This is an edited speech given by congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster at the New Hampshire Women Unite rally on Saturday April 28.
Standing up for women right now could not be more important.
The Republicans here in Concord and down in Washington D.C. would have us believe that the War on Women is a phony war. Michele Bachmann and Fox News would have us believe that the whole thing is "political fiction."
But women -- and the men who love them -- know that this is not fiction. Whether we are talking about access to affordable birth control, feeling safe from violence in our homes, or being able to earn the same amount of money as our male counterparts, these are rights that all people deserve and they are being threatened.
And the War on Women is not just about women -- it's about putting the squeeze on the middle class.
In New Hampshire women earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and women are increasingly carrying the financial burden to support their families. Most families rely on two incomes to make ends meet, and when a woman earns less we put working families at a huge disadvantage. Despite this, politicians and pundits on the right refuse to come out publicly in support of equal pay for women. Here in New Hampshire, Republicans are saying that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is nothing more than a "handout to trial lawyers."
And now Republicans in Congress are holding up passage of the Violence Against Women Act, an act that gives additional protection to victims of abuse as well as their children.
The extreme positions being advocated by the radical right will roll back the clock on women's rights and access to the wages and healthcare we need.
As many of you know, for the past 25 years as an adoption attorney, I have represented women -- from age 14 to 40, from students in junior high school to juniors in college, living in cars and living in prestigious neighborhoods -- who face unplanned pregnancy. Every time, I witnessed the courage, compassion and conviction that women across the country face every day.
Thanks to the United States Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, women have the choice -- the personal, private and legal choice -- to decide their future.
There is more we can do. Thanks to health reform, women across the country with private insurance can get birth control without paying out of pocket. This lets women make the health care decisions that are right for them and puts every one of us in charge of our own reproductive health. I know firsthand how painful these choices are, and these are the steps that will prevent so many women from having to face this challenge. Unfortunately Republicans in Concord and in Washington, D.C. don't see it that way, and would rather make it more difficult for women to get access to birth control.
The War on Women is fundamentally about women and the men who love them, not about politics. This is about our grandmothers, our mothers, our sisters, sons and daughters, and the kind of life they all deserve.
It is not enough for us to stand up -- we need to push back. Women are 51% of active voters in New Hampshire, and this November we have to tell members of the far right here in Concord and in Washington that enough is enough.
We have to get involved, we have to be engaged, and most important of all we have to vote. It's true that things need to change -- and to quote Sweet Honey In The Rock, "we are the ones we've been waiting for."
Ann McLane Kuster is a Democratic congressional candidate for New Hampshire's Second District - www.kusterforcongress.com
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