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.

Reconsider Decision about Playoff Games on Shabbat

— Annette Powers

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) recently denied the Robert M. Beren Academy of Houston’s request to reschedule semi-final basketball playoff game start times, which conflict with the Jewish Sabbath. In response, the URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs sent TAPPS the following letter:

On behalf of the more than 900 congregations of the Union for Reform Judaism and 1.5 million Reform Jews across North America, I write to strongly encourage the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) to allow the Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school located in Houston, to compete in the semi-finals of the statewide boys’ basketball tournament for private and parochial schools.

As you are well aware, the accomplishment of winning their regional game gives the Beren Academy basketball team the right to compete in the semi-finals, which are currently scheduled for Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3. These games are to be played during the Jewish Sabbath, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar.

The TAPPS Athletic Regulations concerning playoffs states that the date and time of regional, semi-final and final games can be changed only by the action of the TAPPS Executive Board. Asking the Beren Academy team to choose between observing their faith and participating in a game which they have rightfully qualified for sends the message that TAPPS values the religious convictions of Beren Academy less than other member schools.

Mr. Burleson, I hope you understand the principle at stake here. What message would be sent to these scholar/athletes if they were forced to choose between their faith and their athletic goals? And what a powerful message TAPPS could send by finding an accommodation which would allow Beren to compete. Only the later choice would be true to our shared American heritage of religious freedom.

Allowing Beren to compete would be a slam dunk.

Reform Movement Welcomes Court Striking Down Prop. 8

— Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Jonathan Stein, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

We commend the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. While the decision is narrow, it is nonetheless an important step forward in the achievement of marriage equality. As the purveyor of civil marriage, government should embrace an inclusive definition of marriage that establishes equality for all couples, regardless of the sex of the people involved.

Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who can still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, including the opportunity to marry, because of their identity.

We welcome today’s ruling and move forward with renewed resolve as we work toward the day when all Americans will be able to marry the person that they love.

Reform Movement to Komen on Defunding of Planned Parenthood


Though the Komen Foundation announced that it would award no new contracts to Planned Parenthood clinics, Brinker denied that Komen was actually “defunding” Planned Parenthood, a technical point based on the fact that a few grants have yet to expire.

This afternoon, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Marla Feldman, Executive Director of the Women of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Ambassador Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

We urge you to use your leadership in Komen for the Cure to reinstate funding to PPFA for breast cancer screening, to reconsider the standard by which the organization makes funding decisions, and to continue to fight for the health and lives of women everywhere.

The full text of the letter follows the jump.

Dear Ambassador Brinker,

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 1800 Reform rabbis, and the Women of Reform Judaism, which represents more than 65,000 women in nearly 500 women’s groups in North America and around the world, we write to express our disappointment in Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to halt its longstanding partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, thereby withholding funds to fight breast cancer where they are most needed.

Komen for the Cure has helped hundreds of thousands of women in the fight against breast cancer, and has educated millions, bringing the once taboo and closeted subject of breast cancer into the public domain. Indeed, the global impact that you and Komen for the Cure have had was precisely why we were so pleased to bestow upon you the Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award at our recent Biennial convention. And this is why we are so deeply disappointed by Komen’s decision to cease funding mammograms provided by PPFA in the face of a politically-motivated investigation unrelated to PPFA’s breast cancer screenings for vulnerable women.

At the same December Biennial, the Women of Reform Judaism honored PPFA President Cecile Richards and applauded PPFA’s work to advance women’s health. It is painful for us now to see politics and partisanship interfere with and undermine efforts to support women who lack the resources they need for preventive medical services like mammograms. Each year Planned Parenthood’s network of more than 800 clinics nationwide provides nearly 830,000 breast exams. PPFA has stated that, over the past five years, 170,000 of the centers’ 4 million breast exams conducted were a direct result of Komen grants. Halting Komen grant money to PPFA is contrary to your organization’s mission and interests, directly and unfairly threatening the health and safety of women.

Upon accepting the Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award, you told the story of two women, one Palestinian and one Israeli, marching together to combat breast cancer in the first Race for the Cure in Israel. You explained with admiration that, in the course of the walk, they were able to forget the political climate that divided them and they bonded instead over the common cause of women’s health. We now urge Komen to follow their example by rejecting efforts to sow division among women’s health advocates and providers and refusing to sacrifice the lives of women on the altar of political ideology.

We understand that this funding decision comes from a new standard employed by Komen for the Cure that defunds organizations under government investigation. While we understand the desire to have an objective policy in place, this particular standard is misguided, threatening more than just grants to PPFA. We believe there are less partisan ways to accomplish your goals. For example, a standard that is linked to investigations carried out by law enforcement is more likely to be free of partisanship. The standard that Komen has established allows Komen’s funding decisions to be dictated by the political whims, partisanship and pet issues of individual members of Congress, who persuade their committees to launch an investigation.  This new standard may appear to extricate Komen from politicization, yet in reality it leaves the group open to even greater politicization.

We urge you to use your leadership in Komen for the Cure to reinstate funding to PPFA for breast cancer screening, to reconsider the standard by which the organization makes funding decisions, and to continue to fight for the health and lives of women everywhere.

We look forward to your prompt reply.

Sincerely,
s
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Marla Feldman, Executive Director of the Women of Reform Judaism

Sad Day For The Atlanta Jewish Community

Atlanta Jewish Times proposed assassination of the President of the United States of America.


— by Annette Powers

The leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) uniformly and vehemently denounces the column penned by Atlanta Jewish Times Publisher Andrew Adler. In a bizarre missive that referenced Alice in Wonderland, a Star Trek movie and fiction writer Tom Clancy, Adler laid out potential scenarios for Israel’s leadership to avoid a multilateral war, including assassination of President Barack Obama.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the URJ said:

That any publication in the United States would call for the assassination of the President is despicable. That a newspaper owner could even consider publishing this irresponsible and hateful column is beyond belief.  Worse still, Adler used the platform of this respected Jewish community paper to espouse such disrespectful language and ideas that have, sadly, become far too common in today’s political discourse.

URJ Chairman, Steve Sacks said

Aside from the monumental misjudgment by the publisher to print such inflammatory beliefs, Adler has furthermore embarrassed not only himself but his paper, his community and the larger Jewish community. His article marked a sad day for the Jewish community in Atlanta as their once vibrant newspaper has been tainted with rhetoric that serves neither Israel’s interests nor those of Atlanta’s Jews.

While welcoming the news that Mr. Adler will no longer be at the helm of the paper, Religious Action Center Director Rabbi David Saperstein said

It is not enough for the American Jewish community to only condemn this editorial in the strongest possible terms. We must reclaim the public dialogue around Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship from those who launch attacks for partisan political gain.

Video interview of Andrew Adler on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV follows the jump.

Questioning the President’s commitment to Israel

Marcel Groen— by Marcel Groen

I’ve started to notice a particular sentiment return to the Jewish community in the past few months.  Maybe you remember its last iteration from 2008, when fear mongers tried to convince us that Barack Obama wouldn’t support Israel as president.  Today, we’re hearing that President Obama is soft on Iran, that he doesn’t have Israel’s true interests at heart or that he wants Israel to give up too much at too great a cost.

But that doesn’t bother me as much as that these allegations are just plain wrong.

Some Jewish leaders have opposed a political division within the Jewish community about something both parties agree upon. Maybe they aren’t wrong; we do neither Israel nor ourselves any favor when we politicize the action of an administration that stands with Israel. Nor do we do much good when we play on the fears of our own community.

We, as Jews and lovers of Zion, must recognize how blessed we are to have a leader who shares our values and commitment to the State of Israel. Our country and the President’s administration have a lasting, unshakable and undeniable commitment to Israel and its security. We shouldn’t let anyone try to tell us otherwise.

Maybe you heard about the President’s speech to the Union of Reform Judaism’s General Assembly in December, when he kvetched about the short skirts his daughter wants to wear to her friends’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Hysterical.  But one serious thing he did was to reassure us that he will continue, as always, to stand by Israel.

He stands by Israel, which is under attack by rockets from Gaza, which sees an Iran threatening her security, and which sees an Arab Spring that brings deep uncertainty to the region.  And the President stands by Israel not just with his words, but with his deeds.

Just look at military co-operation between our two countries – it’s never been better than it is today.  The President strongly believes that the Israeli Defense Forces should maintain a qualitative military edge over those who seek to destroy it.  That’s why he made sure Israel got the vital security funding it needed to build the Iron Dome system to shoot down rockets from Gaza.

And the President has done much more.  When others tried to isolate Israel in September, President Obama strongly declared to the United Nations that he, and the United States, would always have Israel’s back. Then he did what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “badge of honor”: He blocked Palestinian attempts to get around direct negotiation with Israel and pursue statehood unilaterally.

President Obama has always opposed attempts to delegitimize Israel. He has repeatedly supported Israel’s right to negotiate with a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and pledges to forgo violence and honor previous agreements.

The President understands that a nuclear Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel and has forcefully stated so in public and private discussions with our allies. Then he backed up those words with action, signing the toughest sanctions against Iran to date, while encouraging our allies around the world to implement tougher sanctions as well.

I’m not the only one who knows that our President stands with Israel.  Israeli ambassador Michael Oren has frequently called President Obama a true friend of Israel.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly praised the President’s efforts on behalf of Israel.  And Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed those same sentiments in his speech to Congress last year.

So next time you hear someone questioning President Obama’s commitment to Israel, tell them to look at the facts. We can’t forget how lucky we are to live in a country that institutionally shares our commitment to Israel’s safety, welfare and survival. That commitment has stayed true for decades. Today, because of President Obama, it is stronger than ever.
Marcel Groen, of Warrington, is a Philadelphia attorney and chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.