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On Women's Issues, Bush Going Backward
Published on Monday, November 1, 2004 by St. Paul Pioneer Press / Minnesota
On Women's Issues, Bush Going Backward
by Carol Towarnicky
 
In the third debate, George W. Bush and John Kerry were asked what they had learned from their wives and daughters. Both candidates' responses — about how their women made them honest, told them to stand up straight, yadda yadda yadda — made this particular wife and mother want to hurl.

I just don't care. What matters to me is what a president's administration will do to protect women's lives. I mean, Bill Clinton was a lousy husband (to put it mildly), but his administration marked real progress and protection for women.

About the only women George W. Bush supports are those in the ultra-conservative Independent Women's Forum (including Lynne Cheney) who recently were handed part of a $10 million grant to train Iraqi women for their January elections. As the National Organization for Women put it, "Think Halliburton in a Skirt."

To give you an idea of where these ladies stand, they opposed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women — not only because the convention supports reproductive rights (heaven forfend!), but because it advances such radical feminist ideas as equal pay for equal work, maternity leave with pay and child-care facilities for working mothers.

While I have nothing but goodwill for our Iraqi sisters and their January election, we American women have our own election coming up in a couple of days — and our choice couldn't be clearer: The Bush administration has stealthily rolled back many of the gains for which women have fought for decades. It must be replaced with one led by John Kerry who, throughout his career, has championed the cause of women. Some examples:

The Bush administration has reduced enforcement of Title IX, the law that protects equal opportunity for women and girls in education, including sports. Kerry has pledged to defend it.

Gone from the Labor Department is the Equal Pay Initiative, which enforced laws against discriminatory practices in the workplace. The Department of Justice has reduced enforcement of laws against gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

For the 4.5 million women earning the $5.15 minimum wage — and the millions more earning slightly more — the real value of their income is worth less than when it was raised in 1996. Kerry wants to increase the minimum wage to $7. Bush proposed a raise of a buck an hour — but only if the states could opt out. That is, another sham.

The Bush administration has cut 500,000 kids from after-school programs and plans to cut 300,000 children from child care by 2009. Bush has no plan to increase health insurance coverage for kids. By stark contrast, Kerry plans to expand after-school programs to include 3.5 million kids. His health care plan will cover all kids younger than 18.

Bush's plan to privatize — or whatever he calls it — Social Security will drastically reduce benefits. Social Security is the only source of retirement income for 26 percent of unmarried elderly women.

John Ashcroft's Justice Department has not properly enforced the Women Against Violence Act and has appointed women from the aforementioned Independent Women's Forum — who sneer at so-called "victim politics" and downplay the incidence of rapes and domestic violence — to his Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women.

The recent illness of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist reminds us that the next president will have the opportunity to set the direction of the court, not only for the next four years but for decades. Kerry has said he will nominate justices who will protect reproductive rights. Overturning Roe v. Wade clearly is high on the Bush agenda. If that happens, women in 30 or more states could lose their rights to choose abortion. Soon to follow: the right to choose contraception.

If these facts come as a surprise, there's good reason. As the National Council for Research on Women documented last spring, information about women has gone missing from government Web sites, including 25 reports from the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau. Apparently, Bush & Co. believe that if they stop publishing the data, the discrimination will be invisible.

Notice how the titles for Bush's programs mean exactly the opposite? The "Clear Skies Initiative" makes it easier to pollute. "No Child Left Behind" actually leaves many children behind.

Add to that: "W. is for Women."

Towarnicky is chief editorial writer for the Philadelphia Daily News

© 2004 St. Paul Pioneer Press

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