Leaping from Our Spheres
As we move into the fall and the end of the 2016 election season, there will be new opportunities for UUWF public policy witness and education around justice for women:
The spread of the Zika virus this summer into the continental United States (it had already hit Puerto Rica) has brought even more urgency to the need to pressure Congress when it returns to session on September 6. They must provide the funding necessary to abate this mosquito born disease and provide the necessary range of reproductive health protections and interventions for impacted women. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there have already been more than 500 cases of Zika in pregnant people in the U.S. and at least 15 children have been born with Zika-related neurological damage. Now concentrated in Florida, health officials are predicting a spread to other Gulf Coast states over the next two years.
In the face of this, the majority party congressional leaders have stalled efforts to allocate adequate funds, and to use these funds effectively, by including restrictions in using these monies for contraception and by excluding Planned Parenthood from receiving any.
UUWF will be partnering with other religious and secular advocacy groups in asking Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to do what is required to combat Zika and protect the health of women and children.
Hyde Amendment Anniversary
On the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits funding abortions, to the annual federal budget, there have been briefings scheduled by two congresswomen on the proposed “Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance(EACH) Woman Act.” This proposed national legislation would once again ensure that — no matter her income, zip code, or insurance provider — every woman should have access to pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
As part of the All Above All campaign to restore and sustain abortion coverage for low-income women, UUWF will be participating in a week of action in late September, including Facebook and Twitter events.
Paid Family & Medical Leave Bill
We will be supporting the National Partnership for Women & Families in their “Expecting Better” initiative to adopt a federal paid family leave and medical leave bill, which would augment the Family and Medical Leave Act. This landmark legislation has been used more than 200 million times since its passage in 1993 to provide workers with unpaid time off to care for a new child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to address one’s own serious health condition.
Look for a UUWF fact sheet and possible webinar on the Democratic and Republican platforms on women’s justice issues — and what is at stake in the 2016 election. Coming in the next few weeks.
In our neck of the American woods (as a famous network meteorologist is want to say), it has been the hottest summer in at least 20 years, and dry to boot. The only consolation is that (1) my husband and I are off to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska for a week; (2) following this much anticipated and saved for vacation, I turn around for a long weekend at a high school reunion in Northern California, likely to be moderate, even cold in all that fog; and (3) school begins for the children in our town—and most of this Southern State—on August 1st, so we can pretend that fall is on its way rapidly.
So while some of you might be midway through the season, fall is around the corner in lots of ways where I live. Families with children are returning from beaches and mountain cottages. Summer camps are winding down. The summer reading campaign held annually by our local library ends in less than two weeks. Open to adults as well as kids, it encourages a variety of literary experiences, from conventional bound to audio books. There is always a common read.
Which reminded me that I had the intention of finally wading into the stack of books I have ordered or picked up through the year, and specifically the nonfiction ones that might inform and enrich the ministry I do on behalf of women and girls (and their male allies). Or fiction written by women, about the lives of women. That’s a mighty tall pile. Continue reading
My late father used to let mosquitoes feed on his arm. My brother remembers it was an uncharacteristically macho thing for our mild-mannered scientist parent to do. But, after all, he was a mosquito warrior, a microbiologist trained and ready to do battle with these insects that cause so much disease, misery, and death around the world.
As my father’s daughter, I have—metaphorically—mosquito-borne viruses in my blood. The consciousness of inequities around who has access to prevention and treatment is also a part of my legacy from him. With a special sensitivity because of my professional ministry with the UU Women’s Federation and also, more acutely, our recent UU statement of conscience to the intersection of race, class, and gender in reproductive rights and beyond to the full scope of reproductive justice. “Consciousness of inequity” is a term created by women of color in 1994 to, in their words, “center the experience of the most vulnerable… the inequality of opportunities they have to control their reproductive destiny.”
So I began following the growing stream of reports out of Brazil last year about a disease called Zika that has frankly preoccupied me—despite and perhaps especially in this most difficult year for defending access to basic reproductive health services. Continue reading
By Daniel Kanter
A few weeks ago I was at my third PPFA national conference, representing Unitarian Universalism on the Clergy Advocacy Board. Our attempt to be the face of pro-reproductive rights and justice people of faith is an uphill climb. But we are a small board with mighty diversity, representing everything from mainline Christianity to Sufism to Reform Judaism and beyond.
One concern we had, among many, was what would happen with the Texas laws to restrict access to abortion. As a clergyperson in Texas, today I can say that Texans breathe a little easier after the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of striking down the restrictions put on clinics performing abortions in Texas. About the same size as France, Texas attempted to reduce the number of clinics to a handful scattered around the state. It accomplished creating a negative financial impact that will take years to recover from. I can tell you that this was never about safety and always about ideological wars on women, communities of color, and the poor.
The UUWF issues survey, which was circulated last year, helps guide our social justice advocacy work on behalf of women and girls. We have continued to focus on reproductive justice, economic justice, ending domestic violence and sexual assault, and will be finding more ways to speak out on the impact of climate change. This is a full public policy plate.
Assaults on reproductive freedom have multiplied on the state level, including the most recent bill passed by the Oklahoma legislature that would have criminalized abortion providers. It was vetoed by the governor. But there is much to watch on the national front in this Presidential election year as well. Continue reading