4 Things You Won't Believe Women Still Can't Do In The United States In 2016
In case anyone out there thinks we live in a "post-feminist" society, here's a friendly reminder that there are still many things women still can't do. Even in 2016. Even in one of the most developed countries in the world. Yes, we've come a long way since our parents' and grandparents' generations, but gender equality is still a long way off.
In order to understand why we lack many privileges today, it helps to acknowledge that many of the privileges we do enjoy have been gained very recently. States could legally ban abortions until 1973, and companies weren't required to provide maternity leave of any sort (paid or unpaid) until 1993, for example. Many of our grandmothers could not own credit cards in their own names, and many of our mothers couldn't play sports in school as kids.
Since then, women have won some significant legal battles, but there are still a lot of loopholes that render these laws meaningless in certain situations, and there are many forms of discrimination women face that are not addressed by any law. Here are a few things you might not realize women still can't do throughout this country today.
1. Get Guaranteed Paid Maternity Leave
Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, women are now at least guaranteed three months of maternity leave during their child's first year — but if they choose to take it, it could come at the cost of supporting that child, because those three months are unpaid. Right now, the United States is one of only three countries in the world that don't make companies provide paid maternity leave. The other two are Papa New Guinea and Oman. And according to a National Partnership for Women & Families survey, companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to save money by not paying employees on parental leave; only 16 percent do.
2. Access To Safe, Legal Abortion
It's technically illegal for states to completely ban abortion, thanks to SCOTUS's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (which, by the way, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will try to find a way around if elected, and which Donald Trump has also condemned). But that hasn't stopped them from restricting it tremendously. Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming each have only one abortion clinic, and a law is currently in effect that will leave only one abortion clinic standing in Louisiana as well. On a federal level, the Hyde Amendment prevents government insurance plans from covering abortions. As a consequence, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 18 to 37 percent of women on Medicaid have given birth against their will because they couldn't afford abortions. If government motions to defund Planned Parenthood are successful (which all the Republican presidential candidates will also push for), affordable abortions — which, again, are legal — could become even scarcer.
3. Be Guaranteed Equal Rights Under The Law
Women currently don't have a legal basis to argue for upholding the rights they currently have or gaining the ones they lack because the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, first proposed almost a century ago in 1923, has yet to pass. Currently, the government is not allowed to pass laws or make rulings that treat citizens differently by race or religion, but they're still allowed to do so with gender. This has led to inconsistent court decisions regarding gender discrimination, because the standards that rulings must uphold for women are more lenient than for other marginalized groups. In other words, the government is allowed to pass laws that treat men and women differently.
4. Get Birth Control Cheaply And Easily
Under Obamacare, women don't have to pay for birth control, right? Not exactly. The Affordable Care Act only got rid of copay on birth control for newer insurance plans and certain methods. For example, if you prefer the NuvaRing to the pill (which many do, because you have to remember it once a month rather than once a day and it has fewer side effects than the pill), you're probably out of luck. Under most plans, it's a "preferred brand" that costs $15-50 per month in copay.
In addition, plans created before the Affordable Care Act's passage on March 23, 2010 don't have to cover any form of birth control. And even if your plan does cover contraception, many states don't guarantee your pharmacy will give you it. According to the National Women's Law Center, there have been reports of at least 25 states of pharmacies refusing to refill birth control prescriptions, as not all state laws are clear on whether pharmacies can refuse customers birth control based on religious beliefs. Good job, America.