50 Best to Worst States for Women: States 26-30

Montana

The Lowdown

For a state lacking in women politicians, Montana has a good record on reproductive rights.

The Good News

Montana women rank in the top 10 when it comes to healthy weight. So it’s no coincidence that they also eat a healthier diet than most with nearly a third getting five servings of fruits and veggies a day. And unlike upper Midwest neighbors North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho, which all have F ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Montana earned an A- for laws that guarantee insurance coverage for contraceptives, protection against clinic violence and access to abortion for low-income women.

The Bad News

The last woman Montana sent to Washington, Rep. Jeannette Rankin, ended her term in 1943. Yup, that was nearly 70 years ago. And Montana has never had a female U.S. Senator. Its median salary of $30,306 ranks the state 47 out of 50. Only a quarter of businesses are owned by women (again in the bottom five of all states). And some women need to make an appointment with their OB/GYN: 29 percent of women haven’t had a Pap smear in the last three years. One third of 40-plus women haven’t had a mammogram – that number puts Montana in the bottom five of all states. Low screening numbers can only mean one thing: Montana women have a higher than average rate of uninsured: 22 percent of women lack health insurance coverage.

Hear Us Roar

In 1917, just three years after women gained the right to vote in Montana, Rankin was the first female ever to be elected to Congress.

= 4.4

Nevada

The Lowdown

Feel free to brag -- Nevada has the fewest overweight and obese women in the country. That means 49 percent of women here avoid the lecture from their doctor when they get a physical.

The Good News

Nevada women’s median salary is in the middle of the pack -- $35,363. But on the flip side, if you live in Nevada, the state’s high threshold for childcare benefits ($43,248 for a family of three) means there’s a good chance you would qualify, especially if you’re a single mom. Nevada also requires insurers to cover contraceptives, requires pharmacists to fill birth control prescriptions and has a law protecting women from clinic violence. 

The Bad News

It’s a good thing so many women here are a healthy weight. It might help them avoid the doctor’s office altogether, which they might have no choice but to do considering 27 percent have no health insurance (the nation's third worst rate). Nevada also ranks in the bottom five of all states on college graduation rates -- only 21 percent.

Hear Us Roar

First Lady Pat Nixon, who championed volunteerism, endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment and supported Roe v. Wade, was born in Ely, Nevada.

Score = 4.3

Iowa

The Lowdown

Domestic violence has taken the spotlight in Iowa, where local legislators are trying to improve laws while federal lawmakers are playing politics with women’s lives.

The Good News

Iowa has a low level of women without health insurance -- 12 percent -- and has an innovative program that brings midwives and nurse practitioners to parts of Idaho in need of OB/GYN services. And in February, Iowa became the latest state to realize that strangling someone should be punished with more than just a slap on the wrist. Now, when a wife beater applies a choke hold, he can be imprisoned for a year. Previously, the assault was only punishable by 30 days in jail.

The Bad News

It’s time to renew funding for the federal Violence Against Women Act, which works to reduce battering, sexual abuse and other forms of assault. All things women, and men, should want less of, right? So pardon our outrage over U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley holding the bill up. Why? Because it dares to also fund programs that protect immigrants and people in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Iowa also holds the distinction of being one of just four states that has never sent a woman to Congress. It’s about time that changes.

Hear Us Roar

Iowa is the birthplace of Bertha “Grandma” Holt, who in 1955 convinced Congress to pass a law allowing for international adoption. She and her husband Harry then welcomed into their family eight children from Korea, breaking down barriers to international and intercultural adoption.

= 4.2

Kansas

The Lowdown

When it comes to women’s issues, Kansas is a C student.

The Good News

Kansas has a decent college graduation rate, which at 29.7 percent is slightly above the national average of 27.9 percent and quite a bit better than its neighbors Oklahoma (22.6 percent) and Arkansas (19.1 percent). Politically women hold one of four Congressional seats and 27 percent of the state legislature.

The Bad News

Reproductive rights are under attack in Kansas, where abortions after 20 weeks are banned outright without regard to rape or a woman’s health, Planned Parenthood was stripped of funding necessary to provide preventive and contraceptive care and onerous requirements require clinics that offer abortions to perform costly renovations before being allowed to continue operating. Median earnings are low: $32,204, and women are in the bottom 10 when it comes to eating healthy, fruit-and-veggie filled diets. Only 23 percent of women get five servings a day compared to the national average of 28 percent.

Hear Us Roar

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize, was born in Topeka.

= 4.1

Pennsylvania

The Lowdown

Pennsylvania women really need to push each other to go into politics.

The Good News

Poverty and health insurance rates are better here than the national average -- 13.3 percent and 12.4 percent respectively.

The Bad News

Pennsylvania has never elected a woman governor or sent a woman to the U.S. Senate. Of the 2 U.S. Senate seats and 19 seats in the House of Representatives, there is just one woman, Rep. Allyson Schwartz ( D-PA). And the state’s legislature is only 17 percent female. On the mom front, childcare costs are high -- $11,300 – while earnings ($36,338) are slightly lower than the national average ($36,551).

Hear Us Roar

Investigative journalists Nellie Bly and Ida Tarbell were both born in Pennsylvania as was scientist and ecologist Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring launched the environmental movement.

= 4.0
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