Staff Columnist

Rights are our rights, right?

'Heartbeat' bill shows battle for women's rights is ongoing

T-shirts advocating forced pregnancy for the purpose of increasing Iowa's population were available at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 27, 2017.
T-shirts advocating forced pregnancy for the purpose of increasing Iowa's population were available at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 27, 2017.

No modern, American man in the majority rolls out of bed in the morning only to ponder if his destiny or the destiny of his sons will be infringed by the state.

For women and their daughters, it is a daily occurrence, a concern that manifested last week as Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an unconstitutional declaration of war against Iowa women who seek to control their own bodies and fates.

We have long talked in this nation, as well as around the globe, about what has been won. We nod at each other on the street, joke as we quote advertising slogans: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

We’ve forgotten that basic human rights are enshrined in our historical documents, conferred to all people, male and female.

Sporting events are won. Power is won. Elections are won. And, unlike human rights, they can also be lost.

As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said more than 150 years ago, “The right is ours. The question now is: How shall we get possession of what rightfully belongs to us? … The right is ours. Have it, we must. Use it, we will. The pens, the tongues, the fortunes, the indomitable wills of many women are already pledged to secure this right. …

“The great truth that no just government can be formed without the consent of the governed we shall echo and re-echo in the ears of the unjust judge, until by continual coming we shall weary him.”

There’s an inherent finality in saying that something has been won.

We’ve won the right to vote.

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We’ve won the right to make a life with the person we love.

We’ve won the right to practice the religion we choose.

We’ve won the right to move freely around the country.

We’ve won the right to peacefully assemble and speak out.

We’ve won the right to medical privacy and control over our own bodies.

No, we haven’t. At some past point we won the power to demand recognition of the rights we’ve had all along; basic human rights that require constant reaffirmation and tending.

We’ve become complacent and complicit because of this “winning” trap.

In 1948 the world came together to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting out for the first time basic human rights that must be universally protected. The document echoes the U.S. Declaration of Independence, as well as subsequent updates to our Constitution.

More recently, in 1979, most of the world came together again as part of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. But the U.S. remains one of only a handful of countries that has refused to specifically enshrine women’s rights. In doing so, our nation has the dubious distinction of standing with Iran, Somalia and Sudan.

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As recent events here in the Hawkeye State should make abundantly clear, this is not some far-flung battle and we are not permanently poised as victors atop some mountain.

The rights the state believes you’ve won are rights the state believes it can take away.

What comes next, as Cady Stanton so eloquently said, is up to you. As for me, I will continue to battle with every means at my disposal for what already belongs to women.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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