On Equality and Women’s Rights

“I’m a feminist, because I want our daughters to have the same opportunities in life as our sons. As the mom and stepmom of four girls, I will continue to champion equality and work to end gender and sex discrimination.” 

I am a longtime champion for women and girls. I have spent my career advocating for the rights of women, and helping to empower other women. As the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, a state legislator, and an entrepreneur, I have never stood by while politicians try to turn back the clock on our progress. Our opponents have undertaken a multi-decade effort to restrict access to reproductive health care, remove protections against discrimination, and reverse the social, political, and economic progress that women have made. In the state senate, I will continue working to ensure equal opportunity for women and girls in Wisconsin.

Economic justice for women. In Wisconsin, unfortunately, women and children are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. Raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and eliminating the tipped minimum wage would drastically reduce the number of women (and their children) who make up the working poor. In addition, we should strengthen the social safety net, so that it provides a meaningful opportunity for people to reach economic security. Too many workers have to turn down opportunities for advancement – whether hourly wage raises or promotions or educational opportunities – so their families don’t lose needed benefits like food, healthcare or childcare assistance. Public programs should gradually phase out as income and self-sufficiency increases.

Equal pay for equal work. As a State Representative, I co-authored Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Protection Act, which makes it easier for victims of pay discrimination to have their day in court – a law which Scott Walker repealed. Equal pay means that women and men who do the same work should receive the same wages. We must also address pay equity, which means valuing work traditionally done by women as much as work of comparable value that is traditionally done by men. Women in Wisconsin still lag behind men in terms of pay equity, and for women of color and other marginalized groups, the pay disparities are even greater. These economic issues affect not just women, but their partners and families – and not just during a woman’s working life, since women who earn less pay less into social security and have less to save for retirement.

Reproductive healthcare access. I have been a champion for reproductive rights and justice my entire career. All people deserve access to comprehensive healthcare, including the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, from family planning and contraception, to healthy pregnancy and birth, to abortion care, to the right to parent healthy children. Politicians should never interfere with the most personal, private, family healthcare decisions.

End insurance discrimination. As a women’s health advocate, I have fought against the persistent discrimination against women by health insurance companies. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurers are no longer be able to charge women more simply because we are women. And birth control, which is basic preventive care used by 99% of American woman must be covered just like Viagra is. Prenatal care, breast pumps, and well child visits are also covered, but we should ensure that all women can choose the providers that suit their needs – whether a midwife, OB/GYN, family doctor, or other licensed provider.

Racial justice and LGBTQA+ equality. I will not be satisfied with progress for some women, or some Wisconsinites, only. As an intersectional feminist, I will consider the impact of policies on people who are members of multiple marginalized groups. I will combat discrimination and inequity aggressively, and work to build a more just and inclusive world through my words and actions, rather than fomenting fear, hatred, and division. We must work to eliminate disparities based on race, class, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, immigration status, religion, family status, age, or any other factor.

Help Wisconsin’s parents and workers succeed. I will make Wisconsin the best place to raise a family by passing universal paid family and sick leave, allowing ALL Wisconsinites – women and men, employees and self-employed, 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new baby or adopted child, to recover from illness, or to take time off to care for an ill or dying loved one. I will also help address the high cost of childcare by expanding access to Wisconsin’s childcare subsidy program and increasing the quality of childcare options that meet the needs of Wisconsin’s changing workforce. I will also make high quality early childhood education universal, including play-based 3K and 4K. These policies will ensure that every child gets a great start in life, and that every parent has time to bond with their children and the comfort of knowing that their children have a safe and nurturing place to go when the parent is working. Supporting parents in the early years will help ease the high cost of childcare that keeps many women who would like to return to work from continuing to do so. Ensuring parental leave for men as well as women helps establish parenting patterns and shared responsibilities that ensure fathers are more engaged for years to come.

Improve maternal and child health, and reduce infant mortality. American women are much more likely than our counterparts in the developed world to have a child die in his or her first year of life. For women of color, the disparity is even higher. These health disparities are immoral, and can be reduced. They result from many factors, including the lack of good prenatal care, high incidence of unintended pregnancy, stress, and environmental health factors that harm women and their fetuses and breastfeeding infants. We must address the persistent racial disparities that plague our state, including the health of women. My plan to reduce infant mortality includes increasing health care access, ensuring access to birth support personnel like doulas, building on successful visiting nurse models for new parents, lactation support for mothers who want to nurse, and offering “welcome baby” boxes to give every child a safe start in life.

Defend reproductive rights. As one of the nation’s strongest pro-choice advocates, I will defend abortion rights and work to advance reproductive justice for all women and men. Having the right to control one’s own reproduction is fundamental to women’s autonomy and moral agency. We must do everything we can to reduce the need for abortion, while ensuring that it remains safe, legal, and available for every woman who needs it. Reproductive rights go far beyond abortion care, however – we must ensure access to contraception, the ability to bear healthy children, comprehensive sex education, the right to breastfeed, and access to health care generally. I have authored legislation on all of these issues, and will be leader in advancing reproductive rights.

Support women’s entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses. As a female entrepreneur, I understand the challenges of building a successful business from the ground up. Women are far less likely to seek or receive venture funding, and finding access to traditional capital is also challenging, especially for women. I will ensure that all entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, and veterans, have the support they need to pursue their business goals.

End sexual harassment, assault, and domestic violence. Mistreatment of women and girls has no place in our society. All people deserve to live, work, learn, and play without fear of mistreatment or violence. Because domestic violence becomes more deadly with the presence of a gun, I will prevent any person convicted of a domestic violence offense from purchasing or continuing to own a firearm. I will establish clear processes for reporting sexual harassment in state agencies. I will continue my work of many years to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive the comprehensive services they need, and that our health care, law enforcement, and college and university systems support survivors and treat them with respect and dignity. In addition, I will continue to champion laws that place the wellbeing of survivors over institutions that hide abusers, including lifting the statute of limitations on civil claims for child sexual abuse. 

Build a society and a world that values women and girls. Unfortunately, misogyny continues to limit the opportunities of millions of women and girls around the world, even here in the United States. Violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, poverty, legal discrimination – all of these ills disproportionately affect women. It is our obligation to advocate not only for gender equality in the US but for the rights of women and girls worldwide. I will push for the United States to finally ratify the United Nations Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.