Roundup: Abortion Rights and Equal Pay at Stake in the Election

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Roundup: Abortion Rights and Equal Pay at Stake in the Election

Brady Swenson

The future of women's equality, including abortion rights and equal pay, are at stake in the election; Are Catholics shifting toward Obama?; Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier on the next steps in beating AIDS; 40 Days for Life protests clinics around the country; Dr. Karen Rayne's top ten things to do before you have sex.

Abortion Rights and Equal Pay at Stake in the Election

Catharine Mackinnon writes an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal taking a look at two issues she deems important for achieving equality for women in American society, abortion rights and equal pay, both of which will be impacted greatly by appointments to federal courts by the next president:

Despite inroads, women’s status remains characterized by sex-based
poverty and impunity for sexual abuse from childhood on. The next
president will appoint scores of lower court federal judges who will
have the last word in most cases. One, perhaps three, justices may be
named to a Supreme Court that in recent years has decided many cases of
importance to women by just one vote. Equality can be promoted in
employment, education, reproductive rights and in ending violence
against women — or not.

Mackinnon notes a regressive interpretation of laws important to equality for women, often due to a lack of "balance in fairness that ideological appointments by past administrations have upset," including a "stalled" equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and the recent equal pay case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear:

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Women on average remain poorer than men, largely because of unequal pay. Recently, the Supreme Court held in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc.
that plaintiffs must sue as of the first unequal paycheck, when they
might not even know that their pay is unequal. Barack Obama supports
restoring the rule, followed for decades, that allows suit for all the
wage discrimination as of the last discriminatory paycheck. John McCain
opposed this in the Senate.

Mackinnon notes that the fate of a woman’s right to choose could also hang in the balance of this election.  As many of three Supreme Court justices could be appointed by the next president.  She concludes:

Neither presidential candidate has taken a position on all of these
issues. But the decision, in Mr. Obama’s words, on "what kind of
America our daughters will grow up in" could not be more urgent. At
stake is nothing less than whether women will be, finally, equal.

Picking up where Mackinnon left off, Joanne Bamberger writing on tells Senator John McCain what she wants for her eight-year-old daughter when she becomes a woman.  Her requests include equal pay for equal work, adaquate paid maternity leave and access to safe and affordable birth control. 


A Catholic Shift to Obama?

Emily wrote a great post yesterday taking a look at the debate Catholics are having over who to support for president in two weeks.  Today E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wonders if Catholics will break for Obama this year reversing the small margin of 52-47 in favor of George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004.  Frustration with the economy and with the Bush administration in general could swing the Catholic vote, typically up to one-quarter of the electorate, away from McCain:

In many respects, Catholics simply reflect the country as a whole in
moving toward the Democrats because of frustrations with the economy
and the Bush years. But the Catholic debate entails a very particular
argument over what counts as a commitment to life. To an unexpected
degree, this election could hang on the struggle of Catholic voters
with their priorities and their consciences. 


The Next Steps to Take in Beating AIDS

Newly minted Nobel laureate and HIV/AIDS expert Luc Montagnier (who shared the 2008 prize for Physiology and Medicine with HPV vaccine discoverer Harold zur Hausen) writes in today’s Wall Street Journal about the history of the search for an HIV vaccine and proposes a set of next steps to continue the search.  Montagnier’s plan includes further research into why "some rare individuals become infected with HIV but do not progress toward immunodeficiency and AIDS."

It is possible that the mechanisms that provide resistance to
infection, and those that provide resistance to disease progression,
are the same. If this is the case, vaccines capable of eliciting
protective immunity could be first tested in HIV-infected individuals
for the capacity to delay progression to disease and reduce viral
replication. In case of a positive outcome, the same vaccine could be
moved to testing in prophylactic vaccination studies. We may in this
case achieve the desired goal of manipulating the immune system, making
it capable of controlling HIV replication and reducing the dependence
on antiretroviral drugs, and possibly also of making an individual
immune to HIV.


40 Days for Life Protests Target Abortion Clinics

Groups around the country are protesting abortion rights by spending 40 days outside of abortion clinics ahead of the November 4 election:

Joe Betz, 79, a retired Tacoma Community College math instructor,
clutched a sign with the word "life" and a baby’s picture during his
hour-long shift last week.

"I think it’s against God’s law because you are taking a life,"
he said. "I believe life begins at conception. We don’t have a right to
take a life."

Some reports of harassment of patients and clinic staff have been reported: 

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Aurora Jewell said people with the
Tacoma vigil have harassed and intimidated patients and staff members
this fall at the Tacoma Health Center.

Planned Parenthood provides volunteer escorts to walk with patients to and from their cars, Jewell said.

"They shouldn’t have to be intimidated when they’re trying to access health services," she said.


Fighting for Reproductive Justice in Northern Ireland

(Via Samhita at Feministing)

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland where about 70 to 80 abortions happen legally and is only allowed to happen under rare conditions. According to the Guardian UK,

Some 50,000 Northern Irish women have had to come to
England for abortions, costing about £2,500 each, while poorer women
bear unwanted children or use back-street methods: over 10% of GPs
admit to dealing with the aftermath of amateur abortions.

The political nature of abortion in Northern Ireland has led to
crucial reforms being left out of today’s debate in Parliment. The 1967
law that legalized abortion in the UK is full of caveats. It reads,

Here’s the case for reform: the 1967 abortion law casts
women as too morally unreliable to decide if they should become
mothers. Two doctors must agree that a pregnancy can be terminated;
women must plead psychological cause and attend a registered clinic.
All that adds to cruel delays: some women still wait six weeks.

Doctors are not making a medical diagnosis, but giving or
withholding their moral blessing. Not surprisingly, the Royal College
of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists wants an end to this archaic
hypocrisy. In these days of "choice" and "empowerment" for patients,
doctors are not priests. How odd that women should be morally incapable
of making this most important decision and yet might be compelled
against their will to become mothers – presumably morally incompetent

To make sure that the women in Northern Ireland can’t have any
access to abortion whatsoever, the President added a "pro-life
amendment" that essentially banned abortion in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately, they have canned debate on this topic in the UK due to
the potential that it will threaten and therefore increase tension
between Northern Ireland and England.

Activists that believe women have human rights and should have fair
access to controlling what happens to their bodies and a full choice of
reproductive rights will be protesting in front of Parliament today as
they attempt to leave this crucial reform off the debate floor.


Top Ten Things to Do Before you Have Sex

Dr. Karen Rayne, who discusses adolescent sexuality at her fabulous blog, has a great list of ten things to do before you have sex for the first time. Click over, give it a read and share it with the adolescents in your life.