For progressive organizations and women’s groups, the State of the Union under President Trump has been pretty abysmal, to say the least. While we have been working hard to help create a better life for women and our families, our nation’s chief executive has been busy chipping away at our rights.
Our expectations for this year’s State of the Union are low.
We suspect that the president will continue his attacks on people’s right to choose whether they have an abortion or not. It’s likely the President will also continue his efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and we’re sure that he will once again pay lip service to a national paid leave program that will result in a nothing burger.
What if women could write the State of the Union instead? We reviewed some major policies that women and their families have been asking Congress and the president to get done—and did just that.
This is our State of the Union wish list.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
According to news reports, in the worst form of “hepeating,” President Trump plans to take credit for providing paid leave for federal government employees and will call on Congress to pass a national paid leave bill. But the truth is, women in the paid leave community had long been working on this proposal, and thanks to the leadership of longtime paid leave advocates in Congress—particularly Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Sen. Brian Schatz, Chair Adam Smith and the Democratic Women’s Caucus—we were able to make it happen.
If President Trump were a true paid leave supporter, he wouldn’t need a space force to convince him.
Paid leave proposals have bipartisan support both in Congress and around the country. Eight states and Colombia have enacted paid family and medical leave and dozens of municipalities as well as Governors have put in place paid leave for their workers. More than 8 in 10 voters (84 percent) support a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy that covers all working people for all caregiving needs including welcoming a new child, caring for a seriously ill loved one or taking leave for a personal medical issue.
If President Trump is truly supportive of paid family leave he would use his State of the Union address to call for a program that:
- Provides for more federal employees—including White House staff—to get paid parental leave and eventually all forms of paid leave;
- Includes all working people across the country no matter where they work or live;
- Addresses the range of reasons that people need to take personal and family leave, including military caregiving needs;
- Provides sufficient time and sufficient pay to ensure that people can fulfill their caregiving needs and make ends meet while they take time off;
- Is funded in a way that is affordable to working people and their employers, without taking from other important programs;
- Prevents working people from being retaliated against for requesting or taking leave.
Ending the Black and Native Maternal Health Crisis
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you have seen the heart breaking news that our country is facing a maternal mortality crisis and our health care system is failing pregnant people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released new data confirming that the United States ranks last when compared to similar countries. As often is the case, Black and Native women serve as an indicator of how our system is failing all women. Black and Native women are three to four and two to three-times more likely, respectively, to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. They are more likely to experience preventable maternal death compared with white women, and Black women’s heightened risk spans across income and education levels.
If we had our way, this year’s State of the Union would call for:
- Expanding access to health care for Black and Native women of reproductive age;
- Providing patient care that’s respectful and culturally sensitive focusing on Black and Native women’s specific needs;
- Addressing issues around systemic racism and discrimination that lead to lack of affordable housing, quality education, reliable transportation and access to healthy food;
- Expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage to at least one year;
- Adequate and appropriate funding for the Indian Health Services;
- Reducing implicit bias and discrimination in the health care system;
- Increasing access to community-based birth workers, as well as doula and midwifery care;
- Providing paid family and medical leave (see above);
- Providing paid sick days so that pregnant women can get the pre-natal care they need;
- Protecting pregnant workers so they are not discriminated against when asking for reasonable accommodations on the job;
- Investing in initiatives to improve the safety and quality of health care such as perinatal quality collaboratives and maternal mortality review committees;
- Reversing the loss of maternal and newborn services in rural areas.
Reproductive Health Care
If you’re like most people you’re tired of living in a dystopia created by President Trump and reminiscent of the Handmaid’s Tale. The president’s address tonight will likely repeat the usual rhetoric that women and all people are not smart enough to control our own bodies and that we need President Trump to help us make decisions about when and whether we should have a child.
If we had our way, we would instead be hearing about:
- Access to all forms of abortion care and contraception regardless of where you live;
- Comprehensive family planning and contraception coverage as part of comprehensive health care coverage;
- Adequate funding for Planned Parenthood and other community health providers that provide much needed health care services;
- Ensuring that providers cannot use religion or other objections to discriminate and refuse to provide reproductive health care.
This year we’ll once again mourn the various Equal Pay Days which highlight how much women make on the dollar versus white men. Despite this president claiming that he has empowered women, we’ll likely hear nothing about the gender and racial wage gaps, and the fact that we’re holding back our economic growth by underpaying over half of our workforce. We have no faith whatsoever that this president, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment, will speak out to stop harassment.
If we could write the State of the Union, here’s what we would say:
- Pass legislation that would prevent employers from using applicants’ previous salaries to set their pay and that would prevent employers from retaliating against workers who discuss their wages;
- Raise the minimum wage to $15; eliminate the tipped minimum wage, which helps prevent harassment; and increase access to overtime pay to help workers with low and middle incomes;
- Strengthen protections against sexual harassment so that women aren’t intimidated in the workplace or forced to leave a job because of harassment;
- Ensure that women have access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave so that women aren’t pushed out of the workforce when caregiving needs arise (see above);
- Fully fund federal agencies to investigate and enforce fair pay;
- Provide access to comprehensive health care that includes abortion and reproductive care (see above).
- Put an end to mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements which prevent transparency in sexual harassment cases;
- Ensure employers adopt strong harassment and anti-discrimination policies;
- Provide protections for LGTBQ workers;
- Expand protections to include domestic and service workers who often work in the shadows.