Filipinas at the White House 1922

Roe vs Wade, women’s rights and the Culion women of 1937

2 years ago
1 min read

As the looming decision of the U.S. Supreme Court threatens to upend what was believed to be firmly established law in Roe vs. Wade, women across the nation are rallying to safeguard this pivotal piece of legislation from consignment to the annals of history.

Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon (center) signs the Women’s Suffrage Bill following the 1937 plebiscite, as his wife Aurora Aragon Quezon (left) looks on. Also witnessing this historic moment were Speaker Jose Yulo, Executive Secretary Jorge B. Vargas and Vice President Sergio Osmeña.

This fervent call to defend women’s rights evokes memories of Filipino women’s struggles prior to World War II as they fought tirelessly to secure suffrage. In the early 20th century, only literate Filipino men aged 21 and above could cast their votes. The 1935 Philippine Constitution imposed a significant hurdle for women to attain voting rights: 300,000 literate women had to vote “yes” in a plebiscite.

Eloise Stirling Hirt, chronicling events in Culion, Palawan, Philippines, before the 1937 plebiscite, vividly portrayed the fervor of the women there. Collaborating with women’s rights advocate Josefa Llanes Escoda, Hirt witnessed the fiery determination of the Culion women, describing them as “inflammable as guncotton.”

The leaders of the suffrage movement on Culion

During her visit in March, just weeks before the crucial plebiscite, Hirt observed volunteers diligently registering women, going from house to house, bed to bed, to ensure their participation. Despite societal barriers limiting women’s educational opportunities, they persisted. Ultimately, 918 Culion women out of 952 registered voters cast their affirmative votes on April 30, 1937, contributing to the nationwide tally of 492,000 affirming women.

The resilience of these women against formidable odds mirrors the contemporary struggle to preserve Roe vs. Wade. In the face of potential adversity, their example serves as a beacon of hope, emphasizing the power of collective action. Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade, women must exercise their remaining recourse: voting in midterm elections with the urgency their rights demand.

Regarding the contentious issue of abortion and religious beliefs, there exists room for compromise. Rather than perpetuating divisive rhetoric, a nuanced approach that respects diverse perspectives is warranted. Perhaps future legislative endeavors could include provisions exempting individuals whose religious or personal convictions prohibit abortion, alongside requirements for parental consent for minors.

In a democracy, the protection of constitutionally enshrined freedoms is paramount. However, the pursuit of political victories at the expense of unity undermines the fabric of society. A nation divided cannot effectively confront external threats; thus, finding common ground through compromise is imperative for progress.

In light of pressing societal challenges, such as the prevalence of mass shootings, redirecting attention towards comprehensive gun control measures appears prudent. While Roe vs. Wade poses minimal threat to the average citizen, addressing gun ownership with the broader populace in mind is essential for safeguarding public safety and well-being.

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