Conscience Clause: Preserving Morality or Creating Immorality?

by Elizabeth Beaulac, Outreach Intern, National Women’s Law Center

August brought with it a victory for women’s health. It was announced that all new health insurance plans would be required to coverage preventive services such as contraceptive coverage. However, in not so great news, the mandate included language that would allow religious employers to deny such coverage on the basis of religious or moral beliefs; also known as a “refusal clause.” Today, many religious institutions are pushing to expand the language, creating the opportunity to deny more woman necessary preventive services.

Needless to say I’m having a difficult time grasping what this so-called, “conscience clause” actually means. Call me silly, but it actually seems immoral to deprive a woman of contraception if those pills are necessary for her to maintain her health. It seems quite immoral to make a woman choose between receiving adequate health care coverage and her job. Do we honestly think it’s fair to deny contraceptive coverage to a teacher at a Catholic school or university even though she may not be Catholic herself?

I have the same argument for abortion; if you don’t believe in its methods or purpose, don’t use it yourself, but please don’t deny access for other women who choose to have the procedure. So when the question of whether or not contraception should be covered by health insurance, I say, “yes.” If the consumer chooses not to use it, fine. However, depriving women the ability to access it in general is putting their health at risk.

About 5 years ago I was first prescribed birth control pills. I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Because of the medicine my doctor put me on; my quality of life has improved 10 fold (no exaggeration). And because of being provided safe and easy access to this medicine, surgery is no longer necessary. I’d truly hate to think that if I had been employed at that time by an institution that sees this sort of life saving medicine as immoral, I may still be living in pain and perhaps be facing even more serious complications.

In the simplest of words, if one doesn’t want to take birth control or use other contraceptive measures, they shouldn’t be forced to. However, if an employer is responsible for providing health care coverage to its employees, those employees should have the access and option to receive necessary health care, including birth control.

Cross-posted with the National Women’s Law Center

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Check out the action petitions:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Feminist Majority Foundation

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

National Council of Jewish Women

Should Catholic Bishops Have The Right To Control Your Life?

By Janet Hill, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), National CLUW Vice President (United Steelworkers)

Catholic bishops are pressuring the Obama administration to dilute the rule proposed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow women access to birth control without paying out of pocket. There is a narrow exemption that allows religious nonprofits to opt out.  The bishops want to expand the exemption to cover schools, hospitals and social service agencies.

The solution to the problem is quite clear; the bishops can refuse to take birth control pills if offered to them.

While they have the best interests of the women employed at their hospitals, universities and social services agencies in mind, they can offer themselves and their employees paid child care leave and on-site child care.  Should they wish to treat themselves for the other health issues that birth control pills are used to treat they are free to do so.

The bishops seem to be lacking in support since Fordham University, Georgetown University, and DePaul University, for instance, all offer their employees’ health plans that cover contraception, as does Catholic Healthcare West, a large Catholic hospital system in California, Nevada and Arizona.

They seem to be lacking in support from their own parishioners since a survey by  the National Survey of Family Growth indicates that sexually active Catholic women older than 18 are just as likely to use birth control as non-Catholic sexually active women (99%)

The choice here is clear – offer contraception and if you don’t believe in it don’t use it!

Cross-posted from HERvotes

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Check out the action petitions:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Feminist Majority Foundation

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

National Council of Jewish Women

Women’s Basic Health Coverage Is Not For Sale

by Miri Cypers, Jewish Women International

Nearly one week after the defeat of the Mississippi “personhood initiative,” when the state of women’s reproductive rights in our country seemed like it could not be any more threatened, various news outlets have published an incredibly troubling story that requires our immediate attention. This Monday, the New York Times printed a story about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ renewed fight against abortion, casting it as an issue of “religious liberty” against a government encroaching on the church’s rights.

After meeting with President Obama, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the Catholics Bishops, indicated that the President might be considering expanding a troubling religious exemption adopted under the new health care law that allows certain religious employers to opt out of the new federal requirement. This federal requirement, to be implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledges that birth control is a preventative service and qualifies as basic health care.

According to Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, in a Huffington Post piece, the expansion of this exemption to include religiously affiliated colleges, universities, medical schools, hospitals, social service organizations, etc. would be “…nothing short of tragic for millions of Americans and their families. Nearly 800,000 people work at Catholic hospitals and there are approximately two million students and workers at universities that have a religious affiliation. This expansion would impact all of these individuals — as well as their dependents, denying them a benefit that finally makes an essential health care service affordable.”

Get ready for another battle. And urge the President to protect women’s  fundamental right to  preventative health care.

Cross-posted from Jewish Women International

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Check out the action petitions:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Feminist Majority Foundation

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

National Council of Jewish Women

Does China Have the Solution for the Population Crisis? Not Even Close

by Meghan Yee

On October 31, the world population reached 7 billion. According to one Chinese demographer, however, if not for China’s one-child policy, the world population would have hit that number five years ago. China has the largest population on earth with 1.4 billion people. However, since 1979, the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China reports that the policy prevented 400 plus million births with the country’s fertility rate still rapidly declining. Given the staggering facts of 7 billion, does China then deserve a pat on the back? Not exactly. China’s population policy may have pushed back the inevitable, but at women’s expense.

Limiting families to one child may sound like a plausible solution for growing population numbers, in theory. When factoring China’s historical preference for sons, however, limiting families to one child leads to horrific consequences for Chinese women and girls.

For the three decades since China implemented the one-child policy, aborting female fetuses and abandoning female infants have become all too common. Ultrasound machines have given rise to sex-selective abortions; infant girls have been abandoned or literally neglected to death. According to the China Academy of Social Sciences, for every 100 Chinese girls born there are 123 boys meaning that some 160 million girls are missing.

In recent years the Chinese government has become slightly lenient in its birth quota enforcement allowing some rural families to have a second child if that child was a girl. Yet, this hasn’t stopped local authorities from coercing women into forced abortions and sterilizations in order to meet birth targets.  In 2005, Chen Guangcheng published a report that exposed 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations; Guangcheng is now on house arrest. Just a few days before the 7 billion global population mark, Ma Jihong, a mother pregnant with her second child, died on an operating table after Lijin, Shandong province officials forced her into a late-term abortion.

The reproductive implications of the one-child policy are only part of the story. Because of the scarcity of women, an estimated 40 million Chinese men lack a female counterpart. By 2013, one in every 10 Chinese men will not marry. Chinese women fear the scarcity will pressure them to take on more traditional domesticated roles and thwart them from opportunities in professional occupations. Elsewhere, the lack of potential brides has drastically increased sex trafficking into the country as well as bride buying.

The issues of population, female infanticide, women’s reproductive rights, and human trafficking are thus all interconnected issues. And, if these are the consequences that follow a one-child family planning policy, is this really the solution for the population crisis?

Ever-increasing global population numbers is an issue. Our world, environment, and natural resources cannot adequately sustain 7 billion people. Violating Chinese women’s bodies and reproductive rights, however, cannot be a solution for this problem. Female infanticide and forced sterilizations are not solutions for this problem. Women deserve the right to choose whether or not they will or can bear a child, and that right needs to be protected. Likewise, girls cannot be discriminated against, and that policy needs to be enforced. China cannot serve as model for population control, and it is our role as feminists to develop a more appropriate solution.

The Affordable Care Act and Women

By Desiree Hoffman
YWCA USA Director of Advocacy and Policy

March 23, 2011, marked the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet polls show that less than 47% of Americans know how it affects them.1 Lack of understanding was highest among low-income households and the uninsured.  When asked, “Do you feel you have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact you personally?,” 61 percent of households with incomes less than $40,000 per year said “no;” 60 percent of uninsured individuals responded “no.”

Today, many households are struggling in a difficult economy and rightly feel a sense of disconnection between their own lives and politics.  It isn’t surprising that many people don’t feel they have enough information about the ACA, let alone feel they have accurate information.

Recently I had the chance to speak to a room full of seniors and retirees about the ACA.  What stood out to me was the audience knew more about how the law protected their grandchildren than they did about how ACA helps them.  Under the new law, the audience knew that insurers could no longer discriminate based on a child’s preexisting condition, and that dependent children under the age of 26 could remain on their parent’s health care plans.  What the mostly female audience did not know, however, was that they would no longer be charged co-pays for preventative services such as mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, immunizations, and annual physical exams.

Retirees and seniors were not aware that the ACA:

  • provides free mammograms every one to two years for women aged 40 and above, and patients identified as high-risk candidates for breast cancer can receive consultation on chemoprevention, and genetic evaluation;
  • makes it illegal for insurers to deny coverage to women based on pre-existing conditions, including cesarean sections, breast cancer, chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes and even domestic violence; and
  • ensures that low-income and moderate-income women and families are able to afford health care by expanding Medicaid and offering new affordability credits to families — between 133 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (Example: The range is between $29,328 to $88,000 for a family of four based on 2009 HHS guidelines) — to help pay for health care premiums.

Most shocking to me was that the audience of primarily women had no idea that, before ACA, insurers refused to cover survivors of domestic violence. Before the law, insurers defined domestic violence as a pre-existing condition since many victims often had higher utilization rates of the emergency room and, thus, were viewed as “high risk” or more costly to insure, providing the basis for refusal of health care coverage at all. Under ACA, an insurance company can no longer discriminate against  — and re-victimize — a domestic violence survivor by denying health insurance coverage.

From the provisions that help children and grandchildren, to the measures that address breast cancer and help domestic violence survivors obtain health care insurance, the ACA clearly makes healthcare more affordable for women and their families. While the affordability credits do not kick- in until 2014, they are important components of the law that help low and moderate income families. People are struggling with rising healthcare costs and stagnant wages in an economy where unemployment remains high; expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to help pay for health care premiums will help tremendously.

Despite these benefits, there are intensifying efforts to repeal or weaken the ACA.  At the beginning of the 112th Congress, bills were introduced to repeal the entire law, but they did not muster enough votes to pass.  Now, there is a flurry of amendments to halt agencies from fully implementing key provisions of the ACA, and bills to restrict comprehensive reproductive health care services.

This month is declared both national Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Knowing the important benefits that ACA means for breast cancer prevention and treatment and for survivors of domestic violence, there is no better way to commemorate this month than by speaking out in support of the ACA to your Senators and Representative or by educating yourself and your loved ones on the benefits of the new law.

To learn more about the new law visit:

1 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, March 201

No Copay for Birth Control? A Great First Step Towards Truly Universal Access

by Kelly Blanchard, Ibis Reproductive Health

Contraception is a critical preventive health care tool for women and families. Contraception allows women (and their partners) to plan their pregnancies and avoid pregnancy when they don’t want to have a baby, and planned pregnancies are healthier for women and children. Women with planned pregnancies are more likely to get prenatal care and have healthy babies.

Contraception is also a great deal—data shows that every dollar spent on contraception saves $4 or more in costs to the health system.

So, making sure women can access contraception is good health care policy and good fiscal policy. It also ensures that women can decide how to live their lives and shape their families—critical for our human rights.

The Affordable Care Act provides a huge opportunity to make sure women in the United States have access to contraception. Contraception should be on the list of preventive medicines and services that don’t require a co-pay—that makes health and fiscal sense. We are thrilled that contraception is included as preventive health care in the IOM report and hope that Secretary Sebelius will make sure contraception is covered without a co-pay based on the huge body of evidence showing contraception is critical preventive health care.

We also hope that this will only be the start of a discussion about ways to improve access to contraception.

To improve access, we should also change Medicaid policy so that over-the-counter (OTC) methods (like condoms, spermicides, and sponges) are covered for low-income people so that women and men who prefer those methods have easy access to them.

The data also show that oral contraceptives, “the pill”, are safe and effective and meet all the FDA criteria to be available OTC. We look forward to the day that we have a pill directly available in the pharmacy or the supermarket. Given the popularity of the pill (it is the most popular method among women in the US under 44), easier access to this safe and highly effective contraceptive, covered by Medicaid and other insurance plans, could make access to and use of contraception easier. Studies show women can accurately determine whether they are a good candidate for the pill, and that women who access the pill over-the-counter in a pharmacy are more likely to keep using it. An OTC pill would also improve contraception access for women who won’t benefit from health care reform—like undocumented women—as well as for young women on a parent’s plan who need confidential access to a method or don’t have a provider they feel comfortable asking for a prescription.

We celebrate the evidence-based IOM recommendation to include contraception as key preventive health care for women in the US and look forward to a DHHS decision to cover contraception without a co-pay in the new exchanges. We are also thrilled that the recommendation includes the full range of FDA-approved methods, indicating that prescription and non-prescription contraceptives should be covered.  But we also hope this is only the beginning—we look forward to the pill being available without prescription in your local pharmacy and supermarket in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, we urge Secretary Sebelius to implement the IOM recommendations and ensure that prescription and OTC methods are covered at no additional cost through Medicaid and other subsidized plans.

Cross posted from Ibis Reproductive.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

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Vaccinating the Public Against Health Care Misinformation

by Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director

A factually-challenged email is making the rounds, scaring people into thinking that Medicare premiums are going to start rising next year due to provisions in the 2010 health care reform law. My well-meaning aunt forwarded this email to friends and family, not wanting them to get caught off guard when their rates went up.

Having worked quite intently during the past several years at NOW to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, I was immediately concerned about this news. The use of the term “Obamacare” instead of the law’s actual name — the Affordable Care Act — was a major clue that this message might be less than truthful. An intrepid NOW intern quickly found information on the AARP website debunking the email, which apparently has been infecting inboxes since prior to the 2010 elections.

AARP explains: “The official formula for determining Part B premiums was established by Congress decades ago. . . . This process is in no way affected by the new health care law . . . The law does, however, contain provisions to reduce the rate of Medicare costs over time (without reducing guaranteed benefits), and if this plays out as planned, it could hold Part B premiums down or possibly even lower them.”

I forwarded this information to my aunt and everyone else on her list. But “urban legend” emails like this are hard to extinguish. No doubt, someone else is opening this email right now and is likely to spread its misinformation. The email urges recipients to “send this to all seniors that you know, so they will know who’s throwing them under the bus,” and it ends with this plea: “Remember this in November 2012 and vote.”

NOW agrees that health care access should be a major issue for voters. But voters must be equipped with accurate information. Millions of seniors rely on the affordability of Medicare, particularly women, who are paid less throughout their careers and often spend long periods out of the paid workforce taking care of children and other family members — meaning they retire with little savings to fall back on. Women of color, in fact, often retire with zero or negative wealth. The cost of Medicare is paramount to these women. Preying on this vulnerability to deceive and win votes is shameful.

When my aunt received my reply, she thanked me for relaying the truth. But she also added: “With D.C. the way it is, most of us do not trust anyone in government.” This is a real problem. A large majority of people in the United States — regardless of whether they identify themselves as liberal, conservative or independent — stand to lose if representatives of big business and the wealthy get their way. Right-wing attacks on the Affordable Care Act aren’t about protecting everyday Janes and Joes by expanding access to health care and making it more affordable. They are about making sure health care delivery remains a private enterprise that prioritizes profits over actually making people healthier.

Luckily, there are leaders who want the people of this country to be able to get the health care they need, including free preventive services for women, including mammograms and birth control, with no co-pays. The Affordable Care Act achieves these goals. Electing leaders who promise to repeal health care reform is a vote against good health care and economic security.

This post is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival on health care.

It’s In The Law: Breaking Down What’s In It For You in the New Health Care Law

by Thao Nguyen, National Women’s Law Center

Greater protections against insurance company abuses:

  • NO MORE RESCISSIONS: Insurance companies are prohibited from dropping your coverage if you become sick.
  • NO MORE LIFETIME LIMITS: Insurance companies are prohibited from limiting the amount of money they will pay for your benefits over your lifetime.
  • NO MORE ANNUAL CAPS: Insurance companies are prohibited from limiting the amount of money they will pay for benefits during one year. During 2011, annual limits cannot be lower than $750,000 & are completely prohibited by 2014.
  • NO MORE DOCTOR’S NOTE TO VISIT THE OB-GYN: The new health care law allows women to have “direct access” to this type of health care. Insurance companies are prohibited from requiring women to get referrals from their doctor for obstetrical & gynecological care.

Improved access to affordable preventive care.

All new health plans are required to cover key preventive health services for women at no additional cost, such as co-payments or deductibles.

Preventive services that many plans started providing women and girls, starting January 1, 2011:

  • Mammograms every 1-2 years for women over 40
  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Smoking & alcohol cessation programs for adults
  • A wide range of prenatal screenings & tests
  • Diabetes & blood pressure screening & counseling
  • Depression screening for teens & adults.

Added to this list are the newly announced preventive services for women, starting on August 1, 2012, including:

  • All FDA-approved contraception
  • Well-woman visits
  • Lactation consultation & supplies
  • Screening & counseling for interpersonal & domestic violence
  • Screening for gestational diabetes
  • DNA co-testing for HPV
  • Counseling regarding sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
  • Screening for HIV

Senior women have more affordable access to the services they need:

  • Medicare now covers more preventive benefits such as no-cost annual checkups and mammograms.
  • The Medicare Part D “donut hole” closing. Last year, seniors in the donut hole, or the prescription drug coverage gap that requires seniors to pay the entire cost of prescriptions while in the gap, received rebate checks; this year, they will receive 50% discounts on brand name drugs.

It is now easier for children & young adults to get & keep health insurance.

  • Young adults can remain on their parents’ health insurance policy until age 26.
  • Health plans are prohibited from denying coverage to children (aged 19 & under) with “pre-existing conditions” such as asthma or diabetes.

Additional important provisions for women that are in place:

  • A new tax credit that helps small businesses provide coverage to their employees. Women are more likely than men to work for small businesses that don’t offer health insurance.
  • A requirement that employers with more than 50 employees provide women a reasonable time and place to express breast milk.
  • Access to a new pre-existing condition insurance plan – or “high-risk pool” – that is available to women who are uninsured due to a preexisting condition until 2014, when insurance companies will no longer be able to deny women coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

This is just the beginning. In 2014:

  • Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny women coverage due to pre-existing conditions, such as having had a C-section, breast or cervical cancer, or received medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence.
  • Insurers must end the practice of charging women more for health insurance than they charge men.
  • Approximately 10.3 million uninsured women will gain health coverage from expanded Medicaid eligibility.
  • Up to 7 million women who lack affordable insurance through an employer will be eligible for subsidies to help pay for health coverage.
  • A new competitive marketplace will be available for women and their families to compare & shop for new health plans.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

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Think You’re Covered? Think Again

By Alicia Gay, ACLU

If you were faced with the decision of having an abortion, would your health insurance cover it? This is a question that many women have probably never considered. It’s a health care procedure that most people just don’t plan ahead for. Well, if you happen to be covered under your employer’s health plan, it’s likely that you do have at least some coverage. For now. Unfortunately, politicians across the country have been busy trying to take away that coverage. Since 2010, 13 states have passed laws prohibiting some or all insurance plans from covering abortion care. Most Americans with employer-based heath insurance currently have coverage for abortion care. In fact we know that 87 percent of typical employer-based insurance policies cover medically necessary or appropriate abortions (as of 2002).

As a result of federal health care reform, states are starting to establish new insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses will be able to buy health insurance starting in 2014. In several states, lawmakers are singling out abortion and prohibiting insurance companies from including abortion coverage in their policies. The trend is fast-moving and startling: since 2010, four states passed bans on abortion coverage in all comprehensive insurance policies, and another nine banned coverage in their soon-to-be-active exchanges.

Unfortunately, for years, laws have severely curtailed coverage for people insured through state or federal programs, so if you are a woman who works for the state or federal government, is serving in the military, or qualifies for low-income assistance, your access to a comprehensive health care plan is even more likely to be limited.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand, and stop states from taking away insurance coverage for medical care that one in three women in the U.S. need.

The ACLU recently filed a case challenging a Kansas law that prohibits insurance companies from providing abortion coverage in their comprehensive plans. Kansas’s law is the first to take effect, and our lawsuit is the first to take a step toward putting an end to this growing trend.

Kansas’s law is extreme: it bans abortion coverage in comprehensive plans for the vast majority of abortions, including those necessary to protect a woman’s health and for pregnancies resulting from rape/incest. As a result of the law, thousands of women in Kansas will lose their existing abortion coverage and will now have to pay out-of-pocket for this medical procedure.

We hope the court will stop the law and protect the ability of women in Kansas to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Such a ruling would also send a strong signal to politicians around the country who are poised to pass laws like Kansas’s. This would support women to say: “Not so fast: Protect my health insurance, and don’t take it away.”

Help us stop this trend from spreading and tell us your story. And take a look at the abortion insurance bans in your states. The results might surprise you.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival and was originally posted at the ACLU Blog of Rights.

Photo from Flickr user ProgressOhio under Creative Commons 2.0.

Boost Social Security Benefits to Close Pay and Caregiving Gap

By Tatsuko Go Hollo

It’s no secret that women are paid less than men across many industries. It’s also been well-documented that women are much more likely than men to work part-time. Unfortunately, employees who work part-time are often ineligible for essential benefits, such as health insurance, paid leave or a retirement plan.

That’s where Social Security comes in. It’s crucial to keeping women out of poverty. In fact, without it nearly half of women 65 and older would be living in poverty. But as good as Social Security is, the average benefit for women 65 and older is at least $3,500 lower per year than it is for men. Women aged 75 and older are more than twice as likely as men of the same age to live in poverty.

Why? Because Social Security doesn’t reflect the reality that women tend to take on caregiver roles (such as parenting a child or caring for a sick parent) that require them to limit their involvement in the workforce. Benefits are based on wages averaged over 35 years, so caregivers (frequently women) are penalized for those periods of time when they are not collecting wages.

Women rely on Social Security income more than men. Not only are more beneficiaries women (57% of all beneficiaries over 62 are women), but for 29% of female beneficiaries over 65, Social Security is essentially their only source of income, compared with 21% of their male counterparts. Keep in mind that women have a longer lifespan than men too. So for women that rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, they must live longer on less.

So of course Social Security must remain intact; it is one of the most significant programs protecting women, men and children from poverty. But for women in particular, poverty becomes more likely with older age. Social Security benefits need to be calculated to account for years women spend caregiving, and to compensate for the persistent pay gap between men and women in the workforce.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival and was originally posted at the Washington Policy Watch blog.

Photo from Flickr user DonkeyHotey under Creative Commons 2.0.

Economic Policy: It’s Personal

By Nancy Wilberg

The economic meltdown battered many Americans, but women and communities of color have long sustained the impact of an imbalanced financial market. Hard working women are deeply familiar with the enormous racial and gender wealth gap in America. Single Black and Hispanic women have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by their male counterparts and a fraction of a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by White women. When it comes to employment, the largest gender pay gap is between White men and White women, with women earning only 72.6% of the pay of their male counterparts.

Not for a lack of trying, talent, or fortitude, women-led households have found it difficult to stretch their paychecks to cover necessities, let alone acquire the assets needed to secure a better life for their children. Honest workers have watched the cost of items increase while their income stagnates. And these were all realities before the financial debacle. Now more than ever, though, a house—often a family’s largest asset traditionally relied upon to send children to college or aid in retirement—is that much further out of reach for our families. For those who are homeowners, many are watching this all-important investment slip through their fingers.

Gabrielle from Cobb County in Georgia shared with us her experience of trying to hold onto her home. She is a Latina who holds two masters degrees, works as an educator, and is the sole caretaker of her 91-year-old mother. In 2010, she and her colleagues saw their salary decrease by 2% and they were required to take five furlough days.  This caused Gabrielle to become more dependent on her credit cards to cover basic needs.  She has yet to miss a house payment but is increasingly concerned that she will not be able to continue on this path. Gabrielle spoke with several agents about her situation, but they gave her contradictory advice: “One told me that I needed to make one more payment and then I could refinance. When I called back to begin the process, I was told, ‘I don’t know why that information was given to you!’ All has been a runaround and when I read the blogs regarding my mortgage company, one which took bailout funds, I have no hope of a modification.”

Our nation’s leaders need a wake-up call. In response to the crisis, they have and will continue to make decisions without consideration of women and communities of color.  When will American families take the spotlight in economic reform policy? At most, we have been an afterthought. The reform programs implemented left homeowners in the lurch. The federal government has even cut all the funding for the critical housing counseling program—one of the only tools known to decrease a borrower’s chances of defaulting on a mortgage. More and more families have slipped out of the middle class; low-income households are scrambling that much harder to survive. Our only hope is to take action and to make our votes count in 2012.

This post is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival and was originally posted at Moms Rising.

Photo from Flickr user Images_of_Money under Creative Commons 2.0.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Gets It Right: ‘The United States Is In The Dark Ages When It Comes To Maternity Leave’

By Pat Garofalo

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly returned to work after three months of maternity leave, and during her first show, she pummeled shock radio host Mike Gallagher, who back in May called Kelly’s maternity leave “a racket” that was “unbelievable.” Kelly not only took Gallagher to task for poo-pooing the notion that women should be able to stay home with their newborns, but she also pointed out that the U.S. is in “the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave,” as it is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require employers to give new mothers paid time off:

KELLY: What a moronic thing to say…Is maternity leave, according to you, a racket?

GALLAGHER: Well, do men get maternity leave? I can’t believe I’m asking you this, because you’re just going to kill me.

KELLY: Guess what honey? Yes, they do. It’s called the Family Medical Leave Act. If men would like to take three months off to take care of their newborn baby, they can. […] Just in case you didn’t know, Mike, I want you to know that the United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave. Now I happen to work for a nice employer that gave me paid leave. But the United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t require paid leave. If anything, the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave. And what is it about getting pregnant and carrying a baby for nine months, that you don’t think deserves a few months off so bonding and recovery can take place, hmm?…You can’t answer the question because there is no answer, my friend.

Watch it:

Kelly is spot-on. As the Project on Global Working families found during a survey of 173 countries, the U.S. is in some bad company when it comes to paid maternity leave:

Out of 173 countries studied, 169 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 3 other nations: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.

The U.S. hasn’t required paid maternity leave even though such leave results in “a decrease of complications and recovery time for the mother and [a decrease in] the risk of allergies, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome for the child.” So it seems that even a Fox News host can be sensible when personally faced with the implications of government policy.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival and was originally posted at ThinkProgress.

Photo from Flickr user Quistnix under Creative Commons.


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