Local News

Barack Obama focuses on women's rights in State of the Union speech

By Caroline Overington
President Obama delivers State of The Union address. PHOTO: Getty.
US president Barack Obama has used his sixth State of the Union address to push for basic human rights for American women.
In a move that surprised many commentators, President Barack Obama explained that American women were still fighting for the right to equal pay.
He said America is also now the only advanced country in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave to female workers.
He urged lawmakers to pass laws that would allow for high-quality, affordable childcare, saying it wasn't a 'side issue, or a women’s issue' but a national priority for families, since so few of them can pay the mortgage without childcare.
President Obama spoke before an audience that included Australia's first female foreign minister, Julie Bishop.
He said that millions of workers - male and female - had no right to paid sick leave and that, he said, "forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a pay cheque and a sick kid at home."
"Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages," he continued.
"That's why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It's 2015. It's time."
The President continued: "During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority, so this country provided universal childcare.
"In today's economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.
"It’s not a nice-to-have — it's a must-have.
"It's time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women's issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us."
He has urged Congress to pass a bill that would make child care "more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America."
The president used a real life example of a family "whose basic child care costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota."
The President's speech also condemned "the persecution of women, religious minorities (and) people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender."
On the subject of abortion, he said: "We still may not agree on a woman's right to choose, but surely we can agree it's a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs."
The Republican party's response to Obama's speech was given by Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, who described herself as "a wife, mother, and combat veteran."
She has been a Senator for just two weeks, and is famous for riding a Harley, as well as for the fact that she saw combat in Kuwait. Her staff yesterday Tweeted a picture of the shoes she was wearing while speaking: they were heels, with a camouflage print.

read more from