War on Women arrives in Georgia

In Georgia, the War on Women is escalating, the casualties are mounting and there is no end in sight.

No group was harder hit by the Great Recession and Georgia’s jobless recovery than Georgia women.  But, you’d never know it by listening to the right-wing politicians in Atlanta. Instead of focusing on job creation or saving the HOPE scholarship, Gov. Deal and the Republican-led legislature has been busy making it harder for women to access contraception, limiting options for women facing high-risk pregnancies and forcing women who are pregnant as a result of rape to carry the baby to term.  Last week, Rep. Terry England even compared women facing high-risk pregnancies to livestock.

The war hits women in the pocketbook, making it harder for them to put food on the table and care for their children. In Georgia women are more likely than men to live in poverty, head a household as a single parent, and be unemployed for more than six months.  The inequities don’t stop there. Men in Georgia make more money than women, with women earning just 80 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts.

And, we’re moving in the wrong direction.

In 2000, Georgia ranked 6th in the nation for income parity between men and women; in 2010, we ranked 34th.

With educational attainment, the gap in earnings between men and women closes, but in Georgia, changes to the HOPE scholarship mean fewer women will be able to afford to attend Georgia’s premier research universities.  Closing the door to college means women will have an even harder time finding good jobs with competitive salaries.

Yet, last week , as legislators worked late into the night on “Crossover Day,” they passed not one piece of legislation that would create a single job or help preserve the endangered HOPE Scholarship.  Instead they focused on making sure politicians, rather than women and their doctors, were making the hardest, most personal decisions women ever face.

That night, eight Georgia Senators, all women, walked out of the Senate in protest of a bill eliminating coverage for abortion, even for victims of rape and incest, from state employee’s health insurance. That bill, and another exempting religious institutions from providing coverage for contraceptives in employee health insurance plans, were sponsored by only men, passed out of committees with no female members and voted on in a body where only nine women serve.

In Georgia, 54 percent of registered voters are women, yet women hold only 22 percent of the seats in the legislature and no statewide offices.

It  is time the voice of the majority of Georgia’s voters was heard loud and clear in Atlanta.