Every March, our nation recognizes National Women's History Month. In the last few years, our nation has made historic progress in many areas of critical importance to the women of America. These include improvements to women's health care, investments to create jobs and stimulate growth, investments in early childhood education, and new policies that ensure equal pay for all of America's working women.
In Congress, I have fought to officially recognize one of the champions of the women's suffragist movement, Alice Paul. When the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was finally ratified in August of 1920, Alice Paul was a key player in this victory. Not only was she a leader of the suffragist movement, she also wrote the Equal Rights Amendment and dedicated her life to securing equality for women around the world. I am proud to say that in 2008, the House of Representatives passed legislation I introduced to posthumously award Alice Paul with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor our nation can bestow.
During the 111th Congress (2009-2010), I continued my efforts to pass a legislative agenda which recognized that the economic security of women is absolutely central to the security of all Americans. We implemented the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored the ability of women and other workers to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. We also passed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which - according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) - has spurred more than $21 billion in new investments into America's small businesses, including the nation's 8 million women-owned businesses.
As most Americans know by now, last year President Obama signed historic health care reform legislation into law. The Affordable Care Act does more than any legislation before it to strengthen health care protections for America's women. This legislation finally makes it illegal for insurance companies to charge women higher rates than men for the exact same coverage, a practice known as "gender rating." It also ends the denial of care to patients because of pre-existing medical conditions, a tactic that was especially harmful to millions of American women. And the health care reform law provides free preventive services, including free mammograms, for all new plans that began after September, 2010.
This March, I hope all Americans will commemorate Women's History Month. Let's take the time to recognize and thank the wonderful women who make a difference in our lives, and recommit ourselves to working for greater equality of opportunity for all Americans.
JOE BACA, Congressman
43rd Congressional District