Women have made tremendous progress since gaining the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. I firmly believe we need to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would guarantee that equal rights protections under the law are also extended on the basis of gender.
Violence is an all too common occurrence in the lives of millions of women worldwide. It permeates all socio-economic classes, cuts across all cultural, physical and religious barriers, and impedes the right of women to participate fully in society. Equal rights for women are vital to the development and well-being of people in all nations. That's why I believe the United States Senate should ratify the United Nations Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The CEDAW agreement is the only comprehensive treaty guaranteeing women's human rights and the prevention of discrimination against women. More than 173 countries across the world have ratified CEDAW; the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that has not ratified this agreement.
I wholeheartedly believe a woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, particularly when her life is in danger or her health is threatened. I also believe restricting access to contraceptives is counterproductive to reasonable family planning policies. Women should have the right to affordable access to legal contraceptives that will help prevent unintended pregnancies. Please know that you can count on me to be a strong advocate for the right of women to make their own reproductive decisions.
I am deeply concerned that women still face obstacles in earning equal pay for their work. I am proud that President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 into law on his very first day in office. This law was inspired by the story of Lilly Ledbetter, who tried to sue her company after 20 years of being paid less than her male colleagues. However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination. This law fixes that loophole and allows women to have their day in court if they've faced systematic pay discrimination because of their gender.
As our nation's workers continue to have a difficult time balancing work and family, I have proudly co-sponsored legislation to provide paid leave for new parents and give workers more time to spend with their children and provide their children a better foundation to succeed in life. I have also co-sponsored legislation to provide for paid sick leave to ensure all Americans can address their own health needs and the medical needs of their families.