Across the country, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and over their careers, that means they take home hundreds of thousands of dollars less than men. Here in Massachusetts, women earn 81 cents for every dollar a man earns. While that's better than the national average, that's not good enough. At a time when the economy is still hurting, women are essential to making sure working families in this Commonwealth and across the country can get by. Unfair pay - especially for single-parent households - makes it even harder for these families to stay afloat. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
Our country has made real progress expanding equality and opportunity. For women, this has meant greater access to education, to the workplace, and to control over their economic lives. But in the area of health, women continue to face obstacles.
In recent years, health insurance companies have discriminated against women, and many women have been faced with a limited set of health care options. But federal policy is now moving in the right direction: The new health care reform law will soon ban abusive insurance company practices, and it will no longer be the case that simply being a woman, being pregnant, or being a victim of domestic violence is a pre-existing condition that could limit access to coverage. These are powerful protections that women across this country will soon enjoy - if those who want to repeal health care reforms do not succeed. These protections are fundamental, and we owe it to women all across this country to fight to preserve these protections.
Women also must have the full range of reproductive health care options available to them. This includes access to contraception, maternity and newborn care, and safe abortion services. At a time when a minority in this country wants to cut off such access for women, it is important to speak out to protect a woman's right to make decisions about her body.
For many, the news of a pregnancy is a joyous occasion, greeted with celebration and wonder. When I learned I was pregnant for the first time, I danced. But I know that circumstances can be very different. For some women, a pregnancy may be the result of rape or incest, continuing a pregnancy may put a woman's life in jeopardy, or another pregnancy may threaten the survival of a family. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is not easy for any woman, but it is a decision that only she can make. A woman should be able to seek guidance from people she trusts, including her doctor and her priest, pastor, rabbi or other religious leader, without interference from the government.