Trust Women is a message that is elegant in its simplicity. Trust women to make the right choices for themselves. But it’s a message that means much more.

Trust Women means to respect and trust all women to know—better than strangers, church leaders or legislators—what they can and should do with their own bodies. In the United States, we the majority believe women have a constitutional right to bodily integrity, to be sexually active with whomever they choose and to choose when or if they parent.

Yet . . .

  • Support for vitally important birth control is all too often out of reach for young, sexually active females because they lack health insurance and/or finances, because they lack of adequate and age-appropriate sexual education or because they are involved in abusive domestic situation.
  • One out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Rather than warnings about potential risks, as a nation we should work on changing our culture so that we truly value and respect young girls and women. And invisible to society, our incarcerated women are subjected to conditions of improper touching by persons of authority, sanctioned sexual harassment, unnecessary strip searches, sex for special privileges or money and rape. In fact, the 2010 Department of Justice report stated, “Nearly 82% of the female victims
in prison said they were pressured by staff to engage in sexual activity.” Even our own military branches have allowed a culture of rape to exist with instructors raping recruits and active duty personnel.
  • When a woman is unexpectedly pregnant and wants to end the pregnancy, her right to an abortion is can be denied because she is incarcerated, delayed because of funding or a complex of social reasons or ignored because of legal complications.
  • When a woman knows that her grossly malformed fetus at 25 weeks has no chance at life after birth, it doesn’t mean the she will find trust and respect for her decision to abort nor readily find a doctor who is willing and capable of providing services nor readily being able to afford such an abortion.
  • When a woman wants an abortion, there are legislatures, playing doctor, who want to force a transvaginal ultrasound into a woman’s vagina. There is no known law that has been put forth from any legislator that would propose inserting medical probes of any kind into a male for any reason.
  • Fetal rights have trumped women’s rights in growing numbers. In fact, fetal rights advocates have convinced police, prosecutors, and judges to treat maternal addiction as a form of abuse or neglect without regard for parenting ability. Fetal rights trumped a woman’s rights in the case of Angela Carder, a young woman who was critically ill and 25 weeks pregnant. Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, writes, “More than anything, she wanted to live. A court, however, ordered cesarean surgery based on claims of fetal rights. The surgery was performed over her objections as well as those of her physicians and family. Angela Carder died two days later – the cesarean surgery listed as a contributing factor. The fetus was born alive but died within two hours.” Even without a personhood measure on the books, Angela Carder died with the help of judges and doctors working quietly behind the closed doors. Her wishes were denied, her bodily integrity and her life stolen by the state.
  • When a woman and her husband refuse to undergo a caesarian section, she could be a victim of coercive medicine and criminal prosecution. For example, Melissa Rowland, pregnant with twins, refused a c-section. One of the twins was stillborn so Rowland was charged with first-degree murder. After spending three months in jail, she accepted a deal in which the murder charge was dismissed in return for her guilty plea to two counts of child endangerment (unrelated to her c-section refusal). She’s now free, and serving 18 months of probation.
  • Women prisoners have been subjected to degrading, gratuitous and unconstitutional cavity searches, called the labia lift, after family visits, attorney meetings and at shift changes. A violation of the fourth and eighth amendment, this practice has been stopped, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • And for women who fail to conform to the heteronormativity of our culture because they are lesbians or transgender, the danger of physical and emotional assault is ever present. For example, a 33-year old lesbian was tied up so that her homophobic male attackers could carve homophobic slurs into her abdomen and arms while law officials questioned whether the attack was faked or not.
  • For low-income women who know what is best for them and for their families, access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services is often met by local family planning services. In fact, more than six in 10 women who obtained care at a family planning center considered the center their usual source of medical care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, ‘publicly funded family planning services help women to avoid pregnancies they do not want and to plan pregnancies they do. In 2006, these services helped women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 860,000 unintended births and 810,000 abortions.” Despite the very real needs of low-income women, the Republicans, who are overwhelmingly prolife, want to cut funding for Title X and Planned Parenthood (essentially cutting funding to help low-income mothers and their children).

Christine Cupaiuolo, blogger for Our Bodies, Ourselves, writes, “Trust Women isn’t just a mantra of tolerance or respect. It’s a phrase that changes the playing field, in every way imaginable. It’s the right phrase to advocate for women making their own reproductive health choices, and it’s a much broader statement about our future.”

Broadly speaking, it means women are fully human and should be afforded every human right men are afforded including all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, reproductive decision, sexual orientation or other status.

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