America’s becoming Sweden? Bring it on!

Chloe Angyal

If we are to take Glenn Beck’s word for it, if there are indeed Arctic-length summer days spent at the beach with the famous Swedish bikini team in our not-too-distant future, then things are really looking up for American women.

If you watch the O’Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck, or pay attention to any other Conservative media these days, you’ll know that America is rapidly becoming a socialist nation. More specifically, we’re becoming Sweden. The Daily Show has
done some hard investigative reporting into what the impending
socialist nightmare will mean for America, noting that Sweden is
burdened with unfathomable horrors like universal healthcare, paid
parental leave, annual paid vacation and, of course, really hot women.
But The Daily Show has missed some of the other awful things
that Americans, and particularly American women, will have to suffer
through when America succumbs to its inevitable wealth-redistributing,
ABBA-loving Scandinavian fate. Here are a few of the very worst ones:

 

In Sweden in 2007, women’s wages were, at the very least, 90% of men’s wages. In the private sector, the gender wage gap was only 2.2%. For comparison, in America the 2008 gender pay gap
between women working full time and men working full time was 22.1%.
This means that when a man and a woman doing the same job, the woman
earns just under 80 cents for every dollar her male colleague earns.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research,
that gap that reflects gender differences in both hourly wages and the
number of hours worked each year (because women are more likely to work
part time in order to combine work and family).

 

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Apart
from being paid more equitably regardless of what work they do, Swedish
women are also more likely than American women to do prestigious,
high-paid jobs. In Swedish companies, 22.8% of board members are women, compared to 15.2% in the USA. That might not sound like a huge difference, but according to European HR research organization Mercer,
countries where women make up around 22% of board members will take
until 2065 to reach parity. If it’s going to take them that long, then
the US can hope for parity around the time when they finally stop
making sequels to The Fast and the Furious.

In Sweden, a parent is allowed 480 days of paid leave,
60 of which must be used by the other parent. Also, either parent has
the right to leave until their child is 18 months old. Parents also
have the right to reduce their workload by 25%
until their child is 8 years old. The goal of these policies is not
only to make it easier for women to combine work and family, but also
to make it easier for men to participate more fully in raising
children. According to The Economist, though, fathers take very little advantage of these progressive policies, with men claiming only 15% of parental leave days.

In America, on the other hand, Family Medical Leave Act
requires companies with more than 50 employees to grant employees a
total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period, so
that they can give birth and care for a newborn, have a fostered or
adopted child placed in their care. As for paid leave, that’s left to
each private company to decide. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research,
24% of the employers ranked as “good for working mothers” by Working
Mother Magazine provide four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave,
and half provide six weeks or less. No American company provides more
than six weeks of paid paternity leave.

In 2001 2, 184 rapes were reported to law enforcement in Sweden. In America, the number of reported rapes that year was 95, 136, with an estimated 60% of rapes going unreported. Swedish infant mortality rates are the lowest in the world; America is ranked 29th in the worldwide.

Under Swedish law,
abortion is legal up to 18 weeks for any reason, including to preserve
the mother’s physical and mental health, in the case of foetal
impairment, and for economic or social reasons. It is also free. Sweden
has a high rate of contraceptive use, around 71%. Comprehensive sex
education and easy access to contraception also combine to give Sweden
a very low teenage teenage birth rates, as well as low abortion rates.
You don’t need me to tell you about abortion rates, access
contraception, comprehensive sex ed and teenage birth rates in the US.

Suffice it to say, the Conservative media panic
is misplaced (shocker!). We are not becoming Sweden, politically,
fiscally, or socially. But take a look at the data. Take a look at the
affordable and available medical care, the pay equity, the vastly
decreased likelihood of rape, and the emphasis on gender equality that
forms the basis of the society. If we are to take Glenn Beck’s word
for it, if our not-too-distant future does indeed contain Arctic-length summer days spent at the
beach with the famous Swedish bikini team, then things are really looking up for American women.

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.

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