March 8th was the 101st annual International Women's Day. In some countries this Day holds the same stature as Mother's Day and celebrates women's economic, political and social achievements. More or less concurrently, proposals landed in Congress and in states around the nation to excuse insurance plans and religious employers from birth control coverage if they have moral objections. That a day to honor women should fall amidst a political action so harmful to women -- attacking something so basic and benign as contraception -- demonstrates the inequities women still suffer even here in America, even now in 2012.
The crass and inaccurate rants that ensued should sound familiar. Arguments to deny women the right to choose what is suitable for their lives are interchangeable with the pious condemnations of terminally ill individuals' right to choose what is suitable for their deaths. Targeting women is still easy and a sexual context lends an emotional charge to assaults on basic healthcare. But don't be fooled. In any of these attacks, you can easily substitute "patients" for "women" and "suicidal" for "promiscuous." Yes, this disrespect for a woman's personal liberty masks what is in fact a disregard for the healthcare autonomy of all of us. The dictators of morality are no more respectful of end-of-life choice than they are of reproductive choice.
The burden of defending end-of-life choice falls more heavily on women, as we tend to live longer ourselves, and act as the caregivers and decision-makers for others who go before us.
We, as women and for women, must work together to secure the right to control our healthcare, make our own end-of-life choices, and let no one decide for us how much we or our loved ones should suffer. This effort needs information, organization and strategy to succeed. We've designed our upcoming conference in Chicago this June -- Heights of Compassion, Bridges to Choice -- to address issues of personal planning, personal activism and community advocacy.
Our conference can help you ensure your own end-of-life wishes are followed, deliver tools to empower your family and community for their protection, and reveal opportunities to help secure the full range of options for all Americans and future generations. Come take the power with effective tools to battle the forces that would limit our liberty. Let's unify to create a single vibrant voice that speaks for the vast majority of Americans against the noisy few. Yes, we've come a long way; but clearly we've still some distance to go.