Political Diagnosis: The Week in Women's Health

By Christine Cupaiuolo — January 29, 2009

Each week, Our Bodies, Our Blog will take a look at what’s happening in Washington and in the new Obama administration related to women’s health and well-being. This first week included major highs and lows:

President Obama signed his first piece of legislation today — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was expected, but still quite momentous. Watch the video of the signing:

The bill drew large support from Democrats; Republicans, not so much. See how your representative and your senators voted.

Lilly Ledbetter thanked her supporters today in a statement released by the National Women’s Law Center:

I can’t say thank you enough to the thousands of you who’ve worked with us in this fight. Your e-mails to Congress, your phone calls, and your letters of support have meant so much to me and to the movement for pay equity for all women. We knew we could count on you — and we couldn’t have done it without you.

In the months and years to come, the fight for fair pay will go on. We’re still fighting to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, and there will be other fronts in battle to close the wage gap once and for all. But we’ve taken an enormous step forward today. Thanks for taking that step with me.

Economic Stimulus Bill

Earlier this week Obama wasn’t in such good graces, as he urged Democrats to drop expansion of family planning funds from the economic stimulus bill. The provision would have allowed states to extend Medicaid family planning coverage to women with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, without the states first having to obtain a waiver from HHS.

Obama’s maneuvering may or may not have amounted to much, writes Katha Pollitt:

There are people who thought Obama practiced some clever political jiu-jitsu by bending over backwards to meet Republican objections. Supposedly, this bipartisan gesture would make it harder for Republicans to reject the bill. Whoops, guess not: House Republicans just voted against it unanimously. Backup theory: Well, now Obama looks reasonable and statesmanlike, while Republicans look rigid and insane. The stimulus will pass, and Republicans will get no credit. Low-income women get the shaft, but they should be used to it by now.

Read her whole column; it’s the best rebuttal I’ve read all week to arguments that birth control doesn’t belong in the stimulus bill.

Global Gag Rule

Last Friday Obama lifted the global gag rule, overturning eight years of Republican policy that prevented overseas family planning groups that receive U.S. funding from speaking about abortion. The Senate on Wednesday voted 60-37 to reject an amendment that would have reinstated the global gag rule  as part of legislation to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

RH Reality Check published two good pieces concerning the repeal. One discusses the effects of the gag rule on the ground; the other looks at how better to fund and address reproductive and sexual health internationally now that the gag rule is gone.

Useful Stuff

RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, this month unveiled an online platform to assess healthcare reform policies. Called COMPARE, it’s described as “a transparent, evidence-based approach to providing information and tools to help policymakers, the media, and other interested parties understand, design, and evaluate health policies.” Meet the advisory committee.

Here’s a list of COMPARE’s objectives:

  • Synthesize what is known about the current health care system.
  • Describe policy options that have been proposed to address one or more existing challenges.
  • Analyze the effects of different health care policy options on multiple dimensions of health system performance.
  • Identify gaps in our knowledge about the effects of policy changes.

Action Items

* Support the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Send a message to your senators to support CHIP (National Women’s Law Center)

* Expand Access to Family Planning Services

Send a message to your representative, senator and President Obama (National Partnership for Women & Families)

* Ask President Obama to Stand Up for Family Planning


2 responses to “Political Diagnosis: The Week in Women’s Health”

  1. Thanks for finding that Pollitt piece – it inspired me to go look at what other healthcare expenditures are in the stimulus bill. In the context of what else is there, contraception definitely could/should have stayed in.

  2. Re: the economic stimulus plan: Frances Kissling argues powerfully that Obama compromised way too quickly: “…at the very first opportunity to link women’s reproductive health to social and economic justice — the economic stimulus package — the President denied the link when he picked up the phone and told Henry Waxman to take out the family planning provision.”

    Read more at RhReality’s blog.

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