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The Year of the Woman 

12 months of back-to-back victories

Women still make less than men for the same work. And there's still a full-scale assault on our reproductive rights going on out there. But from politics to women's health to fighting on the frontlines, the last year has been a series of wins for women on just about every front. Here's a snapshot of some of our major victories since last year's women's history month.

Women in Charge

Women are now in charge of the federal government in greater numbers than ever before. There are now 77 women in the House of Representatives and 20 women in the Senate. These numbers mean, though, that men still make up about 83 percent of lawmakers at the federal level.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Assumed office January 2013

First woman elected to the Senate from Massachusetts

Defeated Scott Brown on a platform of progressive politics and corporate accountability.

The word's out: I'm a woman and I'm going to have trouble backing off on that. I am what I am. I'll go out and talk to people about what's happening to their families, and when I do that, I'm a mother. I'm a grandmother.

Claire McCaskill (D)

Assumed office January 2007

First woman elected to the Senate from Missouri

Her opponent in her 2012 re-election campaign was Todd Akin, who famously said women who are "legitimately raped" rarely become pregnant.

I have a hard time imagining a woman uttering the phrase "legitimate rape." If you have any sense of how women's anatomy works, it would be hard to justify the ignorance he showed by claiming that a doctor told him that.

Tammy Baldwin (D)

First woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin

First openly gay senator in history

Her opponent, Tommy Thompson, is a longtime member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafts legislation in partnership with corporate lobbies.

I've decided to run for the U.S. Senate because I believe Wisconsin families need a senator who will work hard to deliver results for the middle class—a leader with the courage to do what's right, no matter how tough the odds or how powerful the special interests we have to fight.

Tina Kotek

Oregon's 2013 speaker of the House

The first gay House speaker in the country and the only openly gay member of the Oregon Legislature.

Don't be afraid to engage in robust, constructive debates. It's perfectly OK that we are a group of individuals with competing points of view. It's not OK to shy away from difficult conversations or refuse to be solution-oriented.


It's been a banner year for women, especially lesbian women, in the military. Here's what happened:

• Women may now officially serve in combat, despite that they've actually been right alongside men on the frontlines in Afghanistan and Iraq since the war started there 10 years ago. This means women can now take part in special ops and serve on submarines. For a full account of what this means for the women willing to risk their lives for America, check out our Woman of the Year feature.

• Gay women (and men) came out in the military in record numbers last year after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in late 2011.

• Last year, the Senate also unanimously passed a new provision in the defense authorization bill that now provides the cost of abortions to servicewomen and their dependents who have been raped or experienced incest.

standing firm on Women's Health

On Aug. 1 of last year, the Affordable Care Act began requiring insurance companies to cover birth control without a copay for customers. The law was vehemently opposed by many religious groups and companies owned by people who do not approve of birth control. But last June, the Supreme Court upheld the law and these companies and other groups now have until Aug. 1, 2013, to arrange to cover the birth control of their employees through their insurance plans. Women's health groups like Planned Parenthood called it a major victory, declaring that being a woman is not a pre-existing condition.

Efforts to limit abortions were also stymied across the nation, except in Arkansas where earlier this month the state legislature there passed a law preventing abortion after a heartbeat is detected in on ultrasound, which is normally around 12 weeks. The law is likely to be challenged vigorously at the federal level as it flies directly in the face of Roe v. Wade.

However, so-called "personhood" laws failed in all 11 states in which they were introduced. These laws attempted to create the legal concept of personhood, which would apply to fertilized human eggs and fetuses. The goal of the laws was to limit abortion and, in some cases, would have made even in vitro fertilization illegal because some fertilized eggs are destroyed in the process.


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