The Fight – Still – for Women’s Rights
Pay equality. Reproductive freedom. Protection from domestic abuse. It’s hard for me to believe, in the year 2014, that these issues still dominate the conversation about women’s rights in the United States.
I am a proud, outspoken advocate of women’s rights. My daughters, my wife, my mother and my sisters – these strong and remarkable women are the source of my daily inspiration as I fight for women’s rights.
Equal Pay and Economic Opportunity
April 8 was Equal Pay Day. Women still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for the same job (in Connecticut, the disparity is more like 72 cents). For an American woman working in 2013 to make the same salary as her male counterpart working the same job, she needed to work an additional 98 days – the equivalent of working until April 8 of the following year.
That’s unconscionable. While the gap is closing, it’s closing at far too slow a pace. I am committed to reversing this injustice. One of the my first votes in Congress was in favor of the Lily Ledbetter Act, which helps pave the way for women in this country to earn equal pay for the same work. I also co-sponsored and voted in favor of improvements to the Equal Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. I support increasing the penalties for wage discrimination on the basis of sex and making it illegal for an employer to retaliate against a female employee who investigates whether she is being paid less than her male co-workers.
Whenever I am called to debate or support issues of reproductive freedom, I am reminded of how Justice Blackmun expressed so profoundly “the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires.” There are few more polarizing topics than this, but the contentiousness of the debate does not weaken my steadfast belief that it is a woman’s right – and her sole right – to make her own reproductive choices, without interference from lawmakers or government.
In the past three years, the Tea Party has redoubled efforts to not only erode, but to effectively eliminate, that right. At the federal level, I have opposed Republican budget proposals that defund family planning and community health centers, and I stood up against the Abortion Full Disclosure Act, which is nothing but an elaborate attempt to persuade private insurers to stop covering legal abortions.
While I strongly support the fundamental right of a woman to make her own reproductive choices, I respect those who hold other views. Many of my friends and colleagues hold “deep and seemingly absolute convictions” that are at odds with mine on this complex issue. To them, I offer my partnership in supporting efforts to reduce the number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies; to ensure that potential parents are educated and informed about their choices; and to ensure that every child grows up in a stable, loving family.
Freedom from Abuse and Domestic Violence
In the end, equal rights, reproductive freedom and equal pay can’t mean much if a woman is not physically safe at home and in her relationship. Whether she is on campus or in her own living room, we must do more to protect women from violence and abuse.
I fought against the Republicans’ efforts to weaken the Violence Against Women Act. When VAWA was up for re-authorization in 2005, it passed the House by a 414-4 vote. It was nearly unanimous (nearly unheard of!). But the current batch of House Republicans took a law with nearly universal, bi-partisan support and assailed it. They did their best to remove the law’s protection for certain women, like LGBT women, Native Americans and recent immigrants. I won’t stand for that. All victims of domestic abuse deserve the full protection of the law, and I will fight to make that our reality.
Improving Health Care and Health Outcomes for Women
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has done a great deal to reduce the health care cost and care disparities that women in our country still face. I supported the ACA because it forced the door to care open for millions of American women. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to pregnant women, refuse to cover breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings, or charge women higher premiums than men. It was a long road to enrollment, but I’m proud of the progress we made for women’s health under Obamacare.
Ensuring equal access to treatment is important, but I’m hoping to see the day where medical research and development renders many of today’s worst diseases obsolete. Until there’s a cure, I will continue to be a strong supporter of funding for breast and ovarian cancer research. That’s why I am a co-sponsor of the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act, which supports research to end breast cancer by the year 2020. That is also why I have pushed, and will continue to push, for more research about gender and health disparities, especially in underserved communities.
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