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Stephanie Schriock

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WHY 2012: Women's Historic Year

Posted: 02/15/2012 4:37 pm

The ideological attack on women's health that has taken center stage over the past few weeks makes clear -- yet again -- that the Republican agenda is incompatible with women's health and progressive American values. It's really that simple. The latest wave in the onslaught is an amendment by freshman Senator Roy Blunt, which would not only strip women of access to birth control, but completely undermine the notion of health care in this country, giving employers the right to withhold health insurance coverage at will for any employee, for virtually any reason -- especially devastating for women and their families. This latest assault shows us clearly that these are no longer isolated battles we are fighting. This is a war -- a war it's time we win by electing more pro-choice, Democratic women to Congress who will stand up for women's health and the policies women and families need. And that's exactly what we at EMILY's List intend to do.

Since they took office in January 2011, the Tea Party House Republicans and their ideological allies in the Senate and on the Far Right have shown time and again that they care more about scoring political points than saving women's lives. Consider the record. In just over a year, they've sought to cut Title X funding for women's health services, and pass the Ryan budget which would dismantle Medicare, gut nutritional assistance programs, and slash Pell Grants for college students -- all of which would disproportionately affect women.

They've also attacked organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that provide vital services -- services like cancer screenings, and birth control pills -- to millions of women year in and year out, attempting to cut off their funding and in Planned Parenthood's case, launching a political investigation into their practices. It was these kinds of tactics that caused Komen to make its ill-considered decision. And now they are putting all Americans' health insurance at risks in order to pursue their narrow ideological attack on women.

Enough is enough. The relentless assault on women's health by those on the Far Right has caused a furious reaction. EMILY's List -- an organization committed to recruiting, training and electing pro-choice, Democratic women -- is on track to raise more money to than in any previous election cycle. And we now have more than a million members. It took 26 years for us to reach half a million members, but thanks to the Republican Congress, we doubled our membership in just one year. If their policies weren't so dangerous, we would have sent them a thank you note.

Meanwhile, women and progressives around the country are taking note and making a difference. Just as the assault on Anita Hill in 1991 helped inspire the Year of the Woman in 1992, these attacks on women's health are galvanizing women in countless ways in 2012. More women are running for the United States Senate than at any time in our nation's history. EMILY's List has endorsed a record 11 Senate candidates this year, and many more in the House. We're confident that come November 6, there will be a record number of women serving on both sides of the Capitol.

Just last month, Suzanne Bonamici was elected to the House of Representatives in Oregon, the third woman to win a special Congressional election, along with Kathy Hochul and Janice Hahn, since the Republicans took control last year. As they say, two is a coincidence but three is a trend. What's more, her victory means that the number of women in the House is once again at its historic high, with many more running in districts across the country. A poll of independent women voters in Oregon's first congressional district that we conducted on election night showed clearly that it was women that gave Suzanne Bonamici the edge -- and eight in ten of Bonamici's supporters said that her Republican opponent's anti-choice position was a reason to reject his candidacy. Women are paying attention and making a difference.

It will take all these women -- voters, activists, candidates, donors -- to ensure that women's health, including the right to reproductive health choices, is protected. EMILY's List is working hard to ensure that women's voices are heard at the polls in November -- and that more women are elected. To be sure, we'll still have a long way to go. Today, only one in six members of Congress -- a paltry 17 percent -- is a woman. It's not enough. But this year we have the opportunity to dramatically increase the numbers of women -- who will add their voices to women already elected who make such a difference in the lives of women and families every day.

Our choice is clear. We either elect pro-choice Democratic women to build a future of opportunity for all -- and put an end to the non-stop attacks on women's health -- or the Tea Party right wing wins, and the clock is turned back for decades, for women and for all Americans. At EMILY's List, we believe we will look back on the elections of 2012 and celebrate their historic nature for women. Together, we have the opportunity to not only change the face of Congress, but to ensure that politics won't deny women the health care they need and deserve.

 

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