One of the memes coming out of this Republican Convention is the notion that because Sarah Palin is a woman, women will support her candidacy. I decided to take a look at the things she’s accomplished as governor to see if she’d done anything in particular to advance the status or health of women and children in her state. What I found was not good news; rather than be a leading advocate for women, she seems to have ignored the issues dear to many women’s hearts.
First, I went to look at statistics on crimes that affect women. I found that Alaska is by far the worst state in terms of the number of rapes committed. This table shows national statistics from 2005 and 2006 for several types of crimes. The national average of “forcible rapes” per 100,000 population is around 31. In Alaska, that number is 76. That’s right: 76, more than twice the national average.
And according to this chart from the Department of Health and Human Services, Alaska is 6th in the nation in its rate of child abuse and neglect. The national average rate of child abuse/neglect is 12.1 incidents per 100,000 children; Alaska’s rate is 19.2. Again, this would seem to be a crisis, but she has been silent on these issues since becoming governor.
To be perfectly clear, Sarah Palin wasn’t governor when these statistics were collected, nor am I holding her responsible in any way for them. What I am saying is that FBI crime statistics show that her state has a terrible problem. She knew this when she became governor. What has she done about it? What measures has she fought for? What law enforcement changes has she suggested?
She did sign a bill reauthorizing the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in early 2007. She made April, 2008 Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Alaska. She also used the high rape rate as a justification for more funding for law enforcement, without actually proposing any specific programs or initiatives.
That appears to be it–signing a bill the legislature brought to her, and a bunch of hot air about an “awareness month.” It doesn’t look like she has spent much political capital on family issues of any sort. Look at her responses to this questionnaire prior to her election as governor–there’s nothing here about women’s issues. Her most important goals with respect to family issues are as follows:
12. In relationship to families, what are your top three priorities if elected governor?
Sarah Palin: 1) Creating an atmosphere where parents feel welcome to choose the venues of education for their children; 2) Preserving the definition of “marriage“ as defined in our constitution, and 3) Cracking down on the things that harm family life: gangs, drug use, and infringement of our liberties including attacks on our 2nd Amendment rights.
Translation: school choice, no gay marriage, gun rights. That’s her top three “family issues,” when the state was in a rape and child abuse crisis.
We know one other thing: she slashed funds for a pregnant teen halfway house by 22%. Here’s the actual page of the budget with her initials signaling the funding cut.
We also know that she is adamantly anti-choice, voicing a belief that abortion is only acceptable in the case of a pregnancy endangering the life of the mother. No exception for rape or incest, even when the rape rate in her state is astronomical, and statistics show around 25 % of rapes result in pregnancies.
In my view, Sarah Palin is not paying attention to essential issues in her state with regard to the well-being of children and women. Her “femaleness” alone should not be enough to get votes from women in this election.