By Karen Vieth
While the Interstate Highways were becoming congested with families traveling for a three-day holiday weekend, the War on Women was ramping up. Many were taken by surprise when Walker signed three regressive bills behind closed doors on Easter Friday. These bills were slipped in among 51 bills signed that Thursday and Friday. The target of this legislation? Women. It can no longer be denied that the War on Women is real.
Among the most shocking of this legislation is Senate Bill 202, which reverses Wisconsin’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (Act 20). Act 20 had been instituted in 2009 as a result of Wisconsin’s poor standing with paying women for equal work, though it includes other oppressed groups as well. In 2009, Wisconsin ranked 36th nationwide in gender equality when it came to pay. Act 20 made it easier for women, and other parties who were discriminated against, to take their employers to court. Though there was not an obvious increase in court cases as a result of this legislation, the threat of lawsuits clearly made an impact. In 2010, Wisconsin moved up to 24th nationwide in gender parity.
Glenn Grothman, author of the bill, explained the rationale behind the SB 202 and the reason women in Wisconsin make $.79 to every $1 made by men in their same position, “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.” Grothman also explained that women prioritize differently and their focus on child rearing is another reason that they receive less pay. It is clear that this type of sentiment is laden with gender bias and turns back the clock on how women are viewed in society and in gender segregated roles. Many women-dominated careers, such as nurse, child care worker and teacher, were targeted by Governor Walker’s extreme attack on workers last year. Now, during a time when women’s economic security is increasingly threatened due to Act 10, women will no longer have the assurance of seeking compensatory or punitive damages for workplace discrimination.
The same weekend women’s rights to equal pay were dismissed, Governor Walker also signed into law Senate Bills 92, 237 and 306. Senate Bill 92 bans any health insurance exchange from providing abortion coverage. This exchange is part of a marketplace for people looking for coverage that will begin in 2014. SB 92 wrongly dictates what services a private insurance carrier can or cannot provide. Senate Bill 306 also places new restrictions on access to female reproductive rights. This legislation requires a doctor to complete a physical examination and one-on-one conferences with women prior to receiving an abortion. During this visit, there are certain talking points a physician is required to address, such as asking patients if they are being coerced into an abortion. Doctors not following this protocol, even if those mandates don’t match standard of care, will face a Class 1 Felony Charge. Not only does this roll back the clock on women’s reproductive rights, it also restricts a doctor’s ability to advocate in the best interest of his/her patient.
Easter Friday’s legislative package wouldn’t be complete without an attack on education. Senate Bill 237 (SB 237) is an assault on sex education practices in our schools. This bill was passed, in spite of the fact that teen pregnancies in Wisconsin have gone down by 16% over the past few years under the Wisconsin’s Healthy Youth Act. SB 237 repeals Wisconsin’s Healthy Youth Act which required schools that teach sex education to use curriculum that is medically and scientifically valid and proven to impact teen behavior. This decrease in teen pregnancies is an effect of teachers educating their students on contraceptive use, sexually transmitted diseases and making positive choices. All of this is now threatened due to this new legislation which requires schools to teach abstinence as the only reliable form of birth control and the only way of preventing sexually transmitted disease.
These bills, though shocking, are just a piece of the larger picture. Back in June of 2011, Madison teachers had the following sign over the entrance to their tent in Walkerville, “$300,000 cut to cervical cancer screening.” At this time, we had already seen funding eliminated for Planned Parenthood, $1.6 billion cut from education, $300,000 cut from Sexual Assault Victims Services Grant Program and the list sadly goes on. This new assault continues that trend and serves as a reminder of how important it is for women to get involved in politics. This War on Women must not stand. Whether that involvement is writing your legislator, attending a rally, writing a letter to the editor, voting, or running for office, it is imperative that women everywhere fight back and stand united in Solidarity.
Courtesy of GreaterWisComm
Scott Walker recently eliminated a law that protects women from being paid less. Walker’s action makes it easier for corporations to pay women less than men. It’s incredible that Scott Walker would want to take our state backward. We can’t support Walker because Walker just doesn’t care about women.
Links to Take Action: