Last week, Gov. Scott Walker gave his State of the State address. It was a thinly veiled campaign speech in which he flip-flopped on major issues and made empty promises in a desperate re-election attempt. As the governor made promise after promise to one group or another, he never once in his 70-minute speech mentioned women or the issues most important to women’s equality, health, and economic security. At a time when today’s women’s movement is at the forefront of news and politics, it seems nearly impossible for a governor to so blatantly leave women out of his State of the State address, yet that is exactly what Walker did. Perhaps we should not be surprised, as Walker has been leaving women out and leaving women behind throughout his time as governor.
Since Walker took office, Republicans in the Legislature have passed some of the most extreme, politically motivated, anti-women legislation in the country. Walker championed defunding Planned Parenthood, forcing the closure of five rural health clinics and leaving many women without access to family planning services, vital cancer screenings, or testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. He signed into law measures that forced ultrasounds for all women seeking abortions whether or not they are medically necessary, created burdensome and unnecessary new requirements for women’s health care providers, and banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy even when a women’s health is in danger.
Walker repealed Wisconsin’s Healthy Youth Act, which guaranteed that all sex education curriculum in our schools was comprehensive, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate. He has limited access to contraceptives and other women’s health services. The governor even went as far as repealing Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which protected women from pay discrimination based on gender.
The governor’s poor track record on women’s health and economic security for women and families presents a stark contrast to laws proposed by Democrats to improve the lives of women and families. Republicans have refused to even consider Democratic proposals to expand health care access, make child care more affordable, restore equal pay protections, or expand family and medical leave.
On Walker’s watch, Wisconsin women are paid just 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Democrats will continue working to restore Wisconsin’s equal pay law and have proposed more transparency so that you can determine if you are being paid less than your male counterparts. Democrats will not stop fighting for equal pay until we close the wage gap.
Democrats have proposed expanding Wisconsin’s Family Medical Leave Act so you will never have to decide between bringing home a paycheck and staying home with your new baby, caring for your sick child, or attending doctor appointments with your aging parent. Democrats have also proposed allowing you to buy into the state’s BadgerCare plan, making health care more affordable and accessible. Our proposals include allowing women access to 12 months of birth control at a time and investing in providers like Planned Parenthood, who provide critical women’s health care to those who need it.
Walker has ignored the many Democratic proposals that would improve the lives of women and families in Wisconsin. Instead, he has chosen the path of demeaning and diminishing the value of women through his actions as governor.
In 2018, women have risen to the forefront by taking to the streets, marching, organizing, and getting elected. From the #MeToo movement to running for office in record numbers, women are rising up and speaking out. Together, we are more engaged and more energized than ever before. Yet, in his State of the State speech, Walker has again ignored the voices of the millions of women speaking out across the state and across the nation, leaving women out and leaving women behind, just as he has done throughout his seven years in the governor’s office.
This column was submitted by state Reps. Lisa Subeck, Terese Berceau, Dianne Hesselbein, Sondy Pope, Melissa Sargent and Chris Taylor. Hesselbein is from Middleton, Pope is from Mount Horeb, and the others are from Madison.
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