Not a full month into the year 2017, millions of people around the world gathered under the guise of the “Women’s March.” Not so much in protest as they were in solidarity, marginalized people and allies marched to show their outrage and their support for one another and for their communities, which they anticipated would face greater harm than normal in the coming year under perhaps the most conservative administration in this country’s history. At this time, many progressives in the States and beyond were still in shock, licking their wounds after the 2016 election fundamentally upended their understanding of, or their hope for, American politics. It has been a dogged year for many of us as hard-won feminist and sex-positive initiatives have been trivialized and overturned by those in power, placing more than half of the population in increased danger. As we prepare for a second march in Las Vegas, Nevada from the same organizers exactly one year after that historic march, there is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and triumphs of this year. So, 2017, what happened? Here’s a glimpse:
- The Affordable Care Act was on the minds and lips of many this year as President Trump claimed that it had been “repealed”—though it was disclosed at the end of December, 2017 by the Department of Health and Human Services that 8.8 million new members signed up for the federal insurance coverage for 2018. In spite of seemingly unending debate over the repeal of the act—and in spite of the propositioning of a new, more conservative-friendly healthcare plan that was rather quickly shot down by Congress—the high numbers of enrollment in the ACA have continued to rise. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly finally said that he is ready to “move on to other issues” in 2018.
- In October of 2017, President Trump rolled back important ACA legislation regarding employee access to birth control, allowing a wide swath of employers to object (on “religious” or “moral” grounds) to the ACA mandate requiring employers to provide basic healthcare, such as free FDA-approved contraception, for their employees. So far, multiple federal judges have halted the implementation of this new rule, claiming that it would cause “serious and irreparable harm.”
- We saw a number of electoral victories in 2017, perhaps most notably including the election of Virginia’s Danica Roem, one of the first transgender legislators in American history, and Alabama’s Doug Jones in a close win over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore. Additionally, Democratic women made other great strides, becoming legislators in key states like Washington, Georgia, Michigan, and New Hampshire. Virtually all of them ran on platforms that championed women’s health and equal pay.
- Planned Parenthood continued to address dangerous regression within the realm of abortion access, particularly in places like Arkansas, which, without the work of Planned Parenthood, would be well on its way to becoming the first and only state to effectively ban medical abortions entirely. In December of 2017, Planned Parenthood Great Plains petitioned the Supreme Court to keep this law from being enforced.
- What can we work on in 2018? How about overturning these archaic laws in states like Ohio where pregnant teens aren’t able to get epidurals without parental consent and continuing to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has the potential to run out of funding before the end of the month of January?
Of course, there was much more that went down in 2017 than can be listed here. On the topic of women’s health and gender equality, we were not want for challenges, nor were we want for strength. Here’s to the continued struggle in 2018—see you on the street.
by Emma Glassman-Hughes