Democrats Focus on Women’s Rights, Civil Rights in Opening Day of Ashcroft Hearing
The first session of the Senate confirmation hearing for John Ashcroft’s nomination to the position of attorney general began Tuesday morning with Democratic leaders coming out strong against Ashcroft’s anti-choice, anti-civil rights, and anti-woman record. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, described the position of the Attorney General as one requiring the “full confidence and trust of the American people.” Leahy continued with “Senator Ashcroft has often taken aggressively activist positions on a number of issues that deeply divide the American people.”
In his opening statement, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) quickly pointed out Sen. Ashcroft’s self-serving history, saying, “We know that while serving in high office, he has time and time again aggressively used litigation and legislation in creative and inappropriate ways to advance his political and ideological goals.” Sen. Ashcroft has a record of using his power while in public office to advance his own extremist ideology, including fighting against desegregation efforts in St. Louis schools and working to abolish abortion rights. Sen. Kennedy continued, “How can we have any confidence at all that he will not do the same thing with the vast new powers he will have at his disposal as attorney general?”
Americans’ lack of confidence in Ashcroft is best shown in a recent Newsweek poll that shows 41 percent of those polled believe the Senate should reject Ashcroft’s nomination. Only 37 percent of people polled supported his nomination.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), during the confirmation hearing, also raised questions about Ashcroft’s ability to enforce current laws such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and Roe v. Wade given his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
Events surrounding the Senate confirmation hearings included a National Council of Women’s Organizations press conference Tuesday morning, at which Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority spoke along with other women’s rights leaders who announced their opposition to the nominations of both John Ashcroft for Attorney General and Gov. Tommy Thompson for Sec. of Health and Human Services.
“Women’s organizations are justifiably outraged over Bush’s appointment of right-wing, anti-women’s rights extremists,” said Smeal. “Based on their records, Ashcroft puts ideology over law and Thompson puts ideology over health policy,” added Smeal. “In both cases, women lose big.” The National Council of Women’s Organizations represents 120 women’s rights organizations with over 6 million members.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) also held a rally during the confirmation hearing on Tuesday voicing opposition to Ashcroft’s anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-gay record. NOW will rally again Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. at the Russell Senate building.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .