This week, we recognized the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, celebrating advances in equality for women across the globe. International Women’s Day falls in the middle of March, which we celebrate as women’s history month.
In the past few decades, our country has made great progress for women’s rights, including electing the first female Speaker of the House, more women serving in the House of Representatives, and passage of a health care reform bill that will prevent insurance companies from charging women more for coverage based on gender.
Last Congress, the legislative agenda focused on many issues of concern to women across the nation, from fair pay to quality, affordable health care to investment in job growth. Passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensured the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay. Additionally, the Paycheck Fairness Act would update the Equal Pay Act to provide more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act not only kept our nation from falling into a depression, but it included tax cuts for the families of more than 16 million children, funding for job training and Pell Grants.
Last year saw the enactment of health care reform. Included in the legislation are great advances in women’s health. By 2014, not only will maternity services be mandated for all minimum insurance plans, but insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny or charge higher premiums based on gender.
These are just a few of the many notable pieces of legislation passed last Congress. These important achievements should be recognized and applauded with the understanding that there is more to be done on behalf of women’s rights.
Unfortunately, while we saw many successes in the 111th Congress, we certainly have not seen a continuation of accomplishments with the new Republican Leadership. Already, the budget debates in Congress have us moving backward.
Passed last week in the House of Representatives, the Republican leadership’s proposed budget includes harmful cuts to women’s health care and education programs with no proposals to create jobs or grow our economy.
The proposed budget eliminates all funding for the Title X Family Planning Program and Planned Parenthood. Regardless of philosophical differences, we all can agree that these programs provide critical services, such as cancer screenings, to women across the nation. The Title X-funded health centers serve more than five million individuals each year. It is obvious that eliminating funding for this program will have very serious health consequences.
As a member of Congress, I will keep working to ensure our laws improve the quality of life for all Americans. As a father, I will keep working to ensure that every child will have equal treatment under the law. I encourage you to take some time this month to reflect on the steps our nation has taken toward women’s equality and push for continued progress.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.