Our nation’s women have fought to open the doors of opportunity for themselves in numerous ways. They have championed fair credit, tougher child support enforcement, equitable pay, and more secure retirement income. And they have led efforts to promote women's health and protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I am proud to serve with a record number of Congresswomen who recognize there is more work to be done in order to ensure equal opportunity for every woman, regardless of race, religion, disability, socioeconomic background or sexual orientation.
Despite our country’s long history of progress toward civil rights and equality, there is still evidence that discrimination and wage disparity exists in the workplace. Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, according to the US Census Bureau in 2008, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This wage disparity will cost women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million in lost wages over a lifetime. In this time of economic struggle for middle class Americans, that difference in pay makes an even bigger difference for families.
That is why I have consistently supported legislation that attempts to close this wage gap, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2009, puts gender-based discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination- such as race, disability, or age – by allowing women to sue employers for compensatory and punitive damages. It also reverses a 2007 Supreme Court decision that put time restraints on when individuals can sue for discrimination.
In addition, I support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and imposes stiff penalties on employers who discriminate based on gender.
Violence Against Women
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first passed in 1994 and provided funding for clinics, shelters, and hotlines for victims in crises. Additionally, VAWA provided important tools for law enforcement to arrest and prosecute abusers and rapists. This legislation expired on September 30, 2011 and Congress has been working to reauthorize the legislation since then.
Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has helped protect victims of domestic and sexual violence. It has twice been reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support, each time with important improvements to strengthen VAWA. Since the passage of the Act, annual incidents of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent. That is why I am a proud co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, H.R. 11, that was introduced by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) on January 22, 2013.
We absolutely cannot sit back and watch these long-standing, important protections for victims of domestic violence and assault disappear. As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to maintain these protections. We must ensure safety measures are in place, and resources are available for the security of everyone in our communities.
Women often face higher health care costs than men and additional barriers to obtaining affordable health insurance. Health care reform lowers those barriers and ends discrimination against women. In the individual insurance market, women faced discrimination — often being charged substantially higher premiums for the same coverage as men or being denied coverage for such “pre-existing conditions” as pregnancy, having had a C-section, or being a victim of domestic violence. In addition, fewer women have access to insurance than men, since many are ineligible for employer-based coverage. As a result, many women are uninsured or underinsured, and simply can’t afford the services they need. In a recent study, more than half of women — compared with 39% of men — reported delaying needed medical care due to cost.
Thankfully, under health care reform, women have the most to gain. Reform ends gender discrimination, expands access and makes health care affordable - rights belonging to all women in America. To see the gains made for women under the Affordable Care Act, click here.
Title X Funding
I strongly support Title X funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI). PPWI and its affiliates have a wealth of expertise protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of our communities. Planned Parenthood is a resource used by many women in western Wisconsin, providing a wide range of health services to women who would not otherwise have access to such preventative health measures. I’m disappointed that these important women’s health programs have recently been jeopardized by misguided attacks that only serve to hurt access to vital health services.