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Presidential Ponderings

The Abortion Ticker Spirals Upward
July 11,2011

During the Iranian Hostage Crisis a ticker ran with the days the hostages had been held, in NY there is a ticker with the national debt soaring upward, and on the Guttmacher Institute web pages there is a list of the ever-growing anti-abortion legislation that is being considered.  Given the lackluster job recovery, it is even more remarkable that so much attention would focus on diminishing the rights of women.  If state and federal legislators were as creative with ways to stimulate the economy and motivate businesses to hire more workers as they are with taking away the right to reproductive freedom, the economy would be booming.

Many of the laws revolve around the religious precepts of when life begins in the womb with little regard for scientific fact. Personhood at the moment of conception is a favorite of legislators but not voters who reject the concept whenever given the opportunity to vote for or against it.  Most voters understand the logical implications of such a law. It would render abortion impossible at any stage of pregnancy. Some of the laws revolving around this concept would allow the state to investigate miscarriages, stillbirths and any pregnancy not resulting in a live birth.  In Mississippi, Rennie Gibbs, a 15 year old, is charged with murder under the personhood law. At 36 weeks Rennie had a stillbirth. When it was discovered that she had a drug habit, she  was charged with “depraved-heart murder” of her child.  She faces a mandatory life sentence even though there is no medical proof that the drugs caused the stillbirth. Other states are also prosecuting pregnant women for crimes. Just as being a woman is a pre-existing condition to health insurers, a woman who is pregnant is being deprived of her constitutional rights. In Indiana Bei Bei Shuai is being held for murder because she tried to commit suicide after her boyfriend abandoned her. She lost the baby four days after the attempt. In Alabama women are being charged with crimes for chemical use during pregnancy. At the heart of these laws is the protection of the fetus from the moment of conception. The result is criminalization of women and depriving them of their rights. Many of the laws are being challenged in the courts. In the Rennie Gibbs case, Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer, asked the state supreme court, “If it's not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is.”

The newest salvo on attacking abortion and Planned Parenthood is the Pro-Life Wisconsin Group’s lawsuit aimed at the University of Wisconsin’s medical department for training medical students to provide abortions. They claim it violates the no taxpayer-funding of abortion rules.  To avoid this conflict the university sends its students to Planned Parenthood where they are trained. If this latest attack succeeds in Wisconsin and in other teaching hospitals, it will mean that new doctors will not know how to provide medically necessary D&C’s.  According to Dr. Fredrik Broekhuizen, the medical director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, “It is vital for medical students to be trained in abortion services.  There are medically indicated pregnancy terminations, and physicians need to have skills to do that.  There are situations where patients have fetal death in utero at 16 to 18 weeks of gestation,” he says. “The mode of delivery in the case of a dead fetus is exactly the same procedure as an abortion procedure. So learning these techniques is an essential part of what an ob/gyn needs to know in order to provide comprehensive care to women, regardless of where they choose to practice.”

As the ticker clicks upward on more ways to prevent women from making their own reproductive and health choices, the damage to families and women is growing.  There are real emotional and physical implications for the people caught in this web.  Take the mother who is imprisoned for “chemical use” during pregnancy -- who cares for her child while she is jailed?  Who cares for the psychological damage to a family when a woman dies due to lack of medical intervention because of these laws?  Who has the right to invade the most private sphere of a woman and determine that she cannot control her own health and reproductive rights?  And when do we rise up and yell “Enough!”?  It is time to stand together and tell elected officials across the country, in state and federal government, "Focus on jobs and the economy and stay out of our wombs."

Basic Equality for Women---Denied
May 10,2011

The old saw that all politics is local is gaining traction as state legislators pass law after law violating women’s constitutional rights to privacy and reproductive choice. According to a recent article in AlterNet, 916 new restrictive laws were introduced by state legislators in the first quarter of 2011. The laws are the most creative, restrictive laws passed since Roe vs Wade became law of the land. 
The common core is:
  • The Gestational limits on abortion- they have plucked 20 weeks as the standard though viability is not assured at that time.
  • Wait time - often women are subjected to (frequently medically inaccurate) propaganda by religious zealots while required to wait for their procedure.
  • Mandatory ultrasounds
  • Curtailing insurance coverage in state exchanges
  • Mandatory visits to crisis pregnancy centers

The common denominator is to render abortion impossible. The goal is to render women powerless.

The reverberations from Nebraska’s 20 weeks limit on abortion were felt when Danielle Deaver was forced to continue a pregnancy with a nonviable fetus. Her family had to suffer watching their baby die.  When lawmakers subvert both a legal procedure and medical science, it is time for them to leave the legislatures. Medical privacy and medical conditions are rights that are guaranteed to women as well as men. Similar scenarios can be expected to occur as more women have medical problems beyond 20 weeks.

South Dakota has the unique distinction of introducing and passing the most restrictive laws regarding wait time and pregnancy crisis centers.  Beginning in July, a woman must wait 72 hours after consulting with a physician about an abortion. She also has to visit a registered pregnancy crisis center and listen to these volunteer, non-certified, non-medical personnel give incorrect information about abortions.  These clinics are not subject to privacy laws so a woman’s medical record is no longer private.  She also has to be read a statement written by the legislators about abortion.

Abortion is difficult enough without these new laws. There is one clinic in the state that has an abortion provider flown in once a week. How the women are to meet with the provider, wait 72 hours, meet with the pregnancy crisis center and have the procedure in a timely fashion has not been worked out.  Most of the women are financially unable to pay for hotels or childcare so this is an undue financial burden.  Additionally, the pregnancy crisis centers have not signed on to participate in this new program, so it is unclear if the women will be denied abortions because no centers are involved. Could this be any worse?  This is a state where voters have twice voted not to ban abortion, but the legislature believes it knows better.

The ultrasound ploy is a favorite of many states. Women are forced to undergo a procedure that they do not want, and which is many times not medically necessary. Depending on the state, they must either watch the ultrasound or listen to a graphic description.  Women, many of whom have limited funds, must also pay for this state-mandated procedure. Isn’t there an argument by conservatives about mandatory payments? Hmmm, just not for women when they have abortions.

Insurance is the latest weapon in the war on women’s health in both the states and the federal government. In the US House, HR 3 passed with unanimous consent of the Republicans. This bill would tax insurance plans that cover abortions. It would tax health credits. It would tax people who use them. It would allow the IRS to audit a woman’s abortion. This is all from the no tax, no government in private affairs folks. They will not tax oil companies, but women’s health is fair game.

In the states there is an attempt to restrict abortion coverage in state exchanges. The degree varies but 23 states have already considered such legislation.

While all these laws are aimed at overturning Roe vs Wade, there is the additional attack on the born children. Programs for nutritional programs and child health care are being slashed. Contraception is no longer covered by some states. How does this promote a culture of life?
The Republican-controlled House is railing against the deficit and slashing social programs while refusing to raise taxes.  But its microfocus is on depriving women of their basic equality - the right to privacy, the right to control their own lives and the right to make their own decisions without help from the government.

Contribute your energy and money to electing pro-choice legislators.  Support JAC as we work together to elect pro-choice legislators who will protect women's reproductive rights.  The attacks will continue until women mobilize in town halls, in voting booths and in the halls of Congress. 


Invisible and Penned In
April 8, 2011

l to r: Linda Rae Sher, Sarah Grime, Gail Yamner, Joy Malkus, Dana Gordon, Marcia Balonick of JAC at the 'Stand Up for Women's Health' Lobby Day in Washington, DCApril 7, 2011
Yesterday I boarded a 6:00 am train from Newark to DC to attend the Pro-choice Advocacy Day.  I eagerly looked around for placards, buttons, t-shirts, or groups of women and men who were on a mission. Instead I saw briefcases and business suits.  I reasoned that people were coming on planes, cars and buses as well. I read The New York Times, certain that a news article, op-ed piece or editorial would promote the day. Not even a blurb. There was a great deal about unrest in Libya, the budget crisis and the Tea Party, hunger in Asia but nothing about the attack on women’s health care. I became concerned that the media was pushing the issue to the back. Let’s face it there is nothing sexy about women needing health care. It just is not as interesting as bombing a country or shutting down the government. Then I walked through Union Station.  Again, no signs. There was no mass response to the urgent call sent out by Planned Parenthood.  Where were the pink shirts of Planned Parenthood and the blue Naral ones? Where was the outcry? Have attacks on women become so routine that they are not seen as threats?

When do women and the men who love them wake up and realize what all the new abortion laws in State Houses and the Federal Government mean? When do they understand about Title X? Title X provides health care to 5,000,000 women a year. This funding goes to provide routine breast exams, cancer screens and pelvic exams.  At the rally yesterday we heard stories from survivors whose lives were saved by having had routine exams at Planned Parenthood. Most of the women had been in their late teens or early twenties and had had paps smears which found the abnormal cells. Thanks to this care at Planned Parenthood they were living and had been able to have families and healthy lives.

When do our citizens understand that attaching socially restrictive riders to the Continuing Resolutions to the budget are a way of controlling women? When will they understand that there is already a federal statute that says there is no use of federal funds for abortion? These amendments have one agenda - to deny women health care.

Take the issue of the rider that wants to restrict the District of Columbia from using its local taxes for helping low income women have abortions.  These states’ rights Republicans are meddling in the DC local rule. Maybe rights don’t apply when it concerns women’s health and reproductive rights?

Look carefully at the language in HR 3.  Among other points like redefining rape, there is a restriction for women who pay for their own health care and who have had abortions having to report it to the IRS to prove that they did not use federal funds to pay for the abortion. Additionally, they cannot use pretax dollars to pay for this legal procedure. This law would also tax businesses who provide health care that covers abortion. This in effect is raising taxes on women and businesses. The part where a patient has to disclose private medical decisions and care is certainly a violation of HIPAA - maybe privacy is not for women? There is also an attempt to prevent people who pay for their own insurance and whose insurance is in a state insurance exchange from getting abortion coverage.

At the rally on the mall the intensity was palpable. Women and men of all ages carrying signs and wearing pink t-shirts loudly shouted for the rights of women and booed those who would take away these rights. There were eloquent speeches and pledges from Senators Schumer, Boxer, Murray,  and Lautenberg, Representatives Delauro, Slaugher, Kapps and DeGette as well as Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, David Eigenberg and Connie Britton.  Everyone on the stage and on the mall understood that this is not about abortion. It is taking away health care and reproductive choice for women. It is about putting women back almost a century. If you control health and the uterus, you can be masters of the workplace and the home.

Today I opened The New York Times and finally found one small article on page 18 where the importance of the issue was not understood nor was the impact of seeing hundreds, possibly thousands of women on the Hill in offices analyzed.  Radio and TV did not point out that while the deliberations on the budget, which hinge on the socially restrictive measures that are attached are being fought, that voters who care about women’s health and rights were fighting in DC as well. Yes, we are invisible and penned in by a group of men who would take away our rights, our health and all the while pretending it is to save money and the unborn. I am frustrated and angry.

To borrow a quote: the conservative are interested in shrinking government so small that it will only fit in your bedroom and your medicine cabinet.  And I say "no more, never again!" And I also believe that it is time for the millions who sit silently by to join us next time in DC and to join us in voting these people out.  
It is time to take our country back from those who are trying to make us disappear behind their type of fundamentalism.

The Real Agenda: Women As Second Class Citizens
March 27, 2011

As the politics of 2011 unfold, the Republican Party elected to focus on building jobs and growing the economy has, like stage magician waving their wand to distract the audience, instead focused on attacking women’s rights. Clearly, this is not a new agenda for socially conservative advocates but why this intensity? Why now when our economic recovery is fragile and unemployment is still very high? Then it struck me--18,000,000 cracks.  Those 18 million cracks that Hillary Clinton punched in the political ceiling hardened the resolve of a certain type of man to mend the ceiling and put women back in the kitchen. What better way to dominate and preserve the man-centered world then take away a woman’s reproductive choice? This playbook is being enacted on a state and federal level with legislation that is so restrictive that soon women will not strike anything other then a stove match.

The concepts that are repeating themselves in state legislatures center around the non-scientific theory that life begins at conception and that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. The first is based on religious theology not scientific fact, while the second is based on a notion of reflex. It does not seem to matter that the legislature’s own religious code is being introduced or that the majority of Americans do not subscribe to either belief.  In Montana a survey showed that 56% of the people would not support a constitutional amendment that life begins at conception. In Idaho and Iowa  legislatures passed fetal pain laws and restricted abortions after 20 weeks thereby joining the other states that have passed this law. These laws were passed despite the heart-wrenching video release of testimony by Danielle Devera in Nebraska about medically needing an abortion after 20 weeks and being unable to obtain one.

The other attack is turning the Affordable Health Care Act around to prevent women from reproductive freedoms.  In H.R. 3, "The No Tax Payer Funding of Abortion Bill," Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) has inserted language that will make it impossible for women to use health insurance to pay for abortions even if they pay for their own health insurance plan. In the fine print, this law also instructs the IRS when doing an audit to delve into a woman’s private medical records and finances to make sure no funds were used to pay for an abortion. And the Tea Party worries about government in a private citizen’s life? And Sarah Palin talks about death panels? And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) wants to take back the government? Another Republican who is using health care against women is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin who wants to prevent contraceptives from being covered by health insurance. Do these people not understand that this is not the way to reduce the number of abortions?

The award for anti-woman regulations goes to the august South Dakota legislators. Week after week new ways of controlling women are introduced by this assembly.  The latest draconian law has two parts. They have now instituted a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion and require 2 visits to a physician and a screening for risk factors. The claim is that adult women need men to “protect them” as they might understand their own physical, mental and real-world needs. The other part of the law requires that women undergo counseling at pregnancy crisis centers. These centers which are springing up across the country are run by volunteers and religious groups. There are generally no medical people involved and the only service is to sway women from having abortions. Often medically inaccurate information is given out. The purpose of the clinics is to discourage women from having abortions. There is a deep religious component with proselytizing about Christianity.

Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro have been pioneers and trail blazers for women. They dented but did not break through the barriers that women face in the workplace and in the political arena. It took almost 30 years after Ferraro’s historic campaign for women to gain any real recognition. How long after Clinton’s 18 million votes in 2008 will it take for women to control their own bodies? How long will we sit on our sofas and let others fight for our rights?  

I am going to DC on April 7 to stand alongside women who are speaking out against the repression that is occurring. I ask you to join me and other JAC women as we puncture through the hypocrisy and the rhetoric. I ask you to change your plans for the day and board a train, a bus or a plane and come to DC. We are women hear us roar.

A Responsible Moderate Republican Urges Fiscal Sanity 
March 16, 2011

For years Planned Parenthood  has had the backing of moderate Republicans and most Democrats. According to Michael O'Connor in the New American  a number of august Republicans  such as Senator Preston Bush, President George H.W. Bush (while a Texas Congressman), Senator Barry Goldwater and Governor Mitt Romney championed the goals and the work of Planned Parenthood.

Unfortunately, today's Republican party has few moderates who are supportive of a centrist government that is fiscally responsive to the needy in our society.   The moderates who voted against the Pence Amendment to defund Planned Parenthood are Rep. Charlie Bass (NH), Rep. Judy Biggert (IL), Rep. Mary Bono-Mack (CA), Rep. Charlie Dent (PA), Rep. Robert Dold (IL), Rep. Richard Hanna (NY) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ). In the Senate Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Olympia Snowe. These brave legislators are reminders of the past when Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the rights of women and reining in an intrusion into women's health.

While governor of New Jersey, Governor Christie Whitman often took stands that put her at odds with the more conservative national Republicans. She always chose women's reproductive rights even though it cost her a national platform.  Governor Christie Whitman continues to rise above partisan politics and work for women's health. As a woman who lives in NJ, I am proud of her stance. In the article below from New Jersey's Bergen Record, she writes an eloquent defense for Planned Parenthood. 
"Opinion: Don’t touch funding for Planned Parenthood
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
AS A FORMER governor, I understand that this country faces a growing deficit and we must exercise fiscal discipline. As a Republican, I also understand that women, no matter their party affiliation, are concerned about the health of their mothers, their daughters and their sisters.
That’s why I am concerned that social conservatives are trying to hijack the budget process to include proposals that would wipe out access to family planning, HIV testing and counseling and breast and cervical cancer screening for millions of American women.
The health of American women, preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting sound family planning are goals that all of us, irrespective of political persuasion, should support. Not surprisingly, it turns out that what is good for women’s health is also good for our pocketbooks.
The simple fact is that every public dollar invested in family planning saves taxpayers nearly $4. Yet, the House is proposing to eliminate the National Family Planning Program, also known as Title X. Eliminating Title X would mean in just one year, at least two million women would be denied access to Pap tests, 2.3 million would go without clinical breast exams and more than five million women and men wouldn’t benefit from contraceptive services.
The House leadership is also proposing to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds. This is unacceptable.
Value of preventive care
I know firsthand the value of Planned Parenthood health centers in providing preventive care to women. In rural areas, Planned Parenthood is often the only place to turn for vital health care needs as well as sex education, and in dense urban areas, Planned Parenthood provides these same services to women in disproportionately low income and underserved communities.
Every year, Planned Parenthood’s doctors and nurses provide more than 3 million women with preventive health care, including nearly one million lifesaving screenings for cervical cancer, 830,000 breast exams, contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients and nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Literally, they are a trusted health care provider to millions of women.
For those who oppose abortion, they should know that Planned Parenthood’s services prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies and 406,000 abortions each year. Those are statistics that Republicans and Democrats should wholeheartedly embrace.
But the extreme proposals undermining both the National Family Planning Program and Planned Parenthood will have an adverse effect on those numbers. While defunding Planned Parenthood will do nothing to reduce the deficit or improve the economy, it will lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies and abortions and result in escalating Medicaid costs.
Barring Planned Parenthood from critical federal public health funding would mean these women would face tremendous difficulties finding other health care providers to deliver high-quality reproductive health care. This would only increase these women’s risk of undetected cancer and unintended pregnancy.
In the heated, partisan environment in Washington, it is often forgotten that a Republican ushered the National Family Planning Program into existence. In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed Title X into law as a bipartisan approach to ensuring low-income Americans access to basic reproductive and preventive health care services.
No funding for abortion
A point often lost in this debate is this: Not a single cent of Title X funding may be used for abortion services. Not only is this fact stated in the Title X law, but it is also further supported by the Hyde amendment, banning the use of federal funds for abortions: the standard since its enactment in 1976.
More than 40 years later, as more women and families are facing difficulties in accessing health care due to increasing costs and a struggling economy, I urge the Congress to ensure women continue to have access to the health care they need and the trusted providers in their community by rejecting efforts to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds and eliminating the Title X family planning program."
Thank you Governor Whitman for once again rising above party politics and supporting women.  Those of us who believe in the rights to women will continue to write our Representatives and Senators, go to Washington on April 7 to march for choice and support JACPAC with generous donations that will elect legislators who will fight for women's reproductive health.

March 9, 2011
When Truth Overrides Fiction
The truth is wedged in between Holocaust deniers and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. For those who forget history, even history that is just shy of 75 years ago, now is the time to reiterate facts.

In the late 1930s Hitler tried and almost succeeded in murdering all the Jews of Europe.  The brutality and inhumanity of that era should be indelibly etched in the minds of all.  The depths to which even good people can sink are measured in the stories of survivors and of witnesses.

From that dark period, the United Nations decreed that the land of the Bible should be returned to the Jews who had originally settled there and who were widely dispersed through-out nations. For those who wish to return to the home of their ancestors, there was now a land.  From 1948 until 1967 the Arab nations fought the Israelis for this land. In 1967 Israel won a major victory and was able to secure safer borders and to be able to visit its holiest place in Jerusalem. Since that time, there have been numerous calls to go back to the pre-1967 borders.  No other country who has been wrongly attacked has had to give back lands that were its own at one time or lands that protect its citizens from threats of annihilation. 

The threat of war and the constant barrage of missiles and suicide bombers led Israel to formulate a protective strategy of keeping the "bad guys" out and establishing security zones. The West Bank and Gaza are sealed off from Israel to protect Israeli citizens.  Groups like Hamas still want to push Israel into the sea and establish their own restrictive society.   Israel's greatest goal is to live in peace with its neighbors but the neighbors do not share the same goal.

That is a cursory sketch of history for those whose memories need a jolt.  A reaction against Israel led to the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) which is now in its sixth year. During the second week of March a series of events will be held in cities and campuses world-wide. Lectures, films, cultural performances, films and demonstrations are an established part of the week. Unfair comparisons are made of Israel being an apartheid state like South Africa. The comparison is ludicrous and without foundation but believed by many.

What can be done to stop the delegitimization of Israel? Arm yourself with the facts.  Run lectures. Invite dialogue with people who have different views. 

Be proud of the land of Israel and support it.


March 8 , 2011
Whose Pain Is It Anyway?

For months eager legislatures, led by Nebraska, have passed laws determining that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks. These laws, without any scientific proof, claim to be in the interest of the unborn whose pain they know.  Pain?  What about the pain of Danielle and Robb Deaver? Their story of pain is told in a powerful video .

At 22 weeks of a wanted pregnancy, a severe complication arose and the Deavers were told by medical professionals that their child would not be able survive for more than a few hours and would suffer much pain. After anguishing over what would be the best outcome for their child, they decided to terminate the pregnancy to prevent their child from suffering. But Nebraska’s fetal pain law prevented them from having the procedure in Nebraska.  The baby was born soon after, did have pain and did die within hours.

The fetal pain law has become a seed law for anti-abortion proponents. It is being considered in many states, the newest are Iowa and Arkansas. Of course, Ohio is going a step farther by attempting to bring in a 9-week pregnant woman and have an ultrasound performed in front of a committee. This was attempted on March 2, and did not provide the hoped-for unequivocal proof lawmakers had hoped for in the 9-week old fetus.  According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, two pregnant women were brought in, and while the heartbeat of the 15-week old fetus was clearly audible, that of the 9-week old one was faint and hard to distinguish.

Each of these laws is a violation of a family’s right to privacy and an invasion into the private lives of Americans. The very nature of these laws is to promote one group’s morality over the rights of parents. It also promotes real pain and suffering for women and children. While there is no way to measure pain inside the uterus, there is a way to watch the anguish of a baby racked with pain for hours, days or weeks. Whose pain is it? It is our pain if we do not protest against these laws and demand a return to privacy and the rights of the women to make their own determinations.


February 24, 2011
The New Morality: Kill the Woman, Save the Fetus
The new morality astounds me. In order to protect a fetus no act is too dire.  Speaking from new “pulpits” in Congress and State legislatures, proponents of the culture of life are proposing new methods to circumvent federal law, Constitutional rights and  human decency. While claiming to want smaller, less expansive, less intrusive government, these new bills encroach on families’ lives in here-to-fore unimaginable ways. They are twisting the screws so that prochoice advocates will agree to untenable compromises in the hope of saving cherished programs.

This happened during the health care debate with the Stupak Amendment. In order to derail health care, very restrictive abortion measures were proposed.  To save health care, compromise was made on these and now it appears that in many states (too numerous to mention - SC is the latest) it will be impossible for women to have insurance, even privately paid from their own wallets, that will cover abortion. Is the real agenda with the Pence Amendment to Defund Planned Parenthood to make Senate Democrats compromise even more on women’s health? Make no mistake when Planned Parenthood loses funding many women and men will lose their access to health care. These funds covered preventative health screenings and visits. The costs to health care both on a state and federal fund will drive up the deficit that Republicans claim that they want to lower. Babies will be born with health issues that will be with them their wholes lives as their parents did not receive prenatal care. Is this caring for the born?  If one truly believes in life and the sanctity of life, then providing for these unborn is  a priority. Oh, also once they are born, they have to be given health care. How can you defund health care and provide it for the culture of life? 

The latest measure in Nebraska, the home of the hostile-to-women-land, is the justifiable homicide one.  While this was tabled in South Dakota, Nebraska's legislature has decided it is a good idea.  In this one, it is legal to kill anyone who might harm a fetus. So a person who sees a pregnant woman go into a clinic may kill her if he thinks that harm might occur to her fetus. While it might not be the same as stoning a married woman who was accused of adultery, it strongly invokes a feeling of the same mindset.

In the same vein in Georgia, there is proposed legislation to create "uterus police," who would be in charge of investigating any miscarriages, which would be renamed "prenatal murders."  A woman undergoing the trauma of a miscarriage would now be subject to an investigation to see if she caused the miscarriage, and possibly be charged with murder.  Another violation of the HIPAA Act which protects patient rights and privacy, and another intrusion into women's personal lives.

In South Dakota, there is a frightening proposal that seems to be crossing the line of separation of religion and state (Constitutional issue), the line of privacy between a doctor and patient (government intrusion into a private relationship between a woman and her doctor), and the line between government and the individual.  This law boggles the mind. A volunteer or staff person (not a trained professional) would determine a woman’s state of mind when she has decided to have a legal abortion. This same untrained person would have access to a woman’s private medical history.  This same untrained person may use a religious argument and try to impose her religious thoughts on the patient. Church-based control of a woman’s right make her own reproductive choices are set forth in this law. 

We are confronting a new world where the right to choose for women is under constant assault. We are confronting a new world where it may be legal to kill the woman to save the fetus and once that is done there will be no one to take care of the fetus, if the fetus survives. We are confronting a new world where a woman has no right to medical privacy and where doctors no longer make medical decisions about a woman’s health. We are confronting a world, where established law is being chipped away and where soon abortions will no longer be legal for rich or for poor. We are confronting a new world that screams for all of us to stop the lunacy. Women are not the enemy - these new laws are. These proposed laws take away everyone's freedoms. Will yours be the next?

February 17, 2011
Ultimate Irony: Sanctity of Life Promotes Attacking Women

For the past few weeks, we have witnessed the Middle East erupt as people demanded their right to govern.  Here in America, we have smugly watched them fight and freely given our advice.  Meanwhile in a America, there is an outright war on women.  Where are the reporters, the breaking news, the 24-hour coverage?  Thank goodness for Rachel Maddow, she gets it.  Using facts and real people, she continues to expose the hypocrisy and attacks on women.

Monday night on her show, she had the doctor in Kansas who bravely announced she would continue to perform legal abortions and protect women.  Last night, Ms. Maddow told of the wide spread threats against the doctor at her home.  She faces threats and intimidation from anti-abortion groups who liken her to a murderer and call for drastic measures.  Next week, Ms. Maddow is moving part of her show to Kansas so that America can see the threat to women and the war on the ground.

The war is not just in Kansas, and not just against one doctor.  It is in State Houses and the US Congress.  Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.  For good measure, he also amended this bill:
"to stop funding for women's health services, gynecological exams, access to birth control, HIV testing, private care, or infertility counseling.  The Continuing Resolution proposed by House Republicans also slashes or eliminates funding for many programs crucial to women's health; it would completely eliminate Title X domestic family planning programs, and would dramatically cut (by $758 million) the Women Infant Children (WIC) program, which provides food for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women."

So let's analyze this: Rep. Pence speaks passionately about believing in a culture of life, but that means before birth.  Once the fetus is born, becoming an individual person, that person should not have proper nutrition or support.  Women who must nurture an egg into becoming a human being should not have the right medicines and food.  And once these children are born, the state no longer cares about them.

If that sounds like a wacky new world, consider the new laws that Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) are proposing where hospitals and doctors may turn away gravely ill women who need abortions to save their lives.  In this case, murder the vessel to save the fetus (which in many cases will not survive).  So murder of a woman could be a new law.  That is not unlike a proposed bill in South Dakota that would have potentially said that killing anyone who might harm a fetus would be justifiable homicide.  Wiser head prevailed and the bill has been shelved, for now.

No discussion of this new world reality can be had without noting that in HR 3, Rep. Smith redefined rape to a narrow phrase of "forced rape."  Now he is a lexicographer who has a new meaning of rape.  Not quite sure what it is, as the very nature of the word means an unwilling sex act, nor has he offered a definition.  Despite many promises and public statements following the outcry over this change, he still has not removed the offending word from the bill.

Every day a new legislator comes up a with a way to pass a law that is an end run around established law.  Abortion is legal, and yet, it is not in many states.  Not only are these state legislatures ignoring established law by passing heartbeat bills, ultrasound bills, fetal pain bills, permission to kill women bills, and personhood bills, but they have all become scientists, doctors and social workers who know medical facts and psychology intuitively.

This lunacy must end.  We should fight to rescind the Hyde Amendment.  We should assemble in Washington to show that we will not have our lives and freedoms destroyed.  We should call, email, and visit our representatives in our states and Washington, DC.  

The sanctity of life includes women and we must show our strength.


February 9, 2011
Pro-Choice Voters Pay Taxes Too

I am confused about how to find the check-off box on the Federal Income Tax form that designates where you want your tax dollars to be spent. I actually have spent some time looking for it and cannot find the box to check off my preferences.  It must be there as the recent onslaught of anti-abortion bill sponsors are loudly proclaiming that tax dollars should not be used for abortions and that tax payers object to paying for them.

Using fiscal arguments, the Republicans are proposing to severely restrict women’s access to reproductive rights.  They are using the new health care law to prevent women from using their own funds to pay for abortions, to disallow tax deductions by businesses who pay for abortion coverage in plans and to cut off funds to health care clinics. Additionally, they want to defund Planned Parenthood whose major function is the providing of health care such as pap smears, mammograms and family planning to lower income women. According to an article in the New York Times, conservatives are energized by their new majority and are determined to push their own anti-abortion priorities. Instead of dealing with jobs they are dealing with abortion.

Democratic leaders like Senators Gillibrand, Boxer, Murray and Blumenthal are fighting back. They promise to stand with women and repel these attacks on the rights and health of more then fifty percent of the population.  Senator Lautenberg who joined this group compared the new proposals to “a Third World country that’s requiring women to wear head shawls to cover their faces even if they do not want to.”

As these Senators stand with women, women must stand with them and other women. We must demand that our pro-choice tax payer dollars support women and their health. We demand that women’s lives and health be covered by insurance. We demand that our tax payer dollars help fund Planned Parenthood. We demand that our tax payer dollars be used to help the children who are born to women/girls who have no resources to care for them. 

We must demand that our dollars do not belong to their conservative agenda. 
Support pro-choice elected officials. JAC supports pro-choice candidates regardless of gender. Donate today. The lives that you save may be yours, your daughters, your friend’s daughter or a woman that you do not know.


February 8, 2011
Anti-abortion Laws: Big Brother's Invasion of Women's Rights

In the days leading to the November mid-term elections, the highly charged issues were government intervention in health care (ObamaCare), the soaring fiscal debt and the lack of jobs. Republicans promised that their  first priorities were jobs, jobs and jobs. Next they would tackle health care by introducing a better plan for Americans.  In the time that they have been in office, the only decisive action is ---- against women. The fundamentalist fervor in State Legislatures and the US House is focused on controlling women’s bodies and their lives. The attacks against women have reached new lows and are echoes of the repressions in third world countries.

In the US House, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) included in his No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion (H.R. 3) a provision about “forcible” rape - clearly changing the definition of rape. The outcry was so loud and Jon Stewart so belittling that he promised to removed the term. To date the language remains - is this another empty Republican promise? To make his bill even more dangerous to women he included the same provision that is in H.R. 358, The Protect Life Bill introduced by Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA). This provision says that if a pregnant woman comes to a hospital and is in danger of dying due to medical complication, a hospital can refuse treatment if the treatment would destroy the fetus while saving the mother. To restate this - a fetus is more important than the woman. It is okay to kill the woman. Her life is forfeit, not worth saving. The protected life in this bill is not for the woman. (As an aside, since 1986 all hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding have been bound to provide care in the case of life or death situations regardless of ability to pay and other factors, under EMTALA.)
In state after state, legislators are writing bills that are end runs around the current federal law regarding abortion rights. Abortions are legal procedures, a fact that is overlooked by many. Below are a few of the proposed or passed laws.
In Ohio, the Heartbeat Bill uses the first sign of a fetal heartbeat as the cut off time for abortions. Since a heartbeat may be detected as early as 18 days, this bill effectively outlaws abortion in Ohio. If this passes, expect other state legislators to introduce this bill.
In Texas, anti-abortion legislation is being expedited by Republican Governor Rick Perry. One of the three bills in the pipeline requires not only that a woman must have an ultrasound, she must have it at least 2 hours before a planned abortion. The physician must describe the image and she must listen to the heartbeat. There is no concern here that a woman has made her decision and it is not the responsibility of the government to force her to change. The paternalistic attitude toward women has its roots in the belief that women cannot make responsible choices, their only worth and duty is to bear children and raise them.
In Kentucky, a woman must have an ultrasound and if she elects not to view it , a technician must describe it to her. She then has to wait 24 hours before having the legal procedure.

In Idaho, recently a pharmacist refused to fill a prescription because he thought it was for post-abortion care. This was ruled to be legal based on his not having to give medicine that is against his conscience. The fact that the woman could bleed to death was not considered a matter of conscience.

In Arkansas, a bill is being proposed to limit (prevent) abortion coverage in private insurance plans. In fact, blocking insurance coverage for abortion is being discussed through out the country and in some of the bills in the US House. The intent is to make it impossible for women to have  insurance coverage for abortion even in private plans.

Controlling women’s bodies and minds is the real agenda of the 2011 elected Republicans. These draconian laws should not even be discussed in the 21st Century America.  For a party that screams about Big Brother, government coming between a doctor and patient, death panels and the right of an individual to bear arms, these attacks on women are the ultimate in hypocrisy. The ultrasounds, the determination of viability, the 100% intervention between a doctor and a patient are glaring examples of a party that wants to force its beliefs on women. Forcing a woman to undergo a procedure like an ultrasound is a violation of her rights. Forcing her to view and/or listen to a description is not only a violation of her rights but sadistic. Forcing a woman to die rather then give her life-saving treatment is murder. Forcing a woman to bear a child she cannot care for is Big Brother in 2011.
Silence is unacceptable. The outrage against the forcible rape language may have caused Rep. Smith to change his language. The outrage at all of these laws must be loud and persuasive. Please contact your elected representatives. Please join JAC in Washington May 5 as we visit our elected representatives and let them know we are watching and expect them to support our rights. We will not accept Big Brother in 2011.

January 21, 2011
How To Celebrate 38 Years of Roe vs Wade or Women Are People Too

Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of Roe vs Wade becoming the law of land.  And it is still being debated as if the Supreme Court had not ruled and as if it were still up to states and the US legislatures to take away a woman's basic right to own her body. The day will be commemorated with a weekend of anti-abortion marches, vigils against Planned Parenthood, targeting the few abortion providers we have, and a host of events designed to promote the anti-abortion forces. The shrill voices of the anti-abortion movement are drowning out the pro-choice, women's rights voices. 

On January 18 ABC News reported that Randall Terry plans to run against President Obama next year. His campaign, beginning with that great political event--The Super Bowl--will attempt to run very graphic anti-abortion ads.  It is up to all of us to write CBS and demand that they reject this type of ad. We all remember the infamous failure of costuming that led to a nano section boob exposure and the outcry.  Surely, showing graphic pictures would fall into a category of not belonging on tv? 

NPR's Julie Rovner reports that Speaker Boehner claims, "A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land."  The Congress that was elected to work foremost on jobs is now focusing on its real agenda. First, the symbolic vote on repeal of the "job-killing health care" bill.  Note, no new legislation was introduced to replace this. They also broke their own rules of showing where the Constitution allows this new law and how the repeal reduces the deficit.  According to the neutral Congressional Budget Office, the current bill reduces the deficit. Oh, well, rules are for everyone else, not those who wrote them.

Next is the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Bill,  dubbed "Stupak on Steroids" by NARAL.  In a detailed article on RHReality, Jessica Aron debunks the Chris Smith bill.  Simply put, the anti-abortion Congressional members have already written restrictive language into the health care law.  Led by Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA), the House passed a bill that re-affirmed the Hyde Amendment which bans taxpayer funding of abortions; the Stupak-Pitts amendment was even more restrictive than current law.  Thanks to Senators Boxer (D-CA) and Murray (D-WA) this amendment was not included in the Senate version and a compromise was reached.  Now, Rep. Smith is trying to enact even more restrictions making almost  impossible for a woman to have insurance coverage for abortions.  In fact, it will be almost impossible for many women to have access to health care and could impact how the government aids women's health.  According to Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and a prominent anti-abortion supporter, this bill will strip out subsidies that are available to lower income women.  He questions how far Republicans will go.  He is referring to the elimination of  tax benefits for insurance policies that cover abortion — even abortions in most cases of medical necessity.  This bill will pass the House, it might garner some real support in the Senate. This bill must fail. 

On a day when women should celebrate the decision to end government control of their bodies by the Supreme Court 38 years ago, it is a day of reckoning and a day of resolve.  It is a day when women must once again dedicate themselves to ensuring that reproductive rights remain that.  The decision is a woman's and not the state's.  The irony is that the Republican Party, which is so against government mandates, government control and the government coming between a doctor and a patient, are in favor of imposing government controls regulating the actions and behavior of women.  They use these arguments to oppose the health care law, but are determined to implement them against women.  One of the top priorities of the Republican Party is to dismantle women's rights.  Abortion is only the first step and the biggest one. 

What can you do to celebrate this day? Email your Congressional leaders to vote against the Smith bill, HR 3 No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion. Donate $25 to JAC to enable us to advocate for women on the Hill and to work against this bill.   Make your voice heard, go to a rally, help at a clinic, write letters to the editor, sign petitions, join JAC in Washington, DC, spread the word among your friends and family that we must remain vigilant - in short, get involved.  Women ARE people, too - and it is time to remind the country of that.


January 18, 2011
Words Have Consequences

The violent shootings in Tucson have sparked a much needed debate about the role of words. As parents and teachers we learn that words and the tone in which we utter them have a lasting impact on the development of our children and students. If we are sensitive beings, we learn that we need to monitor our thoughts before they harm others.

The discussions of the shootings should not center around blame but around the realization that politicians also have an obligation to think before speaking. References to guns, reloading, bullets not ballots and Second Amendment remedies do not belong in the political arena. Once they are spoken, the impact on listeners cannot be rescinded.

If we take a moment and review the history of the past two years, we can pinpoint examples of words inciting people. We witnessed town hall meeting where middle class Americans yelled and shouted slurs at elected representatives over the proposed health care law. The anger was palpable and chilling as good citizens became mob-like. Many of them believed phrases like death panels.  We also saw the murder of Dr. Tiller by a man who had internalized the words killer and kill in abortion protests. In lockstep precision we heard Republicans coin the word ObamaCare and turn that into a nine-letter bad word about the new health care law. Words can twist truths, words can manipulate or words can bring us together.

“The words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.”  These powerful words were spoken by President Clinton at the 15th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  In two beautiful sentences they shape a path for our politicians, media and citizenry. As we travel on this path, we must accept the blame as well as the credit for the work of our words.

It is not yet known what caused Jared Loughner to erupt. The blame may lie in a system that fails to recognize mental illness and treat it. The blame may lie in the easy accessibility of guns. The blame may lie in the heated words of politicians.  We should not explore his behavior to cast blame but to find out how to prevent this from happening again.  The lesson will not be learned if we do not take responsibility for our words. It was disheartening to hear Sarah Palin finally address the events in Tucson and refuse to acknowledge that some of her colorful language just might fall upon the unhinged who might distort it.  Words do matter.

January 12,2011
The Initial Assaults on Abortion Rights in 2011

The first urgent business for the incoming 112th Congress was supposed to be a call to repeal the health care bill. Proclaiming a mandate, newly elected Congressional members and incumbents were on message about ObamaCare and what the American people want. They decried the mandatory purchase of health insurance and the penalty for refusing to do so. While they focused on the "will of the people," as they read it from the results of the midterm elections, they were very busy planning the will of the conservatives to enact new, highly restrictive abortion laws.

To start off the new session and the first of many assaults on abortion, Representative Mike Pense (R-Ind) has written a bill with the catchy title, "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (HR 217)."  He was able to garner over 122 co-sponsors to this bill, which literally would make organizations that offer abortion services with their own funds ineligible for federal Title X grants. These grants fund family planning and other preventive health services.  Pense cites Planned Parenthood as one of his major targets, but claims that funding for organizations that do family planning but do not offer abortions could keep their funds. Hmm, which ones?  Are they faith based?  Are they violating separation of church and state? There is already a law prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions in Title X programs, so what is the real agenda?

And on the theory of let’s repeat ourselves on the no taxpayer funds for abortions theme, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) has insisted that the Congress needs yet another law restricting taxpayer funding of abortions.  The Hyde Amendment covers this but that does not seem to stop new legislation. Smith has introduced the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 5939)," and currently has 185 co-sponsors.  This bill was highlighted in the Pledge to America. Since the majority of Americans are in favor of Roe vs Wade, the pledge seems to be for a minority of Americans.

On another front in Nebraska, which already has a plethora of laws chipping away at abortion rights, State Senator Beau McCoy introduced legislation that excludes abortion coverage from policies obtained through health insurance exchanges, which are scheduled to begin in 2014. His bill also would limit coverage of abortion in all private insurance plans sold in the state. Abortion coverage would be allowed only through an optional rider that is paid for solely by the insured.  This ploy appears to part of the playbook of conservatives to make abortion financially impossible for most Americans. If a woman pays for her own insurance, why should she have the additional burden of writing an additional check or have to find insurance that will even cover her? At what point do we acknowledge that many woman pay taxes and might want their tax dollars to cover abortion and contraception rather than Viagra or war related expenses? In the same vein of what is legal rather than personal belief, it will be instructive to see Representatives Pense and Smith point to the section or article in the constitution that deals with requiring women to pay for abortion riders in insurance plans. 

In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell is considering backing a law that will impose more regulations on abortion clinics. He is also looking into the high rates of abortions in metropolitan areas.  If Rep. Pense’s legislation to defund Planned Parenthood is passed, then the Governor may find that pregnancy rates climb even higher as low income teens have no places for counseling.  If these teens cannot receive contraceptive information, the state may be overwhelmed with either botched abortions from backroom alleys or have their Medicaid funds stretched to pay for these dependent children. In many cases, this applies to the mother and the child.

In Texas, the newly empowered Republican state legislature plans to make deep cuts in budgets and propose that women seeking abortions must have sonograms and look at them before they can exercise their constitutional right to have an abortion. Will they include payment for this sonogram? It is interesting to note that the same states that rail against mandates for health insurance have no issue writing mandates that force people to undergo a procedure that they do not want, study it and pay for it.  Dare I say that this type of invasion of privacy is considered permissible when it is a woman? Where in the Constitution is the authority to do this?

For a comprehensive list of legislative trends in 2010, RHReality has a very well written article.  As always, you can find a list of laws by state that have been passed since the murder of George Tiller on our blog under Reproductive Choice. 

Whether on a state or a federal level, conservatives are mounting a full frontal assault on the rights of women. When women control their bodies, they control their destinies. When laws control their bodies, they become trapped by their own biology.  Roe vs Wade is under attack. We can no longer count on a Supreme Court that will rule on precedent. We can no longer count on a Congress that will stop this attack.  Over the past year we have seen women’s reproductive rights being compromised again and again for other issues. We can only count on ourselves to confront this challenge. 
 January 11, 2011
Israel - The Land of Innovations
My morning ritual as I read the daily newspaper is to scan for news of Israel.  For the last four months, the news has centered about the peace talks or lack therein and the occasional skirmishes with Hamas.  But rarely is there mention of the tremendous advances that are happening in Israel.  Today I celebrate the innovations and breakthroughs that are happening in Israel and positively impacting the world.

The story of a paraplegic using a device to allow him to rise from his chair and walk was recently featured on Glee.  This is the stuff of science fiction and it gives hope to many people who expect to spend their days in wheelchairs. Rewalk is now being used in some US hospitals.

Sight is a precious sense and the loss of it as one ages is a fear many experience. In July, the FDA gave approval for the use of CentraSight, a tiny implantable telescope that gives people with end stage AMD (age-related macular degeneration) improved vision. While the technology is not available yet, it will be embraced by many and holds promise for additional technology for visual impairments. 

Israel 21c writes of the top ten innovations of the last year. Starting with revolutionary glasses that deal with problems caused by bifocal and multifocal lenses to a new sniff device that will allow paralyzed people to surf the web, communicate and steer their wheelchairs.  The work includes solar energy innovations, airport security and even smartphones.  It appears that there is no limit to the scope of Israeli innovations.

Generally, discussions of Israel center on the political atmosphere. The opinions are as diverse as the Jewish people and the world. There are no simple solutions for resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But we can further our support of Israel by recognizing the developments that flow from there to the US and the world.

At JAC we believe in a strong US-Israel relationship.  It is clear that the US greatly benefits from the many scientific and technological inventions that originate in Israel. Support this relationship by coming to DC with us to work for a continuation of a strong bond between Israel and the US.

January 8, 2011
The Shooting of Representative Giffords

This week  while I was in DC attending the Swearing-In ceremonies at the Capitol someone remarked about  the incredible security to get into the Senate, House and Capitol. She commented that since so many legislators believe that it is an individual liberty to have guns in public places that they should be willing to have guns brought into their spaces. Of course, she was not advocating this but ironically discussing the danger of guns.

And now we have the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 11 or 12 other people. At this time the news is grim. The Congresswoman is in critical condition, 6 others were killed and 5 others wounded. This incident speaks to why guns are dangerous and should not be easily owned or worn.

It is with tears and a full heart that I watch the unfolding news about the shooting. On Wednesday I attended a reception in the Congresswoman's office. Her staff was eager to begin working on legislation and ready to work on her priorities for her constituents and the country. There was a long line to go into her private office and speak with her.  I can picture her as she stood there in her tweed suit with a new hairdo and a brilliant smile. She told us she had had a hard fight and was eager to begin the new Congressional session.  We promised to meet with her soon to discuss our mutual interests. Then we walked over to her mother who spoke so proudly of her daughter. And we expressed our thoughts about how wonderful Gabby is.

As JAC president, I have had the privilege to spend time with her and can say with no reservations that she is an incredible woman who believes in an America that is for everyone.  As we wait for news, we can only pray that she and the other wounded will survive.   And as we wait, we should view this shooting as a wake up. The heated rhetoric and passionate discourse about targets and the use of the second Amendment can lead to actions such as this one. In July there was a twitter calling for the violent removal of Giffords. Join us in Washington as we advocate for an end to the angry dialogue by politicians.  It is time that we demand that partisan politics remain civil and that our politicians think before they issue a call to arms.

January 3, 2011
The Choice Is A Woman's 

Many years ago I read a novel about a judge who was virulently anti-abortion.  His rulings were so extreme and so anti-choice that a group of women decided to teach him the realities of childbearing.  A doctor was able to implant a womb into him and impregnated him.
The book chronicles his 10 months of pregnancy, and of course, he has an entirely different perspective on choice.

As I read Russ Douthat's column in today's NY Times my mind wandered back to this novel.   Part of his premise is that abortion is preventing many white unmarried women from carrying unwanted, unplanned babies to term then giving them up for adoption. Would he feel the same way if he were the one who was pregnant?  He also cites an article from the November 28, 2010  issue of New York Magazine to say that the pill has created a biological unreality for women and their fertility and they now regret using it.  So now we see the attacks begin.  The Pill is the enemy of women who want to be pregnant.  As we listen to Speaker Boehner who wants to remove the pill as preventative care from the new health care bill, we can understand the seeds that are becoming part of the media narrative.  The Pill, which liberated women and made them able to prevent unwanted pregnancies, is under attack. 

Let's look at this paradox: the pill prevents pregnancy thereby eliminating the need for abortion, but the conservatives want to eliminate the pill and encourage more births.  But they also want to cut entitlement programs to care for these children.  Now that is a paradox that confounds me every time I hear the discussions about cutting spending and restricting abortion. 

The Times article ends with a poem about a heartbeat. The only thing that I hear is the drum beat of a war against reproductive rights.

January 2, 2011
The Newest Front in the War on Women

The countdown for the 112th Congress to convene is 3 days away. In listening to the rhetoric on the airwaves, it appears the country is poised to become a conservative orderly society for the wealthy, the business community and the anti-choice forces.  The Republicans are threatening to enforce their mandate, which they proclaim is to roll back "Obama Care," cut spending and read the Constitution on the first day in session.

On January 2nd on Daily Kos,  Kaili Joy Gray outlines the challenges that women will face in the upcoming year.  The right of a woman to control her body is in peril.  In state legislatures across the county there are so many draconian laws concerning abortion that in many areas women will have to travel for abortions or resort to self-performed abortion.  In states like Nebraska, lawmakers have become fetal experts who can determine when and if a fetus feels pain. They must have all had Freudian therapy where they traced their issues back to the womb and were able to identify the pain they felt.  The National Right to Life committee will encourage other states to pass this law as well as the Oklahoma law that mandates a woman pay for an ultrasound before she is allowed to exercise her legal right to abortion.  In Ohio, as well as many other states, legislation to prohibit health insurance coverage for abortion if it is subsidized by state or federal funds will be a weapon to fight against abortion.  Once the new health care law is fully in place in 2014,  the anti-choice legislators are plotting to turn the law against the right to choose by preventing women from buying health insurance that covers abortion services.  This will primarily affect women who cannot afford abortions or child care.

On the federal level, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) has longed tried to introduce restrictive abortion laws.  He is now proposing to use the new health care reform law to deny reproductive health care to women.  He is trying to use the power of the purse to subvert the law of the land, Roe vs Wade, by making it financially difficult for women and their employers to pay for health insurance coverage of abortion.

In 1973, the Supreme Court issued a decision with a 7 to 2 majority in favor of Roe.  This decision was partially based on the 14th Amendment's right to privacy.  This means that abortion is a fundamental right under the Constitution.  So now we have a Supreme Court decision in favor of abortion based on the Constitution.  Where are all the Tea Party conservatives who have said that laws must be based on the Constitution?  Now, we have such a law and these activists are trying to go against the Constitution.  Where are John Boehner's tears as he fights against a woman's right to choose and privacy?  Taking that away and restricting it should be worthy of a least a handful of tissues.  Where are all the strict constructionists when it comes to a woman's health and privacy?

It is indeed a war.  This is not just a battle for the right to privacy.  This is a battle for equal rights.  This is a battle where we must demand that our rights are protected.  No more compromises with women's health as we had with the health care reform bill.  No more preventing women from gaining insurance for abortion.  Lest we forget, women's taxes go to the same IRS.  

The 112th Congress is the most anti-choice ever.  The House will continue to speak of the smaller role of government while imposing government on women.  The battle lines are drawn; and the war will be lost unless women speak out against these laws and insist that our constitutional rights are threatened.  The fight is ours, we must work vigorously to defend our rights.  JAC is committed to this fight - are you?

December 22, 2010
Yes He Did

As they say in the vernacular, "He's back."  This morning as I listened to President Obama address a full audience before signing the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell ban, I heard the fire, the passion, the energy to right wrongs that marked the oratory of his campaign for president. It was indeed a historic moment with the end of the military discrimination against gay and lesbian soldiers. President Obama told a moving story about a soldier whose life was saved in WWII by a fellow soldier. It was 40 years later that the rescued soldier learned that his savior was gay.  And it did not matter now or then.  The story was meant not only to reassure those who are concerned about gays in the military but to illustrate that sexual orientation plays no role in courage or bravery. 

But I sensed and felt more.  I saw the man who gave hope to America that a new chapter of civility was possible.  A man who said “yes we can,” and this morning was able to proclaim “yes we did.”  With him were high ranking officials of the Military Establishment, Republican Senator Susan Collins and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman who pushed this bill through the Senate, Representatives Patrick Murphy, Susan Davis and Steny Hoyer, a soldier dismissed for being openly gay, Senator Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  The smiles were almost giddy and the audience was wildly enthusiastic.

I contrast this to all the other amazing legislation that has passed in the two years since President Obama took office.  He was able to shepherd through health care reform legislation that has the potential to help so many disadvantaged citizens as well as a means to bring down health care costs. 

The fiscal crisis that rocked America in 2007 had its roots in many areas.  One of them was the lack of regulation in the banking world. Under Obama a Wall Street Reform bill was passed. Also a Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights was passed to protect consumers.  Much was done to shore up people who were facing foreclosures on their homes.  A stimulus bill was passed to inject funds into our economy and create jobs.

Aid was given to students so that they could attend college and not graduate burdened by debt.

When the Oath of Office is administered, the President assumes the heaviest burden any person can take on. As citizens we expect that on day one, the President will find a stride and move the agenda. But it takes longer, much longer, to understand how to promote an agenda while stroking all the partisans on one's own side and on the opposing side, all while considering the long term results.  It is no wonder that most Presidents seem to age rapidly. But December 22 may mark the day President Obama found his voice.  

President Obama had to compromise his principles with the Bush tax extensions, but in so doing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was passed.  The New Start Treaty was ratified today.  Much good came from the compromise.  Of course, there were losses with the Dream Act but Latino voters now understand where they need to increase their voter registration and work to elect different Congressional Representatives.  Another loss was the International Child Marriage act that failed because of the anti-abortion faction.  Now women and men must work to elect people who believe in the right to marry when one chooses, not forced or sold into marriage at a young age.  The ban for women in the military forces overseas to pay for abortions was side lined.  We cannot neglect these women and must fight for them.  It is time for pro-choice people to get off their duffs and work to elect representatives who will ensure their rights.

Much is left to be done. Much, much more has been accomplished.  I also salute Speaker Pelosi.  In my opinion she should be regarded as one of the greatest Speakers of the House.  I look forward to her regaining the majority and continuing her work.  I salute Harry Reid who quietly manages to strong arm the votes and lead the Senate in passing extremely necessary legislation.

I know we can move forward, but it must be done together.  This legislation required input from all of us to get passed.  Calls were made, emails were sent, petitions were signed, and voices were heard.  We must continue to make ourselves heard, to be a nation of the people, especially during the upcoming 112th Congress.  The new House Leadership has already stated it wants to repeal the advances we have made as a country.  The Senate Minority Leader has declared their role is to make sure President Obama only serves one term, not to legislate and move our country forward.  We must make ourselves heard, we must stand together, and we must not give up now.

As the 111th Congress and 2010 come to a close, please consider joining JAC if you have not done so or making a year-end contribution.  Plan on joining us in Washington this spring to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, join our Facebook page, join our email list to receive updates and action alerts, and share us with your friends.   

Legislatively the past two years have been good for the country.  Today I heard the President that I voted for and I know that he can and we can go forward.
Notable Legislation passed by the 111th Congress:

The 111th Congress has been noted recently as passing more legislation affecting Americans than any since "The Great Society" of the 1960s, with some historians noting that this Congress has produced legislative output that may rival any other since the New Deal in scope and ambition.  Here are the highlights of what has been passed in the 111th Congress:
  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Cash for Clunkers
  • Wall Street Reform
  • Health Care Reform
  • HIRE Act (Jobs Package)
  • Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell
  • Tax Relief Package
  • Small Business Lending Fund
  • Lilly Ledbeter Fair Pay Act
  • Children's Health Insurance Program
  • Child Nutrition Act
  • Food Safety Act
  • First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit
  • Travel Promotion Act
  • Housing Loan Modification
  • Fraud Enforcement & Recovery Act
  • Pigford/Cobell Settlement 
  • Credit Card Regulations
  • Education Funding/Student Loan Reform
  • FMAP Funding
  • Tobacco Regulation
  • Public and Management Act
  • National Service Programs
  • Weapons Acquisition Overhaul
  • Defense Appropriation & Supplemental
  • Hate Crimes Prevention
  • Veterans Caregiver Assistance
  • Iran Sanctions
  • CALM Act - Sound regulation on television
  • COBRA Extension
  • Unemployment Benefits Extensions
  • Community Radio Act
  • Tribal Law and Order Act
  • Confirmation of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court
  • Ratification of the START Treaty
  • 9/11 First Responders Health Bill
From the list sent out by Senate Democrats

December 19,2010

Who Is Naughty and Who Is Nice?

Ho, ho, Merry Christmas to all. The past few days the Lame-Duck Congress has given out gifts to the American public.  In the realm of who is naughty and who is nice, it is clear that women fall into the ranks of the naughty.

The first example is the vote on the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010, which failed on Thursday because according to Incoming House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)  the bill is too costly and might provide some funds for abortions.  I wonder how one evaluates the value of lives of children forced into marriage and servitude?  If I might be so bold as to suggest that the tax extensions to the wealthy cost more than this bill and said repeal of extensions would have paid for the bill.  The interesting dichotomy here is the concern that some money might, just might be used for family planning or abortions for children who are raped in forced marriages,  but shows an utter lack of concern about those who are already born. No monies can be spent on abortion, and whoops, no money should be spend on the conditions that might cause the need for the abortion. 

Second the block of the repeal of the military ban on abortions once again shows the lack of respect for women in the armed forces.  Anti-choice Senators like John McCain who speak so passionately of our men and women serving abroad were the strongest voices against providing military women the right to spend their own money in military hospitals abroad to have abortions.  Now these soldiers will find themselves in an untenable position.  Either go home and risk demotion or seek medical attention in an unsafe place.  Surely, our military deserves better than this.

But the block of this amendment, offered by Senator Burris (D-IL) that would have repealed the ban on women in the armed services using their own funds to pay for an abortion, is even more ominous in terms of media coverage.  When I tried to get more information on this block, only NARAL had current information.  No information was readily available about the stripping of this provision from the Defense Appropriations Bill.  Once again women's health was compromised and no one seemed to care.  When in doubt, compromise women's rights. Where is the anger, the fire for women among women, liberals, civil rights groups?

On a positive note, perhaps, Santa's nice list was the Don't Ask Don't Tell result. The years of struggle to repeal of  Don't Ask Don't Tell Bill concluded with a vote last night. For the men and women who have fought for the right to serve their country without the threat of discharge for being gay, this was a battle they deserved to win.  I congratulate the Senators who voted to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  It was heartening to see Senators Lieberman and Collins work together to pass this bill and to have Senators Snow, Brown, Murkowski, Kirk, Burr, Ensign, and Voinovich cross the aisle for this passage.

The real gift for America would be that our Congress would continue to work together on bipartisan, bicameral legislation.  The last week has shown that it is indeed possible.  But that does not appear to extend to the rights of women.  Bills that work to better the lives of women and girls become mired in religious and philosophical conflict.  It is as if the biology of being a woman relegates one's rights to religious doctrines or to a socially conservative movement. Again and again bills that support the right of women to live healthy lives are thwarted because of the  fear that some funds might go to provide abortions. And again and again the bills die and the public is silent.  

For those of you who care, let our gift be to the women and children who are forced into marriage, servitude or who cannot control their own bodies or who are raped or trapped by their biology.  Let our gift to them be our voices in Congress. Let's pledge to be as persistent as any other civil rights movement.

December 12, 2010
Act Now for Abortion Rights

In today's New York Times, buried on page 34A, Robert Pear outlines what we can expect with Representative Joe Pitts as chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.  Pitts' path is a straight line to denying women their fundamental rights.  He wants to get rid of a woman's right to make her own determinations about her health and reproductive life.  

Railing against the health care law, he claims that it uses federal funds to subsidize abortions.  Just ain't so, Joe.  First, there is the Hyde Amendment which already is law and prevents this.  Second, due to your actions along with your colleague, Bart Stupak, there are strict provisions against this.  Pitts has introduced a bill that further restricts federal subsidies : “to pay for any abortion, or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.”

For clarification, that means that if a person purchases a health care plan with her own money, but is part of a plan that others participate in and the other participants get some federal subsidies, that the person who purchased the plan can't have abortion coverage? Is that right, Joe?  Are you now limiting my right to buy insurance? Are you interfering in my right to choose my own insurance plan? Are you now in my pocket and in my uterus?
Of course, if you look at the compromise language that was put into the passed health care bill, it is equally bewildering.  There are health care plans that may cover abortion but can't use federal funds to cover them. (I wonder how many times this fact has to inserted?)  So the person who is paying her premium has to send in two checks. For an online "bankophile" like myself that might present challenges as to how the bank is to specify this.  This means I have to send it two checks just in case I find myself needing an abortion that at that moment I am not contemplating.  For people who like to get what they pay for, will this encourage them to have an abortion periodically because they pay for it? Absurd, right? Equally absurd to have to write two checks. Equally absurd to think that insurance companies will go along with this new paper work.  And of course, the insurance company has to segregate the federal the funds, not to mention offer the abortion rider in the first place.

Maybe everyone should get to decide where her tax dollars are spent. Below I am purposing a scenario where I do not want something covered by my tax dollars:

What if I decided that it was morally wrong for men to use erectile dysfunction drugs and that I do not want my tax dollars subsidizing these drugs.  I think we can safely assume there is a health care plan that offers to cover these drugs but also takes federal subsidies. Imagine if Rep. Pitts had to write two checks if he needed this drug.  The first thing that he would realize that everyone at the bank and the insurance company knew his most intimate details because of the two checks. The second is the burden that it places on him and the insurance company. Third the invasion into his private life by the government.

But I fear I dream. It is only a woman's right to bear or not bear children that falls under such scrutiny.  It is only a woman's right to control her own body that seems to be threatened. 

As we look at this new Congress, it is time to have a cold hard look at the facts. If those of us who believe that it a woman's Right to control her own life truly believe this, then we must act.  We must make our voices heard and stop sitting on the sidelines saying to ourselves that abortion  and reproductive rights could never be taken away.  The opponents are working hard to overturn Roe vs Wade and to make abortions, contraception and family planning a relic of the past.  The sad truth is that they could succeed if we do not work together to prevent it.

At JAC we are determined to promote choice, but we need your bodies and your dollars.  Make reproductive rights your issue.  You can find out how to donate time and dollars to JAC's advocacy group by going to jacpac.org.

December 9, 2010
Understanding Tevye

As I read the papers and listen to talk around the water cooler and among the talking heads, I now fully understand Tevye. On one hand, I wanted President Obama to draw a line in the sand and not budge from it. I wanted him to stare down Senator McConnell and the other Republican leadership until they blinked on taxes for the rich. On the other hand, I wanted the unemployed to pay their rents and have food on the table.

On one hand I wanted the President and the Democrats to force the Republicans to admit that the tax cuts for those making above $250,000 will increase the deficit and mortgage the next generations’ future. (Hmm, I heard that during the Mid-term elections, oh, from the Tea Party and the Republicans speaking about the debt and the need to restrain spending). Now I know that does not apply to tax cuts for the wealthy, increasing the deficit from tax cuts does not count. No one has to find a way to pay for them. The mythology is that the wealthy will spend all this money.  Anybody see the tax cuts for wealthy over the last 10 years spurring the economy?  On the other hand, I did not want to see working class and middle class taxes rise so that tough choices of food or rent would have to be balanced.

On one hand I wanted the Democrats to craft a message that would finally resonate with the people who are being hurt the most. I wanted them to think of a neat phrase like death panels to show that taxes for the wealthy are not job-creating or stimulus spending. What about:   Bailout for the Rich? Only the Middle Class Pays Taxes?  Lower Taxes Raise the Deficit?  On the other hand, I just wanted people to hear that they can have Christmas and their college kids can go to school.

On one hand, I did not want to hear this is the best deal that President Obama could get because it will be worse in the next Congress. I wanted to hear that the President did not let the Republicans hold him hostage.  On the other hand, the best analogy I have is that terrorists groups know that the Israelis value each life and will do anything to save a life. And here the Republican leadership correctly gauged that President Obama genuinely cares about the middle class and the poor. He was not willing to risk their welfare to prove a point. After two years he knew that statements invoking the "will of the people," notwithstanding the actual will of the people, from McConnell and Boehner were just rhetoric.  They are willing  to let people be hungry and cold, bankrupt future generations and dismantle social security and safety nets. So he made the best deal that he could based on his sense of the possible ramifications. I am upset and confused but think he could be right.

Like Tevye, I am now understanding the reality not the principals. When you deal with 42 united Senators who will not do anything, even ratify the START Treaty which deals with world-wide security, unless you give them tax cuts for the wealthy, what options do you have? You could treat them like you would a recalcitrant child (which they are) or you could be an adult who looks at the long term good of the country. So Golda, maybe we can work on the deficit and tax reform next year.

December 7, 2010 
Chanukah at the White House

Sometimes as we moan about the economy, the lack of jobs, the direction of the country, we need to stop and thank our forefathers that they made it to America.  In America, a skinny black man can become president, an immigrant can become governor of California, a Jew can go to the White House to sing the Chanukah blessings.  Is there any other country, besides Israel, that would invite Jewish leaders to celebrate Chanukah in the President's home? On the third night of Chanukah, Jewish community and political leaders were invited to a celebration at the White House.  I, along with Marcia Balonick, Joy Malkus and Betsy Sheerr were among the privileged to participate.

As we entered the White House, the US Marine Chamber Orchestra in full red regalia was playing renditions of Chanukah songs and works from Jewish composers. The lights cast a brilliant aura on the musicians. We entered a poinsettia-lined hall where waiters greeted us with glasses of wine and sparking water. Portraits of first ladies and Presidents adorned the halls and the rooms.  Each room was decorated with a theme that matched its colors.  There were Christmas trees in most rooms with ornaments made from recycled magazines and newspapers, ribbons, tinsel, sequined ornaments and fruit. The rooms were warm and magical and open for our enjoyment.

What is a party without food?  An elegant glatt kosher buffet was served, and yes, there were delicious latkes with all the accompaniments.  And of course, wonderful pastries and fresh fruit.

President and Mrs. Obama and Vice President Biden entered the large state room.  President Obama expressed his sympathy about the fires in Israel and pledged to give any aid that was needed. He then discussed the miracle of Chanukah and welcomed everyone.  Susan Retik Ger, co-founder of Beyond the 11th and her family were asked to light the Menorah.  As the candles were lit, the 500 people in the room sang the blessings.  The Hebrew filled the halls and hearts of all those who attended.

I am awed that a Jewish girl from South Carolina celebrated Chanukah with the three Jewish US Supreme Court Justices, Members of the Congress, ambassadors, cabinets members and other dignitaries.  Soon I will have a picture with the President and the First Lady to attest to my miracle Chanukah.


December 1, 2010
Philosophy in a NY Cab

As the rain and winds pounded New York City streets this morning, I was fortunate to easily find cabs to and from my destinations.  After a preliminary discussion of the insane traffic, the first cabbie launched into a philosophical discussion of organized religion and the lack of merit he finds in it.  Taking on the holiday season he proclaimed, "The tree in Rockefeller Center causes too much congestion and who needs it.  I, myself, think a greater being created the world and that is the end of it.  I am neutral on all religions. Each religion says it knows the only way to heaven. When I die, I will leave doing the best I can for everyone."  Protected against the now driving rain, I was assailed by another philosophy about the state of the NY streets and our government.  The second cabbie ranted for the entire ride about millionaires and billionaires ruling our government so that ordinary people, like cab drivers and vendors, have to submit to all their dictates and are left to fend for themselves.  He said all who get into his cab are equal, they are his riders regardless of power, and oh by the way, Obama is the greatest and Eric Holder tells the truth and speaks out for the people.

Later as I reflected on both, I recognized the irony in the timing -- last night was the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and  tonight is the first night of Chanukah.  And I saw the irony that both coincide with news in today's  New York Times  that if President Obama and the Democrats will give tax breaks to the wealthiest, maybe just maybe, the Republicans will agree to ratifying the START Treaty and to extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.  Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our national security if you agree to all our terms.  We get our debate, you get your treaty but Don't Ask  Don't Tell and immigration are off until the next session when we can squash them.  Ho, ho, ho a holiday gift to those who need it most if those who need it least get their gelt.

As we kindle the lights of the Menorah, decorate the Christmas tree, light the Kinara for Kwanzaa or finish celebrating Diwali, it is a good moment to reflect on our blessings and to consider sharing them.  It is time for those in Washington and in our state Capitals to listen to the people. It is the time for both parties to come together to solve problems by helping the neediest. 

November 17, 2010
Is “Choice” The Right Word?

Today I decided that we need a new paradigm for women’s reproductive rights.  By that, I mean looking at why we say “Choice” when talking about reproductive rights.  The dictionary defines choice as:

1)    an act of instance of choosing; selection:  Her choice of a computer was made after months of research.  His parents were not happy with his choice of friends
2)    the right, power, or opportunity to choose; option: The child had no choice about going to school.
3)    The person or thing chosen or eligible to be chosen:  This book is my choice.  He is one of many choices for the award.
4)    an alternative: There is another choice.
5)    an abundance or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of candidates.
6)    something that is preferred or preferable to others; the best part of something:  Mare’s Nest is the choice in the sixth race.

Which definition truly fits to describe reproductive rights?  Really, none.  It could be argued that options 2 and 3 fit, but only partly.  What we are talking about is not the choice, but the fundamental right of a woman to determine whether or not she will carry a child.  Yes, choice applies, but it makes it too simple.  A choice is typically what flavor ice cream to I want today, am I going back to school, should I apply for another job?  All of which we have the right to do as people and as women.  It is also our right, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, that as women, we can control what happens with our bodies, with our reproductive organs, and with ourselves.

It is time that we change our words and our framework.  We need to be as vocal about our right to bear or not to bear children as others are about the right to bear arms.  We need to be absolutely, unequivocally clear about the dangers and the threats to our well-being that being forced to carry an unwanted or unplanned fetus can pose.  We need to be clear that if our life is in danger, we have the right to not see a pregnancy to term and not leave a potentially motherless child to fend for herself.  And fend for herself she will have to do, because those who rail against a woman’s right to reproductive rights have no interest in the child once it is born.  We have the fundamental right to protect ourselves, both mentally and physically.

There are many new laws on the books, as well as ones making their way through the legislative process, both on the state and federal level that aim at removing the right of women to make the most personal of decisions.  This is not a right that can simply be voted on.  We cannot bargain away our bodies and our lives.

This is the time.  This is the moment.  For too long we have allowed our rights to be diminished, chip by chip, restriction by restriction, law by law.  The word is not “choice;” the word is “Right.”  It is simply and fundamentally our right to bear, or not bear, children.
November 9, 2010
Are We Awake Now?

The months leading up to the mid-term elections were full of screaming, rage, accusations and  fear. During the summer of 2009, citizens besieged their Representatives and Senates with anger over a  health care bill that had not even been written. They shouted and booed as their elected officials tried to explain what the bill was trying to do. Then the fall came and citizens marched with signs calling President Obama a socialist and claiming they were going to take back their country.  The anger continued unabated as the Tea Party vented about the deficit, the size of the government,  TARP, the stimulus, the health care bill and the loss of jobs. It did not matter when the problems began or if there was progress, the Democrats had to pay. The Republicans were not liked much more, but the Dems had to go.

And go they did, the turn over in the House was enormous and the Senate also experienced the loss of veteran Senators. But when polled about it, voters were fairly evenly divided between wanting to repeal the health care bill and expand it. The dislike of the Democrats and the Republicans were also equal.

But it took no time for many Republicans to begin claiming a mandate. As always, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell started speaking for what the American public wants. Amazing that they have an inside line into what the people want. Did they ever ask you? I never got a call.  I do hope that they know that most of us want to see bi-partisanship co-operation that works for the good of the country, and not the special interests who funded many of the campaigns.  I do hope that we want to see jobs created for people.  All I hear is small businesses getting breaks.  That's great, if they hire people. I do hope that government is smaller and not as intrusive.  By the way, that means stay out of bedrooms and marriage.

But I fear that the message from many of us will not be heard. In Sunday's New York Times, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue is thrilled with the results and ready to begin attacking choice. Many opponents of choice are planning bills that will take a way a woman's right to choose. They are planning bills in state legislatures as well as the US Congress.  It appears that many of us were silent, our voices were not part of the screaming. We let it happen.  Our hope and dream for change did not come quickly enough.

We must be awake and alert now. We must now make certain that our voices are heard.  We need to re-engage.  Follow JAC as we advocate for the continuation of foreign aid for Israel, choice, and separation of church and state.  Support JAC so we can continue this fight for the next 2 years.  At this time, it is critical that we understand the stakes and be part of the process.

November 5, 2010
Experiencing Israel Through Pepe's Eyes

For the past two weeks, I have traveled through Israel with my husband and a guide, Pepe, who guided us thirty- five years ago.  Pepe is a living example of why Israel is such a strong country and while we, as Americans must continue to support Israel and build strong relations. As we toured the Negev and then drove to Tiberius, the House of Representatives changed hands. The radio and TV in Israel were discussing what it would mean for Israel. Most of the comments were that Israel is not a partisan issue and that most Democrats and Republicans support it.  There was speculation about whether it would effect the stalled peace talks. Here there were many different views and reasons as to why. Pepe asked many probing questions based on his view of the world which was influenced by four wars and life-long struggles for Israel.

Pepe was born in Jerusalem in 1934 to parents who had emigrated from Baghdad in the 1920s. He told us of being a thirteen year old boy during the siege of Jerusalem. One day they learned that there was a field of wheat. He and his two younger brothers went to the field and spent the day cutting it. Next they threshed it and tried to grind it, after the long labor they had a handful of wheat for a family of 12. He spoke of the fighting and the long hours until food reached Jerusalem.

In 1960 he voluntered to work on the excavation of Masada. First they took a boat then walked to the base of the mountains and then climbed to the top. His eyes glowed as he spoke of the finds and what it means to read Josepheus Flavus and then see all the evidence.

In 1967 he fought for Israel and again in 1973. He spoke of the men he had served with and pointed out their names on memorials that we saw in the Golan Heights and in the military cemetary in Jerusalem. And then it was 1982, this time he was not as young but again offered to fight. His job was to go into Lebanon and search and rescue or search and recover. In  1951, seven marines mysteriously vanished. The Israels learned that a Lebanese immigrant had been involved with the Jewish cemetary and might know the where abouts of these men. They found the undertaker who was an old, old man. It turns out that they found 5 Israelis but not the seven they sought. Pepe speaks so caringly about all the missing soldiers and Israels's efforts to bring them home. The heart of the Jewish people and Israel lies in that caring for each person and believing in their worth.

The spirt of Israel lies in the people like Pepe who have lived here their whole lives and are one with the country.

The two weeks have gone very quickly.  I urge everyone to take time and come to Israel not for a mission, not to visit family, but to come experience Israel through "a Pepe's" eyes.


November 4, 2010
Ban the Burka -- Free the Women?

France recently passed a ban on wearing burkas in public. This led to an outcry by the Muslim world and threats of retaliation from extremist groups. France, which has a large Muslim population, is afraid of the exploding community (growth and terrorism).  The new law is intended to prevent people from hiding behind the veil for nefarious purposes.  Will this ban allow women to walk unencumbered or will the women be relegated to life behind walls?

On a recent visit to Petra, I observed women wearing varying degrees of imposed religious garb from a scarf wrapped around the hair to full length burkas with only a thin opening for the eyes. As they walked through the rocks and sands of Petra, I was saddened at a religion that has creates such tight restrictions for women.  I was also saddened that so few speak out for them.

In Afghanistan we are once again negotiating with the Taliban. What will happen to these women?  Who can they count on?  In the US we have allowed 32 years to pass without our Senate ratifying CEDAW (The UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms Of Violence Against Women).  So it seems these women cannot expect help from us.

This year our Senate foreign relations committee was supposed to bring IVAWA (International Violence Against Women Act) out of committee and to the floor of the Senate. The vote was delayed.  If there is a hope to pass this act, it should be voted on during the lame duck session while the support is there.  Currently, the bill has bipartisan, bicameral support.

We can ban burkas but when can we as a world community pass laws to free women enslaved by religious traditions?

Please call your Senators and Representatives and press them to pass IVAWA in November.


October 19,2010
Reflections on the Rise of Women in Politics

Two years ago, many of us proudly watched Hillary Clinton dent the glass ceiling with 18,000,000 votes. Her campaign inspired and gave hope that women were on their way to political and economic equality. In 2010, we are witnessing a new crop of women rising to national prominence: Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle and Sarah Palin. What do they have in common with Hillary Clinton?

Genetically, they are double X’s. But that is the only common bond. What do these new women offer women? They offer a return to the days before Roe vs Wade. They are so anti-abortion that do not believe in exceptions for rape and incest. They would have 13 year-olds bear children of their rapist but would not vote for any social services to help them once they were born. Angle would demolish the department of education so that they could  not be educated. O’Donnell would invade their bedrooms and their science classes. Palin would teach them to wear guns in public.

These anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-contraception, anti-stem cell, anti-gun control, anti-ecology, anti-social security positions are a striking mockery of the inroads that women have made in the last 90 years.  Their policies would set women back a century.

Our pride in Hillary Clinton was in her ability to articulate the means to improve our world and to shape the path toward those means.  She challenged us to work on behalf of women not against them. Please continue that work by voting for the right person not the gender.


October 9, 2010
When A Bully Rules Social Services Look Out

The bully is at it again. Once again Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is ignoring the long-term and promoting his short-term agenda of slashing and destroying sound programs.
Friday he announced that he was stopping the work on the planned rail tunnel from New Jersey to New York. Never mind that the project has been in the works for 20 years, broke ground last year, will create 6,000 construction jobs and uncounted additional jobs, reduce traffic and emissions and improve the economy recovery of the state.  The federal government was contributing 3 billion dollars and now those monies will go to other states that welcome cleaner air and more jobs.

Paul Krugman lays out the case for why this is the worse option at this time. Christie's reasons for withdrawing are part of the national muddying that Republicans are promoting.  What is alarming to me is that I hear so many people touting Christie without looking at the harm that he is promulgating. Bob Herbert in the Saturday NY Times also references the lack of vision and the implications of this stoppage. While Christie has agreed to review his decision after a visit from Roy LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, I wonder when the grandstanding will end.  New Jersey has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country. Raising them by a penny would mean millions to the treasury and yet that is anathema to Christie and his supporters. They would rather slash school and municipal budgets.

Christie cost the state 400 millions dollars in school aid when he let his vendetta against the teachers' union get in the way. He ordered that a deal brokered by Schundler and the union be rescinded and thus began a weekend rewriting during which time errors were made. Christie fired Schundler and took no real blame.

Finally, he vetoed a family planning bill that would have restored 7.25 million dollars to the women's health program. Reproductive services, clinics and women's health programs may have to close their doors. Short-term, he saved some money, long-term he sacrificed women's health and reproductive rights.

Governor Christie represents a way of thinking that is dangerous. He will cut education, he will get rid of reproductive health, he will allow pollution. His values are not raising taxes and I am afraid that people do not look beyond that.


October 6, 2010
Money Fueling the Mid-term Elections

The headlines in the papers scream out about the enormous sums of money that are being raised in this mid-term election and the lack of transparency.  Some even hint that groups like the US Chamber of Commerce are using funds from foreign companies.  These "dues" are coming in from China, Bahrain and other countries.  Other groups like the American Crossroads is receiving infusions of cash from the Koch brothers and other financiers.

The funds are driving the campaigns of many Tea Party candidates who are so conservative that they would not allow abortions even in the case of rape or incest. Sharron Angle said that pregnant women who were raped should make lemonade from the lemon of rape. Of course, like many of the anti-abortion candidates she does not believe in any services for the child after it is born nor in the current health care law which would give them help. Then there are Ken Buck, Joe Miller, Christine O'Donnell who believe in no exceptions.

Many of the people who are funding the campaigns and the activists who are fueling the campaigns claim that they are only concerned about the intrusion of government and the deficit.  They seem to be mono-focused and are unaware of the implications if this new group are elected.  They are supporting a position that would result in an increased government intrusion in our most personal of lives.

Michael Bennet is in a tight race with Ken Buck. If Buck wins, women lose. Mr. Bennet is solidly pro-choice and is working for the rights of women.

Barbara Boxer is fending off Carly Fiorina who was fired from her job as CEO at HP. She sent thousands of jobs overseas. Even worse, she is anti-choice while Boxer is one of the staunchest supports of choice and green energy (which would bring back jobs) in the Senate.

And the list goes on. What is so scary is that the money is working. People are listening to the distorted messages about the economy and President Obama. They are not thinking of the long term effects of this mid-term election.

For those voters who have forgotten what is important, please reflect on a country where women cannot control their own bodies, where children who are raped are made to raise children, where social services are curtailed.  It is up to all of us to ensure this does not become our new reality by supporting candidates who champion our freedoms and making sure we and everyone we know exercises their right and responsibility to vote.

October 4, 2010
Two Thumbs Up and One  Large Round of Applause
Today I wish to pay tribute to Robert G. Edwards, an English biologist, who along with  Dr. Patrick Steptoe,  developed in vitro fertilization. This pioneering science led to the births of millions of healthy children. The two men faced governmental, press, scientific and religious objections but were not deterred. At long last yesterday the Noble Prize was awarded to Mr. Edwards for his work. Unfortunately Dr. Steptoe is dead and cannot receive the prize.

The in vitro fertilization discovery not only led to helping numerous families who otherwise would not have children but led to the stem cell work.  Stem cell work holds the promise of fighting a large range of diseases and conditions. Kudos to these men and to the scientists who continue their work.

My other thumbs up is to the group of former Congressional members who signed and sent a letter to the current Congress reminding them that they are sent to Congress to work for the country. They asked them to reach across the aisles, restore civility and work for the good of the country not for their own political ambitions.  Lets hope that this message is louder than the strident calls from partisan politics.


October 3, 2010
It Would Be Funny if It Didn't Hurt So Much
In 1992 Bill Clinton's "its the economy, stupid" captured the mood of the country.  He nailed the message and carried the election. During his time in office, not only did the country prosper but a woman's right to choose had a strong ally in the White House.  Fast forward to 2000, once George W Bush became president, the assaults on a woman's right to choose escalated.

Legislation concerning sex education instituted a new policy where students only learned about abstinence.  (A side bar -- it seems that many of the legislators who voted for this should practice the same lesson. Many of them seem to have forgotten that they are role models for the youth of America.)  Laws about pharmacists not filling prescriptions for patients if it violated their own religious beliefs were enacted.  Never mind that patients should have the right to contraception, regardless of religion.  Laws about parental notification were passed.

In about four weeks,  voters will come to the polls. Most of them are really concerned with the economy.  Of course, the fact that the economy in the last 2 years of the Bush presidency did not seem to be all that important to these same people but now it is the buzz phrase to draw out concerned citizens.  Repeal Obamacare.  No more wall street bailouts.  No more department of education. No more government in private affairs. Unless it has to do with the bedroom. Then by all means government has the ultimate control.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker who is running for governor opposes abortion including in the case of rape or incest. He is against a family planning act that provides birth control to girls starting at 15 - he would raise the age to 18 and support pharmacists being allowed to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.

In South Carolina, Jim DeMint who has enormous influence with the Tea Party, and by extension, the Republican party has now come out against pregnant women who are unmarried teaching as well as gays and women who are sleeping with their boyfriends. I guess he plans to drop in on bedrooms of female teachers to monitor this. No mention of males sleeping with their girlfriends. Of course, DeMint does not believe in exceptions in abortion. Then again he is one of two Senators holding up the Woman's History Museum in DC.  He is holding back on the funds.  His agenda has a definite anti-female attitude.

In Pennsylvania, proposed legislation would "prohibit private health insurance plans sold in Pennsylvania's state 'exchange' -- created under the new federal health care law -- from offering abortions and require rape victims to report the crime within 72 hours in order to receive an abortion."  Rape is not enough of a violation, now this bill would put the onus of care on the victim. The insensitivity, the lack of respect for women is appalling.

Nebraska - that state seems to be the hub of the anti-choice movement. First the legislature passed a law that restricted abortions after 20 weeks.  And let us not forget Senator Nelson who held the health care bill hostage to this antiabortion platform. Now the other Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns introduced a bill in the US Senate, The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which is similar to bills passed in Georgia, Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Louisiana. This bill states that at or after 20 weeks, a doctor must tell the woman that the fetus feels pain and offer to give the fetus anesthesia.  And the doctor has to use the term unborn child instead of fetus.  There is no scientific evidence but once again politics trump science.

In state after state there are so many ways to end the right to choose that it is no longer a far-fetched fantasy that women will not have access to abortion in most states.  So  while "it is the economy, stupid" that is putting this new breed of extreme right people in office, the danger is that these people have an agenda to take away women's reproductive health and rights. And as Frank Rich so eloquently and humorously wrote in his op-ed piece, the last laugh could belong to the people who are proposing these laws. Or as I see it the last gasp we hear, could be ours.

Please vote for candidates who support women.


October 1, 2010
Who Has the Right To Taxpayer Funds?
Last week the Republican Party held a news conference a lumber warehouse to announce its Pledge to America. While much attention was paid to repeal of the health care, rolling back TARP and tax cuts for all, little attention was directed to the pledge to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Social conservatives reaction was mixed, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council lamented the lack of mention of defense of traditional marriage but others were buoyed by  their pledging not to allow tax dollars for abortion and to enact a conscience protection law for health care providers that would allow them to refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds.

The Hyde Amendment states that federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions. While this impacts all women, it has far great impact on low income women.  Salon has a very good article that discusses the importance of repealing this act as opposed to the Republican pledge to make it permanent.

It is interesting that abortion or a woman's right to govern her own body is the only area where certain interest groups claim the right to not use tax payer dollars. When did we get to choose? If this is a trend where we can decide, I would like my tax payer dollars not to be spent on the Iraq War. We all have areas where we would rather our hard-earned funds be spent but a government can't function like that.

Please call or email your Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote against the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.


September 30,2010
I-VAWA- In Jeopardy
BREAKING NEWS  Senator Kerry just canceled the  Senate Foreign Relations I-VAWA mark-up meeting scheduled for today.  If with a Democratic majority in the Senate and the House and with bipartisan support, this bill cannot even go to a mark up in committee what will happen if the majorities change?  When a bill that works for stopping violence against women cannot even have a hearing, one wonders at the forces at work.

Yesterday I asked how far will forces against choice go?  Here are a few examples:
 Janice Shaw in a column at townhall.com writes that I-VAWA is an anti-family, gender quota and abortion-push bill.  She seems determined to proove that a lot of reports of abuse are false, and if they happen, it is in non-traditional family situations. It is frightening to read her view of this bill and only serves to prove why passage is so important.

According to ifeminists.com  "A coalition of women’s organizations, men’s groups, pro-family advocates, and victim advocacy organizations had lobbied against the bill, saying it would promote a gender ideology, discriminate against male victims, and do little to address the known causes of domestic violence." The Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) also worked against I-VAWA’s passage, noting “India and other countries have had extensive experience with such abuse-reduction laws, which have had a disastrous impact on our society.”

It is even more imperative that you  call or email your Senators and Representatives and ask them to urge for a vote on I-VAWA.


September 29, 2010
I-VAWA - A Bill of Rights That Must Pass

How far can "pro-life" groups (anti-choice) go to thwart women?  These organizations continue to block comprehensive health programs in the name of a culture of life.  With that said, expect them to rail against The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) which is being brought up by The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.

I-VAWA is a bipartisan effort to pass legislation that would address world-wide violence against women.  This bill arose from the frightening statistic that that one out of every three women will be physically, sexually or culturally abused during her lifetime.  In some countries the rate is close to 70%.

If passed, I-VAWA would allow the U.S. government to create a thorough, five-year plan to reduce violence in countries that have the highest levels of incidence against women and girls. The bill would acknowledge that violence against women, particularly rape, has reached almost epidemic conditions.  It also would address the economic and health issues that threaten women world-wide.  Additionally, the bill will allow our government to study and work against honor killings, stonings, female genital mutilation and human trafficking.

This bill has bicameral, bipartisan support.  And what could be more American than working to support the rights of women?  Again, anti-choice proponents see this as a threat to their opposition to choice.  They tend to see most legislation that helps women achieve equal rights and protections as threats.  In Lifenews, an article refers to I-VAWA as such a threat. 

Stopping violence against women is just that -- it is stopping violence against women.  Please call or email your Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote for I-VAWA.  Once you contact them, let us know about it.  Send the information to friends and have them contact Congress.  We cannot allow another legislative session end without passage.


September 16,2010
Who Is Filling the Coffers?

The Tea Party scored huge victories in Tuesday's primaries in Delaware and New York. Inflamed, enthused voters ousted the Republican Party-endorsed candidates and selected angry, ultra-conservative candidates who see no real role for the federal government and who want to repeal almost all social programs and restrict abortion rights.

Anger, poverty, joblessness are fueling the flames of discontent that inspire the Tea Party.  Much of the anger is directed at Washington and the  expansive role of the government.  But interestingly, many of these activists want "the government out of the their Medicare" and want to continue drawing social security.  It is as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Or like the people marching do not really understand what these anti-government candidates like Rand Paul, Carl Paladino and Christine O'Donnell are espousing.

They voted for Christine O'Donnell who is so far to the right that Karl Rove described her as nutty. Today's New York Times discusses the many problems that she has, including questionable use of campaign funds.

And no mention of Christine O'Donnell can fail to look at her extreme position on sexuality. Ms. O'Donnell believes in government staying out of peoples lives but believes that masturbation should not occur in one's bedroom and that abortion is wrong even in the case of rape.  Ms. O'Donnell is such a flawed, ill-equipped candidate that her campaign would be a joke if there were not a chance that the Tea Party will rally its voters to come out and moderates and liberals will sulk at home.

Just as concerning is who is funding her campaign.  She raised very little money in her state. Most of it came from out of state. The Tea Party candidates are receiving huge donations from companies and groups that do not have to disclose themselves.  Are these donors pulling the strings and manipulating sincere voters into believing that they have their interests at heart?

Mr. Paladino, who is a blunt man with outrageous views about social programs like people on welfare going to prisons to collect their checks and who is unapologetic about racist comments, pornographic emails and inflammatory language against Sheldon Silver, is reaching into his own deep pockets to pay for his campaign. (New York Times) But that was yesterday.  He will more than likely receive many outside donations.

Funds are flowing into all these campaigns, tea party activists are driving the get out the vote.

It is time for most of America to wake up, see what is going on and get some fire before many of the programs that we all treasure and need are dismantled and before many of our rights are restricted.


August 26,2010
Continue the Legacy. Work on CEDAW

Women, we have come a long since the certification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Today we salute all the valiant women who risked their homes, families, reputations and limbs to ensure that women were treated as equals and could become active participants in their country. These women left us a legacy that we must cherish and we must not neglect.  Sometimes life and a myriad of activities pulls us in six different directions.  Make time for being active in the policies of our country.

An ideal place to start is being a part of  JAC's efforts to press for ratification of CEDAW.  CEDAW is the working abbreviation for a UN treaty, Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Violence Against Women.  This treaty was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and in use by 1981. The purpose of te treaty was to formally acknowledge that woman and girls have fundamental human rights and equality.  It works to end slave trafficking and domestic violence, to empower women to have their own businesses and to end forced marriages.

To date 186 countries have formally ratified this treaty in their home countries -  6 have not:  Sudan, Somalia, Iran, 3 small Pacific Island Nations and the United States of America.

Shocked?  We are.  Twice before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in a bipartisan vote voted for the ratification.  It never made it out of committee to the floor of the Senate where 67 votes are needed for ratification.  JAC is actively pursuing different avenues to educate the public and to work with members of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate.

It is hard to fathom why the US has not ratified the treaty and become a full partner in the effort.  The reasons do not matter but your help does.  Please contact JAC on our facebook page or through this blog and find out what you can do to help.  As we commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, make CEDAW part of the legacy of women's rights.


August 25, 2010
Join the Fight to End Rape
On August 18,  90 years ago  Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.  To win that right women were subjected to many acts of violence and rage. But they won the right and we, women of the 21st century have to continue  to work for women's rights through-out our country and the world. For my next blogs, I will be discussing issues and actions that women must work for.  I had planned to write about CEDAW today but a report in the news changed that. Unfortunately, today I write about one of the most heinous crimes that can be perpetrated against another --- Rape.

Rape is a tool of war. What better way to destroy a society then to violate a woman or child in front of the family?  The horror of this act does not seem to penetrate the world's conscious.  
In yesterday's news the UN secretary general's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, issued a devastating report on the violence against women and children.  The acts of brutality were so extreme that the report should have been x-rated. It is time for the UN to go farther than acknowledging that rape is a tool of war and is an "impediment to peace."
Impediment to peace! It is time for civilized nations to rise up and to make the penalty for rape so severe that no man or manchild will ever dare to force himself on another person.

Please write letters to the editors, to members of Congress and to our UN representative. Tell them that you demand more than talk.


August 24, 2010
Why You Have to Vote

Here is a quiz. 

In which country in 1917 were a group of women thrown into jail and tormented, because they dared to protest their lack of a vote?  
A. Afghanistan    B. Pakistan   C. Somalia   D. Iran  E. United States 

If you picked E, you are  probably astonished but correct. What follows is an abbreviate time-line of women being able to vote.

On November 15, 1917 a group of courageous women took to the sidewalks near the White House.  They were determined to be seen and heard. They carried signs demanding the right to vote. For obstructing sidewalk traffic, they were subjected to acts of barbarity at the hands of prison guards.  Women were thrown into jail for picketing the White House, women were forced fed liquids through tubes down the throat, and women were beaten and cuffed to overhead cell bars.

The history of women’s suffrage began in 1776 with Abigail Adams who reminded her husband “to remember the ladies” while at work on the Declaration of Independence.  There was only the mention that all men are created equal.  Skip to 1848 when the first Women’s Rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY. It was here that the Declaration of Sentiments was born.  In 1866 Elizabeth Caddy Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association which worked for universal suffrage for white and black women and men.  Even though they were working for all in 1868 the 14th Amendment was ratified which gave all citizens protections against an unjust state. Citizens and voters were defined as male. Then two years later the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote.

50 years later all the efforts were finally rewarded. 36 states ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. 

On August 26, we will celebrate the certification of the ratification of women having the right to vote. There are plans for celebrations and tributes to these ordinary women who refused to be silenced, who demanded to be treated equal.

While we celebrate, we must remember there is still work to be done in nationally and internationally. In the US we must not let organized groups make women second class citizens by imposing their beliefs on our bodies. We must understand that the right to choose is in danger. The right to buy contraceptives is being debated and women are being denied this by certain pharmacist. The right to invitro fertilization could easily be taken away.  Stem cell research is currently stayed by a court order.
And internationally, women are being stoned in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are made to hide behind burkas and are beaten by families. They are raped and murdered on a daily basis. They are chattel for their husbands.

And as a recent email that I received said, we must vote, no matter how inconvenient, no matter how discouraged we are, no matter which party. We must vote. We must raise our voices. We must be willing to give our time and our money to help fight for our beliefs. At JAC we pledge to advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. We will continue to go to the Hill to work for women. But we need your involvement. Join us in DC.  Join us as we raise money for candidates who will work for us. Before September 15 we need to raise $100,000 to fight the forces who would deny women their equal protections. Please send us a contribution of  $5, $25, $100 or more.  Your contribution is tangible proof that the suffragists’ sacrifices are still being honored.


 August 22, 2010 

Freedom Is For Everyone

The rhetoric and debates about the wisdom and the right to build a Muslim Community Center is growing more divisive, more virulent.  The talk is ratcheting up as some describe this project as insensitive to the memory of those killed on 9/11 and a plot to help terrorists infiltrate New York. Others see this as a question of tolerance and the right of American citizens to practice religion.  Politicians, family members who lost loved ones on 9/11, concerned citizens and talking heads are speaking out about this issue:
  • Sarah Palin’s tweets (ABC News).
  • Frank Rich in today’s Week in Review writes about the furor. 
I was recently discussing the issue and was struck by the person’s reference to President Obama approving of this and not of Israel’s building settlements on her own land in Jerusalem. I failed to see the comparison but am struck by how easy it is to be side tracked by the basic principal in the “mosque” debate.  The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion without state intervention. To me that is the crux of the issue. If we start making exceptions based on our religious or political convictions then we are all in danger.

This morning on “This Week” Christiane Amanpour interviewed Daisy Khan and Rabbi Levitt. Ms Kahn discussed that this center was to be modeled after YWCAs and JCCs.  She spoke of it as a place to learn about others. Rabbi Levitt discussed the times in the 1600 and 1700s when synagogues were not allowed to be built.  She mentioned this to say that we all must participate in supporting others and not allowing bigotry to rule our land. 
(Watch here.)

Lately, we have heard a lot about this being a Christian nation. We have seen an erosion of women’s health and reproductive rights based on certain religious beliefs. There is even a church in Florida that is threatening to burn the Koran on Sept. 11.  (Read more here.)

This year on September 11 as we honor those who perished we should consider the best tribute to them and to America.  We must cherish and uphold our traditions of tolerance and we must respect diversity and we must insure that we do not let fear change us into the very people who attacked us on that day. By allowing this center near, not at, Ground Zero we show that America is indeed the land of the free and home to all.

August 12, 2010
Separation of Church and State Under Attack

Have you noticed the number of times recently that the right wing has mentioned that Separation of Church and State are not part of the US Constitution?  Just like so many other new dogmas that the right wing makes into truths, this one is appearing on the campaign trail, in blogs and on billboards.  This latest stealth attack by right wing politicians like Sharron Angle claims that the founding fathers’ intent was to protect religion from government intervention and that the separation of church and state are really not part of the Constitution. They believe that clergy may advocate for political candidates from the pulpit and tell their congregants to vote for Christians values.  Some clergy have answered the call and dared officials to change their tax exempt status.  (Cleveland.com)

This belief is playing out in the Texas School Board’s decision to rewrite US History and to write Thomas Jefferson out of history textbooks.  As I wrote in an earlier blog, because Texas letter to is so large, textbooks bought for its schools are often used by publishers in schools across the country.  There is deep concern about this issue -- in fact, on August 10, a group of organizations lead by Americans United sent a Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) commending her for introducing a House resolution supporting academically sound curriculum development and criticizing the Texas State Board of Education for politicizing the state's social studies standards.  Another article in the New York Jewish Week  discusses the seriousness of the rewriting of history and says that more Jewish groups should be actively speaking out against and lobbying for vigilance concerning church and state issues.

As a member of JAC, be part of the counter attack.  Call or write Congresswoman Johnson and thank her for sponsoring this bill.  Call your representatives and ask them to co-sponsor this important legislation.  Mention that you are a JAC member when you make the call.


August 3, 2010
CEDAW Must Be Ratified

In an article last weekend The New York Times had a moving article that spoke about women's rights in Afghanistan being in jeopardy as America begins its withdrawal. Over the last few years women have been elected to participate in the government, owned and run businesses and had the right to go to school. Of course, they had to look out for acid-throwing Taliban henchmen as they ventured out of their homes.  At the moment it appears that no women are part of the discussion of making a truce with the Taliban.  If there is no outcry, these women will once again go behind the veil and another generation of women will be lost.

Men like Greg Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute have worked hard for the last 15 or so years to build schools, particularly for women, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  What will happen to these wonderful places of learning? How do we allow this to happen?

As our government plans to leave, we must insure that women maintain the rights that they have.  We cannot abandon these women.   We can fight for these women and women world-wide by asking our Senators to please ratify the UN treaty, CEDAW (the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women). The treaty passed by 186 other countries was first introduced in 1977.  The US stands with Iran and like countries in not  passing this treaty. It is time that we women stand up and shout out that discrimination against women is unacceptable.  Call, write, bother your Senators to ratify this treaty.


July 17, 2010
What is the value of your support?
Is working on behalf of a strong Israel one of your core beliefs?  Close your eyes and picture a time when  Israel did not enjoy the support in Congress that is does today.  Who helped work for the change?  The answer is JACPAC.  

In 1981 a group of women realized that they had to work for Israel by being advocates on the Hill.  Today Israel has bipartisan support in Congress.  But JAC continues its vigilance and its advocacy to insure that this bond remains solid.  In order to continue our work, we need you.  We need you to join our trips to Washington and we need you to give to candidates who will work for you.

How much do you value working with Members of Congress for a strong US-Israel bond?  How much is it worth to make sure that the US continues to fight spurious reports int he UN?  What is the value of the State Department having Hannah Rosenthal as an envoy to combat anti-Semitism?  Take a minute and do the calculations.  Is your belief worth a dollar a day?  Is it worth $5 a week or $25 a week?  JAC asks that you do the math.  Once you have done the math, please give generously to JACPAC.  

Visit us at www.jacpac.org.


July 13, 2010
The Viagra vs Birth Control Question
For years women have lobbied for insurance companies to cover birth control pills and devices as part of their health care coverage.  According to an article in the Daily Beast, the new health-care reform bill might mandate that companies cover women.

Abortion foes are gearing up to fight this inclusion.  Naturally, they cite issues of free birth control leading to wild teen sex and cite parental concerns.  Note the sexism and irony in the following quotation: "I don't want to overstate our understate our level of concern," said McQuade, the Catholic bishops' spokesperson.  "We consider [birth control] an elective drug.  Married women can practice periodic abstinence.  Other women can abstain altogether.  Not having sex doesn't make you sick."  

Note that it is women who need to practice abstinence.  And what would they say to the millions of men who take Viagra, Cialis, or any other drugs for erectile dysfunction. Not having sex "does not make you sick?"  My guess is that if ED drugs were no longer covered that even the staunchest conservatives might discover that they are not really opposed to birth control coverage.


June 11, 2010
Crist  Supports Women
Today Governor Crist of Florida showed courage when he vetoed a health care bill that would have not only mandated an ultrasound in the first trimester for a woman seeking abortion, but would have required that she pay for it.  Crist, who says he is not a proponent of abortion, realized that the bill places an undue burden financially and invades the right to privacy.  His comments show his understanding that no matter what a person's personal views on abortion are, laws should not be used to undermine the right to choose and to force a woman to undergo an unnecessary procedure.  

We need more governors like this.  He follows the law of the land.


June 11, 2010
Possible Gain for Women in the Military
Women who join the armed forces of the United States face a wide range of obstacles.  They are often the victims of sexual abuse and harassment.  In the past, their commanders discouraged reporting of abuse and overlooked the threats to the women's well being.  With powerful women like Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) on the Armed Forces Committee, the women of the military have a strong advocate speaking up for them and protecting their rights.

In the Pentagon's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" review, an amendment by Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) makes abortion easier for military women in war zones.  It would allow military women the right to use their own funds to pay for abortions in safe military hospitals and to continue their service in the armed forces.  This is a long overdue right for women who are serving their country.  

Support this change.  More details can be found in the June 10 New York Times.


June 10, 2010
When Myth Triumphs Over Science
On April 13 the Nebraska State Legislature introduced a draconian assault against the right to choose.  In the Baptist Press, Steve Aden praises the April 13 bill which limits abortions to 20 weeks on the basis of fetal pain.  There is no scientific data that a fetus can experience pain, but this argument is used to extol the correctness of the law.  The anti-abortion movement's plan is laid out.  They will invent anything to pass laws and then eventually move to the Supreme Court.  In another time, in another Court this would not be worrisome, but recent decisions do not uphold precedence.
This article clearly shows how the right is mobilizing and how in danger Choice is.

There is a important election in November.  It is the opportunity for the pro-choice community to come forward and vote for candidates who support Choice.


 June 6, 2010
Silence of the Press
When a politician "misspeaks," the talking heads recycle the comments 24/7 and newspapers run exposes on their remarks and past sins.  Richard Blumenthal and Mark Kirk are the most recent examples of media outrage and moral judgments over their claims of military service.  Where is the outrage and continuous replay of the clips over the comments of Helen Thomas, a veteran White House Press Correspondent?  Her own words.

The remarks showed not only her bias but a lack of historical knowledge.  The venom marred her objectivity and should not be tolerated.

Thomas, who works for Hearst Newspapers, has now apologized.  The apology cannot obliterate her heartfelt sentiments.  The excuse of age and longevity in her post are not enough. She should retire gracefully and take courses on Middle East history.

Main stream newspapers and television news bureaus need to examine why journalist have free passes.  When is opinion opinion, and when it is news.


 June 6, 2010
"An Unbreakable Bond"
Today at a luncheon for the re-election of Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Vice President Biden was the guest speaker.  He spent about 20 minutes discussing the recent incident with the flotilla going to Gaza.  In his remarks he emphasized that President Obama has been in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the current incident and future flotilla attempts.  He also said that President Obama had spoken with Prime Minister Erdogan and urged that everyone wait for the full investigation before jumping to any conclusions.  Biden praised the Israeli Supreme Court's ruling about letting all people aboard leave.  He pointed out that Israel is a democracy and ruled by civilian law.

Using a gesture with his palms touching each other, he stressed that is the distance between the US and Israel.  He asked that people not buy into the media hype and the rumors, but rather look at the working relationship between the US and Israel.  He spoke glowingly of his serving under eight presidents and prime ministers going back to Golda Meir, and said that the US and Israel have an unbreakable bond.

Congresswoman Lowey issues a statement about the Gaza Flotilla yesterday, which can be read here.


May 31, 2010
The Worth of Women in Afghanistan
The worth of a woman is her bridal price to her birth family.

She has no right to resist and no escape.  Many of these women/girls are in their early teens and are sold to pay off debts, generally to much older men.  the new families treat them as slave labor with all the other members beating them.  They are forced to have sexual relationships with husbands who abuse them regularly.  

An article in The New York Times on May 31, Child Bride Escapes Marriage, But Not Lashes, describes the plight of these women/girls.  This story is repeated in many countries throughout the world.  The attitudes of the families are rooted in religion and tradition.  Even those who love their daughters cannot seem to break away from these customs.

How can the international community intervene?
There needs to be pressure on the governments to either enforce existing laws ot make new ones.  In fact, the United Nations in 1977 introduced a treaty, The Convention to Eliminate All Forms of discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Over the last 32 years, approximately 186 countries have ratified this treaty and held meetings to end abuse and violence against women.  The seven UN member states that have not ratified the convention are:  Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States of America.  These are either Islamic states (Iran, Somalia, and Sudan) or small Pacific Island nations (Nauru, Palau, and Tonga), or the United States.  Niue and Vatican City have also not signed it.  The United States has signed, but has not yet ratified the treaty.

While they have made some progress, perhaps, if the world's strongest country showed that it supported ending discrimination against women, stories like the one in today's paper would become a part of history.


 May 27, 2010
Third Strike Against Women in Oklahoma
Once again the Oklahoma legislature passed a restrictive abortion law, the governor vetoed the legislation, and the legislature easily overrode it.  www.newyorktimes.com

This new law mandates that women fill out a long form prior to having an abortion and submit it to the state.  Who sees this information?  Where is it filed?  Why is it necessary?  This latest invasion into the privacy of a medical procedure is frightening.  It means that a government can force people to post very private information in direct contravention to privacy law.  During the height of the scare over HIV, people were assigned numbers so that names could not be linked to the disease and create an untenable situation for a person with the virus.  But it appears that abortion does not fall under any protection.  and by extension any other procedure or condition that the State of Oklahoma decides to legislate.

And where is the uproar?  Where are the libertarians shouting about government invading private spheres?  Where is the Tea Party shouting about government in our lives?  Where are the Republican leadership talking about government making our health care decisions?  Where is Sarah Palin talking about taking away rights?  Where are the Democratic party leaders shouting about civil rights?  Where are the protests on college campuses?  Silence.

If we do not raise our voices, express our horror at these latest invasions of medical privacy, we will not only find that abortions are not available, we just might find that we have surrendered many other liberties.

I would like to hear your voice on this latest outrage.


May 21, 2010
Just Say It Isn't So, Texas, and It Isn't - or Textbook Revisions
For months the debate in the Texas Board of Education has raged about changes in History textbooks.  If the additions and deletions are approved, I am convinced that the new classes should be called "Revisionist History," or "History As We Want It To Be."

One of the more outrageous deletions was the omission of Thomas Jefferson because he believed in separation of church and state.  Some additions include: Second Amendment - right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in US Government, inclusion of numerous conservative leaders (see this New York Times article).  Numerous attempts to add the names or referenced to important Hispanics throughout history were also denied.

As I wait for the final vote, I wonder when American education became a political tool - an opportunity to promote an agenda, a systemic approach not dissimilar to the madrases in Islamic countries or to cult indoctrination.  I wonder if other states will include their version of history.  Political parties in control could erase any person or movement that does not fit their school of thought.  This time it is conservatives who are revising.  Perhaps, the next time a state with a more liberal Board of Education would make changes to fit its version of history.  Embellishments should be left to literature.  Political philosophy belongs in the study of political science.  Rewriting history is just not an option.

Please send you thoughts on this important topic.


May 18, 2010
What will Today's Primary Election Mean?
According to the media, the elections in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas are the harbingers of the November elections.  Scenarios abound about the meaning of the turnout and the results.   Incumbent rage among the electorate is predicted.  But is this the real story or is it the media looking for a story?

In March, Florida held elections for the interim seat of Congressman Robert Wexler in the 19th District.  The media loudly discussed how the defeat of the Democrat Ted Deutch by the Tea Party-endorsed candidate Edward Lynch would show incumbent anger.  It would show the power of the Tea Party and be a bellwether of the November elections.  When Ted Deutch soundly defeated Edward Lynch, the story was relegated to the back pages of newspapers and barely mentions by the broadcast media.
So I ask again.  Why the fascination with a small group of angry voters?  Why the fascination with incumbent anger?  Why broadly broadcast this rage?

The answer to the real meaning of today's primaries is that today's results will be indicative of today's results.  Between May and November, a number of factors will influence elections.  It is up to all of us to work on behalf of our candidates.  JAC is working hard on behalf of candidates in a number of states.  Go to our Facebook page or website and help us support these candidates.  You can pledge a monthly gift of $5 and up to help these people fight or you can five a one-time contribution with JAC bundling your funds.  

Now is the time to fight for those who have fought for you. 


May 18, 2010
How Can We Engage Younger Generations in JAC?
A question that plagues me a s president of JACPAC is the involvement of the younger demographic in our core issues.  We find it increasingly difficult to reach those who are 10 years younger than the youngest baby boomer.  Starting with our domestic agenda of Choice (including access, contraception, stem cells, and violence against women), we find an apathy and a lack of awareness that the right to choose is tenuous.  Those born after Roe vs Wade do not have the institutional or personal memory to know what happened to women.  They do not remember the days of botched and furtive abortions in back rooms or secret trips out of the country.  Even the recent enactment of restrictive abortion laws in many states is below their radar.  Will it take the overturn of Roe vs Wade or the inability to have an abortion in most states to get their attention?

On separation or religion and state, most are also unaware of the stealth attacks to break down the walls.  When certain groups in Texas decided to remove Thomas Jefferson from history books, there was no loud outcry from this group.

Then we have Israel, where there is a startling lack of connection with younger American Jews and Israel.  In a piece in the New York Review of Books, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment," Peter Beinart explored views of American Jews, particularly the young, about Israel.

He cites evidence from the pollster Frank Luntz that the more liberal Reform and Conservative Jews are at odds with the Jewish establishments like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which the Orthodox are closely aligned with the hard-line Zionist movement.  He explored the threat to liberal Zionism.

Like JAC, he reaches the conclusion that as American Jews, we have to be able to not only support Israel but also to criticize when we disagree.  We must work for  peace with a two-state solution.  We must always remember and insist on Judaism's values of treating all with human dignity and ensuring that rights for all are respected.

If we can follow these basic tenets of our faith, we can reach the younger generations and maintain their relationship with Israel.

JAC is an organization where the young and the not so young can work for strong US-Israel relations that are willing to look at both side and to work for peace, where we can actively advocate for choice and the maintaining of separation of religion and state.

JAC needs you to become more involved.

May 6, 2010
Another State Passes a New Abortion Law
Chattanooga Times Free Press | Abortion law goes into effect
The Tennessee Legislature just passed a law that places an additional burden on a woman seeking an abortion.  In the latest attack on abortion rights, this law says that none of the Tennessee State health exchanges, public or private, can offer an abortion option.  The legislators claim that the public is concerned that the funds are fungible.

If funds are so easily mixed, we need to address the whole issue of any tax payment going where the funds could be fungible.  According to that logic, then our religious organizations should not be getting funds from the government since these funds too must be fungible.

While I really don't want my tax dollars to be spent on many things, like financing the Iraq War, I understand that my personal beliefs cannot dictate the way each dollar is spent.  Why is it that only a woman's right to have an abortion falls into this category?

Write your legislators and help us stop this rush to make women second-class citizens.


May 5, 2010
More States Pass or Consider Abortion Restrictions
On April 28, I wrote about the two newly enacted Oklahoma Abortion laws.  Later the same day, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the same laws and also reported about a pending bill in Oklahoma.  In this bill, a woman would have to post online that she is having an abortion with her reasons why.

The right to medical privacy for women is in danger; in fact for everyone if a legislature can make people post procedures online.  Would this extend to genetic testing, HIV tests, or pre-existing conditions?  Or is it just that the legal abortion procedure and a woman's right to choose becomes and issue for everyone?

Today's New York Times article mentions that on april 30th, Florida passed a bill requiring a woman to have an ultrasound.

How can someone other than a woman or her physician determine that an ultrasound is necessary?  It is not clear if she must have a trans-vaginal ultrasound (Oklahoma mandates using the one that gives the clearest image), which can be a most unpleasant experience, nor does it discuss who pays for this procedure which can cost hundreds of dollars.  Additionally, the law does not exepmt women who were raped or are victims of incest.

Join us in our efforts to protect a woman's right to choose.


 April 28, 2010
Oklahoma Abortion Ruling
For anyone who believes choice is not being chipped away, read the latest action by the Oklahoma Legislature.

This law forces women to undergo a medical procedure (ultrasound) and listen to a lecture about the fetus before she can process with a legal procedure.

Law by law and state by state, women are being deprived of their right to privacy and control of their own bodies.  Oklahoma is not the only state that has recently sough to undermine Roe vs Wade.  Legislatures in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska have new ways of restricting access to abortion or restricting when abortions may be performed.  In the U.S. Senate and House, there are seven bills that are being advanced this session.

It is interesting that the conservative movement that is against national health care and governmental control of certain sectors is the very movement that dares to interfere in a woman's most personal decision.

We must elect Congressional leaders who have a proven Pro-Choice record.  At JAC, we support candidates who are Pro-Choice.  Become a friend of the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs.  Visit our website at www.jacpac.org.

Help us in our fight to elect the right members to Congress.  Follow our blogs and our Facebook page as we follow the Supreme Court nominations.

Remember Roe vs Wade is one vote away from being over-turned.