Well, it's over. I don't want to do a postmortem of the primary (long over), and I definitely don't want to write about Sarah Palin, but I would like to talk about how some of the issues and candidates we care about did in 2008 - and more importantly, what we can turn our attention to now.
Gains in 2008
From the Center for American Women and Politics,
U.S. Senate: When the 111th Congress convenes in January, 2009, 17 women (13D, 4R) will serve in the U.S. Senate, besting the
previous record of 16 set in the 110th Congress..
U.S. House of Representatives: A total of at least 74 women (57D, 17R) will serve in the 111th Congress, setting a new all-time high. Ten new women (8D, 2R) will join the 64 incumbents (49D, 15R) who were re-elected, topping the previous record of 71 women set in the 110th Congress (2007-08). Among the congresswomen will be 12 (12D) African-Americans, 7 (6D, 1R) Latinas, and 2 (2D) Asian-Americans.
Two women candidates are in races that remain too close to call: Darcy Burner (D-WA), who is challenging an incumbent, and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), who is seeking an open seat.
Eight of the ten new women in the House are pro-choice:
Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)It's great to see women increasing numbers in Congress. I am hopeful that Darcy Burner and Mary Jo Kilroy will join these other pro-choice women once the election results are finalized.
Betsy Markey (D-CO)
Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)
Debbie Halvorson (D-IL)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Dina Titus (D-NV)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)
The next piece of good news for women
Exit polls show women representing 56% of Obama's vote. Obama lost white women over 30. The margins increased as the age went up (no shock there). Now, I certainly tried to increase the numbers in my own age group, 30-44, and we could definitely do better in the future. The good news is, young women supported Obama - and progressive policies - by a solid margin (even white women in the 18-29 age group went for Obama 54-44). Obama won minority women by large percentages, African American women of all age groups with 94% or more, Latino women of all age groups with at least 58% or more (up to 76% for 18-29 year olds), and all other women with 64%. Working women preferred Obama 60-39.
I could go on and on here about the great results, but the important message to take away is that 2008 election results for women bode very well for the future, and progressive policies.
Unfortunately, Prop 8 looks like it passed. This is incredibly frustrating/disappointing, but I am holding on to hope for the legal challenges that have been filed today. All of those legal challenges are detailed in ChristieKeith's diary, Prop 8: The legal challenges are beginning (which has now been updated to add the ACLU lawsuit information). All I can say is that this fight will continue and that I will work hard to reach the day when EVERYONE in America is equal and has the same rights. Until then - shame on all of us.
Several other states brought in bad news for gay rights. Amendments to ban gay marriage were successful in Florida and Arizona, and Arkansas voters banned adoption for unmarried couples, essentially banning gay adoptions in the state. Four years from now I hope to be announcing results that are opposite to these.
On a positive note, the pro-choice movement scored two victories against major anti-choice initiatives last night, one in Colorado (the "fetal personhood" initiative), and South Dakota (a second attempt to completely ban abortion). Details on both initiatives here, but the vote results are good news, the Colorado ban went down 73% to 37%, while the South Dakota ban went down 52.4% to 47.6%.
A third victory for pro-choicers came from California where there was a ballot initiative to require parental permission for abortions. This initiative failed 52.0% to 48.0%. This is the third time since 2005 that Californians have rejected parental permission for abortions. Perhaps anti-choicers in CA will finally get the message and stop pushing this? Doubtful. But we'll keep fighting on it.
Where do we turn our attention next?
Well, we always need to remain vigilant and there are obviously a number of fights that just won't end, but now that we have majorities in the House, Senate, AND the White House (GObama!!), one of the things we can do is try to put a stop to crisis pregnancy centers. Ms. Magazine has an important article about this in their Fall 2008 edition. The scary piece of news that comes from this article is that Colleges are actually referring women to Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPSs) - organizations that advertise to women as offering a variety of services for family planning and health care, but instead use their position to misinform and dissuade women about the options available to them.
From the MS. article:
Lopez, a member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) on her campus, decided to check out herself whether one particular center recommended by her school was actually offering a full range of choices to young women. So she went for a pregnancy test at the center, which promises “informed pregnancy and sexual health choices” in its brochure and which, according to its website, has medically trained staff and offers medical consultation.There is good news and bad news here - we CAN do something about these CPCs. Right now their funding sources are mostly tax dollars directed their way through a variety of government programs increased by or passed by George W. Bush. If we can stop this funding source, these facilities will have to turn elsewhere (which may bleed funds from other anti-choice efforts). There is also legislation (which is being held, of course) that can be passed to regulate these centers and prevent them from spreading misinformation.
“Even before I found out I wasn’t pregnant, the counselor said I should abstain from sex,” says Lopez. She was given a fact sheet on “post-abortion stress” and asked to fill out a form that sought nonmedical information about her family and her religious beliefs. And then, when her urine test revealed not a pregnancy but a possible urinary tract infection, the center did not offer her any medical treatment or refer her elsewhere.
An untold number of college-age women find themselves in Lopez’s position for real, because their colleges regularly refer students to CPCs. A survey conducted this past summer by the Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms., found that of 398 campus health centers at four-year colleges that responded to a questionnaire, 48 percent routinely refer women who think they might be pregnant to CPCs. Although 81 percent also refer women to full-service health clinics, some campus centers say they want to give students “all of the options,” as one health-center director put it.
Here are some details about where the funds come from:
The funding spigots for CPCs includeabstinence-only monies authorized under welfare-reform legislation (Title V of the Social SecurityAct), and Community-Based Abstinence Education(CBAE) funds. Last year, CBAE and Title V fundingalone handed out nearly $14 million to CPCs,according to the Sexuality Information andEducation Council of the United States (SIECUS). The source of those dollars is identifiable, but other HHS discretionary funding sources can be steered toward CPCs without leaving an easy trail to follow—such as Healthy Marriage Initiative fundsand money for projects like “character education,”says Bill Smith, SIECUS’ vice president for publicpolicy. These discretionary sources provide a “safehaven” for funding ideologically driven groups,says Smith, and are designed “to obfuscate thetransparency of government.”Several states have taken it upon themselves to direct funding to these CPCs, so perhaps the most effective route would be legislation that would shut them down or heavily regulate them.
Planned Parenthood has a wealth of information about Title X, which is also mentioned in the article. Here's what PPA has to say about Title X:
Title X has a long and remarkable history. It has enabled millions of women to plan their pregnancies, to prevent unintended births, and to receive vital reproductive health care. For the benefit of American families, funding of Title X must continue to be a national priority, and Planned Parenthood is proud of the role it has played in preserving this crucial women's health program.The MS. Article refers to a proposed rule change by HHS which would alter Title X funds and make them available to CPCs. I wrote about the HHS rule that would allow CPCs to compete with full service clinics for Title X funds. You can read NARAL's letter here, but important to note:
The proposed regulation could affect Medicaid and the Title X family-planning program. For instance, staff at clinics or health-care plans that contract for Medicaid services could refuse to provide contraception.One place to start now would be to use this ACLU template to tell your Representatives that you want them to pull abstinence only education funding. We have wasted $1.3 billion on a program that is a proven failure. That's hardly all Bush has wasted, but every dollar matters in this economy and with our deficit. Why not cut programs that have been proven failures and move the funds to where they actually work - full service clinics and comprehensive sex-education programs.
Read the full MS. article, Fake Medical Centers Fool College Students.
Take some time to celebrate our wins and mourn our losses (and please add those I forgot to mention or just didn't know about in the comments) - and then let's gather up our energy to keep fighting because we all know that the right wing attacks will never stop.