Weekly Pulse: Why the Stem Cell Reversal Is Not a Total Victory

Lindsay E. Beyerstein

Now that Obama has reversed Bush's executive order, scientists will be allowed to study stem cells from any lineage, including newly created lines, without jeopardizing their federal funding. But where will these new lines of stem cells come from?

This week, President Obama made headlines by reversing George W.
Bush’s executive order barring researchers who receive federal funds
from researching all but a handful of stem cell lines created before

"Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also
about protecting free and open inquiry," Obama wrote. "It is about
letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from
manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when
it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about
ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve
a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on
facts, not ideology."

In The Nation, John Nichols applauds Obama’s restoration of science to its proper place in policy-making.  And Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly
points out that, right on cue, the conservative Family Research Council
has started disingenuously claiming that Obama’s reversal opens the
door for human cloning.

However, as Emily Douglas of Rewire
explains, the full implications of the reversal are more complicated
than you might suppose: Obama lifted Bush-era restrictions on federal
funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) researchers. However, researchers
are still barred from using federal funds to create or modify human
embryos, due to a legislative provision known as the Dickey-Wicker
amendment, enacted by Congress in 1996.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

In 2001, Bush extended the funding ban to apply to human embryonic
stem cells, which are are not themselves embryos. These stem cells are
the descendants of cells that were harvested from embryos. Under the
Bush rules, all but 21 lines of stem cells created before 2001 were
off-limits to researchers receiving federal funds. The ban meant that
if a lab stepped outside the stem cell rules, it would render itself
ineligible for federal biomedical research money for any
research it did, not just stem cell-related program activities. Being
disqualified for federal grant money is effectively a death sentence
for university labs.

Thanks to the Bush’s order, the advancement of ESC science has been
sharply limited by the fact that only a handful of cell lines could be
studied. Frequently, the first step in a new research program is to
custom engineer a new line of cells to test the key hypothesis.

Now that Obama has reversed Bush’s executive order, scientists will be allowed to study stem cells from any lineage,
including newly created lines, without jeopardizing their federal
funding. But where will these new lines of stem cells come from? Unless
Congress repeals Dickey-Wicker, labs that accept government funding
will still be barred from making their own new stem cell lines because
human embryonic stem cells are made from embryos.

The president does not have the authority
to singlehandedly overturn Dickey-Wicker, only Congress can do that.
However, Obama’s move may have emboldened pro-science Democrats to
write Dickey-Wicker out of the next HHS appropriations bill.

In other healthcare news, Ezra Klein at the American Prospect
notes with some amusement that increasing numbers of Republicans are
embracing "universal coverage" as a buzzword. To Republicans, it means
the goal of private insurance for everyone vs. the Obama
administration’s vision of a public insurance option coexisting with
private insurance. Klein reports that the top Senate Republicans with
jurisdiction over health reform sent a letter to President Obama this
week warning him not to try to sneak healthcare reform through the
budget reconciliation process and warning him against a public
insurance alternative. As we’ve discussed in previous editions of the Weekly Pulse,
Republicans and their allies in the insurance industry like the idea of
providing health insurance for everyone, even mandatory insurance for
everyone, just as long as the insurance industry is empowered to sell
it all.

In a similar vein, economist Dean Baker asks in AlterNet whether the government is more committed to protecting healthcare or health insurance industry profits.

This week, Ezra Klein also scored an exclusive interview with Andy
Stern, the president of the Service Employees’ International Union
(SEIU). Check the Prospect to find out what the head of America’s largest union thinks about healthcare reform.

As your healthcare blogger, I’m very pleased to announce the
presence of two outstanding progressive sex advice columnists, Prof.
Foxy of feministing.com and Heather Corinna of Rewire. New feministing contributor "Professor Foxy" debuted her first column,
which could have been titled "The Lord helps those who help
themselves," but was actually called, "Working things out in Florida."
Therein, Prof. Foxy counselled a newly married woman who dutifully
practiced abstinence until marriage, only to find that married sex
wasn’t as magically blissful as the abstinence-only crowd had led her
to believe. Foxy had some practical tips to help the couple shed their
inhibitions and build a mutually satisfying physical relationship. This week,
Dr. Foxy advises a feminist who is trying to cope with the sudden
revelation that her boyfriend of five years enjoys dressing in women’s

Commentary Politics

The Shameless Slut Vote: The 2012 Election and Sex Ed

Soraya Chemaly

A lot of what we call "social issues" could simply be called "sex issues:" gay marriage, abortion rights, birth control and even issues like stem cell research. And "sex is good" just won.  Young voters in particular influenced Barack Obama's victory and the success of progressive ballot measures nationwide.  

Studies have shown that when you feed children they grow up, and when they grow up, there is a very high likelihood that they will have sex. If they have sex and don’t think it has to result in pregnancy, be associated with punishment or pain, take place in a heterosexual marriage, or relate to sinful shame, they apparently grow up to be Democrats. Who vote. Which may explain why some conservatives aren’t too keen on real sex ed.  Ninety percent of American parents believe that teens should be taught about contraceptives. And yet, 25 percent of teachers are prohibited from teaching kids about them and we continue to pay the social and economic costs of lack of education and access about sexual health.

The U.S. teen birthrate of 40 live births per 1,000 teenage girls is the highest among developed nations.  Our country also has some of the highest rates of abortion, teen pregnancy, teen maternal mortality, HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses in the developed world because there are guys in Congress who think women should pay for original sin and labor in pain and darkness. This is how a small and bullying minority, aided and abetted by media’s privileging of religion, has ensured that their pre-modern, fundamentalist social policy agendas affect all of us. But, there is good news! We get to pay for it.

With your tax dollars and mine our country spent more than $1.5 billion on abstinence-only sex education between 1998 and 2008 (it went from $73 million per year in 2001 to $204 million per year in 2008 under George Bush). Since 2010, the Obama administration’s, Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), has undertaken a broader-based comprehensive sex ed approach, but states—like Florida and Texas, are not obliged to use it in public schools. Even during Obama’s tenure, Republicans managed, in 2010 to negotiate $50 million dollars of abstinence–only sex ed funding into the Affordable Care Act and another $5 million into a 2012 appropriations bill. Unplanned teen pregnancies costs $10 billion dollars a year.

Like sex ed, a lot of what we call “social issues” could simply be called “sex issues:” gay marriage, abortion rights, birth control, and even issues like stem cell research. As Amanda Marcotte put it earlier this year, “More than most campaign seasons in the past couple of decades, this most recent election serves as a reminder that the gap between sexually progressive and reactionary pockets of America persists. If anything, it’s growing, with progressives forging ahead and reactionaries making increasingly stringent demands for laws and policies that punish and control sexuality, especially queer and female sexuality.” There is the party of “sex is natural and good” and the party of “sex is sinful and wrong.” “Sex is natural and good” won and that’s got to count for something.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

A blogger at the Christian Men’s Defense Network made a similar point albeit with a different conclusion. Apparently “The Slut Vote” did the GOP in. You know, “The right to slut. Or more precisely, the right to slut without the responsibility of consequences.” He goes on… through the goal posts and off of the field! “Democrats have won the black vote because the black community is dominated by illegitimacy.” Which is, after all, all about slutty black women, as opposed to the “rich white sluts” in the suburbs who have now caught the dread irresponsible slut-virus, S. Flukophilium. “However, this election cycle shows that the Slut Vote is real, and Republicans lose because they discount the existence of original sin in women.” I love this stuff!

What he is talking about isn’t just the decoupling of sex from procreation, but the “irresponsibility” of women who cannot think “rationally,” insist on acting without male guidance and don’t want to pay for the consequences of their wantonness. But, it’s not really about consequences and irresponsibility and “who pays” at all.  What it is about is who gets to say who has sex and what its function is in society. From this perspective we just went through what could be seen as a national referendum on whether or not sex is a good thing in and of itself and the election was our most recent rejection of shame- and faith-based regulation of other people’s sex lives and reproduction. If not, good Christian men and the people they elect would be spending trillions on comprehensive sex ed that teaches teenagers all about responsibility, consequences, and “who pays.” 

Maybe a lot of Team Rape’s political suicide could have been avoided with a simple 12 week comprehensive sex ed class. But, beyond my complete lack of pity for any losses that conservative rape qualifiers and apologists and their surrogates suffered in the election, I think failing to teach young people about sex and healthy sexuality, denying them access to facts about their health and sexuality is a kind of abuse. 

Take Texas. It is one of the top five teen pregnancy rate states in the country. More than 94 percent of schools in Texas teach abstinence-only “sex ed.” Not only is it ineffective in terms of preventing, well, anything undesirable, and often involves outright lying to children, but look at the results:

  • Teenagers in Texas engage in sex more than the national average
  • They engage in risky behavior in greater numbers than average
  • Texas has the fourth highest rate of pregnancy in the nation
  • It also highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy

The CDC estimates that in Texas 825,000 students in grades 6 to 12 are having sex each year. An estimated 775,500 OF THEM GET NO MEANINGFUL INFORMATION ABOUT SEX FROM SCHOOL ‘SEX ED” PROGRAMS. It turns out that comprehensive sex ed is one of those “higher order thinking skills” that the Texas Republican State Platform banned (I’m not being sarcastic, they banned it, read it and weep). For example, as Gail Collins wryly points out in her excellent and timely book, As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Highjacked The American Agenda “an abstinence-only program used in three districts assures them that “if a woman is dry, the sperm will die”—which harks back to Colonial-era theories that it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless she enjoyed the sex.”

The problem conservatives have with other people’s choices about sex are profoundly related to ideas about shame, control, and other people’s bodies and autonomy— especially women’s. And those problems are tied up, “bound” you might even say, with what people know or don’t know about sex, autonomy, biology, and reproduction. Turns out the temptress-busting Purity Bear is a bit more Machiavellian than it appear on its soft and fuzzy surface.  Abstinence-only programs are all about gender rules and not breaking them—the way single women and LGTB people do.  For a good, corky read, I strongly suggest Legal Momentum’s study of abstinence only program materials: Sex, Lies and Stereotypes.

Given the lack of birth control options, and Texas’ insistence on shutting down Planned Parenthood and erecting instead frothy pink “clinics,” the state’s abstinence-only regime should be renamed The Texas State Compulsory Pregnancy Program for Teen Girls

And it is not just Texas, per above. 

Eighty-two percent of babies born to teens are unintended and born to girls whose prefrontal cortexes are not yet fully formed because they are too young. Not educating them, expecting them to “just say no” is more than irresponsible and often callous.

Take the 14-year old girl in Florida who gave birth by herself in a bathroom at home and then, not knowing what to do with the baby and not wanting to upset her mother, strangled it to death and hid it in a shoebox in her room. Her mother found it days later and called the police. This is a tragic and awful situation. I cannot even imagine what was going on in this girl’s head or in her home. From an article in Alternet: she “did not know what else to do about her pregnancy and didn’t have the adult support she needed, from either family or school, to weigh her options.” The writer went on to point out that Florida “has historically been resistant to any kind of sex-education reform that promotes or mandates comprehensive education over abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. In fact, the state returned $4.5 million in federal funds as of 2010, awarded under the Obama Administration’s Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). Instead, the state accepted Title V funding , originally established in 1996, to promote sexual abstinence until marriage as the primary means of preventing pregnancy and STDs.” This girl might serve a life sentence.

In her 2006 book, When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex and Sex Education Since the Sixties author Kristin Walker concluded that students will do what they want to do regardless of what teachers teach them. So, it turns out that parents who talk to their children about sex (or conversely, don’t) have great influence on behavior. And the major difference in how parent think about sex is whether or not they consider it sacred or not, fundamentally dangerous or fun.

This goes some way to explaining some good news: Recent and notable declines in teen pregnancy in the United State show that our teen pregnancy rate is declining. We now have fewer teenage mothers than at any time since 1946.  It turns out parental attitudes are meaningful and kids are getting information and contraception in spite of systemic attempts to deny them this information. 

Amy Schalet’s Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and The Culture of Sex compares the ways in which American parents differ in their approach to those of parents in the Netherlands. In broad terms, sex, more often than not portrayed here as dangerous, is forbidden by parents and educators to teenagers in the United States and not to those in the Netherlands. In practical terms, parents in the Netherlands, talk openly with their children about the meaning and mechanics of sex and often allow their teenage children to engage in sex with their partners in their homes. Here’s how Schalet, in a New York Times article she wrote, describes two of the cases from her book:

Kimberly and Natalie dramatize the cultural differences in the way young women experience their sexuality. (I have changed their names to protect confidentiality.) Kimberly, a 16-year-old American, never received sex education at home. “God, no! No, no! That’s not going to happen,” she told me. She’d like to tell her parents that she and her boyfriend are having sex, but she believes it is easier for her parents not to know because the truth would “shatter” their image of her as their “little princess.”

Natalie, who is also 16 but Dutch, didn’t tell her parents immediately when she first had intercourse with her boyfriend of three months. But, soon after, she says, she was so happy, she wanted to share the good news. Initially her father was upset and worried about his daughter and his honor. “Talk to him,” his wife advised Natalie; after she did, her father made peace with the change. Essentially Natalie and her family negotiated a life change together and figured out, as a family, how to adjust to changed circumstance.

Respecting what she understood as her family’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Kimberly only slept with her boyfriend at his house, when no one was home. She enjoyed being close to her boyfriend but did not like having to keep an important part of her life secret from her parents. In contrast, Natalie and her boyfriend enjoyed time and a new closeness with her family; the fact that her parents knew and approved of her boyfriend seemed a source of pleasure.

In this scenario there is more openness and parents get to know their kids’ partners. It’s complex, emotional and intimate, but has its benefits. Teenagers in the Netherlands tend to wait longer before having sex, have fewer partners and use easily acquired birth control consistently and correctly, resulting in much lower rates of teen pregnancy and abortion. In defiance of socially conservative mythology, parental and school approaches that are positive about sex do not lead to licentiousness, STDs, abortions and despair. On the contrary, the more you teach children about healthy, responsible sex, the more likely they are to treat sex in healthy, responsible ways. In general, they are more knowlegable, more emotionally mature about it and “safer” in the scary-sex way. It goes a long way to understanding why the rate of teen pregnancy is the US is four times that in the Netherlands, for example.

So, if you aren’t comfortable with your own sexuality can you teach your kids to be comfortable with theirs?  Do you know what your real attitudes about sex are? Would you rather teach your kids that sex is dangerous and forbidden or that it is permissible and…well, awesome? Are you a “responsible-sex-is-good” parent, or more in the “scare-them-silly” camp?  This issue, of how you think about sex, is relevant for men and women. But, for women, it is not only more fraught, but also much more tied to shame.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you.  Here’s a bonus! Enter the excellent Jaclyn Friedman, whose book What You Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety, is about this very subject. The book contains a quiz at the beginning that you might want to consider taking, if only for fun. But, seriously, she touches on the important question of how women internalize shame and understand the threat of sluttiness – both of which can be transferred to children.

“Being perceived as a woman who “wants it” comes with terrible, dehumanizing social costs,” explains Jaclyn Friedman. In conservative families and communities, and for many conservative women the word “slut” is a weapon. It – and all of the associated ideas that come with it – is also, as we witnessed during Slutgate earlier this year, just about the worst insult a conservative thinks they can hurl at a woman. Recently, after I wrote about women’s reproductive rights and the election, I was subjected to a pile on of online abuse from conservative women who disagreed with me. Their worst commentary on my ideas? Not that they were sloppy or inaccurate. But, that I was “whorish,” “slutty” and a “skank.”

I’m hoping that if people read these books and talk to their kids we might even end up with a presidential ticket made up of two women sometime in the next 500 years! Or, at the very least, that the Clinton-Warren 2016 Facebook Page picks up serious steam.

News Contraception

Obama and the Bishops: Is the White House Caving on Birth Control Coverage?

Jodi Jacobson

The Bishops are lobbying hard for the Obama Administration to effectively excuse any and all "religious" entities from covering contraceptives without a co-pay. Last week Archbishop Dolan paid a private visit to President Obama and word on the street is that the White House may cave. This would be a grave mistake.

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

This week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) threw itself a pity party in Baltimore. According to the bishops, their “religious liberty” is threatened unless they are able to ensure that every single person in the United States (well, actually the world) is made to follow Catholic canon law to the letter. According to the New York Times, the bishops are “recasting their opposition” to same-sex marriage, birth control, and other fundamental aspects of public health and human rights, because they view both government and culture as infringing on the church’s rights.

“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference Monday at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

But the sacristy is where the vast majority of Catholics appear to believe the bishops should be focusing their efforts. The Times notes that in light of the ongoing evidence of massive cover-ups by the Vatican and the USCCB of the priest pedophilia scandal, the bishops’ “pronouncements on politics and morality have been met with indifference even by many of their own flock.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The bishops issue guidelines for Catholic voters every election season, a document known as “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which is distributed in many parishes. But the bishops were informed at their meeting on Monday that a recent study commissioned by Fordham University in New York found that only 16 percent of Catholics had heard of the document, and only 3 percent had read it.

Nonetheless, the Bishops believe their own right to practice their religion is threatened by your right to practice yours or to act as a moral agent in your own life. Their freedom of religion is threatened unless they can ensure that all LGBT persons are denied the right to marry or adopt children. It is threatened unless all women are denied the rights to decide whether and when to have children. It is threatened unless a Catholic hospital can let a woman die from complications of pregnancy rather than provide her with or even refer her on an emergency basis for a life-saving abortion. It is threatened unless a two-celled fertilized egg has more rights than the living, breathing woman in whose body it floats.

They are not “free” until you are not free.

And they certainly are not “free” unless women are denied access to affordable birth control. 

An integral part of the Affordable Care Act is the new benefit requiring health plans to cover preventive health care, including cancer screenings, immunizations, and birth control, with no co-pays.  Inclusion of these benefits came about through dogged efforts by female legislators, including an amendment authored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), known as the Women’s Health Amendment. The Department of Health and Human Services, tasked with implementing health reform through regulations and oversight, took the advice of an expert panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service because it is basic health care, and because it improves health outcomes for women and their families. Research shows that improved access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality among other health benefits. The IOM recommendations are supported by a vast amount of research and affirmed by the World Health Organization, the International College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association among many other medical and public health bodies.

Regulations promulgated by HHS this summer mandate coverage in all employee-based health plans of contraceptive methods without a co-pay. The current provision includes what many already consider to be a sweeping refusal clause, exempting certain religious organizations for which religious values are their primary purpose; that primarily employ persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; that primarily serve persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; and that are nonprofit organizations. The regulations would still require institutions such as Catholic hospitals–for which one assumes the primary purpose is evidence-based health care–and universities (primary purpose, education?) to offer insurance that covers contraception without a co-pay. Nothing (repeat: NOTHING) in this new benefit requires an organization to dispense birth control, or an individual to take it. This is simply a matter of ensuring women have access to affordable preventive care by providing it with no co-pays. For an excellent and thorough review of this issue, read the testimony of Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien.

Still, this has so riled the USCCB that Archbishop Timothy Dolan took his lobbying straight to President Obama, with whom he met privately at the White House last week. In what I take to be a somewhat ominous comment, Dolan stated at a news conference that he “found the president of the United States to be very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community.”

“I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.”

By “Catholic community,” Dolan clearly means the USCCB, the Vatican and the male hierarchy, certainly not the community constituted by the people–or the women–of the church.

Word on the street now–through off-the-record conversations with health groups–is that the White House is considering caving on the exemptions for contraceptive coverage.

This would be a grave mistake on Obama’s part.

For women, birth control is about as controversial as toothpaste and as widely used. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2006–2008, 99 percent of ALL women who had ever had sexual intercourse had used at least one method of birth control.  This includes, as O’Brien of Catholics for Choice pointed out, the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the US who have used a form of contraception banned by the Vatican.

Moreover, while the most common reason U.S. women use oral contraceptive pills is to prevent pregnancy, 14 percent of pill users—1.5 million women—rely on them exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute called “Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills,” by Rachel K. Jones. More than half (58 percent) of all pill users rely on the method, at least in part, for purposes other than pregnancy prevention–such as reducing cramps or menstrual pain, to help prevent migraines, for treatment of endometriosis—meaning that only 42 percent use the pill exclusively for contraceptive purposes.

The contraceptive coverage provision under health reform is widely-supported by female voters, a critical constituency in the 2012 election. Public polling shows seventy-one percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support covering birth control at no cost.

So caving to the USCCB on something as fundamental to women’s health, lives and pocketbooks as contraception will not sit well with women, as a recent poll by NARAL Pro-Choice America notes.

“There is a group of women who voted for President Obama in 2008 but are not currently supporting him, and these data suggest many of them should be in his camp,” according to Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a firm that conducted a recent survey for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Choice provides an opening for President Obama and other Democrats to create a sharp contrast with anti-choice Republicans,” he continued. The “women defectors” are defined as having voted for President Obama in 2008 but are currently not voting for him, weakly supporting him, or holding back from turning out in 2012.

“While the economy is the dominant issue, this survey shows that choice is a stronger, more persuasive issue for bringing key women voters back to President Obama’s camp,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Contraceptive coverage also is an equity issue. As many state contraceptive equity laws make clear and as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled, failing to provide women with coverage for contraception in health plans that otherwise cover prescription drugs and devices is sex discrimination.

State supreme courts in California and New York have both found that contraceptive-equity laws with narrower employer exclusions such as the one put forth by HHS, do not substantially burden a religious belief or practice. In a majority opinion in one of the cases, the justices write:

“[W]hen a religious organization chooses to hire nonbelievers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit.”  [Catholic Charities of Albany v. Serio, 859 N.E.2d 459, 468 (N.Y. 2006)].

If the requirement for coverage of birth control is weakened, nearly one million people (and their dependents) who work at Catholic hospitals would lose benefits they already have. In addition, the approximately two million students and workers now attending universities that have a religious affiliation would also lose this important benefit.  It would mean a further weakening of women’s health and one more step toward theocracy. And it would raise health care costs and result in more unintended pregnancies.

What the Bishops really want is to strong-arm government into imposing restrictions on people’s choices and lives that they can’t even get Catholics to follow. They want to be able to receive federal funding, federal grants and contracts, get tax breaks and special treatment over other groups for building Catholic hospitals, maintain tax-exempt status while flouting lobbying rules, and play the victim card whenever they can’t avoid laws meant to advance health and human rights.  And they are aided and abetted in their efforts by other far-right my-way-or-the-highway-on-religion organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, as well as a considerable number of GOP and Tea Party members of Congress. New efforts by conservatives to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act, for example, also threaten women’s health.  Nothing drives the patriarchy more batty than the notion of women being anything other than breeding cows.

So it takes some imagination–and I have not mustered anywhere nearly enough–to understand why the Obama Administration would EVEN. THINK. TWICE. about caving to the Bishops. Obama needs women to come out for him in the 2012 election, he campaigned on and promised adherence to science and evidence in the creation of policy, and he promised that under health reform people would not lose benefits they already had, a promise he has already broken once–big time–when it came to women’s health coverage on abortion care.

There is nothing more fundamental to women’s choices than choosing whether, when and with what partner to become pregnant. There is nothing more fundamental to ensuring the best prospects for all children than to work to ensure every child is a wanted child. And there is nothing less controversial for women than birth control.

If the White House does cave to fundamentalist organizations like the USCCB, (led, it should be underscored, by men), it would appear to have an even more fundamental problem with re-electing this President.

[Several calls to the White House on this issue were not returned by time of publication.]


These groups urge you to take action:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health


Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter: @jljacobson