When someone tells me they aren’t sure whether they’ll vote in the presidential election, I get annoyed. When they say it’s because they don’t know enough, I get depressed. (Strangely, this statement seems to come from the women in my life far more than the men; men’s reasons for not voting are more likely to include that “the system is broken” or “one vote won’t change anything” than that they fear they are under-informed.) This refrain of “not knowing enough” stands in terrifying contrast to many candidates’ faith in their own qualifications to make decisions about your sex life and your reproductive fate. Sex and its implications have been politicized more in this presidential race than any other in millennial women’s lifetimes. Whether we like it or not, our personal lives are on the Republican menu, and we cannot afford to not respond. With Ted Cruz and and Donald Trump vying to out-crazy one another in their statements on women and abortion (not to mention competing over the size of their genitals and whose wife is the fairest in the land), John Kasich’s anti-contraception, anti-choice track record as Ohio governor, which includes signing every bill intended to restrict abortion access that has ever crossed his desk, has flown under the radar. Kasich is no moderate, and not one of the Republican candidates appears to have paused to educate himself on what it’s like to possess a uterus or identify as a woman. (These two aren't the same, but then, none of these men have shown any particular love for trans or other non-cisgender Americans; Cruz has risen above and beyond the rest in his disdain for them, calling protections for trans students “ridiculous” and declaring, “I don’t want my daughters taking showers with little boys.”)
Whether we like it or not, our personal lives are on the Republican menu
All three candidates are anti-choice. All three would seek to strip Planned Parenthood of funding; Kasich has already succeeded at this in Ohio, repeatedly and with glee. All three oppose Roe v. Wade, and all three would appoint Supreme Court justices who share their views. And the Supreme Court is where the stakes intensify, not only for us but for our daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters. The court’s sway over your sexual and reproductive options cannot be underestimated. Neither can the next president’s sway over the makeup of the court. A conservative majority could overturn Roe v. Wade, and if a Republican is elected, that outcome isn't beyond the bounds of possibility. Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat will almost certainly remain vacant until our next president takes office; with Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in their 80s and Justice Steven Breyer turning 80 during the next president’s first term, that president might appoint one, two, three, or even four justices. This means that conceivably, all it would take to incur 50 years of disastrous Supreme Court rulings on women’s ability to access contraception and abortion is ushering a sentient being with an (R) next to his name into the Oval Office and handing him a pen. The president also appoints court of appeals and district judges, which is critical because so much of this country’s anti-choice legislation is passed at the state level — states have passed 288 laws restricting abortion access since the 2010 midterm elections — and lower federal courts exert huge influence over whether and how state-level regulations are enforced.
Then there's birth control. U.S. teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates have just hit 40-year lows not because teens are suddenly practicing abstinence, but because they are increasingly practicing safe sex. You’d think that candidates who hate abortion so much would support contraception in equal measure. You’d be wrong. Through the Affordable Care Act, 55 million women can access FDA-approved contraceptives at no-out-of-pocket cost, but all Republican candidates aim to repeal the ACA, with no plan to replace the contraceptive coverage it provides. “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voilà,” Cruz has said. “So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utter made-up nonsense issue.” You heard the man, ladies: Simply find your way to the nearest college bathroom and, presto spare-change-o, all of your birth control needs shall be met. "Voilà!" Whatever you know about them, it's clear that the candidates in this election have a lot of opinions about you. We shot the video above to capture some of our takes on their positions (you can find me at the 30-second mark), and an overarching concern is that the Republican candidates are pushing to limit women’s health care, not improve it. "Access to health care is an innate right," one woman states. "The people who might need access to safe and affordable healthcare are the least likely to get it," another says.
Whatever you might know about them, it's clear that the candidates in this election have a lot of opinions about you
You have the power to respond to these candidates with your vote. Declining to do so on the grounds that you are not informed "enough," wherever that nebulous threshold is, plays into the Republican candidates’ conviction that women can’t be trusted to make their own decisions. Or maybe you do believe that the system is broken or that one vote doesn’t count — but if you are at all disturbed by men standing up to say that they are better equipped than you to determine the course of your sexual and reproductive life, your vote is more than one of millions of expressions of approval of a given candidate. It’s a symbol of your refusal to be silent when others speak for and over you. And your vote is about more than how you choose to lead your life. Maybe you don't have sex and don’t need contraception right now; maybe you are personally pro-life and would never terminate a pregnancy, and you're not sure how these women's issues apply to you. But this very exercise of personal choice is the crux of "women's issues." Voting is how we ensure that we can make these types of decisions for ourselves while at the same time, other women can decide what's best for them, regardless of where they live, how much they make, or what any politician believes. It's your vote, and your uterus. Every woman should have control over both.
The Bed Post is a series that explores what holds us back from sex and love with whom we want, when we want, where we want, and how we want — because we all deserve sex and love lives that are not only free of evils, but full of what is good. Follow me on Twitter at @hlmacmillen or email me at hayley.macmillen@refinery29 — I’d love to hear from you. Find all of The Bed Post right here.
For more on the issues that matter most to millennial women, check out the Refinery29/ABC News Vote Your Values Poll here.