Though we just inaugurated the new president, it feels as if we just threw away our barf bags after his less-than-glorious election. With a mandate-less president and a sharply divided Congress, we women need to watch our elected officials carefully. As a former member of Congress, I know what it feels like to be watched, so I can tell you the best way to apply pressure. Gather like-minded friends and form a monitoring cabal. Think up a creative name for the group. And make sure young women are represented. Remember, we never would have gotten the vote if younger women hadn't taken up the cause.
Here are some watchdog techniques:
*If your elected officials aren't to your liking, meet with them as a group and give them a chance to "court" you. All federal representatives have offices in their local districts and all are interested in expanding their base. But since they don't read brain waves, you'll have to tell them why you didn't support them. This is crucial because "I never knew this was important to you" is a politician's favorite excuse.
*Even if your candidate won, she or he still needs reminding that your continued support is based on kept promises.
*If your attempts to meet are thwarted, write letters to the editor relating your experience. Run an ad with the politician's picture, offering a reward for anyone who can supply information on the whereabouts of this person. You'll be called troublemakers—a badge that you should wear proudly.
*Whenever an issue comes up that you care about, alert your elected representatives. If they vote incorrectly, print up flyers describing the issue and telling people how their legislator voted. Send a copy to that legislator and say that you posted hundreds all over the district. Extending tentacles into the community is a politician's worst nightmare, and most will want to know how to stop you.
Now, which issues should we be watchdogging? With everyone sprinting toward the center, many of our concerns are going to be far to the left of anything this president and Congress can deal with. Given the realities of this political climate, first we need to preserve some rights—like Roe v. Wade, affirmative action, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act—that we've already won. Use all the techniques I mentioned to hold the line on this woman-friendly legislation.
In a less deadlock-prone environment, I might have proposed lobbying for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, but now that seems like a fruitless gesture. Instead, work toward the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. With women still making only about 76 cents to a man's dollar, it's a no-brainer. And while we're talking about wages, how about pushing for the government to give more contracts to the growing number of women-owned businesses?
Get your legislators to improve women's health care. In August 2000, the National Women's Law Center and other groups released a report called "Making the Grade on Women's Health." Eight states and the District of Columbia failed, 42 states got an Unsatisfactory, and not one got a Satisfactory. Policymakers, meanwhile, deal mostly with our reproductive organs, even though heart disease, for example, is the number one killer of women.
Just think of all the votes Congress has taken on abortion, teen abstinence, the abortion pill, and family planning, while Viagra has almost no FDA restrictions and is covered by many insurance programs. Wouldn't you think they could connect the dots between Viagra and family planning? So, here's your homework assignment. On February 15, the new administration is deciding whether to release funding for international family-planning programs. Congress has consistently refused to support any international programs that fund abortions. This is how politicians have it both ways: they tell the left they voted for international family planning, and they tell the right they r
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
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. . . .