Disturbing Oppression of Women in Republican Circles

UPDATE: By the way, MomsRising sent out a petition this morning asking Congress to include the real experts on birth control — women and mothers — to be representative on any future panel. -Elisa

Once again, I find myself shaking my head and feeling powerless at the arrogance displayed by certain Republican and male-centric religious circles towards women. I am so sick of reading posts by even Democratic men saying that President Obama should have sought advice from “real” Catholics — er men — like Joe Biden and Bob Casey regarding the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act rather than “women who happen to be Catholic” like Kathleen Sebelius or a nun who is an advisor.

Basically, the implication is that women should have no say regarding any policies around birth control and that we should leave it up to the men to decide for us. No where else was this more obvious than a House Republican-led hearing yesterday, in which female witnesses were barred from testifying. From Think Progress:

Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had asked (Republican Rep. Darrell) Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but the Chairman refused, arguing that “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.”

And so Cummings, along with the Democratic women on the panel, took their request to the hearing room, demanding that Issa consider the testimony of a female college student. But the California congressman insisted that the hearing should focus on the rules’ alleged infringement on “religious liberty,” not contraception coverage, and denied the request. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”

Wow. What about our rights, including that of religious women, to be heard? Should our opinions — our health and mental well-being — not play into this rule at all? Who are the women sleeping with these men? Yikes!

In related news, Oklahoma Senate passed a “personhood bill”, declaring life at conception and rendering abortion illegal. The interesting note about this story is that the chamber tabled an amendment that would have equally considered sperm sacred.

The Personhood Act, Senate Bill 1433, received international attention in the wake of a proposed amendment from Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Holdenville. The amendment said it was an act against unborn children for men to waste sperm.

“A lot of people thought that I was being facetious with my amendment in committee, and it was humorous and it has gotten international response,” Johnson said to her fellow senators.

“But I was serious as a heart attack. It wasn’t until I used the biological and scientific references to those functions that somebody heard it. Maybe nobody in this chamber gets it but somebody heard that all we’re asking for is for this conversation to include both individuals that are necessary to bring life about.”

Johnson, whose amendment was tabled, said she is sick of legislation that pries into the private lives of women with no mention of the men who are co-actors in the process of conception.

The double standard here is so blatant. War on women, anyone?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Let’s call this the social media open thread. I do a lot of outreach on social media for work, and have gotten to know many other exceptional bloggers because of it. I want to draw your attention to the new category in our blogroll: “Special Needs.”

If you have a blog and are not in our blogroll, please let me know. I’d love to add you. Also, in case you missed it, MotherTalkers has a closed Facebook page just for us. Please join if you want to be part of our Facebook conversations!

Also, I was wondering how many of you were on Twitter? I’d love to follow you. You can find me at ElisaBatista. Thanks all!

In disturbing news: Topeka, Kansas is considering decriminalizing domestic violence in order to save money, according to Think Progress. Yikes.

Also, the title of this story is provocative, but the message is poignant: at the end of the day will watching Chaz Bono on Dancing With the Stars have an effect on our children’s future? No. But inhaling mercury in our air will.

If you can stand it, more despicable news: Republicans are blatantly trying to suppress Democratic votes in the upcoming election — working class, poor, college students and racial minorities — by limiting voting times and mandating photo i.d. with the vote, according to the New York Times. Two interesting facts from that editorial is that many poor people don’t have government issued photo i.d.s like driver’s licenses, and there is no evidence that voter fraud even exists. The people who claim it have not presented any proof. Ugh.

One more: here is an update on the sad fallout of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, according to America’s Voice blog. Even Latinos who are U.S. citizens are leaving the state because of racial profiling. The scary thing is this law — known in Latino circles as “Juan Crow” — is the strictest in the nation, and another state in the deep south plans to follow suit: Mississippi.

A silver lining in an otherwise gloomy news cycle: this past Columbus Day, students in New York City spent a day at the Occupy Wall Street protests with their parents, according to the New York Times. Have you attended any of the protests? How about your kids?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Republicans Don’t Want College Students to Vote

In an effort to dampen voter turnout, Republican legislators in New Hampshire are introducing bills barring certain college students from voting and ending same-day voter registration, according to the Washington Post.

As someone who voted in her first election at the age of 18 as a New Hampshire resident, I have a lot to say to NH Speaker William O’Brien who was caught on tape at a Tea Party rally:

“Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.”

What a bunch of condescending bullshit. For the record, in my very first election, I helped elect New Hampshire’s first woman governor, Jeanne Shaheen, who is now a democratic senator for the state. And yes, I do have life experience and pay taxes, and no, I have not grown more conservative with age. I am proud to say that I have voted in every single midterm and presidential election as a DEMOCRAT. So take that William O’Brien!

Hopefully there is a lesson here for our youth: voting is not a right to be taken for granted!


Born Equal

Editor’s Note: Once again, I caught an essay that piqued my interest. This one is on the ramifications of changing the 14th Amendment to strip the children of undocumented immigrants of their American citizenship. First Focus’s Wendy Cervantes gave me a lot to think about this issue. Without further ado, I will let Wendy tell it. -Elisa

By Wendy Cervantes

The 112th Congress has yet to start, and already certain Republican legislators are making promises to end birthright citizenship for U.S.-born children of immigrants. Over the past few months, we were hopeful that the call for a repeal of the 14th Amendment was slipping off Congressional radar. However, with a freshly empowered post-election GOP, the issue of birthright citizenship has resurfaced with a vengeance, and we’re rightfully concerned—not just for the children of immigrants, but for all children born in the United States.

To give you a better sense of how the law is interpreted today, let’s start with a brief history lesson. Ratified by Congress in 1868, the first section of the 14th Amendment, also known as the Citizenship Clause within the U.S. Constitution, states that “all persons born or naturalized“ in the United States are considered citizens. At the time, the Citizenship Clause within the 14th Amendment reversed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision which had previously denied citizenship to all U.S. born children of slaves. Nearly 30 years later in 1898, the language of the Citizenship Clause was tested again in the Supreme Court, United States v. Wong Kim Ark. The court’s ruling in Wong Kim Ark concluded that children of immigrants born on U.S. soil were also entitled to citizenship under the 14th Amendment.

As you can see, both American history and legal interpretation demonstrate that the 14th amendment has been an important facet to safeguarding civil rights, and a beacon of hope against past and present discrimination against children of color. Any type of repeal of birthright citizenship would actually mark the first time that the U.S. Constitution was amended to limit civil rights rather than to protect them. With that said, none of this has stopped local and federal legislators from attempting to do so. Currently there are 15 states that have announced plans or legislation to deny citizenship to children of immigrants.

Something that isn’t talked about regularly when it comes to the potential repeal of the 14th Amendment is the widespread effects that it will have on all families, not just those of undocumented immigrants. Currently, a U.S. birth certificate is the most common document used to prove one’s citizenship. However, because the U.S. does not have a national registry of all citizens, all American families would need to navigate a complex system in order to prove their child’s citizenship. Considering that 13 million adults have trouble producing sufficient proof of their citizenship, there is no doubt that this would be a particularly challenging process for all families.

Ultimately, by upholding the protections to our children’s inalienable rights within the 14th Amendment we can ensure the all children born and raised within the United Sates can achieve their full potential. To allow any policymaker to dismantle these protections is not only backwardly minded, but would be detrimental to all children in families across our nation.

For a more detailed look at the 14th Amendment and children’s rights we encourage you to read our new fact sheet: “All Children Born Equal: Preserving Birthright Citizenship for America’s Children“. Additionally, visit both the Immigration Policy Center and Migration Policy Institute for further resources on this issue.

Wendy Cervantes is the vice president of immigration and child rights policy at First Focus. First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. You can support First Focus’s mission or learn more about it at Facebook and Twitter.


Should the Children of Politicians Be Off-Limits?

Normally, I’d say yes, but this Huffington Post piece gave me pause.

I had an “aha!” moment, when Huffington Post columnist Keli Goff covered two disturbing articles in Gawker on California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s two adult sons, who have been kicked out of prep schools, among other places, for assault and even a racial incident. Not only has Whitman settled with a subordinate who she was accused of shoving, but I remember being really put off by her anti-illegal immigrant ads in the Republican primary because they came off as very anti-Latino. It made me uncomfortable.

Anyways, I saw Goff’s article as evidence of a pattern of racism in Whitman’s family. But for the purposes of this article, Goff made a compelling case for instances in which it should be okay to cover a politician’s family. The obvious cases are when politicians use their families as props, or run on their record as a parent.

While I was initially hesitant to write about them at all, since yes, I know they are not the ones running for office, I thought about it and wondered why I shouldn’t. Don’t they represent one of Whitman’s most significant contributions to the world, as does the child of any person? Also since Whitman cited her investment of time and energy in raising her children as being the primary reason she didn’t register to vote until she had nearly reached the half-century mark (an egregious example of using your family as a political shield that should make feminists of all political parties shudder) then why isn’t assessing how well her investment turned out, fair game? Furthermore, if Whitman has been accused of having temperament issues in the workplace and her children are accused of having temperament issues as adults as well, doesn’t that raise questions about her leadership skills at work and home?

Obviously no person is perfect and no family is perfect (me and mine included) and we shouldn’t expect them to be, but here’s my question. If we hold elected officials accountable when their policies fail other people’s children, then why shouldn’t we hold them accountable when their parenting skills fail their own?

To those who think that the media has no business ever covering the children (adult or otherwise) of candidates, I ask this: If a candidate opposes gun control, and his own child accidentally shoots another child while playing, are we supposed to have a hands-off mentality, because the child did not run for office? Or, if an elected official argues that abstinence only is the most effective form of sexual education for kids, but then her child proves this to be false through an unplanned pregnancy, is the media supposed to operate with blinders? What about if a candidate campaigns on his tough-on-crime credentials but when his adult son is accused of sexual assault, uses his resources to make sure junior gets the kind of blind justice only money can buy? Does the media have a responsibility to do the right thing by not covering such stories?

I agree with Goff 100 percent. However, putting on my reporter’s hat here, I think it is important to distinguish between covering a child for the sake of it — think of cruel Saturday Night Live jokes about Chelsea Clinton — and reporting on the hypocrisy of a politician. I don’t think the children of politicians should be covered in and of itself as a story. But if they commit a crime and get off easy because of their parents, or behave in a way that is antithetical to their parent’s platform, then they are fair game as far as I am concerned.

Under the latter, I would cover Sarah Palin who ran on a platform that included abstinence education. As for the former, I would certainly mention Jeb Bush, whose daughter, Noelle, was jailed for two measly days on a drug charge, which is nothing compared to the many young people who were locked up for years under the watch of her father’s administration for similar offenses. And, yes, I would include Whitman’s sons — although is this hypocrisy or just coincidence? — who Gawker covered here and here.

Also, I don’t think it is a coincidence or unfair that all these children happen to be the sons and daughters of prominent Republicans. It seems to me that if you are going to run on a platform of “family values,” then you are just begging for this kind of scrutiny.

What say you? Are politico’s children fair game when it comes to media coverage?  


Iowa GOP senator’s miracle cure for special-needs children

Just teach them how to read in kindergarten and first grade. Then they won’t be “identified” by the state as having special needs.

No, really, that’s what Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley said in a meeting on Tuesday with journalists from the Des Moines Register.


Q: You know that special education is a federally mandated program and not a program that the state can step away from. But there are other programs that we can step away from such as voluntary pre-school for all four year olds?

McKinley: But they are identified by the state. They identify special Ed students and they have a bounty system which rewards for more special Ed kids. If we taught them how to read in kindergarten and first grade, they would not be identified and we would save $200 to $300 million a year.

Q: So what you want to see us do is reduce the number of kids in special education?

McKinley: I want to see us teach kids how to read.

Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan let McKinley have it: “It’s really disappointing to hear an Iowa Senator demean those kids and their families by suggesting that teaching reading earlier would somehow address all of their issues.”

I’m astounded that McKinley seems to believe special-needs children simply weren’t taught to read well enough. Many kids with special needs can read. Some kids on the autism spectrum are even advanced readers, or are gifted in some other area (“twice exceptional” children). Reading doesn’t make their learning disabilities or other difficulties disappear.

If McKinley thinks the state of Iowa artificially inflates the number of special-needs children to secure more funding, how does he imagine parents fit in with this scheme?

I have friends raising children on the autism spectrum, as well as friends whose children have genetic defects, were exposed to drugs in utero or were abused and neglected as infants. My friends could assure the Republican senator that no bounty-hunting bureaucrat invented their child’s condition.

In the real world, parents have fought for schools to accommodate their special-needs children. Some of these parents will be outraged by the implication that their kids just need reading lessons.

Incidentally, at least one autism blog has already linked to the story about McKinley’s remarks (hat tip IowaHedge).

A final note on pre-school funding. McKinley sidestepped the question in his meeting with the Des Moines Register, but some Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate and State Representative Chris Rants, want to eliminate the program that allows thousands of four-year-olds to attend pre-school. Expanding access to pre-school is important for typical-needs kids, but may be even more valuable for children with developmental delays. Earlier diagnosis means earlier intervention and for some children, better long-term prospects. Without state assistance, many of these families could not afford pre-school. Without pre-school, these children might enter kindergarten further behind their peers.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread, including your own stories about clueless Republicans.


Senate Unveils Healthcare Proposal

Maybe I am being naive, but I was delighted to see the U.S. Senate unveil a healthcare plan that not only includes a public option and looks like it will cover 31 million more Americans, but also cut the deficit. It will save the federal government money, something sought out by the undecided conservative Democrats.

From the New York Times:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said at an evening news conference that the legislation, embodying President Obama’s signature domestic initiative, would impose new regulations on insurers, extend coverage to 31 million people who currently do not have any and add new benefits to Medicare.

Mr. Reid said the bill, despite a price tag of $848 billion over 10 years, would reduce projected budget deficits by $130 billion over a decade because the costs would be more than offset by new taxes and fees and by reductions in the growth of Medicare.

Democrats expressed confidence that they would have the votes needed to move forward when the legislation hits its first test in the Senate, probably later this week. To get past that first procedural hurdle, Mr. Reid will need the votes of all 58 Democratic senators and the two independents aligned with them.

According to the Times, the plan will be paid for by an increase in the Medicare payroll tax on high-income people and a new excise tax on high-cost “Cadillac health plans” offered by employers to their employees.

Republicans have said they will fight the plan. Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch has declared a “holy war” on the plan. I, for one, am ready to fight. What about you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I have been glued to C-SPAN watching the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings. I know the Republicans would jump all over this, but as a Puerto Rican I am pretty damn proud to see her on TV. I am irked her opposition is choosing to downplay her impressive record as a judge, lawyer, not to mention her academic credentials at Princeton. But I understand it comes with the territory as the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment. Still, I smile every time I see her on TV.

Sorry for the paltry post. Rather than write, I chose to hang out with Erin and her family yesterday. It is always good to see them.

What’s up with you?


Republicans Want To Change Social Studies in Texas

This is outrageous. Socially conservative Republicans want to change the social studies curriculum in Texas to give less attention to historical figures like labor leader César Chávez and U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

From the Dallas Morning News:

“To have César Chávez listed next to Ben Franklin” – as in the current standards – “is ludicrous,” wrote evangelical minister Peter Marshall, one of six experts advising the state as it develops new curriculum standards for social studies classes and textbooks. David Barton, president of Aledo-based WallBuilders, said in his review that Chávez, a Hispanic labor leader, “lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others.”

Marshall also questioned whether Thurgood Marshall, who argued the landmark case that resulted in school desegregation and was the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, should be presented to Texas students as an important historical figure. He wrote that the late justice is “not a strong enough example” of such a figure.

The recommendations are part of a long process as the State Board of Education prepares to write new social studies curriculum standards for public schools. Debate on the issue, which will also include questions of the role of religion in public life, could be as intense as that on new science standards that were adopted by the board in March, when evolution was a major flashpoint.

The social studies requirements will remain in place for the next decade, dictating what is taught in government, history and other social studies classes in all elementary and secondary schools. The standards also will be used to write textbooks and develop state tests for students.

Other proposed changes include renaming the “democratic” process of governing to the “republican” one. Ugh.


“Hunger can be a positive motivator”

So says a Republican state representative in Missouri who doesn’t want to expand a lunch program to feed kids when they’re out of school.

   Why have meals at home with your loved ones if you can go to the government soup kitchen and get one for free? This could have the effect of breaking apart more families.

   Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals?

   Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.

   Families may economize by choosing to not waste hard earned dollars on potato chips, ice cream, or Twinkies. Perhaps some families will buy more beans and chicken and less sweets.

   They are using a “crisis” to create an expansion of a government program. Parents naturally love their children and enjoy caring for their children just as much as ever during an economic downturn…Laid off parents could adapt by preparing more home cooked meals rather than going out to eat.

Yeah, nothing says fake “crisis” like rising child hunger during an economic recession. Come on, kids, get a job!

P.S. This devoid-of-compassion woman, Cynthia Davis, chairs the Missouri House Special Standing Committee on Children and Families.

P.P.S. She’s wrong about McDonald’s–they don’t feed their employees for free.

P.P.S.S. Even if she were right, a daily diet of McDonald’s wouldn’t be advisable for malnourished teens.