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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Women of Constitution.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner

 

Okay, it always HAS bugged me that our founding fathers failed to mention women explicitly in the Constitution [1] or The Declaration of Independence [2]. Not once. I’ve tried to explain away the omission, in my own typically empathetic female fashion. These brilliant men, who seemed to have thought about nearly every component necessary for a lasting democracy when it came to men’s rights, obviously MEANT “men AND women” in two of the most famous and powerful sentences in history “We the People of the United States” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

Didn’t they?

 

Come on. They just had to add two words: AND WOMEN. Eight letters! Make a few tweaks to the language during their endless debating and rewriting. Didn’t our founding fathers have daughters and wives – not to mention a conscience -- way back then? Do you think the subject of women’s rights ever came up?

The public reading of the Constitution preamble by newly minted House Speaker John Boehner [3], R-Ohio during Thursday’s opening session of the 112th Congress raised these issues again. The AMENDED version of the Constitution was read, drawing attention to the major and minor changes that have been made in the past 224 years. Important, significant changes such as the 27 Amendments:

 

Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression [4]Amendment 2 - Right to Bear Arms [5]Amendment 3 - Quartering of Soldiers [6]Amendment 4 - Search and Seizure [7]Amendment 5 - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings [8]Amendment 6 - Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses [9]Amendment 7 - Trial by Jury in Civil Cases [10]Amendment 8 - Cruel and Unusual Punishment [11]Amendment 9 - Construction of Constitution [12]Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People [13]Amendment 11 - Judicial Limits [14]Amendment 12 - Choosing the President, Vice President [15]Amendment 13 - Slavery Abolished [16]Amendment 14 - Citizenship Rights [17]Amendment 15 - Race No Bar to Vote [18]Amendment 16 - Status of Income Tax Clarified [19]Amendment 17 - Senators Elected by Popular Vote [20]Amendment 18 - Liquor Abolished [21]Amendment 19 - Women's Suffrage [22]Amendment 20 - Presidential, Congressional Terms [23]Amendment 21 - Amendment 18 Repealed [24]Amendment 22 - Presidential Term Limits [25]Amendment 23 - Presidential Vote for District of Columbia [26]Amendment 24 - Poll Taxes Barred [27]Amendment 25 - Presidential Disability and Succession [28]Amendment 26 - Voting Age Set to 18 Years [29]Amendment 27 - Limiting Changes to Congressional Pay [30]

In all these amendments regarding Congressional Pay, alcohol sales, quartering of soldiers and poll taxes and a right to a speedy trial… nothing about women amidst the changes. Is it really so difficult, from a conceptual or practical level, to add in those two words AND WOMEN to both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?

 

The National Organization of Women apparently agree. NOW president Terry O’Neill, along with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) stood with NOW and women's rights advocates outside the chilly Capitol last Thursday to call for putting women into the Constitution [31]. The short video clip [32] is wonderful and funny and pointed.

 

NOW believes we need a Constitutional amendment, as O’Neill explains in Huffington Post [33]. NOW argues that despite women’s advances towards equal pay, workplace fairness and access to education, our culture, Constitution and laws still allow men in power to thwart women’s equality. Justice Antonin Scalia, celebrating his 24th season as a Supreme Court Justice, recently rather smugly explained in California Lawyer [34] that the Constitution does not protect women against bias [35]. The new Speaker of the House Bohner has opposed acts such as the Lily Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation designed to end wage discrimination that makes it tough for women -- especially women of color, who face racial as well as sex-based discrimination -- to establish economic security, save for their children's education or plan for retirement. Boehner has gone record that he will use his position to block women from having access to reproductive health care, including abortion and birth control. In a healthcare system that pays for Viagra without shame and wouldn't dream of withholding any form of health care from men, why is women's health care fair game?

 

Will we get a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing fairness? I doubt it. Fairness doesn’t come neatly packaged like that; the fight for equality is still too often a lonely, individual battle for women and minorities. Powerful men have been saying “no” or “not yet” to women for 224 years. But what’s the alternative? Giving up? So let’s bring forward equality, for ourselves, our daughters, and our next 224 years as one country.


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