Everyone knows that laws are created to protect the rights of citizens and their property. Laws are enforced by many hierarchies of government, stemming from local towns, counties, states, and leading up to the federal level. Because the same issues are not necessarily applicable to every state, not all laws are universal, but some of them should be. While it makes sense that traffic laws are completely different from state to state, why are abortion laws and breast-feeding laws not established as federal universalities? Why is it that only twelve states exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty when the workload of a full time mother (assuming she doesn’t have an additional career of her own) is usually greater than that of a typical CEO? Why does the ERA fail to pass time and time again? Something needs to be done about the inconsistencies regarding women’s law.
Forty-four states, plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in any public or private location, but only twenty-eight states, including DC and the Virgin Islands, exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. And only twenty-four states have laws pertaining to breastfeeding in the workplace. Is it true then that a woman in Alabama has the right to breastfeed in any public place except where there are others who consider the act indecent? Is it illegal for a woman in South Dakota to breastfeed an infant in public at all?
It is doubtful that anyone would report breastfeeding as a crime, even in states where there are no laws protecting breastfeeding mothers, but that’s not the point. Studies have proven that breastfeeding is one of the healthiest and most natural things we do as humans. Because of the health benefits alone, it is a good practice for new mothers to breastfeed their children. Breast milk carries the mother’s antibodies to the infant, and infants who breastfeed are less likely to develop nervous disorders in adulthood. Also, mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer and osteoporosis. The right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere should be protected under federal women’s law.
Another touchy subject among women’s laws is the fight over abortion rights. Despite the decision in the case of Roe vs. Wade, the country is still in turmoil over whether or not a woman has the right to end her pregnancy. First of all, why is it even up to individual states to make the decision about the right to choose? Since everyone on the right to life side believes abortion is murder, shouldn’t the federal government take the upper hand and properly define murder? Isn’t it the first and most important sworn right of the federal government to protect the life of its citizens? If a fetus is alive, then a fetus is a citizen, and should therefore have the government protecting its existence. And if a fetus isn’t considered a living thing until the third trimester, then why not protect the mother who is most definitely a living citizen? Women’s law should protect women in these extenuating circumstances and not leave her fate up to the local beliefs of the state in which she resides.
The most controversial root to all women’s law resides in the pages of the ERA. Since 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment has been voted down repeatedly by Congress. Those opposed to the ratification of the ERA believe that all the statutes of the ERA are already covered in other laws and amendments. They feel the inclusion of an amendment declaring equal rights to women is redundant and unnecessary, and that the ERA itself does not cover all the bases. One of the problems with the ERA is its handling of the draft. Women are not yet required by our government to register for the draft at age eighteen, and while the ERA does call for equal rights, many are skeptical as to whether or not women can handle the responsibility of registering. They believe we have a good thing going in not having to worry about mandatory registration. While no one wants to ever have to go to war, women disagree that only men should have to register for the draft. It is just as much the responsibility of the women of this country to protect its rights and freedoms as it is the men’s.
Family law is another important aspect of the ERA. To date, most state courtrooms will favor the mother in custody hearings in the event of a divorce, and skeptics of the ERA wonder how this amendment will affect court decisions in family matters. Supporters of the ERA argue that familial decisions rest with the discretion of the court, and it is in the best interest of the child that decisions about custody should be made. The mother is not always the best candidate as the primary care-giver, and courts should take more personal responsibility in making sure that children are happy and placed with the more responsible parent, depending upon the case.
Women’s law still has an uphill battle in achieving equal and universal rights. The statutes of the ERA and all other laws protecting women carry the weight of the history of the nation. It is unbelievable that the battle for equality is ongoing in a nation so intelligent and infamously outspoken and liberal. Of course it is necessary to state somewhere in the document by which this nation was founded and is still currently ruled that women are entitled to the same full and equal rights as men! What other current law prevents decisions that are detrimental to the rights and freedoms of women. Outside the fourteenth amendment, there is nothing that protects the rights of women that have been so hard in coming over the last nine decades. If the constitution held that all rights are equal, then the loopholes through which lawyers and court officials often dance would be closed up to non-existent. The constitution should contain a no-tolerance clause to sexual discrimination, and the federal government should take more responsibility in clarifying the ways in which this country handles women’s laws.