the important issues the League of Women Voters has studied and put forward as positions that are HEALTHY for our DEMOCRACY – we need to keep staying involved and active. That means – get to know your candidates for school board, and city council and vote on November 2nd. Become an election judge. Join an organization like the League or other civic organization, to help improve the Health of our Democracy. Support women’s health clinics like Nucleus Clinic, which has been serving women in Anoka County since 1971.
Have your voice heard in the redistricting process here in Minnesota, where we’re working to create much more fair maps than Texas. Encourage your elected representatives to support POLICY SOLUTIONS – like making birth control for women free. Because a HEALTHY DEMOCRACY - one that supports voting access and equal representation of our citizens around the tables of power - will also support access to women’s health and to her fundamental constitutional right to privacy with regard to her reproductive choices.
And most of all – don’t give up! This is not the time to tune out, or let anger put you on the sidelines. As my great hero, the late Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis said, "Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part."
Thank you all for DOING YOUR PART by using YOUR constitutionally protected right to raise your voice here today!