Carole Joffe is a Professor of Sociology at the University of
California, Davis [email protected] Gloria Feldt is author of The
War on Choice and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of
America. She blogs at Heartfeldt Politics, [email protected]
Most years, Labor Day means a long lazy weekend of barbecues,
fishing trips, and picnics before school and fall weather overtake us.
But this year, deep into a presidential election, with a slumping
national economy putting the pinch on workers, Labor Day’s traditional
meaning spotlights questions about working women that we want to ask
Why are we questioning McCain and not Obama? We’ve listened
carefully to the two candidates and we’ve examined their voting
histories. Obama’s record and rhetoric
reassure us that, when it comes to the challenges facing working women,
he gets it. But we’re downright alarmed by what we’ve learned about
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Barefoot and Pregnant?
We’re an advocate and academic, respectively, with longstanding
passions for economic and reproductive justice for women. We’ve come to
understand the direct and profound interconnections between the two.
There’s good reason why the words "barefoot and pregnant" have been so
frequently joined together historically.
We haven’t heard anyone question McCain from that intersection of women’s lives, so we are asking him these questions:
First, John McCain, do you think women belong in the paid labor force?
This might seem facetious or rhetorical, but it’s a very serious, core
question. We know your wife, Cindy, chairs the board of her family’s
company. And we’ve noticed your most visible surrogate to women voters
is Carly Fiorina, who was until recently one of the top corporate CEOs
in the country.
But surely you realize the overwhelming majority of women don’t have the resources of these two women. So
if you accept most women will spend some of their lives in the labor
force, do you believe women should earn the same as men, for the same
jobs? You’ve opposed the equal pay measure stalled in Congress — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — because you say it would "open us up to lawsuits". Open who up? And if you support equal pay for equal work, what would you do to guarantee it?
McCain Record on Votes That Could Help Children
Families where both partners are working for low wages, and especially
families headed by single moms, deserve various kinds of support from a
compassionate government. These families need access to affordable and
high quality childcare. Most of all, they need affordable
healthcare-for themselves, but especially for their children.
But, Senator McCain, your voting history on children’s issues is abysmal. Can
you explain to us why you voted-twice-against a reauthorization of
S-Chip, the immensely popular state children’s health insurance
program — a program supported by many in your own party? Can you explain
why your record on children’s issues generally is so bad that the
nonpartisan Children’s Defense Fund in its 2007 Congressional scorecard on children’s issues rated you the senator with the worst voting record?
To participate in the workplace, women must be able to plan and space their childbearing. A government study found that 98% of heterosexually active American women had used contraception at some point, and a Rand study
found that over five out of six support insurance coverage for family
planning services. Access to contraception, clearly, is a deeply shared
American family value.
Your voting record reveals you’ve cast dozens of votes opposing
contraceptive coverage for insured women and family planning funding
for low income uninsured women. Yet when a reporter asked your position
on contraception, you stammered you didn’t remember and asked your aide
to "find out how you had voted." On another occasion, you famously squirmed and mumbled
"I’ll get back to you" when asked to explain Carly Fiorina’s perfectly
logical statement that it’s unfair for insurance companies to cover
Viagra™ but not contraception. Did Ms. Fiorina fail to get your
memo to that in order to curry favor with the Religious Right your
campaign had to adopt a strict anti-birth control policy?
If the stakes weren’t so serious, your consistent stumbles — whenever
asked about family planning issues — would be amusing. But it’s no
laughing matter that you would deny birth control access and
simultaneously outlaw abortion.
Who’s Wearing the Flip-flops?
We’ve noticed your flip flops on abortion, by the way. You identify as "pro-life," as is your right. Still, why have you abandoned your once nuanced positions?
In 1999, you were on record as not wanting Roe v Wade overturned,
recognizing — correctly — that allowing criminalization of abortion would
lead to many injuries, even deaths. Now you’ve even picked a running
mate — Sarah Palin — who like you wants to see Roe overturned. Period.
In 2000, you challenged George W. Bush to justify how he could
possibly support the Republican party platform that calls for outlawing
abortion with no exceptions — not for rape, incest, health, even life of
You were incredulous then that Bush refused to repudiate such
extremism. And we are incredulous now, that in 2008, you don’t push
back against the extremists in your party who show such callous
disregard for the lives of women.
Interconnections Are Clear; Answers Are Not
Senator McCain, where do you stand on these intersecting challenges
facing working women? Is it really your vision that women should be
paid less than men, accept unsatisfactory childcare and healthcare for
their children, yet have limited access to contraception that could
reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, and risk possible injury or
death, when — if you are in a position to appoint Supreme Court
justices — abortion becomes once more illegal?
We’re waiting for answers. Because if that’s McCain’s plan for
working women, he’d be taking "barefoot and pregnant" to a whole new
level, and the women of America deserve to know that before they cast
Forget the barbecue. It’s time for real straight talk on this Labor Day.