Despite major advances in civil and political rights, our country still has a long way to go in addressing the issue of gender inequality. Many of the achievements that have been made for women’s rights in the 20th century have been under attack — denying women control over their own bodies, preventing access to vital medical and social services, and blocking equal pay for equal work.
We are not going back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.
We will not go back to the days when survivors of domestic violence had no access to services or recourse against their abusers, because domestic violence was swept under the rug, as a shameful, private issue. Worse yet, it was not so long ago that spousal abuse was legal in many states.
The current attempt to malign Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies. Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services for millions of women, who rely on its clinics every year for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services.
We are not going back to the days when women did not have full access to birth control. Incredibly, many in congress are in favor of giving any employer who provides health insurance, or any insurance company, the ability to deny coverage for contraception or any other kind of procedure if the employer had a “moral” objection to it. That is unacceptable.
We are not going back to the days when it was legal for women to be paid less for doing the same work as men. It is wrong that women working full-time only earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. This has also contributed to elderly women being more reliant on Social Security and more likely to be living in poverty than men.
- Fight for pay equity for women. It is a national disgrace that women only earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. The gender pay gap is even worse for women of color. Today, African American women earn just 64 cents for every dollar a white male earns, while the figure for Hispanic women is just 54 cents.
- Expand and protect the reproductive rights of women. Expand funding for Planned Parenthood, the Title X family planning program, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.
- Protect and help victims of domestic violence.
- Make quality childcare and pre-k available to all Americans. Make high-quality childcare and Pre-K available to every American, regardless of income. It is unacceptable that the cost of a quality childcare program is out of reach for millions of Americans.
- Increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. According to the most recent statistics, women make up two-thirds of all minimum wage workers. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would significantly boost the wages of more than 15 million women and help close the gender wage gap.
- Raise the tipped minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023. The federal tipped minimum wage of just $2.13 an hour hasn’t been raised since 1991. More than two-thirds of tipped workers are women. Increasing the tipped minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023 would lift millions of women out of poverty and significantly reduce the gender pay gap.
- Provide at least 12 weeks of paid family leave, 2 weeks of family vacation, and one week of paid sick days to American workers. End the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee paid leave to workers. The Republicans talk a lot about “family values.” Well, it is not a family value to force the mother of a newborn baby to go back to work a few days after she gives birth, because she doesn’t have the money to stay home and bond with her baby. That is not a family value. That is an insult to everything that we know a family is about. Require employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. And, we must require employers to provide at least one week of paid sick leave annually, so that women can stay home to take care of a sick child, among other things.
- Make healthcare a right. Fight for a Medicare for All single-payer healthcare system to make healthcare a right for all Americans. If the United States joined every major country on earth and enacted a universal healthcare program, women would benefit the most. Today, women have much higher healthcare expenses than men and pay a greater portion of their healthcare costs out of their own pockets. Women make up two-thirds of the low-wage workforce and only about 23 percent of low-wage jobs provide health insurance. It is time for a Medicare for All single-payer healthcare system.
- Expand social security. Fight to expand Social Security benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments to keep up with rising medical and prescription drug costs; and expand the minimum Social Security benefit to lift seniors out of poverty. Expanding social security will benefit women the most, with more women receiving social security than men. While there are some recipients near or below the federal poverty line right now, that number would vastly increase without social security.