As economies around the world work frantically to avoid another downtrend, the US has turned to the Supercommittee and congress to solve its fiscal woes. While the Obama administration is committed to seeing how women might solve the problem, the radical right seems more intent on restricting women than harnessing their potential.
The impact of the economic downturn on women is striking-from job loss to loss of opportunity. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is one of the organizations putting together the data on women. It’s not a pretty sight. As Leslie Bennetts of the Daily Beast reports,
When the NWLC crunched the latest numbers from the Census Bureau, the results showed that record numbers of women are living in poverty. And in news that should surprise no one, the findings reveal that millions of those women do not have health insurance.
The same article also states that 40% of single mothers now live in poverty, and one in five women does not have health insurance at the same time as women’s health centers are being closed for budget cuts. In Texas, women’s health and Family Planning centers are being closed while anti-abortion crisis-pregnancy centers get a boost in funding, and Virginia has just implemented some of the harshest laws specifically aimed at making it harder for abortion providers to provide their services (TRAP) despite overwhelming evidence that forcing women to have children is economically irresponsible and adversely affects everyone involved.
The Wall Street Journal offers similarly dismal statistics to the NWLC’s from the latest World Development Report, including the fact that women are 40% of the world workforce and yet hold only 1% of the world’s wealth. In developed countries like Germany, women still only earn 64 cents for every dollar a man makes, while in countries like Bangladesh they earn only 12 cents per dollar.
So what can we do to fix this?
According to the World Bank, “Countries that create better opportunities and conditions for women and girls can raise productivity, improve outcomes for children, make institutions more representative, and advance development prospects for all.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has long been a strong advocate of women, made a speech recently at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Summit clearly saying that now is the time “for all nations to tap the power, creativity, and drive of women to help elevate all people, across all regions.”
The theme of the Social Good Summit this year was that “empowering women is at the forefront of development.” Women need to be given a larger role in economics, but in order for this to happen they need to be given the power to control their own bodies as well. Women cannot get the necessary degrees, start up their own businesses, train for a new job, or address fiscal concerns without access to the full spectrum of health care, or the right to make their own medical decisions. Maybe someone should remind the GOP leaders, who have spent the last few months making budget cuts restricting women’s choice and access to healthcare, that a better start for economic growth than cuts is giving women access to economic opportunities that have been denied to them. These are the same options that democratic pro-choice women supported by EMILY’s List, like Elizabeth Warren or Tammy Baldwin, fight for every day.
We only have everything to gain, and everything to lose.
This piece is cross-posted from Emily’s List