When discussing women’s rights, the issues seem to focus on abortion, specifically pro-life and pro-choice stances. While there is a vital difference between candidates on those ends of the spectrum, it is important to remember that women’s rights are not solely reliant on abortion. Gender equality should be a shared value among all Americans, yet Senator John McCain and President-elect Barack Obama seemed to have contrasting ideas on this seemingly basic issue.

While McCain said he supports equal rights and opportunities for women, his record sharply contradicts this. Take the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill meant to overturn a Supreme Court decision that made filing for discrimination much more difficult. The money Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in this sexual discrimination suit, was rewarded, was taken from her because she did not file her plea within the 180-day limit. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would have made it easier to file suit for discrimination. McCain skipped this vote and stated that he would have voted against it because the bill ‘opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems.” This is just one instance where John McCain has worked against women’s rights.

With the current economic crisis, women’s issues took a backseat in this election. The current state of our country’s economy is frightening and needs fixing, but in the meantime, women’s issues are in serious jeopardy of being revoked or just plainly ignored. Based on voting records and statements, Obama was the right choice for women.

McCain argued that Ledbetter would ‘flood our already over-burdened court system and burden employers.” However, shouldn’t equal rights take precedence over burdening employers? The Ledbetter Act is not the first time McCain has voted against equal pay. In 2000, he opposed an amendment to provide more effective remedies to victims of sexual pay discrimination in the workplace and, in 1985, McCain voted against a study to investigate pay differences among federal employers to determine whether there was gender discrimination.

In contrast, as a state senator, Obama cosponsored the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which provided that no employer could discriminate by paying different wages on the basis of gender. The Associated Press reported that this bill gave around 330,000 women in the state protection from pay discrimination. Obama has continuously made active efforts to improve the rights of women; the same cannot be said for McCain.

McCain’s record seems to show that not only does he not fully support equal pay, but he also does not support women’s health benefits. In 2003, he opposed requiring insurance coverage of prescription birth control and he voted to shut down the Title X family-planning program, which provides millions of women with breast cancer screenings. He has voted against extending Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and infants up to one year of age with incomes below the federal poverty line and he has voted against a $9 million increase for the Office of Violence Against Women. Every step possible should be taken to prevent domestic violence; there are no excuses. McCain’s record shows again and again that, given an option that includes improvement of women’s rights, he chooses to go against it.

Obama, on the other hand, has voted to increase funding for the Office of Violence Against Women and has passed a law requiring that emergency medical services for sexual assault survivors include coverage for emergency contraception.

He is the original sponsor of Johanna’s Law, which launched a national campaign to increase awareness of gynecological cancers, like ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers.
In Illinois, Obama introduced and passed the Victims Economic Security and Safety Act to ensure victims of domestic violence the choice of treatment without losing their jobs.

His running mate, Joe Biden, authorized and passed the Violence Against Women Act, which criminalizes domestic violence and holds batteries accountable. Both Obama and Biden treat women’s rights with the respect and importance it deserves.

Women deserve the same pay, health benefits and protection from violence that are given to every male in this country. The feminist movement often seems to be history, to be irrelevant. Yet, if women’s rights are too long neglected, the work of past generations can quickly erode.

Silk is a member of the class of 2010.



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