We brought our girls to the Capitol to show them the promise of America, and instead gave them a briefing on its reality.
On Friday, June 24, a troop of Girl Scouts came to visit the Capitol in Washington, D.C. They walked together in their uniforms and neatly braided hair, their patent leather Mary Janes clacking on the granite, their hard-earned badges on display—symbols of their accomplishments, their intelligence and passion, and their dedication to an organization whose rallying cry asserts women are leaders too. That we should teach our girls to be brave—not just beautiful; that their brains and their voices can carry them to their dreams. These Girl Scouts walked through Capitol Police barricades.
To their right was a podium set up for a press conference set to be held later that afternoon. The House was scheduled to pass bipartisan gun reforms—legislation spurred by the brutal murder of children not much younger than themselves.
On their left, the Supreme Court—the building, with “Justice The Guardian of Liberty” inscribed upon its wall—stood heavy with import and anachronism. Unlike the Capitol and the office buildings that huddle around it, the Supreme Court is home to the ‘justices on high’—the select few who do not answer directly to the American public.
That day, however, screams echoed before the Court. The American people wept before that cold and unflinching building, their anger radiating off the pavement as they defiantly asserted their rights which the Court had just that morning rendered obsolete. While the justices may not answer to the people, they bore witness to America’s anguish.
Between those two historic moments walked the next generation of American girls. They found themselves trapped between the posthumous correction of a flagrant disregard for human life and the declaration that their government’s founding document sees no room for their personal bodily autonomy.
One can assume that this pilgrimage to the Capitol was in service of them learning about the history of their country. Learning about this magnificent experiment—a government by and for the people, envisioned by a brave few who stared down the barrel of a gun and proclaimed their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those men declared a revolution on the philosophical premise that a government that does not represent the will of its people is inherently invalid; that we have a fundamental obligation to cast off leaders and systems that do not respect our consent, our autonomy and our will. It seems illogical to assume that those who fought a war over the right to live their life as they chose did not weave that right into the fabric of this nation.
It is unlikely those Girl Scouts saw a government that represents them that day. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all instances, and yet 26 states have banned or are likely to ban abortion in the wake of Roe‘s overturn. The Supreme Court handed down a ruling that aided and abetted the passage of legislation that is not in line with the values of the majority of Americans. That is not judicial independence; that is legislating from the bench.
The Supreme Court delivered a blow to women’s ability to have access to equitable healthcare—but for the women of this country, the Dobbs ruling comes as no real surprise. Women are not treated equitably in virtually any public spheres. Their medical needs are consistently disregarded and overlooked. It was not until 1993 that the NIH required medications and treatments to be tested on women and minorities, in addition to white men. These oversights led to millions of women receiving inadequate, ineffectual and at times dangerous medical treatments.
District attorneys throughout the country refuse to prosecute rape cases because of the “provability gap“—not to mention the cases that never get reported to the police. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes. The average age that victims of child sexual abuse disclose their abuse is 52. One in nine girls are assaulted by an adult before they are 18. Many abortion laws would only allow for abortion in the case of rape or incest if the abuse is reported and vetted by the police. Policies like that force survivors to disclose abuse earlier than they are ready, and often without adequate support—all while dealing with the added distress of having become pregnant as a result of the assault.
We allow our children to be raped in schools. We have no definition for the noun “consent” in our penal code. We do not broadly require medically accurate sex education. We do not provide funding for research into women’s health. We have failed to adequately enact Title IX policies despite it having been passed 50 years ago. We have not achieved pay equality despite it being legally mandated. We still do not have sufficient—or in some cases any—maternity leave.
We brought our little girls to the Capitol to show them the promise of America and instead gave them a briefing on its reality. This is a country with immense promise and a worthy charter. Our only responsibility to this nation and to those little girls is to live up to its initial challenge—and we are failing them miserably.
Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.