Roundup: Dems Will Unite, Swizzle Sticks and Celebrating Midwives

Brady Swenson

Dems will unite around women, McCain on the Daily Show, TV workplace harassment, rising BC prices and debunking ALL.

Nicholas Kristof writes in the NYT today that Clinton should drop out of the race as a continued battle could further damage Democrat’s chances in the fall. He mentions, almost in passing, the issue that will bring Clinton’s ardent supporters out for Obama in the fall: "It’s true that most of Senator Clinton’s supporters presumably will flinch if
they contemplate a McCain Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade."

Courtney at Feministing has a post (with video) of McCain on the Daily Show yesterday. McCain talked about a "very attractive young detractor" who showed up at a rally and the issues of discrimination against women and gender equality arose, check out the clip and Courtney’s comments.

"Will you lick my swizzle stick?" It’s the latest euphemism dredged up by a TV personality to harass a co-worker. Rachel at Broadsheet has this one.

Everyday my Google Reader has an article from some campus newspaper decrying the ever-rising prices of birth control due to a glitch in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Today it was Boise State.

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The head of the UNFPA called Monday for an increase in investment to train and support midwives around the world. “Every day, midwives are saving women’s lives by making delivery safe. Their
essential care before, during and after delivery ensures that no woman dies
giving life,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said in a message
marking the International Day of the Midwife, observed on May 5th.

There’s a great post at SchizoFrenetic that continues the discussion about the American Life League’s "The Pill Kills" campaign. She writes that it would make sense for both sides to get together on contraception to empower women and men to make reproductive choices, thus reducing the number of abortions. She goes on to debunk the campaign’s talking points.

News Abortion

Will the First Presidential Debate Focus on Reproductive Rights?

Robin Marty

Wednesday's first presidential debate will be focused on "domestic issues." Will reproductive health questions be a factor, or relegated to the back bench?

Economy. Healthcare. Education. Each of these topics are expected to receive a great deal of attention as President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney face off in the first of three debates prior to the November election.

The first debate will cover “domestic policy,” and is expected to have a heavy focus on the economy and healthcare. Host Jim Leher of PBS’s Newshour will ask six questions, each followed by 15 minutes of debate between the two candidates. But it’s still not clear whether reproductive and sexual health and rights will be part of the discussion.

In the 2008 presidential debates, the politics of a woman’s right to self-determination regarding whether and when to have children and under what circumstances barely made it onto the radar. No questions on abortion were asked of the candidates until the third and final debate, and even then the questions were simply about whether or not they would appoint judges to the Supreme Court who would uphold or overturn Roe v. Wade. The responses were entirely lackluster:

[Moderatior Bob] SCHIEFFER: All right. Let’s stop there and go to another question. And this one goes to Senator McCain. Senator McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Senator Obama, you believe it shouldn’t.

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Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue? Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: I would never and have never in all the years I’ve been there imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court. That’s not appropriate to do.

SCHIEFFER: But you don’t want Roe v. Wade to be overturned?

MCCAIN: I thought it was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad. I think that decisions should rest in the hands of the states. I’m a federalist. And I believe strongly that we should have nominees to the United States Supreme Court based on their qualifications rather than any litmus test. Now, let me say that there was a time a few years ago when the United States Senate was about to blow up. Republicans wanted to have just a majority vote to confirm a judge and the Democrats were blocking in an unprecedented fashion.

We got together seven Republicans, seven Democrats. You were offered a chance to join. You chose not to because you were afraid of the appointment of, quote, “conservative judges.”

I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a very important issue we’re talking about.

Senator Obama voted against Justice Breyer and Justice Roberts on the grounds that they didn’t meet his ideological standards. That’s not the way we should judge these nominees. Elections have consequences. They should be judged on their qualifications. And so that’s what I will do.

I will find the best people in the world — in the United States of America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And not legislating from the bench.

SCHIEFFER: But even if it was someone — even someone who had a history of being for abortion rights, you would consider them?

MCCAIN: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

OBAMA: Well, I think it’s true that we shouldn’t apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people.

And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.

Now I would not provide a litmus test. But I am somebody who believes that Roe versus Wade was rightly decided. I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on.

But what ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision. And I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn’t be subject to state referendum, any more than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to popular vote.

OBAMA: So this is going to be an important issue. I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.

I’ll just give you one quick example. Senator McCain and I disagreed recently when the Supreme Court made it more difficult for a woman named Lilly Ledbetter to press her claim for pay discrimination.

For years, she had been getting paid less than a man had been paid for doing the exact same job. And when she brought a suit, saying equal pay for equal work, the judges said, well, you know, it’s taken you too long to bring this lawsuit, even though she didn’t know about it until fairly recently.

We tried to overturn it in the Senate. I supported that effort to provide better guidance to the courts; John McCain opposed it.

I think that it’s important for judges to understand that if a woman is out there trying to raise a family, trying to support her family, and is being treated unfairly, then the court has to stand up, if nobody else will. And that’s the kind of judge that I want.

SCHIEFFER: Time’s up.

Since then, however, the landscape has changed so dramatically that everything has to be questioned, and openly.

According to NPR, there were approximately 26 Republican presidential debates this primary season, depending on the exact definition of the term. In those debates, abortion rights—or exactly how far the candidates were prepared to go in order to overturn them—were covered again and again in debate after debate. Candidates questioned each other over pledges to refuse to appoint any pro-choice person to any position in their administration or the judiciary, over whether it was acceptable to allow women who had been raped to have access to abortion, and whether “life” has to be protected from the moment a sperm met an egg. 

It was that last topic that showed the power of the extreme anti-choice arm of the conservative movement. Former Senator Newt Gingrich during his roller coaster ride from longshot to frontrunner and back again made the mistake at one point of stating life began at implantation, not fertilization, bringing the wrath of anti-choice extremists down upon him.  Within a day he had changed his position, putting a public statement online saying life began at conception and that he supported 14th amendment protection for fertilized eggs.

To survive and eventually win the GOP nomination, Romney, too, committed himself to the most extreme of anti-choice positions. In one early New Hampshire debate, contender Rick Santorum was asked if he truly believed Romney’s conversion to full dedication to the “pro-life” cause. Santorum subtly questions Romney’s “authenticity” on the subject, which Romney then empathetically denied.

[Host, CNN’s John] KING: Governor Romney, let me give you — take — take 20 or 30 seconds, if there’s a Republican out there for whom this important, who questions your authenticity on the issue?

ROMNEY: People have had a chance to look at my record and look what I’ve said as — as I’ve been through that last campaign. I believe people understand that I’m firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end.

KING: Is there anybody here who believes that that’s an issue in the campaign, or is it case closed?

(UNKNOWN): Case closed.

KING: Case closed it is. All right.

The issue of controlling a woman’s ability to decide if and when to have children continued through the debates, even culminating in a discussion of the responsibility that access to the birth control pill plays in the alleged declining morality of the country. In the final debate in Mesa, Arizona, after Santorum stated that the pill is dangerous and causes the fracturing of the American family, Romney steps in to agree.

ROMNEY: John, you know, I think as Rick has just said, this isn’t an argument about contraceptives, this is a discussion about, are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not? And Rick is absolutely right.

When you have 40 percent of kids being born out of wedlock, and among certain ethnic groups the vast majority being born out of wedlock, you ask yourself, how are we going to have a society in the future? Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven’t been willing to talk about this.

And when we have programs that say we’re going to teach abstinence in schools, the liberals go crazy and try and stop us from doing that.

The hot topics of the primary were abortion, birth control, and the candidates’ plans to defund Planned Parenthood as well as repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided an expansion of insurance coverage and accessible contraception, and despite all of the Republicans being mostly of one mind on the issues—albeit with some minor nuances — it seems that the debate between two candidates with very different views should merit a large portion of a debate over domestic policy. Especially when you consider how much the economy, job creation, the housing crisis, health care, education and the social safety net programs all heavily revolve around a woman’s right to either get pregnant, prevent or even end a pregnancy when she or her family aren’t ready.

As the Associated Press reports, the candidates’ beliefs on abortion and birth control are extremely divergent this year, in a way that “would you appoint a judge who would overturn Roe?” just won’t cover. But when the AP says “Whether women have access to abortion services and birth control is a long-standing and divisive issue in politics,” they are wrong. Birth control has never been a “divisive” issue in an election until recently, and if you had suggested that whether a politician believes a woman should have her access to contraception curtailed should be a debate question in 2008, the media and pundits all would have laughed.

Today, on the other hand, it may be one of the most important questions that could be asked. Let’s hope it is.

Commentary Contraception

Will Obama’s Thanksgiving Gift to Female Voters Be a Tax on Women’s Healthcare?

Jodi Jacobson

Women's groups working to save coverage of women's health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay. The reason? The President thinks he "owes" the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

The first paragraph of this piece was updated at 2:25 pm, Wednesday, November 23, 2011 to clarify that the coverage in question would affect women working for religious and quasi-religious, and “religiously affiiiated” organizations whose primary purpose is to perform or offer non-sectarian services.  The primary purpose of a Catholic University attended by students of all faiths, for example, is education. See the full explanation of the current exemption in this article.

Women’s groups working to save coverage of women’s health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay by so expanding the current exemption for churches that  millions of women who work for organizations affiliated with the Church and other anti-choice groups who claim a religious leaning would be denied coverage.

The reason? The President thinks he “owes” the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.

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Really?  See… I thought this President was elected primarily by the hard work and support of women, Latinos, African Americans, and young people.  And the data back me up.  Young voters and Latinos were credited with giving Obama a “commanding victory” in 2008 and, according to post-election analysis, unmarried women were an “even greater source of support.” From USA Today:

Unmarried women—a group that includes single, separated, divorced, or widowed women—voted for Obama over Republican opponent John McCain by a whopping 70 to 29 percent in yesterday’s election, according to numbers released today by Women’s Voices Women Vote, a nonpartisan organization.

Female voters made up 53 percent of all voters responsible for Obama’s victory in 2008.

Moreover, groups representing many millions of women throughout the country worked tirelessly–exhaustively–for well over a year to support the President’s health reform initiative.  They did this even when women lost benefits in the process, supporting the President and able in the end to point at least to gains in coverage of fundamental preventive care such as birth control without a co-pay as a victory.

Now, a President who doesn’t seem to be able to resist pressure to cave on any number of key policy issues is considering actually further diminishing this victory in a kind of bait and switch–promising women they would not lose coverage, but in fact by caving to the Bishops, taking away coverage millions of women already have.

This is a tax on women.  Birth control without insurance coverage can run as much as $600.00 per year. Without consistent access to birth control, women face constant risk of unintended pregnancy, abrogating their fundamental rights to plan their families and make decisions about how many children to have and when; to decide about their own educational and economic paths; to safeguard their own and their family’s health.  Such a tax will of course fall most heavily on low-income women, and therefore most heavily on Latina, African American, and Native American women who already make up a disproportionate share of this economic group.

This is a tax on women, one many groups expect the President may levy as soon as this weekend… because, you know, a holiday weekend is the best time to engage in an act of capitulation and have it get less press attention.

Women’s groups are urging you to act and act now.


These groups are asking you to join them in telling the White House not to throw women under the bus:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health


Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter:  @jljacobson