Viewpoint: Biden’s formidable track record on women’s rights

Viewpoint: Biden’s formidable track record on women’s rights
Karen Rubin, Columnist


A fiery President Biden delivered a tour de force State of the Union address, zeroing in on  women’s reproductive freedom and women’s rights in the first five minutes.

“There are state laws banning the freedom to choose, criminalizing doctors, forcing survivors of rape and incest to leave their states to get the treatment they need,” Biden said. “Many of you in this chamber and my predecessor are promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom.

“My God, what other freedom would you take away?” he asked.

In the hallowed hall of the Capitol Building were some 30 women’s reproductive rights advocates who were invited guests of the president and First Lady Jill Biden, and various members of Congress. Among them, Kate Cox, a wife and mother from Dallas, whose fetus she was carrying had a fatal condition. Though her doctor told Kate that her own life and her ability to have children in the future were at risk if she didn’t act, Texas law banned her ability to act, so she and her husband had to leave the state to get the care she needed.

“What her family had gone through should have never happened.  But it’s happening to too many others,” Biden declared.

“History is watching another assault on freedom,” he said, introducing Latorya Beasley, a social worker from Birmingham, Alabama, who had her first baby through IVF and was in the process of having a second child through the procedure. Then IVF treatments were suddenly shut down across the state when the Alabama Supreme Court, citing Genesis, determined that a frozen embryo was equivalent to a living child with “personhood” rights – a decision enabled by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs’ decision that took away women’s reproductive rights.

Citing the Supreme Court’s own language that excused removing a constitutional right that has stood for 50 years, Biden said, “With all due respect, Justices,” “women are not without electoral or political power. You’re about to realize just how much you were right about that.  Clearly, those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women.

“But they found out.  When reproductive freedom was on the ballot, we won in 2022 and 2023.  And we’ll win again in 2024.  If you — if you, the American people, send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again. Folks, America cannot go back.”

In his Women’s History Month proclamation, Biden said, “Despite the progress that these visionaries have achieved, there is more work ahead to knock down the barriers that stand in the way of women and girls realizing their full potential — in a country founded on freedom and equality, nothing is more fundamental. That is why my administration has put women and girls at the heart of everything we do.”

Biden established the White House Gender Policy Council to advance gender rights and opportunities across domestic and foreign policy and released the nation’s first-ever National Gender Strategy to advance gender equity and equality across the administration — from women’s economic security and leadership opportunities to freedom from gender-based violence and equal access to education and health care.  Biden has named a record number of women to key administration positions, including the first woman Vice President, Kamala Harris;  first black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson; and cabinet secretaries,

“If we want to have the strongest economy in the world, we cannot leave women — half of our workforce — behind. We are championing equal pay, including issuing new regulations that advance pay equity and pay transparency for federal workers and employees of Federal contractors,” he said.

This administration has put into effect what women have been asking for since the Women’s Revolution of the 1970s: access to affordable child care and paid parental leave. Biden signed legislation that provides new protections for pregnant and postpartum workers.

To promote the health and wellness of women in America, Biden launched the Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, led by Vice President Harris, to combat the high incidence of maternal mortality–especially among Black, Native American and rural women–due to systemic inequities in quality health care. Last fall, Biden launched the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.

Biden, who wrote the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, which helped change the culture of silence around the scourge of gender-based violence in America, finally overcame Republican obstruction to win its reauthorization in 2022, increasing funding to a record $700 million for 2023. And he released the first-ever National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

He also established the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House, and consistently calls for an assault weapons ban, banning high-capacity magazines and universal background checks.

Notably, not a single Republican stood to cheer or support any of the measures Biden proposed for his “Unity Agenda” – like restoring the Child Tax Credit, which cut child poverty in half, and capping out-of-pocket prescription expenses to $2000 for all.

They did not even rise when he said: “My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy, a future based on core values that have defined America — honesty, decency, dignity, and equality; to respect everyone; to give everyone a fair shot; to give hate no safe harbor. My fellow Americans, the issue facing our nation isn’t how old we are; it’s how old are our ideas.  Hate, anger, revenge, retribution are the oldest of ideas.  But you can’t lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back.  To lead America, the land of possibilities, you need a vision for the future and what can and should be done.”

He ended by saying “above all, I see a future for all Americans.  I see a country for all Americans. “


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