Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clash Over Contraceptives

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the contraceptives amendment (the Blunt Amendment) which was curiously added to a highway bill. On one side of the issue are pro-choice groups, represented mostly by the Democrats, and on the other are social conservatives and Catholic clergy, represented mostly by the Republicans. Public opinion on the matter is more or less split down the middle with 45 to 48 percent of adults agreeing with religious leaders.

Mitt Romney initially said he was against the bill before retracting the statement and claiming that he misunderstood the question. His spokeswoman clarified, stating the Romney supports the bill and believes in a conscience exemption. President Obama's campaign quickly stated that Romney's remarks "showed why women don't trust him for one minute." I certainly don't because of his stance on women's health and women's issues, not to mention his appearance borders on the Uncanny Valley.

Critics of the bill say that the language is too broad and could allow for any employer to restrict access to any treatment they object to, as if restricting access to birth control wasn't bad enough. President Obama suggested a compromise wherein religious institutions would not be required to provide no-cost contraceptives, passing the cost on to the insurers. In addition to the Blunt Amendment, seven states along with Catholic groups have sued the federal government for allegedly violating the right to religious freedom.

I can't quite see why this would be a violation of religious freedom. No one is forcing anyone take anything they don't want to take. If you believe birth control is wrong, don't take it. But freedom means you can't restrict someone else's rights.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Ultrasound Bills

It seems that Virginia started a trend among anti-choice politicians. The Virginia Bill was signed into law today and already more states are cooking up their own versions. Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Illinois either have already passed laws or are deliberating on laws to force mandatory ultrasounds on women seeking abortions. Its not surprising to me that anti-choice groups are pushing unnecessary and costly procedures onto women seeking abortions. What is surprising is that these laws are being passed despite overwhelming protest from the states' constituents. A survey of Illinois voters showed that only 33% of voters supported the bill.

Zach Wichmann of the Catholic Conference defends the bill, stating that it is merely ensuring informed since an ultrasound are a necessary part of an abortion. I may be wrong here, but it seems if it were necessary it would be standard procedure, making any law requiring it redundant. Not to mention the fact that the law dictates that a woman must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound to have her abortion, putting an extra burden on women who had to travel from a rural area or another state to find a clinic. I can see no need for this bill unless your goal is to manipulate women and restrict their options.

Washington Governor Apologizes for Not Supporting Gay Marriage Sooner

Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington discusses her struggle with the gay marriage issue in a recent interview. Gregoire says her Catholic faith caused her to be conflicted on the issue. "I apologize that it took me so long. I feel better about my head and my heart than I have in seven years. But it took me time. I regret that it took me that much time, but it just did."

During her term as State Attorney General, Gregoire supported the same-sex marriage ban. Her first experience with doubting that stance came when she was working on anti-bullying. She discovered that bullying that was centered on sexual orientation was more likely to end in school violence or suicide. While working on hate crime issues, she found that most hate crimes were sexual-orientation-related.

As Governor, she saw the passing of an anti-discrimination bill, then a domestic partnership bill. Listening to members of PFLAG and thoughtful, open discussions with her daughter further convinced her. Now she says that she feels better in her heart and her head than she has in years. Welcome to the club, Governor Gregoire!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Women Less Likely to Seek Treatment for Heart Attack

A new study shows that women are likely to delay treatment for heart attacks. In fact, many never make it to the hospital. This may be partly due to the fact that women seldom have the classic heart attack symptoms. Instead of chest pains, most women experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, and back and jaw pain. Of those women who do experience chest pains and pressure, they may be inclined to not take their symptoms seriously. Patients who don't experience the classic chest pain symptom, such as women below 55, are more than twice as likely to die. In lieu of this indicator, women who experience sudden and extreme fatigue should be mindful that they are danger of having a heart attack. Doctors also recommend keeping a close eye on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Some Good News

The Maryland Senate voted on Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor O'Malley has pledged to sign the bill into law. This seems to indicate that the fight for equal marriage rights is gaining some momentum. Six states and D.C already allow for same-sex marriage and five have civil unions.

"There's no question that with so many Americans having changed their minds and opened their hearts as they've heard the stories of real couples and thought about why marriage matters, we now have tremendous momentum towards ending marriage discrimination," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry.

Another bright spot on the horizon is that the Personhood bill of Virginia was essentially table for another year. The bill defines life as beginning at conception. Its opponents say that it would be a pre-cursor to outlawing abortion. Also on Thursday, Virginia's revised ultrasound bill was approved by the Senate Panel. It previously forced women to have ultrasounds via vaginal probe prior to an abortion, now it forces women to have ultasounds prior to an abortion. Not sure if that one should go in the win or loose column.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birth Control Testimony Silenced Again

Sandra Fluke was the only female witness scheduled for the Republican hearing on birth control last week, but Committee Chairman Darrell Issa would not allow her to testify. On Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee would meet to hear Fluke's testimony. However, the Committee was denied use of the House Recording Studio by Republican House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungen, thereby preventing Fluke's testimony from being aired. This goes against a longstanding policy that has allowed such hearings to be broadcasted.

The Huffington Post obtained Fluke's testimony and made it available to the public. The testimony is quite moving. In it, Fluke discusses the devastating economic impact of having to pay for birth control out of pocket. She also highlights how the impact is even graver when the birth control is prescribed for conditions polysistic ovarian syndrome, as was the case for one of Fluke's friends. Both are students at Georgetown which means contraceptives are not covered in their student insurance. The friend could no longer afford to pay $100 a month for birth control and was forced to stop taking it. It wasn't long before a cyst ruptured on her ovary and doctor's removed the ovary.

Fluke also takes Congress to task for minimalizing the cost of birth control and putting the responsibility of providing birth control onto non-profit clinics while simultaneously cutting the funding of those same clinics.

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional

On Wednesday, Judge Jeffery White ruled in favor of Karen Golinski who was suing for the right to have her wife covered by her insurance. The couple were married in 2008 when gay marriage was legal in California. Judge White's decision was based on his belief that the Defense Against Marriage Act "without substantial justification or rational basis, refus[es] to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse." He goes on to say that the law "treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation."

Judge White is the second judge to find DOMA unconstitutional since President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announced they would no longer defend the law. Also, earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Prop. 8, which made same-sex marriages illegal in California, was also unconstitutional. With this type of momentum, we may see the issue come before the Supreme Court soon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

VA Governor Reverses Position on Abortion Bill

Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia issued a press release stating that he no longer supports the bill which would make an ultrasound via vaginal probe a prerequisite for having an abortion. This change of heart comes after intense criticism of the bill from women's health groups and the public at large. Many have equated the forced vaginal probe with rape and it seems the Governor is beginning to see their point.

"Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure," Governor McDonnell stated in his release.

Prior to the national uproar, the staunchly pro-life Governor McDonnell openly supported the bill, saying that it was a "sure thing" as far as he was concerned. This reversal could be at least partly due to the fact that McDonnell's name has been floated for Vice President and signing off on a massively unpopular bill would surely block such an opportunity.

The House of Delegates passed a revised version of the bill which still requires a (non-invasive) ultrasound. The amended bill will now pass back to the Senate for a vote.

Turning the Tide

As a working woman and a feminist, I find it irritating when every household cleaner is shamelessly targeted to women. Dust mops who stalk the housewife after she "dumped" it, women dancing around with floor cleaners as if they were the most liberating thing to come along since the 19th Amendment. It may seem like a minor thing to be irritated about but commercials and pop culture in general are reflections of a society's widely held values. Commercials such as these are just reminders that after a long day of your boss screaming at you, being on your feet, enduring countless toddler tantrums, or being stuck in commuter traffic for hours, women are still expected to keep the house clean and prepare dinner for her clan.

This is why the latest series of Tide commercials have me tickled pink.

Here we have a stay-at-home dad discussing his laundry strategy. Just as he's celebrating the fact that having a quality detergent will eventually lead to more "me" time, his daughter approaches and asks him to braid her hair.

Finally, an ad campaign that reflects the actual day-to-day reality of family life. And what is even better, the stay-at-home dad is not an anomaly of men doing laundry. Several other commercials show men folding laundry along with their wives. Furthermore, when women are discussing their laundry, they aren't depicted as the Super Mom, they are women lounging around in their yoga pants or discussing how their little girl prefers hoodies and cargo shorts to pink dresses. All in all, this ad campaign earns a gold star from me.