PENN YAN—The day after hosting a Young Women’s Leadership Conference in Corning, Democratic Congressional Nominee Tracy Mitrano (NY-23) called attention to women’s equality issues that continue to impact women and families in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region.

Mitrano, who has received the backing of the Women’s Equality and Working Families Parties, is one of a historic number of women seeking election to Congress this year. As the New York Times reported in September, 257 women are running for House and Senate seats this November, a record-shattering number for a legislature that is currently only about 20 percent female. 2018 also marks the 170th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the renowned women’s rights convention that was hosted in what is now New York’s 23rd Congressional district.

“Our area’s proud legacy gives the issue of women’s rights a special resonance here,” Mitrano said. “In Congress, I pledge to be a strong advocate on behalf of women. I want the girls growing up in America today to have every opportunity afforded to their brothers.”

Her platform calls for Congressional action to address issues such as the gender pay gap and women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which mandates that men and women receive equal pay for equal work, the gender pay gap persists. In 2017, women with full-time employment earned 80 cents for every dollar earned by men with full-time employment, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Pay disparity is even more pronounced for women of color, with black women earning 61 cents and Hispanic women earning 54 cents for each dollar earned by white men.

The gender pay gap has a real impact on women throughout the U.S.; it also impacts their families. A report published by the IWPR based on 2015 data from the American Community Survey found that 70.9 percent of households with children under age 18 included a working mother. The Pew Research Center found that in 2011, women were the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of American households with children. The pervasive underpayment of mothers, in other words, leads to more women and children living in poverty. In New York’s 23rd Congressional District, where the overall poverty rate is 15.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate among families headed by a single mother is 27.1 percent. Roughly half of children in the district who attend school receive free or reduced lunch.

“The persistence of the gender pay gap is an equality issue, first and foremost,” Mitrano said. “It’s also economic issue. Families throughout the Southern Tier and indeed, throughout the country, depend on the pay that women bring home. When women are underpaid, it hurts the whole household.”

Mitrano supports new legislation that would require companies to disclose information about pay equity, and increasing protections for employees who seek to challenge disparities. Many of these provisions were included in the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014, a bill introduced while Mitrano’s opponent, Representative Tom Reed, was in Congress. Reed voted against bringing the bill to the floor.

Healthcare is another area in which women are only subject to unequal treatment. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2017, contained a number of provisions that would have disproportionately hurt women. The bill would have rolled back protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requirements insurers to cover necessary medical procedures such as mammograms and prevented insurers from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions such as C-sections.  The AHCA also would have cut funding the Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care and contraception to millions of women, and is already barred from using any federal money for abortions.

Reed supported the AHCA, which ultimately failed to pass the Senate. Mitrano believes that the consumer protections of the ACA should be safeguarded, and that the government should maintain and expand its programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to healthcare. She believes that all women should have the right to make decisions about her reproductive health with her doctor.

“Republicans like to say that they’re the champions of the American family. Yet in failing to address the gender pay gap, and in making it more difficult for women to access reproductive healthcare, members of the G.O.P. are hurting working mothers, their children, and their families,” Mitrano said. “We can do better. In Congress, I will be a strong advocate on behalf of American women, because what is good for women is good for families and indeed, good for all Americans. Our nation cannot succeed if we do not insist upon the equal treatment of all our people.”

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