Nel's New Day

April 30, 2012

To Confused Conservatives: Why Women Aren’t Happy with You

What a view from conservatives regarding women’s rights! “Senate Democrats Plan another Trap for Mitt Romney with Female Voters,” reads the headline for Alexander Bolton’s “article” in the conservative publicationThe Hill.  What is the trap? Proposed legislation to more easily create equal pay for the genders. The Paycheck Fairness Act, blocked by Republicans two years ago, would prohibit employer discrimination in talking about other employers’ wages in both the same offices and other offices of the company. A woman could allege wage discrimination is she’s paid less than a man working for the same job for the same employer. That’s the “trap” causing Bolton to cry “foul”:  sending a bill up for a vote that mandates equal pay is trying to trap the poor Republicans.

These are the same conservatives who probably consider the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to be a “trap” because it tries to protect all women, not just specific classes. Thirty-one male senators voted against VAWA; several of the others voted for it only because they think that the House will remove some of those “special classes” of women from protection. Calling the existing VAWA “controversial,” the men of the House were very sure to have women—specifically Sen. Kay Hutchinson (R-TX) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL)—front and center to introduce the “uncontroversial” bill that eliminates certain classes of women. Or maybe they were just embarrassed to admit that some women deserve to be sexually assaulted.

After the House passed a bill taking Affordable Care Act funding to pay for keeping the federal student loan interest rate the same, Rep. John Boehner is trying to persuade anyone who will listen that this has nothing to do with women. The “slush fund,” as Boehner dismisses it, pays for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Mr. Boehner, those are women’s parts so the loss of funding hurts women.

In giving marching orders to House Republicans for the “reconciliation” of the budget, Reps. Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Jeb Hensarling sent a memo telling their colleagues to increase the defense budget while reducing food stamps. That’s another blow against women who are trying to find food for their children. The three House Republican leaders ignore the facts that the budget was settled last summer during the debt crisis and that they voted for this budget. Because Democratic senators arguing that the Budget Control Act counts as a budget with no need for an additional spending plan for 2013, the House Republicans are considering a seldom-used reconciliation process, hoping that Democrats won’t stick to last summer’s law and won’t have their own plan.

Republicans should use a mirror to see how offensive their behavior is. On a Meet the Press panel talking about the “war on women” yesterday, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos immediately interrupted Rachel Maddow when she said that women in this country make 77 cents for each dollar that men make and then continued to interrupt everything she said. She finally called him out on his “stylistic issue,” calling it “condescending,” after he said, ” I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.” The look on his face showed that he still didn’t get it. As Jason Easley wrote, “The goal was to put Rachel Maddow in her place, and to stop the ‘hysteria’ from the ‘girls’ who don’t understand that because men say so there is no war on women and pay gap.”

After Hilary Rosen mistakenly said that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, doesn’t work and then repeatedly apologized, saying that she meant Ann didn’t work outside the home, the Republicans thought they were home free. When Ann Romney went out on the campaign trail to make a speech, this is what she said: “I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.” When she suggested that she understood poor families, she said that she and Mitt had to sell some of their stocks to get by in college. Her husband had already suggested that young people can start businesses the same way that he did, by borrowing $20,000 from his parents—back when $20,000 was equivalent to perhaps ten times what it is now.

Republicans around the country also ignore women’s needs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is willing to drug-test welfare applicants before they can get any benefits although this costs the state. He also took $2 million from health care providers to give to the fake “crisis pregnancy centers” that keep women from having abortions no matter what their needs. His most recent attack on women is to veto $1.5 million for Florida’s rape crisis centers because he thinks it duplicates existing services. The majority of the existing services, however, are education and prevention; the $1.5 million would have gone to working with actual victims.

Ohio has a proposal to rearrange funding for women’s clinics, putting Planned Parenthood last. Local health departments get the top funding priority, followed by federally qualified community health centers, and then private care centers. The end result of the reprioritization leaves thousands of Ohio women with no birth control, cancer screenings, or STI testing and treatment. Although women could go to a private care center, not everyone who works at this private care center will provide birth control. “You would have to be an established patient, and it would depend on the doctor,” said the receptionist at Lower Lights Health Care center. Ohio plans to move funds meant to help cover contraception to groups that decide on a case by case basis whether or not they want to provide contraception.

Even candidates don’t take women seriously. Recently a woman asked State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Republican candidate for Washington governor, how he would vote on the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill that would expand insurance coverage for abortions in the state insurance plan as long as the plan covers maternity care as well. At first McKenna accused her of trying to “bushwhack” him by asking the question and asked her if she were being honest. When she tried to address the question, he snapped at her and said, “Why don’t you go get a job?” The woman runs “youth empowerment” programs at the YMCA.  Again a Republican man tried to shut up a woman by  being contemptuous to her.

In his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, President Obama described the Republican position: “Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start years ago on ‘The Man Show.’ In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.” No war on women? Thing.progress has produced a video collage of comments during the past few months. For another piece of black humor, check out this video from the Funny or Die website as women counsel Rick Santorum for aborting his campaign.

And these are just the most recent Republicans actions against women!

April 13, 2012

Women Still under Attack–Unlike Caterpillars

Iowa parents (translate mostly women) who receive child support would be forced to have drug tests every six months if state Sen. Mark Chelgren got his way. Democrats openly laughed at him yesterday while Sen. Jack Hatch said that Chelgren’s proposed amendment is anti-woman and can be unfairly used by vindictive spouses. (No mention of unconstitutional.) Chelgren withdrew his proposal, but another Chelgren idea, that of drug-testing welfare recipients, was debated today. That’s the latest Republican salvo in the war on women that Republicans claim doesn’t exist.

David Weigel’s Slate article describes the birth and recent death of the war during the past year, but he’s evidently not following the media. If anything, the war geared up after Hilary Rosen’s statement about Ann Romney that she “had never worked a day in her life.” Despite Rosen’s apology that she meant that Romney had not worked outside her home while she raised five children, everyone from President Obama on down to Rosen herself criticized this statement.

Even the Catholic League got into the fray when its director, Bill Donohue, tweeted, “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.” There has been little negative reaction to Donohue about his putdown of adoptions–and lesbians. Meanwhile some Republicans are crowing that they just won the war on women. The idea is so absurd that some Republican pundits are supporting Rosen.

Romney the candidate is obviously so worried about the voting gender gap that he skewed statistics, saying that women have lost 92.3 percent of the jobs since January 1. His position  is so off target that it will take an entire blog to explain. Suffice it to say, he had to use a date 20 days before Obama took office because using his method beginning with Obama’s inauguration would mean that women lost 300% of the jobs, a statistical impossibility. (More about that in the next few days.)

Women know about the war on their freedoms: forced invasive ultrasounds,  inability to achieve equal pay, and other issues. Nancy Carter and Christine Silva wrote a three-part series for the Washington Post to show how the myths about women are bogus. For example, women ask for raises and promotions, but they don’t get as much in return. The gender gap in level and pay got even wider between men and women as their careers progressed. People take a much tougher position against women in negotiations, for example in selling cars, than against men.

Ryan’s budget that passed the House targets women and their families by gutting programs that help children get nutrition and education. The devastating cuts to SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, mostly affects women, children, disabled, and elderly while it boosts the economy. Budget cuts to Medicaid also hits low-income and middle-class women and families supporting the elderly. Ryan and his cronies would leave poor women to fend for themselves.

Issues keep rising to show this war—and not on caterpillars. This past week, Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate, explained why President Obama is over 20 points ahead of women in a recent poll: men are more familiar with policy and women know just about Obama’s family. Answer: men are much smarter than women, so Romney is losing between the two genders because women are dumber.

In Virginia, William Howell, past ALEC board chair and current Speaker of the state’s House of Delegates, was asked about the amount of money that Virginia taxpayers spend to send legislators to ALEC conferences, a place where they find conservative bills that they can take back home and force on the state’s residents. When he questioned the accuracy of a report from Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, about the expenditures and the 50 plus bills in the Virginia Legislature, including one that called for shutting down companies that hire illegal immigrants and another that would allow people to use deadly force to protect their homes, he said, “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.” Howell apologized to Scholl after a video of the exchange went across the Internet and onto The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yesterday Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed a bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. Although this new law sounds like those in several other states, it technically prevents abortions after 18 weeks because it calculates the fetus’s age from the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. Republican males suffer greatly from an understanding of women’s reproductive functioning; they fail to understand that ovulation (Republicans, that’s when there’s a chance for pregnancy if the sperm hits the egg) occurs two weeks after menstruation. As always with Republicans, Brewer added a statement about protecting the health of women.

The new Arizona law also moves the mandatory ultrasound to 24 hours before the abortion instead of one hour. In addition, both Arizona and Kansas are passing bills that allow doctors to legally lie to pregnant women about any health issues in the fetus or pregnant woman.

Less than two weeks ago, Georgia also passed a 20-week abortion limit. In a classic statement, state Rep. Terry England compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to England, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term. Illinois agrees that women are cattle. The bill that required asking women if they want to see an image of the fetus went through the House Agriculture Committee.

Last fall Heritage Christian Academy in Texas fired 29-year-old Cathy Samford, a teacher and coach, when she asked for a short leave. She and her fiancé had planned to marry a few weeks earlier, but the wedding was delayed. Samford, with two other young children, lost her health insurance. The headmaster said she was fired because of her “behavior out of wedlock” as well as her “being an unmarried mother.” Samford filed a charge of gender and pregnancy discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is suing the school.

An appeals court in Atlanta is currently hearing the case of fourth-grade teacher Jarretta Hamilton, fired after the principal at her non-denominational Christian school found out that she was pregnant before getting married. Catholic school teacher Christa Dias was fired in 2010 by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after it learned that she had used artificial insemination to conceive; her case is still in court.

Romney has a record of warring on women. He pledged to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood or repeal title X which provides important health services for poor women. When he was a Bishop in the Mormon Church, he went to a congregant’s hospital room and told a young single mother who had just given birth that she was shaming the church and should give her baby away. When Romney ran Bain Capital, less than 10% of the senior workforce were women. The reason, he said in his 1994 Senate race, was that he had trouble finding qualified women to be executives.

Two days ago, when Sam Stein of the Huffington Post asked a Romney campaign aide if the candidate supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a six-second pause was followed by the answer that he would get back to Stein.   The final answer was that Romney wouldn’t try to repeal it. That’s questionable because Romney’s four favorite Supreme Court judges, models for those he would select, all voted against the case that led to Congress passing the act, the first one that Obama signed. Romney also strongly supports Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who just signed the repeal of that state’s equal pay law.

How did Congressional Republicans feel about the Ledbetter Act? Only three House Republicans and five Senators voted for the act: one, Arlen Specter, changed to the Democratic Party; another, Lisa Murkowski, was teabagged by her own party in 2010; and a third, Olympia Snowe, just quit because of her party’s attack on women.

To put some of the war on women into perspective, Alyssa Rosenbert put together A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving the War on Women, “ten pieces of pop culture that will make you laugh, think, and keep you in the fight for women’s rights at a time when the war on women makes America seem more like The Handmaid’s Tale than a modern country.” She highlights satire and science fiction to show the insanity of what’s happening in the 21st century regarding women’s reproductive rights.

Sometimes black humor helps. I laughed out loud this morning when I read Ruth Marcus’ column about Romney’s attempt to have his wife solve his “women problem.” Here are some excerpts:

“Romney, asked last week about the gender gap, twice said he wished his wife could take the question. ‘My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me,’ Romney told newspaper editors, ‘and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy.’ Note to candidate: Women aren’t a foreign country. You don’t need an interpreter to talk to them. Even if you’re not fluent in their language, they might appreciate if you gave it a try.

“On the campaign trail with her husband, Ann often talks about the old days when she would be at home dealing with her rambunctious brood and Mitt would call from the road. ‘His consoling words were always the same: Ann, your job is more important than mine.’ This story is supposed to buttress Mitt’s bona fides as supportive husband, and Ann is, no doubt, a more tolerant spouse than I am. But every time I hear that patronizing line, I imagine responding, ‘Great. If my job is more important, then you come home and do it and I’ll check into the nice room at the Four Seasons.’

Will we women continue to put up with the Republicans’ arrogant, controlling attitude toward us? Maybe we should incorporate our uteruses so that they have the same rights as corporations!

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