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Midterms sent message to deliver for women or ignore them at our peril

FILE – A woman supporting abortion-rights holds a sign outside the South Carolina Statehouse on July 7, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. Emboldened by the results of November’s midterms, abortion rights supporters say they are preparing for even bigger fights in state legislatures and pivotal elections to come. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard, File)

Wake up, Congress — American women are sick and tired of being taken for granted. We’re done holding the proverbial bag. And we’re not going meekly or quietly into the night!

Women across the political spectrum showed up at unprecedented rates and made their voices heard this election. Exit polls show 72 percent of women ages 18 to 29 voted for Democrats in House races nationwide, compared with 54 percent of men the same age. Young women of color in particular mobilized to demonstrate their political power, with 89 percent of Black women under 30 and 80 percent of Latina voters under 30 supporting House Democrats this cycle. Women’s support for Democrats was also at least nine points higher than men’s in every key Senate race, ultimately resulting in a Democratic Senate majority. We know why: women’s rights were on the ballot.

Edison Research’s national exit poll showed that abortion was the most important issue for voters in Pennsylvania. And about 60 percent of voters overall said they were dissatisfied or angry with the Supreme Court’s decision to gut Roe v. Wade in June, according to exit polls by AP Votecast.

As many of us said in the run-up to Roe-vember, whether you register as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, chances are you believe the government doesn’t belong in personal decisions about abortion care.

So, how do we answer this clarion call?

Democrats in Congress delivered meaningful and urgently needed support to the American people these last two years — that is undeniable. We invested strategically to keep families afloat amid rising costs and employment disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global instability. We lowered gas prices, created millions of jobs, ensured health care would remain affordable, and deployed critical resources to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

Yet even as the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, and key investments in affordable child care, universal pre-k, home care, paid leave, maternal health, and an expanded Child Tax Credit that would finally let women compete in our economy on a more even playing field, these same bread and butter issues failed to gain enough traction in the Senate.

Even overwhelmingly bipartisan bills like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act to protect pregnant and nursing mothers from discrimination in the workplace can’t get a vote on the Senate floor, despite getting votes from 99 and 59 Republicans in the House, respectively. House-passed bills such as the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act which funds lifesaving resources for victims of domestic violence have stalled. There is no logical, moral, or political reason for the Senate to wait one more day in bringing these bills to a vote.

When Justice Samuel Alito pronounced that “women are not without electoral or political power” — all while stripping them of their bodily autonomy — women agreed, and they fought back.

The American people have spoken. The numbers don’t lie. The midterm elections sent a clear message to elected officials on both sides of the aisle to deliver for women or ignore them at our peril. Because last we checked Democrats and Republicans both have women voters. Women are half the population. And the chasm will only get worse unless we address the issues that are fundamental to women’s survival and success, and that of their families. We must all heed the call of women who turned out en masse this year and send this legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk before the year is done.

Jackie Speier represents California’s 14th District, Brenda Lawrence represents Michigan’s 14th District, Veronica Escobar represents Texas’ 16th District, Sylvia Garcia represents Texas’ 29th District, Sara Jacobs represents California’s 53rd District and Nikema Williams represents Georgia’s 5th District. All are in leadership positions in the Democratic Women’s Caucus.

Tags midterms 2022 women voters Women’s Health Protection Act

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