In recognition of the anniversary of women’s right to vote, Jewish Women International supports a coalition of women’s organizations, representing millions of women, that is countering attacks on women’s economic and health security and working to preserve women’s Health and Economic Rights (HER) through a new multi-organization effort, HERvotes, that will mobilize women voters in 2012. Cornerstones of our nation’s economic and health security, which women fought for and won since gaining the right to vote in 1920, are now in jeopardy. Today HERvotes is releasing a list of the top ten historic laws that have impacted women’s lives, but are now in danger of being weakened, cut, or eliminated by extremist politicians at the state and federal level.
Women now comprise half of the entire paid labor force, and are essential contributors to the economy both as workers and consumers. Women are also an increasingly powerful political force. According to the Center for American Women in Politics, in 2008, women had a higher turnout rate than men, with 60.4% of women turning out to vote compared to 55.7% of men. This gender gap held true among Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, and White voters.
The top priorities of HERvotes are to engage more women in voting activities, as well as to urge politicians who seek to represent us to:
• Stop the attacks on the ten historic laws for women.
• Preserve historic policies such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act that provide women with the means to health security.
• Respect women’s contribution to the economy, and
• Act on jobs for our families’ economic security.
Historic Laws Impacting Women’s Lives….
and How They Are At Risk
1. Women’s Right to Vote (1920)
The 19th amendment was passed by the states in 1920 and guaranteed all American women the right to vote. Since then, women have surpassed men both in the proportion and numbers of women who vote.
Instead of advocating a 21st century voting system, conservative legislatures in 30 states are attempting to turn the clock back to the 19th century when only privileged white males were allowed to vote. Newly imposed ID requirements in some states target students, people of color and women. As many as 32 million women of voting age do not have documentation with their current legal name.
2. Social Security Act (1935)
Women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68 percent of all beneficiaries age 85 and older. Social Security is the bedrock of women’s financial security in the later years of their lives.
Bills introduced by conservative congressional members would gut the current Social Security program and disproportionally impact women’s economic security.
3. Medicare (1965)
Medicare is the nation’s health insurance program seniors and younger adults with permanent disabilities. More than half (56%) of all Medicare beneficiaries are women.
The conservative majority of the House of Representative passed a fiscal year 2012 budget bill that will effectively end Medicare and replace it for those now under 55 with a voucher to buy private insurance. It would increase out-of-pocket health care costs, limit benefits and choice of doctors.
4. Medicaid (1965)
Medicaid provides 19 million women access to vital health services at all stages of their lives. In 2007 nearly seven in ten elderly individuals who relied on Medicaid for assistance were women.
Under the conservative House budget, Medicaid was targeted for deep budget cuts and converted into capped block grants to states. Medicaid still faces threats as the Joint Select Committee on Debt Reduction deliberates and identifies an additional $1.5 trillion in budget cuts.
5. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964)
Title VII passed in 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Title VII covers all employment actions, including hiring, promotion, and termination, as well as all of the terms and conditions of employment and has been central to expanding women’s economic opportunities.
Recent actions by conservative Senators and the conservative-majority on the Supreme Court have weakened employment discrimination laws and placed women’s rights in jeopardy.
6. Title X, The National Family Planning Program (1972)
In 1972, Title X, America’s national family planning program, was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. More than 5 million individuals receive health care through Title X clinics.
For the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to completely defund Title X in 2011. Nine states have reduced family planning funding through legislative action and one (NJ) has eliminated it through Governor veto.
7. Title IX of the Education Amendments (1972)
Title IX, passed by Congress in 1972, prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs or activities. Title IX greatly expanded equal access to sports opportunities so that today girls and women represent 40% of all college and high school athletes.
A combination of budget cuts, regulations held over from the Bush Administration and pressure from congressional opponents threatens to weaken enforcement of Title IX.
8. Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision (1973)
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment extended to a women’s decision to have an abortion.
Anti abortion members of Congress have introduced legislation that would make all abortions illegal and essentially overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2011, over 1000 pieces of legislation have been introduced and 162 bills have been passed at the state level to restrict access to abortion and/or family planning, the most since 1973.
9. The Violence Against Women Act (1994)
The Violence Against Women Act passed by Congress in 1994, created the first U.S. federal legislation acknowledging the severity of crimes related to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and violence against women.
VAWA will expire at the end of the 2011 unless it is reauthorized. The law also requires updates and strengthening, including provisions that will help protect students on campus who are consistently subject to sexual harassment, assault and violence. Despite this, no action has yet been taken to ensure VAWA is reauthorized for the years to come.
10. The Affordable Care Act (2010)
The Affordable Care Act of 2010, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, covers well woman preventive health services, such as an annual well-woman visit, contraceptives, mammograms and cancer screenings, prenatal care and counseling for domestic violence, as basic health care for women at no additional cost. Combined with other provisions, the ACA is an historic step forward for women’s health and economic security.
Conservative members of Congress as well as conservative state legislators and governors have pledged to repeal ACA and deny women, of all ages, critical preventive care services.