My mother taught me much of what I know about compassion and justice. When we returned to California from the internment camps, she explained to me that our internment was wrong, that it violated the Constitution, and that Japanese Americans were mistreated. I've dedicated my life's work to following my Mother's footsteps by advocating for social justice and publically serving communities who are discriminated against or whose voices are marginalized by our political system – including women. Women continue to face many obstacles in our society that, as a man, I will never face. This is an injustice. I am committed to working towards policy changes that support and encourage full parity for our mothers, daughters, and sisters in critical areas such as:
• Poverty, Employment and Earnings
• Protection from Violence
• Historical Reconciliation for Comfort Women
• Empowering Women for Peace
For too long, women have faced discrimination under our health care system — often being charged substantially higher premiums for the same coverage as men. I was proud to work with President Obama and other Democrats in Congress to secure the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act. Under the new healthcare law, being a woman will be considered a pre-existing medical condition under which women can be charged higher premiums. All new health plans will also now cover preventive services ranging from mammograms to vaccinations for your child, without making you pay a copay or deductible.
Learn more about how the Affordable Care Act is helping women here.
As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee on the Subcommittee for Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education, I have consistently fought to protect funding for Title X, the only federal grant program that is completely devoted to providing comprehensive family planning and other preventive health services. It provides vital family planning and other related health services to low-income and uninsured individuals who may lack health care coverage.
As a son, father and grandfather, I am committed to protecting a woman's right to make her own healthcare decisions, while also expanding access to family planning education. I therefore supported the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to include contraceptive coverage as an essential benefit, which required coverage by health insurance companies. I also believe women, families, and the country would be better off if we could reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. This is why I have cosponsored the Prevention First Act and the Responsible Education About Life Act .
Unfortunately, the war on women's health continues to wage on. In 2012, I was compelled to lead the Congressional charge against the Komen Foundation's initial decision to end its partnership with Planned Parenthood health clinics. Planned Parenthood is a trusted leader in breast cancer preventive care, helping tens of thousands of women identify breast cancer early when there is the best chance of successful treatment. I therefore joined the chorus of grassroots and community voices asking the Komen Foundation to reverse this decision, and led a letter signed by many of my colleagues asking for their continued steadfast commitment to fighting breast cancer, even in the face of politically charged attacks against Planned Parenthood. Thankfully, in the end, the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to reverse its decision and continue to allow Planned Parenthood health centers to receive grants against any efforts to return to the status quo that would cost women $1 billion a year through gender-rating.
Poverty, Employment and Earnings
The American dream is undermined daily as women are denied equal pay for their work. Despite tremendous strides, American women continue to earn less, are less likely to own a business, and are more likely to live in poverty than American men. Although women make up 46% of today's workforce, women still earn only about 75 percent of what men earn. Women of color are even more disadvantaged. Asian American women make 87 cents on the dollar; African American women make 71 cents; and Hispanic women make only 62 cents. The disparity exists at all levels of education and occupation. The impact is particularly significant in female headed households, which are much more likely to be low-income. The pay gap is not only a women's issue -- it is an economic issue. When half of our population is held back from achieving full economic potential, our economy suffers.
Congress should follow President Obama's leadership and focus its time on policy solutions that will provide women and families with the economic security and equity they deserve, including: a fair minimum wage for families (H.R. 1010), equal pay for work (H.R. 377/S.84), and a national standard for paid sick days across for a healthy workforce (H.R. 1286/S. 631). I am proud to be a cosponsor all of these pieces of legislation, as well as numerous family and medical leave protection and expansion bills which would provide family and medical need assistance, child care assistance, in-school and after school assistance, family care assistance, and support for the establishment of family-friendly workplaces for working families.
Protection and Empowerment
Stopping violence against women is an issue of vital concern for all of us. For the past decade, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has served as a landmark piece of legislation that has provided aid to women, men, and children experiencing violence. VAWA programs and services have changed and improved our nation's response to violence at every level. Since 1994, VAWA funding has provided rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and law enforcement agencies with the expertise and services they need to do the work of prevention and protection of those affected by violence.
I believe in protecting and expanding these essential services, which is why I've supported VAWA Reauthorization and introduced the Domestic Violence Judicial Support Act of 2012. The specialized training and resources provided under this bill helps train judges to understand the dynamics of domestic violence in child custody cases through the Violence Against Women Act Court Training and Improvement Program.
Historical Reconciliation for Comfort Women
I introduced H.Res.121 on January 31, 2007, calling on the Government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women and girls into sexual slavery starting in the 1930s during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Euphemistically known as "Comfort Women," these violated women have too long been denied their dignity and honor. My interest in seeking justice for the Comfort Women began during my career as a schoolteacher in San Jose. A couple decades ago, I learned that Japan's Ministry of Education sought to omit or downplay the comfort women tragedy in its approved textbooks. As a teacher interested in historical reconciliation, I knew the importance of teaching and talking about tragedy and injustice without flinching from the details.
Without honesty and candor, there is no foundation for reconciliation. I believe that is why the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.121 in 2007. I will continue to support and advocate for these incredible survivors, as they continue to wait for the Government of Japan's appropriate apology and historical responsibility and reparations.
Empowering Women for Peace
On December 19, 2011, the Obama Administration released Executive Order 13595 and the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security to support women's voices and perspectives in decision-making in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity. Agencies such as the Department of State, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already begun to realize the goals of the National Action Plan through the development of detailed implementation plans. As a former Peace Corps volunteer and former Chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace & Security Taskforce, I know firsthand how critical women's perspectives and empowerment are to achieving a more peaceful world. That is why I am working with my colleagues Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Eddie Bernice Johnson to introduce the Women, Peace & Security Act of 2013 to ensure the full implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security by building in a role for Congressional oversight.
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