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What Obama Failed to Mention in the State of the Union Address

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January 31, 2014

President Obama delivering the State of the Union

AFP Photo/Larry Downing

President Obama had his State of the Union address earlier this week and tackled a lot of pressing issues at the top of the agenda. However, despite a bill that eliminated abortion coverage in insurance passing in the House just a few hours before, there was no mention of reproductive rights. Anti-choice legislation on the state level is passing at an alarming rate, yet it’s not considered a hot topic worthy of being addressed. On the other hand, Obama is receiving praise for his speech that highlighted workplace rights for women.

“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship — and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode. This year, let’s all come together — Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street — to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

Obama plays on a common narrative that working mothers need equal pay in the work force. With a minimum wage increase proposal, and highlighting stories of GM’s Mary Barra, he showed the importance of successful working women, who can also be mothers. The president shared the story of Misty DeMars’, mother of two, and her story of needing unemployment benefits when it mattered the most.

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

Addressing income inequality in the realm of reproductive rights is an important subject matter. A living wage to support families, have access to medical services and health care, and time off from work are essential for women to take care of themselves and in regards to their reproductive choices. If we continue down a path of anti-choice legislation, these minimum wage increases will be incredibly important. Social services and Medicaid are being slashed at alarming rates when they’re necessary to support working families. A woman may not be able to raise a child she wants because of an economy that has no intention of supporting her with 77 cents to a man’s dollar and no social services to help her raise that family.

Although equal pay for women and making a living wage is at the top of Obama’s agenda, we still must hold his administration and Congress accountable for their actions. The House passed a piece of sweeping legislation, which would severely limit access to abortions. HR7 removed abortion coverage from many health insurance plans and included language to discourage them too. Moreover, D.C. is being denied the use of local funds to pay for abortions because its budget is subject to Congressional oversight. Just a couple hours later, Obama sweeps the issue under the rug. He received praise for his pro-women speech, yet left a part out of the conversation regarding reproductive rights. We need to hold our law makers accountable for their actions on the local, state, and national level. We can’t continue to rely on empty promises and political tactics to protect abortion rights in this country. We can celebrate the small victories and goals of Obama’s administration, but ultimately must take matters into our own hands.

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