Tag Archives: war on women

Elizabeth Warren and the Commonwealth’s High Stakes

15 Nov

Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, addressed a crowd of about a thousand people on November 13th in Boston. I was among them. In the middle of the indoor track/multi-purpose space at Roxbury Community College‘s Reggie Lewis Athletic Center, Warren and her team addressed the crowd, visibly pleased by the high turnout on the beautiful fall day.

Elizabeth Warren speaks to crowds in Boston November 13, 2011. Photo via Elizabeth Warren for MA, http://www.elizabethwarren.com.

The focus was clear: more honesty, transparency and equity in the nation’s economy. When Warren discussed her creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she received a standing ovation from much of the crowd- and she’s right to toot her horn over that victory. Warren spoke of her history as part of an American family on the edge of the middle class, and the truthfulness of her story shone through the hardening campaign trail speak. She came down firmly on U.S.-based firms based that pay no taxes here. All of that was important – but it’s not the whole story.

We don’t live in an economy; we live in a society. One of my high school classmates used this phrase to chide Republicans for focusing so much on reducing costs of government, rather acknowledging the people who need the resources that some government funding can provide. Well, it’s not only Republicans who can focus too heavily on the dollar amounts of governance. Though the reasoning is different, Democrats who lean too heavily into fixing our illin’ nation with fiscal policies alone will fail as hard as Republicans who’ve done the same. Money is but one of many resources that shape how Americans live, structure families, work, enjoy, commute, eat, shag, travel, spend, and die. Policies – and politicians – need to understand the importance of well-rounded policies and presentation in addressing life-or-death issues.

Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy will have to find a balance between the personal, political and financial if it is to succeed, especially with once-hopeful, now disillusioned 18-30 voters. Warren is a remarkably strong candidate, and is already running a better race than that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley threw down to fill Senator Ted Kennedy’s RIP-vacated seat in 2010.  It’s not more substance that is needed, exactly – but rather, more facets.

I hope that going forward, Warren takes the credit she deserves for being a smart, relatable attorney who learned Washington’s system the hard way, and stood up to corporate interests dabbling in politics. But with two wars abroad, the failed war on drugs and the truly grim war on women at home, we need to know more than her stance on lobbyists in Congress. Rather than play to moderates through vague answers on tough social issues, I want to hear Warren proudly tout Massachusetts’ healthcare as an example for the rest of the nation. I want her to put forth her views on issues such as immigration, environmental protection, and women’s rights (no, it’s not just about choice – though that’s important, too.)

Seeing Elizabeth Warren in person made me excited to support a strong woman candidate. But if Democrats are serious about taking this Senate seat back from Scott Brown and the Republicans, Warren will need to strengthen her appeal by taking clear, brave, and necessary stances.  And by providing the new solutions that the next generation is calling for.

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“If you can’t reach them at the pulpit, you go to Congress!”

3 Nov

At a time when we are finally paying attention to the undue influence of lobbyists on the U.S. legislature, my new hero Laura Bassett highlights a particularly abhorrent case: The Catholic Bishops’ War on Women.   In her recent article, she describes how the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been behind almost all of the major anti-abortion legislation we have seen in recent years.  We all know that the Catholic Church’s official position is anti-contraception, anti-abortion, etc, and that they aren’t afraid to vocalize it.  However, I was surprised at the extent to which these robed men have entrenched themselves in the political process.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been.  I mean, where else would anti-choice politicians get medically inaccurate, ideology-laden, human-rights-violating ideas on legislating women’s health?

Quoted in the article, Rep Lois Capps (D-CA) wins the Terrifying Understatement of the Year award when she says that “The bishops carry a lot of clout.”  Not only did they nearly paralyze the Affordable Care Act with their staunch, blind objections to abortion funding (willing to sacrifice near-universal healthcare over funding for one medical procedure–nice), but a higher-up in the USCCB actually had a literal hand in writing the Stupak Amendment.  Bassett does a fantastic job highlighting not only past anti-choice efforts, but also their current influence in the House with acts such as the “Protect Life Act,” the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act,” and the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,”  all aimed at decreasing women’s access to reproductive health care, even when it would save their lives.

I always knew that these conservative bishops didn’t represent my point of view, but the wider stats that Bassett cites reassure me that, in reality, they don’t represent the majority of Catholics.  As this piece points out, the vast (and I’m talking VAST) majority of sexually-active Catholic women use some form of contraception, and only 1 in 5 Catholics believe that abortion should be banned outright.  My question is: why do they have more clout than other organizations arguably representing more Catholics? Or 59,000 feisty nuns?

The biggest reason this article resonated so strongly with me was Bassett’s use of the language of “war on women.”  In the vein of Catharine MacKinnon, Bassett rightfully labels these bishops’ anti-choice efforts as an outright attack on women’s well-being.  MacKinnon asked once “when will opposition to terrorism include the daily terrorism against women that goes on day after day, worldwide?”  I think that’s a relevant question in this case.  Don’t get me wrong–I know that calling a bunch of priests terrorists is an inflammatory rhetorical tactic, but sometimes that’s just how it feels.  Their efforts have already decreased access to healthcare in very alarming ways.  If legislation such as the Protect Life Act passes, women’s life will be endangered–and not in a future-oriented, life-circumstances-can’t-handle-a-child way. (which should be a very serious consideration in itself).  No, these men of God are pushing legislation that will put women in physical, immediate, life-or-death situations that they might have no way out of.  That women’s control over their own health is being reduced to an “issue” that can be played as a political pawn doesn’t merely devalue women.  It threatens our bodies as well as our standing as equal citizens.  And that, to me, is just a sin.