On Sept. 13, the Missouri legislature voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 749, which would allow employers to opt out of covering contraceptives in health insurance policies for religious reasons. This means that a Missouri woman’s ability to access contraception will now depend on her employer, not her individual health care needs.
It’s offensive that these mostly male politicians would even consider inserting themselves into my reproductive health care decisions. But more than that, as someone who strives to be a productive business owner, involved community member and active citizen, it troubles me that our state assembly would waste so much of its time on an issue that will have little, if any, effect on the health insurance most Missouri businesses provide women employees.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, certain women’s preventive health care services — including birth control — are available without copay to insured women. This law will benefit millions of women across the country, and we’ll fight to keep this basic coverage. All Senate Bill 749 does is set up Missouri for lawsuits that will lead to lost time and dollars that would be better directed toward more important issues. In fact, the first lawsuit was already filed in Kansas City, just hours after the state legislature overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.
Imagine that instead of debating birth control, our legislature had focused on bills that work to create good jobs and equitable pay. In 2010, women working full time in the United States still earned just 77 percent, on average, of what men earn. A recent American Association of University Women report found that 10 years after graduation, a 12 percent difference in earnings of male and female college graduates remains unexplained. Clearly, the wage gap persists and has real consequences. With a record number of women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families. It also limits our choices. affecting our ability to buy homes and pay for a college education. Curtailing our total lifetime earnings, it thereby lowers our retirement benefits.
It is imperative that women insert themselves into political conversations that have direct consequences on their lives. These conversations begin when we make use of the 19th amendment, our constitutional right to vote.
On Nov. 6, the stakes are too high for women to stay home or at work. This election season, you’ve got to vote.
Maude Bauschard is a Missouri grassroots organizer for It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard, a campaign by the American Association of University Women Action Fund.