NC Women United: Legislators Need to Focus on Women and Families
Report Card showed there was little regard for or understanding of the complexities of NC women’s lives in 2014, and that the NCGA took too many steps backwards.
State legislators and advocates for women gathered on April 30 to release the results of NC Women United’s 2013 Legislative Report Card, an assessment of any progress made on the 2013 Women’s Agenda. NC Women United members–a coalition of organizations and individuals working to achieve the full political, social, and economic equality of all women across North Carolina–gathered with women from the community to call for an end to reactive legislation based on political ideology rather than what is good for the women and families of North Carolina.
There were very few positive pieces of legislation that came out of the NCGA 2013 long session, and while we celebrate those gains – compensation for victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program; the strengthening of domestic violence (DV) statutes; the creation of a commission to tackle North Carolina’s human trafficking problems – we fear some of those gains will be of limited benefit, coupled as they are with other legislation that undermines our goal of achieving full equality for women. Domestic violence and sex trafficking do not exist in a bubble separate from economic security, access to health care resources, sexual and reproductive rights, and gender equality; these issues are in fact intricately linked. Cutting safety net programs that disproportionately affect women and ignoring the issue of gender and racial disparity in pay and economic opportunity leaves women more economically insecure and vulnerable to both trafficking and abusive relationships, and less able to access the resources needed to change their situations.
Treating women’s lived experiences as not worthy of consideration in a way that men’s experiences regarding sexuality and health care would never be treated creates a second-class status for women in society. When it’s implied that women can’t be trusted to make their own decisions – to use birth control, to get an abortion, to define her family, to work outside of the home to support her family, or to raise a child on her own – it becomes justification for others to make decisions for her, no matter her individual circumstances. We don’t expect all women to make the same choices, but we respect the choices they do make that are best for them at this moment in their lives. That’s what equality means to us, and that’s why we rated so much of this past legislative session – a session that saw many bills based in sexist and racist beliefs – as detrimental to women’s lives in North Carolina.
Our speakers at the press conference shared their stories of how different pieces of legislation have affected them, whether it was a mother’s concern about rolling back the progress the state has made in public education; another mother sharing her story of how the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) buoyed her family’s economic security in tough times; or an educator making the case that too many teachers have to work more than one job to in order to keep their commitment to educating our state’s youth. We thank all of them for sharing their stories with us and you, and we hope that we and the NCGA will be hearing from you as we move into the Short Legislative Session, beginning May 14. We do believe that there are opportunities to right some of these missteps from the past session, and we will need your help to do it. Many of our partners and members will be holding lobby days at the NCGA this session, so stay tuned, and be ready to use your voice. We hope this Report Card can be a starting point for your advocacy.