Today is International Women's Day, and I'd like to celebrate women in its honor.

In the US, I vascillate between thinking women have come far and knowing that we haven't come nearly far enough. Celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this year was as much about defending a woman's right to abortion as it was about observing how far we've come. Without Medicaid coverage of abortion, low-income women have no access, and thus no choice. And now - I mean in the year 2011 now - the House wants to eliminate federal funding for family planning health centers and ban Planned Parenthood from receiving any funds.  In other words, they want to deny millions of women and teens access to STD testing, cancer screening and contraception (men, too). There's also an effort to prevent survivors of rape from getting an abortion, and to redefine the word "rape" itself.

And if Congress doesn't succeed, state legislatures will continue to chip away at women's rights. Some states are working to ban private insurance coverage of abortion. At home here in Maine, state legislators are working to force women to listen to coercive scripts before getting an abortion and to wait 24 hours to get an abortion.  They're working to force teens to get permission from parents for all prescription medications and obtain parental consent before getting an abortion, even though Maine already has a "trusted adult" requirement for teens.

All in all, reflecting today feels pretty grim. But here's why I don't despair for long. Despite all these potential setbacks, still:
  • I can vote;
  • I grew up in an era where society acknowledged women as equals, and I am confident in my ability to make decisions for myself;
  • I can access contraception, or if I needed to or wanted to or had to, I could get an abortion;
  • I can work and be paid at an equal level with my male counterparts;**
  • I can walk into rooms with decision-makers at the state and federal level and share my ideas with them,
  • And, I can blog and share information about these threats to women's lives with you.
Please take some time today to acknowledge International Women's Day, then take a moment to take action in support of women. Sign Planned Parenthood's open to letter to Congress about the budget cuts.

**Update: A friend rightly pointed out that women still have a long way to come with equal pay. On average, women still earn 77 cents to the dollar when compared to men.