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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:48 pm | Fair 49º


Rep. Lois Capps: In Honor of Women’s Equality Day

We’ve come a long way in 90 years, but the fight is never ending

Thursday is Women’s Equality Day, which marks the 90th anniversary of the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that gave women the right to vote. It is important to celebrate the tremendous strides toward equality that women have made in the past century and honor the women who have worked tirelessly for us all. But we must also take stock of where we are today and how we are continuing to make gains for women in American society.

Rep. Lois Capps
Rep. Lois Capps

One good example, is with the passage of health-care reform. It represents a tremendous victory toward equal rights for women. Thanks to the passage of health-care reform, women can no longer be charged higher premiums just because they are women. For example, today on the individual insurance market women are charged, on average, 48 percent more than men. When health insurance reforms are fully implemented in 2014, this discriminatory practice of “gender rating” will be forbidden. And no longer will pregnancy and Caesarean sections be deemed “pre-existing” conditions by insurance companies to deny women insurance coverage or charge women more.

Currently, fewer than half of American women are provided coverage through their employer because many work for small businesses or work part-time. This leaves far too many women open to the uncertainty of the individual insurance market. When the state exchanges are up and running in 2014, small businesses will have the same access to affordable group rates that large companies have today, and small business owners and uninsured individuals will be able to choose from a selection of private plans.

Another issue of great importance to our progress toward women’s equality is equal pay. During this Congress, I have voted for two bills, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, to bring us closer to achieving equal pay for women. Women are either the primary or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, making the realization of equal pay for women truly a family-values issue.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was inspired by the story of Lilly Ledbetter, who after 19 years working at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant, discovered she was being paid notably less than male counterparts at the plant. Enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act protects a woman’s right to take recourse against a discriminatory employer; giving women needed resources to fight discrimination in the workplace. The act was the first major piece of legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would modernize the Equal Pay Act. When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, women earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned. In 2008, that gap had narrowed by only 18 cents, with women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Although the House of Representatives has passed this bill, the Senate still needs to take action. Both of California’s senators — Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein — have pushed hard for the bill and I hope the Senate will move forward on this legislation as soon as possible. It is a matter of fundamental fairness.

We’ve come a long way in 90 years, but we still have a ways to go. The fight for women’s equality is one that’s never-ending, but you can be assured that it will remain a priority of mine in Congress for as long as I have the privilege of representing the 23rd Congressional District.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, represents the 23rd Congressional District.

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