Iowa women deserve better representation

Doris J. Kelley is a former member of the Iowa House and former Iowa Board of Parole Chair, Vice-Chair and Executive Director.

As a state legislator from 2007 through 2010, I was honored to represent 30,000 Cedar Valley constituents. I represented Iowa’s 3 million citizens while in a leadership position with the Board of Parole from 2011 to 2014. To me, people always came before party.

It perplexed many of my fellow legislators when I supported my constituents’ values and went against the party line. Now, I’m perplexed by the actions of Iowa Republicans who are supposed to represent our wishes in Washington, D.C.

In 1972, then State Representative Chuck Grassley voted for Iowa to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). But as a U.S. senator, he’s not carried that banner forward.

The U.S. House passed legislation last year to remove the ERA ratification deadline and make the ERA the 28th Amendment to our Constitution. Iowa's Republican Representatives Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Randy Feenstra voted no. We can only infer that they want sexual discrimination to remain in America.

Republicans are stonewalling any forward action on the ERA, despite 78 percent of Americans favoring the amendment. When was the last time four out of five adults agreed on anything?

When discussing a bill requiring women to register for the military draft, Senator Joni Ernst said, “Because we have opened up every position to women in the military, I think it’s imperative that women say we want to be treated equally.”

Two words—"treated equally"—appear to be of importance to Ernst. Yet hypocrisy reigns when she and Grassley ignored requests by the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women to participate in a round-table discussion regarding ratification of the ERA. Silence speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

The Paycheck Fairness Act would help women receive equal pay for equal work plus address bias and discriminatory workplace practices. Who voted against the bill that would cut the poverty rate for women by 50 percent and add nearly $5 billion to the country’s GDP? Iowa’s three U.S. House Republicans: Hinson, Miller-Meeks, and Feenstra, lemmings to their party’s dictum.

Across America, women only earn 82 cents on average for every dollar a man makes for doing the same job. In Iowa, women earn 77 percent of what men earn, ranking Iowa as 37th for pay equality.

With the actions—and non-actions—by Iowa’s GOP delegation on the ERA and Paycheck Fairness Act, I can only surmise they want women to remain at a lower caste than men. Maybe our Republican legislators feel America should be a patriarchal society where women succumb to and are controlled by men. Discrimination abounds by their representation.

Our Republican members of Congress either don’t know or are ignoring that 70 percent of all Iowa female-head of households are struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the World Bank calls investing in women “smart economics.”

Research reveals economic growth for women has a critical multiplier effect. Women share their personal economic gains with their families and community, reinvesting 90% of their income in food, healthcare, home improvement and schooling for themselves and their children.

Let’s face it. Women’s progress is society’s progress.

When commenting on the ERA and women’s rights in 2020, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska recalled a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “We can’t be silent about the things that matter.” I concur.

We can no longer elect candidates to public office who do not support women’s equality. On November 8, let’s vote to end sexual discrimination in America by electing supporters of the ERA and Paycheck Fairness Act.

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