Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.
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Self determination was one of the primary goals of the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. The concept is fairly straightforward. Self determination means the power to control your own body and your own life. It is a critical underpinning to our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today, we use the language “bodily autonomy” to describe the fundamental human right to control your own body. American men have total bodily autonomy. With the advent of safe, effective, and widely available birth control pills and the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, American women achieved bodily autonomy.
For nearly 50 years, American women have enjoyed the right to bodily autonomy, on an equal basis with American men. The Supreme Court’s recent reversal of the Roe decision has put women’s right to bodily autonomy at risk and made it subject to the prevailing political environment in each of the 50 states. In those states where women no longer have the right to control their own body and, therefore, their life, women have become second-class citizens.
In 1912, Kansas became the eighth state to give women the right to vote, eight years before the national women’s suffrage amendment was ratified. Kansans now have the opportunity to lead the way again, and to ensure that women do not become second-class citizens in our state. The Kansas constitution currently protects a woman’s right to control her own body and her own life. The constitutional amendment that is on the August 2 ballot would remove that protection, and allow the Kansas Legislature to enact laws that would take away a woman’s right to control her own body, which would relegate Kansas women to second class citizenship. If that happens, Kansas men would still have total bodily autonomy, but Kansas women would not.
If you do not wish to relegate Kansas women to this fate, and believe that women should have the same fundamental human rights as men, please go out and vote “no” on the constitutional amendment that is on the August 2 ballot. You only have to be registered in order to vote; you do not have to be registered as a Republican or a Democrat. Advance voting is available now. The future of Kansas women is in your hands.
— Elizabeth B. A. Miller (she/her), Lawrence
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