Nel's New Day

August 10, 2015

Ignore Trump, Watch What the Other Candidates Do against Women

The media’s obsession with Donald Trump spread throughout the Sunday morning talk shows (formerly “news” shows). Chuck Todd spend half of Meet the Press on Trump and the other half with Marco Rubio and John Kasich (the second time in two weeks). When Todd asked both of them about Trump, Rubio refused to take the bait, but Kasich spent some more time on Trump.

RNC Reince Priebus cancelled his performance on one of these Sunday shows. He may have been embarrassed about trying to rig the GOP debates, eliminating one of MSNBC because he was afraid any stridency, and ending up with the fiasco last Thursday.

The debate highlighted Trump’s sexist attitudes and that his companies have declared bankruptcies. Litttle of the media points out is that most of the other GOP candidates are as, if not more, dismissive of women and beholden to billionaires with the same money ethics as Trump.

Erick Erickson disinvited Trump from an event for GOP presidential candidates in Atlanta, but Jeb Bush was there to pronounce Erickson “on the side of women.” Erickson called the first day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, featuring women speakers, as the “Vagina Monologues.”

Trump was disinvited, according to Erickson, because he overstepped the line of “decency.” Erickson’s rhetoric has gone so far overboard that he called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat f—ing child molester.” In 2013, Erickson told Kelly that women are scientifically inferior to men, and “women as primary breadwinners does make raising children harder, increasing the likelihood of harm in the development of children.” Other Erickson comments:

 

  • “Hillary Clinton “Is Going To Be Old” In 2016, “I Don’t Know How Far Back They Can Pull Her Face.”
  • (About NOW): “The NAG gang, as the godfather of radio Rush Limbaugh would call them, the National Association of Gals. They are the angry ones. Angry in their unibrows.”
  • (About the female CEO of IBM denied admittance to the Augusta National Golf Club): “Who cares that she wasn’t invited into the club? She’s a woman. Women aren’t allowed.”
  • “There is no reason” [for anyone to study women or Gender in college] unless they want to be a professional victim.”

After Erickson called Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis “Abortion Barbie,” Fox’s Greta Van Susteren called him a “creep” and a “repeat offender” with a “pattern of being disrespectful to women.”

Some of Bush’s ideas of his being “on the side of women”:

  • As former Florida governor, he tried to appoint a legal guardian for a fetus of a disabled woman who was raped in a state facility.
  • He has made derogatory comments about single women.
  • One of his laws was to shame unmarried women who chose to give their children up for adoption by requiring that personal information, including the names of all the woman’s sexual partners, be published in the media.
  • Bush said,  “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

After picking their candidates through questioning during the debate, Fox is now “editing” its transcripts to make Bush look more appealing to women. They don’t show the question that Kelly asked Bush about his membership on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation which donated $50 million to groups—including Planned Parenthood—to expand reproductive health services throughout the world. Fox has also not shown that piece in its clips on the debate.

Abortion is definitely shaping up as a major issue in the 2016 election as it did four years ago with attempts to define different “levels” of rape. Scott Walker answered a question about whether he would let a woman who needed an abortion die by saying it would never happen because of “alternatives.” Doctors disagree with him.

All Fox-approved GOP candidates must not support any abortions, and Marco Rubio has fallen in line with the mandate. In 2013, he agreed with an exception for rape or incest, but now he repeats the position that “all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws.” He talks about the usefulness of the “morning-after” medication although he supports restriction on women’s access to contraception. Like Walker, he thinks that no woman could die if she doesn’t get an abortion.

Ohio governor, John Kasich, is sometimes described as the most “moderate” of the candidates, but he mandated medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, to be paid for by the patient, before a woman may have an abortion in his state. He also put a gag rule on state-funded rape crisis centers, prohibiting them from discussing abortion options with victims.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee once said that it’s “a statistical reality that most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death.” (It isn’t.) He considers state support for birth control as the worst kind of government paternalism because women should be able to control their libidos without help. Huckabee believes in “personhood,” rights for fertilized eggs, using the “unborn child’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights for due process and equal protection under the law.”

Rand Paul introduced a bill in 2013 supporting Huckabee’s belief that would have protected the rights of fertilized eggs under the 14th Amendment. In college, he and a friend kidnapped and blindfolded a female student and tried to force her to take hits off a bong. His record also includes sexist media about Hillary Clinton. According to Paul, “income inequality is due to some people working harder and selling more things.” He doesn’t mention women—none of them do—but he insinuates that women would make more money if they just worked harder. Paul, like Rubio, voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2012 and the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.

Ted Cruz also voted against the Violence Against Women Act and claims that oral contraception causes abortions. Not only trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he also has fought against the Act’s contraceptive mandate for free contraception in employees’ insurance for their workers.

While attacking Trump about his sexist remarks, Kelly neglected to ask Chris Christie about such comments to women who asked about jobs “going down”: “You know, something may be going down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.”

Carly Fiorina, the one woman in a field of 17 who is rapidly rising from the “second-tier,” opposes abortion and access for birth control. Like her male opponents, she opposes raising the minimum wage, important for more women than men.

The GOP candidates have avoided talking about women whenever discussing pregnancy. Five of the candidates are U.S. senators who work to block all abortions past 20 weeks but mention only the fetus. They pretend that women don’t exist. The candidates also ignore voting rights—or lack of rights—that disproportionately affects women, income equality with men on the top, health care—except to eliminate health care for the poor and women, etc.

The GOP candidates are far more dangerous to women than Donald Trump because they try to hide their disgust for women’s rights by professing to love fetuses. How successful they are with 53 percent of the population will become clear in the next 15 months. As the “autopsy” of the 2012 election stated:

“Republicans would need to be more inclusive of women, be more tolerant on gay rights to gain favor with young voters, support comprehensive immigration reform to appeal to Latinos and stand strong against ‘corporate malfeasance.’”

In the first debate, GOP candidates failed on the first three and were only concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump’s “corporate malfeasance.”

Presidential candidates have not received a majority of women voters since 1988 when George H.W. Bush brought in just 51 percent of the female vote. Overall, women have had a higher voter turnout than men in every presidential election for 35 years.

In her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood segregates society by class and gender with social status determined by fertility and sexual productivity. In the Republic of Gilead, “aunts” join to oppress other women. Men are in control, women are chattel, and abortion is banned. This is the dream of the GOP presidential candidates.

While the media is paying attention to what Donald Trump says about women, the rest of the country should pay attention to what the remaining 16 candidates do against women.

August 7, 2014

U.S. Persecutes Pregnant Women

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published almost 30 years ago as a dystopian view of the United States in the future. In the novel, the United States has changed into the totalitarian theocracy called the Republic of Gilead with the motto “One Nation, Under One God.” The writings in the Bible’s Old Testament ruled the country. Because much of the population in the novel is sterile because of environmental pollution, fertility is prized. The few fertile women have only one purpose—to make babies. Any fertile women who break rules and conventions are consigned to the status of “Handmaids,” forbidden from reading, working outside the home, or spending money.

Even in the Reagan era when it was first published, the premise seemed far-fetched. Yet, twenty-eight years later, the book seems far more realistic. Recently Atwood talked about the way to take control of the United States:

“Nations never build apparently radical forms of government on foundations that aren’t there already. … The deep foundation of the US – so went my thinking – was not the comparatively recent 18th-century Enlightenment structures of the republic, with their talk of equality and their separation of church and state, but the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th-century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, which would need only the opportunity of a period of social chaos to reassert itself.”

Although the U.S. Constitution has not been overturned—yet—areas of the U.S. are showing Gilead-like conditions, especially in the South. Between 2011 and 2013, 30 states enacted 205 abortion restrictions, more than the total of the previous decade. Anti-choice activists have used the Affordable Care Act to assault insurance coverage for contraception. In Hobby Lobby, they achieved a tremendous advantage in being able to disallow any contraception as causing abortions with no facts on their side.

Adding to the image of women as only fetus-holding vessels, states are beginning to hold women accountable for the outcome of their pregnancies. An Indiana woman was charged with attempted murder for a suicide attempt while she was pregnant; a Mississippi woman was indicted for “depraved heart murder” after traces of a cocaine byproduct were found in her stillborn baby’s blood. Across the country, hundreds of pregnant women have been detained, arrested and sometimes convicted on charges as serious as murder for activities that authorities viewed as dangerous or harmful to their unborn child.

While people claim that they are justified in their concern for the fetus, the need to control women comes from a demand for “traditional Christian values.” Recently, Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore ruled that the use of the word “child” in the state’s statute applies to a fetus:

“This natural life being, as was before observed, the immediate donation of the great creator, cannot legally be disposed of or destroyed by any individual, neither by the person himself nor by any other of his fellow creatures, merely upon their own authority.”

Moore used the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to give the same obligation to protecting a fetus as to “persons already born.” The mandate that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” begins with conception, according to Moore, even if the statement is in the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution.

The poorer states in the country have failed to accept Medicaid for most of their residents. Poor care for pregnant women results in higher infant mortality rates. Mississippi has the highest rate of infant deaths in the United States; Alabama is second. Tennessee has the fourth highest rate. None of these states accepts federal funds for Medicaid expansion, leaving the poorest and most vulnerable residents without access to health care. Yet women are held responsible for birth outcomes.

On July 1, Tennessee’s law to criminally charge pregnant women for using illicit drugs went into effect. Although the governor claimed that the purpose was to get pregnant women into drug treatment programs, the first woman to deliver a newborn testing positive for methamphetamine was arrested and charged with assault. At two days old, the newborn was too young for a medical diagnosis of drug-related harm.

The  American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology wrote:

“Although legal action against women who abuse drugs prenatally is taken with the intent to produce healthy birth outcomes, negative results are frequently cited. Incarceration and the threat of incarceration have proved to be ineffective in reducing the incidence of alcohol or drug abuse. Legally mandated testing and reporting puts the therapeutic relationship between the obstetrician–gynecologist and the patient at risk, potentially placing the physician in an adversarial relationship with the patient.

“Pregnant women who do not receive treatment for drug dependence cannot be assumed to have rejected treatment. The few drug treatment facilities in the United States accepting pregnant women often do not provide child care, account for the woman’s family responsibilities, or provide treatment that is affordable. As of 2010, only 19 states have drug treatment programs for pregnant women, and only nine give priority access to pregnant women.”

Criminalizing and disempowering women diverts attention away from the real problems of poverty, inadequate housing, food insecurity (aka hunger), lack of health care, violence, unemployment, environmental hazards, etc. The same people who place all the blame on the woman if her fetus is not perfect refuse to place regulations on the environment that will add to the fetus’s health. Many pregnant women tested for chemicals have high levels of lead, mercury, bisphenol A, flame retardants, pesticides that disrupt the development of the brain or reproductive systems. Some of the chemicals increase the risk of birth defects or cause future problems such as cancer, autoimmune issues, asthma, and other disorders.

Not all persecuted pregnant women are poor, however, or live in the South. After a woman told her doctor during a prenatal checkup that she had a history of medication addition but had quit on her own, he ordered her to take an anti-addiction drug. She refused, and the state arrested her and sent her to court in shackles where she was told that her fetus had a lawyer. She was sent to a treatment facility under threat of jail. Forced to spend three months there, she lost her job. Wisconsin is one of four states, along with Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota, to legally confine pregnant women for substance abuse.

The conservative Wall Street Journal is complaining about giving equal employment rights to pregnant women after the EEOC issued new guidelines to oppose pregnancy discrimination. As common with arguments against regulations, the WSJ falsely claimed that pregnant women are already protected by federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that excluding pregnant women from some workplace benefits is not sex-based discrimination.  This was after the court did admit that “pregnancy-related disabilities constitute an additional risk, unique to women.” Congress passed a law in 1978 to nullify the Supreme Court ruling in connection to Title VII employment law, but the court’s ruling still leaves pregnant workers “unprotected under federal law.”

Women working at Pier 1, Walmart, and other companies have been forced to take unpaid leave because their doctors prescribed light duty. Even non-pregnant fertile women suffer discrimination. A battery manufacturing company excluded all fertile women from jobs that might pose a hazard to unborn children but didn’t exclude fertile men. A high-level executive was demoted two weeks after she told her manager she was planning to get pregnant although she had always receive outstanding performance reviews.

Democrats continually introduce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and Republicans continually kill it. Ten states have passed laws of varying strength to protect pregnant workers: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and West Virginia. New York City and Philadelphia also have city-wide protections. Mississippi is not one of those states, and that’s where the Christian, family-friendly person-corporation Hobby Lobby supposedly fired a pregnant woman without giving her an opportunity for maternity leave.

As the nation gradually moves toward making the pregnant woman solely responsible for the health and well-being of the fetus, the United States becomes more and more like the Republic of Gilead. In Atwood’s country, there is no need for amniocentesis, ultrasound, or other modern prenatal health detection techniques, because abortion is illegal and medical doctors who perform them face capital punishment. At least Gilead takes care of the children after they are born; the United States won’t even do that.

The United States has become a country where pregnant women can be persecuted and prosecuted without having many rights guaranteed to other people under the U.S. Constitution. Unlike over industrialized nations, pregnant women don’t automatically receive health care for herself and the fetus and lack a guarantee of medical leave for delivery.

 

 

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