From arson to shootings, attacks at Planned Parenthood clinics around the country have become too common. These attacks highlight a terrible truth: Women face dangerous inequity. Typing #StandwithPP when a tragedy occurs is not enough to support women – legislators must take real action.
Reproductive rights: To achieve equity, women need control over their bodies, including access to healthcare to choose whether or not to have a child. Unfortunately, many women face financial barriers to abortion.
The Reproductive Parity Act would remedy this problem by requiring many insurance plans to cover abortion. The House of Representatives has repeatedly passed this bill, but the Senate has failed to take action.
Women also face barriers to getting birth control. This year the Legislature is considering a measure to allow pharmacies to dispense up to a year’s worth of birth control pills at once. Many women have a hard time getting to a pharmacy every month, leading to skipped pills and increasing risks of unintended pregnancies.
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Unfortunately, it is a challenge to make progress on an idea like this when teenagers who are speaking with legislators aren’t being asked about the bill, but instead about their sexual histories.
Many women support families. Paid family leave allows women to thrive in the workforce, without being forced to choose between work and family. Washington passed paid family leave, but it has never been funded – this needs to change.
The state must also pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which will assure pregnant workers have accommodations and legal recourse against discrimination.
Paid sick and safe days would allow women to care for themselves and their families when facing illness or domestic violence. The House of Representatives passed legislation extending sick and safe leave statewide.
Higher wages, equal pay: Women face unfairness at every level of the economy. From lawyers to fast-food workers, women make less than men for the same work. Women earn 78 cents to a man’s dollar; the gender wage gap is worse for women of color. To change this the House passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.
Again and again, House Democrats have stood up for women in the workforce, passing legislation only to see it wither in the Senate. As if it weren’t bad enough to block legislation to help workers, now the Senate is introducing legislation to take away the minimum wage and sick leave protections already in place for people in cities like Seattle.
Stand with women or stand in the way: Reproductive and economic justice are not mutually exclusive; women need both control over their bodies and fair economic opportunity to have equity. We stand with women. It is time for the Legislature to do the same.
Liz Bangham of West Seattle is a student and a member of Washington Community Action Network, a statewide grassroots organization with 40,000 members. She has been a primary earner for her family on a minimum wage job and has struggled to pay for her reproductive health. Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of Burien represents the 34th District.