This week we recognize Women’s Equality Day, marking the 91st anniversary of women’s suffrage. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
Women’s Equality Day is a time to reflect on the efforts of generations of women before us, including such leaders as Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Our country has made great progress for women’s rights since the era of these tenacious women; we elected the first female Speaker of the House, there are more women serving in the House of Representatives than at any other time in its history, and today more women than men attend institutions of higher learning.
Last Congress saw many improvements in women’s rights. Passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensured the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay.
Last year also saw the enactment of health care reform, which included 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.
Yet while we have made progress in recent years, there is still a great deal more to be done on behalf of women’s rights. In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was enacted, women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2009, women still earned only 77 cents to the dollar
Earlier this year, I was proud to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would provide a much-needed update to the 47-year-old Equal Pay Act by providing more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers. I will continue pushing for a vote on this important legislation.
Unfortunately, women continue to face opposition in this Congress. Priorities of the Republican-led Congress put forward in their February budget proposal showed willingness to target and in some cases eliminate programs that protect women’s health. Their budget eliminates all funding for the Title X Family Planning Program and Planned Parenthood, whose health centers serve more than five million individuals each year with cancer screenings and other critical health services. I was proud to stand against this harmful bill, which died in the Senate.
This Women’s Equality Day, I encourage you to take time to reflect on the steps we have taken towards equality and push for continued progress. As a member of Congress, I will keep working to ensure our laws improve the quality of life for all Americans.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.