This month calls to attention two major hurdles women face every day: the fight for equal pay with Equal Pay day, April 12th and the greater obstacles women of color must overcome in obtaining, and benefiting from, sexual and reproductive health care services with National Minority Health Month.
A report by the National Partnership for Women and Families issued Tuesday, April 12th drives the point home that equal pay for equal work is still far from many’s reach. Women in Maine get paid about $10,000 less than their male counterparts a year and the disparity only grows for women of color. Nationally, women stand to lose $430,480 over a 40-year career. For Latinas, the loss grows at $1,007,080, and $877,480 for black women.
This lost income impacts women in a variety of ways, especially women supporting their families with low-wage work. Can they afford to get the health care they need? Are they able to provide basic necessities like food, shelter, and schooling for their families as well as men working in the same jobs? When you combine the pay disparity with the lack of paid sick leave, low wages, and other unfriendly policies like no paid maternity leave, the American dream is getting further and further out of reach for families.
When getting by is the most important part of your day, you can see how accessing and paying for reproductive health care gets pushed off. Preventive services become out of reach when you have to decide between paying your bills or accessing health care. And forgoing health care during your reproductive years puts you at significant risk of unintended pregnancy as well as STDs and certain types of cancer – putting women in an impossible catch-22.
When women have access to reproductive health care, they can plan if or when to start a families. They are more likely to continue and complete higher levels of education. They are more likely to be economically stable and successful, benefiting themselves, their homes and families, and their communities.