Funding to Push Women for Obama’s Cabinet Dries Up

Allison Stevens

Funding the Women's Appointments Project to suggest women for President Obama's Cabinet hasn't materialized, a blow for a process that has been operating in presidential election years since 1976.

As President-elect Barack Obama mulls over potential Cabinet picks,
women’s rights advocates are scrambling to make up for an unexpected
shortage of cash to fund a push for female appointees.

"It’s late in the game but we’re really confident we’re going to do
this," said Kim Otis, head of the National Council of Women’s
Organizations, an umbrella group of women’s rights groups in
Washington, D.C.

The council has for many years worked with the National Women’s
Political Caucus to mount the Women’s Appointments Project, a public
relations campaign to pressure incoming presidents to put women in
executive posts.

But in an economically pinched year, funding has so far failed to
arrive, a blow at a time when hopes for gender parity in government are
higher than ever.

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"We are continuing to seek funding," Otis said. "It’s such an
important time for getting half the population to be represented in
this new administration."

One major backer has been the Barbara Lee Family Foundation in
Cambridge, Mass., a philanthropy that supports programs aimed at
increasing women’s representation in politics, public policy and the
news media.

But this year, Lee focused on electing–rather than appointing–women to office.

"It is my hope that President-elect Barack Obama is committed to
diversity in his appointments, including women in key and visible
administrative posts," she said.

Still Time to Secure Funding

Otis and other advocates have not given up; Obama was elected only a
week ago, and there is still time to secure funding for the
appointments project before he puts together his Cabinet and makes
hires for other key administrative posts.

But they are preparing a Plan B in case they don’t get funding. She
and other allies in the women’s rights movement plan to hash out their
strategy at meetings over the next week.

"Money is not going to get in our way," said Ellie Smeal, president
of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a women’s rights lobby in
Arlington, Va.

Smeal said women’s rights groups are more organized than ever and
have new communications tools at their disposal. One possibility would
be an online site that would collect recommendations from grassroots
women’s activists around the country.

Otis’ organization, an umbrella group in Washington, has
collaborated since 2000 with the National Women’s Political Caucus–a
political action committee in Washington, D.C., that works to elect
pro-choice women to political office–to oversee the project. Before
that, the Women’s Caucus led the effort on its own.

The first appointments project came after the resignation of Richard
Nixon, whose 31 Cabinet positions were all male, according to a history
gathered by the two groups that oversee the project.

Project Re-Launched Every Four Years

Advocates have re-launched the project every four years since then.

President Clinton set the standing record by appointing 10 women to
Cabinet-level positions during his two terms in office. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno held two of
what are regarded as the Cabinet’s four most important posts: the
department heads of State, Justice, Defense and Treasury.

President George W. Bush asked eight women to serve in his Cabinet,
including Condoleezza Rice, the first African American woman to serve
as secretary of state.

Progressive political journal In These Times published a list of
Cabinet recommendations that was evenly divided among men and women
this week.

Author and activist Rianne Eisler and Linda Basch, president of the
National Council for Research on Women, a think tank in New York, have
also put out calls for gender equity in government appointments.

"As you roll up your sleeves and consult your most trusted allies
about creating a team to take this country into a more secure future, I
ask you to keep something in mind: the interests of the women who
played such a decisive part in your election," Basch wrote in an open
letter to Obama published on the online news site AlterNet.

Women Came Through for Obama

On Election Day, 56 percent of women cast their ballots for Obama
versus 49 percent of men, according to the Center for American Women
and Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in New

Smeal is confident women’s advocates will have a receptive audience in Obama’s team.

Policy advisers such as Karen Kornbluh, who is advising Obama on
women’s policy during the transition, "understand these issues from A
to Z," Smeal said. "They’re brilliant and there’s a real commitment."

Obama has not yet made any nominations for the Cabinet.

Two prominent women under discussion for the Treasury Department are
Republican Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation, which insures bank deposits up to $250,000; and Laura
D’Andrea Tyson, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under
President Clinton.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has been mentioned as a possible secretary of state.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and ex-Justice Department official
Jamie Gorelick are reportedly under consideration to head up the
Department of Justice.

News reports have also played up Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius
of Kansas as a possible head of the Department of Health and Human

Media speculation about the next national security adviser has
included the names of women such as Harvard professor Samantha Power
and foreign policy expert Susan Rice. Rice and Caroline Kennedy, who
headed up Obama’s vice presidential search, are also mentioned as
possible ambassadors to the United Nations.

Apart from Rice and Napolitano, women on Obama’s economic and
transition teams include long-time friend Valerie Jarrett;
ex-Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner; Michigan Gov.
Jennifer Granholm; Ann Mulcahy, the chair and CEO of Xerox; and Penny
Pritzker, CEO of Classic Residence by Hyatt. All of them could find
work in the next administration.

At the top of a short list of names that many women’s rights
advocates want removed is that of Larry Summers, the former president
of Harvard University who resigned after suggesting that women were not
as successful in math and science because of innate differences between
the sexes. He is reportedly under consideration for treasury secretary.

"Women played a large role in getting Obama elected," said Bernice
Sandler, a senior scholar at the Women’s Research and Education
Institute in Washington, D.C., who is known as the Godmother of Title
IX, the law guaranteeing equality to girls and women in sports and
education. "It just would be a shame if one of his first major
appointments was someone who said nasty things about women."

This piece was first published by Women’s eNews.

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.