It’s difficult to say what’s scarier: the trove of Stranger Things demogorgon Halloween costumes we’ll see this Halloween or the state of women’s health legislation in the United States. Here are five terrifying actualities that could give even the spookiest haunted house a run for its money.
The US is the only industrialized nation without ANY paid family leave
American women are not guaranteed any paid leave when they have children. None. Compare that to the UK, which offers 40 weeks. Or Singapore, which offers 16 weeks. Or Iran, which offers 12. And American men? None for them either. The UK, Denmark, Australia, Kenya, and Venezuela all offer two weeks to new dads.
“Our policies are stuck in the Mad Men era,” Kirsten Gillibrand said during the Democratic National Convention. “We are the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee workers paid family leave. Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth.”
This topic has been a hot one during the 2016 election cycle, with both parties showcasing a plan that would improve the current state of affairs. Ideally, no matter who’s elected, this issue should become a thing of the past.
That Twix bar is tax-free, but your tampons aren’t
Menstrual products are currently taxed in 37 states. Of those states without a tax, only eight have specifically nixed the tax — Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Jersey — while the remaining five don’t have any sales tax at all.
Sales tax laws are determined at the state level and applied to what the state governments deem ‘luxuries.’’ In the case of these 37 states, included in those luxuries: tampons and pads. Seriously. It makes little sense, considering groceries and some medications are not taxed (including, ahem, Viagra).
“Basically we are being taxed for being women,” Cristina Garcia, an assemblymember in California said in a press release in January. Garcia’s bill to end the tax passed in California’s Congress, but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown back in September.
There’s no federal requirement for schools to offer sex ed (or that it be medically accurate, for that matter)
Teen pregnancies have dropped to historic lows in recent years, but America still has the highest rate of unintended teen pregnancy of all developed countries, according to Planned Parenthood.
A root cause could be sexual education, or lack thereof. Data shows that states with abstinence-only sexual education programs have the highest rate of teen pregnancy. Nearly $2 billion has been spent by Congress over the past 25 years to initiate abstinence-based sex ed programs, with no tangible research backing their effectiveness.
There’s good news and meh news about this. The good news: the Obama administration cut the $10 million that’s historically funded abstinence-only education from the 2017 federal budget. The meh news: Every state still decides how it educates teens. You can use this tool from the National Conference of State Legislature to see what your state is doing about it.
Your employer can opt out of birth control coverage
The media circus around the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision may seem like old news, but it’s still affecting women across the country. To rewind: In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that (despite the Affordable Care Act requiring insurance to cover contraception without a copay), “corporations with religious owners cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception.”
It’s still unclear how many women are affected by their employees’ decision to forego birth control coverage, but according to POLITICO, “advocates of the birth control coverage requirement argue that if even one woman is barred from coverage because of her employer’s religious views, that’s too many.”
There is a law in place meant specifically to deny poor minority women from being able to get an abortion
It’s no secret that various politicians (many of them male) have made it difficult for women to access safe, affordable abortions. But despite various victories for abortion access — like the Texas Supreme Court striking down a proposed bill that would have required abortion clinics strict regulations that would have made it increasingly more difficult for women to access abortion in the state — there’s one law that bars many women from abortion coverage.
The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976 and implemented in 1977, prohibits federal funding for abortion procedures and care. So that means what, exactly? That Medicaid, which is funded by the government, won’t fund an abortion.
However, there have been limited exceptions since 1994, with Medicaid covering the procedure in cases of rape, incest, or a health threat to a woman’s life. And various states will still cover the procedure under certain circumstances, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
In 1980, Justice Thurgood Marshall said that the amendment was “designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.” This still holds true, considering, women of color are more likely to be uninsured or covered by Medicaid.