California’s putting elderly and disabled women and girls at greater risk of abuse

California governor Jerry Brown just signed a law that takes away the basic human rights of elderly and disabled women and girls to have a safe and private place away from men to use the toilet, shower, and sleep while in long-term medical care. This is now the law of the land in the seventh-largest economy in the world. If you’ve never heard about this you could hardly be blamed, for both the “progressives” sponsoring the bill and the conservatives opposing it have almost erased women’s concerns from the picture, while media has been nearly silent.

On September 5 WoLF sent a letter to main author of the bill, California state senator Scott Wiener, urging him to slow the bill down in order to remove those sections that put women in harm’s way. The bill will allow any man who claims to have a woman “gender identity” to have instant and unquestioned access to women’s bathrooms, shower rooms, and sleeping rooms. Women and girls who repeatedly object to men in their spaces, or who repeatedly “misgender” such men can be punished with fines and even jail time. The bill’s requirements and restrictions affect not only staff but also patients in long-term care facilities for seniors, developmentally disabled kids and adults, and abused or neglected children with serious medical needs – in other words, those most vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of violent men.

On the same day WoLF wrote to Senator Wiener to protest his assault on women’s rights, his office issued a press statement dubbing the bill the “LGBT Seniors Bill of Rights,” and characterizing the opposition as coming solely from “the Religious Right (the same folks who oppose all LGBT civil rights bills).” To be sure, the bill also punishes discrimination on the basis of a patient’s sexual orientation, HIV status, or non-conformance with sex-based stereotypes. But none of that diminishes the fact that Mr. Wiener’s bill puts elderly and disabled women and girls at higher risk of predation and abuse. His press statement only alludes to these concerns indirectly, but brushes them off as “the North Carolina ‘trans people will rape you in the bathroom’ absurd argument.” Again, this obscures the fact that it is women who are worried about being raped or otherwise violated due to reckless “gender-neutral” policies for not only bathrooms but also women’s locker rooms, women’s jails, and women’s emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence or homelessness—and we do not fear violation by some vague undefined class of “trans people,” but men, regardless of their gender feelings.

The conservative opponents of the bill at least acknowledge its effects on women and girls, but almost as an afterthought, buried among generalized anti-government, anti-progressive rhetoric as in this article published by the Federalist, and this one by Fox News. They seem primarily to be concerned that the bill will force medical staff to use “preferred pronouns,” and that it does not allow for the sort of religious exceptions that conservatives demand from what they call “The LGBTQ+ agenda.” While incursions on the free speech of nurses and doctors is a valid concern, it pales in comparative importance to the material threat now facing medically vulnerable women and girls, and this threat cannot be addressed by granting religious exemptions for a few individuals.

People across the political spectrum must wake up and start prioritizing the safety and privacy of women and girls.