A Winning Night for Women

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The Huffington Post

A Winning Night for Women

It is hard to overstate the landslide victory for women last night. The election of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden spells the end of eight long years of an administration that used every legislative, judicial, and administrative weapon in its arsenal to attack women's health and rights. With a Supreme Court poised on the knife-edge of turning back decades of progress for women, we will now have leadership who support everything from equal pay to reproductive rights - providing the opportunity to appoint judges who share these convictions. This presidential ticket was also elected on the most pro-women's rights platform ever adopted by the Democratic Party.

But there's more: In down-ballot races across the country, supporters of women's health and rights won in states red and blue - from Jay Nixon, the governor-elect in Missouri to Dina Titus, a new congresswoman-elect from Las Vegas - all of whom were supported by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. While there are races still to be called, so far there are 22 newly elected pro-Planned Parenthood members of Congress: 17 pro-Planned Parenthood representatives and five pro-Planned Parenthood senators!

And resoundingly, right-wing-sponsored ballot initiatives were defeated in South Dakota, Colorado, and California - measures that sought to undermine women and families' rights to make personal health care decisions.

This morning, women can relish the victory and justifiably share much of the credit. Senator Obama won women by 13 points - where John Kerry barely had any gender gap advantage at all. Women were energized in this presidential race unlike ever before - beginning with the historic candidacy of Senator Hillary Clinton and, eventually, through their growing awareness of the abysmal record of Senator John McCain on basic women's issues. From equal pay to reproductive rights to health care coverage, women increasingly saw John McCain as fundamentally out of touch with their basic needs. And the Hail-Mary nomination of Sarah Palin only exacerbated the sense that he just didn't get it.

And in the closest races in the country, women voters get the credit. Former Governor Jeanne Shaheen will now become Senator Shaheen because women voted for her by 23 points. And in Colorado, women represented 61 percent of the electorate and gave Senator-elect Mark Udall a 22-point gender gap.

Last night's election was a seismic shift in politics in America. Barack Obama appealed to our better selves - evangelizing for coming together to address important issues, a revolutionary change from the divide-and-conquer politics of the Bush administration. Senator Obama campaigned on the need for government to solve problems, rather than create them.

Nothing could be more welcome to women in America. For too long, our health and rights have been used as a political battering ram. It's time we get serious about women's health - from breast cancer to cervical cancer to preventing unintended pregnancies. It's time to address the health of our young people - and tackle head-on the unconscionably high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. And it's time we move on from the militant back and forth on the issue of reproductive choice. Senator Obama recognizes, as do the vast majority of Americans, that the issues of whether or when to have a child and a family are the most personal that we can make - and while we may have different opinions on the issue of abortion, we can surely agree that providing health care and education to women and young people would help reduce the need in the first place.

We look forward to working with President Obama every step of the way, doing everything it takes to make real change happen. It's a great day for America. It's a revolutionary day for American women.

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, PPFA's political arm. Cecile writes about election issues as the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She is a leader in national progressive politics with more than 20 years of experience working on behalf of reproductive freedom and social justice.

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