In 1973, two really interesting things happened. On January 22, the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade ruled that a woman's right to an abortion was protected under Constitutional privacy laws. And on March 18, I was born.
I was born in a time when I truly wasn't going to have to worry about the government stopping me from making my own health care decisions. It's often hard, even for me, the president of EMILY's List, to imagine what the world was like for my mother and grandmothers. The generation that came before me fought so hard so I would never have to know. I was told -- and believed -- that everything was in reach, and that I could make my own choices about my family and career. But this country used to be a very different place.
Forty years ago, women made up less than half of the workforce and were less likely than men to graduate from college. Women made only 56 cents for every dollar that men made, and only two were at the head of a Fortune 500 company. A woman had never been on a major party's presidential ticket or on the Supreme Court. And a Democratic woman had yet to be elected to the Senate in her own right.
Giving women the ultimate say over their health care decisions starting with the legalization of birth control and abortion was followed by a series of changes -- Title IX, The Family Medical Leave Act, and fair pay laws -- that set the stage for women like me to pursue the same opportunities that men had.
Forty years later, the number of women who have served in Congress has more than tripled. We currently have 20 women in the Senate and 78 women in the House -- the most ever. Women now make up a majority of college graduates, and the number of women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies has increased tenfold. Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president of the United States in 1984, and 24 years later Sarah Palin followed suit. In 2008, Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire presidential primary, becoming the first woman to win a state presidential primary. She went on to win 22 more states -- and earned nearly 18 million votes along the way.
The 2012 election cycle showed how strongly voters support candidates who will stand for women's right and progress. The EMILY's List community -- now more than 2 million members strong -- helped elect nine women to the Senate and 21 women to the House. And we're just getting started.
Despite this loud-and-clear message from voters, Republicans are determined to turn back the clock on women's rights and re-litigate the battles that we thought were long over. Republicans in Congress already reintroduced personhood legislation that would ban all abortions and many forms of birth control and they'll continue to fight to overturn Roe. We are having the same debates that my mother and grandmothers had. Thankfully, some of their most dangerous ideas -- like defunding Planned Parenthood and redefining rape -- have been blocked by a Democratic firewall in the Senate that the EMILY's List community helped elect and continues to protect.
We know that the extreme right's agenda does not reflect the beliefs of the changing American electorate. In fact, our research shows that more than any other issue, independent women voters in battleground states did not want to roll back the clock 40 years. When Election Day came around in 2012, the Romney-Ryan ticket and radical Senate candidates like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin were rejected.
The 18-point gender gap in favor of President Obama, and strong support for pro-choice Democratic women in races across the country, showed that voters have the power to prevent GOP extremists from rolling back the clock on our rights. Forty years after Roe, pro-choice Democratic women have had unprecedented electoral success, and have been given a mandate to continue fighting for equal pay, education, and access to affordable healthcare that benefit women and families.
Here at EMILY's List we're up to the task of exposing extreme Republican policies, and fighting for women and their families by electing even more pro-choice Democratic women to build upon our electoral success. If we keep winning like this, we'll have another 40 years of incredible progress ahead of us. When I turn 80, we had better be celebrating equal pay for equal work, a Congress that is 51 percent women, and a few good women in the Oval Office.
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