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In Iowa, Is The Debt To Society Ever Paid?

Iowa Supreme Court photo 2013 No seats have been replaced since then

Iowa Supreme Court photo 2013 No seats have been replaced since then

Iowa Supreme Court Says No.

The Iowa Supreme Court Thursday offered a fine example of the consequences that elections have over the long haul when they handed down their decision on convicted felons losing their voting rights.. Consider this a mini example of what could happen decades into the future if Donald Trump were elected as president of the United States at a time when there will be one SCOTUS seat open for sure with a good possibility of three more opening soon.

The Iowa Supreme Court carved out a special niche in the hearts of a majority of the country in 2009 when they ruled that not allowing gay people to get married was unconstitutional. The decision was unanimous. However, the religious right was storming mad. Led by Bob Vander Plaats, the religious right vowed to oust those justices who were up for retention in the 2010 election.

In what has become a really bad pattern, Republicans dominated the 2010 midterm elections. As they vowed, the religious right removed three of the justices who made gay marriage legal in Iowa. Those seats would be filled through the normal process of nomination by the governor and confirmation by the senate.

The election of 2010 also returned Terry Branstad to the governor’s mansion after years. This was a quite different Terry Branstad than had governed before. Much more in the tea bag wing of the Republican party. With the justices turned out, one of Branstad’s first tasks was to replace the justices ousted by voters in that election.

Here we are five years after Branstad was able to remake the court. Thursday in the case deciding whether any convicted felon should ever get their vote back once they have paid their debt to society or whether once a person is convicted of a felony they lose their voting rights forever except upon appeal to the governor.

By what appears to be essentially a party line vote Justices Cady, Zager, Mansfield and Waterman – all appointed by Branstad – voted to keep a convicted felon from getting their vote back except on appeal to the Governor. Justices Wiggins, Hecht and Appel – appointed by Governor Vilsack – dissented.

Remember that old saw that a convicts rights were restored when they had “paid there debt to society?” Tain’t true in Iowa which along with Florida and Kentucky as the only states with such restrictive policies. This decision affects some 56,000 Iowans.

So Iowans get a reminder that elections of executives have long range consequences far beyond the term of that executive. At the national level the Supreme Court this week delivered a couple of surprising rulings dealing with Women’s health. The first was the highly publicized ruling that TRAP (targeted regulations on abortion providers) laws were unconstitutional as they fail the “undue burden” rule established in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

As surprising as that was, the next day they quietly equaled that surprise by not granting a hearing to a case from Washington state in which pharmacists refused to fill prescriptions for contraceptives because of their (the pharmacists) religious beliefs. In doing so they let stand the appeals court ruling that said they simply must do their job. Had Scalia still been alive, the case most likely would have been heard.

It is easy to look into the future and see that if a Donald Trump becomes president pretty much any advancement in women’s health and freedom since before Roe v. Wade will be on the chopping block at every turn. We believe that justices that would be nominated by President Hillary Clinton would less concerned about religion and much more concerned about what is actually in the Constitution and court precedent.

Don’t forget that Chuck Grassley stated in early May that “Trump would nominate the right kind of people to the court.” That is a statement that is easy to understand. Trump would nominate reactionary types and Grassley would be right with him.

Elections have consequences. Think carefully this fall before you vote.

Women’s Global Leadership Program – Part 2

womens global leadership programWomen’s Global Leadership Program – Part 2  – Click here to read Part 1

In March, I had the privilege to participate in the first-ever AFLCIO Women’s Global Leadership Program alongside nearly fifty other women from a broad spectrum of trade unions across the US. It was an eye opening and inspiring experience that few know takes place each year. The program I participated in ran parallel to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and participants in both events were able to join together in side panel discussions about issues relating to women’s empowerment, economic status, exploitation, access to potable water and medical care, and human trafficking. This article examines the Economic Status of Women.

No Such Thing as “Gender Neutral”

The UNCSW side panels also examined supposedly gender neutral monetary policies imposed by the IMF and WTO for disproportionately hurting women. In exchange for credit or bailouts the World Bank and other lenders exact “austerity” programs that cut vital programs like health care, welfare benefits, child care credits, and education – programs that women rely on for survival. While deregulation and lowered taxes starve government of funds for public services like public transportation and education that harm the entire population, many women are employed by these sectors. As they are cut, women also lose a source of decent work.

This scenario is not only being imposed on developing nations; it has also become the mainstay of public policy in the US, touted by both Democrat and Republican parties. We have seen draconian education cuts in Chicago shuttering schools in mainly black communities. College grants are simply unavailable or are so precarious that universities no longer offer them for incoming students. Nutrition programs are also being cut for younger children which lessens their ability to do well even in the K-12 system. Many cities have privatized their public transportation and established private charter schools, further diminishing good job opportunities for women workers and services as profits are exacted by the contractor middlemen which have replaced the unionized workforce. You can’t read your morning paper without one or another story on budget cuts.

Just this morning, my local paper reported that the county would cut jobs resulting in the end of six programs, including one that monitors lead levels in children’s blood and another program that provides breast and cervical cancer screening for poor women. This despite the widespread knowledge that early screening not only is better for overall health outcomes it is also a way for the state to avoid expensive delayed treatments.

Unfortunately, these kinds of arguments do little to dissuade the proponents of the neoliberal consensus and austerity in the US. Neoliberal models are based on the myth that there simply is not enough resources in the world, therefore some must do with less. In reality, they have created a level of global inequality that no previous king, czar, emperor, or industrialist has ever accomplished. Voltaire, who had said, “The comfort of the rich depends on an abundant supply of the poor,” would be amazed at how universally accepted the once ironic dictum has become.

The Informal Economy

Another significant barrier to the advancement of women, however, is women’s unpaid work. When we think about work, typically it is work outside the home, with the traditional boss-employee relationship that involves clocking in and out of each shift, and then getting a paycheck with taxes and other deductions taken out at the end of the week. Unpaid work, “labor that is done without direct form of compensation – includes child and elder are and household tasks, anything from cleaning and cooking to gathering basic resources like firewood and water” is dominated by women around the globe, and is not recognized as work in a neoliberal system.

Cultural norms prevail, regardless if you’re in Europe, Asia, the Americas or Africa, that dictate that mothers are primarily responsible for unpaid work like child care. Women do the cooking and cleaning, the running of errands, and care for the elders. There are exceptions of course, but because this has been seen as normal for so long, we ignore the implications of such a system. These gender norms still prevail even as more women, out of necessity or by choice, work outside the home in addition to the unpaid work in the home. The AFLCIO report points out the effects this has on women’s economic opportunities:

“The heavy and disproportionate burden of unpaid work inhibits women’s literal and figurative mobility, forecloses opportunities and reflects a deeply entrenched structural advantage enjoyed by men that transcends cultures. When women spend more hours on unpaid work, they necessarily have less time and flexibility available for market work education or leisure activities.”

Because this work is not acknowledged in the home, when it gets done by women outside the home and for others outside the family, it is devalued and remains among the lowest paid professions. Careers like nursing assistants, domestic workers like housekeepers and nannies, and home health care workers remain low-wage with very little benefits or protections. In fact, most domestic work was excluded when the National Labor Relations Act was passed and it has very little of the job protections most of us take for granted like minimum wage and overtime pay.

Despite what we all know and see to be true about the importance of unpaid work, countries do not measure or account for this in things like GDP. So for instance, even though women and girls collect water needed for nearly ¾ of households in sub-Saharan Africa, this essential task is ignored by economists as having any economic impact. It’s ridiculous when you think of it.

To undo thousands of years of cultural assumptions is no easy task. But it is possible if we first recognize unpaid work as work, then begin to measure its value in economic models and establish policies to alleviate the burden it puts on women. One way this cultural is changing is in Norway where new parents are entitled to a total of nine months paid leave, “three that can be taken by both parents together, three for each parent that are nontransferable, thus incentivizing greater parental responsibility for early child care.” Such policies have the ability to transform perceptions about what we have historically considered “women’s work”, so that women have access to greater economic fulfillment while men also get to break cultural norms and actually partake more fully in the work – and joys – of nurturing children.

Women as Labor Leaders

Another topic of discussion was the need to expand women’s participation in organized labor. Already the labor movement recognizes that the only place a woman is guaranteed equal pay for equal work is in her union. Women who are not union members earn 30% less than their union counterparts. But as unions lose power in the US, largely caused by Republican attacks against unions across the country, this outlet for women to achieve equality is diminishing in the US.

Women now comprise 44% of the US workforce, however very few women have access to union jobs outside the public sector since the service sector has proven difficult to organize under US labor law. Expanding access to collective bargaining to domestic workers, service sector workers, and other professions dominated by women is crucial to turning around this trend and increasing women’s economic and political power.

Still, even where there are unions, women remain woefully underrepresented in union leadership, occupying just 20% of top leadership positions. This not only limits the input women can have in bargaining, it also excludes issues important to women from union’s legislative priorities. Women’s leadership in unions is critical to promoting issues like raising the minimum wage, increasing access to affordable child care, and expanding access to paid medical leave.

Dangers of Co-Option

Each year, the UNCSW establishes Sustainable Development Goals on broad issues like ending violence against women or more efforts to fight human trafficking. These goals are indeed important, but they are just one part of the larger struggle for women’s equality, especially the need to support global labor unions in their efforts to organize women workers so they have a strong bargaining position against the global corporations.

Governments are known to thump their chest and exaggerate their achievements on Sustainable Development Goals, so it is the task of the women coming to the UNCSW to hold those governments accountable in holding up those commitments, even if they sometimes have to shame them to do so. UN ambassadors won’t speak about how women in their countries who have migrated from villages to work in the city factories have to sleep in shifts as they share their bed with other workers. During UN General Assembly, you won’t hear the plight of many of the women without access to shelter due to costs or unavailability who have to sleep in the streets and are more at risk of being raped. But at the side panels, the women who have traveled across the globe at great expense do talk about how women must bear their children with no fathers and who then wander the streets unattended as their mothers must continue to work in the factories.

Ambassadors are also unlikely to share the testimony of a person like Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi garment worker and union organizer who was only twelve years old when she went to work in the factory after her father had died. Working in grueling conditions, Kalpoona reported she earned as little as $6 a month for working as much as 450 hours. By the time she was a young adult she had enough. When the company refused the workers their overtime pay started to organize with her fellow workers and they went on strike. The company responded by locking up some of the strikers in a room at the factory. Not even the government, but the company owners kept them prisoner. Finally, they fired her.

Yet Kalpona won’t be diminished. She says the company made a mistake. She went from being an organizer in a plant with 1000 workers to being organizer of millions of workers across her country by founding the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. Since 80% of members of Bangladesh’s Parliament, are themselves profiting from the garment industry, it is unlikely they will be leaders to labor reforms, which is why it is so important that voices like Kalpona’s get the recognition and amplification at the UN Side Panels.

The grassroots networks at the UN Side Panels also issue “Shadow” reports that delve deeper than the government reports. Many of these shadow reports become the basis for the discussions at the side panels. The buildings where they take place are much less well-kept than the UN itself, with old drafty windows, crowded slow elevators, and sad potted plants. There is not coffee or snack for attendees. In fact, there are not even enough chairs in the rooms for the many people who come from all over the world to participate. The overflow crowd sits on the floor along the sides and back of the rooms. The most popular panels have people snaking out the doorway stretching their heads around the corner and above the crowd to try to see the speakers deliver their reports.

Some of the women who come here must fundraise throughout the year to afford the trip. Despite the many obstacles, women still come because this is the largest single event in the world where their concerns are the primary focus. And some of the women have expressed that they are worried that this, the largest meeting of women in the world, where they come and interact and build power and raise awareness, is under threat of being co-opted by neoliberal consensus that is overtaking the UN itself. This year’s UNCSW marked the inaugural meeting of the first-ever “High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment” co-chaired by the CEO IKEA Switzerland and Costa Rican President Luis Solis. It is composed of leaders from the IMF, World Bank, UN Women, other government and NGO leaders, and one token representative from the International Labor Organization.

The worry is that such a panel will further diminish the role of organized labor as a means for empowering women, instead focusing on neoliberal investment models.

While any additional concern for women’s empowerment is good, the fear is that the panel will place more efforts on business-centered efforts to create more women entrepreneurs, ignoring the direct immediate impact that strengthening women’s union organizing effect would have on working class women. “Imagine the potential economic impact it would have if the millions of potential female entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders, who are right now being airbrushed out of the picture, had the opportunity to choose their own path?” gushed Justine Greening, British MP and Conservative Party member who was appointed to the panel. No doubt we celebrate women owned businesses, however, if they operate under traditional neoliberal economic models, how will this have benefited the majority of women impoverished by such systems?

While we talk about inequality, inequality gets worse
Recent history has made it abundantly clear that economic growth at any costs is devastating to women as well as the environment. The neoliberal consensus for development as being the solution to all the world’s woes is an abject failure. If we are ever to truly empower women, to start, we need to stop governments and corporations from interfering in our rights as workers, our rights as trade unionists, and our rights to collectively bargain. Instead, we continue to witness increasing impediments to organizing, all over the world.

Women don’t need another microloan. They need full rights as workers. Both in the US an abroad. None of us can properly engage in bargaining unless we understand how the supply chain works. If we do not have a new analysis of the intersectionality of gender, race and corporate power dynamics, then we cannot build effective strategies.

If the Women’s Global Leadership Program is something your union or organization would like to participate in next year, please contact the AFLCIO to learn more, and please contact your own union’s international leadership to encourage that the first year of this program isn’t its only year.

http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:12000:0::NO:::

http://www.solidaritycenter.org/report-transforming-womens-work/

http://statusofwomendata.org/

The report makes the following recommendations for achieving sustainable economic empowerment for women workers further detailed here: http://www.solidaritycenter.org/report-transforming-womens-work/

 – Fully implement international frameworks regarding gender and economic and social rights
– Design macroeconomic policy to mobilize the maximum possible level of resources to realize women’s      economic rights and to reduce gender inequality
– Invest in physical and social infrastructure, particularly women’s human capital
– Reform trade and development policy to emphasize long-term growth and accountable business practices
– Address structural barriers to decent work and equal participation in the labor market
– Protect worker and community organizing

 

Women’s Global Leadership Program

womens global leadership programWomen’s Global Leadership Program – Part 1

In March, I had the privilege to participate in the first-ever AFLCIO Women’s Global Leadership Program alongside nearly fifty other women from a broad spectrum of trade unions across the US. It was an eye opening and inspiring experience that few know takes place each year. The program I participated in ran parallel to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and participants in both events were able to join together in side panel discussions about issues relating to women’s empowerment, economic status, exploitation, access to potable water and medical care, and human trafficking. The following article examines the Economic Status of Women.

Every year in March, global leaders and their ambassadors along with 3rd World village women converge on New York City to participate in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. And despite the fact that few know this takes place, March 2016 was its 60th year.

Many of the official meetings take place on the UN Campus, which is dominated by a gigantic skyscraper, towering above the food trucks and polluted East River, inching toward the clouds and skirted by the ubiquitous array of the flags of the world that only fly when the UN is in session. Inside, where you need a special badge to gain access, diplomats and agency heads discuss their version of our truth.

But on those days when the flag poles stand bare, women from non-governmental agencies continue to meet across the street at the UN Church Building and other less-stunning locations to provide another side of the story of the status of women. And this year, for the first time, the AFLCIO hosted a Women’s Global Leadership Program to run parallel with the UNCSW, bringing together fifty women from unions in the US to participate in side panels and discussions about the conditions for women workers. Outside the steel UN security gates, watched by cameras and guards brandishing military grade weaponry, we women gathered to tell our own story. And it is far more intricate than any spreadsheet could convey.

Often, US workers will tout a sort-of Monroe Doctrine in economics with “Buy American” themes as an answer to our economic woes. Trump is succeeding quite well among US workers hit hard by the economy by vilifying China and Mexico for “taking our jobs away.” However, by ignoring the mechanics of the global supply chain and by lacking global worker solidarity, we remain disempowered to improve working conditions around the globe as well as fail to stop the deteriorating conditions for US workers.

The Global Leadership Program focused on how to understand the intersectionality of worker rights along the global supply chain, how our organizations work with international labor groups to counteract the detrimental impacts of globalization.

While AFLCIO unions exist in the US to represent the interests of US workers, and the International Trade Union Confederation similarly represents trade unionists globally, the International Labor Organization brings together governments, employers and workers to set global labor standards. The ILO emerged after the horrors of World War I based on the premise that a lasting peace can only be achieved if it is based on economic justice. The ILO has established the following as its fundamental labor rights:

– No Child Labor
– No Discrimination
– No Forced Labor
– Freedom of Association
– Collective Bargaining Rights

Unfortunately, the US has only ratified two of these ILO rights, the provisions against child labor and forced labor. While the US Congress has established laws like the National Labor Relations Act to provide for labor protections, the fact that the US has not ratified the other ILO Conventions means it has not promised the world that it wouldn’t take these away – with the exception of slavery and child labor.

In addition to the fundamental rights, the ILO has also established four Governance Conventions, of which the US has only ratified one; 177 Technical Conventions, of which the US has only ratified 11. In comparison, the nation of Uganda has ratified all of the fundamental conventions, and three out of the four governance conventions. Uganda joins countries like Turkey, Tunisia, Argentina, and dozens of others that have ratified more labor rights than the US. In comparison, the US is more similar to Afghanistan in the labor rights it has ratified and pledged to guarantee to its citizens.

Transforming Women’s Work

In conjunction with the UNCSW, the AFLCIO, working with the Solidarity Center and Rutgers University Center for Women’s Global Leadership, also released a report in March, “Transforming Women’s Work.” Although the report acknowledges the strides women have made over the past thirty years in gender equality, it exposes how the neoliberal consensus for economic development causes harm to women.

Neoliberal Trade policies, like NAFTA, GATT, CAFTA, the Permanent National Trade Policy with China, KORUS, and now the TPP and TIPP currently under consideration, are built on gender inequality and further tilt power away from workers in their focus on increasing profits and productivity (GDP) above all other concerns.

The agreements make it easier for foreign-based corporations and hedge funds to invest in low-wage countries while doing little to nothing to establish safety standards, job protections, decent wages and benefits, or address environmental protections. While “women are good for economic growth,” said a representative from Action Aid, “economic growth is not always good for women.”

Women in countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam who had previously lived in extreme poverty with few wage earning opportunities are moving into paid work in factories making clothing for Western consumption. But because of the absence of a labor movement or other wage guarantees or safe working protections, the AFLCIO report found that “a recent analysis of apparel-exporting countries found wages for garment workers fell in real terms between 2001 and 2011.”

One of the most well-known examples of how trade policies harm women specifically is the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, when a nine-story garment factory making clothing for Benetton, Walmart, JC Penny, The Children’s Place, and other western retailers collapsed killing 1,134 and injuring thousands more. Many of the dead bodies remain missing, unable to be unearthed from the debris. The dead were from the ranks of the 4 million who work in Bangladeshi apparel industry, 80% of whom are women.

After the disaster, due to international pressure, the minimum wage was raised from $38 per month to $68. Additionally, minimal safety measures and building inspections and remediation were implemented by three international watchdog groups, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and one National Tripartite Plan for Fire a Structural Integrity. But two of the agreements to allow inspection will expire in 2018, while thousands of factories have yet to be inspected.

As the Rana Plaza disaster recedes deeper into the past the world will lose focus on industry practices there, and in the absence of a robust labor movement or trade policies that protect workers all along the supply chain, it will only be a matter of time before another tragedy occurs.

Despite the international outrage and mourning, the deaths of thousands of women in Rana Plaza did little to damage the garment industry in Bangladesh. Clothing exports jumped 16 percent, to $23.9 billion, in the year following Rana Plaza, and are now at $30 billion and expected to grow.

The worker organizers at UNCSW reminded western women that though we may be inclined to simply boycott clothing made in their countries, the women in Bangladesh and Vietnam want and need the work, just as western women do, as paid work can help ease their poverty. Rather, they point out, we need to change the terms by which women in the 3rd World are brought into the economy and actively participate with campaigns that work with governments, trade unions, buyers, brands, and stores in our home countries, especially those affiliated with the International Labor Organization.

Next: Part 2 – No Such Thing As Gender Neutral

Get Your Woman Card.

credit: @SocialTerri on Twitter. Not the "woman's card" being issued by the  Clinton campaign

credit: @SocialTerri on Twitter. Not the “woman’s card” being issued by the Clinton campaign

Elections have been known to turn on the slip of a tongue. Few presidential candidates have had a tongue as slippery as Donald Trump. He may have already sewn up the championship for loosest tongue ever long ago. But Trump’s dig at Hillary Clinton last week claiming that the only thing she had going for her was that she was a woman:

Toward the end of a news conference that capped off Donald Trump’s dominant Tuesday night, the self-proclaimed presumptive Republican presidential nominee uncorked a sexist and self-contradictory argument against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Asked by a reporter about an earlier remark he made about Clinton playing “the women’s card,” Trump said, “Well, I think the only card she has is the women’s card — she’s got nothing else going.

“And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote,” Trump continued. “The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her, okay, and look how well I did with women tonight.”

Trump’s mouth has previously let it be known that Latinos were not welcome in his party, nor were blacks. He has done little to hide his disdain for women before especially with his statement that when (under his administration) abortion were illegal, women would be the only ones to be punished. But the statement against Hillary hit a new low for any political party.

Provided Trump is the Republican nominee – and it is looking like he can’t be stopped – his mouth should make it hard for anyone up and down the ticket to wear the label “Republican” without also garnering the baggage Trump has already put on that label.

Truth be known, Donald Trump’s biggest problem is that he is saying out loud what many Republicans have been saying in whispers for years. So the baggage is truly deserved.

Trump’s disparagement of Clinton has also being used as another great opportunity to point up how women are often treated as second class citizens in this country.

According to reports, the Clinton campaign has begun issuing “woman cards” to donors. Nothing like turning a gaffe by your opponent into a very positive campaign buzz and money generator for your campaign. Also nothing like having your opponent tell half the voting public that he doesn’t want their vote early in the campaign.

Republicans Vote To Defund Planned Parenthood

planned parentood attack

They Take a Stand Opposed By 75% of Iowa

Iowa House Republicans again this year inserted an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood from any state funding.

This is a truly unpopular issue with Iowans. As Beth Wessel-Kroeschell is quoted in the Mason City Globe-Gazette:

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, cited a public opinion poll published by the Des Moines Register that showed 3 out of 4 Iowans support state funding for health care providers like Planned Parenthood.

“We have a mandate. This is simple,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “Not only do Iowans overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood funding, family planning dollars, but it’s a program that works. It’s a program that gives people power and choice over their health care.”

It is very hard to grasp why Republicans are pushing so hard for this unpopular amendment, so let’s see if we can understand their impetus for bringing this up and voting for it.

The first reason to vote for such an unpopular measure is that it plays well back home. Even though a measure is unpopular statewide doesn’t mean it is unpopular in individual districts. Measures like this are geared to the religious voter. Supporting anti-abortion measures in any form is a sure way to keep the religious coming out to vote.

A second reason to vote for such an unpopular measure is that it punishes those who violate an unwritten moral code that frowns on sexual acts especially by women. While that may seem odd, men are not punished for sexual acts resulting in a pregnancy, only the women. If a woman becomes pregnant she should therefore accept the result of that sin, the sex act, by carrying the child to term and raising said child to adulthood. To follow this punishment even further, Republicans at all levels make it hard to get state aid to feed, clothe and educate this child.

A third reason to vote for such an unpopular measure is that it most frequently punishes the poor. Planned Parenthood is not used exclusively by poor women, but often for the poor it is often their only choice. We know how Republicans feel about poor people. It is their fault and they should suffer the consequences. If not having access to health care is part of that so be it.

One of the most overarching reasons for voting for any anti-abortion measure at a state level is to be part of the “movement conservative” across the US. The movement realized it could change more policy in the country working at a state level than trying to push a big rock uphill in Washington. Thus every little legislator in the smallest state is but a cog in the bigger movement. Note that in being part of the larger movement the individual legislator often does not represent his or her district.

Finally there is the desire to legislate one’s own moral and religious code into secular law. Such religious code in this country is usually found in some interpretation of one of the many variations of the bible. Stated in another way, Christians have been known to enact their religious code into law to punish those that are seen as morally weak in their eyes. As proof let us just consider all the so-called “religious freedom” bills that are rushing through various state legislatures.

Iowa is but one vote in the senate from being yet another state with a movement conservative legislature and governor all set to enact religious beliefs into law. Elections are extremely important.

This is just one of a number very unpopular measures that Republicans have been responsible for in the past couple of years. Many were solo jobs by the governor. But the governor is the head of the party in this state and not someone apart from the party. Who can forget closing the mental health facilities at Mount Pleasant and Clarinda? How about the line item veto of school funding last July? May pumping multi millions into fertilizer plants with few jibs to show for it got your blood boiling? Of course the big one was the governor’s unilateral privatizing of Iowa’s Medicaid system so the administrative companies could take a big cut of our tax dollars.

Really makes you wonder why anyone would vote for such scoundrels. But they do.

Abortion: Legal But Full Of Punishment

Has no idea what he is doing or saying

Has no idea what he is doing or saying

Chris Matthews stirred a real pot of controversy Wednesday night when he asked Donald Trump what the punishment for having an abortion should be if and when Trump becomes president and abortion is made illegal in the United States. Trump tried to BS his way through. However, little thought is ever given by the forced birth faction to the fallout from banning abortions beyond a woman now having a baby she probably didn’t want.

Matthews premise was that if abortion were illegal then an abortion would be a crime that must be punished. Should the woman be punished? Trump said yes immediately although he didn’t specify a punishment. Trump however said nothing about the abortionist (‘doctor’ was the word used, although we all know the abortionist will probably not be a doctor if abortion is illegal).

When Matthews asked if the father of the child should be punished Trump simply said “No.”

Amazing isn’t it folks? In the situation where an illegal abortion were to take place the woman according to Trump would be the only player. He later amended his statement to say that the ‘doctor’ should also suffer some punishment. Still he did not say the third person involved – the father – should suffer any punishment.

What wasn’t discussed – and hasn’t been discussed anywhere – is that even in today’s time of legalized abortion women are punished severely for not becoming pregnant in the way prescribed by religionist moralists that populate our state and national legislatures.

Depending on where a woman lives, if she becomes pregnant and for whatever reason decides that having a child is not a good idea, getting a legal procedure in the United States has been rendered nearly impossible. Especially across the South and west state legislatures have made access to a legal medical procedure nearly impossible by regulating abortion clinics into oblivion. Where legislatures have not been able to cause clinics to close through regulation they have severely limited access to them.

Beyond the regulatory gauntlet that state legislatures have thrown down to stop abortions, women often have to go through personal harassment just to be able to enter a clinic that could easily be described as terrorism. Despite the obvious threat to the safety of women entering clinics, The Supreme Court two years ago ruled that such protests were legal.

Thus when a pregnant woman takes charge of her own life she has to face a system that punishes her and often her physician or care giver for simply attempting to access a legal medical procedure. This in what is the purported home of freedom and liberty by those who do all they can to stop such access.

Now when groups go to such extremes to force women to have babies that will eventually grow into children, teens and finally full fledged adults you would think that they would work hard to set up programs to help such badly wanted children grow into well rounded adults by affording them good health care, good schools and decent food.

As we all know this is just the opposite of what happens in this country. Once the fetus is born and is a baby, those who worked so hard to keep the fetus from being aborted through legislation and other forms of harassment now abandon that child. A baby born into poverty in this country now joins the millions of citizens who are punished severely for the American sin of being poor.

We don’t need to enumerate what happens to the poor in this country. Since the so-called Reagan revolution, being poor has been treated as a crime. Therefore even in today’s American society where abortion is a legal procedure women are punished for seeking an abortion and punished if they are poor and carry the child to birth. If the family is poor, the child suffers, probably their whole life, for the so-called sins of the mother.

Through legislation and societal norms we are already punishing women who seek abortions. We are also punishing women who are poor and we punish the children of the poor for being born poor. Our Republican brethren are only concerned about forcing women to have their babies, care nothing about their pre-natal care and have set up a system that punishes such families if they are poor.

Best guess is they are trying to curry some form of favor from their god that will be redeemed when they reach their heaven. One would think that any favors earned from forcing someone to give birth would be negated by forcing any child or other citizen to live an impoverished life while others accumulate massive fortunes.

Not really sure what else America could do to level more punishment on women, but I am sure there are right wingers with legislation ready to go to punish women even more should they succeed in making abortion illegal. They won’t stop abortion for sure, but they may someday make it illegal.

Before you look around and think Iowa is a relative island of sanity in a ocean of misogynist hate, let me remind you that that is because Democrats control one house of the legislature by one vote. The state races this fall are every bit as important as the presidential race. If you haven’t noticed – much of the damage in this country in recent years has been done at the state level. Bob Vander Plaats and his ilk are champing at the bit to have Republicans in control of this state.

Why Is Iowa GOP Waging War Against Planned Parenthood?

stand with ppThis letter was sent to Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer and 23 other legislators, Democrat and Republican, Senate and House. I have heard back from two of the Democratic House members.

Speaker Upmeyer:

I am writing to express my disappointment in learning that the Iowa House Republicans will again attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

As it is not likely to come to a vote in the Senate, it would seem that this is somewhat of a waste of your time and my tax dollars.

I respectfully ask for a candid answer on why this will be brought up again.

Do you have reason to think that supporters of PP will “come to their senses” this time around?

Are you concerned that the part of your base who are vocal about this are not yet convinced of your sincerity in fighting family planning?

Are you afraid that Christ Himself won’t forgive you or believe that you are personally against abortion?

What has been the depth of conversation about this with your sisters in Christ who do support both the concept of family planning and the work of Planned Parenthood?

Are you aware that less family planning services will cause more abortions in the long-term?

I realize that many people feel that using tax money for this makes them feel complicit in the actual act. Are you offering me the option of defunding or subtracting from my tax bill the cost of programs that I feel disrespect Christ’s call to be the face of mercy to those in need?

We spend extremely unbalanced amounts of money on education versus imprisoning people. What kind of society prefers vengeance for wrongs rather than providing better foundations in the first place?

What kind of society throws the poor and mentally ill under the bus to make room for financial profits?

What kind of society tolerates industries poisoning the common water and soil?

Are you hoping that we who support PP will walk away from our convictions?

Are you looking for points of compromise?

Are you willing to compromise on school funding to achieve defunding PP? Would that be worth 10% allowable growth for the next ten years?

Are you willing to mandate cooperation with the Nutrient Reduction Strategy?

Willing to raise tax revenues on wealthy people and big business?

Speaker Upmeyer, governing requires compromise. Society is better off when women can make appropriate personal choices regarding child-bearing. Society gains nothing from restricting those options.

Please do not feed the wolves of animosity and divisiveness this year for issues that won’t create jobs, or clean the water we drink.

Urging you to consider why Christ did not throw the first stone,

Laura Twing
Tipton

CAP Action, Progress Iowa to Host Iowa Women’s Economic Security Forum

progress iowa

October 29, 2015

Contact

Chelsea Kiene, 202.478.5328, ckiene@americanprogressaction.org

Matt Sinovic, matt@progressiowa.org

ADVISORY: CAP Action, Progress Iowa to Host Iowa Women’s Economic Security Forum

Des Moines, IA — Too many working families are struggling to make ends meet and to respond to the competing demands of work and family. Every day, women and men across Iowa confront impossible choices between ensuring their families are cared for and working in order to get by. What’s more, mothers are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in more than 7 in 10 Iowa families. Unfortunately, our public policies have not kept pace with the reality of what women and families need to put economic security within reach and have a fair shot to get ahead.

On Thursday, November 5, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Progress Iowa will host a forum on women and family’s economic security and the concrete solutions needed so that working families can fulfill their obligations at work and at home without putting one or the other at risk. At the forum, state advocates, policymakers, and legislators will announce a legislative agenda and call to action for Iowa women and working families.

WHO:

Featured speakers:

Sally Pederson, 45th Lieutenant Governor of Iowa (D)

Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder, Chairwoman, and CEO, Care.com

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director/CEO and Co-founder of MomsRising.org

Additional speakers and panels will be announced in the days leading up to the event.

WHEN:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

9:00 a.m. CT – 3:00 p.m. CT

WHERE:

Central Library

1000 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, Iowa 50309

RSVP:

Click here to RSVP.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at ckiene@americanprogressaction.org or Matt Sinovic at matt@progressiowa.org.

Grassley – Is He For Iowa Anymore?

Tom Fiegen

Tom Fiegen

Bob Krause

Bob Krause

Iowa’s own version of Sarah Palin – Joni Ernst – introduced a bill in the Senate to take probably the most reliable health care resource for women away from women when she introduced her bill to defund Planned Parenthood of any federal funds. Planned Parenthood for decades has been the go to resource especially for young and poor women. Planned Parenthood’s mission is to deliver top quality health care to any patient, no matter who it is.

Persuaded by a series of badly produced and edited that made PP appear to be involved in some illegal activities, Ernst quickly threw a bill together to pander to the rabid right wing evangelical base. Despite having major legislation that needs attention such as the budget, Mitch McConnell moved the Ernst bill to the front of the pack so it could be voted on thus allowing every Republican senator to have something to brag about back home during the August recess. As expected every Republican but one voted for the defunding bill.

Because of a new unwritten rule that Republicans used to stop any legislation from the Obama administration the bill failed the now needed 60 vote super majority. Had it been passed, the egregiously gerrymandered US House would have passed it in a second.

With that short history of Ernst’s pandering bill, my curiosity went to what iowa’s senior senator was thinking when he voted for it. In reality I doubt there was much fought that went into his vote.
* Did he think of the thousands of women in Iowa who have at some time in the past used the services of PP?
* Did he at all consider those who are currently using PP services?
* Did he at all consider the families of those women?
* Was their any consideration of what their alternatives were?
* Did his office poll Iowa women on what they would do if PP services were no longer available?
* What would he do about the increased number of unwanted pregnancies that resulted from the lack of access to birth control services?

* PP services have prevented abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. What was his answer to the potential increase in abortions?

We all know the answers to these questions. Grassley most likely cast a perfunctory vote with little thought at all. Chuck Grassley is one of only 100 people who have major say on issues that directly affect your lives and the culture in this country. For the past couple years, Grassley appears to be phoning it in and following the dictates of his corporate sponsors.

Mr. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is the committee that reviews the administrations judicial appointments. It is critical simply because the judiciary is one third of our government and judges must be in place to get the work done. Since he assumed the chair in January, the appointment of judges has pretty much stopped. Why? Because Grassley simply refuses to allow Obama any more appointments in his final 2 years. Grassley wants those seats to remain open until the next president, that he assumes will be a Republican. He is not doing this for the good of Iowa or the country. Grassley is doing this for party and his corporate sponsors.

Mr. Grassley sits on the finance committee that oversees Social Security. His positions on that major plan for seniors is troubling at best. With the amount of money he raises from the various members of the financial sector a person doesn’t need to dig hard to see why. Grassley has hinted at privatizing social security over the years. Grassley is also working hard to gut the post financial collapse reforms of the the Dodd-Franks bill. Think what his positions on these issues mean to your family. Was the Big Recession not enough for you?

Let us not forget Grassley’s stand on foreign policy. It can be summed up by saying that, like many Republicans today, Grassley believes war is good business. He signed that insane threatening letter to the Iranian government earlier this year and recently came out against the Iran deal that the administration negotiated. He is hard line on Iran and ready to send in your children into a fight.

Never forget how he personally fought the ACA. Consider how much the ACA reforms have done for families and individuals. Grassley wants to take all that away, but has no proposal for a replacement. Is this really the kind of representation Iowans want or deserve.

The Democrats do have a couple of candidates criss-crossing the state getting their names out. Tom Fiegan and Bob Krause are both former members of the Iowa legislature. Both are true blue Democrats that would make Iowa proud. Testing the waters at the current time is Rob Hogg, who is a current legislator. All of these candidates would represent real Iowans, not just the ones with the big checkbooks.

Mr. Grassley, 36 years is long enough. Iowa needs a senator who cares about Iowans and who is in touch with today’s problems, not stuck in the 1950s.

Rob Hogg

Rob Hogg

Ernst Embarrasses Iowa Again

joni ernst the perfect Koch investment Planned_Parenthood_Fan_Page_Profile_Photo

Wednesday evening Iowa’s own Joni Ernst proved once more that she neither understands issues nor has any idea what Iowans think when she introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

In a video on HuffPost the commentator says that the bill will redirect the money from Planned Parenthood to other “women’s health services.”

Of course Ernst claims she is doing this as a “mother and a grandmother.” This is to establish her credibility on the issue. Were she to actually listen to women, Ernst would know that most women, including Iowa women, want to have access to quality reproductive health care and counseling. Ernst’s bill is simply another iteration of the right wing’s war on women and the battle called eliminating abortion. It is so sad, but certainly a very cynical political move on the part of the Republican Party to have a woman submit such a bill.

Many women I know have used the services of Planned Parenthood of Iowa at some point in their lives. Planned Parenthood provided them with truthful, high quality medical services for women. They chose to use Planned Parenthood for various reasons but the bottom line is that PP was a trusted partner in their health care. The Republican party and Joni Ernst in particular would love nothing more than to once more take good quality health care away from women. It is shameful, just shameful.

The unspoken issue here is abortion. This is just another one of the constant attacks that right wingers launch on a legal procedure that is of great importance to women. Ernst must see herself as some kind of warrior in this battle and she is. She is just battling against her own interests and those of any female progeny. Abortions are not mandatory. Maybe she doesn’t understand that. But having safe, clean abortions performed by skilled personnel in proper settings available when needed should be the mark of a society that cares about women’s health.

One thing crusaders such as Ernst never bring up is that abortions will not be stopped even if the religious right get their way and clamp down on abortions withe the full force of law enforcement. How do we know this? Well, Abortion was illegal for a long time in the US before Roe v. Wade made it legal in the US in 1973. While there was no way to keep exacting records of those who accessed illegal abortion services, very well founded extrapolations have been made for abortions and their consequences for women. According to the Guttmacher Institute which deals in FACTS:

Illegal Abortions Were Common

Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. One analysis, extrapolating from data from North Carolina, concluded that an estimated 829,000 illegal or self-induced abortions occurred in 1967.

One stark indication of the prevalence of illegal abortion was the death toll. In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.

Note that number rounded up is about a million. Now note that recent data pegs the number of abortions annually in the US at about a million. Again from the Guttmacher Institute:

• Some 1.06 million abortions were performed in 2011, down from 1.21 million abortions in 2008, a decline of 13%.

So the number of abortions is still about a million in the US. Note also that the population of the US is nearly twice what it was 50 years back, so the percentage of abortions is much less. Note also that abortions now are performed in safe clean surroundings by trained medical personnel. Much unlike those 50 years ago. Yes, the back alley abortionist using dirty instruments was real. So the deaths, disfigurements and painful complications of botched abortions are a thing of the past. Joni Ernst and her religious colleagues have no problem returning us to those days. You may also note that lack of access to legal abortions will not stop women from seeking out this remedy.

One reason that abortion rates are down is the availability reliable contraception. Providing contraception is one of Planned Parenthood’s biggest contributions. The religious right also opposes access to contraception. Crippling Planned Parenthood would also cripple women’s access to contraception, especially for the young and the poor – those that need contraception services most. If you don’t believe that just think about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.

Finally, the claim is that the federal money will be redistributed to other women’s health organizations. They will not name specific types or organizations. There is a reason for such ambiguity. You can bet those funds will be going to anti-abortion organizations. Most likely the money will end up in the hands of some anti-abortion religious counseling organization that exists only on federal money under the “faith-based initiatives” program. Faith based initiatives is an unholy alliance between government and religion that our founders feared the most. It should have never come into existence, and when it did should have been declared unconstitutional and aborted soon after.

Let us hope the women of Iowa and those Iowans who have women in their lives don’t forget this affront to women’s health care when Ernst is up for reelection. Her first 7 months have been embarrassing, now she crosses the line to shameful.