By Terry O’Neill, NOW President
Aug. 26 is Women’s Equality Day. As we celebrate the 91st anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote, it is now more important than ever to mobilize women voters. It is time to end the countless attacks by the right-wing in Congress and in state legislatures across the country on women’s health and economic rights. Today, we need to start encouraging and motivating women to vote in 2012 for leaders who understand the needs of women in order to make important decisions that can impact their lives significantly.
Most recently, a 12-member super committee appointed by House and Senate leaders has been charged with proposing at least $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years. Women are poorly represented on the super committee — it consists of 11 men and only one woman, although women are 51 percent of the U.S. population. It greatly concerns me that some of the members on this committee don’t understand how critical certain programs are to millions of middle- and low-income people, especially women of color and older women.
Women currently are paid 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by a man, while African-American women are paid just 68 cents and Latinas only 59 cents. This wage gap means that many women have little to no savings or investments to rely on in their retirement years or to fall back on during a health crisis or economic setback.
Most worrisome is that fully half of the members of the super committee are already on record voting for drastic budget cuts that include converting Medicare to a private voucher system, block-granting Medicaid and fast-tracking proposals to cut Social Security benefits in the future. Instead of cutting these critical programs, our leaders should be creating jobs. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women have lost nearly 281,000 jobs since the recovery started in June 2009. Even more devastating, the unemployment rates for women of color and single mothers are higher than the unemployment rate for men overall.
We need elected leaders who are more interested in funding health care, family planning, education and child care than waging endless wars. We also need leaders who aren’t afraid to push for tax increases that will require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.
Not only are we fighting against these economic attacks, but we also face ongoing attacks on our reproductive freedom. More than 1,000 pieces of legislation have been introduced this year alone, and 162 bills have been passed at the state level to restrict access to abortion and/or family planning.
Women consistently outnumber men at the polls. At the National Organization for Women, we will spend the next 15 months continuing our grassroot efforts to educate these women to vote for candidates who will prioritize women’s rights at the state and federal levels.
This post is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.