Editorial: Women’s fundamental rights

Women have fought for years, decades, and centuries to get where we are in this time.

Since the 1800s, women have worked to become equal. Women’s rights became a discussion nearly 200 years ago, when women began advocating for the right to vote. Things began to change in 1916 when women won the right to vote in provincial elections in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. It wasn’t until 1960 that all women were able to vote in provincial elections across Canada.

The Fair Employment Practices Act and the Female Employees Fair Renumeration Act came into effect federally in 1953 and 1956, aimed at eliminating discrimination, implementing fines, and creating a complaints system. The Renumeration Act helped provide women with equal pay for work of equal value, something that is still under fire today.

All of this is in place, but we still hear about wage gaps between men and women. This is difficult to sift through, since people are generally tight-lipped about their wages. But, even in the past couple of months, I have heard personal accounts from friends about recent pay differences between men and women.

It took a long time for women to be defined as “persons” and not “property.”

But, it seems with every step forward, the world seems to take two steps back.

Women’s rights are being stripped from our neighbours in the south, and social media has (rightfully so) blown up over it.

Six states in the U.S., with more to come, have passed bills to essentially make abortion procedures illegal. This new legislation protects the “sanctity of life,” and has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill.”

After fertilization, a fetus can produce a heartbeat as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. At this time, many women are still unaware they are pregnant.

The whole situation is off balance. Abortion numbers have been statistically decreasing since 1973, when a court decision in the U.S. provided a fundamental right to privacy that protects the woman’s decision to choose whether or not to have an abortion procedure.

Access to safe medical procedures is paramount. Without them, more lives could be lost by illegitimate means of terminating a pregnancy.

Worrisome here in Canada, we have members of parliament attending anti-abortion rallies, quoted saying they will “make abortion unthinkable,” and fuelling a debate that should never be opened.

We need to speak up and band together if we want to protect women. We are human, equal, educated, and we do not make decisions like these lightly.

The broader message here isn’t about this one criminal bill. It is about women’s rights as persons. We must stand together to protect our fundamental rights, and speak up to ensure our voices are heard. Do not stand complacent, this is the time to get angry, and get loud.

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