Jul 282009

One of the very real dangers in the debate on how to fix American healthcare is that women’s health will become a bargaining chip, with the GOP and anti-abortion forces trying to frame healthcare reform as an endrun to government ‘interference’ in our lives by ‘mandating’ abortion and gasp, contraception.  Amanda Marcotte has an excellent post here that deconstructs the root  of why they are using this tactic and looks at media complicity in fomenting these blatantly misogynist attempts to derail healthcare reform.

But I suspect that anti-choicers latched onto taxpayer-funded abortions, because they can count on a lot of the public to imagine the government funding female licentiousness.

Planned Parenthood has also issued an excellent press release (that should be read in its entirety) debunking the myths about abortion and healthcare reform proposals that are being circulated,

Singling out abortion for exclusion from plans in a health insurance exchange is both discriminatory and harmful to women’s health. With the majority of private insurance plans covering abortion today, any attempt to restrict this coverage in the health insurance exchange would constitute an unprecedented restriction on women — taking benefits away that they currently have today.

The unfortunate truth is that women’s health is not a priority in the national discussion about the critically ill state of our national healthcare.  As Jodi Jacobson writes,

(Obama’s) support for a woman’s right to choose and for access to the services needed to prevent unintended pregnancy, stem the spread of infections and ensure all women have primary reproductive health care won’t be enough to secure passage of a health reform bill that includes these essential health services.

In fact, both Republicans and conservative Democrats are pushing for restrictions in health reform legislation that could result in the loss of current benefits to millions of women.

Jacobson goes on to explain how Republicans may use abortion and contraception denial as a bargaining chip for their support of legislation and the devastating effect this could have on  women’s health:

In order to ensure all Americans are covered, most health reform proposals include options for “insurance exchanges” and other methods through which the federal government might partially subsidize the costs of insurance coverage for those without employer-based insurance, or those who can not afford to pay out-of-pocket for an insurance policy. What the Republicans and the Democrats opposed to continuing current coverage (including current abortion coverage) for women want to do is to eliminate the possibility of coverage from either subsidized or private plans whether or not the federal government is subsidizing a particular person.

This is sort of like applying the “global gag rule” to private insurance plans because even if you are paying for 90 percent of your policy, the restrictions apply both to the federally funded portion (10 percent) as well as to the 90 percent of the policy you pay for. Moreover, some analysts believe the implication is that even in cases where you pay for 100 percent of the policy you choose, if the federal government is involved in any way in that insurance plan by subsidizing others, your coverage would still be restricted.

Martha Burk also points out that age-rating is  also a potential bargaining point that would discriminate against people between the  ages of 50-65, and “ would particularly affect older single women, already lower on the income scale and less likely to have employer coverage.  And as we have noted before, there is a gross inequity in the current system that forces many women to pay far more for health insurance than men do.

During the next few weeks, if not the next few days, the U.S. Congress and President Obama will be making decisions that  will impact the health of every person in this country.  The bottom line is that while a single-payer plan is undoubtedly the best thing that could happen to our collective health, the political chances of that happening are close to nil.  And it is entirely possible that the compromises that will be made to placate Republican and  anti-reproductive rights votes as well as the insurance and pharmacy companies that give so generously to politicians on both sides of the aisle will leave us with a healthcare situation that is only marginally better and could even become worse for some, including many women.

The time to take action is now.  Call or write to your elected representatives.  Or better yet, drop by and visit.  Tell them that you want meaningful  reform that provides for the health of every American. Tell them how much you spend on health care and health insurance.  Tell them about coverage and care that was denied. Make it clear to them that the last election really was a mandate for change and that the American public will not abide by the business as usual that is continually selling us down the river.  Our lives depend on it.


Addenda:  The Urban Institute Health Policy Center has published  an excellent analysis of  the real financial impact of health care reform which should be read in its entirety.  Among the highlights:

  • $1.6 trillion is an estimate recently put forth by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the cost of the Senate Finance Committee’s health plan.
  • While these numbers are indeed somewhat alarming initially, they need to be put in context. One source of confusion is that the $1.6 trillion is a 10-year number. Between 2010 and 2019, the total amount of gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to be $187 trillion, according to CBO.1 Thus, the estimated gross costs of health reform are less than 1 percent of the GDP over that period. And, importantly, the $1.6 trillion is a total or gross estimate. Other government costs would be reduced as a result of expanding coverage so significantly.
  • The government costs also ignore the private savings to employers and individuals resulting from reform.
  • Absent reform, total health care expenditures, public and private, will total $33.0 trillion, over the ten years 2010-2019.3 The $1.2 trillion that we estimate in net new spending will therefore increase expected health costs by only 3.5 percent. The problem that the nation faces is not the small increment necessary to expand coverage to the uninsured, but the high and growing baseline costs of the system. The high system costs must be addressed through payment and delivery system reforms.
  • (F)ailing to enact comprehensive reform carries substantial costs as well. We recently analyzed changes in coverage and expenditures for a 10-year period, if reform was not enacted, using different assumptions about economic growth and health care cost increases. We showed that, absent reform, there would be considerable loss of employer coverage, particularly among the middle class, and a substantial increase in the number of uninsured, from an estimated 49 million in 2009 to over 60 million in 2019. The number of nonelderly people enrolled in Medicaid would increase substantially, from 44 million in 2009 to well over 50 million by 2019, increasing state and federal government costs appreciably. Because of the greater number of uninsured, the amount of uncompensated care that hospitals and clinics would provide would also increase dramatically, putting further pressure on government budgets. We estimate that Medicaid spending would increase over the 10 years by about $800 billion without reform and that the costs of uncompensated care by about $250 billion.
  • Without health reform, employer costs would also increase substantially, as would costs to individuals and families from higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

And do check out this graphic via the New York Times of the really white, mostly male people who are making our health care decisions.

 July 28, 2009  Posted by on July 28, 2009 1 Response »
Jul 282009

Via the GEA* Association comes this amazing petition which the Feminist Peace Network wholly endorses.  Please go here to add your name to this revolutionary document**.


From Barcelona we have initiated a project to require a world-wide scoped political organization, the UN, to make a symbolic act of Recognition, Apoligy and Abolition of the Patriarchy.

This project will be presented to the Director of UNIFEM, Ines Alberdi, during the Opening Conference of the II Congress of Women of Barcelona, on October 16th of this year 2009. We want to ask her to act as a mediator and present this petition to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The accomplishment of this act could give another dimension to the fulfillment of Human Rights. In this way we try, beyond gender policies, to go to the root of the Patriarchy.

If you agree with the DECLARATION that we expose here, we request you to adhere to the signature, either as an association or individually.



For more than 200 years the women have been engaged in collective struggle against patriarchy, an institution that represents a permanent outrage to all of us, and also for men, forced to play the disagreeable role of custodians and oppressors of women.


the nonobservance of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, in Article 7 of which it is stated that “All [human beings] are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination”, and the nonobservance to a greater or lesser extent of the subsequent agreements reached in the General Assembly of the United Nations held in New York in June 2000, in continuance of the last of the four World Conferences (Beijing 1995) on Women, these World Conferences being made possible as a result of the efforts of women all over the world in recent decades,

that , patriarchy, being a tacit institution within society and never written, such as a religious decalogue or a political constitution would be, has consequently been rendered officially and legally invisible, and that this has prevented it from being corrected, amended, or simply abolished as anachronistic, as had been the case with institutions such as feudalism and slavery. We take “anachronistic” as meaning contrary to human rights, as a result of which we find the following outrages:
1.- Exclusion of women from the social contract and the political rights inherent therein, from ancient Athens to the present day.

2.- Exclusion of women from equal and equitable education, giving rise to the necessary functional ignorance to ensure the servile channelling of girls and women into their assigned tasks and their usefulness to men as the hegemonic sexual group.

3.- Exclusion of women from the world of employment, the necessary and sufficient training to enter and practice all professions, and the right to hold posts of responsibility in them.

4.- The above three forms of exclusion have been made possible and are reinforced by a cultural framework built exclusively by the male group (patriarchy), rendering women invisible, repressed and subordinated, and furthermore subject to the corresponding punishment in the event of their contravening the norm. This androcentric culture has been transmitted basically through religions, philosophy and science.


WE APPEAL that this International Forum manage the formal request for an apology to the women of the world for the outrages and offences suffered for millennia, and at the same time that the patriarchal order be abolished, and that this abolition bring about the definitive end of confrontation between men and women as superior/inferior, active/passive, and all other binary concepts referring to both sexes for the exclusion of one of them.


This request for an Apology manifests in three directions: Recognition, Apology and Abolition.

RECOGNITION of the patriarchal institution, which is tacit in society but hitherto unwritten, and thus phantasmal. Recognition of its formal, official and political existence as an institution, making it subject to consideration and judgement in the same way as all other institutions that there are and have been in the world, and thus liable to be regarded as void in its development and as such obsolete.

APOLOGY for the grave moral, spiritual, social and political offence inflicted on women throughout the world over the centuries, on being considered inferior to men and unworthy of participating in the human social contract, reserved exclusively to men.

ABOLITION. The above leads to the decision to abolish patriarchy as an institution, insofar as it is out of place and unlawful in this century, in conflict with human rights, an affront for half of humanity and harmful to the other half. Just as slavery and other perverse institutions were abolished in the past, we demand the delegitimation of patriarchy, which will allow a more rapid advancement towards the achievement of a better and fairer social order for all.

This request for an apology thus signifies, both really and symbolically, a break between BEFORE and AFTER patriarchy, and a landmark in the history of humanity.

Associació GEA,
Barcelona 2009

*For those of you who may be wondering about the meaning of GEA:

Gea was the great goddess of the early Greeks.
She represented the Earth and was worshiped as the universal mother. The Greeks believe she created the universe and gave birth to the first race of Titans (gods) and the first humans.
Greeks believe that Chaos was first to come, which was made of Void, Mass, and Darkness then came Earth in the form of Gaea. From mother earth came the sky god Uranus and the starry heavens. Mountains, plains, seas, and rivers also came from Gaea.

She became the oldest god of early Greeks and supreme goddess of gods and humans. Gaea was the one who presided over marriages and oaths.
Gaea was honored as a prophets. The Romans also believed in this god.

See also this beautiful embodiment of the spirit of Gea.

**Please note that the awkwardness in language is due to translation.

 July 28, 2009  Posted by on July 28, 2009 Comments Off on Petition To The U.N. For The Recogniton, Apology And Abolition Of Patriarchy
Jul 272009

Many thanks to Marcia G. Yerman for her kind permission to reprint her beautiful art highlighting the extremely dangerous situation for women who have been arrested in Iran for their part in the ongoing demonstrations there.  Marcia explains,

Women who have taken part in demonstrations are now being executed.  However, according to the prevailing conservative version of Islamic law being enacted in Iran, a virgin can not be killed.  Currently, the women who took part in the opposition protest who have been arrested are being “married” to prison guards…who then consummate the marriage through rape. The women are then killed.

You can see the full size image of this beautiful work at Pantea’s Roses where you can also add your own work.

 July 27, 2009  Posted by on July 27, 2009 Comments Off on Monday Morning Inspiration–Artistic Activism On Behalf Of The People Of Iran
Jul 272009
Yes, That is Barbie, not Phyllis, see below :-)

Yes, That is Barbie, not Phyllis, see below :-)

When it comes to fair and balanced reporting, you’ve got to hand it to the U.S. media
for doing whatever it takes to present both sides of the story, even when there aren’t two sides and when the best they can do to pretend otherwise is to present regurgitated hate-filled spew.  Which makes it, I suppose, not at all surprising that TIME Magazine has trotted out that old stand-by Phyllis Schlafly to offer her predictable diatribes about the recently re-introduced Equal Rights Amendment.

Here are a few of the highlights:

What would have happened, do you suppose, if the amendment had passed? What would we be living with now?
It would have given vast new powers to the federal courts because the Equal Rights Amendment did not define the operative words, which were sex and equality. So what does sex mean? Is it the sex you are, or the sex you do? What does equality mean? Does it mean equality of individual people like the Fourteenth Amendment, or does it mean the equality of a group? In America we really don’t believe in group rights. I think it’s pretty clear that if the Equal Rights Amendment had passed, we would have had same-sex marriage 25 years ago.

On gay marriage and feminism:

My own belief is that the problem [facing] marriage is maybe only 5% a problem with gay activism, and 95% a problem with feminist activism. [Feminists] have given us divorce, millions of fatherless children and the idea that it’s O.K. to be a single mom. I’m not talking about women who lose a husband for one reason or another. We’re talking about the idealization of a single mom. I believe that the worst thing the liberals did in this country was the Lyndon Johnson welfare system, which broke up millions of marriages by funneling taxpayers’ money solely to the woman. That made the father and husband irrelevant.

So what’s the next cause?
Well, I guess the next cause is to keep Obama from taking this country into socialism…

I do want to proudly note that one of my favorite measures of the effectiveness of this blog is this kind mention by Schlafly regarding our ongoing support of International Women’s Day:

“Today, IWD serves to advance radical feminism in the form of promoting pro-abortion and pro-gay rights legislation, ratification of ERA, affirmative action for women, Title IX, government babysitting services, and government wage control, commonly camouflaged as “pay equity” or “comparable worth.” The supporting organizations are not women’s groups, but feminist groups, including Feminist Peace Network, Aurora Women’s Network, UNESCO, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, also known as UNIFEM. Even media groups, such as CNN, the BBC, and Aljazeera TV have signed on as sponsors. Tomorrow, over 450 rallies and “events” are planned in 44 different countries across the globe.”

Lastly, just to point to TIME’s bizarre sense of the appropriate, there are links next to the story to other related pieces, one about Barbie’s 50th birthday and one about whether women should lie about their age.  Nuf said.

 July 27, 2009  Posted by on July 27, 2009 Comments Off on TIME Interviews Schlafly In Order To Provide “Both” Sides Of E.R.A. Story
Jul 242009

The Mothers of Laleh is an astounding, poignant source of information about how mothers in Iran are coping with the loss and disappearance of their children. The following is a letter from Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi to the mourning mothers of Iran:

Conscientious women of the world:
The tragedy in Iran is much larger than we had imagined. People who took to the streets to express their objection to the election results peacefully were met with bullets and truncheons. Many of those who survived the confrontations were arrested in the days that followed the protests.

Iran’s state radio and television broadcasts initially announced the number killed as eight and later eleven. However, more than twenty-five days after the street demonstrations, there are still many who have disappeared and their names are not on the lists of those who have been killed or arrested.

Many mothers have been anxiously going to any authorities who may give them information about their disappeared loved ones but have received no answers.

Now that families are slowly receiving the bodies of their slain children, it has become clear that the number of fatalities is much higher than what the government of the Islamic Republic has published.

Moreover, the families are being forced to sign legal covenants that they would not disclose how and when their loved ones died. But it is not possible to hide the truth forever, and it is not possible to silence the cries, so the tragedy of the past weeks is showing larger in
the eyes of the Iranian people as days pass.

Many mothers whose children were killed, are still among the disappeared or are in prisons have formed the Committee of Mourning Mothers.

Every Saturday from 7 to 8 PM, the members of this committee and other women who empathize with them dress in black and gather in public parks in their cities and towns to stand vigil and silently express their pain.

I would like to express my deep sorrow and condolences to the mothers who have lost their loved ones for freedom and democracy in Iran, and I stand in solidarity with women who are still searching for their disappeared and the large number of young Iranian women and men who are now in prisons because of their civil activism.

I invite all freedom loving women of the world to dress in black and gather in solidarity with the Committee of Mourning Mothers every Saturday in their own cities and towns every Saturday to help make their voices heard throughout the world.

 July 24, 2009  Posted by on July 24, 2009 Comments Off on Iran: The Mothers of Laleh