Roundup: Older Children Abandoned Under Law for Babies

In Nebraska older children abandoned under law for babies; Palin and Biden agree on gay rights at debate; McCain administration would be a setback for women; Bush puts popular California family planning program at risk; Complaints filed against Bloomberg for pregnancy bias; EU to offer 18 weeks of maternity leave; and more.

Older Children Abandoned Under Law for Babies

The New York Times reports that Omaha, Nebraska has had 15 older children dropped off at ‘safe-haven’ locations in the city during the past month. In July, Nebraska became the last state to enact a so-called safe-haven

Such laws permit mothers to leave an infant at a facility with no
fear of prosecution. Nationwide, more than 2,000 babies have been
turned over since Texas enacted the first such law in 1999, according
to the National Safe Haven Alliance in Virginia.

But the version of the law passed in Nebraska “was far broader than all others, protecting not just infants but also children up to age 19.”  While one case, that of a 34-year-old widower father of ten who left nine of his ten children at a safe-haven in Omaha last month, was a legitimate case of economic distress endangering the lives of the children, concern has arisen that the law is being misused:

“The law in my opinion is being abused now,” said Mr. Stuthman, who
said he would push for a revision. “There are family services out
there, but some people may lack the resources to take advantage of
them, and we’ve got to take a hard look at what more we can provide.”

Some, however, appreciate the broad scope of the new law and argue that increased funding for social services and efforts to educate the public on underused existing services is needed to make the law more effective:

“In Nebraska, as in a lot of states, we don’t have sufficient funding
to provide a really strong mental health system for kids,” said Judy
Kay, chief operating officer for the Child Saving Institute in Omaha,
which helps families in crisis. “But we do have resources that many
parents are not aware of or are not using,” including psychiatric
counseling with fees tied to family income.


Palin and Biden Agree on Gay Rights at Debate

Two politicians from either end of the American political spectrum agreeing on a global stage that gay couples deserve equal civil rights was nothing short of wonderful to witness.  While both politicians opposed marriage, we all know that social progress is measured in steps and last night America took a big one as a conservative vice-presidential candidate moved to the center leaving her far-right supporters behind:

“No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to
do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts
being signed,” said Palin, referring to John McCain, her running mate in the November 4 election.

“In an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no
distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint
between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple,” said Biden, referring to
his Democratic partner, Barack Obama.


McCain Administration Would Be Setback for Women’s Equality

Cristobal Joshua Alex has a post up at HuffingtonPost.com that takes a brief look at the presidential candidates’ stances on issues important to many women including reproductive freedom, women’s health and equal pay.  Alex also considers the candidates’ choice for running mate in
his attempt to determine if women’s interests would be advanced in
either administration.  Alex determines that an Obama administration
would place more value on these issues and is concerned that a McCain
administration would continue to be a setback to progress toward true
equality between the genders.


California’s Parental Consent Measure Might be Bullet-Proof in the Courts

In August of 1997 the California Supreme Court struck down a parental consent for abortion law.  Since then the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld two parental consent laws that are similar to the one that will appear on California’s ballot on November 4 meaning that “if opponents of parental consent laws want to win, it appears likely they will have to win at the ballot box, not in the courts.”

Now, however, the court’s
[1997] ruling would be negated by Proposition 4, which would amend the
California constitution. The Supreme Court decision rested on the state
Constitution’s strong privacy rights, so if Prop 4 passes, the only
option for opponents of the law would be the federal courts. And that’s
where legal experts overwhelmingly agree Proposition 4 may be

Polling is indicating that California’s Proposition 4 is winning support among the electorate just one month ahead of the election:

[According to the] Public Policy Institute of California, Prop 4 is actually winning 47%-44%
despite the defeat of two similar “parental notification” ballot
measures in the last four years. Even more alarming, a SurveyUSA poll
released just yesterday shows Prop 4 winning 52%-36%.

One group, called the Courage Campaign, will be campainging against the ballot measure when Sarah Palin visits Los Angeles tomorrow.  They plan to fly an airplane over Palin’s rally towing a banner that reads “Sarah Palin, Thanks but no thanks: No on Prop 4!”


Dispute with Bush Administration Imperils Popular Family Planning Program for the Poor in California

The Los Angeles Times reports that a dispute over the immigrant status of people seeking services through California’s Family Planning, Access Care and Treatment Program could result in a loss of federal funding for the program that serves “nearly 1.7 million low-income Californians each year, including
prenatal services, annual exams and education about sexually
transmitted diseases, but does not provide abortion counseling.”

The program saves federal and state taxpayers more than $1.4 billion
annually, the officials say, by helping low-income women avoid unwanted
pregnancies. The Bush administration wants the state to change the way
it counts the illegal immigrants who use the service.

Since it began receiving Medicaid money in 1998, the state has used a
statistical method to estimate the number of illegal immigrants in the
Family PACT program, currently calculated at 14%. But the Bush
administration, which has been objecting to this method since 2004,
last month told California it had 30 days to begin vetting every
participant to determine if each is in the country legally, or lose all
federal funding.

It is not clear why the ultimatum was issued now, just months before President Bush leaves office.


Why Won’t Democrats Talk About Abortion Rights?

Elizabeth Schulte asks why Democrats and liberals in general are reluctant to speak out, unprompted, on behalf of a woman’s right to choose. Schulte argues that the successful defense of the right to choose will require the same kind of agressive messaging that the far right has used for so long in their effort to get rid of the right to choose:

THE TRUTH is that the conservatives have won ground in this debate over
the years, with a well-organized and uncompromising campaign to vilify
abortions, the doctors who perform them, and the women who have them.

Despite the avalanche of anti-choice propaganda, a majority of people still support Roe v. Wade. A 2007 Harris poll showed support for Roe at 56 percent, up 7 percent from the year before.

That’s because the lies about abortion fly in the face of the actual
experience of much of the population–of living, breathing women who
actually have abortions, and have had them in some form, from the
beginning of time.

The Democratic candidates would prefer not to say anything about
abortion–and let the pro-choice forces loyally support them while they
leave the door open for anti-choice forces to support them, too. In
other words, the right for a woman to make a life-transforming decision
about obtaining an abortion is, for the leaders of the Democratic
Party, nothing more than a political bargaining chip.

Obviously, the Democrats aren’t interested in really standing up for
abortion rights. The only way to turn the tide of public sentiment on
abortion is to make the argument for a woman’s right to choose, no
matter what the politicians are saying.


Complaints Filed Against Bloomberg for Alleged Pregnancy Bias

ABC News reports that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will have to answer to a relatively large group of current and former female employees who claim they were discriminated against for being pregnant while working for Bloomberg’s financial company:

72 current and former female employees who became pregnant while
working at Bloomberg LP, the financial news service, claim the company
discriminated against them by decreasing their pay, demoting them, and
excluding them from other employment opportunities after they became

One complaint alleges that a Bloomberg senior executive, upon learning
that two of his female executives had become pregnant, remarked “I’m
not having any pregnant b-tches working for me” and instructed another
executive to terminate them.


Another complaint alleges that female employees at Bloomberg LP were
subjected “to stereotypes regarding female caregivers” through comments
such as “You are not committed” and “You do not want to be here” when
they returned from maternity leave.


EU to Offer 18 Weeks Fully Paid Maternity Leave

In contrast to the news about pregnant women alleging discrimination against Michael Bloomberg’s financial company the EU’s social affairs commissioner will propose a new maternity leave program that “will impose six weeks of compulsory leave for new mothers after the
birth, with the remaining 12 weeks to be split either before or after
the child is born.”  The proposal would guarantee a generous maternity leave program throughout the EU but the article notes that several very generous maternity leave programs already exist in Europe:

Brussels sets the minimum length of maternity leave and pay, but
member states may offer more generous provisions beyond this level.

leave periods range from 14 weeks in Germany and 16 weeks in France,
the Netherlands and Spain, to 45 weeks in Bulgaria.

Sweden is particularly generous, offering a year of parental leave at full pay, which can be transferred to the father.

UK also offers 52 weeks of maternity leave, 39 of which are paid, but
at a rate of 90 per cent of their average pay for six weeks and a fixed
sum of £117.18 a week for the other 33 weeks.