Working Women Looking for Straight Talk From McCain on Labor Day

Carole Joffe and Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt and Carole Joffe look at the issues of working women this Labor Day, and come up with a few questions for John McCain.

Carole Joffe is a Professor of Sociology at the University of
California, Davis Gloria Feldt is author of The
War on Choice and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of
America. She blogs at Heartfeldt Politics,


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
John McCain.

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
John McCain..

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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
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
the mother!

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
their votes.

Forget the barbecue. It’s time for real straight talk on this Labor Day.




News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Analysis Law and Policy

Indiana Court of Appeals Tosses Patel Feticide Conviction, Still Defers to Junk Science

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled patients cannot be prosecuted for self-inducing an abortion under the feticide statute, but left open the possibility other criminal charges could apply.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday vacated the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman who faced 20 years in prison for what state attorneys argued was a self-induced abortion. The good news is the court decided Patel and others in the state could not be charged and convicted for feticide after experiencing failed pregnancies. The bad news is that the court still deferred to junk science at trial that claimed Patel’s fetus was on the cusp of viability and had taken a breath outside the womb, and largely upheld Patel’s conviction of felony neglect of a dependent. This leaves the door open for similar prosecutions in the state in the future.

As Rewire previously reported, “In July 2013 … Purvi Patel sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding, telling doctors she’d had a miscarriage. That set off a chain of events, which eventually led to a jury convicting Patel of one count of feticide and one count of felony neglect of a dependent in February 2015.”

To charge Patel with feticide under Indiana’s law, the state at trial was required to prove she “knowingly or intentionally” terminated her pregnancy “with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus.”

According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, attorneys for the State of Indiana failed to show the legislature had originally passed the feticide statute with the intention of criminally charging patients like Patel for terminating their own pregnancies. Patel’s case, the court said, marked an “abrupt departure” from the normal course of prosecutions under the statute.

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“This is the first case that we are aware of in which the State has used the feticide statute to prosecute a pregnant woman (or anyone else) for performing an illegal abortion, as that term is commonly understood,” the decision reads. “[T]he wording of the statute as a whole indicate[s] that the legislature intended for any criminal liability to be imposed on medical personnel, not on women who perform their own abortions,” the court continued.

“[W]e conclude that the legislature never intended the feticide statute to apply to pregnant women in the first place,” it said.

This is an important holding, because Patel was not actually the first woman Indiana prosecutors tried to jail for a failed pregnancy outcome. In 2011, state prosecutors brought an attempted feticide charge against Bei Bei Shuai, a pregnant Chinese woman suffering from depression who tried to commit suicide. She survived, but the fetus did not.

Shuai was held in prison for a year until a plea agreement was reached in her case.

The Indiana Court of Appeals did not throw out Patel’s conviction entirely, though. Instead, it vacated Patel’s second charge of Class A felony conviction of neglect of a dependent, ruling Patel should have been charged and convicted of a lower Class D felony. The court remanded the case back to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment against Patel for conviction of a Class D felony neglect of a dependent, and to re-sentence Patel accordingly to that drop in classification.

A Class D felony conviction in Indiana carries with it a sentence of six months to three years.

To support Patel’s second charge of felony neglect at trial, prosecutors needed to show that Patel took abortifacients; that she delivered a viable fetus; that said viable fetus was, in fact, born alive; and that Patel abandoned the fetus. According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state got close, but not all the way, to meeting this burden.

According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state had presented enough evidence to establish “that the baby took at least one breath and that its heart was beating after delivery and continued to beat until all of its blood had drained out of its body.”

Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded, it was reasonable for the jury to infer that Patel knowingly neglected the fetus after delivery by failing to provide medical care after its birth. The remaining question, according to the court, was what degree of a felony Patel should have been charged with and convicted of.

That is where the State of Indiana fell short on its neglect of a dependent conviction, the court said. Attorneys had failed to sufficiently show that any medical care Patel could have provided would have resulted in the fetus surviving after birth. Without that evidence, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded, state attorneys could not support a Class A conviction. The evidence they presented, though, could support a Class D felony conviction, the court said.

In other words, the Indiana Court of Appeals told prosecutors in the state, make sure your medical experts offer more specific testimony next time you bring a charge like the one at issue in Patel’s case.

The decision is a mixed win for reproductive rights and justice advocates. The ruling from the court that the feticide statute cannot be used to prosecute patients for terminating their own pregnancy is an important victory, especially in a state that has sought not just to curb access to abortion, but to eradicate family planning and reproductive health services almost entirely. Friday’s decision made it clear to prosecutors that they cannot rely on the state’s feticide statute to punish patients who turn to desperate measures to end their pregnancies. This is a critical pushback against the full-scale erosion of reproductive rights and autonomy in the state.

But the fact remains that at both trial and appeal, the court and jury largely accepted the conclusions of the state’s medical experts that Patel delivered a live baby that, at least for a moment, was capable of survival outside the womb. And that is troubling. The state’s experts offered these conclusions, despite existing contradictions on key points of evidence such as the gestational age of the fetus—and thus if it was viable—and whether or not the fetus displayed evidence of life when it was born.

Patel’s attorneys tried, unsuccessfully, to rebut those conclusions. For example, the state’s medical expert used the “lung float test,” also known as the hydrostatic test, to conclude Patel’s fetus had taken a breath outside the womb. The test, developed in the 17th century, posits that if a fetus’ lungs are removed and placed in a container of liquid and the lungs float, it means the fetus drew at least one breath of air before dying. If the lungs sink, the theory holds, the fetus did not take a breath.

Not surprisingly, medical forensics has advanced since the 17th century, and medical researchers widely question the hydrostatic test’s reliability. Yet this is the only medical evidence the state presented of live birth.

Ultimately, the fact that the jury decided to accept the conclusions of the state’s experts over Patel’s is itself not shocking. Weighing the evidence and coming to a conclusion of guilt or innocence based on that evidence is what juries do. But it does suggest that when women of color are dragged before a court for a failed pregnancy, they will rarely, if ever, get the benefit of the doubt.

The jurors could have just as easily believed the evidence put forward by Patel’s attorneys that gestational age, and thus viability, was in doubt, but they didn’t. The jurors could have just as easily concluded the state’s medical testimony that the fetus took “at least one breath” was not sufficient to support convicting Patel of a felony and sending her to prison for 20 years. But they didn’t.

Why was the State of Indiana so intent on criminally prosecuting Patel, despite the many glaring weaknesses in the case against her? Why were the jurors so willing to take the State of Indiana’s word over Patel’s when presented with those weaknesses? And why did it take them less than five hours to convict her?

Patel was ordered in March to serve 20 years in prison for her conviction. Friday’s decision upends that; Patel now faces a sentence of six months to three years. She’s been in jail serving her 20 year sentence since February 2015 while her appeal moved forward. If there’s real justice in this case, Patel will be released immediately.