by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

For so many Americans, this year’s elections represent a true turning point.

For our middle class and poor families, it’s about whether they’ll continue to have access to the American dream. For our seniors, it’s about whether they’ll have a guaranteed benefit they’ve paid into all their lives. And for our immigrants, it’s about whether we’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform and allow so many of our immigrant youth to achieve a pathway to citizenship.

But in my opinion, there’s no group that will be impacted more by this election than women.

Look at the bills the GOP House has passed this Congress: they voted to redefine rape, they voted to defund Planned Parenthood and Title X funding, which provides crucial family planning and preventive health services for millions of low-income and uninsured women every year. And remember their hearings on the HHS contraception mandate, where the first panel lacked even one woman’s voice?

Then we have the Republican minority in the US Senate, which voted in lockstep against equal pay for equal work and for the ability of employers to decide whether a woman has access to contraception in her health care plan.

Last but not least, there’s Mitt Romney, who has refused to say whether he would have vetoed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act or where he stands on the Paycheck Fairness Act. He calls Scott Walker–the man who ended Wisconsin’s equal pay law–his hero. In addition, Romney said he would sign a federal abortion ban and has said he supports the Blunt Amendment, which puts employers in charge of women’s access to reproductive care. Mitt Romney has also said he would repeal The Affordable Care Act, which, among many other things, has ensured that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.

For women, these are crucial issues of health and economic empowerment, not only for them but for their families. Can you imagine if we lose the Senate AND the Presidency and fail to take back the House? The GOP’s radical anti-woman agenda would be on the march and these extremist bills could become law. It’s imperative that we not let this happen, and women voting is crucial to make sure it doesn’t.

This is one of the reasons I created Off The Sidelines — as a call to action to women to make their voices heard so our points of view are represented. Because when a wider array of voices are heard, the outcomes are better for all Americans.

It’s also why it’s so crucial that a record number of women are running for Congress this year and why it’s so important that we raise our representation in Congress above the persistent 17% ceiling. It’s why I made raising money for women candidates around the country such a priority and it’s why I’m so proud to have helped raise more than $1 million for women candidates all over the country.

As I say in my new campaign ad, “Standing Up For Women,” if Congress were 51% women, we wouldn’t be debating access to contraception, we’d be discussing jobs and the economy.

But it’s going to be up to women — and yes, the men that support us — to put us over the finish line.

I am excited and optimistic about the prospects for women after election day, but for my hopes to be realized, we’re going to have to work hard to re-elect President Obama, hold onto the Senate and hopefully retake the House of Representatives. The only way this will happen is if women turn out in record numbers. We know that women support our values and our policies in larger numbers and we know that women vote in higher numbers than men.

So, let’s make sure 2012 is no exception. Women, make your voices heard. Vote for the Democratic candidates up and down the ballot on November 6th!

 Originally published at Senator Gillibrand’s Off the Sidelines website. Cross-posted with permission.