As the 2020 presidential campaign continues to heat up — with 21 democratic candidates in the race — conversations around women's rights and policies have taken center stage in many political discussions.
From the fight for equal pay and paid parental leave to the push for abortion rights and better maternal healthcare, many presidential hopefuls are aware that they'll need to address these key issues in order to win over women, who, have historically voted at higher rates than men.
"Already, Democratic candidates entering the presidential race have acknowledged the importance of women — women of color — black women — in their pathways to victory," former Congresswoman Donna Edwards writes in an op-ed for The Washington Post. Though many dismiss identity politics, she writes, "for many women/women of color/black women, identity is politics," and it will be critical for presidential candidates to recognize that.
CNBC Make It took a closer look at how Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and a few other Democrats are leading the way with proposed plans on women's issues.
On May 15, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that bans doctors from performing an abortion at any stage during a pregnancy. Alabama is one of more than 10 states — including Georgia, Louisiana and Arkansas — that have passed, or are working to pass, anti-abortion laws. Though these policies have led many presidential hopefuls to speak out against abortion bans on their campaign trail, very few have released actual plans for protecting abortion once in office.
In response to Alabama's bill, Sen. Warren shared her plan for protecting abortion rights in a post published on Medium on May 17.
Warren called the bill "the most extreme abortion ban in over 40 years" and writes that as president, she would pass new federal laws to uphold the Roe v. Wade ruling and ensure all women have access to birth control and abortion. She writes that she would do this by making reproductive health coverage part of overall health coverage and she would "[repeal] the Hyde Amendment, which blocks abortion coverage for women under federally funded health care programs like Medicaid, the VA, and the Indian Health Service."
On May 22, Sen. Booker released a plan to create a White House Office for Reproductive Freedom. He says that in addition to increasing the budget for Title X family planning — which has dropped from roughly $297.4 million in 2012 to $286.4 million now — he would reverse Trump's "gag rule," which bans doctors from telling women how they can safely and legally access an abortion.
Booker says that as president he would also guarantee access to employer-covered contraceptive care and restore evidence-based guidelines for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program so that young people are educated about their healthcare options.
On May 28, Sen. Harris released a plan on her campaign website that, she says, for the first time would require "states and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade to obtain approval from her Department of Justice before any abortion law or practice can take effect."
Additionally, she says she would protect funding for Planned Parenthood and she would nominate judges who support the Roe v. Wade decision. Gillibrand, Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang all say they would appoint judges who support abortion rights.
In addition to Warren, many other presidential candidates including Harris, Booker, Gillibrand, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke said they would repeal the Hyde Amendment.
And like Booker, Sanders, Warren, Gillibrand, and O'Rourke stated that they would also increase the budget for Title X family planning. Meanwhile, Gillibrand and O'Rourke say they would reverse the Trump Administration's gag rule.
"This is about the fundamental question of whether we value women and see them as human beings equal to anyone else," Gillibrand wrote in a Medium post, "and any Democrat who expects to win the presidency must answer definitively."
Women, on average, earn $.80 cents for every dollar paid to men. When broken down by race, Asian-American women earn $0.85 compared to white men, white women earn $0.77 compared to white men and African-American, Native American and Latina women earn $0.61, $0.58 and $0.53, respectively, compared to white men.
When it comes to closing the pay gap, Harris leads the way with a detailed plan for how she would enforce equality in the workplace.
On May 20, Harris released an ambitious plan that outlines how she would hold companies responsible for paying and promoting women fairly. Calling her plan "the most aggressive pay proposal in history," the California senator said that as president she would give companies with 100 or more employees three years to obtain an Equal Pay Certification from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and companies with 500 or more employees two years to obtain certification.
In order to receive this certification, Harris writes that companies would have to prove that they've eliminated all pay disparities for men and women who are doing equal work. If a pay gap does exist, then the company would have to prove that it exists based on merit, performance or seniority, and not gender.
Any company that fails to meet these requirements would be fined 1% of their profits for every 1% wage gap they allow to persist in their organization.
Sanders' campaign website says that he would "adopt equal pay for equal work through the Paycheck Fairness Act," a proposed law that addresses gaps in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 in order to ensure men and women are paid fairly.
Yang says on his website he would work with states to implement salary disclosure laws and implement pilot studies to test whether policy changes result in more equitable hiring and pay.
Buttigieg also says he would sign the Paycheck Fairness Act and he would mandate that companies publicly submit an annual report detailing how much men make in comparison to women at their organization. He says he will also strengthen anti-discrimination laws in order to prevent gender and sexual-identity discrimination, as well as discrimination against pregnant workers.
Warren and Booker haven't released specific plans for addressing pay gap issues, but they are co-sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act, along with presidential hopefuls Sen. Michael F. Bennet, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Rep. Tim Ryan.
Refinery29 notes that Warren also leads by example when it comes to equal pay — the average women-to-men earnings ratio among staffers in her office is 1: 0.08.
The U.S. is one of 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate has worsened in the last 25 years. Data shows that black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy or child-birth related causes than white women.
In an op-ed for Essence, Warren writes that she would incentivize health systems that keep mothers healthy, push for more inclusive best practices that have historically benefited mothers of color, diversify hospital staffs and hold hospitals accountable for preventable failures.
Similarly, Harris told Elle.com that she would reintroduce the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act, which includes a $25 million grant for training programs and medical schools to fight racial bias in maternal health. The bill will also include an allocation of $125 million to identify high-risk pregnancies and to provide mothers with the culturally competent health care and resources they need.
Harris first introduced this bill in 2018, but it did not receive a vote prior to the 115th Congress ending in December.
Though Booker has not released a detailed presidential plan for addressing the maternal mortality rate, in May, he and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act. The act would extend the time in which Medicaid will cover postpartum women from two months after giving birth to one year.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not mandate employers to provide paid parental leave.
As president, Gillibrand says on her campaign website that she would give 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to any employee who needs to care for a new child, a sick family member or their own health issues.
Gillibrand's FAMILY Act, which she's introduced in every Congress since 2013, would provide workers in all companies, no matter the size, with access to paid family leave. The bill would be paid for by having employees and employers contribute no more than $2 per week for a typical worker to the fund. This would enable employees to earn 66% of their monthly wages, capped at $4,000 per month per person.
The bill, which she's reintroduced to the 116th Congress, is supported by several other presidential candidates including Warren, Booker, Sanders, Harris, and Klobuchar.
Though Yang hasn't released a plan for introducing paid family leave, he does say on his campaign website that as president he would fight for a policy that requires "employers to offer at least nine months of paid family leave, distributed between parents however they see fit; or six months of paid leave for a single parent."
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