Center for Inquiry attends Women Money Power Summit
October 14, 2009
On Tuesday, October 6, the Center of Inquiry Office of Public Policy attended a session of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Women, Money, Power” Summit. The summit highlighted current issues women are facing and what advocacy groups and Congress are doing to address them.
Currently, Congress has putting most issues, including domestic violence, on hold until health care has passed. This is unfortunate because during an economic downslide such as the one that has recently plagued our nation, domestic violence rates go up. At the same time, because of budget cuts, over 2000 domestic violence shelters have closed in the past year, and prevention programs are also losing funding. Women’s rights advocacy groups have continued efforts to change this. One route that has been taken is advocating the ratification of the International Violence Against Women Treaty. This treaty has already been ratified by 95% of UN member states. The US is the only industrialized nation not to have ratified the treaty. Senator John Kerry has begun to work towards ratification in the Senate through the Foreign Relations Committee. Other advocates of ratification include President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden (who authored the treaty), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. In addition to this treaty, there are currently several unintroduced bills that address domestic violence, including the Family Violence and Prevention of Services Act (FVPSA) and the Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The session also emphasized the importance of America’s Affordable Choices Act of 2009, particularly in regards to women. The bill would establish many nationwide rules that would have positive effects on women. For example, Medicaid would be expanded by 11 million more impoverished people. The significance here lies in the fact that the majority of the nations’ poor are single women with children. The bill would also mandate that all insurance cover maternity leave, far cry from the current system in which 79% of women go without it. The bill would end the gender discrimination by insurance companies that causes women to pay approximately 150% more on coverage than men. Charges for preventative care such as mammograms and pap smears along with caps on yearly expenditures would also be ended. The importance of the Capps Amendment was also discussed. This is a compromise, written by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA), states that at every cost level for insurance policies on the Insurance Exchange, there must be at least one insurance plan that covers abortion and one that doesn’t. This would insure that all women, regardless of amount of coverage they receive, would have access to abortions.
The importance of the Health Care bill including a Public Option was also stressed. A Public Option is included in both versions of the bill that are in the House, but it is not in the Baucus version of the bill in the Senate. The point of the Public Option is to bring the price of health care and coverage to a reasonable level. The insurance plan is not subsidized by the government. Instead, individuals would receive subsidies to use towards the health care of their choice. Opponents of the Public Option argue that it would be costly and drive private insurance companies out of business. In reality, the Public Option would help private insurance companies by increasing the number of customers who can afford their services .In addition, studies have shown that health care prices have little to no correlation to the actual costs of procedures, supplies, and time. It is also important to realize that the current health care system is already costing us to a great extent. Currently, 16% of US dollars are spent on health care. Furthermore, the current system is not sustainable, as it has doubled in cost in the past ten years, and is projected to do the same in the next ten years. The speakers urged those in attendance to take action on this issue.
Senator Boxer (D-CA) then joined us to speak about current women’s issues in Congress. She reiterated the importance of the Health Care bill including the Public Option. She also celebrated the fact that the first ever foreign relations subcommittee dedicated to women’s issues has recently been created. One of its first goals is to set up an office within the UN to oversee women’s rights efforts.
We were then joined by Representative Lowey (D-NY) who is the current chair of the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. She celebrated the fact that the subcommittee is the first in the history of Congress to ever have a woman as both chair and ranking member. She spoke on the importance of continued efforts to “level the playing field” for women, particularly women in the international sphere.