Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: Reproductive Rights

This is Chapter 3 of a 3-part series on the War on Women.

Chapter 3: Reproductive Rights

Women are losing ground in many states on the reproductive rights front. Indeed, women are at risk of losing the choice of whether or not to become mothers by banning common forms of birth control, fertility treatment like in-vitro fertilization, and all abortions (even in case of rape).

Last month, the Senate voted down a bill that would have allowed employers to deny women coverage for birth control and any “objectionable” medical service, possibly even flu shots. Senators Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio’s amendment would have allowed any employer — not religious institutions, because they are already exempt — to make this call on behalf of their female employees. That means a woman’s boss at a restaurant, retail store, law firm or anywhere would have control over what health care she could receive. After an hour during which he was on the record opposed to it, Mitt Romney said, in typical flip flop fashion, “Of course I support that amendment.” Of course he does. And we can thank him for paving the way — he also said he would have supported a “personhood” amendment in Massachusetts, which could have banned abortion in any circumstance, some contraception, and even fertility treatments like IVF.

In the video on the right, Dr. Mildred Hanson explains how she and other U.S. doctors worked around the law to provide abortions before the procedure was legalized in 1973 through Roe v. Wade. We don’t want to have to go back to this.

More after the jump.

Romney and Corbett are too extreme for women
Less than a day after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett endorsed Romney, the Democratic National Committee is up with a 1-minute video highlighting his comment at a press conference that women who don’t like forced ultrasounds before receiving abortions could always “close their eyes” during it. “But women aren’t closing their eyes to Romney and the GOP’s extreme positions on women’s health,” a DNC official emails.  

Special Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: Equal Pay

This is Chapter One of a three-part series on the War on Women.

Lilly Ledbetter explains why equal pay for equal work is a civil right, and Mitt Romney should listen.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill President Obama signed into law. When asked whether Mitt Romney supports the Act, Romney’s campaign replied, “We’ll get back to you on that.”

US Gender Pay Gap By State

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Vote Tally

Chapter 1: Fighting for Equal Pay

From the very beginning of his administration, President Obama has worked to ensure that women are paid fairly for their work. The President is committed to securing equal pay for equal work because it’s a matter of fair play, and because American families and the health of our nation’s economy depends on it.  April 17 was Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the average woman still has to work well into the calendar year to earn what the average man earned last year.

In conjunction with Equal Pay Day:

  • The White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report:  Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace.  The Equal Pay Task Force brings together the best expertise of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, who work daily to combat pay discrimination in the workplace.  The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all.
  • Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the winners of the Equal Pay App Challenge.  In January of this year, the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge, inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that accomplish at least one of the following goals:  provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring or to help inform negotiations.  A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information — e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay — is limited.  Because of the enthusiastic response to the Equal Pay App Challenge and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer can access answers to these basic, but important, questions.  This challenge represents just one more way that women can empower themselves with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.  
  • Finally, in an ongoing effort to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s equal pay laws, the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau today published two brochures that will help educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations.

From signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to creating the National Equal Pay Task Force, to proposing minimum wage and overtime protections for home-care workers – 90% of whom are women – President Obama has made clear his belief that there should be no second class citizens in our workplaces and that making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone.

If only women had a coupon like this, they wouldn’t suffer from the wage gap!

Presidential Proclamation follows the jump.
Presidential Proclamation of National Equal Pay Day

Working women power America’s economy and sustain our middle class. For millions of families across our country, women’s wages mean food on the table, decent medical care, and timely mortgage payments. Yet, in 2010 — 47 years after
President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — women who worked full-time earned only 77 percent of what their male counterparts did. The pay gap was even greater for African
American and Latina women, with African American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man. National Equal Pay Day represents
the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.

At a time when families across our country are struggling to make ends meet, ensuring a fair wage for all parents is more important than ever. Women are breadwinners in a growing number of families, and women’s earnings play an increasingly important role in families’ incomes. For them, fair pay is even more than a basic right — it is an economic necessity.

That is why my Administration is committed to securing equal pay for equal work. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill I signed as President, empowers women to recover wages lost to discrimination by extending the time period in which an employee can file a claim. In 2010, I was proud to create the National Equal Pay Task Force to identify and combat equal pay violations. The Task Force has helped women recover millions in lost wages, built collaborative training programs that educate employees about their rights and inform employers of their obligations, and facilitated an unprecedented level of inter-agency coordination to improve enforcement of equal pay laws.

Working women are at the heart of an America built to last. Equal pay will strengthen our families, grow our economy, and enable the best ideas and boldest innovations to flourish — regardless of the innovator’s gender. On National Equal Pay Day, let us resolve to become a Nation that values the contributions of our daughters as much as those of our sons, denies them no opportunity, and sets no limits on their dreams.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 17, 2012, as National Equal Pay Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize the full value of women’s skills and their significant contributions to the labor force, acknowledge the injustice of wage discrimination, and join efforts to achieve equal pay.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

— BARACK OBAMA

Special Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: VAWA

What do the 31 Republican Senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act all have in common?

This is Chapter Three of a three-part series on the War on Women.

Chapter 3: The Violence Against Women Act

On April 26, the United States Senate passed S. 1925, a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), by a vote of 68 to 31. S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), ensures a continued federal government response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking while making significant improvements to the law. To celebrate the passage of this critical legislation, Jewish Women International (JWI) Executive Director Lori Weinstein released the following statement:

The Violence Against Women Act is a historic law that has benefited millions of women across the country. Today, the Senate passed a strong, bipartisan reauthorization bill and sent a strong message to victims of violence throughout the country: You are not forgotten. This bill not only continues VAWA’s successful programs and services for another five years but also improves access to services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and immigrant victims, and gives American Indian women equal access to justice.

For the last two years, JWI has worked closely with our colleagues on the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women and our allies on Capitol Hill to pass a reauthorization bill that strengthens and improves VAWA. After today’s victory, we turn our attention to the House of Representatives and call on them to renew and strengthen this lifesaving legislation in a bipartisan manner.

Barbara Weinstein, Legislative Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Since its enactment in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been an invaluable tool for preventing, investigating, and prosecuting violent crimes targeting women. Studies have shown that incidents of domestic violence have decreased as more women report attacks and law enforcement has improved its investigation and prosecution of the crimes.

The bipartisan Senate vote reauthorizing VAWA will help continue this trend, providing better tools to train law enforcement and victim service providers, focus attention on addressing the high rate of violence in the tribal and LGBT communities, and redirect funds to the most effective programs.

Even as Maimonides reminded men of the imperative to treat women with honor and respect (Sefer Nashim 15:19), our Jewish sages recognized that violence comes in forms that are both physical and emotional.  The Violence Against Women Act helps prevent and respond to such tragedies when they occur and is worthy of reauthorization. We call on the House to follow the Senate’s lead and swiftly pass the Violence Against Women Act.

 

Special Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: Introduction

Viral Music Video That Every Women (and Man) Should Watch

The video Bad Romance: Women’s Suffrage is Soomo Publishing’s moving music video parody of Lady Gaga. The video pays homage to Alice Paul and the generations of brave women who joined together in the fight to pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in 1920. (See Lyrics)

This Sunday is Mother’s Day when we honor the women in our lives.

However, in politics, the place of women can not be taken for granted. Just as our matriarchs fought for Women’s suffrage a hundred years ago, we must continue to fight to ensure the women in our lives the same rights that men enjoy.

Today, the gender war is being fought at a fevered pitch. As I see it there is action on at least three fronts:

  • Women made gains on the front for pay equality.
  • Women held off an assault on the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Women are losing ground in many states on the reproductive rights front.

Indeed, women are at risk of losing the choice of whether or not to become mothers by banning common forms of birth control, fertility treatment like in-vitro fertilization, and all abortions (even in case of rape).

Over the days leading up to Mother’s Day, we will publish a series of report showing the progress women are achieving and the setbacks women are contending with on each front.

Reform Jewish Leader Criticizes One-Sided Contraception Hearings

Rabbi David Saperstein: “The government has a compelling interest of the first order in ensuring that all individuals are able to access necessary services.”

— Sean Thibault or Katharine Nasielski

Bishop William Lori, representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, testified at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Relations Hearing entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”  In it, he analogized the government mandate that most employers must cover birth control, without co-pay, to a hypothetical situation in which a kosher restaurant would be mandated to include pork on the menu because of its health benefits. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement in response:


Today, an all male ‘witness’ panel was allowed to speak at the GOP’s hearing examining the Obama administration’s new regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to employees. When Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was presented to testify on behalf of the Minority, she was shown the door. She would have been the only female voice speaking on behalf of the millions of women who support access to birth control. Here is the basis of her testimony, had she been allowed to speak.

Bishop Lori chose to use a vivid and unusual analogy between religious employers providing comprehensive health care coverage to their employees and kosher delis being forced by government to sell pork on the grounds that pork is good for you.  While I appreciate the humor and creativity of this analogy that sought to raise important issues of balancing free exercise of religion against other compelling government interests, picturesque analogies are not always the most effective or accurate.  Unfortunately, this analogy is flawed in ways that obscure rather than illuminate the important moral, religious and legal issues involved.

First, the government’s interests in the functioning of the health care system  are manifestly far greater than mandating stores sell a particular healthy food, pork or otherwise, and the analogy unintentionally trivializes the need to ensure all Americans have access to quality healthcare in a manner that does not discriminate against women. Indeed, every individual partakes of the health care system at some point in his or her life – whether it is in the process of birth, death or points in-between. That care is paid for by the individual or the public; either directly or through some form of private or public insurance. As such, the government has a compelling interest of the first order in ensuring that all individuals are able to access necessary services. In contrast, no one needs to eat in a particular restaurant and no one needs to eat one particular form of (assumed) healthy food, pork or otherwise.

More after the jump.


When pulling together a panel for a Congressional hearing on birth control, wouldn’t you think it would have at least one woman on it? Come on! This is what Rep. Darrell Issa, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, said when turning away the sole female voice that would have been heard:

“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”

Second, Bishop Lori’s argument also fails to distinguish for-profit consumer relationships from employer-employee relations.  The Supreme Court has long upheld a broad range of government regulation, including religious employers, health and safety requirements, requirements to pay into social security (which was upheld by the Supreme Court over employer’s religious objections in United States v. Lee), bans on a number of forms of discrimination (again with some accommodation of religious free exercise) and requirements that employers accommodate the religious practices of its employees, unless doing so would cause “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”  This is quite different than the government trying to regulate what foods a restaurant must provide to its customers, where there is a much lower government interest and no well-settled pattern of government regulation.

Third, Bishop Lori’s analogy compares the limited religious exemption for kosher caterers allied with synagogues with the broad exemption that the Obama Administration has now established that would protect the religious conscience of employers with moral objections to contraceptive coverage. Not only will a church, synagogue or other house of worship, parochial school, or missionizing group not be required to include contraception in its health plan, but now religiously affiliated entities, such as church affiliated hospitals, social service entities and universities, will also be exempt from providing the coverage, under the compromise announced last Friday. This compromise was praised by Sister Carol Keehan, President of Catholic Health Services, who said she was “pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection” was accomplished. What Bishop Lori did not elucidate was the moral basis for the Church to oppose the government providing millions of women with basic health care services, services that ironically will cut significantly unwarranted pregnancies and attendant abortions.

Finally, the attention to Bishop Lori’s analogy should not obscure the greatest flaw of these hearings. The House Oversight Committee did not allow witnesses opposed to the church’s position to testify and, among the witnesses who testified, not a single one was a woman. Is diverse representative discourse not the point of Congressional hearings?  Does the committee so lack confidence in the free marketplace of ideas that is at the core of our democratic system of government?  I urge the committee to convene hearings that can truly debate the important issues involved. As someone who believes in ensuring both access to contraception for all women and the robust protection of religious autonomy, it seems clear that the fundamental rights of all women and the fundamental rights of religious conscience deserve no less.

Obama’s New Contraception Plan: OU Labels It Kosher


Friday, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America — the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization — welcomed President Obama’s announcement that he is revising the regulation announced on January 20 by the Dept. of Health and Human Services regarding employers’ health insurance plans and religiously affiliated institutions.

The Orthodox Union criticized the previous regulation as being harmful to religious liberty and disturbingly defining religious entities that serve or employ people of other faith as undeserving of religious liberty protection.

Under the revised rule, no nonprofit, religious institutional employer that objects to providing contraceptives and sterilization services will have to pay for or provide coverage for it.   The plan rightly recognizes that the government must not force religious communities to pay for or provide services forbidden by their faith.  Also, no objecting religious employer will be required to make referrals for services to which they object.  This will remove any burden upon the religious liberty of these employers.  At the same time, employees of objecting religious hospitals, universities, and social service agencies will have access to these important benefits directly from insurers.

Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy, issued the following statement:

The Orthodox Union welcomes President Obama’s announcement today revising the recent regulation regarding religious institutions and health services for women.

According to the White House description of the revised rule, the new regulation will resolve the religious liberty concerns and respects the interests of Americans who would like to have these health benefits.

We commend the President and his advisers for responding to the deep concerns regarding America’s first freedom of religious liberty expressed by our organization and so many others.   We thank the White House officials with whom we discussed this critical issue – as recently as yesterday – for their attention and action.  The President’s stated commitment is a positive first step forward, the details of implementation are crucial and we look forward to working with the Administration to see that through.

Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know About Mitt Romney


Pro-life mailer sent by Romney campaign to Iowa voters


Ron Paul (R-TX) & Mitt Romney (R-MA) laugh during break at debate Jan. 23. Photo: Chris O’Meara (AP)

(NJDC) Below are ten documented things every American Jew should know about former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney; follow the links to view supporting materials.

  1. Romney emphasized recently that he would defund Planned Parenthood, and that his would “be a pro-life presidency.”
  2. Questions linger surrounding the Iran-tainted assets of Romney’s charity, even as President Obama places unprecedented pressure on Iran.
  3. With each passing month, Romney has disagreed more and more with the scientific consensus regarding global climate change.
  4. Romney vehemently opposed the President’s contraception compromise, which will ensure that women’s preventive services are widely available while addressing religious liberty concerns. This compromise was praised by groups ranging from the Catholic Health Association to the Orthodox Union.
  5. During nationally-televised debates, Romney has engaged in outright lies surrounding the President’s record on Israel, and he uses Israel as a partisan wedge issue whenever possible.
  6. While 76% of Jews support gay marriage and even more support gay rights, Romney doesn’t just oppose gay marriage — he has chosen to engage in gay-baiting rhetoric in front of conservative crowds.
  7. Romney told CNN, “yes, I would vote for” the anti-Israel Ron Paul for president if Paul were to become the GOP nominee.
  8. Romney’s flip-flops are legendary; for example, he supported key elements of the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate — but he now promises to dismantle it.
  9. Romney is no moderate, at least not now. By his own description, he’s “severely conservative.”
  10. As the front page of The Washington Post has recently noted, Romney has formed a “strategic partnership” with the anti-Israel Ron Paul.