Question: How do you get politicians to pay attention to issues that matter to women?
Answer: Get them elected — or defeated.
A month from now, voters in two states will go to the polls to elect a governor. In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe; and in New Jersey, Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono is running against Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Both campaigns know they can’t win without strong support from women.
According to the National Journal:
In New Jersey and Virginia — the two states with gubernatorial elections this year — women made up more than half of the 2009 turnout (52 percent in Virginia and 53 percent in New Jersey), ensuring an intense competition for their votes in 2013. These battles will be closely watched as the national Republican Party seeks to boost its appeal to women and to lay a positive foundation for the 2014 midterm elections.
If the Republicans sweep the 2013 contests, you’ll be reading blog posts here and seeing pundits on TV saying that the GOP and the Tea Party have gained valuable momentum for 2014. That’s why the financiers of the Republican war on women are doubling down in Virginia and New Jersey today.
As I wrote in Politico back in June,
The anti-abortion rights group that calls itself the Susan B. Anthony List has announced plans to make this year’s statewide elections in Virginia a “template” for rolling out national strategies in 2014. It plans to spend $1.5 million to elect Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli governor and political gadfly E.W. Jackson lieutenant governor.Would Susan B. Anthony agree with Cuccinelli, who frequently attacks Planned Parenthood, charging that they have “an open willingness to participate in human trafficking?” Or that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul?”
Would Susan B. Anthony stand by Jackson, who called Planned Parenthood “more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was?”
I know about Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony is a hero of mine. This List is no Susan B. Anthony.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the race is between a tireless champion for women’s rights, Barbara Buono, and Chris Christie, the first anti-choice governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade
Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning service, and used his veto pen on marriage equality legislation, equal pay laws and a minimum wage increase while signing off on a record $1.57 billion in corporate tax cuts.
Like Barbara Buono, Terry McAuliffe is providing a clear contrast to a candidate with a record of attacks on women’s rights.
A New Republic article headlined “Ken Cuccinelli’s Record on Women’s Issues Is As Bad As Ever” says:
Cuccinelli does not support a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. He does not see the need for the state to fund Planned Parenthood — which provides services as wide-ranging as HIV testing, prenatal care, and adoption referrals for thousands of women living in the Commonwealth.He has supported legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to provide emergency contraception if it violates their conscience, and feels employers should be able to dictate whether the health insurance plans they offer cover contraception. He pushed legislation that would have banned third-trimester abortions in Virginia, even in emergencies that endangered the life of the mother.
Four years ago, he had the opportunity to help amend Virginia law in a way that would make sex with minors a more serious offense; he opted instead to defend the statute lawmakers were trying to replace, an unconstitutional state ban on sodomy. He is silent on whether he supports equal pay legislation.
Cuccinelli demanded that Virginia institute a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, which has rightly been characterized as state-sponsored rape, is a zealous proponent of TRAP laws designed to shutter abortion clinics, and even supported a law that would have criminalized later-term abortions including those necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life.
Ken Cuccinelli was one of only three state attorneys general to refuse to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. His relentless focus on restricting women’s health care caused the Washington Post to call him “the most overtly partisan Attorney General in Virginia’s history.”
Elections matter in this country for a wide range of reasons. They codify our values and priorities as a society and help determine our future. They put the breaks on destructive policies and fuel the progress of urgently needed solutions.
My message to women in Virginia and New Jersey is that these elections are doubly important, because not only will they set the path that these two states will follow, but they will also deliver a verdict on the politics of division and sexism that Republicans think is a winning formula for 2014, 2016 and beyond.
Your vote is your voice. Use it!
By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington post Blog, September 25, 2013
“The Moment Of Conception For Texas”: Rick Perry Announces He Will Not Seek A Fourth Term As Governor
In a campaign-like event, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) has announced that he will not seek another term as governor of Texas.
“The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership,” he said, speaking at San Antonio’s Holt Cat Caterpillar dealership.
The governor was introduced by his wife Anita, who reminisced about how the native son of Paint Creek, Texas “wore her down” into marriage.
Perry’s speech focused on summarizing the success of Texas’ economy — which he said leads the nation in job creation, even though it technically doesn’t — and congratulating himself for defending the “freedom” from the federal government that he insists made it possible. He took office in 2001 after George W. Bush was elected president, and then won his own terms in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
The governor also nodded several times to the ongoing crisis surrounding Republican efforts to impose more abortion restrictions in the state. He vowed that he would call for another special session if the current one designed to enact a 20-week ban on abortions and new restrictions on clinics that offer abortions does not succeed.
Perry has waged a war on family planning and Planned Parenthood in Texas, which has created a dire situation for poor women seeking basic health care.
State senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), the woman whose filibuster led to the special session, has expressed an interest in seeking statewide office. A recent poll showed Perry leading her by double digits.
The Texas Tribune reports that Attorney General Greg Abbott is the “instant favorite” to replace Perry.
The governor made no announcements about what he would do after his term ends, but he did leave the door open to another presidential run, saying his decision on that would come in “due time.”
Perry’s “oops” moment in a 2011 debate, when for nearly a minute he couldn’t name the third cabinet-level department he would eliminate, will go down in history as one of the greatest flubs by a major-party candidate ever.
Perry said he was leaving his office with a “deep sense of humility and appreciation.”
By: Jason Sattler, The National Review, July 8, 2013
Some 5,000 orange-clad men and women invaded the Texas capitol in Austin on Monday in an emotional and enthusiastic show of support for reproductive rights. They faced off with Republican lawmakers still resolved to pass SB 5, the very bill limiting abortion access that was defeated last week after Senator Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster. Yesterday, nearly 2,000 people showed up to testify against the bill as it was considered by the Texas House Affairs Committee, which approved it 8-3.
This latest effort to roll back women’s rights in Texas has met fierce opposition and resolve from Texans and other Americans who recognize the value of women’s health care. “When you silence one of us, you give voice to the millions who will continue to demand our lives, our choices, our independence,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, reminded us at Monday’s rally.
It has also highlighted the deep gulf between the lived experiences of women in Texas, particularly low-income women, and lawmakers who have inserted themselves into decisions that should only be made by women and their physicians.
Monday’s protest took place as Texas lawmakers convened for a second special session called by Governor Rick Perry. The bill they’re considering would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal, impose onerous requirements on abortion providers, and demand that all clinics meet costly and burdensome building requirements. If passed, 37 of the state’s 42 abortion providers will be forced to close their doors. This despite the fact that 79 percent of Texans believe abortion should be available to a woman under varying circumstances, while only 16 percent believe abortion should never be permitted.
This is just the latest in a seemingly never-ending assault on Texas women. In 2011, lawmakers decimated the Texas family planning program with a two-thirds budget cut that closed nearly 60 family planning clinics across the state and left almost 150,000 women without care. Soon after, they also barred Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics defined as “abortion affiliates” from the Women’s Health Program (WHP), a state Medicaid program on which thousands of poor women rely. Governor Perry insisted that former WHP patients could find new providers and claimed there were plenty to bridge the gap, but that simply is not the case. Clinics across Texas have reported a sharp drop in patients, and guess that former WHP clients are receiving no care at all.
To suggest so cavalierly that women simply find new providers is evidence that Republican lawmakers simply don’t understand – or don’t care about – the socioeconomic realities that shape women’s lives. Otherwise, they would recognize the absurdity of forcing women to navigate an increasingly complex health system to find new providers and then traverse hundreds of miles to receive basic care and services. This is a stark illustration of the privilege gap that exists between policymakers and the people they represent.
After it became clear that the warnings of public health experts – who testified that such policies would impose a heavy economic toll on the state, result in negative health outcomes, and increase the demand for abortion – were becoming reality, lawmakers last month restored family planning funding to the 2014 budget. While this is certainly good news, returning to pre-2011 funding levels still leaves nearly 700,000 women without access to care and so far has enabled only three of the nearly 60 shuttered clinics to re-open. And even before the 2011 budget cuts, only one-third of the state’s one million women in need of family planning services received them through the state program. A provider shortage will persist for the foreseeable future; it is no easy task to reopen a clinic once it has shuttered its facility, released its staff, sold all its equipment, and sent its patients’ files elsewhere.
If the current legislation were to pass, nearly all the state’s abortion providers would be forced to close. The majority of those are clinics that not only offer abortion services, but also provide contraception, STD testing, and cancer screenings for poor women. Many of those clinics are located in areas that are already bearing the brunt of family planning clinic closures (see map below). The few clinics that would remain open in Texas are located in urban areas, leaving women in rural Texas with even fewer health care options than they currently have.
What are women—especially poor women—to do? Women in Texas already face heavier burdens than women in many other states. Texas has one of the nation’s highest teen birth rates and percentages of women living in poverty. It has a lower percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester than any other state. It also has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation and provides the lowest monthly benefit for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients (an average of $26.86 compared to the national average of $41.52). And soon the majority of women may not have access to abortion care at any stage of their pregnancy.
Governor Perry’s policies have marginalized women who already bear the heavy weight of so many inequities. His latest efforts will only marginalize them further.
This anti-abortion legislation will not prevent women from getting abortions. It will simply push them across the border and into unsafe facilities like those operated by Kermit Gosnell. Its passage will add to the fury that has escalated over the past three years as women have lost access to breast exams, birth control, and abortion services while being told it is for their own good. These lawmakers fail to understand that the full range of reproductive health services, including the ability to access an abortion, is absolutely central to women’s ability to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives – an ability that is itself essential to the strength of families, communities, states, and our nation.
On Monday, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards reminded the crowd in Austin of the old adage that you can measure a country by how well it treats its women. The same is true for Texas. “We settled the prairie. We built this state. We raised our families,” said the ever-feisty daughter of former Texas governor and progressive icon Ann Richards. “We survived hurricanes and tornadoes, and we will survive the Texas legislature, too.”
By: Andrea Flynn, The National Memo, July 3, 2013
“Women’s Health Is In Danger”: A Fiercely Anti-Choice Ohio GOP Redefines “Pregnancy” To Mean “Not-Pregnancy”
Last night, Ohio Governor John Kasich took a little time from his weekend to sign a new $65 billion budget for the state. There are many moving parts to the law, including a $2.5 billion tax cut which—like most Republican tax cuts—is meant to help the rich at the expense of everyone else. But of those parts, the most relevant for discussion—given last week’s fiasco in the Texas Senate—are the new restrictions on all reproductive services.
In addition to slashing tax burdens on the wealthiest Ohioans, the budget measure signed yesterday would allocate federal funds away from Planned Parenthood—which uses them to provide contraception and other health services, not abortion—to crisis pregnancy centers, which claim to offer support, counseling and a full range of options for women who think they may be pregnant. In reality, they are overtly anti-abortion. “[A]ccording to personal accounts compiled by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL),” notes the Guttmacher Institute, “once women are inside the office, counselors subject them to antiabortion propaganda, characterizing abortion as painful and life threatening, with long-lasting physical and psychological consequences.” While the psychological impact of abortion varies from woman to woman, in terms of medical safety, abortion ranks on the low end of risky procedures. CPC’s also discourage use of contraceptives like the morning-after pill, which are presented as abortion equivalents.
The Ohio law also requires doctors to give a verbal description of the ultrasound, including a fetal heartbeat if available. It compels abortion providers to tell patients that a fetus can feel pain and that a woman who has an abortion can increase her risk for breast cancer. This claim, touted frequently by anti-abortion activists, has little basis in fact. “The scientific evidence,” notes the American Cancer Society, “does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”
The law also redefines “pregnancy” and “fetus” in ways that could affect the availability of certain forms of birth control. Ohio Republicans have defined as “human offspring developing during pregnancy from the moment of conception and includes the embryonic stage of development,” and declared pregnancy as beginning with “fertilization.” Biological science, by contrast, defines pregnancy as beginning with the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining. Why? Because a fertilized egg isn’t guaranteed to become an embryo; it can fail to implant and be expelled by the body.
There are also explicit restrictions to abortion access, as well as new requirements for doctors who perform them. Abortion providers are banned from having transfer agreements with public hospitals. Given that clinics are required to have transfer agreements, this could cause the closure of some clinics, and otherwise hamper access to reproductive health services. What’s more, the waiting period for abortions is extended from 24 hours to 48 hours, and the law would also eliminate “medical necessity” as a reason to waive the waiting period, replacing it with a waiver for “medical emergency.”
The difference, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes, is that the former is defined “as a medical condition that complicates the pregnancy so that it warrants an immediate abortion,” while the latter is “a condition that would result in the woman’s death without an abortion.” In practical terms, a necessity is a state of urgency where you may need an abortion in the future, whereas an emergency is where you need one now. It doesn’t seem like a big change, but it could have major implications, especially when coupled with the new penalties for violating these restrictions.
A doctor who does could be charged with a first-degree felony and a fine of up to $1 million—penalties normally reserved for rape, murder, attempted murder, and aggravated robbery (among others). We have no idea how many doctors will hesitate or refuse to perform abortions under serious circumstances, but my guess is that it will be more than a few, with serious consequences for women’s health.
As with the proposed law in Texas, it’s hard to describe these measures as anything other than backdoor attempts at making abortion unavailable in Ohio, through harsh restrictions, new regulations, or the legal intimidation.
Yesterday, on Meet the Press, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that there was “currently an assault on women’s health” and that “women’s health was in danger.” She’s absolutely right. Since the 2010 midterm elections—when Republicans swept statehouses and governorships across the country—there’s been a concerted push to deny women access to the wide array of reproductive health services.
On one hand, there’s a refreshing clarity about these efforts. Conservative lawmakers have all but dispensed with attempts to sound moderate, arguing that rape exceptions are unnecessary, and pushing for proposals—like defunding Planned Parenthood and limiting sex education—that would increase the rate of unplanned pregnancies (and thus abortions).
Of course, the only reason Republicans have become so open about this is because—on the whole—they are winning this fight.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 1, 2013
If, as I have often suggested, Kansas and North Carolina are currently operating as sort of right-wing policy “laboratories” thanks to the highly-focused ideological nature of their Republican state legislative majorities, then my own home state of Georgia might be viewed as sort of a petri dish, where wingnuts don’t necessarily wield great power but do exert an immoderating influence on the GOP.
This is most obvious in terms of the politics of abortion. Real political junkies among you may recall that in 2010, a tight gubernatorial primary runoff between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel was by most accounts significantly affected by the exceptional hostility directed towards Handel by Georgia Right To Life, which did not take kindly to her opposition to legislation restricting embryo production at IV fertility clinics. That may seem ironic to those familiar with Handel’s later fame as the RTL martyr of a failed effort to eliminate ties between the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood. But antichoicers have different standards of purity in Georgia.
That became evident again this week when Georgia RTL broke with the National Right To Life Committee to oppose the “fetal pain” abortion bill on the House floor, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Daniel Malloy:
[T]he message of the last-minute flurry from GRTL was clear, as it urged its supporters to call their member of Congress to request a no vote on the “hijacked” bill.
“What they’ve done is target a particular class of children, those conceived in rape and incest,” [GRTL spox Suzanne] Ward said. “While Georgia Right to Life has the utmost sympathy for those victims, we can’t justify murder in those circumstances.”
And surprise, surprise, one of the co-sponsors of the original House bill, Rep. Paul Broun, denounced the bill and voted against it, carrying with him another Georgia colleague, Rep. Rob Woodall.
Broun, has you might recall, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, as is Karen Handel, and as are two other House Republicans from Georgia (Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey) who went along with national RTL groups and voted for the “fetal pain” bill. Malloy figures Broun’s maneuver will earn him the GRTL endorsement later in the cycle.
As I’ve suggested for a while, whether or not Broun wins the GOP Senate nomination, he’s driving the whole field in a decidedly starboard direction. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but on the same day that he risked the opprobrium of GRTL by voting for an unconstitutional abortion ban that didn’t go far enough, Phil Gingrey made a speech on the House floor suggesting that schools hold classes instructing kids on “traditional gender roles.”
That’s how Republicans roll down in Georgia.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 19, 2013