RJ100: Reproductive Justice and Obama’s First 100 Days

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RJ100: Reproductive Justice and Obama’s First 100 Days

Emily Douglas

Are your reproductive rights more secure today than they were 100 days ago? How about the human rights of women around the world? Are we making progress toward universal access to basic sexual and reproductive health services, comprehensive sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment here and abroad? Rewire evaluates whether Obama is making the grade.

Are your
reproductive rights more secure today than they were 100 days ago?  How
about the human rights of women around the world?  Are we making
progress toward universal access to basic sexual and reproductive
health services, comprehensive sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention
and treatment here and abroad?

On the 100th day of the Obama Administration, Rewire
evaluates whether the Administration makes the grade on these and many
other critical sexual and reproductive health issues. After 8 long
years of attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights here and
abroad, it is clear that the Obama Administration intends to – and indeed
already has begun – to take women’s rights and sexual and reproductive
health seriously.  Even in the first 100 days, progress has already
been made in several critical areas.  We recognize that this period
represents only one-tenth of the entire first term of the Obama
Administration and many changes are in process. For that reason, this scorecard should not be viewed as definitive either in regard to the ultimate outcomes on some of the issues in progress, nor on the issues covered here overall.  We also recognize that
Congress plays a critical role – whether positive or negative – in changing
policy and funding streams.  Nonetheless, we feel it is critical to
measure whether campaign and Administration rhetoric on these issues is
backed up with concrete actions, and how effectively the administration pushes Congress to make good in these same areas.

Toward that end, this scorecard is
the first in a series being launched by Rewire.  We will
continue to evaluate these same issues in coming months and throughout
the course of the Administration.

Access to Contraception: Grade = A-

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We are looking for progress on…

  • Access to
    for women in the military.
    Military health care facilities are not required to stock EC, even on
    remote bases.  Obama should direct Secretary of Defense Robert
    Gates to make EC available to servicewomen immediately.
  • Full funding of Title X.  Planned Parenthood Federation of America cites a $400 million gap in
    Title X funding, arguing that the for this program budget needs to be increased from
    $300 million to $700 million. In 2006, only about half (54 percent) of those in need of publicly funded birth control actually had access to services provided by Medicaid, Title X and other sources of government funding.
  • The FDA needs to make Plan B available over the counter to all women at risk of unintended pregnancy, irrespective of age.
  • The Administration needs to fully rescind the HHS health care denial regulation, an issue we will monitor closely.

Sexuality Education and Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Grade = C

We are looking for progress on…

  • Zeroing out abstinence-only funding.  There is no reason to continue funding these programs, which have been
    shown to be wasteful, ineffective, propagate harmful gender stereotypes
    and marginalize LGBT youth.  Obama’s 2010 budget should zero
    out abstinence-only funding and create line-item funding of
    comprehensive sexuality education.
  • Passing the Real Act.  The Obama administration must put some muscle
    behind the REAL Act
    which would for the first time allocate federal money to comprehensive
    sexuality education.
  • Clarification on the role of the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The US has the highest
    teen pregnancy rate of all industrialized countries – it’s a public
    health issue that needs the White House’s attention. But is
    the White
    House Advisory Council on Faith-Based Initiatives really the best place
    to formulate solutions? Without more information, we remain skeptical.

Women’s Economic Equity: Grade = A+

  • The Lily Ledbetter
    Fair Pay Act was the very first bill Obama signed into law.  The Act, which restores women’s rights to
    bring pay discrimination complaints up to 180 days after each discriminatory paycheck, undoes the Supreme Court’s earlier harmful
    ruling that women could only file up to 180 days after the first
    instance of pay discrimination.
  • On March 11, Obama established
    the White House Council on Women and Girls
    .  The Council will assess
    how programs of various government agencies will affect women and girls. It will also focus on pay equity and challenges faced by working
  • On February 4, Obama provided crucial support to low-income children and families when he signed into law the expansion of SCHIP, the federal children’s
    health insurance program, to extend coverage to 11 million children.
  • At least 42% of
    jobs created by the stimulus should go to women.

We are looking for progress on…

  • Pay equity.  While Ledbetter
    is an admirable achievement, it only restores pay discrimination law
    to where it was prior to the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling.  Even
    before Ledbetter vs. Goodyear was decided, women earned only
    $0.77 on the dollar that men earned and needed better pay discrimination
    protections.  The White House should urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness and Fair Pay Acts, which close loopholes and stiffen penalties for wage discrimination.

Global Reproductive
Grade = A+

  • Shortly after taking
    office, Obama overturned
    the global gag rule
    which prevented US foreign aid recipients from counseling women about
    the availability of safe abortion services and from advocating for the
    liberalization of abortion laws.
  • The Obama administration restored US contributions to the United Nations Population Fund,
    providing $50 million to the UN agency that funds family planning
    assistance internationally. 
  • Obama’s 2009 budget
    allocates $150
    million over 2008 levels

    for international family planning.

We are looking for progress on…

  • The international
    family planning community has
    asked for $1 billion in family planning funding
    arguing that that amount is necessary to fulfill unmet need for contraceptives.  Five former directors of the USAID Office for Population
    and Reproductive Health have argued that the USAID population budget be
    increased from $457 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2010, growing
    further to $1.5 billion in 2014 because of the "enormous pent-up and
    unmet growing need."

Domestic AIDS Response: Grade = B

  • The White House has
    unveiled Act Against AIDS
    a plan to "put the HIV crisis back on the national radar screen,"
    says Domestic Policy Council director Melody Barnes.  The five-year
    communications campaign will partner with African-American community-based
    organizations to promote education, prevention and treatment.
  • The White House named longtime HIV/AIDS health care advocate Jeff Crowley to head the Office of National AIDS Policy, which is charged with developing a National AIDS Strategy.  Crowley’s appointment was widely praised by HIV/AIDS advocates.

We are looking for progress on…

  • A National AIDS Strategy.  Despite campaign
    promises to do so, Obama has not yet articulated a National AIDS Strategy,
    even though 1) the US requires that each PEFPAR focus country have one
    and 2) HIV continues to spread among vulnerable populations lacking
    access to prevention information and services, and many
    of those infected still lack access to treatment.
  • Evidence-based prevention for intravenous drug users.  Obama must work to ensure that effective needle exchange programs receive federal funding.
  • Universal access to prevention education and methods, including for prison inmates.

Global AIDS Policy: Grade = Incomplete

We are looking for progress on…

  • Effective prevention strategies.  Both the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must instruct the Global AIDS Coordinator to overhaul prevention strategies.  Under the Bush Administration,
    a large share of funding for prevention of sexual transmission went
    to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which are just as ineffective
    internationally as they are here at home.  These and other restrictions – such
    as the so-called prostitution pledge – have left women, youth, and marginalized
    populations at higher risk of new infections.  Moreover, PEPFAR
    programs are not effectively integrated with broader reproductive and
    sexual health strategies, a mistake in an epidemic that is largely driven
    by sexual transmission.  These and other aspects of PEPFAR policy
    and funding need to be changed as soon as possible.
  • The administration has sent mixed signals on needle exchange, an area in which it promised evidence-based programming.
  • Increased attention to long-term sustainability of the health-care work force, access to affordable drugs and other essential components of effective prevention, treatment and care strategies.

Global Women’s
Rights: Grade = A+

  • Under the Obama
    administration, global women’s rights issues are getting attention
    like never before.  On March 6, Obama
    created the post of ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues
    , naming Melanne Verveer to the position. 
  • Secretary
    of State Hillary Clinton spoke forcefully

    for the role of safe, legal abortion services in comprehensive reproductive
    health care and in women’s equality when testifying before the House
    Foreign Relations Committee.
  • At the UN Commission
    on Population and Development, US State Department Acting Assistant
    Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Margaret Pollack, told delegates that
    the US
    once again
    supported "universal access to sexual and reproductive health."
    Pollack also affirmed that the US is committed to ratifying CEDAW.
  • U.S. anti-trafficking
    policy is headed in the right direction under Luis deBaca, newly named
    head of the State Department Office of Trafficking in Persons.  DeBaca recognizes that sex trafficking is only one aspect
    of human trafficking, that raids don’t work and that harm reduction

We are looking for progress on…

  • Integration of women’s rights within and across all areas of development policy and funding.
  • Strong attention to gender equity, women’s rights, and reproductive and sexual health concerns within foreign aid reform legislation.
  • Efforts to respond to and reduce violence against women, and to secure women’s social and economic rights.

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First 100 Days