Beyond body parts: what women really care about on election day

We all make choices every day. The issue isn't the right to choose, but instead, what it is we're choosing.

We are worth more than a free condom or a free prescription.

The value of women is at stake in America today. Compared to women in other nations, America’s women are incredibly blessed with freedom and opportunity. And yet, as a woman myself, I often think about the plights American women face. I think about the almost two million women who are injured by domestic violence every year in America. I think about the roughly 15,000 women in America who are forced sex-slaves. I think about the fact that 15.5% of American women ages 18 to 64 live below the poverty line. I think about the daughters I hope to have someday, and I wonder what America’s economy and national debt will look like for them.

As I think of American women today, however, I also think about their determination and selflessness. I think about my sister, who is almost twenty-three and a law student at a top-ten law school, working two part-time jobs and diligently pursuing scholarships to pay her own way through school. Her dream is to one day work as an international human rights lawyer to help women who face abuse and discrimination in other nations. I think about my mom, who gave up a promising career to stay at home and raise me and my sisters. I think about my grandma, who married at the age of sixteen and raised two children, and who is now, over fifty years later, taking care of my ninety-one-year-old great-grandma full-time.

As a whole, when I think of America’s women today, I think of abuse, struggles, aspirations, determination, fortitude, selflessness, and countless other words.

I do not think about free birth control.

During the current election hoopla of conventions and debates, I am astonished, even insulted, by the blindness of candidates who seem to believe that promising free or inexpensive birth control is all they need to do to win the support of women. A prime example is found on the Obama/Biden official campaign website. The “Women’s Issues” section boasts five platform points, four of which discuss birth control, abortion, and “women’s health choices.” Domestic violence, human trafficking, and high levels of female unemployment are nowhere mentioned. The millions of women living below the poverty line are not discussed. The fact that sex (and its associated health factors) is not the only thing that women ever think about is ignored.

When did “women’s issues” become synonymous with “sexual and reproductive issues”? Are sex and reproduction truly the defining qualities of women? If women’s issues are only about body parts, why is there not a men’s issues platform discussing candidates’ commitments to curing prostate and testicular cancer or to helping men have proper testosterone levels?

When I listen to political rhetoric during this election cycle, I feel distinctly that I am being pandered to. From the DNC’s choice to include birth control activist Sandra Fluke and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards as prime-time speakers to President Obama’s decision to squeeze in talk about Planned Parenthood five times during the second presidential debate, the emphasis on birth control is frankly belittling. Women are viewed as yipping puppies that candidates must throw doggie treats (in this case, pills and condoms) to in order to keep them content.

Fellow women, if you are settling for this rhetoric, you are selling yourselves far too short. You are worth more than a free condom or prescription. I am not against birth control. I am not against women’s health. I simply believe that there is more to women than our body parts. We are valuable human beings created by God with intelligence, determination, and much more. The plethora of issues we face are serious and need to be addressed.

Civilians are addressing these issues, whether or not politicians are. Throughout high school, I participated in competitive debate in a nationwide league. Through months of in-depth research, my partner and I prepared cases that addressed major policy issues. Two cases we prepared and argued proposed solutions to human trafficking in India and solutions to failed domestic violence prosecutions here in the U.S. The domestic violence case won the two of us a national championship. Many of my competitors ran similar cases that dealt with major women’s issues in a solvent way.

My question to America’s politicians today is this: if high school students can come up with policy solutions to women’s problems that go beyond birth control, why can’t you? You are the experts, the campaigners, the leaders of this nation. Fight for women’s issues that go beyond sex and reproduction. Fight for our safety, security, and prosperity. Fight for our value.

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