Speaking of Women's Rights: Some big wins, one frustrating loss, and so much more to do!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Some big wins, one frustrating loss, and so much more to do!

It’s that time of the year. No, not Bowl Game time: rather, it's time to obsessively review all the changes, advances, defeats, seized and missed opportunities that we experienced this year.  I’ve been reading past resolutions and plans and “what-ifs” to see what can be learned from them to make 2013 an even better year.  If that’s possible. 

Be it RESOLVED: that civil marriage is a fundamental right, and that all loving, committed couples in Washington (and throughout the country) are entitled to share in the rights, the responsibilities, and the protections of marriage.  Whew! Cross that one off, at least in Washington.  Mind you, the resolution dates from 2004, but after all, eight years is not that long in the struggle for justice.  We’ll take it.

We are DETERMINED to protect the right of all women to choose how to form and maintain their families.  At Legal Voice, this is an ongoing resolution, a fight that seems never to end. In 2012, we were able to take a firm, triumphant stand alongside Jennie Linn McCormack, an Idaho woman who was prosecuted for ending her pregnancy by using medication she obtained over the Internet.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a trial court ruling that Ms. McCormack was likely to succeed in her case arguing that the law prohibiting a woman from terminating her own pregnancy was unconstitutional; we’re proud to have filed a persuasive amicus brief in the case. 

We INSIST that women – indeed, all patients – have the right to obtain their needed and lawful medications.  Okay, we didn’t quite succeed in this one.  In fact, it’s probably the biggest disappointment we’ve had in years.  In February, a federal judge ruled that anti-choice pharmacists and pharmacies could refuse to provide emergency contraception to women.  With all appropriate respect to the courts and the rule of law, we think the judge was wrong, and we’re not stopping until we prevail.

We DEMAND that women have the right – and the practical ability – to work and to care for their family members and themselves, and the ability to escape family violence.  That’s why we have been fighting for paid family leave for many years, and why we are so proud to be part of the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, which persuaded the Seattle City Council to adopt a Paid Sick and Safe Days ordinance covering employees who work in the city.  And we’re not stopping there: we’ll be in Olympia advocating for paid family leave, so all workers in Washington can leave violent situations and care for their family members without risking their jobs.

We ENDEAVOR to help women and men who have nowhere else to turn understand their legal rights and have some ability to represent themselves in court if that is their only option.  We’ve been doing that for more than thirty years, and we know we’ve made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people. Whether the issue is marriage for same sex couples, the rights of workers, or simply how to navigate the legal system, Legal Voice provides information that people can understand and use.  

Establishing new law, enforcing the laws already on the books, educating people about the law and their rights – in 2012, we at Legal Voice made great strides with all three strategies.  Is there more we can accomplish? Absolutely. Are we prepared to fight on?  Without question.  As for topping this year – well, stay tuned, because we have plans. BIG PLANS.