Rep. Kahn: Honor mothers and women with support

Soon after the University of Minnesota’s semester ends, we will celebrate Mother’s Day. For those of us who are mothers or have mothers, it’s the right time to think about the war on women that’s been waged for the past few years.

Here in Minnesota, legislative majorities have proposed restrictions on legal abortions, which were passed by the Legislature and fortunately vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. I tried to point out how inappropriate these restrictions were by proposing similar controls on the use of Viagra and remedies for male erectile dysfunction to emphasize that sexual activity is not restricted to one sex only.

We also saw a proposed reduction of Minnesota’s equal pay for equal work law, with real cuts to child care assistance necessary for low-income women to work and threats to breast cancer screening funding. This is not to mention the attack on the proposed unionization of child care workers.

In Congress, there were efforts to exempt any employers from providing health insurance covering birth control. Last year, the U.S. House attempted to defund family planning. This year, U.S. House Republicans passed a budget making drastic cuts to programs used disproportionately by women. These include Medicare and Medicaid, as well as child care, Head Start, job training, Pell grants and housing and energy assistance.

Much of this war has been waged under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.” To justify these budget cuts we have been told that we must tighten our belts or share sacrifices as we get our nation’s finances back in order.

That’s why I want to talk about the other wars we’ve been waging for over a decade now. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have cost over $1 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. And the toll taken on the lives of those who have fought in these wars or lost their lives in the fighting is incalculable. This spending priority needs to be challenged.

We badly need to focus our resources on things that will make us secure here at home — like better access to health care, stronger schools and a safer environment. President Barack Obama was on the right track when he suggested during the State of the Union that we can “take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.” He is also right to point out the traumatic effects of student debt.

I believe the right way to honor motherhood is to give women the support and opportunities needed to be good mothers. This means investing in child care assistance programs, improving education for all of our children and strengthening the safety net that ensures mothers and children don’t fall through the cracks. Destroying those programs under the guise of fiscal responsibility is irresponsible as we pour billions into fighting wars abroad. Instead, let’s invest here at home.

Economists have shown that federal investments in non-military sectors — like education, health care and clean energy — create more jobs than military spending does. It makes sense to invest federal dollars in sectors that will create productive jobs and help our economy grow for years to come.

We can make sensible reductions to Pentagon spending and invest in programs that will help build a vibrant economy for generations to come. This Mother’s Day, let’s honor hard-working women around the nation by calling on the state of Minnesota and Congress to pass a budget that supports women and families, especially those who are students, which would put us back on the path to a sustainable economic recovery.