Women’s health, equality, and opportunity

Women make up more than 50 percent of the population, and own more than 36 percent of privately-held businesses that generate over $38 billion a year in revenue.

To ensure economic opportunity for everyone—no matter who you are, no matter where you live, a level playing field must exist between men and women.

Ralph Northam is committed to making this a reality in Virginia because what’s good for women in our commonwealth is good for our entire commonwealth.

As Ralph has said many times, reproductive freedom equates to economic freedom. That’s why Ralph is committed to maintaining access to reproductive healthcare and keeping politicians out of women’s healthcare decisions.

Ralph stood up to Republicans when they proposed requiring transvaginal ultrasound exams of women seeking abortions. And Ralph fought against personhood legislation that would have effectively blocked women from accessing many types of contraception and invitro fertilization.

Ralph has never wavered on choice and he never will. Ralph will continue to be a brick wall, stopping attacks on reproductive rights and access to healthcare. 

Equal pay

Ensuring that women are paid the same as men is a moral and economic imperative for the commonwealth.

Currently, women are paid on average 78 cents on the dollar compared to men, yet they are the primary breadwinners in 38 percent of Virginia families. This gap is even worse for women of color: African-American women are paid 59 cents, Latinas are paid 52 cents, and Asian women are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to a white man. This pay gap shortchanges Virginia women about $12,000 dollars per year. That’s just not right.

Not compensating women fairly isn’t just wrong, it’s bad for Virginia’s economy. Ensuring women are equally powerful consumers is just plain smart; women make 85 percent of all consumer purchases in the country and the more they have to spend, the better our economy does. We’ll see that pay off across the commonwealth, across a variety of industries.

In Virginia, 42 percent of mothers are the primary breadwinners of their household. Nearly 25 percent of mothers are co-breadwinners of their household. Therefore, about two-thirds of Virginia mothers are breadwinners for their family. Unequal pay for women not only hurts women, it hurts entire families. When women are paid less than men it has a ripple effect on the entire economy as women are less able to pay off student loans, fund their own higher education, save for retirement, afford quality healthcare, buy a home, and save money to send their children on to higher education. The pay gap between men and women contributes to the economic inequality that holds back our economy from reaching its full potential.

As governor, Ralph will fight for a law to make salary information more transparent, so women can fight discriminatory pay practices when they occur, rather than after the fact. It’s 2017 and well past time we got this done.

Sexual assault and domestic violence

It is unacceptable that there are more than 5,000 rapes and sexual assaults in Virginia every year. As governor, Ralph will work with every stakeholder, public and private, to protect survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, prosecute the perpetrators, and support the medical professionals and law enforcement officials on the front lines. Ralph will continue Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Assault, and work side-by-side with Attorney General Herring to ensure Virginia has the resources needed to combat domestic violence and sexual assault. Ralph will also fight for added employment protections codifying the right of survivors of domestic or sexual violence to take time off from work without losing a job.

As governor, Ralph will also work to expand education about this important issue, especially for young Virginians. That means, as early as middle school, focusing on how to teach young adults to develop healthy relationships and safe dating. That includes adding this curriculum to family life education programs. Ralph will also work to increase the number of trained forensic nurses across Virginia, and make sure Virginia’s statewide protocols for hospitals and law enforcement include trauma-informed approaches when assisting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

The toll on the victims of domestic violence is immeasurable. And all too often, the emotional and mental effects on children who witness abuse are not mentioned as a consequence. However, this can be almost as devastating as children who are the victims of direct abuse. As governor, Ralph will support better protections for non-offending parents in cases of domestic abuse committed in front of a child, and pass legislation similar to the federal Violence Against Women Act in Virginia to strengthen mandatory restitution requirements on those convicted of domestic violence, and allow civil redress in the instances of cases the prosecutors decide not to prosecute.

Reproductive health

Expand access to contraception

This year, Ralph proposed a $6 million pilot program to provide long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to women regardless of their ability to pay. A similar program in Colorado saw teen birth rates drop by 40 percent and teen abortions by 42 percent.

This legislative session, Republicans stripped the funding at the request of right-wing anti-abortion groups despite the fact it used no state funding. As governor, Ralph will make implementing this program, and increasing access to it if we experience similar success to Colorado, a priority. Through public and private sources, Ralph will expand access to LARCs to ensure that income is not a barrier for Virginia women seeking affordable contraception. As governor, Ralph will:

  • Support increasing access to a full range of contraception including LARCs for Virginians of all ages and income levels.
  • Veto bills that characterize FDA-approved contraception as abortion and veto bills that would impose restrictions on FDA-approved contraception.
  • Veto attempts to limit access to or increase costs for birth control.
  • Support legislation that solidifies no co-pay birth control

Get politicians out of personal medical decisions

Governor McAuliffe had been a brick wall against attacks on women’s healthcare, and Virginia needs Ralph Northam to step into the breach once McAuliffe’s term ends. Just this year, Republicans introduced a “Day of Tears” bill with no purpose other than to shame women – plain and simple.

Over the last decade, there have been a surge in the number of politically-motivated bills introduced in Virginia to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare. As Ralph as often said, there’s no excuse for a bunch of politicians – most of whom are men – to be telling women what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their own bodies. That’s why Ralph will be a brick wall against right-wing efforts to undercut Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to comprehensive reproductive healthcare. As governor, Ralph will:

  • Veto bills from the General Assembly that would undermine women’s access to reproductive healthcare.
  • Support the repeal of medically unnecessary laws like TRAP laws solely designed to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare.
  • Support the repeal of medically unnecessary law mandating women to receive an ultrasound before getting an abortion.
  • Support passing laws to protect doctors from harassment, intimidation and violence.
  • Support passing laws to protect women from being discriminated against for reproductive health decisions they make in consultation with their provider.
  • Support an amendment to the state Constitution codifying Roe v. Wade.
  • Support the repeal of the ban on purchasing health insurance plans that cover abortion on Virginia’s healthcare exchange.
  • Veto bills from the General Assembly that defund Planned Parenthood.

Give all young people access to quality family life education

Ralph knows that quality family life education is the best way to reduce teen pregnancy. That’s why he wrote legislation to require schools to implement evidence-based family life education programs to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Quality family life education programs and expanded access to contraception have led to a lower teen pregnancy rate in Virginia. Disparities still remain, though: young people of color and LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of unplanned pregnancy and STDs than their peers. And awareness about the rates of sexual assault among young people show the need for better family life education so that young people have the skills they need to engage in healthy relationships. As governor, Ralph will:

  • Support policies that fully fund quality family life education and ensure all young Virginians have access to family life education that is evidence-based and medically accurate, taught by trained teachers, and inclusive of LGBTQ youth.
  • Support school-based health centers providing counseling and referrals for birth control.
  • Support policies that encourage and teach children to develop healthy relationships.
  • Support promoting awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.

Paid family and sick leave

Paid family leave reduces infant mortality by as much as 10 percent and increases the number of well-baby care visits and vaccinations. Mothers report fewer depressive symptoms post-childbirth, and fathers are more involved in caring for their children.

Economically, it reduces turnover and training costs for businesses, and women see faster wage increases when they go back to work and stay with the same employer. Overall, the economy will see fewer families on public assistance and more people working, which will produce economic gains and generate a larger tax base.

Morally, paid family leave is the right thing to do. Many people use family leave time to care for a sick family member. No one should be at risk of losing their job because they have to take care of a sick family member.

This is a crucial component of fighting inequality. Low-income workers are both less likely to receive paid leave and less likely to know it is an option. Even if they do have family leave options, it is often unpaid, and few low-wage workers can give up a paycheck to take advantage of it.

Both Republicans and Democrats understand paid family leave is an integral part of bringing fairness back to our economy. We can make this a reality by providing businesses incentives to offer paid family leave to their employees.  This will help Virginia businesses compete for top talent and maintain the talented workforce we have in Virginia.

Ralph will start by supporting legislation to offer tax credits to make it affordable for small businesses to allow full-time employees to take at least eight workweeks of paid family or sick leave.

Early childhood education and childcare

Childcare is a huge burden on families, and those that cannot afford it are being left behind. According to Child Care Aware of America, the average annual price of sending your child to a childcare center exceeds $12,000, and this price is growing.

Ralph knows good childcare and early education are vital to kids’ success. Children experience their most significant brain development during their early childhood years, with the most learning potential before age five. That’s why Ralph wants to make early childhood education for every Virginia public school student his top educational priority—and he’s already started. As Chair of the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success, he led an effort to open up and improve classrooms for up to 13,000 more kids.

Ralph will continue efforts to expand early education and make childcare more affordable. This would go a long way towards reducing inequality through quality education and affordable childcare, bringing enormous long-term benefits to the commonwealth through increased consumer spending, a more skilled workforce, and higher wage growth. 

Increasing the minimum wage

To ensure that women are given the economic opportunity to succeed, we need to raise the minimum wage. $7.25 an hour is not an adequate wage for people to support themselves and their families. As Lieutenant Governor, Ralph was proud to cast the tie-breaking vote to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. As Governor, Ralph will fight to raise wages to create an economy that works for everyone – no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from.

This disproportionately affects women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 62.8 percent of minimum wage workers. Creating economic opportunity for women starts with raising wages. And the minimum wage is not just for young people or teenagers, over half of minimum wage workers are over the age of 24. As Governor, Ralph will bring people together from both sides of the aisle to fight to raise wages for workers.

Protections from discrimination

Every time a woman is fired, forced to take leave, denied a promotion or not hired because of her reproductive health choices – a decision to have a child, end a pregnancy, or use contraception – she is experiencing discrimination and it hurts her, her family and our economy. Making reproductive health choices should not mean losing a job or much-needed financial stability. It’s time to make discrimination based on reproductive health choices a thing of the past. As governor, Ralph will pass legislation to protect workers from discrimination based on reproductive health decisions.

Tax fairness

Ralph has long pledged to bring both parties together to make Virginia’s tax code simpler, fairer, more progressive and fiscally responsible. Women make 85 percent of all consumer purchases in the country, and 70 percent of the grocery shopping in multi-person households – so it’s clear that ending the regressive nature of the grocery tax in Virginia will help all Virginia families. There are other pieces of Virginia’s tax code that disproportionally impact women: while almost 150 services are exempt from sales tax in Virginia, vital products like tampons and sanitary napkins are not. That’s why as governor, ending the tampon tax and other sales taxes on feminine hygiene will be among Ralph’s tax reform priorities. These are necessities for women, not luxuries.


For Virginia's Future

Join the campaign