The United States has undoubtedly made a lot of progress toward achieving gender equality. The Married Women's Property Act 1882 that was enacted in the late nineteenth century is perhaps one of the most significant of these steps. Heretofore, women lost ownership of their property to their husbands once they got married. However, with the Married Women's Property Act 1882, women were able to maintain some degree of control over their property even after getting married (Shammas 9). This act also went a long way in elevating women to a level that was almost equal to their male counterparts.
Although significant gains have been made in addressing the gender inequality issue, it is sometimes very challenging for women to use the law as their defender in the fight for gender equality. Reproductive rights are very fundamental in the quest for gender equality (Abortion 443). It is because, when a woman has control of her reproductive health, she is able to plan the course of her life independently. Infringement on her reproductive rights can, therefore, lead to gender inequality.
The United States law on reproductive health creates a situation where it is challenging for a woman to have total control over her reproductive health. For instance, the contraception laws of the twentieth century were drafted in a manner that they prohibited the use of any medicinal instrument, or article or even drug for contraception. It denied the woman her right to have control over her reproductive health (Birth Control and Sterilization 419). The law also infringed on her right to privacy because it allowed law enforcers to search marital homes for evidence in a situation where they suspected that a married couple was using contraceptives (Birth Control and Sterilization 421).
Abortion is also one of the most challenging issues when it comes to the application of reproductive health laws in the united states. Several states in the United States have over the years made laws which have sought to criminalize abortion (Abortion 433). During the 19th century, there existed a distinction between the abortion of an unquickened pregnancy and that of a quickened pregnancy. The former was seen as a misdemeanor while the latter was generally regarded as a second-degree murder (Abortion, 433). However, as time gradually passed, American lawmakers continued denying women their right to determine the fate of their pregnancy. During the twentieth century, the laws were even more stringent making abortion of any kind to be regarded as murder. The law only allowed abortion to be carried out if the life of the mother was at risk and conducting an abortion is necessary to save her life (Abortion, 433).
Abortion remains a very contentious issue today. Most women in many regions in the United States do not have the freedom to carry out an abortion if they so wished because abortion is still illegal in most states. Even when women have moved to court to challenge these laws they have always been disappointed. For instance, Jean Roe, a single woman who was living in the Dallas County of Texas, went to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1970 seeking to bar her home state of Texas from implementing laws that illegalized abortion (Abortion 432). In presenting her case, she argued that the state of Texas had denied her the right to undergo a safe abortion performed by a competent health professional because she had failed to prove that her pregnancy threatened her life. She desired to terminate it because she did not wish to bear a child while she was still not married. The Supreme Court, however, denied her request and upheld the laws that abortion is only allowed in situations where the life of the mother is threatened.
The law that says abortion is only legal if the life of the mother is threatened therefore seems to be in contradiction with the Ninth Amendment which gives Roe the right to terminate her pregnancy (Abortion 434). Barring women from terminating their pregnancies is, therefore, an infringement on their liberty rights. They are also subjected to various problems which may affect the quality of life that they lead. Maternity and childcare, for example, may be stressful, especially for a mother who is not psychologically prepared to bear a child. Unmarried women who cannot abort unwanted pregnancies are also forced to bear the stigma which arises when a woman is pregnant or has a child out of wedlock (Abortion 434).
Lastly, from the above discussion, it has been demonstrated that the United States has undoubtedly made significant progress in addressing the issue of gender inequality. It, however, has to do a lot of improvements, especially in the application of gender laws before it can fully guarantee gender equality for all its citizens. The United States law has also posed a lot of challenges to women, especially on issues of gender inequality. The rules on reproductive health are perhaps the most challenging in their application. For women to feel equal to the male counterparts, they need to be given full control of their reproductive health. The law as currently constituted still limits the rights of women in this area, especially when it comes to the right to sustain or terminate pregnancy. A paradigm change in the way abortion is perceived is, therefore, necessary to grant women their right to choose whether to carry out abortion or not.
Abortion. "Women and Reproduction." Chapter 5, Section C. pp.432-447. Print.
Birth Control and Sterilization. "Women and Reproduction." Chapter 5, Section B. pp.419` 423. Print.
Court of Appeals of Maryland. Michelle L. Conover V. Brittany D. Conover. Vol 79, 2015.
Shammas, Carole. "Re-Assessing The Married Women's Property Acts." Journal Of Women's History, vol 6, no. 1, 1994, pp. 9-30. Johns Hopkins University Press, doi:10.1353/jowh.2010.0269.
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