U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

March 9, 2024

Celebrating Women Worldwide

How a nation treats its women is a barometer for success.

This is a fact that I have shared with you frequently. It is especially relevant today, as women’s rights are under attack in the United States of America and around the world.

Yesterday, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. The theme this year was “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” It is part of a broader campaign theme “Inspire Inclusion” which highlights the importance of diversity and empowering women.

We have seen over and over that when women’s rights are protected; when women and girls are allowed to pursue an education; when women’s healthcare options are accessible; when women are represented in all levels of government, business and society, economies and societies grow stronger and prosper.

In Sudan, amidst political turmoil and conflict, women are at the forefront of advocating for peace and equal rights. In Burma, where the military junta continues to forcefully displace communities, women are leading grassroots movements to provide humanitarian aid and champion democratic freedoms. Haiti, facing natural disasters, political instability and gang violence, has seen women take charge in community recovery efforts – ensuring access to education and healthcare, and fighting against the rampant sexual violence that threatens their lives. Their resilience and determination embody the spirit of International Women’s Day, showcasing the profound impact women can make in leading their communities toward a better future.

Unfortunately, here at home constant attacks have chipped away – ripped away – women’s constitutional rights. Now more than ever, it is vital that Congress codify reproductive rights and protect other hard-won civil rights as they face growing threats.

The Dobbs decision overturning of Roe v. Wade has had immediate and devastating consequences for the health and well-being of tens of millions of women of reproductive age across the nation. Women in low-income families, who cannot overcome the financial and logistical barriers to travel to states with abortion access, are suffering the most, increasing existing health disparities.

In the wake of overturning Roe, legislatures across the country have passed harmful abortion restrictions in an effort to impede a woman’s fundamental right to make the best, informed healthcare decisions for herself and her family. The latest was Alabama’s court decision on in vitro fertilization (IVF). When given the chance to give hope to families struggling with fertility by codifying federal protections for IVF, Senate Republicans deliberately blocked passage of legislation.

It is shameful that we are witnessing in real time the stripping of rights, so that for the first time in our history, women and young girls have fewer rights than their mothers did.

The right to choose whether to have a child is fundamental, and it is a decision that should only be made by women in consultation with their health care provider – not with interference from federal, state or local governments.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a steadfast supporter of reproductive rights and reducing health disparities. My support has only grown stronger. I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that women can access the care that they need.

Healthcare is another area where gender inequities persist. While the Affordable Care Act barred insurance companies from treating “being a woman” as a pre-existing condition, disparities continue. Take cancer. Like most diseases, cancer disproportionately affects some communities more than others, including women over men. These disparities are even more persistent in specific types of cancer, because of the disproportionate access to health care, including cancer detection and testing methods, across our country. Early detection is key for so many forms of cancer, and new and emerging technology has made it more possible than ever to detect cancer at earlier stages. I have, and will, continue working to expand access to these technologies.

Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. A majority of women have grown up learning the signs of a heart attack but those were the signs for men. In fact, symptoms and risk factors are different for women than men. The lack of knowledge has cost countless lives.

Thankfully, Maryland has committed to participate in U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra’s Postpartum Maternal Health Collaborative. Health equity and access to care are top priorities for the Secretary’s office, and mine too. We must commit ourselves to addressing maternal health disparities in our country. States like Maryland that have expanded postpartum care is crucial to reducing disparities postpartum, including the mental health of child-bearing individuals.

As we honor and celebrate the achievements of women around the world, let us also ensure our commitment to them and their collective fight for equality includes real action and not only rhetoric. Here at home and around the world, the United States must continue championing initiatives and legislation that aim to uplift women — particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, such as those in Afghanistan — and close the gender gap once and for all. We can and must continue working together to build a more equitable nation and world where women are empowered to follow their dreams and shape their own futures, recognizing that their success is integral to our shared progress and prosperity.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this or any other issue. I appreciate your feedback and interest.