Abort the Executive Order

Dear Readers,

Here are my thoughts about the Executive Order the President signed yesterday, in the presence of Bart Stupak and his anti-choice cronies. I have to say this really, really doesn’t feel good.

Go to this link for the post at RH Reality Check: www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/03/25/abort-executive-order




With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies: Senate Health Deal Readmits Gender Bias by Insurers

Dear Readers,

This one is a trip: Keep reading, even though it may be late (or early). I’ve bolded the particularly ridiculous, in my opinion, findings reported in this article.

As we prepare for tomorrow’s recognition of the Supreme Court’s action in Roe v. Wade, as we used to say in the ’70’s, “put this one in your pipe and smoke it.” Unbelievable.

Best wishes.

Senate Health Deal Readmits Gender Bias by Insurers

By Susan Elan
WeNews correspondent
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Women’s rights leaders already embittered by lawmakers’ compromises on abortion coverage in health reform say Senate negotiators have further hurt women by allowing gender bias–or the practice of charging women more than men–to continue in their version.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–With the nation’s interest in health care reform growing in intensity, even influencing election outcomes, the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., warned on Jan. 15 that the Senate health care reform bill would not end gender rating, the practice by which insurers charge women higher premiums than men for the same coverage. In contrast, the House version would ban the practice.

Larger employers with predominantly female work forces–such as child care providers, visiting nurse associations and even some smaller school districts–would continue to be charged higher premiums “simply because of the demographics of their work force,” Judy Waxman, vice president for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center, said in a Jan. 15 message to their members.

The Senate bill eliminates gender rating for companies with fewer than 100 employees. Spurred by this further disappointment with the Senate’s Reid-Nelson health reform bill–which joins the House version in restricting abortion coverage–the new president of the National Organization for Women is threatening to join those opposing passage of health care legislation in its current form.

It’s beyond outrageous that our friends in the leadership in the House and Senate and the White House did not call me to tell me this,” said Terry O’Neill, who was elected in June to succeed the term-limited Kim Gandy as president of NOW. “As it is, if the Reid-Nelson compromise passes, after a period of years, women in this country will have no private or public coverage for abortion care. And then they’re going to sneak in the continuation of gender rating and they expect us to sit back and not call for the bill to be completely killed? They’ve got another thing coming.”

O’Neill said the nonpartisan group NOW would support pro-choice candidates regardless of party affiliation, from independent candidates to GOP members willing to go “back to the way it was before it was taken over by extremists.”

Coakley Race Crucial

The disaffection of pro-choice advocates from Democrats and the political compromises they have accepted on health reform coincides with the Tuesday loss of pro-choice Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special senate race for the seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Coakley’s victory was considered crucial for retaining the solid 60 votes necessary for health reform passage.

Scott Brown, the victor in the Massachusetts race, campaigned on his opposition to the health care bill. The Republican Majority for Choice did not endorse Brown because the group wasn’t able to scrutinize his full voting record on reproductive issues.

Kellie Ferguson, executive director of the Washington-based group, said Brown has expressed support for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling preserving abortion as part of a woman’s right to privacy. Ferguson added that Brown, as a state senator, also voted for emergency contraception for rape victims. However, he voted for parental consent for abortions too and possibly other restrictions. Because of his record, Ferguson said she believes Brown “will be someone they can work with.”

The industry-friendly concession on preserving insurers’ right to gender bias is part of the Senate’s Reid-Nelson compromise, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

That duo has left Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, calling for changes to the Senate filibuster rule that she said makes it possible for one senator–such as Nebraska’s Nelson or now Massachusetts’ Brown–to block legislation and appointments.

“How can we be in this position where we are constantly fighting to prevent further restrictions?” Smeal said.

Insurance companies claim that higher overall average costs for women’s health care justify the practice but women’s advocates call it discriminatory.

Women pay up to 48 percent more for health insurance than men, Smeal said.

Bills Restrict Abortion Access

The House and Senate health care reform bills, now undergoing reconciliation in Washington, both restrict access to abortion.

The House’s Stupak-Pitts amendment bans all coverage of abortion in insurance plans to be offered in a newly created insurance exchange.

The Senate’s Reid-Nelson compromise forbids any federal subsidy or funding to pay for abortion coverage.

Under the Senate version, women in theory could buy coverage as long as they pay for it separately with their own money. But individual states could “opt-out” and pass legislation prohibiting their insurance exchange from having plans that cover abortion at all.

Groups ranging from the YWCA to the American Medical Student Association warn that both bills create a clear incentive for health insurance plans to stop covering abortion. Currently, up to 85 percent of health insurance plans do cover these procedures.

Amid the turmoil over health care reform, Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice EMILY’s List, announced earlier this month that she is stepping down.

Stephanie Schriock, 36, a key political architect of the election of Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, will replace Malcolm, 62, on Feb. 1.

Malcolm, who founded EMILY’s List in 1985 to elect pro-choice Democratic women to office, and Schriock, who also headed the campaign of Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, could not be reached for comment on how the health care reform debate would affect the strategy of one of the largest political action committees in the nation.

Matt Burgess, an Emily’s List spokesperson, told Women’s eNews that Malcolm will continue serving the organization as chairwoman of the board.

Malcolm, who has served for 25 years, announced the search for a new president in July 2009 on the EMILY’s List Web site.

Three Male Lawmakers to Blame

In a Dec. 20, 2009, e-mail–forwarded to Women’s eNews by Burgess–Malcolm blamed “the fiasco around abortion coverage in health care reform” on the general male-domination of Congress and three male lawmakers in particular: Stupak, Nelson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, who heads the smallest minority party since 1979 but nevertheless has managed to keep his 40-member caucus unified in its opposition to health care reform.

“Our elected women are the ones who fought long and hard to defeat the Stupak-Nelson forces in Congress,” Malcolm wrote.

Seventeen percent of lawmakers in Congress are women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.

During interviews with Women’s eNews, pro-choice leaders leveled no criticism at Democratic female lawmakers, although Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the House, admitted in published reports that she had given in to abortion opponents in her party to save the health care reform bill.

NOW’s O’Neill expressed doubt about the ability of the two-party system to protect women.

The Republicans are implacably opposed to women achieving our rights and the other party knows we have no place to go,” she said.

The Feminist Majority’s Smeal said she wants closer scrutiny of the Catholic bishops for ignoring restrictions on political activism by a tax-exempt religious institution.

Catholic Bishops Exert Pressure

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it would fight any health care reform bill that did not contain restrictions on abortion. The bishops told priests across the country to talk about the legislation at all masses, to include the anti-choice information in more than 19,000 parish bulletins and to mobilize parishioners to contact Congress.

The bishops also repeatedly visited the offices of members of Congress, Smeal said. She urged Congress members “to get the same backbone” the Washington, D.C., City Council showed when it refused to bow to pressure from the bishops over the legalization of gay marriage.

“We are supposed to have a separation of church and state,” Smeal said. “Religion should not dictate. There are the mullahs in Iran and the bishops here.”

“The Catholic community led by their bishops must make their voice heard in the public square,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Women’s eNews in response to Smeal’s criticism. “Anything short of that would be to abdicate their responsibility as citizens and Catholics. The bishops defend the weak and defenseless. Someone has to. All U.S. citizens ought to. Health care reform is about saving lives, not taking them.”

Walsh did not respond to questions about the possible violation of the bishop conference’s tax-exempt status.

For more information:

EMILY’s List
Feminist Majority Foundation
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Organization for Womenhttp://www.now.org

Game Change? Well, This (Political) Junkie May Have Shot-up for the Last Time

Dear Readers,

Here’s my first column of the New Year on Huffington Post, located both on the national politics page and as the featured post on the Chicago page:


Let me know your thoughts.


Ben Nelson is My New Hero: At Least He Has the Courage of His Convictions

Dear Readers,

Here’s my take on the debacle in the Senate: Go to today’s Huffington Post Politics: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-sive/ben-nelson-is-my-new-hero_b_396445.html

After you’ve read it, just think where we might be had the women Senators had the gumption to stand up and say: This bill doesn’t work for the women of America: We are writing one that does and will sign no other.

Here is the full text of my post:

In my memo to the Democratic women members of Congress the other day, (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-sive), I noted that since:

1) not a single male member of the House or Senate has stood-up and said that insuring equitable access to women’s reproductive health care, including access to abortion, is requisite to healthcare reform, and that since

2) the President has said nothing, nada, zilch, about the fundamental
sex discrimination inherent in Nelson/Stupak-type legislation, nor about its deleterious effect on women’s health,

these women should gather together, and walk over to the White House and say:

It’s time to start over with this so-called healthcare bill. We’re not buying your Hobson’s Choice and neither are the women of America. We know who we represent, and we’re here to fight for them. And we won’t leave, not a single one of us, until this fight is over, and we have won a healthcare bill that actually recognizes the healthcare needs of American women.

Sadly for the women of America, this hasn’t happened.

Instead, in the week since I suggested this strategy, the Senate’s discussion of its healthcare bill has devolved from farce to tragedy, from public policy discussion to an insider traders’ deal-making session, in which female and male Senators alike are trading-out the lives of American women for the sake of re-election and keeping their corporate donors happy.

Here’s the proof: The public option is gone; the Medicare opt-in for middle-aged Americans who can’t get private insurance is gone; and there is negotiation of a “compromise” on abortion, which, since Senator Nelson has already rejected its first iteration, is about to go from really, really bad to really, really worse. (See: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/12/17/nelson-rejects-abortion-compromise-senate-health-care.)

Meanwhile, not a single Democratic woman Senator, not one, has stood-up, in this week since Senator Nelson’s anti-abortion bill was defeated, and said to him: Enough already. Your bill was defeated. Our side won. Your side lost. Women’s equal access to reproductive healthcare will be a part of the Senate healthcare bill because we will insist on it until it’s done.

Not one of the Democratic women Senators has said, to paraphrase David Axelrod’s comments of Thursday morning: “[The healthcare bill] should be about [women] who need help.”
(See: http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/1209/w_h_dont_do_it_d0a1ab20-1fcf-4921-93e2-be6213056590.html)

Not one has said: At least half the American people needing help are women, and so far the Senate’s bill isn’t giving them the help they need. We won’t vote for any bill until it includes that help.

Meanwhile, here’s what Senator Nelson said this week about his approach to the healthcare bill: “There isn’t any real way to move away from your principle on abortion.” (See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/11/AR2009121103455.html)

Now there’s someone to respect. He’s got the courage of his convictions. He actually has a position of principle from which he won’t budge. He has a principle, based on his moral beliefs, that guides the political decisions he makes.

What a concept.

On the other hand, here’s what Senator Boxer said on the same day: “What I’m after is the status quo.” (See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/11/AR2009121103455.html)

And what might that status quo be? Well, it is the “Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits the federal government from paying for abortions for poor women covered by Medicaid.

Talk about tragedy: The best we can get is a Democratic woman Senator advocating for second-class citizenship for her poorer sisters.

But wait, there’s more. Another scene in this week’s tragedy is the one where the Senators dropped the public option.

It’s bad enough that Senator Lieberman held the nation hostage to his personal political agenda, but the real problem on the public-option front is that the lack of any sort of public option, including an opt-in to Medicare, is another slam at women: Here are the facts: Women live longer, so they need healthcare longer; women take better care of themselves, so they seek healthcare services more frequently; by and large, women are poorer than men; so, they need the public option more than men do.

Not a whisper about this either from any of the women Senators.

And then there’s the scene in (this) tragedy in which the leader declaims his (bogus) call for 60 votes to pass his bill. A majority is all that’s needed to pass any bill. So, why does Harry Reid say he needs 60? Well, so he and his band of merry pranksters can avoid the unpleasantness of a filibuster.

I ask you: So what if the Republicans filibuster: History and the American people are not on their side. Why should the Democratic Senators be–by virtue of their willingness to dumb-down their bill to get a filibuster-proof majority?

Not a single Democratic woman Senator has stood up and said to Harry Reid that this bill you want 60 votes for won’t work for the women of America. Let’s go back to the drawing boards, and then, if the Republicans filibuster, so-be-it; they’re still in-the wrong, but, unlike them, we’ve done the right thing, and we’re willing to (keep) fighting for it. In fact, we’ll filibuster right back, if that’s what it takes.

If the bottom line in all this is that we won’t be getting healthcare reform, but we might be getting healthcare finance reform, is it too much to ask that the Democratic women members of the House and Senate insist on eliminating any kind of two-tiered system for paying for abortions—one for the rich and one for the poor. Is it too much to ask that they say to do otherwise isn’t reform of any kind; it’s the same bad business as usual and we won’t have it?

I can understand someone who believes abortion is wrong and must be prohibited under all circumstances; hence, my respect for Senator Nelson. What I don’t understand is women who are complicit in the use of government power to deny their poorer sisters access to the healthcare they, the richer sisters, get. This looks like what we used to call in the 70s “identifying with the oppressor.” It’s still a very bad idea.

So, here’s this week’s talking point for the Democratic women Senators:

Have the courage of your convictions: Stand-up, and say what Ben Nelson said: “There isn’t any real way to move away from your principle on abortion, (and we won’t).”


White Men Can’t Jump: The Rep. Stupak Edition

Dear Readers,

Here is the latest call-to-action from Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood.

Please read, and take part. And, if you are in Washington, D.C. on December 2nd, there will be a major rally at The Capitol; see below for details.

Don’t let the anti-choice Stupak amendment become law.

You’re furious, and we hear you. Tens of thousands of Planned Parenthood supporters have expressed disappointment, sadness, and anger since the House adopted the anti-choice Stupak abortion ban to its health care reform bill.

Believe me, I’m just as angry as you are. And I want to take the outrage that supporters of women’s health are feeling and turn it into action. If we join together, we can still stop the Stupak ban and other efforts to undermine choice. The first step is simple, but it will be effective: sign our petition to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and Speaker Pelosi.

If the Stupak ban becomes law, it will outlaw private abortion coverage for millions of women and prohibit coverage in the public option. That means that millions of women who currently have abortion coverage will lose it — and millions more will be locked out of the comprehensive coverage they have long deserved, even if they are paying for the entire cost out of pocket. It will be the most far-reaching restriction of abortion access in decades. We have to stop it now.

Take action to stop the Stupak ban before it’s too late. Click here to sign our petition:

When you speak out, lawmakers listen. [Last] Sunday, I asked Planned Parenthood supporters to contact President Obama and ask him to stand up for women — and more than 30,000 of you answered the call. The next day, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to women’s health and stated plainly that Congress must pass a health care reform bill that does not impose any further restrictions on women’s ability to choose a health plan that meets all of their health care needs, including abortion care.

Now, our focus turns to the Senate. We are demanding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ensure that language similar to the Stupak ban does not become part of the Senate bill. Help us make it clear that the Senate must protect women’s access to complete reproductive care, including abortion.

Those of us who support women’s health and right to choose must come together and demand that women be treated fairly under health care reform. We need to tell our leaders — including President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and Speaker Pelosi — that women must decide for themselves what kind of insurance coverage they can buy and what kind of health care they need.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Please, sign our petition right now:
http://www.ppaction.org/campaign/future/ii5n38i2p77k37xd?source=hcr09foc_e1_ppol — and know that this is just the first step in what will surely be a long fight for women’s health.

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to ask you for help again and again. And on December 2, thousands of supporters will gather at the Capitol to speak with one voice and tell our
leaders: health care reform must protect access to abortion coverage. I hope you’ll stand with us, today and throughout this crucial campaign.

(C)2009 Planned Parenthood(R) Federation of America, Inc.