Champion Women's Rights and Equality

 

On the wall of my office hangs an old, yellowing paper in a simple wooden frame. It’s a petition with dozens of signatures, arguing against women’s suffrage. For me, it’s a daily reminder of how far we’ve come since debate of the 19th Amendment that gave us the right to vote, but we still have so many more battles ahead of us. This has been one of the greatest fights of my career: promoting women’s rights and equality.

I have repeatedly introduced a bill that would remove the deadline to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Many Americans think that our Constitution already protects women from discrimination, but the reality is that this amendment fell three states short of ratification before an unnecessary deadline that had been built into the language. As the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia put it, "Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination  on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't." These words haunt me, and show a barrier to equality that continues to this day in preventing discrimination in so many aspects of life. My bill would finally inscribe equality of men and women in our nation's founding document. 

One of the most clear settings of gender inequality is in the marketplace. Women today make up about half the workforce, and about 40 percent of working women are the primary breadwinners for their family. In spite of these employment trends, women continue to make only 79 cents for every dollar her male colleague makes. The gender pay gap is even worse for women of color. I strongly support legislation to put an end to these practices. Discrimination doesn’t just exist in the labor market - in what is often called the “pink tax”, goods and services marketed for women tend to have an upcharge in comparison to similar goods and services for men. This includes anything from haircuts to dry cleaning to razors to children’s toys. I have introduced legislation to outlaw gender-based pricing, similar to a bill I introduced that was signed into law in the California state legislature. Women shouldn’t get paid less, and women shouldn’t have to pay more for goods and services. This should be common sense. 

Finally, I believe women should have ready access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including the constitutional right to legal and safe abortion services. As someone who has had a medically necessary abortion - a painful experience for me both emotionally and physically - I have fought for these rights for my entire career. The decision my late husband and I made was between my family and my doctor. All women must be able to make these personal healthcare decisions without interference from the government or religious organizations. Unfortunately, recent trends in state regulations, clinic closures, and court decisions threaten access to essential healthcare for women across the country. I have worked to fight these trends in any way that I can. I have never backed down from a debate. I have fought in committee hearings to prevent baseless investigations and defunding of Planned Parenthood. I have introduced amendments that were signed into law providing female service members with access to contraception when they are deployed.

We’ve made a lot of progress on women’s equality in the more than 30 years I’ve spent in public service. We still have so much more to do, and I will continue fighting for this cause with every chance I get.