(WOMENSENEWS)–I have dreams like others of that special life, that special love and of course, that special house. In my case, I have my eye on the White House. No, I don’t want to live there. Instead, I dream of women of all colors finding comfort in that house and from it. These are not visions of sugarplums dancing in my head; they are hopes for a better future for my sisters around the world.
There is no greater wish than good health. Currently, 600,000 women die annually around the world from complications of pregnancy or childbirth; that means 1,400 deaths every day. In the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. Pregnancy rates for minority teens are double the number for whites.
African-American women are 20 times more likely than whites to contract AIDS. Latinas are seven times more likely than whites to contract AIDS. Among African-American women, HIV is the second leading cause of death; for Latinas it is the third. If we add to the list sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer and chlamydia, the current prognosis for women’s health gets even more discouraging.
It is surely time to look for a miracle, and that miracle would be a comprehensive program of available and affordable reproductive health care services and education.
Deck the Halls With Respect for Women’s Hopes, Dreams and Choices
As President-elect and Laura Bush move into their new quarters, we hope they’ll make room for us. We hope they’ll decorate America’s House with respect for women’s hopes and dreams, and for the difficult choices they might have to make in their lifetimes.
Each piece of furniture could include a cushion of income for women currently in need. The wallpaper could have designs of educational opportunity from floor to ceiling. The carpets could lay the foundation for a system of widely available family planning services. The curtains should drape women and physicians with safety, even when they enter reproductive health clinics. And, each room would be filled with the fragrant scent of hope inspired by easy access to sound medical information and advice.
This miracle of health and wellness for women is not unobtainable. Right down the street from that lovely house there’s a grand mansion with two wings. It’s filled with neighbors who might also be willing to make a better neighborhood for us all. We know that there is already a wonderful package of legislation to provide equity for contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans and that is a good place to start. It’s been sitting in the closet for some time and the new administration could dust it off.
Meanwhile, I dream that the community of the powerful on Pennsylvania Avenue ends the never-ending chants, filled with misleading buzz words, that have monotonously droned for years in support of restricting the right of women to “choose.” Instead, they will begin to develop a new mantra, one that would be music to my ears and one I could actually sing too, using words such as respect and solutions.
At this moment of history, a real opportunity exists to make Pennsylvania Avenue the address for reproductive health care results. The mailbox is already filled with the special delivery requests from women of all colors. If the new occupants of the White House respond, they may then look forward to decorating their home next year with the twinkling “W” that really does stand for women. That would be a festival of lights we would all embrace and long remember.
I invite Democratic and Republican women alike to join me in imagining this miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue and maybe, just maybe, miracles can happen.
Lynn Grefe is the national director of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition.