It Really IS That Important


It’s hard to believe we’re sitting here on a Saturday — with an enormous Democratic majority in congress — facing the possibility that an entire group of the women most in need of legal abortions won’t be able to get them with insurance they have paid for, because they are part of a public option or because they get subsidies in order to make health insurance affordable at all.

We’ve just seen a couple of progressive amendments to the health-care bill sidelined for different reasons, but now a ban on most abortions in the public option or plans paid for in any part with subsidies IS allowed to come to a vote.

It’s really just one more thing on top of a pile of things that make women feel like the final straw is close. Come on, we’re being told — don’t bring down health-care reform because of one little bitty thing. OK, I would sort of get that — if women’s rights weren’t always getting the short end of the stick, if we weren’t always being told to just be nice girls and go along, and everything will be OK. It won’t be OK for those women already so financially stressed that they can’t afford expensive private insurance and must rely on a more economical private plan. Those are the women least likely to be able to throw together the money for an abortion in a timely manner.

The rage I’m seeing expressed by Democratic women should be a wakeup call for the Ohio Democratic Party, which seems to be twiddling its thumbs while an anti-choice extremist is lining up to be our candidate for secretary of state. There seems to be an attitude of, oh, it doesn’t really matter. After all, the secretary of state doesn’t deal with those issues. And anyway, aren’t we a big tent? No, not when it comes to basic civil rights we aren’t. And not when it comes to an office that is ALWAYS a springboard for higher office.

I become more concerned every day about the party’s lack of urgency about this. I’m hearing a lot of anguish from the women I know who are active in the party locally and sadly also, a sense of powerlessness, a feeling that their concerns are always ignored so why bother to even express them? These are some of the key foot soldiers in the party, the most involved and engaged women!

I did talk to a couple of people at the ODP in Columbus to express my concerns. They told me the ODP doesn’t get involved in recruiting or discouraging candidates. Really? Then would someone there like to tell me why state auditor candidate David Pepper and Supreme Court candidate Mary Jane Trapp have both publicly said they were recruited in talks at which I was present and also told me this directly? I am sure they would say the same thing if you asked. It’s on the record.

The Ohio Democratic Party already doesn’t have the best record of running women for office. It’s possible that this anti-choice candidate could be the only woman running statewide for a non-judicial office next year if Jennifer Brunner doesn’t win the Senate primary. How is that going to energize women to work for the ticket? In fact, many of us feel we CAN’T work for “the ticket”: We’d have to pick and choose campaigns, given that we can’t work for someone who wants to take away women’s reproductive rights.

Next year is an off year, which means that a lot hinges on enthusiasm and turnout. Making women feel that their concerns are once again at the bottom of the list isn’t going to excite this very critical Democratic base. And that could easily take down most of the rest of the ticket. I don’t want to wake up the day after the election and find that only Gov. Strickland and Attorney General Rich Cordray have managed to be elected/re-elected. (Both are pro-choice, by the way).

This makes me feel like I’m back some 40 years ago, when men discussed ideas and made policy, and women made coffee and cleaned up. In the ’70s, when I first moved to Cleveland and got involved in rock ’n’ roll and, peripherally, what was then called the counterculture, it was clear that they were bastions of sexism and discrimination, despite their lofty pronouncements — similar perhaps to today’s Democratic party? I walked out of an underground newspaper after a single issue when it became clear that only men got to write anything meaningful. (But here, honey: you can do a short album review of this obscure girl folksinger no one’s ever heard of). I helped send a desperate friend out of state to get an abortion pre-Roe v. Wade, when abortions were still illegal in Ohio. I have lived through all of this, saw my dreams and ambitions destroyed by it, and thought we were past it. It breaks my heart that another generation of women — and another after that and maybe even another after that — have to fight the same battles to be heard and taken seriously.