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“...remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.” Abigail Adams
In 1776, Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, wrote a letter to her husband asking that the political and legal status of women be improved under the new government being formed.
She was asking that the revolutionary rhetoric about being “created equal” and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” include women. The founding fathers did not remember the ladies in 1776, nor in 1789 when writing the Constitution. Nor do we “remember the ladies” much today.
Motherhood is supposedly as sacred to Americans as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. But you wouldn’t know it from our neglect of the needs of women and children. Eventually women did make progress. In 1920, after 143 years, they got the right to vote. Women are no longer legally the property of their husbands. Women can become any occupation and, at least nominally, receive equal pay for equal work. But as the prevalence of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, pervasive violence against women, and many other social and economic statistics show, women still have a long way to go.
The policies of the current administration are what happens when “husbands” (or old, white males) have too much power. It proves that “all Men would be tyrants if they could.” Their cruel and unnecessary policy of separating young children from their parents at the border is only one of many policies that hurt women. The whole bungled affair shows their total incompetence and lack of caring about women and children.
The Trump administration recently opposed a resolution by the U.N. World Health Organization to encourage the breast feeding of babies. The resolutions to “protect, promote and support” the practice of breast-feeding was expected to easily be approved. The Trump administration not only opposed the resolution but they threatened to cut off foreign aid for countries who sponsored or supported it. The resolution passed anyway. Russia sponsored it, bringing further embarrassment to the United States.
Why would the U.S oppose breast feeding? The Winona Daily News summed it up nicely,
“Unfortunately, the apparent answer is as simple as it is crass. Instead of standing up for the health of babies and children around the world, this country’s delegation stood up for the interests of corporate manufacturers of infant formula.”
One wonders if anyone in this administration thinks about the PR consequences of their stupid actions? One would think the campaign contributions would not be worth the bad press.
But this effort to weaken the breast feeding resolution is only the latest effort to defend the baby formula industry. In 1981, under Republican Ronald Reagan, the U.S. voted against a voluntary international code to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breast milk substitutes. It had been estimated that a million babies died of malnutrition each year when they were given commercial formula and other baby foods prepared under unsanitary conditions. The United States was the sole dissenting vote, against 118 countries in favor, after an intense lobbying campaign by makers of infant formula.
Many other actions by the current administration, and the Republicans in Congress, adversely affect women and children. When they cut funding for food stamps, housing, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and school lunch programs they are hurting women and children. Cuts to domestic programs disproportionately impact on women. Cuts to Social Security hurt women more than men because they are more dependent on Social Security for total income. Lack of enforcement of health, safety, environmental and consumer protection laws also have greater impact on women and children, especially in poor and minority communities.
All this is nothing new. Republicans killed the Equal Rights Amendment for women. They opposed the the Family and Medical Leave Act to help women deal with family illnesses. They have for decades opposed a universal national healthcare program. It was Republicans who voted NUMEROUS times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is a clear and irrefutable historical pattern. Most Republicans have always opposed programs that were good for women and children while supporting massive military spending and corporate welfare.
Promoting the health and well being of people, especially women and children, has never been a high priority for any of our politicians. Unlike all other modern countries in the world, many working mothers in our country do not have paid maternity leave, sick leave, affordable childcare, or health insurance. The United States is dead last among first world countries in programs to help women and children.
The results of all this is clear. The U.S is also dead last in most measures of health and wellness. A news item this week provides proof. A USA Today investigation concluded that the United States is the “most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.” The high rates of death are largely due to lack of health insurance, poor prenatal care, and poor procedures by medical providers. The report says despite medical advances the rate of women dying before, during or after childbirth has more than doubled since the 1990s. The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality and infant mortality of developed countries.
Why do women put up with this? Abigail Adams went on to say in her letter,
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
Clearly the rebellion has not happened. Women are 50% of the population. One would think women would use their power to make changes. The upcoming elections provide a chance. The the Minnesota 8th Congressional district has two women candidates, Kirsten Hagen Kennedy of North Branch and Michelle Lee of Duluth. In Wisconsin Margaret Engebretson is running for Congress in the 7th district.
It is time women remembered themselves and voted for Democratic women candidates.