Op-Ed: To Engender Real Change, More Women Must Vote
Thursday, August 21, 2008
by Nancy Ratzan, President - National Council of Jewish Women
One hundred and sixty years ago, an intrepid group of feminists gathered in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to issue a manifesto modeled on the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Sentiments detailed the oppression and denial of rights suffered by women at the time. The Seneca Falls Convention, as it came to be known, also declared that "it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise."
It took another 72 years for women to win the right to vote — but full exercise of the franchise is nowhere near at hand.
Women do vote now in slightly higher numbers than men, but sadly that is not saying much. In 2004, 40% of women failed to vote, a slight improvement over 2000 when almost 44% did not vote. The numbers for young women are disastrous.
In an era when political fortunes have turned over the issue of the right to reproductive choice, 65% of women 18 to 24 failed to vote in 2000 and 55% did not vote in 2004. Of women 24 to 44 years of age, 48% did not vote in 2000 and 45% did not vote in 2004. More than 20 million single women did not vote in 2004.
It's not as if the right to choose was the only thing at stake. For the last eight years, every aspect of reproductive freedom has been vulnerable to the ideological bent of those elected to public office. As a result, family planning programs have been choked with restrictions, abstinence-only sex education has received increased federal funding, and access to emergency contraception became a matter for the Food and Drug Administration.
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