A new ally for women: the Virginia Women’s Equality Coalition

By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or nicole@naralva.org.

Women throughout the Commonwealth are about to get one amazing ally…

On Thursday, January 8th, in conjunction with other advocates for Virginia women and families, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia launched a new coalition to secure women’s equality and advance women’s rights throughout the commonwealth. The Virginia Women’s Equality Coalition will work year round to promote women’s health and safety, economic opportunity, and democratic participation – and we’re starting right now!

Led by members from Progress Virginia, Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters of Virginia, the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women, The Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, AAUW of Virginia, Women Matter, New Virginia Majority, the ACLU of Virginia, and us, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the newly formed coalition believes that “women and girls everywhere deserve an equal opportunity to participate fully in civic, economic and political life irrespective of race, class, income, immigration status, involvement with the criminal justice system, disability status, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” Sounds pretty amazing, right?

The 2015 Women’s Equality Agenda highlights ten proposed bills and issue that it will be advocating for when state lawmakers convene on January 14. Each piece of supported legislation is designed to progress women’s issues throughout the state in hopes of achieving equality for Virginia womenVA WEA.

First, Women’s Equality Agenda is committed to promoting health and safety by repealing the mandatory ultrasound law and required waiting period for those who seek an abortion—a medically unnecessary and costly piece of 2012 legislation that has burden many women throughout the Commonwealth, especially those in poor and rural areas.

Also in regards to women’s health and safety, the coalition is committed to protecting contraception access, providing unemployment benefits for victims of domestic violence who are forced to leave their jobs, and closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid—a move that would benefit over 112,600 Virginia women of reproductive age would currently fall into this coverage dilemma of both not being able to qualify for Medicaid nor afford private health insurance.

Next, the Women’s Equality Agenda is committed to ensuring equal economic opportunities for women throughout the commonwealth. With the average Virginia woman making just 80 cents for every dollar her male co-worker makes, the agenda includes SB772—an equal pay bill introduced by Senator McEachin that would prohibit the discrimination of pay wages on the basis of sex.

Raising the minimum wage is also a huge part of ensuring economic opportunity for some 500,000 Virginians, the majority of them women and working mothers. The Virginia WEA also supports measures to expanding access to paid sick days and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Finally, the 2015 women’s equality agenda is committed to ensuring that women have the ability to participate fully in political and democratic life. That’s why the agenda includes SB677, a bill to establish no-fault, in-person absentee voting that would ensure thousands of Virginia women – many of whom may find it challenging to get to the polls while juggling work, school and childcare – can cast their ballots and make their voices heard.

Nonpartisan redistricting is also a critical part of ensuring that women – as well as all Virginians – are able to have an authentic choice at the ballot box. The Women’s Equality Agenda supports impartial election maps so that that women can make their voices heard and fully participate in Virginia’s democracy.

Unfortunately, you and I know that Virginia has a long way to go before women’s equality is achieved. The formation of the Women’s Equality Coalition and the launch of their 2015 agenda is the first of many steps on the road to equality – and we’re excited to get started!

Want to show your support for the coalition and the 2015 Women’s Equality Agenda? Sign on as a citizen co-sponsor, share your story and make your voice heard. It’s time to send a message to our neighbors, communities and legislators that Virginia women deserve equality once and for all!

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