sexta-feira, 30 de janeiro de 2009

Now for some bad news

Poor Women Are Not "Pork"


by: Ruth Rosen, Talking Points Memo

Responding to President Obama's request, House Democrats cut a provision from the stimulus package that would expand contraceptive family planning for Medicaid patients - usually poor women and girls. He, in turn, was responding to Republicans' opposition to expanding Medicaid family planning for poor women and girls.

Why did this happen?

For years, reproductive justice activists have argued that the religious right's real agenda is not just to eliminate abortion, but to end the historic rupture between sex and reproduction that took place in the 20th century.

I understand why that rupture is unsettling. Ironically, I was on my way to lecture about Margaret Sanger in my history course at U.C. Berkeley when I heard the news. Sanger was vilified for wanting to give women the choice of when or whether to bear children. In short, she challenged all of human history by proposing an historic rupture between sexuality and the goal of reproduction. If reproduction ceased to be the goal, sexuality might become yoked to pleasure and that is quite unsettling to many Americans.

That is the legacy the religious right has fought against, and it's that agenda that cut funding for family planning.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said, "How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?"

Well, here's the answer. First, the package is filled with health care services, many of which will help uninsured citizens, but not stimulate the economy. Family planning services for poor women and girls is also health care. So those who argue it's no big deal should realize that the package is filled with health care services, with the exception of family planning.

Secondly, family planning actually does save the government money. The Congressional Budget Office reported that by the third year of implementation, the measure would actually save $ 200 million over five years by preventing unwanted pregnancies and avoiding the Medicaid cost of delivering and then caring for these babies. The same CBO report found the House version of the stimulus would have a "noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years, with much of the mandatory spending for Medicaid and other programs likely to occur in the next 19 to 20 months." During the first three years, the CBO report said, the cost and savings are negligible.

Finally, think about the women and girls we are discussing. Consider the teenage girl who's sexually active. What happens to the economy when she bears a child without the means to support it? Conversely, what happens when she finishes her education, enters the labor force, earns a salary, and pays taxes? Do we want an unemployed poor woman to have more children than she can already feed, or do we want her to have access to contraception, get her life back on track, and hopefully find work, instead of raising another child she cannot afford at this time?

This decision was an unnecessary political capitulation to Republicans. According to the AP and the Austin American-Statesman, the president was "courting Republican critics of the legislation" who had argued that contraception is not about stimulus or growth. Unfortunately, too many people have uncritically accepted that argument. But many others have noted that the package is filled with provisions for health care, which certainly includes family planning. Many other provisions, moreover, are also not growth-oriented, and yet it was poor women's bodies that Democrats bartered for the approval and votes from Republicans that they don't need and will seldom get.

That same morning, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert asked "Why anyone listens to [Republicans]?" Why, indeed. They want the Democrats to fail. They want the new president to fail. And so they described women's bodies as "pork" and asked that the funding be cut for contraception.

Women's groups are legitimately outraged at what has happened. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America called the measure a "victim of misleading attacks and partisan politics." Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said: "Family planners are devastated that President Obama and Congress have decided to take funding for critical family planning services out of the stimulus. Their willingness to abandon the millions of families across the country who are in need is devastating."

"The Medicaid Family Planning State Option fully belonged in the economic recovery package," said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "The Republican leadership opposition to the provision shows how out of touch they are with what it takes to ensure the economic survival of working women and their families."

While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the measure as recently as last Sunday, President Barack Obama and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, bowed to Republican pressure and agreed to drop the measure. And although the Senate has not yet voted, it's unlikely that funding for expanded family planning will be approved. In short, the Democrats decided it just wasn't worth fighting about. According to the Washington Wire, one House Democratic aide said, "It ended up being a distraction and it will be removed."

So, poor women who want reproductive health care and contraception are both "pork" and a "distraction." Is this the change we have dreamed about?

President Obama certainly believes in contraception for poor women and girls on Medicaid. He won the election, as he recently pointed out. He doesn't have to cave in to Republican demands to restrict women's choices and health care.

The best way he and Democrats can handle this terribly misguided decision is to pass legislation to fund expanded family planning as soon as possible, before half the population wakes up and realizes that once again, women have been treated as expendable, and that their bodies have been bartered for political expediency.


This article first appeared on Religious Dispatches.


Family Planning Cuts Irk Activists


by: Josh Gerstein and Lisa Lerer, The Politico

President Barack Obama has been in office for just over a week, but already he has managed to upset some top leaders in a key constituency - women's groups - after he personally intervened to get family planning funds stripped from the House stimulus package.

Planned Parenthood led the charge, with President Cecile Richards sending an "urgent" e-mail to supporters on Wednesday decrying the deletion - calling it a "betrayal of millions of low-income women, and it will place an even greater burden on state budgets that are already strained to the breaking point."

"I'm stunned," she wrote, urging supporters to call the White House.

Other prominent women leaders joined in expressing their disappointment at Obama's move - which came after Republicans turned up the heat on Obama by highlighting the family planning proposal in the House bill to spur conservative opposition.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said she met with Democratic leaders in Congress Tuesday and received repeated assurances that the money will be restored in another way - but she made clear she's watching.

"I think the [Obama administration] should have kept it in there," Gandy said Wednesday in an interview. "But in their political calculus they felt this was something that would pass Congress rather easily as a stand-alone measure and didn't think was worth fighting for in the stimulus."

"I think that poor women's lives are worth fighting for," Gandy said.

Mary Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said she was "devastated" by Obama's decision.

But she added, "He's made commitments to fund family planning and do it quickly. ... The president had a tough choice, and he told us he was going to make them and we have to stick with him, and I'm sticking with him because I fully expect really quick action on this," said Gallagher.

Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed that Obama personally called Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and asked him to drop the provision, just a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended it on national television Sunday morning.

The president "believed that the policy of increased funding for family planning was the right one," Gibbs said. "He didn't believe that this bill was the vehicle to make that happen."

All of the women's leaders stopped well short of blasting the new White House over the move - appearing not to want to split with the Obama administration so quickly out of the gate and also confident that Obama stands by them in the long run on the issues they care about most.

As Gandy said, "We were definitely told that the Obama administration has a strong commitment to women's reproductive rights and family planning. This should not be seen as a lessening of that commitment, only as a change of the vehicle."

But Obama also made clear in recent days that he's willing to disappoint some of his most ardent supporters in the abortion rights movement to win what in his mind amount to larger political victories.

Last week, Obama seemingly did his best to downplay his decision to reverse U.S. policy that prevented international organizations that offer abortions from receiving American aid money.

At first, women's groups hailed Obama for overturning the policy. However, the same groups privately grumbled over Obama's decision not to issue his new order on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the U.S. Obama waited a day, apparently out of deference to abortion opponents who rally in the capital on the anniversary.

In addition, he signed the order away from cameras, late in the afternoon on a Friday, traditionally the time when newsmakers try to keep news out of the headlines.

At the time, Obama also said he wants to reshape the polarized political debate over abortion by highlighting the need to reduce the number of abortions, not the old political fights over the right to choose.

The political reality is that the family planning funding - as much as hundreds of millions in dollars in aid to states to provide those services to poor families - was becoming a too-perfect talking point that Republicans were using to rally conservative opposition to his stimulus plan.

The proposal would have relieved states of the need to seek a waiver from the federal government before spending Medicaid money on family planning services for women who don't qualify for the ordinary Medicaid program. Women's health advocates say such services include not only contraception but cancer screenings and regular checkups for low-income women.

And if there was any doubt about the political dangers in the bill, the House Republican campaign committee sent out news releases Wednesday asking if newly elected Democrats in conservative districts backed what Republicans said was a second provision in the legislation - to provide $335 million in funding to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Any serious breach with women's groups has the potential to reopen lingering wounds from the Democratic primary campaign. Many women's organizations and prominent feminists backed Hillary Clinton in the primary and came aboard Obama's campaign only after it became clear he would be the nominee. There were also complaints from some women that Obama and his backers had not paid enough respect to the struggles American women have faced over the years.

In a statement released to Politico on Wednesday afternoon, Richards tempered her words, saying that although the group was "disappointed" the family planning funds were stripped out, "we are confident that ... we have [Obama's] support on this and other critical women's issues."

But Planned Parenthood's e-mailed protest was not well received by Democrats on Capitol Hill, said one Democratic Senate aide who asked to remain anonymous. "That newsletter was completely inappropriate," said the aide, adding that the action made "zero political sense."

"There are plenty of opportunities to plus up family planning funds," the aide said. "A lot of Democratic members and female members felt that didn't belong in the [stimulus] bill."

Leaders of women's groups have one of their own in White House communications director Ellen Moran. She served as executive director of EMILY's List, an organization that raises money for female candidates who support abortion rights. Moran declined an interview request, referring comment to the White House press office.




Um comentário:

John Maszka disse...


I'm conducting feminist research on how American foreign policy affects popular support for terrorism. I’m particularly interested in incorporating the views of women, non-whites, and people living outside of America and Western Europe, but all responses are invited and welcome. The survey can be accessed at

I would really value your opinion and the opinion of your readers.

Thank you,

John Maszka