For far too long, women in America were treated as second-class citizens, refused the right to vote, beholden to the wishes of their fathers or husbands, discriminated against in employment and education, subjected in the shadows to horrifying sexual and domestic violence, and generally unable to pursue their dreams as individual human beings. Thanks to countless courageous women — and at least a few male allies — the situation for women has improved dramatically over the past century. But we still have a long way to go. As President, I will work every day to make the future brighter for the women of America and women around the world.
As a Congressman, I fought every day for America’s women, for better healthcare, reproductive rights, higher wages, professional development, and personal safety and security. I was a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which provides free preventive screenings for women, increased services such as prenatal care for pregnant women, and ensures women with pre-existing conditions are not denied coverage. I voted to make contraception a free preventive service for women. I co-sponsored legislation to fund family-planning programs and help teenagers and rape survivors access emergency contraception. I also co-sponsored legislation attempting to reduce adolescent pregnancy, HIV rates, and other sexually transmitted diseases through better sex education programs. I co-sponsored and we passed a law requiring health plans to cover a minimum hospital stay of two days for mastectomies and other breast cancer treatments, and additional legislation to improve the flexibility of grants to conduct research on environmental factors related to breast cancer.
As the son of a mother who was a teacher for decades, the brother of six sisters who are all working professionals, the husband of an impressively accomplished woman, and the father of a teenage girl with limitless potential, I have been particularly focused on supporting women in the workplace and women entrepreneurs. I co-sponsored and voted for both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. As Vice Chair of the Small Business Committee, I introduced and passed in the House the Small Business Entrepreneurial Development Programs Act, which strengthened the SBA grant program for small business development centers to help the 30% of small businesses which are owned by women. I also co-sponsored legislation ending barriers to healthcare encountered by women veterans by developing a comprehensive plan to better address their needs and also require better training for medical professionals to understand female veterans’ unique needs.
I was proud, every year I served in Congress, to vote to fund programs that combat violence against women, provide transitional housing assistance for victims of domestic violence, operate rape crisis centers for emergency treatment of women, provide specific grants for rural law enforcement to better address domestic violence, and reduce violence against women on college campuses. I also voted for enhancements in primary health care for veterans and programs that help veterans who are victims of sexual trauma.
I co-sponsored the International Violence Against Women Act of 2010 to permit the United States to form regional cooperative arrangements with 5 to 20 other countries to prevent sex trafficking and sexual violence. I also supported legislation to direct the Secretary of State to establish within the State Department an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. I voted every year to fully fund the Justice Departments Office on Violence Against Women which oversees a range of programs to help victims of domestic violence, rape, stalking, and human trafficking. And I supported legislation that directs the Secretary of State to establish an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking.
After meeting with many survivors of domestic and sexual violence in my home district in Pennsylvania, I worked hard to establish a shelter for women and children victims of abuse in Upper Darby to ensure their safety as they transition from a tragic situation to a new life. We need to do so much more as a country to ensure that survivors of sexual and domestic violence are supported through their trauma and recovery. As President, I will work to increase resources devoted to this cause throughout the country, particularly in underserved communities.
The last few years have been incredibly discouraging for so many women. While the movement of women survivors of abuse coming forward to tell their stories has been inspiring, it has also revealed how much progress still must be made to stop the scourge of sexual and domestic violence and harassment. Moreover, the political situation in the country has been especially troubling for women, with violence against women, objectification of women, control over women’s bodies, and general misogyny normalized in frightening ways, in the media and even in our most hallowed centers of power.
As President, I will restore respect and accountability to the White House. I will urge Congress to finally pass a law enshrining a woman’s right to choose an abortion, for that is a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor, and regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, all women across the country must have access to safe and affordable reproductive health care. I will finally achieve universal healthcare for all Americans. I will advance progressive legislation to fight domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking, both here and around the world. I will make free childcare a reality for poor parents, and make child care more affordable for lower and middle-income families through subsidies. I will pass robust family and medical leave legislation, and do more to support people who work full-time at home caring for elderly or disabled loved ones. I will support women in the military and women veterans. And I will expand access to small business loans and mentorship programs for women entrepreneurs.
Above all, I will set a good example by treating all people with the dignity and respect they deserve. We desperately need a President who understands the true value of equality and lives it every day.