The Ups And Downs Of The State Of The Union Address

The President included transgender people in his address, but took a lackluster stance on abortion rights. 

The majority of last night’s State of the Union address was predictably refreshing. Who wouldn’t want free access to community college? And no one could argue with a middle-class economy. While some folks could, and do, argue with climate change, there were no surprises in our president’s call to action regarding global warming and clean, renewable energy.

What was surprising, however, was how divisive the topic of equal pay still remains.

When Obama said “This Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work,” only half the room seemed to respond with applause. In the words of the President: “Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.” There was far more robust applause to the call to protect our nation from Internet hackers.

Internet rights: 1; Women’s rights: .5.

This State of the Union marks the first ever when transgender folks were included in the call to protect gays and lesbians from persecution, and Obama openly championed the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states.

But what was hard to ignore, and most disappointing, was the President’s brief, disappointingly neutral, stance on abortion rights.

The fact that both sides of the House and Senate cannot come to a cease-fire on attacking a woman’s right to make choices for her own body and livelihood should not be shrugged off. The President all but discarded the attack on women in his speech: “We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing an all time low, and that every woman should have the access to the healthcare she needs.”

Clearly healthcare is not gender-neutral, but it should be. Would it be simply too radical for a President to remove gendered healthcare from debate in the House and Senate? Men can seek whatever treatment they choose for their bodies (even becoming a woman! With a pay gap!), but women cannot, and our bodies are still up for legislation. It’s time for a leader to unabashedly take the argument surrounding a woman’s private healthcare choices and throw it out with an executive order. The topic is over being debated. We want healthcare to be free of sexist legislation and as normative as same-sex marriage and gay, lesbian, and transgender rights.

Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.

Tina Rodia is a freelance writer in San Francisco. She grew up in Connecticut, and has a B.A. in creative writing and women’s studies.

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