Olivia Riutta - June 08, 2012
Montana Women Vote
The War on Women Continues
With the primary election over and campaigns now setting their eyes on the November prize. I hope that with this shift, we will being hearing more policy specifics from candidates, a clearer picture of what they see for the future of our families and communities and how we make that future a reality.
And for women, we need to hear where candidates stand on issues that directly impact our lives from access to health care, funding for safety net services, toxic chemical in our household products, and what they will do to stop what has come to be called the War on Women, or as some like to call it, the WOW.
This war was declared sometime this spring after what seemed like a gale force of coordinated and strategic efforts to roll-back our right, especially in the area of reproductive choice. But to be clear, there has always attacks on women's rights, our bodies, and the programs and services that primarily serve us, and our children for that matter.
These days the attacks just seem to have reached new heights. Who would have thought that in Texas in just the past two years, almost 400,000 women would love access to reproductive health care. Or that any state would even think about passing draconian legislation that would require women seeking an abortion to get a transvaginal ultrasound, which is physically invasive yet not medically necessary.
It is less of a wow and more of a deep sigh, are we really going to come full circle and have these same cultural and political debates? It appears so.
In April we saw great organizing efforts across the country to mobilize women to say that enough is enough, stop this war on women. Women rallied in almost every state, in Montana hundreds of women rallied on the lawn of the capitol, an event that was organized by volunteers. Across the country women joined together, demanding that the mostly white and mostly male elected officials leading these attacks, simply back off.
Despite these efforts the War on Women continues.
Just this week while Montanans were heading to the polls to vote in the primary, women were once again told that they'll just have to wait, as the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to move forward in the Senate. In Montana, there is a wage disparity between men and women to the tune of almost $11,000 a year. Women across the US enjoy equal work, for very unequal pay, an average of $0.77 on the dollar nationwide.
A key first step to equal pay, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, passed in 2009 and preserved the rights of victims of pay discrimination to seek justice. While Ledbetter was a down-payment on real progress in closing the wage gap, Te Paycheck Fairness Act was supposed to close the deal by strengthening laws so that employers can't retaliate if employees disclose how much they earn to co-workers and strengthening remedies for employees who have been discriminated against.
Both Senators Baucus and Tester supported the legislation and I thank them for standing up for Montana women. The final vote came down on party lines with Republicans opposed and claiming that it was just an election year ploy to gain women's support.
Equal pay for equal work is fair and it is right. It makes our families and communities stronger and should transcend the partisan divide.
Also meddling in the private lives of Montana women is CI-108, a "personhood" initiative that aims to give full rights, as defined by the Montana Constitution, to a fertilized egg. If this sounds familiar to you, it is, proponents have tried multiple times to get this on the ballot and have thus far not collected the 48,000 or so signatures required.
While obviously aimed at banning abortion, this initiative would also effectively make illegal some kinds of birth control, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research. It may even prompt the investigation of miscarriages. CI-108 would threaten the health of women and tie the hands of doctors to provide what most people think of as standard medical care to pregnant women. It would also take away our constitution right to privacy which has been in place for over 40 years.
Signatures need to be gathered by June 22nd so these last few weeks might be busy. If you see CI-108 signature gatherers please decline to sign their petition. We can trust women to make private medical decisions and build healthy families. And for more information check out "Don't Sign CI-108" on Facebook.
So for now, it seems that the WOW goes on and women's issues will continue to be debated, and re-debated as this election year moves forward.
So make sure you ask candidates seeking your vote, where they stand on the war on women and other policies that impact women’s lives. When they knock on our door, ask them.
The election is your opportunity to pick the candidate who most reflects your values because they will make decisions that directly impact you life.
It is your vote, your voice, let it be heard loud and clear.
I'm Olivia Riutta with Montana Women Vote, thanks for listening and have a great weekend.