In the light of Senator Ted Kennedy's very recent death, the President of Feminist Majority, Eleanor Smeal, released a statement in which she spoke highly of Kennedy's support of women's rights. She said that when few other Senators would take women's rights seriously, he could always be counted on. He would sit down with leaders of the women's movements behind the scenes and strategize.
According to the press release from the Feminist Majority, where this information was obtained, Kennedy was the leader in the fight in historic legislation for women's rights and civil rights. Because I write about reproductive rights I want to emphasize the legislation pertaining to those rights, and of which Kennedy was the main sponsor.
There is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which forbids discrimination against pregnant women, and reversed the Supreme Court decision that actually permitted such discrimination against women in the work place. It is incredible to think that at one time it was legal to discriminate against pregnant women on the job. Were there any women on the Court at that time?
Next, there is the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which protects reproductive health care providers. And, although the press release doesn't mention this, I am sure that women walking into the clinics are also protected from any potentially violent protesters harassing or inflicting harm. With this piece of legislation I am sure lives have been saved.
The Family Medical Leave Act, provides 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to employees for the care on their infants, adoption or foster care, or sickness of the worker or his/her spouse. (I do want to say that this legislation was undoubtedly a great improvement but the U.S. still has a long way to go when compared to other countries where parents receive up to a year of paid leave for the care of their newborn babies.)
Ted Kennedy was the main sponsor of health care measures that included stem cell research, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Mental Health Parity Act, and funding for reproductive health.