Madden: The fight for women's reproductive rights continues

A decade ago, as I was beginning my fight to earn a seat at the legislative table, I spoke on the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg.  

The topics? Feminism. Women’s rights. Roe v. Wade. Equal pay for equal work.  

My activism started young. Specifically, as a 13-year-old incoming high school freshman who wanted to run cross country, the recently passed Title IX civil rights law granted me the right to run with the boys. And I did, outpacing many of them along the way.  

The 1970s proved to be an inspiring time for the feminist movement, with Billie Jean King delivering racket-fueled smashes to not only defeat Bobby Riggs in the famous “Battle of the Sexes,” but to serve notice to the existing patriarchy. No longer would women in poodle skirts and heels be expected to greet their husbands at the door with a tray full of cookies.  

Women were beginning to shatter barriers in entertainment, in business, in sports, in politics.  

And, most importantly, we won in the court of law with Roe v. Wade, finally and righteously granting women the CHOICE of whether or not we wanted to keep a pregnancy.  

For the first time, we had a right to privacy.  

For the first time, we had the right to control our own bodies.  

For the first time, we didn’t need a man’s approval to make such personal decisions.  

Sadly, ever since that landmark court decision, right-wing extremists and hardline conservatives have been complaining about women’s liberty, brainstorming ways to remove access to women’s healthcare, purposefully spitting lies and exaggerations into the airwaves, and strategizing about how to return the power to the patriarchy.  

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, I stood on the Capitol steps and shared some of my story. I spoke in defense of the SCOTUS decision, of the importance of amplifying women’s voices in all arenas, including legislative ones.  

And now, 10 years later, with a Supreme Court filled with right-wing justices handpicked by presidents who didn’t even win the popular vote, it appears we’re frighteningly close to seeing the January 1973 decision overturned, to see generational rights yanked from women.  

It doesn’t seem to matter that an overwhelming majority of Americans – those who are young, those who are old, those who live in urban environments or rural environments, those who hail from blue states, red states or purple states – believe in the right to choose.  

The patriarchy is proving to be stubborn and relentless foe. We cannot let it prevail.  

A decade ago, I stood in Harrisburg and issued my intention to fight for equality, for fairness, and for a woman’s right to choose.  

While I did not expect certain societal regressions and political "heroes" who have emerged since, I assure you my willingness to fight remains steadfast.  

Here in Pennsylvania, I am an ally to all who stand for decency and equity. That is MY choice, and I am damn proud of it.