Decades of progress and promises squandered as rights begin to disappear – Reno Gazette Journal

Posted: May 13, 2022 at 3:01 pm

Sheila Leslie| Reno Gazette Journal

This opinion column was submitted byRGJ columnist Sheila Leslie, who served in the Nevada Legislature from 1998 to 2012.

In 1973, I graduated from high school in California and the world seemed full of promise and opportunity. The Vietnam War was winding down and the compulsory draft had just ended. Title IX was being implemented and our girls basketball team would no longer be forced to practice outside in the fog on rough pitted asphalt while the boys used the cozy warm gym. And the Roe v. Wade decision meant women finally had autonomy over their own bodies. After graduation, most of us who grew up together in our one high school town would scatter across the state, choosing between free community colleges and an array of heavily subsidized, high-quality state colleges and universities.

Fast-forward 49 years to so many promises squandered. Our children cant afford to buy a house in a good neighborhood and are drowning in college debt. Our grandchildren are living on a doomed planet thanks to our greed and hubris about climate change. The separation of church and state is quickly disintegrating as politicians and jurists of a primarily white Christian religion push their values and views into politics, deciding for the rest of us if transgender children should have medical care, immigrant children should have education, and women should have full access to contraceptives and abortion.

These days, Republican candidates rail about taking back our country by promising to do even more to force their version of morality onto the rest of us. Theyre celebrating their likely abortion victory by talking about making criminals out of women who cross a state border to seek abortion in a friendlier state or try to access abortion drugs via the mail. Politicians in Mississippi and Louisiana are considering statutes to give constitutional rights to a person from the moment of fertilization, effectively denying women access to emergency contraception or even an IUD.

Some constitutional scholars and activists are warning that marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rightsand interracial marriage will be on the chopping block next and are practically begging us to wake up and smell the coffee as if the repeal of Roe v. Wade were not enough to activate us.

As the country reeled from the leak of the draft opinion by conservative justices last week, it was hard not to yell back at the TV when Chief Justice John Roberts seemed more worried about who leaked the draft opinion than about taking away a fundamental health care right from every woman in the country. He called the leaking of the confidential draft opinion a betrayal, oblivious to the much larger betrayal of denying a woman the right to make a major medical decision with her doctor, in private. Even more outlandish was Justice Clarence Thomas whining about the declining respect for institutions and the rule of law given he and his wifes well-documented unethical behavior, most recently around trying to overturn a valid election and supporting the Jan.6insurrection. Do these justices think were stupid out here beyond the Beltway and cant see what is happening?

Meanwhile, pro-life groups rejoiced in their presumed victory while noting their work would actually be increasing as there will be many unprepared pregnant women who will need help to carry their unwanted babies to term. These groups may be able to provide prenatal vitamins and even medical care during pregnancy, but how likely is it theyll be able to help these women access basic needs after the baby is born, like affordable housing and quality child care or a job with a living wage? If only they were concerned about life after birth instead of being obsessed with the moment of conception.

Nevada owes a big debt of gratitude to the women and men who were behind the brilliant design of Ballot Question 7 in 1990, which confirmed an abortion rights statute with an almost two-thirdsvote. That law can be changed only by another vote of the people and is the primary reason abortion isnt relitigated constantly in our state Legislature.

But after nearly 50years of insisting reproductive rights should be left to the states, the hypocrisy of the Republican Party is now on full display with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnells announcement that a national ban on abortion may be coming if Republicans regain control of Congress. And the same people who protest lifesaving vaccine mandates as a body autonomy issue seem perfectly content to impose abortion bans on women with little or no regard to circumstances such as rape or incest or an individuals right to privacy when it comes to personal medical decisions. And a COVIDvaccine that protects the community at large as well as the individual is hardly the same as a nine-month pregnancy and potential lifetime commitment to a child.

As a young adult in the early '70s, I took so much of the post-'60s progress for granted. Now, 49 years later, I find it horrifying that my granddaughter will likely have fewer rights than women of my generation.

You can refuse to vote and choose to silently stand by while our democracy collapses and our basic rights evaporate. Thats going to happen unless we make sure people like Nevadas U.S. SenatorCatherine Cortez Mastoare elected. Its clear that both of the leading Republicans in the race to replace her will not support a womans right to choose.

Or we can register legions of young women and men who want their rights back and take away the Republicans political power, although even that might not be enough in the short term thanks to the Supreme Court justices theyve managed to seat.

Either way, the country should get ready for tempestuous times ahead.

RGJ columnist Sheila Leslieserved in the Nevada Legislature from 1998 to 2012.

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Decades of progress and promises squandered as rights begin to disappear - Reno Gazette Journal

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