CEDAW FORUM: The Unfinished Business of Ratification

My guest post today is about a very important topic I intended to write about–but my colleague Linda Tarr-Whelan has already said it all better in a post she wrote for the National Council for Research on Women’s “The Real Deal” blog. It’s embarrassing as well as just plain wrong that the U.S. is one of just seven nations that never signed onto the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Want to know the six other nations? They are Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga –overall not very good company!

This week has been declared a Week of Action by a coalition of U.S. organizations working to get our country to enter 21st century and sign CEDAW. So to the U.S. Congress: Sign already!

By Linda Tarr-Whelan*

NCRW asked leading research and policy expert Linda Tarr-Whelan to weigh in on the status of CEDAW. In addition to her responses, below is an excerpt from a previously published commentary from Linda featured on Women’s eNews and The Huffington Post.

On Dec. 18, 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, making it a watershed day for women around the globe. Continue reading “CEDAW FORUM: The Unfinished Business of Ratification”

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.

What’s the Best Language: Choice, Freedom, Human Rights, or???

Really, really, I wasn’t going to write about this. It was a conversation on Twitter with @lynncorrine, @kcecilia, and @jendeaderick that made me do it.

You see, after 35 years, I’m tired of arguing about what is the most persuasive language to bring the most people into what we have for some decades now been referring to as the pro-choice fold. And frankly, I have moved on–or outward, as I prefer to say–to the bigger canvas of women’s equality and power, not just between the navel and the knees but also in politics, at work, and at home.

However, thanks to the perpetual obsession about women and sex by those who want to outlaw abortion, I find myself drawn in once more to the fray over the rhetoric of–well, whatever you want to call it. Historian Nancy L. Cohen started the latest public discussion of the terminology in her Los Angeles Times op ed proposing that we switch from “choice” to “freedom.”

Seems to me a historian would have taken a longer view and realized that the language has morphed many times since the turn of the 20th century, from family limitation to birth control to family planning to reproductive health and rights to reproductive justice, with “pro-choice” becoming the short code word for a worldview predicated on the notion that women deserve to be able to make love without making babies: the right to choose whether, when, and with whom to have children.

Lynn Harris aka @lynncorrinne wrote this excellent, sassy piece in Salon expanding on the questions Cohen raised. Well, OK, she quoted me, so i will brazenly self-aggrandize by quoting her quoting me responding to Cohen’s theory that “freedom” would be the silver bullet to end so-called abortion wars:

Ooh, good one? Right? “Freedom”? That’s better than “choice,” right? (As we’ve learned, it’s also better than “French.”) Speaking of which, it kind of sticks it to ’em, stealing “freedom” back from those who invoke and champion it with their fingers crossed behind their backs. (And who attach it to the prefix “hates.”) Shades of Roosevelt, Bill of Rights; nice. Right?

Well, Gloria Feldt, for one, isn’t quite ready to start rewriting our signs. “I like ‘freedom’ fine,” says the activist, writer, former Planned Parenthood prez, and author of the forthcoming “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.” “But I’m a realist from experience, both with using the rhetoric and studying public opinion polls. Freedom is a strong American value but it doesn’t move the dial of public opinion because in the rhetorical wars, ‘life’ still trumps ‘freedom.'” (Goddammit!) “Anti-choicers easily turn ‘freedom’ into ‘license.’ Especially when it pertains to women and sex. There are limits to freedom, legally and ethically,” she continues. “Frankly, if choice weren’t a good word, the anti-choice people wouldn’t be co-opting it at every turn. I agree that it has become so diffuse as to lose its meaning. Still, in the end what is morality but choosing?”

Where does that leave us? “I think the only answer is to turn the tables and put the spotlight back on women,” Feldt says. “Our right to life, our human rights.” Well, OK. That doesn’t give us a new catchword, but — more importantly — it reaffirms the moral core of our fight. (Perhaps especially as the forced-pregnancy establishment has shifted strategies from pretending they don’t hate women to telling the truth.) Certain words are potent weapons, yes, but they’re not the war itself. And, as the polls suggest, we can win the war without them. Perhaps we should choose other battles after all.

“Choosing other battles” is a good way to put it. Because the biggest challenge for what in the interest of brevity i will call the pro-choice movement isn’t with those who oppose women’s human right to decide about childbearing, it’s with ourselves.

More than new language, we need a new surge of moral certitude about the rightness of our cause. That, much more than changing the rhetoric based on the latest poll, would solidify the amazing gains we have made for women during the last century and enable us to continue forging ahead to a more just and infinitely healthier future for women, men, and children.

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.

Say It Isn’t So, O!

They always disappoint you, these politicians. I tend to be a bit of a Pollyanna or at least a cockeyed optimist even after all these years of political involvement. And though Obama’s appointments have sometimes been thrilling, sometimes worrying; I figured we needed to cut the guy some slack; he’s got a mighty hard job in front of him after all, and it is critically important that he be successful.

But today, he went too far when he gave Rev. Rick Warren the enormous honor of delivering the invocation at his inauguration. I mean, please. Sarah Posner at The Nation writes:

There was no doubt that Obama, like every president before him, would pick a Christian minister to perform this sacred duty. But Obama had thousands of clergy to choose from, and the choice of Warren is not only a slap in the face to progressive ministers toiling on the front lines of advocacy and service, but a bow to the continuing influence of the religious right in American politics. Warren vocally opposes gay marriage, does not believe in evolution, has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Excuse me, but what about the basic human rights of women and gays? Is Obama buying into the absurd notion that such disrespect for our fundamental humanity is just a matter of opinion rather than a violation of simple justice?

And of all the members of the clergy that Obama could have chosen–and there are thousands of mainstream men and women of the cloth who would have delivered the message, for a president so skilled in the use of symbols, that the so-called religious right doesn’t have a lock on faith or righteousness–why in the world would he pick the very embodiment of intolerance?

There is in fact, little separating the hateful words of Rick Warren from the hateful words spewed by Jeremiah Wight except Warren’s less strident tone of voice and smarmy smile.

As Amie Newman observes in RHRealityCheck:

And, yet, it’s Pastor Rick Warren who will join President Elect Obama on stage when he is inaugurated. Warren who advocates strongly for the abstinece-only based ideological restrictions in our Global AIDS Plan – PEPFAR. It’s Warren who has advocated to retain these restrictions which clash wholeheartedly with Obama’s plan to strip them away…

It is hard to imagine Obama and Warren’s agendas for any sexual or reproductive health issues aligning at this point, making it all the more puzzling why Obama chose Warren for this role. In an expose on Religion Dispatches, Tom Davis writes of Warren’s die-hard positions on social issues all while taking more “moderate” stances on issues of global warming, poverty, war and AIDS (though, as I note above, supporting the imposition of religious restrictions on global AIDS policy is not moderate).

My fantasy–this is the Pollyanna in me talking now–is that Warren is so power hungry that he will be more than a little co-opted, possibly even corrupted (from the perspective of his followers), by the attentions Barack Obama is lavishing on him.

But The Nation’s Posner takes a dimmer, and probably more realistic, view about who will be corrupted:

Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats’ religious outreach, a right-winger masquerading as a do-gooder anointed as the arbiter of what it means to be faithful. Obama’s religious outreach was intended, supposedly, to make religious voters more comfortable with him and feel included in the Democratic Party. But that outreach now has come at the expense of other people’s comfort and inclusion, at an event meant to mark a turning point away from divisive politics.

So what are we going to do about it? Here are couple of ways to register your dismay and urge Obama to uninvite Warren and invite, say, Tom Davis who has long toiled in the vineyards of social justice for all. Here’s a  Facebook group you can join. Or, in a more direct approach, you can contact the Obama transition team here.

Blog it, tell your friends about it. Together we can raise clamor enough that Obama will have to reconsider this very bad decision, and say it isn’t so after all.

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.

Not Under the Bus This Time

December 10 is Human Rights Day.  Appropriately today, there’s a new campaign for women’s human rights that I want to share with you.

On the heels of the Senate’s defeat of anti-abortion measures, Bart Stupak published a defense of his amendment in the New York Times (“What My Amendment Won’t Do.”  His aggressive protest clearly illustrates the crusade against women’s rights won’t stop any time soon.

The Women’s Media Center is proud to announce the launch of its new media campaign NotUnderTheBus.com, a platform that amplifies the voices of women and organizations devoted to a health care reform that is fair to women.

NotUnderTheBus.com’s first call to action is to stop the Stupak Amendment, the Hatch-Nelson Amendment, and others like them which are the most draconian restrictions on women since the 1977 Hyde Amendment that cut federal funding for abortions by Medicaid.

NotUnderTheBus.com will serve as an aggregator and media resource center in the fight to safeguard women’s reproductive rights in the national health care reform debate.

“Women must not be thrown ‘Under the Bus’ in health care reform!” says Jehmu Greene, President of the Women’s Media Center. “We won’t let Congress run over women’s health, because our health care is central to the health of America; it is not for sale! We are furious that our reproductive rights and our health have been compromised by politicians in Congress, who in the skirmish for political gains oppose national health reform to the detriment of more than 16 million women.”

NotUnderTheBus.com calls on all women and men who support women’s equality to take the initiative, climb aboard and start driving the bus right down Pennsylvania Avenue to ensure that health care is fair, safe, and accessible to all.

To speak with WMC President Jehmu Greene, or to book other experts on health reform, health care politics, or women’s reproductive rights, please contact Rebekah Spicuglia, (212) 563-0680, rebekah@womensmediacenter.com.

About the Women’s Media Center: The Women’s Media Center is a non-profit organization making women visible and powerful in the media. The WMC ensures that women are represented as they are: powerful newsmakers, informed experts, and sought-after media professionals. Please visit WomensMediaCenter.com to learn more about our work.

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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.

Justice Ginsburg’s Right About Roe, Wrong About Solution

Several people have e-mailed me today to ask what I thought about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments about the Roe v Wade decision in today’s New York Times.

“The court bit off more than it could chew,” Justice Ginsburg said in remarks after a speech at Princeton in October. It would have been enough, she said, to strike down the extremely restrictive Texas law at issue in Roe and leave further questions for later cases.

“The legislatures all over the United States were moving on this question,” she added. “The law was in a state of flux.”

Roe shut those developments down and created a backlash that lasts to this day.

“The Supreme Court’s decision was a perfect rallying point for people who disagreed with the notion that it should be a woman’s choice,” Justice Ginsburg said. “They could, instead of fighting in the trenches legislature by legislature, go after this decision by unelected judges.”

It’s also old news that Ginsburg believes, as many others have said over the years that the Court’s decision in Roe leapfrogged over public opinion that was heading in the prochoice direction anyway, so they should have just waited for the legislative process to work.

Seems to me that if you buy that, then you would also buy the notion that the court should not have decided Brown v Board of Education when they did, and in both cases you would be totally wrong from a social justice perspective.

If your goal is not to upset the applecart, then maybe you could make the argument that Roe was too much too soon. But as they say, justice delayed is justice denied. And pray tell, why should women so often be the ones who are told they should wait?

Ginsburg has long been on record also that she thinks the Roe decision wasn’t a sustainable one because it wasn’t based in women’s rights but in privacy. I agree with her completely on that score and in the interest of efficiency, here’s a link to an article I wrote for Democracy Journal on why Roe was necessary but not sufficient, and why I believe we must build a human rights basis for reproductive justice legally and culturally.

Interestingly, the article in which Ginsburg was quoted about Roe today was relating the “wait till the legislatures catch up with you” the same notion to gay rights an same sex marriage. And it’s just as wrong-headed there as it is in regard to any other civil right, if for no other reason than American citizens shouldn’t have to deal with a patchwork of state laws where some states respect them as equal citizens and some don’t.

And she shares her opinions on why she thinks it is appropriate for the U.S. to consider rulings by foreign courts in its decisions in another Times article today. Perhaps she might want to take a look at Supreme Courts in countries such as Mexico that are increasingly ruling in favor of reproductive rights to see that the U.S. is in good company.

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.

A DOCTOR WHO WAS THERE DESCRIBES ABORTION PRE-ROE

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe by Waldo Fielding M.D., in today’s New York Times is a must read and must share. Fielding is 80; his generation of doctors knows the real stories about the injustices of illegal abortion.  An excerpt:

With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside. When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals. There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion…

Now it’s up to the generation now present to make the coat hanger (photos of which accompnied the article) a symbol of women’s empowerment rather than victimization.

The importance of electing a president in November who understands and will vigorously advance women’s human rights to reproductive self-determination and moral autonomy is of paramount importance. But we must also continue to stay engaged in the political process, asserting clearly to the President over and over that we expect him or her to make good on campaign rhetoric about supporting a woman’s right to to make her own childbearing decisions and to have access to the health care  and information that makes rights meaningful. It is too late to fight back against the incursions that have chipped away at reproductive choice and justice. The situation calls for us to fight forward with a proactive agenda, such as I proposed in The War on Choice.

A reminder: Sen. John McCain has a 100% anti-choice voting record.

Both Sens. Clinton and Obama have 100% pro-choice voting records since they’ve been in the Senate.

Clinton is a sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act which would codify reproductive rights as civil rights and track the major provisions of Roe. She is also a prime sponsor of the Prevention First Act, which would provide additional funding and therefore access to birth control services, among other preventive education and health services. Sen. Obama is a cosponsor of this bill.

These are the two most significant pieces of proactive legislation aimed not just to restore lost access and rights but to expand them to a point where women are assured both. And that larger vision is where this debate must go.

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.