National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

Standing Up for Women & Families in 2017

Images of Debra L. Ness and Senator Tammy Duckworth“This is the time to move women’s rights forward, not roll back the progress we have made over decades.” That was Senator Tammy Duckworth’s (D – Ill.) powerful message in her speech to a crowd of congressional staff members and advocates at the National Partnership for Women & Families’ annual congressional briefing last Thursday.

I couldn’t agree more, especially because Senator Duckworth’s remarks came moments before the House of Representatives voted to pass the disastrous American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would strip health coverage from 24 million people, raise health care costs for millions more, gut Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. In fact, I opened the event by stressing how critical the National Partnership’s work is during this time when President Trump and leaders in Congress continue to attack women’s health, civil rights and equal justice.

In addition to the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), on Thursday President Trump signed an executive order that threatens to take coverage for contraceptive care and other essential preventive health benefits away from millions of women based on others’ religious beliefs. Instead of policies like the AHCA and this harmful executive order, which undermine the ability of women and families to access high-quality, affordable health care, we need to strengthen the ACA, the greatest advance for women’s health in a generation. We need the EACH Woman Act to secure a woman’s access to abortion coverage, regardless of her income or source of insurance. We need Title X, the nation’s family planning program, to be fully funded and supported. And we need the Women’s Health Protection Act to combat state abortion restrictions that push abortion care out of reach.

The House also voted last week to advance the Working Families Flexibility Act, a badly misnamed and harmful bill that would deprive people of overtime pay under the guise of providing more flexibility for workers. Instead of this type of smoke-and-mirrors legislation, our nation’s working people and families need policy supports such as the Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick time, the FAMILY Act to ensure all working people access to paid family and medical leave, the Paycheck Fairness Act to help end pay discrimination, and the Schedules That Work Act to provide workers more predictability and control over their work schedules. These are proposals that would truly make workplaces more fair and family friendly.

In the face of these callous attacks, Senator Duckworth encouraged the audience to “stay in the fight because there are a lot of women, children and families out there who are counting on you.”

There is no question that we at the National Partnership plan to do just that. We will persist, insist and resist every day to protect women’s health, equity and economic security. We will not back down, because our futures, and the future of our nation, depend on all of us. I encourage you to read more about our priorities for this year in our recently released legislative agenda.

We applaud warriors like Senator Duckworth and her colleagues who are standing up for women and families in 2017, and we urge all members of Congress to do the same. After all, as Senator Duckworth so poignantly stated, “This is a critical time for our nation, a moment that will play a role in determining the future of women and children and families all across the United States for generations to come.”


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