Reproductive justice stands at the intersection of health, dignity, economic justice and human rights. At Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE), we think a lot about the need to raise the minimum wage in Vermont. When we advocate for reproductive justice, we’re not only focusing on health care, we’re also focusing on economic justice.
The current bill being considered by the Vermont Legislature, S.23, would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, and PPNNE fully supports this bill. Beginning in 2018, PPNNE began paying all of its employees a minimum of $15 an hour, because it is the right thing to do for individuals and their families, and it promotes healthier communities in a multitude of ways.
Planned Parenthood’s mission is to provide, promote and protect access to reproductive health care and sex education so that all people can make voluntary choices about their reproductive and sexual health. These choices are also rooted in one’s personal economic reality.
The ability to decide when and whether to have a child is one of the most important determining factors in a woman’s economic well-being over the course of her lifetime. Having control over the timing of children allows women to increase their own education, make better investments in their early work and career choices, and create better outcomes for their children if they choose to have them.
At the same time, women’s access to birth control, including abortion, is tied to increased labor force participation, higher earnings, more advanced careers and better financial conditions for their children and families.
In 2018, one-third of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s Vermont patients lived below the federal poverty level compared to the 11% of Vermont’s total population that lived below the poverty level. Nearly 70% of our patients earn less than $24,000 per year, or 250% of the federal poverty level.
Without economic stability, reproductive choice is diminished or nonexistent. We’re acutely aware those who are most impacted by these factors are our neighbors in marginalized communities — namely, women of color and those living in poverty — who are less likely to have health insurance and access to affordable birth control.
According to Rights & Democracy, more than 60% of people who would benefit from an increased minimum wage are older than 25, and most are adult women, many with kids. Women comprise less than half of the workforce, but outnumber men when it comes to sub-livable wage work. Of all Vermonters earning less than $15 an hour, 58% are women. At Planned Parenthood, 89% of our patients are women, and we want good health for all of our patients. A key factor to their overall health is fair pay.
It’s critical we take steps to begin to level the playing field and raise the minimum wage. Livable wages for all working Vermonters will support the health and well-being of our communities. When our lowest paid workers have enough money to support themselves and their families, our families and communities are healthier.
We urge the Vermont Legislature to pass, and Gov. Scott to sign, S.23, which proposes to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. It makes sense, and Vermonters will support actions that do the right thing to support families, workers and create a healthier Vermont.
Lucy Leriche is the vice president of public policy, Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund.