Rewire, United Nations Foundations, and Women's Campaign Forum are co-hosting a book party for Gloria Feldt's upcoming No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power in DC and you're invited!
Rewire, United Nations Foundation, and Women’s Campaign Forum are co-sponsoring a reception to celebrate Gloria Feldt and her new bookNo Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. The reception will be held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, October 13th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. If you plan to attend please send your RSVP via email to unfevents(AT)unfoundation(DOT)org.
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No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Busboys and Poets 1025 5th Street NW Washington, DC
Please send RSVP to unfevents(AT)unfoundation(DOT)org
Gloria Feldt is an activist and author on women’s rights, health, media, leadership. and politics. A former teen mom who became leader of the world’s largest reproductive health care provider and advocacy organization, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she was dubbed “the voice of experience” by People Magazine. Today, she’s a powerful voice for women through her books, keynote speeches, and media commentary and rather enjoys her life as a freelance rabble rouser.
Gloria is a fellow of the International Leadership Forum. She serves on the boards of the Women’s Media Center and the Jewish Women’s Archive and the advisory board of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Vanity Fair magazine named Gloria one of America’s “top 200 women legends, leaders, and trailblazers”. Glamour magazine honored her as Woman of the Year. She was one of Women’s e-News’ 2007 “21 Leaders for the 21st Century”.
In No Excuses, Gloria argues that the most confounding problem facing women today isn’t that doors aren’t open, but that not enough women are walking through them. From the boardroom to the bedroom, public office to personal relationships, she asserts that nobody is keeping women from parity — except themselves. Through interviews, historical perspective, and anecdotes, No Excuses examines why barriers to gender equality still exist in American society, and discusses how to break them down through organized efforts using “movement-building” principles. Feldt employs a no-nonsense, tough-love point of view to expose the internal and external roadblocks holding women back, but she doesn’t place blame; rather, she provides inspiration, hope, and courage — as well as concrete “power tools” to aid women in securing equality and justice for themselves — articulated with personal warmth and humor. In an era where women outnumber men in universities, reproductive technologies have changed the power balance in personal relationships, and women are closer than any previous time in history to earning on par with their male counterparts, No Excuses is a timely and invaluable book that intends to help women equalize gender power in politics, work, and love.
2014 will go down as the year anti-choicers' goal of ending legal abortion came within their grasp. It's also the year they opened up a new front in the "war on women" by starting preliminary legal attacks on contraception access.
Looking over the battle for reproductive rights that took place in 2014, I wish I could say that I’m optimistic for the coming year. But that, frankly, would be a lie. The sad fact of the matter is those who oppose the basic right to control one’s own reproduction have had a banner year, as they watch their efforts to chip away at abortion and contraception access finally come together in such a way that the restrictions may become permanent. Things are looking bleak for American women, and there’s no way to get around that fact.
The progress of the first two cases, in particular, shows that anti-choicers really are getting close to their desired goal of shutting down access to legal abortion for huge swaths of American women, especially those who don’t have the means to travel and pay for legal, safe abortion care. The first, Planned Parenthood, was a chilling display of how little the radical-right crop of judges pushed into power by conservatives over the last few decades cares for things like precedent or common sense when it comes to hammering through their agenda. The case addressed the part of the Texas bill, HB 2, that banned doctors from providing abortions unless they have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, something that is nearly impossible for many rural doctors to obtain. In March, the Fifth Circuit ruled that those restrictions were constitutional.
Even though abortion laws must not impose an “undue burden” on abortion provision, Judge Edith Jones decided to define “undue” so loosely in her written opinion that it appears no burden can actually be undue. As detailed by Jessica Mason Pieklo at Rewire, “As far as the Fifth Circuit is concerned, when states like Texas pass laws restricting abortion rights in the name of maternal health, they have no obligation to prove, with evidence, that those restrictions will actually advance maternal health.”
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In other words, I guess you could theoretically pass a law requiring women to be ritually beaten and forcibly dehydrated before they get an abortion, but as long as you claim that you’re doing it for their health, hey, who are the experts to stop you? That logic shut down almost half the clinics in Texas.
Round two, Whole Women’s Health, has fared ever-so-slightly better. The part of HB 2 that would force clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards—even if all the facilities do is provide the abortion pill—was also upheld by the “all restrictions are good restrictions” Fifth Circuit court. But, at the last minute, the Supreme Court allowed an injunction against that decision. While that saves the hides of some of the clinics in Texas, however, the injunction isn’t necessarily a sign that things are turning around. It’s just as likely that it suggests the Supreme Court knows it will eventually have to deal with all these new state regulations, Texas’ among them, that amount to a near-ban on abortion, and it is preparing to do just that. Unfortunately, the last time the Supreme Court heard a case regarding an abortion ban, it was upheld. The balance of power in the Court between liberals and conservatives has not changed since then.
Perhaps it’s because those in favor of reproductive rights restrictions sense victory on the horizon when it comes to abortion, but 2014 also ended up being the year contraception ended up back in front of the Supreme Court. This was the first time the Court had ruled on the matter since 1971, when the Court decreed that women have a right to access contraception, even if they aren’t married. And this time, contraception lost, which goes to show how thorough the project of turning the courts over to rabid, radicalized right-wingers has really been. After all, more than 99 percent of sexually active women ages 15-to-44 have used birth control, and 90 percent of Americans say it’s morally acceptable. Still, that small minority of contraception-haters somehow wowed the highest court in the land.
Of course, the ostensible justification for the anti-contraception ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Court ruled that employers can be exempted from federal law requiring that the insurance plans you pay for for your employees cover contraception, is that this isn’t about contraception but rather “religious freedom.” This excuse is asinine: The only “religious freedom” the Court agreed to protect was the “freedom” to restrict someone else’s access to contraception. If you want to deny your employees, say, insurance coverage of blood transfusions or painkillers, too bad. “This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs,” the decision read. So either religion only concerns contraception, and the hating thereof, or this is just an anti-contraception decision, with “religious freedom” being little more than window dressing to make the radicalism of it all easier to swallow.
What do we have to look forward to in 2015, then? Unfortunately, things do not look like they’re getting better. As Molly Redden at Mother Jones explains, anti-choicers now have even more seats in state legislatures than they did in 2014, and they apparently can barely wait to use their new power to pass more and more laws trying to take ownership over your uterus. And while much of their pre-filed legislation is about abortion, the increasing hostility toward contraception is peeking out already, as well, with a proposed bill to try to keep schools from hiring Planned Parenthood (as in, the experts) to teach sex ed and a bill to keep counties and towns from forcing deceptive crisis pregnancy centers to disclose the fact that they don’t offer abortion or contraception services.
If there is any silver lining to be found here, it’s that all these attacks on abortion and contraception aren’t coming out of nowhere. It’s clear that the escalation in anti-choice activism is a reaction to something, and it’s not hard to guess what it is: Women have, in recent years, really been gaining control over our reproductive capacities. Teen births are down, the average age of first birth is going up, and contraception use is clearly improving. Those against reproductive rights are losing culturally, so they’re going to try to regain control legally. Unfortunately, as this year’s events show, there’s a lot of power in going that route.
Reproductive rights advocates in New York are split over how to move forward with the Women's Equality Act, which is being held up over a provision on abortion that would align state law with Roe v. Wade. The fight is reminiscent of arguments over the state’s original 1970 abortion reform law.
Advocates for women in New York are split over how to move forward with the Women’s Equality Act, which is being held up over a provision on abortion that would align state law with the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. Some advocates argue that the provisions ensuring pay equality and cracking down on sexual harassment and trafficking are too important to sacrifice to the contentious abortion provision and want it sacrificed to ensure that the rest of the measures pass. Others argue that abortion is essential to the full package of women’s rights and are willing to sacrifice short-term progress in the interest of ensuring the inclusion of abortion.
It’s a split that’s eerily similar to the arguments over the state’s original abortion reform law, a groundbreaking piece of legislation passed in 1970, which I detail in my book, Good Catholics. Abortion was illegal in the state, as in much of the nation, except if a woman’s life was in danger. For years, the state’s powerful Catholic conference had managed to derail bills that would make abortion a bit more accessible by allowing it in cases of rape, incest, or fetal deformity. But such measures still required at least two doctors to sign off on the procedure—in other words, women had to seek a man’s permission, since almost all doctors were men, to get an abortion.
But in 1969, abortion rights supporters enlisted the support of Republican legislator Connie Cook to introduce a bill based on an idea that was just gaining traction in the feminist, medical, and progressive religious communities: remove abortion completely from the penal code and let it be regulated as a health matter. The bill placed no gestational limits on abortion and even let non-physicians perform the procedure. As Lawrence Lader noted in his book Abortion II, the Washington Post reported at the time that a similar bill in Maryland “treats abortion as a medical problem, and puts the responsibility for making whatever choice is involved squarely where it belongs—on the individuals directly concerned.”
But the bill couldn’t get out of committee, so Cook came back the following year with a new bill that had a better chance of passing. This bill kept abortion in the penal code and required doctors to perform the procedure; eventually a 24-week limit was added to gain the votes needed for its passage. But the bill cleaved the feminist community. Radical feminists argued that it was a sell-out. They said allowing the government to put conditions on abortion access was a mistake that would allow a gradual erosion of rights as more and more conditions were added. Groups like New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal pleaded with Cook and backers like Lawrence Lader, who had recently founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, to hold out for a true repeal bill.
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In the end, politics won out. The chance to pass what was at the time the nation’s most liberal abortion law was too good to pass up. The bill, which was basically a compromise between the go-slow position of reforming abortion laws to allow a few more conditions under which abortion could be performed, and the repeal position of scrapping abortion limits entirely, became the model for Roe v. Wade three years later.
But in the long run, the radical feminists were right. Putting conditions on abortion did allow the gradual erosion of abortion rights. More and more conditions, from waiting periods to state-scripted harangues on the supposed mental and physical dangers of abortion, to invasive ultrasound laws have chipped away at abortion rights. And expensive new clinic regulations and admitted privilege laws are dramatically reducing access to abortion. According to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute, “[a]n unprecedented wave of state-level abortion restrictions swept the country over the past three years,” with 70 new anti-abortion measures enacted in 2013, 43 in 2012, and 92 in 2011. As a result, the “majority of women now live in states hostile to abortion rights,” with these restrictions falling particularly hard on women in rural areas in the South and middle part of the country who are disproportionally young, poor, and women of color.
So it’s ironic that the bill currently before the legislature would do exactly what Cook tried to do more than 40 years ago, when many of these same populations of women couldn’t access legal abortion: remove abortion from the penal code and put it where it belongs in the public health code. This would remove the specter of doctors being prosecuted for performing later abortions for women who need them to protect their health. With abortion rights under threat around the country, it’s a goal that is too important to sacrifice to political expediency.
But it’s a sad testament to the state of abortion rights that the measure doesn’t go nearly as far as Cook’s original bill, which would have broadened access by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions. Decades after it was first advocated by feminists, California recently passed a measure to allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives to perform early abortions, a move that puts abortion care to where it belongs—with the medical professionals who care for women.