President's Policies Are Great for Women

09/22/2011 11:04 am ET | Updated Sep 22, 2011

These days, you can't turn on the television, radio, or computer without hearing some kind of debate about the President. Whether it's his policies, his tone, or his agenda, everyone has something to say.

What surprises me is that people are actually debating President Obama's commitment to women and the many issues we care about. After reading the reports following release of the latest Ron Suskind book, the reader is meant to have the impression that working in the Obama White House is a cross between working in an old boys club and a men's locker room, and that Obama himself is not committed to equality for both genders -- despite having appointed two female Supreme Court Justices, a female Secretary of State and scores of other female appointees across the government.

I have worked with the President and his staff on a variety of issues and know that his interest and dedication to boosting the role of women is unparalleled. Just last week, I was invited by the Administration to speak at the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health. The topic? Breastfeeding. Two years ago, I worked successfully with Senator Jeff Merkley and the Administration to include the Breastfeeding Promotion Act into the Affordable Care Act.

As a result, mothers who nurse their children and are hourly employees are now able to take unpaid leave during the workday to pump their breast milk in a private room at their workplace. Prior to this law, a woman had to choose between following the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and keeping her job.

Breastfeeding is a low cost, and fairly low maintenance, way to protect mothers and children from a wide range of diseases and in turn saves money for all of society. Without the recognition and support of the President, this important provision might have been left on the cutting room floor.

First Lady Michelle Obama has been a tireless advocate on the issue of childhood obesity, and she has consistently highlighted breastfeeding as an essential part of healthy living and combating obesity. The Obama Administration's White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity named breastfeeding among its recommendations for solving the nation's obesity epidemic, and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin made the case for the benefits of breastfeeding in the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding which was
published earlier this year.

It is clear to me -- and should be clear to all Americans -- that this President not only supports women and the issues that impact them on a daily basis, but puts policies in place to help women and their families thrive. Questioning his commitment is sadly misplaced.