50 Best to Worst States for Women: States 31-35

Florida

The Lowdown

It’s a good thing Florida is sunny and warm. It might help the 27 percent of women without health insurance avoid getting sick.

The Good News

Florida has sent quite a few women to Congress -- 14 total -- and women currently fill one-fourth of the House seats (six out of 25). There are nearly 600,000 women-owned businesses in Florida, accounting for 29 percent of all bosses. On abortion, the Florida state Senate earlier this month voted down a bill that would have required women wait 24 hours before having the procedure and physicians to describe fetal pain to women. The state legislature also passed a bill that now prohibits incarcerated women from being shackled while in labor, making Florida the first southern state to ban such treatment.

The Bad News

Health insurance: At 27 percent uninsured, only one state-- Texas -- has more women with no health insurance coverage. Florida women earn 30 percent less than those in the most profitable state for women, Maryland ($32,762 vs. $47,175, or $16 an hour vs. $23) and only one in four women has a college degree. On abortion, Florida requires women to have an ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy. And in November, Floridians will vote on a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of public funds for abortion.

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Janet Reno, the nation’s first female attorney general, was born in Miami.

= 3.9

Ohio

The Lowdown

If anti-abortion groups have their way, one of the most critical swing states in the Presidential election could end the year with a Heartbeat Law that would essentially be a de facto ban on abortion.

The Good News

Childcare costs are relatively low, $7,750 annually for an infant and Ohio law grants state employees four weeks of paid parental leave (this runs concurrent with the 12 weeks of federal Family and Medical Leave time, which is unpaid). Women hold four of 18 House seats (22 percent) and the percentage of women without health insurance falls below the national average. More than a quarter of all businesses are female-owned and one of the country’s 10 female Fortune 500 CEOs, Beth Mooney, runs KeyCorp in Cleveland.

The Bad News

Ohio is on Planned Parenthood’s watch list for pending legislation that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That’s generally around 6 weeks, before a woman might realize she’s pregnant. The so-called Heartbeat Bill passed the Ohio house and advocates are pressuring the Senate to take up the measure. Ohio women’s college graduation rate is also lower than the national average: 24.1 percent vs. 27.9 percent, and 62 percent of women are overweight, slightly higher than the national average.

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Ohio is the birthplace of several trailblazing women: Ms. Magazine Founder Gloria Steinem, Vietnam Memorial Designer Maya Lin, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Muriel Siebert, who was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Score = 3.8

Wyoming

The Lowdown

Girl power is lacking in Wyoming, which has only ever sent two women to Congress. But on the bright side, one of those women, Cynthia Lummis, currently serves as Wyoming’s sole representative in the House of Representatives.

The Good News

Wyoming women have a lower than average poverty rate -- 12.4 percent, compared with the national average of 14.5 percent. The state’s fertility rate is among the country’s highest and more than ¾ of women here are physically active.

The Bad News

Too many women aren’t getting vital preventive screenings: nearly a third of 40-plus women haven’t had a mammogram and 28 percent of women haven’t had a Pap smear in the past three years. Wyoming is also near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to female business ownership. Just 25.5 percent of businesses are owned by women.

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In 1925, Nellie Taylor Ross became the nation’s first female governor. This distinction relates closely to another of Wyoming’s points of pride: In 1869, it became the first state to grant women the right to vote.

= 3.7

Nebraska

The Lowdown

Nebraska once had women holding both U.S. Senate seats. But that was more than 50 years ago, and no woman has held that office since.

The Good News

The percentage of women with health insurance -- 85 percent -- is higher than the national average of 81 percent. And the poverty rate among women is lower than the national average -- 12.5 vs. 14.5 percent. Women who need childcare assistance and qualify (a family of three earning less than $22,000 a year), will likely get it since there’s no waiting list.

The Bad News

Average earnings are on the low end: $32,022, about $15,000 less than what women in #1 ranked Maryland earn. Nebraska prohibits public funding of abortion, which makes it harder for low-income women to consider it an option. If you’ve just had a baby, Nebraska has no state parental leave laws to provide additional benefits beyond the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

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Susette La Flesche Tibbles, who in the late 1800s was one of the first advocates for the plight of Native Americans, was from Nebraska, as was Grace Abbott, a social worker whose efforts led to the first law, passed in 1921, that provided federal assistance for women and children.

= 3.6

Utah

The Lowdown

Utah women top every other state in two categories: regular exercise and fertility rates. Which makes us wonder: does exercise make you more fertile? Or do all those kids make you want to exercise?

The Good News

Families earning up to $35,000 can qualify for child care assistance and there’s no waiting list. And considering Utah’s fertility rate -- 20 babies per thousand people per year which is twice that of Vermont, the state with the lowest fertility rate -- women might appreciate the help.

The Bad News

When it comes to getting preventive screenings, too many Utah women aren’t getting to the doctor regularly: 32 percent aren’t getting regular Pap smears and 33 percent of women over 40 have never had a mammogram, numbers that put Utah in the bottom five of all states in both categories. The state legislature is only 17 percent female, Utah has never had a female U.S. senator and it’s been 15 years since a woman served in the House of Representatives. It’s difficult to get an abortion in Utah, where both public and private insurers are banned from covering the procedure and 97 percent of counties have no provider. And a law passed earlier this month by the state legislature which awaits the governor’s signature would require a woman wait 72 hours after seeing a doctor before having an abortion. This would be the longest waiting time of any state and would match a bill passed in South Dakota that is currently on hold pending results of lawsuits calling it unconstitutional.

Hear Us Roar

Utah is the birthplace of Esther Peterson, assistant secretary of labor in the Kennedy administration who created the first Presidential Commission on Women, which focused on the conditions of women in the workplace.

= 3.5
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