Allyson Schwartz and the Abortion Issue

I keep hearing from intelligent people who know something about politics that Allyson Schwartz can’t win statewide because she directed a women’s health center—the Elizabeth Blackwell Center—that along with providing a wide range of health services, also provided abortions. (BTW, my wife’s first job was working at the Blackwell Center. Yes, we go back with Allyson a long way.) Now, do I need to add that every one of those intelligent analysts are men? (And that a few of them appear to be working for other potential candidates for Governor who presumably support abortion but are raising questions about Allyson’s support of it?) The DGA poll that showed Allyson beating Corbett in every part of the state really pushed on that issue and it had no effect on the polls. Why not? Why are the (male) analysts wrong? The reason is that both the state and our nation as a… Continue reading

Why the Debate About Contraception is So Important

I’ve heard from some people in the last few weeks who have asked me why I’m so focused on issues like contraception when we are in the middle of a titanic struggle over economic inequality in this country. This is what I tell them: Two hundred years from now, when the historians write about the time of my life, the first, second, and third things they will discuss is the impact of feminism on ending three millennia of oppression of women. Compared to the changes on our lives wrought by feminism, the rise and fall of communism and the travails of social democracy are historical blips. I care deeply about economic inequality. But the central moral issue of our time is the status of women. And that is what makes issues like abortion or even contraception hard. Some politicians who are otherwise progressive supporters of the rights of women are not… Continue reading

To Put it Bluntly: the Amendment Undermines Health Care For Women and Everyone Else

Sometime this week, Senator Blunt’s amendment to the transportation bill that addresses the contraception issue will be taken up by the Senate. The Blunt Amendment allows employers and insurance companies to refuse to cover any health care service required under the new health care law if they object to it on the grounds of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Under this amendment a business or insurance company could  Refuse to cover HIV / AIDS screening or counseling on the ground that the disease is the product of immoral activity, whether gay sex or intravenous drug use. Refuse to cover any illnesses that are the result of or have been exacerbated by smoking or drinking on the ground that these behaviors are contrary to their moral or religious beliefs. Refuse to cover maternity care for unmarried women on the grounds that sex is permissible only for married couples. Refuse to… Continue reading

What the Contraception Issue Is and Is Not About

In politics the most important thing is to understand what the argument is and is not about. So let’s get clear about the dispute over the administration’s decision that contraception should be covered free of charge by all employer provided health insurance plans. This issue is not about freedom of religion. It is about providing all women with access to effective and safest contraception. That is important to the health of women and their children, to insuring equality for women, and to the family. The rule is good for the health of women, which is why it was called for by the non-partisan medical organization that advised the administration. When pregnancies are unplanned, women are less likely to get prenatal care and they and their children are less healthy. Women and children are also healthier when pregnancies are spaced out. There rule is good for the equality of women, which… Continue reading

Catholics, Contraception and President Obama

The Catholic Church claims that President Obama’s decision to require health insurance plans to include contraception violates its First Amendment right to freedom of religion. What Freedom of Religion Means This claim rests a mistaken understanding of that freedom. The freedom of religion clause protects our right to practice our own religion. That means the government cannot enact laws that aim at interfering with religious beliefs or practices. But the First Amendment has never been understood to grant us a general exemption from legislation that aims at a legitimate secular purpose even if it conflicts with our religion. Congress and state legislatures have granted institutions that perform religious services and teach religious doctrine limited exemptions from general laws. A church may give preference to members of its own denomination in hiring, even for non-clerical positions. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that the Americans with Disability Act does not apply to… Continue reading

Let Rep. Gerlach Know: We Won’t Go Back!

On February 18, Rep. James Gerlach voted to: prohibit funding of the Affordable Health Care Act cut the entire $317M of federal funding for family planning services deny Planned Parenthood federal funding for any purposes Every one of these votes is a vote against women and prevents them from accessing a full range of health care services. On February 23,  Penn ACTION visited the Trappe office of Rep. James Gerlach (PA-06) to discuss the Congressman’s disappointing participation in the recent attacks on women and health care.   On Wednesday afternoon, two Penn ACTION staffers met three constituents of Rep. Gerlach at the Congressman’s Trappe office.    Two of the constituents chose to talk privately to Rep. Gerlach’s staffer about the Congressman’s recent votes threatening women’s health.  While that meeting was happening, we stood on the sidewalk outside the office with the third constituent, Mary, protesting Rep. Gerlach’s participation in the… Continue reading

The Right Wing War on Women and Health Care

t’s a classic case of bait and switch. The Republican campaign of 2010, nationally and in Pennsylvania, focused on the economy and jobs. But since taking office Republicans have instead been appeasing right wing extremists who want to roll back the advances women made in the last forty years. It began, in both Washington and Harrisburg, with legislation that would make it harder for women to use their own money to purchase health insurance that covers abortion. Having claimed, dishonestly, that the Affordable Care Act provides government funding for abortion, Republican legislation supposedly fixes the problem the invented. However their radical legislation goes much farther than the existing ban on government funding of abortion. Evidently, the Republican regard for the free market ends when it comes to women choosing how to send their own money. These new attempts to limit abortion rights are, however, just the beginning of the Republican… Continue reading

We Won’t Go Back!

Penn ACTION teamed up with Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern PA on Thursday, February 17 when over 100 supporters of women’s health and health care reform rallied in Philadelphia in view of City Hall. Chants of  “We won’t go back!” punctuated addresses from State Sen. Lawrence Farnese, State Rep. Babette Josephs,  Carol Tracy from the Women’s Law Project,  Brenda Shelton Dunston of the Black Women’s Health Alliance, Dayle Steinberg from Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA, Kistine Carolan of the Maternity Care Coalition and Penn ACTION’s Marc Stier. As Stier pointed out, the attacks on women are not confined to attempts to role back access to reproductive care to the dark ages of back alley abortions, the attacks also extend to repealing the Affordable Care Act, which does more than any law in recent memory to bring women’s access to quality care into parity with men’s. With Planned Parenthood the target of possibly unconstitutional… Continue reading