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Before You Vote, Learn About the Candidates

August 27, 2012

All the talk about Missouri Congressman Todd Akin over the last week drives home the point that we need to be very aware of who we’re voting for this November.

Women, in particular, have a lot at stake.  In Indiana, for example, Mike “I’ll Shut Down the Federal Government Over Preventive Health Care for Low-Income Women” Pence is running for governor.  He’s not alone, of course, in his extreme views on women’s issues.  “Personhood” is alive and well in other states.

On the day after Women’s Equality Day, we thought you’d enjoy the opinion piece below that outlines why women’s issues are important to the overall health of Indiana and its economy.  A smart group of women got together to submit this to a number of Hoosier newspapers — and we couldn’t agree more with the sentiment.

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Women. We find new solutions to old problems. We care about children, education, health, fair pay and jobs with living wages; we care about Indiana’s future.

We are 51 percent of the population. When we vote, families and communities win. When we’re concerned, we go to work, and we change the world.

Today, on Women’s Equality Day, when we celebrate women’s right to vote, we’re concerned about the future of our state. The statistics on women, children, families and our state’s economy don’t look good. Consider this:

A recent Prudential Financial study showed that the majority of American women are now the breadwinners in their households. Yet in Indiana we still make only 74 cents compared to every dollar made by our white male counterparts. If we happen to be African-American, that’s only 62 cents and if we are Hispanic, 54 cents.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, one in five Hoosier children live in poverty, and in 2010 nearly half a million free and reduced-price school lunches were served in Indiana. We know that children who struggle with hunger are less prepared to enter school and children who don’t perform well in school are more likely to drop out. Teens who do not graduate from high school are three times more likely than college graduates to be unemployed and — even more sobering — teens who don’t complete high school are eight times more likely than high school graduates to end up in jail or prison. Completing fewer than 12 years of education is a strong predictor of repeated unplanned pregnancies, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Hoosier teenage girls have a birth rate significantly higher than the national average. For every 1,000 young women aged 15-19, there are approximately 44 births. We know that teen mothers are less likely to complete high school. Teen mothers are also at a greater risk of dependence on federal aid: approximately one-quarter of teen mothers go on welfare within three years of the child’s birth. We know that daughters of teen mothers are 22 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves and sons of teen mothers are 13 percent more likely to be incarcerated.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Indiana ranks 49th in the United States in terms of access to family planning services. We know that every $1 spent on family planning saves taxpayers $4 associated with the costs of unintended pregnancy that end up being paid for with public dollars.

Wage discrimination, policies and practices that discriminate, and lack of access to comprehensive sex education and contraceptives not only make Indiana less welcoming, they also contribute to the growing problem of poverty in our state.

We’ve heard that this fall’s elections are about jobs and the economy. On this day when we commemorate women’s right to vote, we remind our candidates for public office that “women’s issues” are not separate from jobs and the economy — they are the foundation for creating a strong, well prepared workforce and the key to a thriving economy. We want to elect leaders who will support what we know works:

• Jobs that provide Hoosier families with living wages.

• Equal pay practices for women and men who perform the same jobs.

• Access to comprehensive sex education so our young people know how to protect themselves against disease and unplanned pregnancies.

• Access to family planning services, including contraception, so that families have the tools to determine for themselves how best to grow and succeed.

This fall, we women must make our voices heard. We must examine our candidates’ positions and records. And we must vote for the ones who will stand with us to make Indiana a place where every individual has the opportunity to grow and prosper.

Robin Olds, State President

National Organization for Women

This letter also was signed by American Association of University Women State President Sharon Langlotz; Central Indiana Jobs with Justice Community Organizer Amy Shackelford; Indiana Federation of Business and Professional Women State President Theresa Adams; Indiana Federation of Democratic Women Statewide Coordinator Trish Whitcomb-Sipes; Indiana Religious Coalition in Support of Reproductive Justice Co-Presidents Sue Ellen Braunlin, M.D., and Carolyn Meagher; National Council of Jewish Women State Public Affairs Chair Robyn Pauker-Honig; and Planned Parenthood of Indiana President & CEO Betty Cockrum. 

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