This week, President Obama demonstrated his commitment to ensuring that the needs of women and girls are met during his term in office. He named Melanne Verveer as ambassador-at-large for international women’s issues in the State Department, and he created a White House Council on Women and Girls.
Ms. Verveer previously worked in the Clinton White House as an aide to President Clinton and chief of staff to Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has been an advocate for women’s rights for years, working to establish the president’s Interagency Council on Women and serving as co-founder, chair and co-CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, which invests in emerging women leaders.
The White House Council on Women and Girls is charged with “provid[ing] a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families,” according to the Washington Post.
A study by the Girl Scout Research Institute reveals that girls aged 13 to 17 are more confident after the 2008 presidential election. According to the study, 50% of girls believe they have more confidence and that they can reach their goals; 55% feel more comfortable voicing their opinions.
Girls also reported being more attuned to sexism in our society after the election – 43% of girls agreed with the statement that “girls have to work harder than boys in order to gain positions of leadership.” In 2007, only 25% of girls in the survey agreed with that statement. But many of them have not been dissuaded from working towards achieving their goals – 41% said that the election has had a positive impact on their desire to be a leader.
Via Feminist Majority
Aviva Wittenberg-Cox, founder and publisher of Women-omics, wrote an opinion piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this weekend. The article points out that even though President Obama seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of previous presidents as “gender-bilingual,” able to speak and connect to both men and women, his cabinet is still conspicuously missing many female appointees. Currently, taking into account the two cabinet positions which have not yet been filled, Obama’s cabinet consists of five women, making the cabinet only 23% female, far lower than many other nations who have dedicated themselves more strongly to gender balance in government.
Women’s rights advocates are hopeful this week as President Barack Obama officially began his term as the 44th president. President Obama is expected to advance women’s rights by issuing executive orders which will rescind the Global Gag Rule and release United Nations Population Fund funding.
The Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy), which we blogged about here, prohibits any family planning programs receiving U.S. federal funding from speaking about or counseling on abortion.
In addition, President Obama is expected to release money for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a UN program that deals with family planning choices, education and services for people around the world. President Bush denied federal funding for this program for the last seven consecutive years. To learn more about the United Nations Population Fund, check out this website.
At the domestic level, President Obama is expected to sign into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. Both bills recently passed the House of Representatives. We previously blogged about the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act here. The Paycheck Fairness Act (PDF), which was introduced by Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, intends to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
Via Feminist Majority
Filed under 2008 Election, Abortion, Childbirth, Contraception, Employment, Equal pay, Equality, Government, Politics, Reproductive Rights, Women's health
Last week, Hillary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a confirmation hearing for her upcoming appointment as Secretary of State. According to the New York Times, she displayed a mastery of the issues and received praise from fellow lawmakers. Hillary Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State, which we have previously blogged about, marks an exciting step forward for women in high-level, political leadership positions.
President-elect Obama’s promise to provide health care coverage to every child in the United States is nearing a legislative victory. The U.S. House of Representatives is set to pass a bill which will expand a health insurance program for children living at or near the poverty line who are not covered by Medicaid. This program would expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was initiated under President Clinton. In 2007, President Bush vetoed similar legislation twice, claiming its reach was too broad.
One foreseeable problem with the legislation is that it leaves the option up to the state of allowing legal immigrants into the program. The bill could potentially leave 5 million children without coverage. If passed, however, the bill would start the Obama presidency off to an optimistic start.
For more information on the bill, see this Washington Post article outlining its details.
Here’s some good news for equality in the New Year: Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act were the first bills to pass the House in the new session (article from the Feminist Daily News Wire is available here). Ms. Ledbetter became a de facto spokesperson for the equal pay movement after the Supreme Court ruled against her claim of pay discrimination. This article in the New York Times suggests that President-elect Obama, for whom Ms. Ledbetter actively campaigned, is likely to overturn the Supreme Court decision. The Times also published an editorial applauding the efforts of Obama and Congress to reverse discrimination.
Members of the LGBT community across the nation have been expressing outrage at President-Elect Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Mr. Warren heads a megachurch in California and has been a strong opponent of equality for gays and lesbians, going as far as to equate homosexuality with incest. He is also a vocal opponent of reproductive freedom.
In an open letter to Obama, the Human Rights Campaign called this move “a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” further saying that
Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.
The full text of the Human Rights Campaign letter is available here. The Washington Post story on the reaction to this choice is available here.
The Bush administration has enacted the Provider Conscience Regulation we blogged about in the past. This policy allows a wide group of medical personnel to refuse providing any medical service to which they object on moral grounds. But even before the Bush administration enacted the regulation, the Obama transition team has started figuring out a way to undo these and other anti-abortion measures that resulted from the Bush presidency. The Wall Street Journal reported that
Decisions that the new administration will weigh include: whether to cut funding for sexual abstinence programs; whether to increase funding for comprehensive sex education programs that include discussion of birth control; whether to allow federal health plans to pay for abortions; and whether to overturn regulations such as one that makes fetuses eligible for health-care coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Read the full WSJ story here. The New York Times story about the enacted regulations is available here. We previously blogged about Obama’s pledge to reverse the Global Gag rule here.
Election Day 2008 guaranteed that more women than ever will serve in the 111th U.S. Congress, and on Dec. 6, Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio claimed the right to join their ranks. Kilroy, a Democrat, was in a race too-close-to-call until provisional ballots were counted in the 15th District. She replaces Deborah Pryce, a Republican who did not seek re-election, and her victory brings the number of women in the House to 75 – 58 Democrats and 17 Republicans – four more women than the record set in the 110th Congress.
In analyzing this year’s congressional races, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University said that though there were not record-high numbers of women running, more nominees were positioned for winnable seats, rather than serving their parties as “sacrificial lambs.” Seventeen women – 13 Democrats and 4 Republicans – were to serve in the U.S. Senate when the next Congress convenes in January, a gain of one more woman senator. One of those seats belongs to Hillary Clinton, and will be up for grabs in January as the senator moves into her new role as Secretary of State in the Obama Administration.
Despite gains at the federal level, numbers of women in statewide government are expected to drop, though final election tallies are not yet in, according to the CAWP.