Monday, May 07, 2007

When the Health and Safety of a Woman No Longer Matters

On April 18, 2007 the US Supreme Court upheld the first-ever federal law banning abortion. According to Planned Parenthood, “The Supreme Court's decision retreats from more than 30 years of precedent that stated that women's health must be the paramount concern in laws that restrict abortion access.”

The federal law was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2003. Suits to block the implementation of the law were successful, protecting a doctor’s right to perform the outlawed procedure and a woman’s right to choose this procedure while the appeals and lawsuits went through litigation. As the law moved through the appeals process, every court banned this decision as unconstitutional except for the Supreme Court on April 18.

The law outlawed a specific abortion procedure, known as Intact Dilation and Extraction Procedure (D&E), referred to in Congress as “partial birth abortion.” This procedure is the most common abortion method after 21-weeks, and is also commonly used to remove a fetus that died in embryo from the womb.

This law does not outlaw second-term abortions entirely, but a specific procedure that is often the safest option for a woman to choose.

Since there is no medical procedure actually known as a “partial-birth abortion” the broad language of the law could ban some abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks.

Unlike other abortion bans, this law fails to include an exception that would allow a woman to undergo the procedure in order to protect her health, safety, and/or life. This is very different than the laws that outlaw third-trimester abortions in forty states and the District of Columbia. Each of those laws allow the procedure to be performed when a woman’s health and/or life is at risk.

In her written dissent of the decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes, “Thus, legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.”

For Real Life Stories about the decision and how it affects women check out:
My Turn: I Had That Now-Banned Abortion
by: Ilene Jaroslaw
"The Abortion Debate Brought Home"
by: Dan Neil
Los Angeles Times,0,2723837.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

Friday, April 27, 2007

What Michelle Said

Yes, a woman president would help right an age-old gender imbalance, but if you want to change the culture of politics, is one woman leader enough?

What would happen if women were the majority of all local and state governments. Right now women hold 14% of seats in the U.S. Senate. What if there were 86 women and just 14 men in the U.S. Senate?

Here's what Chile's new leader, President Michelle Bachelet, said last June as she explained why one-half of all her ministers, under-secretaries and regional officials were women:

“when there are a few women in politics, politics changes women, but when there
are many women, it is politics that change . . .. Today’s citizens want societies that
are more open, more diverse, and more inclusive. With more women in positions of
leadership, we will be able to advance that ideal. “

Sunday, January 29, 2006

100 Years Since Susan B.: Consider the Anthony Legacy

"I wonder if when I am under the sod - or cremated and floating in the air - I shall have to stir you and others up. How can you not be all on fire? . . . I really believe I shall explode if some of you young women don't wake up."

Susan B. Anthony, 1898
Fourteen years after Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, women won the right to vote. But one hundred years later, we are still only 15% of the U.S. Congress. (The U.S. is 59th in the world for the number of women in our national legislature. Sweden, South Africa and Rwanda all have more.) 107 men and 2 women have served on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Would a woman president change our political culture? With Michelle Bachelet elected president of Chile and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf president of Liberia (the 1st woman president in Africa), a New York Times article suggests voters wanted the kind of change these women were especially able to bring: "'We have been fighting wars for 15, 20 years in this region," said Rosaline M'Carthy, leader of the Women's Forum in Sierra Leone, who traveled here last week for the inauguration. 'To see the first female president elected from a war-torn country shows people are now beginning to see what men have wrought in this region. It is the minds of men that make war. Women are the architects of peace.' " ("Where Political Clout Demands a Maternal Touch," New York Times, Sunday, January 22, 2006.)
What would change if women made up more than 50% of the U.S. Congress? WEDO's 50/50 Campaign is inspired by evidence that a critical mass of elected women makes a difference:
"There is evidence however, that when women enter decision-making bodies in significant numbers, issues such as child care, violence against women and unpaid labor are more likely to become priorities for policy-makers. In Norway, women Members of Parliament brought about the "politics of care" which obligates the state to increase publicly sponsored child care services, extend the paid parental leave period, introduce options for more flexible work hours and improve pension rights for unpaid care work. In South Africa, through the efforts of women Parliamentarians the "women's budget process" was introduced to analyze the government's budget from a gender perspective and allocate more resources for women's needs. In India, the women chairpersons in the panchayats of Dehra Dun district in northern Uttar Pradesh obtained funds to build a network of four-foot wide concrete roads and drains."
What would Susan say?
"From the cradle the children of the manly woman and womanly man of the 20th century will be trained in the principles of good government. They will be taught that might is not right, either in the home or the state; that arbitration rather than human slaughter should settle all international difficulties." Susan B. Anthony, 1900