Investing in our children is paving a path for our future. Sadly, more than half of West Virginia's children live in homes with low-income. This poverty is the stumbling block to our success, as it diminishes the quality of education our children receive, as well as our teachers’ salaries. If we do not address this problem, we cannot revamp the educational system. The linked relationship between education and poverty is strong. We must be realistic with our approach and plan. By investing in human capital, we tackle poverty. This in turn enhances education and opens the bridge to opportunity. Boosting our economy will revamp our education system. I will fight to find solutions to help students and teachers both in public and private schools.
All Americans deserve access to affordable, quality health care. We need transparency in health insurance, allowing for competition between companies. I strongly support Medicare and Medicaid. I support association plans that allow smaller companies, freelancers, and self-employed the same health insurance savings associated with large group policies. We must lower the prescription drug cost. Big Pharma continues to pad corporate profits, rewarding stockholders while allowing Americans to suffer the cost of prescription drugs. It's time to stop corporate greed and take care of the people.
Opioid-prescribing practices have significant geographical variations. In West Virginia, opioids are prescribed 2.5 to 5 times more than the national average. Pharmaceutical companies have put their financial incentives before the health of Americans. Along with flooding our state with opioids, physical and emotional abuse, depression, trauma, social pressures, and poverty all play roles in drug abuse. By neglecting these conditions, drug companies and the over-prescribing practices, we are not addressing the root causes of this massive issue. We can no longer ignore the opioid epidemic. I strongly support clinical trials to find better and more optimal treatments to treat opioid addiction. I support funding for inpatient detox centers, followed by counseling and home-monitored treatment programs. I want to implement an addict-to-freedom program, offering higher education grants and career opportunities for surviving addicts. No-one should be a prisoner to addiction.
We are in a new era of medicine. While making medical treatment cost-efficient, we must ensure medical innovation continues. We must invest and develop life-saving treatments and cures. We need more clinical trials and research to serve patients better. I, along with my fundamental values, do not want to worsen the opioid epidemic. However, I do not want to prohibit medical treatment that works. I recently added this to my platform, recognizing the controversial debate of the use of medical marijuana. The FDA approved medical marijuana to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Let me be clear that I am against recreational use of drugs. Nevertheless, medical research is critically needed to better advise patients and doctors on the safe and effective use of prescription drugs. I will not turn a deaf ear to those that need medications, especially children.
Without the jobs that the coal industry produces, many West Virginian families would not be able to survive. It is difficult to understand how much coal means to this state unless you have experienced it first-hand. I want West Virginia to have a thriving economy, with or without coal. Inevitably, climate policies will eventually affect West Virginia. Congress must pass a transition bill - coal-to-clean energy. Any coal miner that loses their job due to climate change policies should be eligible for a higher education grant, health benefits, and full wages for up to four years. We must create equal or higher-paying opportunities in the same vicinity of coal communities. Yes, I want future generations to have an habitable planet. However, we cannot strip the local economy by eliminating fossil fuels without having a contingency plan for workers beforehand. I want a thriving economy for all of West Virginia. The building blocks of economic growth comes from increasing the quality and quantity of production, which consist of four types: land, labor, physical and human capital, and entrepreneurship. West Virginia has suffered long enough from empty political speeches. Even though I'm running for US Congress, I'm not a politician; I'm one of the many families that have suffered from a slow economy. It is simple - nothing comes from nothing. It's time to loosen the ropes that prohibited competition from coming to West Virginia. I will fight to build a better economy for the families of West Virginia.
I strongly support the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Unfortunately, bad people do not follow laws or regulations. Therefore, to protect our Second Amendment, we must be responsible and enforce sensible background checks. Along with background checks, authorities must be aware, having transparency of intense violence and mentally incompetent or who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Let me be clear that I do not want to add more gun laws -- we simply need to have common sense concerning violence and severe mental health issues. I agreed with President Donald Trump when he stated, "Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun." Guns are not the root cause of the evil acts of murder or mass shootings - these actions occur due to the hearts of wicked, mentally disturbed individuals. Take a look at the Boston Marathon terror attack - on April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs killed three people and injured at least 264. This horrific act is an example of why prohibiting guns will not stop massive killings.
While protecting our right to own a gun, I believe we cannot ignore the laws concerning self-defense, which vary by each state. Every citizen has the right to fend oneself against a violent attack. This right, however, is subject to exceptions. The individual claiming self-defense cannot have baited or provoked the conflict. Statistics of self-defense shootings have a wide range from 500,000 to 3 million per year. This broad range brings to question how many were justified self-defense shootings, versus escaping a homicide verdict. I strongly support the transparency of state laws in the courtroom, which will enable jurors to reach decisions that adequately distinguish between the vigilant and the vigilante. If we are sensible and responsible, we can protect our rights to own a gun.
Women have a right to decide what to do with their bodies. However, women do not have the right to abort-on-demand taking the place of birth control. In unfortunate incidents of sexual crimes, the victim should seek medical attention to address physical injuries, prevention of sexual transmitted diseases, and choice of termination up to 6 weeks of gestation. Let me be clear that I'm Pro-Life, an advocate for the unborn. I'm against elective abortion-on-demand. However, I would not consider it immoral to provide necessary treatment for sexual crimes, or to save a mothers life. These terminations are based on medical reasons, not an elective choice. We must educate and address sexual activity that is promoting abortion-on-demand. I strongly support sexual education, birth control, including IUDs, regardless of one's insurance status, financial situation, or physician of choice. In a case that a woman has had an abortion, know that God is a loving God. I believe it's important to offer compassion, not condemnation.
CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING
The average age a victim enters trafficking is 11 to 14 years old. Traffickers target children as they are deemed easier to manipulate than adults and are engaged in social media. More money can be made selling young girls and boys during their early stages of sexual development. Child victims are physically and sexually abused; they have long-term medical and psychological problems as a result. Sex trafficking is so widespread that no country, race, religion, or class are immune. While we do not know an exact number, it is estimated that 1.2 million children are being trafficked each year. This topic touches me differently than most. I was not sold in trafficking, so I cannot relate how it feels to be a child in sexual slavery. However, I can empathize with secretly abused children. I was one of those children - I was sexually abused at an early age by an acquaintance. I did what most kids do - I did not tell anyone. It wasn't until much later in life that I shared my experience with those closest to me. It is extremely difficult to share this, especially on a political platform, but this is one of the primary reasons I decided to run for U.S. Congress. I have deep compassion and empathy for children and want the best for their futures. If sharing my story can help even one child, then it is worth it. Even if you do not vote for me, I encourage you to talk to your children about strangers and the so-called friendly acquaintances they maintain. Child predators come as ravaging wolves in sheep’s clothing. Although a small child knows what is happening is not right, they are often confused and scared. Like me, most children will not tell, holding onto a vile secret that affects them their entire life. We cannot continue to push abuse to the side. We must invest more money and time to stop child trafficking and abuse. Our children’s safety is worth all of the money and resources in the world, and I will fight, looking in every dark corner that may hide a sex predator. I strongly support funding to stop abusers and traffickers, as well as rehabilitation centers for victims of sex trafficking and child abuse. I will fight for a zero tolerance law and longer prison sentences for those that hurt children. For all the social workers that are on the front line, I sincerely thank you. To all the children that are lost and those found, I pray that God will heal your broken bodies and mend your broken hearts.
Diversity is an emotional issue which has divided our country. Allow me be clear that my beliefs and opinion are without judgment and malice. I was raised in a Christian home. We did not make decisions based on class, gender, nationality, or color. As a Christian, I personally believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and my personal savior. However, I do not hate others for their religious beliefs. As a matter of fact, I feel that it is important to learn and understand why others believe what they believe; mere ignorance of others' cultures and religious beliefs is a large contributor to the intolerance and hatred people face in our country daily. Although we depend on statistics, diversity isn't merely a numbers game, focusing on how many people belong in a group. When I think of diversity, I imagine many perspectives, social lifestyles, cultures, and values that make my environment a more exciting place. Unfortunately, my position on diversity differs from others, which is part of diversity. No law requires an individual to like, love, or hate. Those are emotions from the heart. All the same, we are America, we have implemented laws to accept others, giving every American an opportunity to succeed. I do not condone or tolerate discrimination or racism of any sort targeting an individual based on differences, especially color. I do not agree with blaming a whole group or system for injustice. For instance, I do not throw out an entire bin of potatoes because of a few bad ones -- I simply remove them from the bin. The same principle applies to life. While we may belong to a group, we are individually responsible for our actions. Just as we will be individually judged by God. Everyone must be equally accountable for their actions. No ignorance, hate, or diversity can excuse violent or malicious behavior.
Although we have many issues, I'm proud to be an American. I'm thankful for the freedoms I have that other countries do not. I pray for our country, my family, and friends. May God Bless America.
Paid for by Belinda Fox-Spencer for U.S. Congress