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Fri Apr 10, 2015 at 11:34 AM PDT

Stand Up For Abortion Rights!

by ershaffer

The Senate faces a shining opportunity next week to break from Congress' reflexive votes to discriminate against women, and to reclaim leadership for covering abortion care for all women regardless of their income, source of insurance, or where they live.  

The issue is H.R. 2, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House just before the March recess.  It offers a compromise on the long unpopular but seemingly intractable Medicare formula for paying doctors. Delay in the Senate threatens a 20% pay cut for the MDs!  (Sound familiar?) And the bill would extend funding for children's health insurance and community health centers.

But H.R. 2 also includes the Hyde amendment, banning federal funds for abortion.  Including at community health centers.  This funding ban has been included in appropriations bills for decades. "It's pretty much chiseled in stone," according to the NY Times' Gail Collins.  Does putting Congress on the record for extending this discrimination for another 2 years make really make things any worse?

Yes. It's increasingly clear that sticking with the status quo is an open door to retreat.  In March, the abortion funding restriction showed up in a Senate bill intended to protect the victims of sex-trade trafficking.  This past week, Indiana recovered from national revulsion against an anti-LGBT law by handing down a 20-year jail sentence to Purvi Patel, claiming that her miscarriage constituted "feticide."  We are way beyond irony here.

The primary victims of the Hyde restrictions are low-income women and their families, and people of color, who are 5 times more likely to experience unintended pregnancies and childbirths, and are increasingly caught in the vise of state and federal laws constraining access to safe, legal abortions, as well as reduced social and financial support for families.  Leaders and advocates for vulnerable communities will be stronger for unifying our shared interests in children's health insurance, community health centers, fair Medicare reimbursement policies, and abortion rights and reproductive justice.

It is long past time for our leaders to make the positive case for equitable coverage, as H.R. 2 heads to the Senate for a vote. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has said, this is "one battle that we can win... I see it as standing up for principle. And you know principle doesn't know minority and majority; principle is deeply held."

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Hobby Lobby today announced that although it is a corporation, it does indeed have a religion: Boko Haram.  While its Christian owners have argued before the Supreme Court to assert their right to deny insurance coverage for 4 types of birth control on the basis of the corporation's religious beliefs, the Corporation itself has so far been silent on its actual religious affiliation.

"With so many of our successful practices under attack around the globe this month, we felt it was time to speak publicly in defense of our faith.  From the abduction of the Nigerian school girls, to legislation in Missouri and Louisiana to strip abortion providers of their right to practice, and Sen. Lindsey Graham's bill in Congress to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when low-income women and women with medical abnormalities are most likely to need them, our staunch doctrine of assuring the long-term, structural subservience of women has been making enormous strides.

"The firing of Jill Abramson for her 'brusque' management style as NY Times editor, to be replaced by the man who had responded entirely appropriately to her by punching a hole in the wall at the Times, was simply more than we could have hoped for.

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Does the extreme right sound like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland?

Please see the new 1-minute pilot video from the Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign to kick start our campaign to push back on the anti-rights movement and ramp up effective support for women’s reproductive rights: http://bit.ly/...
- and spread the word!

You can also sign there to protest Hobby Lobby's arguments at the Supreme Court on Tues. March 25 against covering contraception - share and galvanize your friends and family:

Stop the Madness  Hobby Lobby: Invading Our Most Intimate Spaces with Fake Science

Attacks on access to birth control and abortion are straight out of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland – they’re out of touch, and off the deep end.

Legislators who are proudly ignorant about women's anatomy and biology have been having a wild party setting new standards in government intrusion into our bodies.

On Tuesday, March 25, the Supreme Court will hear from two corporations that claim they have a legal right to exclude 4 kinds of birth control from their employees' health insurance coverage.

They claim their they have this right because the corporations have a religious conscience, a novel claim.

The corporations do cover birth control pills, and many other contraceptives. Scientists know that 2 of the 4 forms of birth control the corporations want to exclude - Ella and Plan B - work exactly the same way as birth control pills: by blocking ovulation. The corporations say that these drugs cause abortions.  There is no scientific basis for this belief.

Is it really 2014?

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Silence equals death.

California AIDS activists taught the world the power of plain and direct talk about gender bias and sexuality to save lives.

The ability to control whether and when to have a child are key to the physical, social and economic health of women and families, and access to legal, safe and affordable birth control and abortion are essential to guarantee that ability.

Currently, a barrage of extreme and punitive laws restricting these rights are streaming out of state legislatures and the House of Representatives.  These shockingly offensive departures from the American mainstream demand bolder leadership by our elected officials, and concerted organizing by pro-rights advocates that engages and mobilizes the majority of the American public who are appalled by these assaults but will otherwise remain stunned into silence.   Polling and politics as usual are not turning the tide.  

Draconian restrictions on facilities that provide abortions in Texas have reduced their number from 44 in 2011 to 24 today. The number is expected to drop to 6 by September. Reports are already surfacing from Texas of women returning to desperate -- and deadly -- measures of self-abortions, like coat hangers and bleach.

Part of the problem is that the health consequences of the attacks are graphically real but have been surgically isolated to the most vulnerable in our society, by income, race and education. Unintended pregnancies and unplanned births are 5 to 6 times higher among women with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and also higher for women of color and those without a high school degree.  

The odious Hyde Amendment, a congressional measure, prohibits federal funding for abortions. 35 states choose not to supplement Medicaid with state funds for abortions.


But its insidious effects extend to California. Although we use public funds to pay for abortions, and a range of family planning services, California's rate of unintended pregnancy is among the highest in the nation, on par with Mississippi and New York.
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It matters what the City of San Francisco says.  Our policies and practices are as good as it gets in the U.S. in 2014 regarding family planning services, including abortion and birth control. We need to talk about it.

The City should remove the anti-abortion banners now displayed on public lamp posts on San Francisco's Market Street, that proclaim the lie that "Abortion Hurts Women."

Democracy depends on an educated, informed and engaged population.  It's the responsibility of government to promote tolerance, equality and accuracy. Aiding and abetting the perpetuation of ignorant and harmful beliefs, based on information that is demonstrably false, and that mischaracterize others by their personal characteristics or life choices is a betrayal and an abdication of that responsibility.  

Panel discussion and art exhibit 4Choice on Tues. Jan. 7

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The deadly tobacco industry increasingly deploys trade charges intended to bludgeon countries from Uruguay to Australia into abandoning policies that keep kids from getting addicted, and help smokers quit, as well documented in today's NY Times.

The U.S. Trade Representative should fix this problem during negotiations on the proposed 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  But stalemates in U.S. trade policy are perpetuating this obvious injustice.  

Trade ministers derive priority status within governments based largely in outdated beliefs that they will magically conjure prosperity by conspiring in secret, allegedly to eliminate trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas which in fact have long go been substantially reduced.  The predominant business of agreements like the TPP is actually reducing "technical barriers" to trade - that is, democratically adopted laws and regulations that protect the public's health, environment, labor standards, and financial transactions.

In the secretive, rarified world of trade negotiations, even when public health succeeds in getting a proposal to the negotiating table on an issue like tobacco, it is subject to be traded away at any moment by a trade minister who views it primarily as a bargaining chip for deals on more important concerns, like sugar, cars, or financial derivatives.

The Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH) has systematically documented how tobacco industry trade challenges threaten public health's rights to implement tobacco control measures. Medical and public health leaders in the U.S. and worldwide have echoed the call to "carve out" tobacco from trade agreements.  

Malaysia presented a carve-out proposal at TPP talks in August, The USTR has advanced two increasingly weak compromises. Legal analysis from Georgetown [R. Stumberg, Safeguards for Tobacco Control: Options for the TPPA.  America Journal of Law and Medicine, 39 (213); 382-441] has confirmed in irrefutable detail that compromises short of a "carve out" would be virtually ineffective.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide, claiming 6.3 million deaths a year, including 1,200 Americans daily, and draining almost $200 billion a year in U.S. health care costs and lost productivity. Tobacco is barely a blip in the U.S. economy, and less than a fraction of a percent of our exports.

But the tobacco industry has made it clear that it will oppose any restriction on its rights to continue to appropriate trade rules. They've bought a box seat to the hermetically sealed, secretive trade negotiations, and the solid complicity of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Public health has no such advantages.  Interestingly, though, we have the truth.  And in this possibly unusual case, the truth is increasingly difficult to ignore.

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Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 09:04 AM PST

Getting to Single Payer from Here

by ershaffer

Turns out there's a problem with relying on market-driven competition to control the cost of health care:  It doesn't work!  To fix unaffordably high deductibles and co-pays in the Obamacare health insurance Exchanges (premiums could be lower too), some suggest more market forces (e.g., New England Journal:The ACA and High-Deductible Insurance — Strategies for Sharpening a Blunt Instrument).  Better idea: California is perfectly poised to leverage the situation by taking the obvious next step towards a single payer system (a goal for 2017): authorize the elected Insurance Commissioner to set the prices of the health insurance plans. The Exchanges have already whittled down the insurance plans to a few left standing, and the law has set compulsory enrollment, and standardized benefits. Setting a public authority to chop insurance co. rates and profits gets pretty close to the role health insurance plans already now play in Medicare, as third party administrators. The legislation's been introduced and almost passed several times.  (It works, and no alliances needed with the reactionary Repeal brigade.)

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Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 11:03 PM PST

Cuccinelli Lost. I'm Not Celebrating

by ershaffer

This Neanderthal downright anti-woman sonnofa got 1,008,109 votes. That's 45% of Virginia voters. Are there vast pockets of the state that are entirely uninhabited by women? Or anyone who ever had a favorable impression of a woman? He pioneered distorting regulations in order to close abortion clinics, opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, opposed the Violence Against Women Act, and worked to defund Planned Parenthood. He should not be able to show his face in public. What messages are we failing to get to the voters of Virginia? Time to get to work.

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The U.S. has a rare opportunity this week to rein in the tobacco industry, and assert its mandate to protect and save lives, while proudly exercising cross-border diplomacy. The U.S. Trade Representative should accept a proposal to carve protections for Big Tobacco out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the U.S.  

Americans generally like breathing smoke-free at bars, restaurants, offices, airplanes and elevators. The tobacco industry has noticed, and they're not happy about it. Under present trade rules, predatory tobacco corporations have new global rights to challenge important tobacco control laws and regulations in the U.S. and elsewhere that help people quit smoking, and keep kids from getting addicted, like a ban on clove cigarettes, and limitations on advertising. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the U.S., would perpetuate and extend these trade rules and their threats to health.

Malaysia's Chief Negotiator last week proposed the only effective solution: carve out tobacco control regulations and laws, and also remove tobacco products, from being covered by the TPP.

CPATH and important medical and public health allies have applauded Malaysia's carve out proposal. On Sunday, Sept. 1, the NY Times editorial board stated their support.
 

But tobacco is highly addictive, and as a result, highly profitable. Industry defenders are rushing to insist that the U.S. should develop an alternative proposal, and bring it back to the negotiating table. In fact, just such a proposal developed by the U.S. in August was deemed by local legislators as virtually ineffective.

The TPP negotiators will meet in Washington, D.C., starting on Sept. 8, and again later in the month. After almost four years of talks, the 12 TPP countries have reportedly made only partial progress on key issues.  Acknowledging countries' rights to adopt their own domestic regulations on tobacco is one issue where the U.S. shoud gracefully demonstrate statesmanship by concurring with Malaysia's carve-out proposal, and move on to other topics.

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Sat May 04, 2013 at 06:00 AM PDT

Free Barack Obama!!!

by ershaffer

Time to reprise and rewrite the rousing 1990s anthem, "Free Nelson Mandela."

There is convincing evidence that President Obama is being held hostage while intermittently impersonated by a clone who operates under the code name Bizarro Barack.  Would the real POTUS cut Social Security benefits, and block access to birth control? You decide!!!

At a November 12, 2012. meeting at the White House, the real President clearly told seniors and labor groups that he would not support including Social Security benefit cuts in a budget agreement to replace the “fiscal cliff.”

But Bizaaro Barack is proposing to cut Social Security benefits, as part of a budget agreement - when in reality Social Security is funded completely separately from the "unified" federal budget and is solvent through 2033!!

On birth control, the real President assured Planned Parenthood and the National Academy of Socience that no longer would politics triumph over science.  But scant hours later, Bizarro Barack seized the FDA and Department of Justice. which took action to block access to emergency contraception, overruling a decade of scientific findings!!!  Go here to demand that we hear again from the Free Barack Obama: http://trustwomen.civicactions.org/...

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Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 06:26 AM PST

The Zipless Election of 2012

by ershaffer

2012 was a zipless election. Although the public was demonstrably present for the experience, somehow we didn't feel completely engaged.

It seemed to morph into a contest between dirty tricks and voter suppression tactics on one side, countered by techno wizardry and micro-sampling of key voters in swing states on the other. As a result, while celebrating  big wins for progressives, women, and people of color, and some clear policy victories, we're left feeling stunned as much as euphoric.

We need to find new ways to create and sustain civic engagement that cross the lines between Tahrir Square, the town hall meeting, and Twitter, to feel like we've won the policy debates that we actually have, on taxing the wealthy and protecting reproductive rights, and to take on the entrenched interests blocking progress on the big issues that lie ahead.  

Some encouraging clues from the cyber campaign: It helped that the polling was remarkably deft. Finally, someone figured out how to frame a question about the right to abortion that gauged and activated the power of this issue to motivate women voters positively. It made sense to reach out to people in beauty parlors and barber shops as well as likely voters with landline phones.

Voters responded most to hearing directly from people they perceived as being like themselves, and who created a bond of accountability about the intention to vote. In other words, Organizing 101 still applies.  Group identity and personal relationships do influence how we think and vote, and ultimately our policies.

The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign is launching initiatives that blend cyber solidarity with our presence in the public square. For the 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., the TWSR coalition will offer an online campaign. And on January 26, 2013, we'll Celebrate Women, Life and Liberty in San Francisco.

For a good time, call, click or email.

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Let's hear it for Martha Raddatz, the brilliantly skillful moderator of the vice-presidential debate.She got a clear yes from Rep. Paul Ryan to this question:  "If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?"

But first, the wind up, and the pitch:

"This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

"Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country, please talk personally about this, if you could.."

The vice presidential candidates, both Catholics, were both entirely candid.

Vice President Joe Biden: "I do not believe that we have a right to tell women that they can't control their body." As an elected official, he would not impose his own personal religious beliefs on others.

Rep. Paul Ryan stated he believes that life begins at conception, and referred to his wife's pregnancy of 7 weeks as an example. He stated that he opposes abortion under any circumstances.  

He said that the policy of the Romney administration would be "to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."He did not say that they would oppose federal funding for abortion, which is present law.  He said the policy would be "to oppose abortions."

"Exceptions" do not make care accessible. They serve mostly to stigmatize reproductive health care.  

The Hyde amendment currently does not allow any federal funds to be used to pay for an abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or threats to the life of mother

There are about 32,000 pregnancies a year as a result of rape.

In 2006 only 85 abortions were paid for with federal funds.

However, Rep. Ryan does not support coverage even in the cases of the exceptions he mentioned.  He was a co-sponsor of HR 3, which would not use federal funds for abortion even in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.

Again. Martha
RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RYAN: We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.

Ryan means to suggests that the decisions about abortion should not be made by unelected judges, but should be decided at state level.  During 2011 and 2012, state legislatures have dramatically ramped up cutbacks on access to all forms of reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion. In fact, though, the Supreme Court did and will make decisions about abortion.  And the President appoints the Justices.

Contribute to the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women and to our partners to keep fighting for reproductive health, rights and justice.

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