In 2018, we are at a crossroads for women’s rights and reproductive health. Who we select in the election for the U.S. House will have immense consequences for women in Montana and across the country.
We have been here before. Forty-six years ago this very month, I was serving my first term in the Montana House of Representatives. I was a 23-year-old political rookie — the only woman in the chamber — with a head full of issues affecting our beautiful state that I thought needed addressing.
At the top of that list was women’s reproductive rights. In 1971, abortions were not legal and largely unattainable. I introduced a bill to expand access for Montana’s women. At the committee hearing, accomplished speakers from religious, medical, legal and philosophical communities argued passionately and articulately from every side of the issue. The discussion was full of heartbreak and emotion without a breath of ridicule, anger or rudeness. Then the bill was voted down.
The following year Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land, and it seemed the issue was resolved fairly and sensitively, addressing both the concerns of abortion opponents and women’s privacy. Then, Montanans adopted a breathtaking new Constitution which included new personal freedoms and far-reaching rights protecting all citizens from discrimination. Our leaders put Montana at the top of the pack in recognizing women’s personal right of privacy, extending fairness in property settlements, qualifying for bank credit, taking family leave without losing jobs, and more. This was truly handled the Montana Way — with intense scrutiny of the issues, compassion and respect for all perspectives.
Despite all the work we've done, the fight continues, particularly in Washington, D.C. Even in the middle of the #MeToo movement, when powerful women are coming forward and stepping up across the country, reproductive rights remain under assault. Just when we need to be addressing the next generation of women’s issues, U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte has joined those in Washington who would turn back the clock on Montana women, their privacy and their economic security.
Roe is still the law of the land, for now. So the new strategy of Gianforte and his allies is to lull the populace to sleep and then limit choice, privacy and access to health care by a thousand cuts; cuts like limiting access to reproductive health care for the women who need it most — eliminating the birth control benefit that millions of women have under the Affordable Care Act — drastically cutting funding for the nation’s family planning program that helps millions of women afford reproductive health care. Perhaps most cruel of all is the shuttering of clinics in the poorest parts of the world, denying birth control and health care where women are trying to survive.
In the face of Gianforte’s assault on our rights, it is critical to elect a woman who will not only vote to protect women, but will also be an enlightened champion bringing attention to the strategy of “lull and cut.”
That's why it's time for Montana to elect a real advocate for reproductive rights. Kathleen Williams believes in personal privacy and affordable access to reproductive health for every woman — and man. Her legislative and advocacy record could not be clearer on this.
Montana women — and men — need to support Kathleen Williams in 2018 so that we can keep making progress on women's health. Join me in supporting Kathleen Williams, because I know she will roll up her sleeves and get results for Montana.