Women’s issues are family issues. Congresswoman Speier has fought her whole career for the rights of women. The right to make their own healthcare decisions, their right to earn equal pay for equal work, their right to succeed under non-discriminative working conditions - to name a few. Congresswoman Speier truly believes that when women succeed, America succeeds, and she will continue to be a vocal champion for women and their families.
Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose
Congresswoman Speier believes that every woman in this country must have access to reproductive health care services and is committed to protecting a woman's right to choose. Unfortunately, since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, that guarantee has come under unprecedented attack. The Republican majority has crafted measures to redefine rape, leave women to die rather than access abortions and cut off support to women’s health care clinics. In February 2011, Speier took to the House floor in opposition to a Republican amendment that would have withheld Title X funding for clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that provide abortion coverage. She was outraged that those in favor of the measure were insisting that it was necessary to ensure that federal funds were not used to pay for abortions even though the Hyde Amendment already requires this. Further, Planned Parenthood uses over 90% of their funding for essential preventive screenings women in this country depend on, such as pap smears, STD tests and annual examinations.
But when she reached the House floor she felt compelled to share her own story in response to lies that were being perpetrated by one of her colleagues. On that day, Speier shared the fact that she had an abortion procedure when she was 17 weeks pregnant and there was nothing cavalier about her experience. She and her husband wanted to see the pregnancy through, but they lost the baby.
In the days that followed Speier received thousands of letters, calls, and e-mails from women not just in California, but around the country. They shared with her that they had endured similar procedures themselves but had never spoken out because of the stigma created around the issue. Others talked about how Planned Parenthood had become their only health care option and how pleased they were that she and her colleagues were fighting for it
Speier was pleased that the Senate defeated the amendment to strip funding for Title X. She was grateful and humbled by all of the support she received. The stories she hears from around the country encourage her to keep up the fight for reproductive rights.
Women’s Economic Agenda (WEA)
February 2013 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Suffrage Procession, when 5,000 women marched up Pennsylvania Avenue demanding the right to vote. The suffragists who mobilized in Washington that day were up against groups like the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage who, in 1917, argued in a letter to Congress that passing the 19th Amendment would be ‘an official endorsement of nagging as a national policy.' Congresswoman Speier keeps an original copy of that letter framed and hung on the wall of her office right next to the 1871 petition to Congress from suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Despite the vast improvements since the 19th Amendment was passed, the fight for women’s equality is far from over. That is why Congresswoman Speier and her House Democratic colleagues have offered the Women’s Economic Agenda that is based on the principle that When Women Succeed, America Succeeds. With women making up half of the workforce, and with 40 percent of working women fulfilling the role of primary breadwinners for their families, the WEA proposes solutions to problems in three key areas to promote the success of women: Pay, Work & Family Balance, and Child Care. To learn more about the WEA click here.
Women-owned Small Businesses
Congresswoman Speier believes women-owned small businesses deserve a fair playing field for competing for federal contracts. Despite having a paltry goal of awarding 5 percent of contracts to women, the federal government has never met this goal. She added an amendment to the House’s version of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act to provide sole-source authority for the women’s procurement program and expedite a study to determine industries where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented. The amendment will help federal agencies meet the government-wide goal, providing an additional $4 billion in opportunities for women-owned small businesses. In April of 2014 she hosted the event Ready, Set, SUCCEED to empower women entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, drawing nearly 300 participants to gain knowledge about kick-starting their business, accessing capital, networking, and refining their pitch.
Women’s Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Congresswoman Speier recently introduced H.J. Res. 113, a resolution to eliminate the time limit for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendments that would constitutionally prohibit discrimination based on sex. In 1972, after 49 years of effort by supporters, Congress proposed an amendment declaring that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex,” referred to as “the proposed Equal Rights Amendment,” or “the proposed ERA.”
The Constitution requires that three-fourths of the states, 38 at present, must ratify an amendment before it takes effect. When it proposed the ERA, Congress followed contemporary practice by adding a seven-year ratification deadline to the amendment’s preamble: if not ratified by 38 states by March 22, 1979, the amendment would expire.
Although the proposed ERA was eventually approved by 35 states, the 38 state threshold was not reached in time and Congress extended the deadline in 1978 until June 30, 1982 when the resolution expired again.
In recent years, some advocates of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment have devised the “three-state” approach, which embraces the assertion that Congress possesses the authority both to repeal the original ratification time limit and its 1978 extension, and to restart the ratification clock at the current 35-state level, without a time limit. They contend that only three additional ratifications would be necessary any time in the future for the amendment to become effective. Congresswoman Speier’s resolution would enact the above approach.
H.J. Res. 113 currently has 122 cosponsors. Speier looks forward to seeing that number grow and working towards final passage of an amendment that is long overdue.
True equality will not exist until women have the rights and privileges that men enjoy, from equal pay for equal work to affordable health care premiums, adequate child care support and worker protections. As a member of both the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and the Pro-Choice Caucus, Speier is working hard to promote legislation that will improve the lives of women and ensure them access to a brighter tomorrow. During her time in the California State Assembly and Senate, she worked tirelessly for the rights of women on issues such as contraceptive equity, prenatal substance abuse and access to capital for women owned businesses.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
For all the progress women have made, Speier remains outraged that a woman still earns 77 cent for every dollar that a man takes home for the same job. In fact, right now women have to work nearly four months longer than their male counterparts to earn the same annual pay at a comparable job. Equal pay means that women must take home one dollar for every dollar men get paid, not 77 cents, 80 cents or 90 cents. Speier believes it is past time to right this wrong.
New York Times: Mapping the Glass Ceiling
Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
Human trafficking has become our modern-day slavery and is considered one of the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. In fact, it recently became the second most profitable criminal enterprise alongside illegal arms trafficking. What many do not know is that this epidemic is thriving in our country and not only affects foreign victims but also American children. In fact, national experts estimate that as many as 300,000 American children are trafficked each year in the United States and the average age of the victims is 12-14. Evidence shows that the Internet has become the tool of choice for these predators.
In 2010, Speier called on the House Judiciary committee to hold a hearing into this troubling epidemic. The hearing took place in September 2010 and led to a deeper understanding of the issue and a renewed commitment by Congress to improve the lives of the innocent victims affected. But the problem is truly local and must also be tackled at home. That is why Speier launched the San Mateo County Zero Tolerance initiative-a collaborative partnership between law enforcement officials, community members and our non-profit partners. The goals of the initiative are to raise community awareness and ensure that victims have the resources they need and that their perpetrators are brought to justice.
Congresswoman Speier speaks at an anti-human-trafficking training for airline
employees at SFO organized by Airline Ambassadors
Since then, Speier has held a several anti-trafficking trainings for hotel and airline workers in close cooperation with local law enforcement officials who have made this issue a priority. Anyone interested in participating in the initiative should contact her San Mateo District office at (650) 342-0300.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
For over twenty years, unbeknownst to Goodyear Tire employee Lilly Ledbetter, she took home significantly less than her male counterparts even though she did the exact same job. Shortly before retiring, an anonymous co-worker slipped a note into her mailbox comparing her pay against three other male employees. While a jury originally awarded Ledbetter over $3 million after she sued to rectify the situation, the Supreme Court unfortunately overruled the award because a loophole in the law which required that she file her claim within 180 days of receiving her first discriminatory paycheck. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act amended the law so that no company that chooses to discriminate based on gender will be free from liability because of a senseless statute of limitation. Speier proudly cast her vote for the bill in January 2009 and cheered as President Obama signed it into law shortly thereafter.
Paycheck Fairness Act
More than 45 years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay different wages to employees of the opposite sex for equal work. The Paycheck Fairness Act, of which Speier is a cosponsor, would create stiff new penalties for employers who break the law and strong safeguards to protect victimized employees.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, of which Speier is a co-sponsor, would ensure that pregnant women are not forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working. Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation would close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.