Best of Weeks, Not So Best of Weeks
By Gloria Feldt on January 30, 2009
The best: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed
into law by President Barack Obama. This photo says, better than a
thousand words, the joy of this step forward for gender equality
in compensation. That's Lilly, the blonde in the middle (I won't
identify by her red jacket because it seems Senators Barbara Mikulski
and Olympia Snowe and Rep.Eleanor Holmes Norton also got the memo).
Am I alone in noting the contrast between this photo, with its
diverse group of people and the photo of old white men surrounding
George Bush when he signed the abortion ban bill? Quite a sea change. Breathe out now. Guess which one of the signings I was invited to, and which one not.
But on to the not so best, for some happenings this past week were more like Washington as usual:
*The beached whale alarms bellowed by the Republican Right, shocked (!) that the Medicaid expansion provision
of Obama's stimulus package includes bureaucratic relief so states can,
if they choose, extend preventive family planning health care to women
who are above the poverty line but low income and uninsured. Well,
apparently, the Democrats--the men at least--aren't any more comfortable with the topic.
*The Democratic president's lightening-swift and utterly gratuitous capitulation
to those politically beached bloviators. As if they hadn't known when
they put the family planning extension into the stimulus package that
it would be a red flag. Did they perhaps intend it as bait to draw the
sting away from other vulnerable provisions? But if so, why pray tell
did they have to choose the one aspect of the plan that had "woman"
written on it?
*The media pundits making jokes
when they had to say the words "stimulus" and "contraception", because,
well, isn't sex always amusing? As in, not a serious issue for
legislators to consider? Suddenly shy of controversy, Chris Matthews posited
that family planning is a private matter, not for the government to
consider. Where was his dismay these last eight years when the
anti-choice right was plunging straight into Americans' “private”
*Disputes within the women’s movement
and family planning faithful. "Maybe this really doesn't belong in the
stimulus plan even though it is important." "Maybe we don't want to put
forth the argument that family planning saves $4 for every $1 spent on
health and welfare funding alone; it sounds too elitist." Or, "Maybe we
need to duck, withdraw the provision and quietly fight this battle
behind the scenes so it doesn't make news and stir up the opposition.
As if the opposition wouldn’t notice. Meanwhile, Beltway veterans will
say, we need Obama for so many other things. He's removed the Global Gag Rule
already. He issued an eloquent tribute to Roe v Wade. And he supports
the Prevention First Act. What else do you want, they ask.
Maybe the best of next week will be the Prevention First Act, with
(my fantasy) the addition of the Medicaid waiver provision that got cut
out of the stumulus package. After all, Obama says family planning funding is a high priority for him, and TPM reports sources indicated to them that a bill could start moving very soon.