Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

As we mark Women’s Health Week 2012, women have a lot more reason to celebrate than they did last year. Thanks to recent laws, particularly the Affordable Care Act, more women are able to access preventative health care without the burdensome and sometimes cost-prohibitive co-pays and deductibles.

When it comes to accessing health care, women face a unique set of challenges. Women earn 77 cents on average for every dollar that men earn, yet they use more health care services than men. As a result, women have historically faced high levels of health care insecurity, and many encounter unpaid medical bills and long-lasting debt as a result of health problems.

One major way in which women’s health has improved this year is through the coverage of necessary preventive care. Soon, all new insurance plans will cover preventive health care screenings and services as defined by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine. By supporting prevention and early detection of diseases, not only will women benefit from better physical health, but the financial strain on our health care system will also be reduced, and the economy as a whole will improve.

The two leading causes of death for women in America by far are heart disease and cancer — afflictions that can often be prevented if women have access to preventive care services such as screenings, immunizations, and educational materials. The Affordable Care Act contains a provision requiring insurance companies to cover, without co-pays or cost-sharing, preventive health care services such as screenings for domestic abuse and gestational diabetes as well as all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive services. After controversy over the inclusion of contraceptive coverage, the Obama administration announced an accommodation for religiously affiliated universities and employers, which allows insurers instead of employers to pay for this service.

Another advance is the end of “gender rating” practices. Gender rating is the process by which insurance companies charge men and women different premiums for individually purchased health care plans. A 2008 report found that at age 25, women were charged anywhere from 6 percent to 45 percent more than men for individual market plans; at age 45, women’s monthly premiums ranged from 4 percent to 48 percent higher than men’s monthly premiums. Under the Affordable Care Act, gender rating will be banned for plans offered in both the individual and small-group markets for organizations employing 100 people or fewer. Beginning in 2014, women in these plans will soon be charged the same rate as men.

Americans cannot continue to refuel our economy as productive members of the workforce if they are sick, saddled with health care costs, or — in the case of women — blatantly discriminated against by their insurance providers. As we mark Women’s Health Week, it’s important to recall the progress that has been made in fixing a broken health care system that, for too long, has cost too much and served too few.

It's My Vote, I will be Heard

AAUW is working to make sure that the voices of all women are heard regarding health care and much more. The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign is making an unprecedented investment in turning out women voters. AAUW is educating, engaging, and registering millennial (ages 18–30) women voters across the country. Together, we’ll ensure that women understand what’s at stake in 2012 and know how to use their voices and their votes to influence the election and protect women’s health care gains!

Read Full Post »

“I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

—President Barack Obama, May 9, 2012

Earlier this week, President Obama became the first sitting president to declare his personal support for same-sex marriage, telling an interviewer that he saw it as a matter of equality. AAUW applauds the president’s announcement. Our member-adopted Biennial Action Priorities affirm our commitment to “freedom in definition of family and guarantee of civil rights in all family structures,” and our Public Policy Program confirms our “opposition to all forms of discrimination and support for constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals.”

AAUW opposes any attempt to use the Constitution or federal law as a vehicle for enshrining discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons. No Americans should be denied the full range of civil rights and civil liberties due to sexual orientation or gender identity. Such rights and liberties include freedom from discrimination in the workplace, the right to marry, the guarantee of spousal or partner benefits — including the ability to care for dependent children — and the opportunity to serve one’s country in uniform.

While the president’s statement is significant and will have political reverberations, it has no legal impact. Yet the administration has already made significant strides toward promoting LGBT rights and equality, all of which AAUW has supported. These included repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and deciding to no longer defend challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The administration also recently endorsed the Student Nondiscrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would protect all students, including LGBT students, from bullying and harassment. Additionally, the Department of Education has declared that student bullying and sexual harassment are civil rights issues that could be punished under Title IX protections. AAUW commends the administration for taking these steps toward equality for all Americans and urges the president to work toward laws protecting LGBT persons from discrimination.

AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination, and we are glad to see the president expressing his support for same-sex marriage. All Americans are equal under the Constitution and the law and should be treated as such.

Read Full Post »

As the youngest of four, my kitchen assignment was usually putting away the dishes. My cooking experience had been short-lived as I would forget to put the water in with whatever frozen vegetable I was supposed to cook and the smell of burning would ultimately spoil the entire meal.

It was at the hands of a volunteer that I was able to face my then ingrained cooking fears and actually made an edible meal.  A group of moms had volunteered to teach our Brownie troop how to make a meal from start to finish and this one act of kindness helped boost my self-confidence. We went on to help make meals for a homeless shelter and the sense of wellbeing that came from helping others became an addiction.

I consider myself lucky to have had the ability to work in non-profits my entire professional life. When I came to work at AAUW, I soon became awed to experience firsthand what I had only read about before – the power of 100,000+ volunteers in action. As I met our members, I often heard the stories of their considerable accomplishments in communities, on college campuses, in state capitals, in front of the Supreme Court, on the Hill and even in the West Wing with numerous presidents over the years. Wow!

January 16th is this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, part of the United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. I love the positive media coverage honoring volunteers around the country and give a special shout-out to our fabulous AAUW members who continue to carry out a 130 year tradition of helping others.

In case you are still looking for take action on behalf of others this Monday, January 16th, here are a few links to suggestions from the AAUW family.

I still think there is nothing better than giving of your time and resources for a good cause. However, in the fairness of full disclosure, I do have to mention that I have never totally overcome my dislike of cooking…so my service tends to be pitching in to help clean our environment or loving the fact I work at AAUW, who’s members and donors volunteer almost daily to help break through barriers on behalf of women and girls.

Read Full Post »

Plan B One-StepAAUW was seriously disappointed by the Obama administration’s Wednesday decision, directly defended by the president, to block the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of selling emergency contraception to women without restriction. Along with the rest of the women’s rights community, AAUW expected the Obama administration to approve the over-the-counter sale of Plan B contraception — commonly referred to as the morning-after pill — without requiring a prescription. We are disheartened by this decision, especially since it seems to contradict the administration’s stated commitment to following science instead of politics when making decisions. Yet, as a statement from the director of the FDA makes clear, this decision was based on politics, not science.

Approved for use by the FDA in 1997, emergency contraception, or Plan B, prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. In March 2009, a federal judge in New York ordered the FDA to reconsider its previous decision to limit nonprescription access to emergency contraception to women ages 18 and older, asserting that the entire process had been influenced by “political and ideological” considerations imposed by the Bush administration. This decision made emergency contraception available over the counter  to women 17 and older only. The FDA’s decision this week concerned whether to retain or lift this restriction, a change that AAUW supported.

AAUW encourages efforts to increase education about and access to emergency contraception for all women, including minors, and believes emergency contraception should be available without prescriptions or restrictions. Greater awareness of and improved access to emergency contraception could help reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in the United States. AAUW supports the right of every woman to obtain medically accurate information about and access to safe and comprehensive reproductive health services. This is also why AAUW supports comprehensive sex education programs. The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the developed world.

The decision appears to be part of a worrying pattern from the Obama administration on women’s reproductive rights. For example, 2011 appropriations — at the president’s behest — reinstated the ban on Washington, D.C.’s, use of its own taxpayer money to fund abortions for low-income women. Additionally, the administration still has not fully rescinded the Bush-era “conscience clause” regulations, which allow health care providers to deny necessary medical care to women. Officials may also approve regulations that let certain employers deny contraceptive coverage to more than 1 million women who were guaranteed this coverage under the health care reform law.

AAUW has supported choice in women’s reproductive decisions since 1935. We need President Obama to do so as well.

Read Full Post »

By Ceridwen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons*UPDATE*: News reports indicate that President Obama could decide as soon as this week whether to deny women affordable access to contraceptives. TAKE ACTION to tell the administration that all women deserve access to birth control.

A few months ago, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that new insurance plans cover women’s preventive health care, including contraceptive services, without requiring cost sharing or co-pays. AAUW applauded this decision but was disappointed that the Obama administration allowed certain employers to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees. Now, some opponents of contraception are pressuring President Obama to extend this exemption even further, which would deny contraceptive coverage to more than 1 million women.

We need you to send a message to the White House: Don’t exempt employers from covering women’s preventive care. All women should receive coverage for contraception without co-pays or cost sharing. Access to services such as contraception helps women control, track, and better manage their lifelong health.

Women face a unique set of health care challenges because they use more health services yet earn less on average than men. Requiring insurance providers to fully cover — without patient deductibles or co-pays — preventive services such as contraception, screenings, education, and counseling will go a long way toward expanding women’s access to health care services. These services are so critical to women’s health and well-being that they should be available to all women without exception.

The proposed coverage exemption would allow certain religious employers, such as religious charities, nonprofits and schools, to restrict employees’ access to health care and denies women who work for these employers coverage for necessary preventive care. This exemption is an obvious intrusion on the patient-doctor relationship and discriminates against women on the basis of sex.

This exemption also would put many women at risk for health problems that are easily avoided with proper preventative care. Employees who work for churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions — including administrative employees and faculty in religious schools — are just a few of those affected by the exemption. For example, the restriction would extend far beyond the direct effects on employees to their spouses and dependents as well.

Take action and tell the White House that you oppose this exemption that puts women’s health at risk!

Read Full Post »

Debt ceiling. Government default. Increased revenues versus spending cuts. It’s enough to make you want to ignore the political gridlock dominating Washington these days. However, as tempting as that may be, what happens in our nation’s capital over the next week will have a major impact on our economy and government and will play an important role in the 2012 presidential election. So here’s what you need to know.

Congress and President Obama are fighting over raising the debt ceiling, which is a cap on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow to fund the federal government. The debt ceiling is currently set at $14.3 trillion. When Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling (as it has 74 times since 1962), it authorizes the Treasury to borrow the money needed to pay the bills incurred running the federal government. The cap covers federal debt owed to the public (i.e., anyone who buys U.S. bonds) plus debt owed to federal trust funds such as those for Social Security and Medicare.

The Treasury estimates that the United States will run out of funds to pay these bills, i.e., hit the debt ceiling, on August 2. When, or if, that happens, the United States would be unable to pay its bills, and there would be a government default. Despite myriad predictions, no one really knows what a government default would look like, but it wouldn’t be good. At a minimum, a default would hurt market confidence in the United States, affecting U.S. bonds, the strength of the dollar, and the U.S. stock market.

Despite the fast-approaching deadline, leaders in Washington appear unable to come to an agreement on how to solve this problem. Since there is no consensus on a “clean,” or unconditional, lift to the ceiling, Obama and Congress, particularly Republicans in the House of Representatives, are locked in pitched negotiations on the conditions under which the debt ceiling should be raised. The president has stated that any spending cuts must be accompanied by increased revenues, i.e., taxes, particularly on high-income earners, while House Republicans, led by Speaker of the House John Boehner, are insisting on deep spending cuts, such as changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated to reduce the benefits paid to retirees.

No one knows how this debate will end, but rest assured that AAUW will be there to protect the interests of women. Although AAUW recognizes that these are tough budgetary times, balancing the nation’s budget should not come on the backs of vulnerable Americans, including students, women, and working families. Politically motivated cuts to critical government programs would threaten our economy’s ability to recover from recession and volatility, create serious problems for the solvency of Social Security, and very likely force enormous cuts in programs that millions of Americans rely upon, such as welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid. These cuts would hurt ordinary Americans and have a lasting, detrimental impact on America’s economy.

Read Full Post »

Last week, my attention was focused on the news surrounding German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s state visit. Her visit was significant because it marked many firsts for women in diplomacy. In addition to being Germany’s first woman chancellor, Merkel was the first female leader and the first European leader to come to the United States during the Obama administration. Merkel’s main purpose for visiting was to receive  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is only the fourth foreign leader to receive the award, joining the ranks of remarkable leaders like Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

I watched Merkel’s arrival at the White House last Tuesday intently from my desk via a live news stream as the events unfolded and President Barack Obama welcomed her. Speculation was floating around leading up to her visit about the tension between the two leaders and the status of their transatlantic relationship. All of that seemed to be set aside as the two leaders acted like old friends.

I got teary eyed at the end of Obama’s speech when he declared, “It’s obvious neither of us looks exactly like the leaders who preceded us.” The crowd roared with laughter, but it was a profound statement as Merkel is one of the most powerful women in the world, overseeing the fourth-largest economy in the world.

Later in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a luncheon for Merkel honoring women in diplomacy. Merkel gave her speech in German, and at the end of her remarks, she gave a huge grin and joked that she had a small present for Clinton. Merkel seemed very amused with herself as she presented Clinton with a framed copy of a front page of Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, which showed a picture of the two women in nearly identical pantsuits — one in a purple jacket and black slacks, and one in a fuchsia jacket and black slacks — alongside the text, “Which one is Merkel and which one is Clinton?” Merkel took great care to tell Clinton, “You may take it in a playful mode.” But this was unnecessary. Clinton, who frequently jokes about her wardrobe, howled with laughter when she received the gift.

For now, the world of diplomacy may still be a man’s world, but Merkel and Clinton have paved the way for future female leaders by way of the pantsuit.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »