Meeting the Moment for American Families

More than 25 years ago, just before my senior year in high school, I stood outside a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic defending reproductive choice.

It was August. It was hot. It was humid. But I locked arms, skin to sticky skin, with abortion rights activists from across the country.

The Republican National Convention had come to the Astrodome, and with it — Operation Rescue. They were there to try and close the clinic doors and keep patients from their appointments for health care by any means — chaining themselves to the door, intimidating patients walking in. We were there to make sure they did not succeed.

Our work was hard. It was exhausting. And it was worth it.

That was 1992, and not since then has the conversation been this direct — 2018 is the newest Year of the Woman.

Back then, this designation meant that our voices were starting to be heard in a meaningful way. It was happening out in front of healthcare facilities and — in growing numbers — it was happening in the halls of Congress.

That year, 24 women won election to the U.S. House who had never held the seat before — the largest number in history. The election of additional women to the Senate brought our representation to the highest levels seen until that point — a grand total of seven women Senators.

Today — we are looking at the potential to increase those gains wholesale. And we are still far from critical mass.

Women are running or considering a run in every gubernatorial race in the country — at least 79 women in all.

More than 40 women are running for Senate, and nearly 400 for the U.S. House — including me.

According to EMILY’s List — an organization from which I am proud to have received endorsement — more than 25,000 women have reached out during this cycle to express interest in running for office.

And this is even more meaningful here in Texas.

Our congressional delegation is the second largest in the nation, with 36 representatives. Of that 36 — 3 are women. Kay Granger — a Republican — was the most recent addition to the group. In 1996.

The 2018 Year of the Woman could remake Congress. It could remake the representation of our state. And it could remake opportunities for American families. Do not let this opportunity escape us.

Women make the most effective leaders.

We rank highly in initiative, competency, coalition-building, and empathy. All of the necessary skills to identify a problem and get things done.

When it comes to issues affecting working families, we need that kind of drive and familiarity at the table.

It is the women making $0.81 — or $0.65 for African-American women, or $0.59 for Hispanic women — to the dollar who need a voice for equal compensation and combatting discriminatory pay practices.

It is the individuals working full-time for low salaries and no benefits who need champions for regulated scheduling, healthcare provisions, and an increased minimum wage.

It is the sons and daughters acting as caregivers who need an advocate for paid family leave.

And it is the working mothers who need a defender of childcare subsidies.

These problems aren’t new — but with the leadership we have in office now, they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

To stand a chance at solving them, we need a proponent for working families. Someone who recognizes these struggles — and someone who cares enough to fight to solve them.

Trust me to be that fighter.

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher is a partner at the AZA law firm and a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives — Texas Congressional District 7. If you believe in the 2018 Year of the Woman, volunteer or contribute to Lizzie’s campaign at lizziefletcher.com.