Best of Weeks, Not So Best of Weeks

The best: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama. This photo says, better than a thousand words, the joy of this step forward for gender equality in compensation. That’s Lilly, the blonde in the middle (I won’t identify by her red jacket because it seems Senators Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe and Rep.Eleanor Holmes Norton also got the memo).

Am I alone in noting the contrast between this photo, with its diverse group of people and the photo of old white men surrounding George Bush when he signed the abortion ban bill? Quite a sea change. Breathe out now. Guess which one of the signings I was invited to, and which one not.

But on to the not so best, for some happenings this past week were more like Washington as usual:

*The beached whale alarms bellowed by the Republican Right, shocked (!) that the Medicaid expansion provision of Obama’s stimulus package includes bureaucratic relief so states can, if they choose, extend preventive family planning health care to women who are above the poverty line but low income and uninsured. Well, apparently, the Democrats–the men at least–aren’t any more comfortable with the topic.

*The Democratic president’s lightening-swift and utterly gratuitous capitulation to those politically beached bloviators. As if they hadn’t known when they put the family planning extension into the stimulus package that it would be a red flag. Did they perhaps intend it as bait to draw the sting away from other vulnerable provisions? But if so, why pray tell did they have to choose the one aspect of the plan that had “woman” written on it?

*The media pundits making jokes when they had to say the words “stimulus” and “contraception”, because, well, isn’t sex always amusing? As in, not a serious issue for legislators to consider? Suddenly shy of controversy, Chris Matthews posited that family planning is a private matter, not for the government to consider. Where was his dismay these last eight years when the anti-choice right was plunging straight into Americans’ “private” reproductive decisions?

*Disputes within the women’s movement and family planning faithful. “Maybe this really doesn’t belong in the stimulus plan even though it is important.” “Maybe we don’t want to put forth the argument that family planning saves $4 for every $1 spent on health and welfare funding alone; it sounds too elitist.” Or, “Maybe we need to duck, withdraw the provision and quietly fight this battle behind the scenes so it doesn’t make news and stir up the opposition. As if the opposition wouldn’t notice. Meanwhile, Beltway veterans will say, we need Obama for so many other things. He’s removed the Global Gag Rule already. He issued an eloquent tribute to Roe v Wade. And he supports the Prevention First Act. What else do you want, they ask.

Maybe the best of next week will be the Prevention First Act, with (my fantasy) the addition of the Medicaid waiver provision that got cut out of the stumulus package. After all, Obama says family planning funding is a high priority for him, and TPM reports sources indicated to them that a bill could start moving very soon.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

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