Political Diagnosis: Global Gag Rule; Update on Conscience Clause; New Violence Against Women Advisor; The Last Word on Sarah Palin? ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — July 14, 2009

Supreme Court Decisions and You: The National Women’s Law Center has released an analysis of 2008-2009 Supreme Court decisions that have a direct effect on women’s lives. More discussion at the NWLC blog, Womenstake:

In Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee, the Supreme Court safeguarded women’s and girls’ rights by allowing them to pursue remedies for gender discrimination in schools under both Title IX and the Constitution. In Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, the Court ruled that employees are protected from being subject to retaliation for cooperating with an employer’s internal investigation of discrimination. “The Court’s decisions in these two cases kept hard-won protections in place,” [NWLC Co-President Marcia] Greenberger said.

But not all outcomes were positive:

“In AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen, the Supreme Court ignored the realities of the workplace and the intent of Congress and ruled against female workers,” Greenberger said. As Justice Ginsburg noted in a strong dissent in the case, the Court’s decision permitted AT&T to pay women lower pension benefits for the rest of their lives.

Gag on Global Gag Rule: Ever since President Ronald Reagan instituted the “global gag rule” in 1984, its existence has been dependent on which party is in the White House. If it’s a Democrat, it’s revoked; if it’s Republican, it’s reinstated. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 17-10 to approve an amendment to a Department of State and foreign affairs appropriations bill that would make permanent President Obama’s reversal of the global gag rule. Emily Douglas has more.

The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy (the site of the United Nations International Conference on Population where it was first announced), prohibits international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from offering abortion services or providing information about safe abortion, even if they use other funding. It would be great to see it gone, for good.

New NIH Director: President Obama has nominated Francis Collins, best known for leading the public effort to sequence the human genome, to be director of the National Institutes of Health. Chris Wilson at Slate looks at how Collins, an evangelical Christian, has combined his faith in God with his faith in science.

New Violence Against Women Advisor: “Vice President Joe Biden’s June 26 announcement of a White House Advisor on Violence Against Women stirred some public grumbling about President Barack Obama’s recent ‘czar frenzy,'” writes Kayla Hutzler at Women’s eNews.

“But at a time of rising pressure on domestic violence shelters, representatives of two of the largest advocacy groups for ending domestic violence were far more enthusiastic about the creation of the post. They were also excited at the naming of Lynn Rosenthal, a former executive director at the New Mexico Coalition against Domestic Violence in Albuquerque, with a substantial resume of safety advocacy and working ties to Biden.”

Here’s the White House announcement, and a New York Times editorial in favor of the appointment.

The Last Word on Sarah Palin (Fingers Crossed): Go read “Palin’s Long March to a Short-Notice Resignation,” then head over to Slate for Dahlia Lithwick’s parting shot: “[Wh]en the dust settles, the lesson may be that she was simply a woman who made no sense.”

Looking Ahead to 2012: Jill Miller Zimon wonders, “Could we see a female-female GOP ticket for president and vice president in 2012?”

Update on Conscience Clause: Kay Steiger has written a good round-up of efforts at the state level to pass legislation that allows medical professionals to refuse to provide services that violate their religious or moral beliefs.

Speaking of conscience clauses, anyone remember the federal rule instituted in the final days of the Bush administration? It cut off federal funding for state and local governments, hospitals, health plans and clinics that did not fully accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees who refuse to provide care they feel violates their beliefs. Aimed at abortion and family planning services, it went beyond laws that already provide for healthcare workers and threatened access to many health services, including infertility treatment, end-of-life care, blood transfusions and mental health counseling.

President Obama moved to rescind the rule, as expected, but the process has been very slow. The 3o-day public comment period on rule changes ended in April; Health and Human Services Department is still reviewing the hundreds of thousands of comments received.

Administration officials acknowledged early on that they were looking for a compromise, but we haven’t heard much more on the subject until President Obama told a group of religion reporters earlier this month that the new policy would “certainly not be weaker” than what existed before President Bush’s expansion:

We will be coming out with I think more specific guidelines.  But I can assure all of your readers that when this review is complete there will be a robust conscience clause in place.  It may not meet the criteria of every possible critic of our approach, but it certainly will not be weaker than what existed before the changes were made.

David Brody has the full transcript of Obama’s remarks.

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