Melinda French Gates: Why this election desperately matters

Editor’s Note: Melinda French Gates is a philanthropist, business leader and global advocate for women and girls. 

As President Joe Biden faces former President Donald Trump in another contest for the White House, the stakes for women and families couldn’t be higher.

Melinda French Gates - Jason Bell
Melinda French Gates - Jason Bell

I’ve never endorsed a presidential candidate before. My work on gender equality and global health often requires me to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle, so I’ve avoided talking publicly about who I voted for in past elections.

But this year is different.

After Trump’s first term in office endangered the health of women, compromising their safety and robbing them of essential freedoms, I’m supporting Biden this election and asking others to do the same.

One of Trump’s first actions as president was reinstating and expanding the global gag rule, which restricted foreign aid to organizations providing reproductive services and, by some estimations, caused more than 100,000 maternal and child deaths globally.

The former president imposed restrictions on the federal family planning program, Title X, that made it harder for people from low-income backgrounds to access contraceptives. His often divisive, sometimes violent rhetoric throughout his campaigns and administration — from the sexist attacks he lobbed at women journalists to calling for his opponent to be jailed — has contributed to a hostile political climate for women in office and allowed threats against election workersmost of whom are women, to proliferate.

And he deliberately appointed Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, which resulted in a decision with far-reaching and catastrophic consequences for women and families.

In the two years since Roe was overturned, emergency rooms have turned away pregnant women in desperate need of care because doctors feared legal consequences. Obstetricians have fled states with strict bans, which could leave women without access to basic services like contraceptives.

The US already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among advanced economies, and most OBGYNs agree that the decision to overturn Roe has led to more maternal deaths.

On the one hand, Trump has made it clear that, if reelected, he would do nothing to mitigate the damage his administration caused — but instead go further by allowing states to monitor and prosecute pregnant women.

On the other hand, Biden has reinstated funding to health organizations for women around the world and fought for reproductive freedom in the US. His administration has supported the right to travel across state lines for reproductive services, preserved access to mifepristone — a drug with a 20-year record of safety — taken steps to protect fertility treatments such as IVF and worked to make contraceptives more accessible. He’s defended lifesaving emergency medical care for pregnant women and has helped educate doctors and patients about their legal rights.

What’s more, Biden has signaled his broader commitment to women and families by championing historic — and sorely needed — investments in this country’s care infrastructure.

The US remains the only high-income country without a paid family and medical leave policy, forcing many workers to choose between caring for their loved ones or bringing home a paycheck. As child care becomes crushingly expensive, accounting for up to 31% of a low-income family’s earnings, it often makes more financial sense for one parent to leave their job to take care of the kids; in most cases, that parent is a woman.

Not only is the caregiving crisis keeping women out of the workforce, but it’s costing the US economy billions of dollars. Unless something changes, many women will remain locked out of highly influential industries, from tech and venture capital to media and politics.

Despite the severity of the caregiving crisis, elected officials have failed to place a comprehensive plan on the national agenda for decades. Not Biden.

During his 2020 campaign, Biden made caregiving a central plank of his platform, and in the White House, he’s led efforts to make care more affordable for families and boost compensation and job quality for care workers. His push to strengthen the child tax credit, which resulted in many lower-income families with children receiving a check on a monthly basis, helped reduce child poverty by nearly half in just one year.

And he continues to fight for more affordable child care, home care for older Americans and people with disabilities and a long-overdue paid family and medical leave policy. Biden is, put simply, the strongest champion for caregivers the Oval Office has ever seen.

While Trump has boasted about rolling back the rights of women, Biden understands that the future of our country depends on them. That’s why Biden has earned my vote. I urge anyone who cares about women and families to join me.

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