Friday, February 25, 2011

Keeping Seattle’s Working Moms Healthy and Safe: Seattle’s Paid Sick Days Campaign

Is Seattle ready for a paid sick days law?  In Seattle 42% of the workforce has no paid sick leave.  Far more alarming is the fact that in Seattle, 78% of restaurant workers, 55% of retail workers, and 29% of health care workers do not have paid sick leave.  The increased likelihood of spreading contagious diseases is something workers and employers should be very concerned with.  Rising health care costs combined with a sickened workforce is bad business for all employers. 

Paid sick days benefits would create a healthier and more secure Seattle workforce.  It would ensure that workers could stay home when they are sick without losing a day’s pay.  When sick workers are forced to go to work they not only increase their own healthcare care expenses but those of their coworkers.  Sick workers cost employers productivity and spread disease.  For workers in the services industry, like restaurant workers and grocery store cashiers, they risk making the public sick as well.  In Washington State most workers in the food service industry or those working directly with the public have no access to paid sick leave. 

The workforce segregation resulting in women working mostly in health care services, child care, and retail in Washington means that women take the brunt of the consequences of having no access to paid sick leave.  The lack of paid sick leave is particularly troubling for working mothers.  When working mothers cannot afford to take a day off to care for a sick child that child is oftentimes forced to go to school, spreading disease to other children and teachers. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Media and Sexual Assault Victims: Blame and Hate Flood the Conversation about CBS’s Lara Logan

It did not take long for yesterday’s shocking news that CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted last Friday amid the celebrations in Egypt’s Tahrir Square to invite hate filled commentary.  Bloggers and people posting comments on the internet vacillated between either victim blaming or ramping up the already vile Muslim bashing throughout the media.  A good deal of the victim blaming has been coming from female bloggers focusing in on her blond hair and good looks; but also from respected journalists.  Journalist Nir Rosen has since resigned as a fellow from NYU’s Center on Law and Security amid backlash for his sickening comments; he went so far as to tweet “I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she’ll get…”  This kind of victim bashing is particularly shocking coming from other women in the media. 

Instead of discussing the dangers that female journalists experience overseas, many have also resorted to the predictable suggestions that all Muslim men are savages and rapists.  NPR was so inundated with such hateful posts from readers, either blaming Logan for daring to do her job or suggesting this crime was proof positive that Egyptians are evil and undeserving of democracy, that they were forced to remove posts from their website. 

Thankfully, at the Daily Beast, Ursula Lindsey instead chose to speak about the unique dangers female journalists face in foreign countries; even recounting her personal experience of being a near victim of sexual assault while reporting from Egypt in 2004. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blurring the Line between the Separation of Church and State: How the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Influences Health Care Choices for American Women

The culture wars are back and are being propelled by politicians and religious fanatics that do not understand the constitutional mandate separating church and state - forcing their religious agenda on American women at both the state and federal level.

A few days ago NPR reported on the remarkable feminist movement in Tunisia.  In many ways, the Tunisian feminist movement is far more advanced than the US feminist movement.  Tunisian women have had access to birth control since 1962 and abortion since 1965, while American women gained access to birth control in 1965 and access to abortion in 1973.  I was struck by the following quote from a long time Tunisian feminist activist:

The force of the Tunisian feminist movement is that we've never separated it from the fight for democracy and a secular society…We will continue our combat, which is to make sure that religion remains completely separate from politics.

Feminism -- women’s equality and reproductive rights – cannot advance unless religion is divorced from politics.  The current House Republican legislative agenda embodies the explicit merger of religion and politics and women have become the specific target of that agenda. 

If H.R.358, the so-called “Protect Life Act,” is enacted it will empower the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to make even further insidious inroads into women’s health care choices.  Among other things, H.R.358 would allow health care facilities the freedom to refuse a woman an emergency abortion or referral services for an emergency abortion even if doing so would end that woman’s life.  Even the Hyde Amendment provides federal funding of abortions to protect the life of the mother. 

The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), which represents more than 2000 Catholic health care systems, endorsed H.R.358 on January 24th in a letter addressed to the sponsor of the legislation Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA).  Currently, there are 100 cosponsors of this legislation.  Of those 100 cosponsors 5 are Democrats; 10 Republican women have also signed on as cosponsors. 

The GOP’s Ongoing War on America’s Women and Children: Demonizing Women’s Choices

The sponsors of “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R.3) do not seek to codify the existing the Hyde Amendment to prevent federal funding of abortions – there is no federal funding of abortions in the U.S.  The sponsors of H.R.3 seek to go far beyond the Hyde Amendment to prevent all women from obtaining abortion services.  In 1976 the Hyde Amendment created a two tier system that discriminates against poor women seeking abortions.  But now H.R.3 would increase taxes on people and small businesses by specifically targeting private health insurance plans that cover abortion.  More than 80% of health insurance plans cover abortion and those plans would become ineligible for government reimbursements for health care costs.  It will raise taxes on anyone with private insurance that covers abortion regardless of whether you use the abortion coverage in your plan or not.  The inevitable consequence will be that insurance companies will stop covering abortion services. 

According to a Guttmacher Institute study “…87% of typical employer-based insurance policies in 2002 covered medically necessary or appropriate abortions.”

H.R.3 would effectively ban abortion coverage in the new health insurance exchanges that will be created under the Affordable Care Act in 2014. 

·         Denying tax credits to employers or other entities that pay for health plans that cover abortion
·         Denying tax credits to individuals or entities that pay for abortion care
·         Disallowing medical deductions for payments for any health plan that includes abortion coverage or for any medical expenses related to abortion care
·         Treating as income any amounts paid for an abortion from a tax-preferred trust or account, such as a health savings account

Yet the GOP’s war on women goes well beyond H.R.3. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

WA State Attorney General Rob McKenna Declares the Proposed Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act Unconstitutional

WA State Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee Presides Over Contentious Hearing

On February 2nd the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee held a hearing taking testimony from supporters and opponents of the Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act (SB 5274/HB 1366).  The proposed Act will help protect women from some of the more deceptive practices at Limited Service Pregnancy Centers (LSPC) or so called Crisis Pregnancy Centers.  Kathy Buchli, Counsel for the Committee, informed the Committee that Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna believes that the Act is unconstitutional because it violates the 1st Amendment.  Ms. Buchli stated that Mr. McKenna believes the Act violates the 1st Amendment because it requires “compelled speech” and suppresses freedom of expression.  

Mr. McKenna appears to be taking his cues directly from Maryland federal district court judge Marvin J. Garbis.  On January 28th Judge Garbis declared a similar Baltimore City ordinance regulating LSPCs unconstitutional.  Ms. Buchli announced that Mr. McKenna also thinks the Act goes far beyond the Baltimore law regarding violations of the 1st Amendment. 

Throughout the oftentimes contentious hearing, where Committee members argued and talked over one another, the recent Baltimore ruling permeated much of the discussion. 

Three Republican Committee members agreed with the Attorney General’s assessment that the Act is unconstitutional.  Republican Senators Cheryl Pflug, Adam Kline, and Mike Carrell repeatedly cited specific language from the Baltimore decision to express their belief that the Act requires “forced speech” from LSPCs in violation of the 1st Amendment. 

Breaking News: House Republicans Decide That No Really Does Mean No

House Republicans really want to get down to business and address the nation’s economic woes: deal with the 9% unemployment rate, a stagnant economy, and the ever increasing national debt.  Their solution: H.R. 3 "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."  How do Republicans plan to deal with women getting away with claiming they were raped so the federal government will pay for their abortions under Medicaid?  The plan: limit federal funding for abortions for pregnancies resulting only from “forcible rape.”  That would certainly cut down on the tremendous cost of women pretending they were raped in order to get free abortions.  In fact, the Guttmacher Institute found that in FY 2006“[t]he federal government contributed to the cost of 191 procedures…” 

So federal taxpayers paid for a mere 191 abortions in 2006 and those abortions were only permitted because a woman was either raped, the victim of incest, or the pregnancy threatened her life.  In 2001 only 56 abortions were covered by federal Medicaid funds.  And this is the legislative priority House Republicans have identified as most pressing for the nation – making sure that women are not lying about rape to get their free abortions.