Two views of the State of the Union


NCJW has argued that the state of our union rests on the state of America’s women and the president delivered that message loud and clear in the State of the Union address. We wanted to see the president push for an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, a rise in the minimum wage, preservation of food aid (SNAP) in the farm bill, paid sick leave and equal pay – issues that impact women disproportionately.

President Obama addressed most of those topics, and we are pleased that he is taking that agenda on the road to places where progress can be made even if Congress is gridlocked. After all, as he pointed out, since he called for universal pre-K in last year’s State of the Union, 30 states have taken action toward that goal.

What we did not hear the president talk about is women’s reproductive rights, which has been subject to attacks in Congress and across the country. That omission was particularly disappointing. Women’s equality and economic well-being also depends on our ability to control our own reproductive lives. While elsewhere the president has been clear that every woman must be able to make decisions about her own body, we would have liked him to make clear that that he supported the efforts to turn back the unprecedented number of restrictions on access to abortion at the state level.

Further, he can publicly recognize that ensuring coverage of contraceptive and abortion services is a matter of women’s religious liberty, and that reproductive rights are civil rights, deserving of the same deference under the law as other anti-discrimination enjoy.

The state of the union can be gauged by the state of our nation’s women, children and families. As President Obama said, “when women succeed, America succeeds.” His speech reflected his understanding of that reality and his commitment to exercising every tool at his disposal to advance equality and progress for families.

Nancy K. Kaufman is the CEO of National Council of Jewish Women

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