Who Will Follow in Hillary’s Feminist Footsteps?

Sarah Seltzer

Caroline Kennedy, Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Carolyn Maloney -- for the voters of New York, who's the most pro-choice of them all?

The unofficial "race" to replace Hillary Clinton in the New
York Senate has become something of a media feeding frenzy ever since
political scion Caroline Kennedy threw her hat into the so-called ring.
While the voters aren’t actually deciding–that’s up to Governor David
Paterson–opinionmakers are weighing in at a furious pace in anticipation
of next week’s expected announcement.

The three leading candidates–Kennedy,
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and longtime Representative Carolyn Maloney–have
all said they are unequivocally in favor of a full range range of reproductive
rights for women. The voters of New York are a pro-choice bunch, so
there’s little risk of losing a vote in the Senate.

While acknowledging Cuomo and Kennedy’s name recognition and stated
commitment to key issues, many feminists and leading reproductive rights
groups nonetheless have an extra reserve of goodwill towards Maloney
precisely because of the shoes she’ll be filling.  Hillary Clinton
was not just a supporter of reproductive rights but a constant and a
fierce advocate, her staunch and spirited opposition to the Bush administrations
abhorrent HHS "conscience clause" regulations being a pertinent

Maloney a Favorite Among Feminists

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Many in the reproductive justice community hope that Maloney, who has
pioneered groundbreaking pro-women work in Congress and chaired
the Women’s Caucus, will step up and assume the same kind of leadership
role in the senate that Clinton had.

One of Maloney’s best-known contributions was the Debbie Smith Act,
which sped up the processing of rape-kit DNA testing, enabling the government
to effectively prosecute rapists. She has also been a staunch supporter
of US funding for the UN Population Fun (UNPFA), a champion for equal
wages and has raised her
against sexual assault in the military
Maloney has kept tabs on Congress votes pertaining to reproductive choice
to keep the electorate informed with a "
choice scorecard." Her recently-published book, "Rumors
of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t
Getting Any Easier
" details triumphs and goals yet unmet in
the quest for women’s equality: clearly, this is the fight of her life.

That’s why so many feminist organizations and prominent women’s advocates
in New York including NOW, and the Feminist Majority have thrown their
weight behind Maloney.  There’s also a sense that she’s been tested in
the field, particularly as opposed to Kennedy, who has no political experience
beyond fundraising for public schools and campaigning for Obama.

Pros and Cons on Kennedy

Katha Pollitt wrote
a satirical column
Paterson to appoint her as a way of pushing back against Kennedy’s

    You think I’m joking, but every
    argument that has been advanced for Kennedy is just as true for me.
    She’s a mother, a writer, a person with no electoral experience or,
    so far as we know, longstanding interest in acquiring any–me too! She
    has more kids; I’ve written more books–I’d say it averages out.

Pollitt and Gloria Steinem, among others,
have floated the idea that if Kennedy wants to dip her foot into the
pool of public life, she ought to encourage Paterson to appoint Maloney,
then run for Maloney’s vacated seat–which happens to be in Kennedy’s Upper
East Side district.

Others have been more open to Kennedy,
who has avowed her support
for choice and Roe
, as
a possibility. Several prominent writers, including Lisa Belkin, have
said that the attacks on Kennedy’s lack of political experience are
gendered because Kennedy prioritized her family over her career.  But
on a policy level others have pointed out Kennedy’s unique qualifications.
Dana Goldstein wrote in
back in December
that Kennedy’s powerful network and compelling name will be an advantage

    Kennedy, on the other hand, though
    completely new to legislation, will be surrounded by the highest-caliber
    staff members and enjoy a direct line to the president, to whom she
    awarded a crucial mid-primary endorsement.

These considerations are important: Clinton’s replacement will have
a relatively hampered position as the most junior senator, so the hope
that Kennedy’s clout might enable her to rise above the constrictions
of her role and effect positive change are not unfounded.

Cuomo: Staunch Supporter

As for Cuomo, when he ran for AG in 2006, he received 100% ratings from pro-choice
and posited himself
as an unflinching supporter of reproductive rights in the tradition
of his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer. A thorough search through his press
archives show no initiatives or drives directly related to reproductive
rights, abortion or contraception specifically in the past two years.
He has, however, been a zealous advocate of
health insurance reform, and even stepped in to aid a breast cancer patient
who couldn’t secure insurance
This experience could be helpful in the upcoming battle for universal
health care.

Cuomo, who benefits from his family name just as Kennedy does (dad was Governor Mario) has also raised concerns because his appointment would
lower the number of women senators. Nonetheless,
he recently overtook his
rival in public opinion polls
A survey taken earlier this week found Cuomo with 31% support, Kennedy
with 24% and Maloney with 6. But Paterson has said that such polls
won’t sway his decision.

Ultimately, New York will get a committed pro-choice, pro-reproductive
rights senator. All three candidates have strong advantages, but  Maloney
has the most proven track record on choice, and has demonstrated a thorough
understanding of many issues under the reproductive justice umbrella.
It would be a heartening tribute to Senator Clinton’s legacy and a gift
to the women of New York to see this kind of work continue in her absence.

News Abortion

Reproductive Justice Groups Hit Back at RNC’s Anti-Choice Platform

Michelle D. Anderson

Reproductive rights and justice groups are greeting the Republican National Convention with billboards and media campaigns that challenge anti-choice policies.

Reproductive advocacy groups have moved to counter negative images that will be displayed this week during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, while educating the public about anti-choice legislation that has eroded abortion care access nationwide.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Trump’s choice for vice president, have supported a slew of anti-choice policies.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health is among the many groups bringing attention to the Republican Party’s anti-abortion platform. The New York City-based nonprofit organization this month erected six billboards near RNC headquarters and around downtown Cleveland hotels with the message, “If abortion is made illegal, how much time will a person serve?”

The institute’s campaign comes as Created Equal, an anti-abortion organization based in Columbus, Ohio, released its plans to use aerial advertising. The group’s plan was first reported by The Stream, a conservative Christian website.

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The site reported that the anti-choice banners would span 50 feet by 100 feet and seek to “pressure congressional Republicans into defunding Planned Parenthood.” Those plans were scrapped after the Federal Aviation Administration created a no-fly zone around both parties’ conventions.

Created Equal, which was banned from using similar messages on a large public monitor near the popular Alamo historic site in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said in an interview with Rewire that Created Equal’s stance and tactics on abortion show how “dramatically out of touch” its leaders compared to where most of the public stands on reproductive rights. Last year, a Gallup poll suggested half of Americans supported a person’s right to have an abortion, while 44 percent considered themselves “pro-life.”

About 56 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion care should be legal all or most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center’s FactTank.

“It’s important to raise awareness about what the RNC platform has historically endorsed and what they have continued to endorse,” Miller told Rewire.

Miller noted that more than a dozen women, like Purvi Patel of Indiana, have been arrested or convicted of alleged self-induced abortion since 2004. The billboards, she said, help convey what might happen if the Republican Party platform becomes law across the country.

Miller said the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s campaign had been in the works for several months before Created Equal announced its now-cancelled aerial advertising plans. Although the group was not aware of Created Equal’s plans, staff anticipated that intimidating messages seeking to shame and stigmatize people would be used during the GOP convention, Miller said.

The institute, in a statement about its billboard campaign, noted that many are unaware of “both the number of anti-choice laws that have passed and their real-life consequences.” The group unveiled an in-depth analysis looking at how the RNC platform “has consistently sought to make abortion both illegal and inaccessible” over the last 30 years.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio last week began an online newspaper campaign that placed messages in the Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Dayton Daily News, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spokesman Gabriel Mann told Rewire.

The ads address actions carried out by Created Equal by asking, “When Did The Right To Life Become The Right To Terrorize Ohio Abortion Providers?”

“We’re looking to expose how bad [Created Equal has] been in these specific media markets in Ohio. Created Equal has targeted doctors outside their homes,” Mann said. “It’s been a very aggressive campaign.”

The NARAL ads direct readers to OhioAbortionFacts.org, an educational website created by NARAL; Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio; the human rights and reproductive justice group, New Voices Cleveland; and Preterm, the only abortion provider located within Cleveland city limits.

The website provides visitors with a chronological look at anti-abortion restrictions that have been passed in Ohio since the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2015, for example, Ohio’s Republican-held legislature passed a law requiring all abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with a non-public hospital within 30 miles of their location. 

Like NARAL and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Preterm has erected a communications campaign against the RNC platform. In Cleveland, that includes a billboard bearing the message, “End The Silence. End the Shame,” along a major highway near the airport, Miller said.

New Voices has focused its advocacy on combatting anti-choice policies and violence against Black women, especially on social media sites like Twitter.

After the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy, New Voices collaborated with the Repeal Hyde Art Project to erect billboard signage showing that reproductive justice includes the right to raise children who are protected from police brutality.

Abortion is not the only issue that has become the subject of billboard advertising at the GOP convention.

Kansas-based environmental and LGBTQ rights group Planting Peace erected a billboard depicting Donald Trump kissing his former challenger Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) just minutes from the RNC site, according to the Plain Dealer.

The billboard, which features the message, “Love Trumps Hate. End Homophobia,” calls for an “immediate change in the Republican Party platform with regard to our LGBT family and LGBT rights,” according to news reports.

CORRECTION: A version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage of Americans in favor of abortion rights. 

Commentary Politics

In Mike Pence, Trump Would Find a Fellow Huckster

Jodi Jacobson

If Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn't inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn't understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

This week, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump is considering Mike Pence, among other possible contenders, to join his ticket as a vice presidential candidate.

In doing so, Trump would pick the “pro-life” governor of a state with one of the slowest rates of economic growth in the nation, and one of the most egregious records on public health, infant and child survival, and poverty in the country. He also would be choosing one of the GOP governors who has spent more time focused on policies to discriminate against women and girls, LGBTQ communities, and the poor than on addressing economic and health challenges in his state. Meanwhile, despite the evidence, Pence is a governor who seems to be perpetually in denial about the effects of his policies.

Let’s take the economy. From 2014 to 2015, Indiana’s economic growth lagged behind all but seven other states in the nation. During that period, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Indiana’s economy grew by just 0.4 percent, one-third the rate of growth in Illinois and slower than the economies of 43 other states. Per capita gross domestic product in the state ranked 37th among all states.

Income inequality has been a growing problem in the state. As the Indy Star reported, a 2014 report by the United States Conference of Mayors titled “Income and Wage Gaps Across the US” stated that “wage inequality grew twice as rapidly in the Indianapolis metro area as in the rest of the nation since the recession,” largely due to the fact “that jobs recovered in the U.S. since 2008 pay $14,000 less on average than the 8.7 million jobs lost since then.” In a letter to the editor of the Indy Star, Derek Thomas, senior policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, cited findings from the Work and Poverty in Marion County report, which found that four out of five of the fastest-growing industries in the county pay at or below a self-sufficient wage for a family of three, and weekly wages had actually declined. “Each year that poverty increases, economic mobility—already a real challenge in Indy—becomes more of a statistical oddity for the affected families and future generations.”

In his letter, Thomas also pointed out:

[T]he minimum wage is less than half of what it takes for a single-mother with an infant to be economically self-sufficient; 47 percent of workers do not have access to a paid sick day from work; and 32 percent are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($29,685 for a family of three).

Despite the data and the struggles faced by real people across the state, Pence has consistently claimed the economy of the state is “booming,” and that the state “is strong and growing stronger,” according to the Northwest Indiana Times. When presented with data from various agencies, his spokespeople have dismissed them as “erroneous.” Not exactly a compelling rebuttal.

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As a “pro-life” governor, Pence presides over a state with one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation. Data from the Indiana State Department of Health reveals a “significant disparity” between white and Black infant mortality rates, with Black infants 1.8 times more likely to die than their white counterparts. The 2013 Infant Mortality Summit also revealed that “[a]lmost one-third of pregnant women in Indiana don’t receive prenatal care in their first trimester; almost 17% of pregnant women are smokers, compared to the national rate of 9%; and the state ranks 8th in the number of obese citizens.”

Yet even while he bemoaned the situation, Pence presided over budget cuts to programs that support the health and well-being of pregnant women and infants. Under Pence, 65,000 people have been threatened with the loss of  food stamp benefits which, meager as they already are, are necessary to sustain the caloric and nutritional intake of families and children.

While he does not appear to be effectively managing the economy, Pence has shown a great proclivity to distract from real issues by focusing on passing laws and policies that discriminate against women and LGBTQ persons.

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a “religious freedom” law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only “amended” it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his “conservative values,” rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

These facts are no surprise given that, as a U.S. Congressman, Pence “waged war” on Planned Parenthood. In 2000, he stated that Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals and advocated that funding for HIV prevention should be directed toward conversion therapy programs.

He also appears to share Trump’s hatred of and willingness to scapegoat immigrants and refugees. Pence was the first governor to refuse to allow Syrian refugees to relocate in his state. On November 16th 2015, he directed “all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana,” sending a young family that had waited four years in refugee limbo to be resettled in the United States scrambling for another state to call home. That’s a pro-life position for you. To top it all off, Pence is a creationist, and is a climate change denier.

So if Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.