Sen. Kamala Harris: As president, I will fight for women

For the Monitor
Published: 6/19/2019 12:10:21 AM

Last month in Nashua I said, “Let us all agree that women’s health care is under attack, and we will not stand for it.” This was the day after the Alabama legislature passed their measure to criminalize doctors and ban nearly all abortions in the state. That day in Nashua, I heard from Granite Staters about their deep concern not only for women in Alabama and other states that have recently passed draconian abortion laws, but for women across America whose rights are yet again under attack.

I hear their concerns and I share them. When I’m president, I will take on this fight.

President Trump could not have been clearer about where he stands on the issue of women’s reproductive health. While running for president he said there should be “some kind of punishment” for women who choose to get an abortion. As president, he has systematically targeted women’s rights, including trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which helps provide no-cost birth control for tens of millions of women, to nominating two justices to the Supreme Court who are intent on overturning Roe v. Wade.

What we’re seeing across the country and in the White House makes it clearer than ever that we have to do more to protect women’s access to health care. That’s exactly what I will do when I’m president.

I will fight back with a plan to block dangerous and deadly abortion restrictions before they take effect. Just as the Voting Rights Act required preclearance from the Department of Justice for any law that might infringe on people’s fundamental right to vote, my proposal will require, for the first time, that states and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade obtain approval from my Department of Justice before any abortion law or practice can take effect.

And I’m not going to stop there. I will also protect Planned Parenthood from Republican attempts to defund essential health services, nominate judges who respect Roe v. Wade and reverse the Trump administration’s illegal attempts to cut evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants. I will also continue to fight so that all women have access to reproductive health care regardless of how much money they make by continuing my career-long opposition to the Hyde Amendment.

Standing with women means not only protecting their right to health care but ensuring they are not discriminated against in the workplace. As president, I will take action to make sure women are paid fairly.

In New Hampshire today, women who work full time are paid just 79 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to men. All that money adds up to nearly $5 billion lost every year for women in New Hampshire. For too long, we’ve put the burden entirely on workers to hold corporations accountable for pay discrimination through costly lawsuits that are increasingly difficult to prove. We’ve let corporations hide their wage gaps but forced women to stand up in court just to get the pay they’ve earned. Women should not have to prove what the world already knows – they are not paid equally. That’s not right.

I have a concrete plan to close the gender pay gap for women in New Hampshire and across the country by holding corporations accountable for pay inequality. Under my plan, corporations will be fined if they don’t pay women fairly – and the median annual pay for a woman in New Hampshire will increase by up to $5,074 per year. That is the progress we need.

The stakes have never been higher for women’s rights in America. When I think about the battle ahead, I think of the generations of women before me who marched and spoke out for equality. I remember my grandmother, who would drive her Volkswagen Bug through her small Indian village in the 1940s, shouting through a bullhorn to inform women about how to get birth control.

The last few months have been a stark reminder that women in America are still not valued equally in our society. Growing up, when my sister and I would come to my mother with a problem she would look at us and say, “Don’t sit around and complain about things, do something.” That’s exactly what I plan to do. When I’m president, women in New Hampshire and across the country will have someone fighting right alongside with them in the White House.

(Kamala Harris represents California in the U.S. Senate and is a Democratic candidate for president.)

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