WASHINGTON - November 13 - Feminists continue to celebrate the results of the 2006 midterm
elections and recognize the hard work and resolve that brought many
new women's rights supporters to Congress. As much as we enjoy --
and quite frankly deserve -- a good celebration, it's not too soon
to ask: What next?
Come January, both the House and the Senate will be under new
leadership, and women and men across the United States will be
watching. Will the 110th Congress seize upon this fresh chance to
live up to our nation's ideals? Will this victory be merely a
cosmetic one, or can we expect real change and progress?
The initial legislative plans from the new leaders, Rep. Nancy
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bode well for women,
if they are not blocked by Bush allies still stung by the voters'
repudiation of their agenda.
One of Pelosi's first commitments is to put new rules in place to
"break the link between lobbyists and legislation," which will
increase the likelihood of legislators making decisions based on the
best interests of the people, rather than the interests of the
lobbyists -- and will make it easier for advocates to promote
positive change that increases fairness and equality.
Increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour will have a dramatic
impact on the quality of life for women and their families. Women
are the majority of those working at minimum wage, and many are
working two and three jobs to make ends meet. We deserve to be paid
fairly for the work that we do, and we hope the Paycheck Fairness
Act and the Fair Pay Act will also be on the agenda as the 110th
There's also a strong commitment by the new leadership to protect
Social Security from privatization and allow the government to
negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug
prices for Medicare patients -- both of those commitments are
critical to women because we are the most likely to be among the
elderly poor and dependent on Social Security in our later
And of course, there is a determination to change the course in
Iraq, and we will work with the new leadership to ensure that the
safety and rights of women are increased, not decreased, by U.S.
actions in the future.
MORE ON THE AGENDA:
After 12 years of inaction, the agenda for women's rights is
broad and long, but we hope to see action on many other important
issues in the coming years, from family/work balance and women's
health concerns, to stem cell research and hate crimes.
The targeting of girls in recent school shootings reminds us that
it's past time for Congress to finally add gender, disability and
sexual orientation to the existing hate crimes law. As we saw in the
Colorado and Amish school shootings, women and girls are sometimes
singled out for cruelty and even murder because of their gender, yet
federal law does not consider these acts to be hate crimes, as it
would if the students had been targeted because of their race or
Another important priority is The Balancing Act, introduced this
session by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), which would help women and
men balance work and family by providing greater access to family
and medical leave, expanding child care options, increasing funding
for after-school programs and encouraging family-friendly
Women's reproductive rights and health have been under relentless
attack from the Bush administration and its cronies in Congress, and
the new leadership has already committed to broadening the types of
stem cell research allowed with federal funds. We also look for
action on Plan B emergency contraception (EC), and Rep. Carolyn
Maloney (D-N.Y.) has pledged to pursue broader availability of EC to
the women who need it most. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has
introduced the FDA Scientific Fairness Act for Women, which would
halt the Food and Drug Administration's approval process on silicone
breast implants until the agency can actually establish the life of
silicone breast implants and until implant makers can prove the
safety of the product
These forward-thinking policies are only the beginning. We are
energized and we will not stop, because women's and girls'
opportunities, health, well-being and futures are on the line.
In addition to voting for representatives who are committed to
our issues, the best way to ensure that women's rights are protected
and advanced at the federal level is for constituents to expect and
demand it. We will be off to a good start with the 110th