Roundup: And The Beat Goes On

Robin Marty

So much noise over Stupak may have drowned out the anti-choice legislation that passed in multiple states already this week.

In all of the noise of the passage of healthcare reform, and what this means for women’s reproductive health across the nation as a whole, a great deal of individual state legislation has passed fairly quietly in the background.

In Missouri, the House passed a ban on “coerced” abortions, as well as expanded the amount of “information” a doctor needs to tell a women who is about to undergo an abortion before the procedure occurs.  Oddly enough, there was no debate before the vote.

At the same time, a Missouri senate committee voted to ban abortions in all public healthcare plans as a move to bar any potential changes that could come about via national healthcare reform.

Senate Republicans attacked one of the federal health care bill’s most controversial parts Monday, passing a ban on insurance coverage for abortions out of a Senate committee.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

Missouri has banned women from getting health insurance for abortions for more than two decades, with the exception of an abortion to protect the mother’s life.

“The federal bill threatens Missouri’s long-standing laws against funding abortion, and would compel taxpayers to fund abortions for the first time in American history,” said Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, the bill’s sponsor.

Of course, women could just buy their abortion insurance separately, but, as the Wall Street Journal points out, that is never going to happen, since no insurers will likely offer it.

In Arizona, Republicans forget that they are supposed to be the party that guards against government intrusion and supports a right to privacy, by passing a more onerous abortion reporting act, and shooting down anything to protect patient confidentiality.

The bill would put into law a current requirement set by Department of Health Services rules for confidential reports submitted by abortion providers. The bill also requires court reports on how many times judges bypass parental consent requirements.

Democratic Sen. Rebecca Rios tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to toughen confidentiality protections.

The Senate’s bill sponsor, Republican Linda Gray, says there’s no need to do that because the reports are intended only for statistical purposes.

Once again, we can be reminded that all anti-choice advocates want is to have an opportunity to shame women seeking abortions.

Three of the many anti-choice bills that had been held up in Oklahoma for the last year are in the end run to become law, having passed the Senate and now through House committees.

Senate Bill 1890 would forbid an abortion based solely on the gender of the child; SB 1891 would protect employees who refuse to participate in abortions; and SB 1902 would make it illegal for a person other than a qualified physician who is physically present to administer the chemical “abortion pill,” RU-486.

All three only need to be voted on the House floor before they go to the governor, who is unlikely to veto.

Idaho is also working on a ban for “abortion based on the sex, color or race of the fetus or the race of a parent,” and is widening its conscience clause to include nurses and pharmacists, rather than just doctors.  And Kansas, in yet another attempt to get in front of the Supreme Court, is trying to remove mental health exemptions to its late term abortion ban.

A bill prohibiting late-term abortions in Kansas for mental health or emotional reasons is expected to pass the state House.

House members were to take final action on the measure Tuesday, a day after giving it first-round approval on an 85-30 vote. Approval on a second vote would send the bill to the Senate.

Kansas law allows abortion of a fetus after the 21st week of pregnancy to save a woman’s life or to prevent “substantial and irreversible” harm to “a major bodily function.”

State officials have interpreted “major bodily function” to include mental health, arguing the law wouldn’t be constitutional otherwise. Anti-abortion legislators disagree.

Perhaps the most interesting fight lately has been in Nebraska, where for once pro-choice and anti-choice advocates are arguing on the same side when it comes to a recently vetoed bill for prenatal care for illegal immigrants.  Unhappy with the news that women who can’t afford prenatal care are now considering abortion, legislators are inserting the prenatal care amendment onto a popular piece of anti-choice legislation in an effort to get it past the governor.

The Omaha senators said they have the support of about a half-dozen fellow legislators who hope to attach Legislative Bill 1110, the prenatal services restoration bill, to LB 594, the priority bill offered by Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing. The Dierks bill would require abortion providers to conduct certain patient screenings before performing an abortion or risk a lawsuit.

Dierks was unavailable for comment Monday, but his aide said the senator was receptive to the idea.

The debate over whether to fund prenatal services with public dollars has pitted the state’s major pro-life and medical groups against a pro-life governor and groups that strongly oppose illegal immigration.

Joining other opponents in arguing that taxpayers should not have to fund services for illegal immigrants, Gov. Dave Heineman has declined to resume state funding for the prenatal care, as he could have done administratively. He contends that charities and churches will pick up what the government has cut off.

Nordquist said the abortion alternative should serve as a “wake-up call” to legislators and as motivation to restore a service the state had supported for at least 20 years.

“We don’t want the state to be a partner in the death of a baby,” Ashford said.

“This is not an immigration issue,” he said. “This has always been a 100 percent pro-life issue.”

 

March 23, 2010

A new push against Hyde amendment faces some high hurdlesWashington Post

Fiorina and the Republican primaryPoliGazette

The Post-Stupak AgendaAlterNet

Before health vote, a weekend of ugly discourseThe Associated Press

Restrictions on abortion pass Missouri HouseKMOX.com

Abortion foe from Texas says he regrets outburstWashington Post

Abortion issue seen as key to health care reform passageCNN International

Committee Passes Abortion Insurance Coverage BanKOMU-TV

High Court Rejects Challenge to Abortion Clinic ‘Buffer’ ZonesChristian Post

State’s lone Democratic holdout sticks to abortion beliefsChicago Tribune

Stupak’s health care vote may cost him among anti-abortion groupsThe Detroit News

Health Care BillThe Stir

Anti-abortion bills win committee’s OK, head to HouseTulsa World

A health vote falls in place after phone call from ObamaDetroit Free Press

Lawmakers In Idaho, Kansas Address Abortion, Provider ‘Conscience’ BillsMedical News Today

Kan. House advances bill to narrow abortion lawKOAM-TV

Pro-life Democrats, RIPWall Street Journal

N.O.W. Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women’s RightsOpEdNews

The ABCs of family planningGlobe and Mail

Senators approve parental consent for minors seeking birth controlYuma Sun

High Emergency Contraception use found in Phuket teenagersPhuketindex.com

Bart Stupak is no healthcare heroThe Guardian

Sexually active homosexuals pay ‘heavy toll’ in HIV infections, CDC analysis saysTips-Q GLBT News

Rwanda: Women Trained On Rights of People Living With HIV/AidsAllAfrica.com

Youth clubs undertake to fight social problems in unique styleThe Citizen Daily

Media contribute subtly to HIV/AIDS stigmaCape Cod Times

California: New AIDS Advocacy Group Comes to OaklandTheBody.com

One click aids rape victimsIndiana Daily Student

Abortion activists fired up for 2010Politico

 

 

March 22, 2010

Arizona Senate approves abortion reporting billKGUN

A bittersweet day for pro-choicers in AmericaTrue/Slant

Prochoicers Took a Hit to Help Pass Heathcare Reform — It’s Payback Time NowAlterNet

Healthcare Reform Is Only a Partial Victory for WomenU.S. News & World Report

‘Baby Killer’ Yeller Randy Neugebauer Far From Abortion Opponents’ Favorite …Center for Responsive Politics 

Summary of actions by the Supreme Court on MondayWashington Post

Cao: Abortion ‘at a par with slavery’Politico

Stupak Called “Baby Killer” for Backing BillCBS News

Uganda: Family Planning- Uganda Runs Out of ContraceptivesAllAfrica.com

CO Personhood Initiative May be on Fall BallotMs. Magazine

Teen pregnancy risingTelegraph-Journal

Pelosi’s Triumph: ‘It’s Personal For Women’NPR

Mum’s cancer death inspires Sophie to back vaccine shotEssex Echo

States Say Overhaul Will Bust Already Strained Medicaid BudgetBusinessWeek

Mo. Senate bill would bar abortion coverageSt. Louis Post-Dispatch

Strict Abortion Rules Mean Fewer Insurers May Offer CoverageWall Street Journal

Health care reform will provide coverage for thousands in WisconsinWisconsin State Journal

Commentary Human Rights

The Democratic National Convention Was a Remarkable Victory for Disabled People

s.e. smith

This year's convention included disabled people every evening, as part of a larger inclusive policy that made 2016 a banner year for disability rights activists.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Her speech included many of the elements one expects from a nominee, but there were some standout moments—like when she mentioned disability rights, which she did repeatedly.

Clinton integrated disability into her discussion of her record, talking about her work to ensure that disabled children have the right to go to school and bringing up the health-care needs of disabled youth. Her commentary reinforced the fact that she has always cared about disability issues, particularly in the context of children’s rights.

But she did more than that. She referenced shortages of mental health beds. She explicitly called out disability rights as necessary to defend. And at one point, she did not mention disability, which in itself was radical. When she outlined her plans for gun reform and clearly stated that she wanted to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, she referenced people with criminal histories and terrorists, but not mentally ill people, who have been fighting a surge in stigma thanks to perennial (and wildly incorrect) assertions that mental illness causes violence. That omission was clearly deliberate, given the meticulous level of crafting that goes into writing one of the most important speeches of a presidential candidate’s career.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

The nominee’s speech would have been remarkable on its own, but what made it truly outstanding is that it was far from the first appearance of disability at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC). The convention included disabled people every evening as part of a larger inclusive policy that made 2016 a banner year for disability rights activists, who are used to being invisible. These kinds of appearances normalized disability, presenting it as a part of some people’s lives and a source of pride, not shame or misery.

On Monday, for example, disability rights activist Anastasia Somoza rolled out to give a sharp, compelling speech that didn’t cast disability in a tragic or exceptional light. She wasn’t the only wheelchair user to appear on the DNC stage—Paralympic athlete Mallory Weggemann led the pledge of allegiance on a different evening. Dynah Haubert, an attorney for Disability Rights Pennsylvania, took the stage on Tuesday. Nor were wheelchair users the only disabled people represented. Ryan Moore, a longtime friend of Clinton’s, spoke about health care and his experiences as a man with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital syndrome, a form of dwarfism. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy talked about his learning disabilities. Musician Demi Lovato, who has bipolar disorder, took on mental health.

Former Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, a nondisabled man who played an instrumental role in the push to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, taught the crowd sign language during a lively speech about the fight for disability rights on Tuesday, the 26th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

On Wednesday night, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) strode out onto the DNC stage in Philadelphia, smiling and waving at the crowd, to make a few short remarks. “Speaking is difficult for me,” she concluded, “but come January 2017 I want to say these two words: ‘Madam President.'” Her speech was about gun violence—a subject with which she’s intimately familiar after being shot in the head in 2011.

This level of representation is unprecedented. Some speakers, like Somoza, explicitly talked about disability rights, putting the subject in the spotlight in a way it’s never been at previous conventions. Others, like Giffords, came up on stage to talk about something else entirely—and happened to represent disability while they were at it. Similarly, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a decorated combat veteran and double amputee, talked about military policy.

This is a striking contrast from the treatment of disability at previous Democratic National Conventions: When disabled people have appeared, it’s often been in the form of a lackluster performance that objectifies disability, rather than celebrating it, as in 1996 when former actor Christopher Reeve framed disability as a medical tragedy.

Disability rights activists have spent decades fighting for this kind of representation. In 1992, two years after the passage of the ADA, the platform included just three mentions of disability. This year, the subject comes up in 36 instances, woven throughout the platform for an integrated approach to disability as a part of society, rather than as something that needs to be walled off into a tiny section of the platform, tokenized, and then dismissed.

In the intervening years, disabled people in the United States have fought for the enforcement of the ADA, and taken the right to independent living to court in 1999’s Olmsted v. L.C., which was namechecked in the 2000 platform and then forgotten. Disabled people advocated to have their rights in school codified with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, pushed for inclusion in 2010’s Affordable Care Act, and are fighting to pass the Community Choice Act and Disability Integration Act (DIA). Disability rights in the United States has come a long way since 1990’s infamous Capitol Crawl, in which disability rights activists dragged themselves up the steps of the U.S. Capitol, pleading with Congress to pass the ADA.

And as activists have pushed for progress in the courts and in Congress, disability rights have slowly become more prominent in the Democratic party platform. The ADA has been a consistent theme, appearing in every platform since 1992 alongside brief references to civil rights; historically, however, the focus has been on disability as a medical issue. The 1996 platform introduced Medicare, and health care in general, as issues important to the disability community, a refrain that was reiterated in years to come. In numerous years, Democrats addressed concerns about long-term care, in some cases positioning disabled people as objects of care rather than independent people. Disabled veterans have also played a recurring role in the platform’s discussion of military issues. But beyond these topics—again, often approached from a dehumanizing angle—and the occasional lip service to concerns about discrimination and equal rights, until the 2000s, education was the only really consistent disability issue.

In 2000, however, the Democrats went big, building on eight years under President Bill Clinton, and the influence of his then-first lady. For the first time, disability wasn’t simply lumped under “civil rights.” The platform explicitly called out the need for protection from disability hate crimes, but it also began to introduce the idea that there were other issues of relevance to the disability with a discussion of the digital divide and the obstacles that held disabled people back. Almost 30 years after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which barred disability discrimination by government agencies and contractors, the Democrats were starting to embrace issues like accessibility and independent living, which also played a prominent role in 2000.

It was a hint that the party was starting to think about disability issues in a serious way, especially when in 2008, the Democrats discussed the shameful delay on ratification of the United Nations’ Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, took on the Community Choice Act, talked about the need to enforce IDEA, and, again for the first time, explicitly addressed voting rights issues. By 2012, they were also calling out discriminatory voter ID laws and their disproportionate effect on the disabled community.

That’s tremendous, though incremental, progress.

And this week, the efforts of a generation of disability rights activists are on display everywhere in Philadelphia, where Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky observed that accessibility is a top priority across the city. The DNC is providing expanded accessible seating, wheelchair charging stations, service dog relief areas, Braille materials, closed captioning, American Sign Language interpreters, medication refrigerators, and more. That’s radical inclusion at work, and the result of incredible efforts by disability rights organizers—including the 400 delegates who disclosed disabilities.

Those same organizers have been hounding the presidential candidates, holding them accountable on disability over and over again. They’ve brought up concerns about independent living, wage disparities, education, access to services, accessibility, hate crimes, reproductive rights, the “marriage penalty” and government benefits, and casual disablism in campaign rhetoric and practices. Advocates leaned on the Clinton campaign until it began captioning its content, for example. RespectAbility sent journalists out on the trail, #CriptheVote organized Twitter, and Rev Up encouraged people to register to vote and get involved. The disability community may be more explicitly politically active this year than ever before, and the DNC has been responding accordingly.

Clearly in consultation with disability rights activists, the Democrats have brought a host of new issues into this year’s platform, acknowledging that disabled people are part of U.S. society. Some of the many issues unique to this year’s platform include: abolition of the subminimum wage, concerns about economic opportunities with an explicitly intersectional discussion of the racial wealth gap, affordable housing, accessibility at the polls, the role of disability in the school-to-prison pipeline, and the need for more accurate Census data.

Notably, in a platform that has loudly called for a Hyde Amendment repeal and pushed for other abortion rights, the Democrats have also reinforced the need for access to reproductive health for disabled people, a revolutionary clause that’s gone virtually unnoticed.

This is a platform—and convention—of aggressive inclusion, and it reflects a victory for disabled people in the United States. It does still lack some components the disability community would like to see, like a shoutout to the DIA, which Clinton supports. This is, however, the start of what looks like a robust and real relationship between the Democrats and the disability rights community.

Commentary Economic Justice

The Gender Wage Gap Is Not Women’s Fault, and Here’s the Report That Proves It

Kathleen Geier

The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work.

A new report confirms what millions of women already know: that women’s choices are not to blame for the gender wage gap. Instead, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the progressive think tank that issued the report, say that women’s unequal pay is driven by “discrimination, social norms, and other factors beyond women’s control.”

This finding—that the gender pay gap is caused by structural factors rather than women’s occupational choices—is surprisingly controversial. Indeed, in my years as a journalist covering women’s economic issues, the subject that has been most frustrating for me to write about has been the gender gap. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant for EPI, though not on this particular report.) No other economic topic I’ve covered has been more widely misunderstood, or has been so outrageously distorted by misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies.

That’s because, for decades, conservatives have energetically promoted the myth that the gender pay gap does not exist. They’ve done such a bang-up job of it that denying the reality of the gap, like denying the reality of global warming, has become an article of faith on the right. Conservative think tanks like the Independent Women’s Forum and the American Enterprise Institute and right-wing writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller have denounced the gender pay gap as “a lie,” “not the real story,” “a fairy tale,” “a statistical delusion,” and “the myth that won’t die.” Sadly, it is not only right-wing propagandists who are gender wage gap denialists. Far more moderate types like Slate’s Hanna Rosin and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson have also claimed that the gender wage gap statistic is misleading and exaggerates disparities in earnings.

According to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 79 cents, a statistic that has barely budged in a decade. And that’s just the gap for women overall; for most women of color, it’s considerably larger. Black women earn only 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make, and Latinas earn only 55 percent as much. In a recent survey, U.S. women identified the pay gap as their biggest workplace concern. Yet gender wage gap denialists of a variety of political stripes contend that gender gap statistic—which measures the difference in median annual earnings between men and women who work full-time, year-round—is inaccurate because it does not compare the pay of men and women doing the same work. They argue that when researchers control for traits like experience, type of work, education, and the like, the gender gap evaporates like breath on a window. In short, the denialists frame the gender pay gap as the product not of sexist discrimination, but of women’s freely made choices.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

The EPI study’s co-author, economist Elise Gould, said in an interview with Rewire that she and her colleagues realized the need for the new report when an earlier paper generated controversy on social media. That study had uncovered an “unadjusted”—meaning that it did not control for differences in workplace and personal characteristics—$4 an hour gender wage gap among recent college graduates. Gould said she found this pay disparity “astounding”: “You’re looking at two groups of people, men and women, with virtually the same amount of experience, and yet their wages are so different.” But critics on Twitter, she said, claimed that the wage gap simply reflected the fact that women were choosing lower-paid jobs. “So we wanted to take out this one idea of occupational choice and look at that,” Gould said.

Gould and her co-author Jessica Schieder highlight two important findings in their EPI report. One is that, even within occupations, and even after controlling for observable factors such as education and work experience, the gender wage gap remains stubbornly persistent. As Gould told me, “If you take a man and a woman sitting side by side in a cubicle, doing the same exact job with the same amount of experience and the same amount of education, on average, the man is still going to be paid more than the woman.”

The EPI report cites the work of Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who looked at the relative weight in the overall wage gap of gender-based pay differences within occupations versus those between occupations. She found that while gender pay disparities between different occupations explain 32 percent of the gap, pay differences within the same occupation account for far more—68 percent, or more than twice as much. In other words, even if we saw equal numbers of men and women in every profession, two-thirds of the gender wage gap would still remain.

And yes, female-dominated professions pay less, but the reasons why are difficult to untangle. It’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the EPI report explains, raising the question: Are women disproportionately nudged into low-status, low-wage occupations, or do these occupations pay low wages simply because it is women who are doing the work?

Historically, “women’s work” has always paid poorly. As scholars such as Paula England have shown, occupations that involve care work, for example, are associated with a wage penalty, even after controlling for other factors. But it’s not only care work that is systematically devalued. So, too, is work in other fields where women workers are a majority—even professions that were not initially dominated by women. The EPI study notes that when more women became park rangers, for example, overall pay in that occupation declined. Conversely, as computer programming became increasingly male-dominated, wages in that sector began to soar.

The second major point that Gould and Schieder emphasize is that a woman’s occupational choice does not occur in a vacuum. It is powerfully shaped by forces like discrimination and social norms. “By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work/family balance,” Gould told Rewire. One study cited by Gould and Schieder found that in states where traditional attitudes about gender are more prevalent, girls tend to score higher in reading and lower in math, relative to boys. It’s one of many findings demonstrating that cultural attitudes wield a potent influence on women’s achievement. (Unfortunately, the EPI study does not address racism, xenophobia, or other types of bias that, like sexism, shape individuals’ work choices.)

Parental expectations also play a key role in shaping women’s occupational choices. Research reflected in the EPI study shows that parents are more likely to expect their sons to enter male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM) fields, as opposed to their daughters. This expectation holds even when their daughters score just as well in math.

Another factor is the culture in male-dominated industries, which can be a huge turn-off to women, especially women of color. In one study of women working in science and technology, Latinas and Black women reported that they were often mistaken for janitors—something that none of the white women in the study had experienced. Another found that 52 percent of highly qualified women working in science and technology ended up leaving those fields, driven out by “hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”

Among those pressures are excessively long hours, which make it difficult to balance careers with unpaid care work, for which women are disproportionately responsible. Goldin’s research, Gould said, shows that “in jobs that have more temporal flexibility instead of inflexibility and long hours, you do see a smaller gender wage gap.” Women pharmacists, for example, enjoy relatively high pay and a narrow wage gap, which Goldin has linked to flexible work schedules and a professional culture that enables work/life balance. By contrast, the gender pay gap is widest in highest-paying fields such as finance, which disproportionately reward those able to work brutally long hours and be on call 24/7.

Fortunately, remedies for the gender wage gap are at hand. Gould said that strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, greater wage transparency (which can be achieved through unions and collective bargaining), and more flexible workplace policies would all help to alleviate gender-based pay inequities. Additional solutions include raising the minimum wage, which would significantly boost the pay of the millions of women disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage sector, and enacting paid family leave, a policy that would be a boon for women struggling to combine work and family. All of these issues are looming increasingly large in our national politics.

But in order to advance these policies, it’s vital to debunk the right’s shameless, decades-long disinformation campaign about the gender gap. The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work. The right alleges that the official gender pay gap figure exaggerates the role of discrimination. But even statistics that adjust for occupation and other factors can, in the words of the EPI study, “radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings.”

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, women did not choose to be paid consistently less than men for work that is every bit as valuable to society. But with the right set of policies, we can reverse the tide and bring about some measure of economic justice to the hard-working women of the United States.