Roundup: NOW Endorses Obama, Biden’s Fight for the Violence Against Women Act

Reproductive health bill to be debated in Philippines; National Organization of Women endorses Obama; The story of Joe Biden and the Violence Against Women Act; Palin says she fired Monegan for going above her head to secure funds to fight sexual abuse; More funding needed to fight HIV in Cleveland; Family planning and global population.

Reproductive Health Bill Reaches Floor for Debate in Philippines House of Representatives

Recognizing the need to implement family planning measures to improve health, education and and other living standards in the Philippines, the country’s House of Representatives has agreed to debate House Bill 5043 aimed at “providing reproductive health education and services.”  The bill focuses on providing more comprehensive sex education at schools and health clinics throughout the country and using public funds to subsidize birth control.  The bill does not, however, legalize abortion.  In the heavily Catholic Philippines, the capital city of which has banned the use of contraceptives in public health clinics for the last seven years, establishing family planning services has been historically difficult.  This marks the first time in 14 years of efforts that a reproductive health bill will even receive open debate:

For 14 years, bills promoting the use of contraceptives have always
been blocked in Congress. It is the first time that such a bill reaches
the plenary for second reading.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman,
South Cotabao Rep. Arthur Pinggoy, and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin were
the first to deliver their speeches. Several more are expected to
deliver speeches when session resumes on Monday.

“The RH bill
could not have reached this stage of plenary consideration had it not
been for the steadfast support and determination of RH advocacy groups…
I am also deeply grateful to the 96 co-authors of HB 5043…These
legislators, mostly Catholics, have braved the wrath of their bishops
and certain sectors of the Catholic hierarchy,” Lagman said, reading a
prepared speech.

“Finally, after the long wait, this
controversial piece of legislation has reach the plenary
deliberations,” said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the
Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development
Foundation Inc. (PLCPD), in a statement.

“We consider this day
a victorious one for millions of men and women who have been denied
access to reproductive health education and services. We are hopeful
that this will turn out to be a productive deliberation that will end
up in voting.” San Pascual added.


National Organization for Women Endorses Obama and Biden

America’s largest women’s rights organization, at 500,000 strong, endorsed Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden yesterday:

NOW’s endorsement represented the first time in 24 years the group
has endorsed a general election presidential candidate — the last
being Walter Mondale in 1984, who ran on the first ticket to feature a
woman as a vice presidential running mate.

largest organization for women’s rights, NOW says it is stepping into
the contest to educate women about Palin’s positions and highlight
Obama and Biden’s long-time commitment to policies that support women
personally and economically.

“For us its a red alert,” said Gandy. “Palin is so out of touch with
women. I don’t think people fully understand her positions.”

“They are stark differences between these two candidates,” said
Smeal. “John McCain has a 26 year record of voting against issues
important to women.”

Smeal cited McCain’s opposition to a bill that would afford equal
pay to women, his opposition to abortion funding and a vote he cast
against breast cancer research.

The new Obama pay equity ad says that “women work to help support
their families but are paid just 77 cents to a dollar a man makes. It’s
one more thing John McCain doesn’t get about our economy. He opposed a
law to guarantee women equal pay for equal work, calling it too great a
burden on business…. A burden on business? How about the burden on
our families.”


The Story of Joe Biden and the Violence Against Women Act 

The New Republic has an in-depth look at Joe Biden’s central role in crafting, passing and defending the Violence Against Women Act.  It was a decade long battle fought throughout the 1990’s, and fought in every branch of federal government at some point in its road to law.  Biden began to pursue the legislation after a rise in violence against women in the 1980’s and his office began writing legislation after discovering a loophole in federal hate crimes legislation:

The late ’80s, Biden noticed, showed a rise in violent crimes against
young women. Then, in December 1989, a man walked into a university
classroom in Montreal with a hunting rifle, divided the students by
sex, yelled that the women were all “a bunch of feminists,” and killed
14 of them. Biden’s aide Ron Klain handed the Senator an article in the
Los Angeles Times by a friend who had clerked with Klain the
year before at the Supreme Court, Lisa Heinzerling (now professor of
law at Georgetown). Heinzerling connected that murder of “feminists” to
a gap in U.S. law. Federal law tracking hate crimes targeted only, she
wrote, a “victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.”
Thus, she argued, “if a woman is beaten, raped or killed because she is
a woman, this is not considered a crime of hate”–a legal loophole
“welcome to no one but the misogynist.”

Click over and give the rest of the article a read; it’s a rather fascinating peek at how our laws are made.


Palin’s Latest Defense on Troopergate: Monegan Was Fired for Going Above Palin to Secure Federal Funds to Fight Sexual Abuse

Talking Points Memo reports that Sarah Palin is refusing to cooperate with an investigation that she inappropriately fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.  The story has focused on allegations that Palin had pressured Monegan to fire a Trooper Wooten for personal reasons and that Monegan was fired for not succumbing to Palin’s pressure.  While Palin has refused to cooperate the McCain campaign has released documents (PDF) that they say prove that Palin fired Monegan for justifiable insubordination, namely for publicly stating his intentions to travel to Washington, D.C. to seek federal funds to fight sexual abuse in Alaska, where the incidence of rape is the highest of any state in the nation.  Palin maintains that Monegan had not yet received permission to pursue his plan and that going public was insubordination.  Though Palin did not say that she opposed the idea of securing federal funds to help fight sexual abuse in Alaska, she has not made it a priority in her two years as governor.


More Money Needed to Fight HIV/AIDS in Ohio and Througout US

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that HIV infection rates are rising in Cleveland while funds to combat the disease are diminishing:

Since 2000, federal money for Cleveland-area agencies has
dropped by more than half, even though the number of people
living with HIV/AIDS in the city has gone up 49 percent –
from 2,412 reported cases to 3,601, according to the
Cleveland Department of Public Health.

“The programs that desperately need funding
aren’t getting the necessary resources that they
need,” Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS
Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, said Tuesday.

The declining funding comes in the wake of an increase in
the HIV rate in Cleveland, where almost 1 in 100 men live
with the disease, according to the city health department.

Young people, especially young black men, account for many
of the new cases diagnosed in Cleveland. Neighborhoods
immediately west and east of downtown Cleveland and other
areas with high black populations have the highest
incidences of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in people ages 13-24.

For Pike, whose agency spent $4.2 million last year on
programs, including housing and transportation and $500,000
in prevention programs, less money is a huge obstacle.

Considering that the lifetime medical costs alone for
people with HIV are somewhere around $800,000, it makes
sense to increase spending for prevention programs, Pike


Family Planning and Education Play Important Role in Sustainability

Salon has published a fascinating discussion on global population among three well known population experts.  All three seem to agree that “widespread access to contraceptive services, family planning and access to safe abortion” and the education of the world’s women have all helped make the world’s population more sustainable:

Today, most women the world over are using contraception and family
size has shrunk from five children to a little more than two and a
half. That has been an incredible success story for the world. We’d
have a much larger population, be much further along in global warming,
lack of water supplies, the loss of nature and biodiversity, if this
movement had not gotten going when it did.