By Deborah Ortiz

Maybe you have read about “endocrine disruptors” and filed it away as an “environmental issue.” These endocrine disruptor chemicals are found in common consumer products such as pesticides, fertilizers and cleaning chemicals, and are a serious reproductive health issue as well. They have been linked to fertility problems, early puberty in children, poor birth outcomes and certain reproductive cancers.

It is important that we increase community awareness about the intersection of environmental exposure and reproductive health. I am in a unique position to know about the threat because our clinicians often see the troubling effects, ranging from low self-esteem due to early puberty, to problems conceiving healthy children, to a higher risk for breast cancer in young women.

Planned Parenthood’s mission is to promote the health and safety of pregnant women and children by providing primary and prenatal care to uninsured families, many of which work in agricultural communities and in places that expose them and their children to pesticides, plastics, perfumes and sources of endocrine disruptor chemicals.


By Yolanda Cotterall

The politics of immigration have complex roots.

Since 9/11, the idea that national security is at risk has been used by many to justify draconian tactics to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants walking across the border. However, the big picture politics are infringing on the livelihood of regular people, everyday workers, whose trespasses on the basis of border security are being paid for in their own security.

Imagine a mother informed by her weeping child over the phone about a raid at the plant where her husband works; having heard nothing from him, her mind races. He might have been picked up by government officials. She is afraid to dial his cell phone for fear of bringing said officials to her home. Her three children are at school, without anyone to protect them; she is afraid to pick them up without risking capture in the streets that she now considers a danger zone.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The First 100 Days – Then and Now

By David B. Woolner

After 100 days in office, the comparisons between President Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt seem as valid as ever.

Both leaders have had to cope with an unprecedented global financial crisis, a deteriorating economy, high unemployment, and an electorate steeped in fear and apprehension about the future. Both men have also had to contend with a world-wide security crisis; inspired in FDR’s case by the pernicious ideology of fascism, and in President Obama’s by the rise of a deadly form of international terrorism driven by religious extremists. Both men have also had to share the blessing—or burden—of high expectations, not only among the American public, but among people the world over, where their assumption of office has been widely heralded as the beginning of a new day.

But in spite of these and other similarities, there are some striking differences between their first 100 days that may provide the current President and his colleagues in Congress with some food for thought.


By Bernie Ellis and Margie Parsley

Tennessee went from being one of the 12 worst states for election security to one of the 18 most secure.

We should all be proud of that accomplishment. It took us three years of study, hard work and perseverance to come to the conclusion that our elections are too important to be left to unverifiable direct record electronic machines (DREs) that are easy to hack and impossible to audit.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations recommended the move to paper ballots, as did the legislature’s Joint Committee on Voter Confidence. Many newspapers around the state supported this legislation. It was truly a nonpartisan effort, and all Tennesseans -- regardless of political party -- who want our votes to be counted as they are cast, cheered the success.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed

By William F. Schulz
The most important moment of the 2008 presidential debates was one that was little remarked upon at the time. It was in the second debate that the candidates were asked whether health care was “a privilege, a right or a responsibility.” Senator McCain said it was a responsibility -- of government and business. But Sen. Obama said that it “should be a right for every American” and cited as “fundamentally wrong” his mother’s experience of being denied payment for her treatments as she lay dying of cancer.

What was important about Obama’s comment was not just his commitment to guaranteeing access to health care for every American but that the would-be President had framed a social good – in this case, health care – in terms of a human right.

Americans typically think of rights in terms of the traditional civil and political rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: such things as freedom of speech, press and religion; racial equality; and due process. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which the U.S. voted for in 1948, has a much more robust understanding of rights, encompassing such economic and social rights as the right to education, to work, and, indeed, to health care. Article 25 of the UDHR, for example, says that “Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.”

By Ralph Paige

I have never seen a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) like this one. At the very beginning of the Obama administration, Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, has developed initiatives to address the extensive and infamous civil rights problems at USDA.

Usually, lip service is paid to these problems shortly before the end of an administration and nothing is done as a result. But this time it looks to be a different and new era at the USDA. The “People’s Department,” which is what its creator President Abraham Lincoln called the Department of Agriculture, might actually become a department for the people. I applaud the secretary’s efforts.

For more than 40 years and through nine administrations I’ve personally seen black farmers discriminated against by the USDA. I’ve seen discrimination complaints submitted to the USDA by black farmers shoved aside, thrown out or not processed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bigotry is not an American value

By Caroline Fan

Now more than ever, we need a rational and respectful dialogue about how to fix our country’s broken immigration system. But comments like Texas Representative Betty Brown’s recent assertion that legal Chinese American immigrants should adopt Anglophone names that are “easier for Americans to deal with” represents precisely the kind of divisive rhetoric that will keep us from such a levelheaded debate.

Brown’s callous suggestion that Chinese American citizens are not American is symptomatic of the veiled bigotry that underlies much of the immigration debate across the nation. It also begs the question of why state legislators across the country would want to associate with the organization that Brown helped found to propagate racially divisive policies.

Rep. Brown is a charter member of the anti-immigrant special interest group, State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI). SLLI promotes a range of anti-immigrant policies to rescind the rights of legal immigrants, all of which have the effect of promoting discrimination and separating immigrants from their communities. The group is a close ally of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR), having promoted their model legislation and conducted several joint press conferences. This is same FAIR that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed


By Marcella Chester

I understand the harm done when we fail to properly fund services for sex crime victims, and what it will mean for others who are raped. I was raped at age 15; before resources were widely available to help rape victims navigate their choices related to the law and recovery.

After I was raped, I reached out to three different types of helping professionals. All of them failed to properly assess the cause of my trauma. All of them assumed that because the person I was trying to communicate as being my rapist was my boyfriend and I used the word unwanted instead of raped, that I was simply regretting becoming sexually active. These well meaning professionals didn't have the training to recognize that I might be a rape survivor, and to ask the right questions. Even if they realized that I had been raped, they certainly wouldn't have been able to help me see my rapist held accountable because at the time, rapists were described as strangers. Boyfriends might go too far, too fast, but they were never rapists.

In 1974, the research did not exist and these resources were not adequate. In the last few decades, thankfully, the scope of the problem has been considerably more researched.

By Pramila Jayapal and Renee Radcliff Sinclair

The early experiences of Amalia Cudeiro, Bellevue School District's new school superintendent, mirror the experiences of many foreign-born residents in Washington and across the United States.

Born in Cuba, Cudeiro came to the United States as a child. Her father was an accountant, but because he didn't speak English, he was only able to find work as a dishwasher. Cudeiro gave back to her father -- she earned a doctorate from Harvard, built a much-lauded career in education, and today is poised to become the first immigrant school superintendent in a city where one in four residents is foreign-born.

Cudeiro's journey and contributions may be viewed as a microcosm of immigrants across Washington state. A recent report released by OneAmerica, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to advancing democracy and justice, clearly lays out the contributions of immigrants to Washington's economy.


By Alison Mondi

In a time of economic uncertainty, unnerving budget deficits, and ever-worsening employment and revenue figures, it is understandable that the legislators and agency heads charged with setting the state’s budget for the next two years are inclined to reach for the hatchet.

And yes, there are going to have to be cuts, and many of those cuts will have very real repercussions for those most in need. But dwindling state revenues, coupled with more people than ever in need of assistance, demands precise and thoughtful budget trimming.

That is why the state Senate and House budget proposals are so alarming. Among the slew of heartbreaking cuts, the Senate budget calls for a $1 million reduction in state spending on funding for birth control and other family planning services for low-income and at-risk women, which is 10 percent of the total program. The House budget is even worse; it proposes a 10 percent cut for the first year of the two-year budget, and then calls for the complete elimination of family planning funding in the second year. That means ending reproductive health care services for over 20,000 Washington women, and putting up to an additional $19 million in pregnancy care costs on the state’s tab. This drastic cut is a gamble with women’s health – and the state’s bottom line – that we simply cannot afford.

By Liz O’Donnell

Economists are predicting the number of women on the national payroll will surpass the number of men in 2009 due to the fact that 82 percent of recession-related job losses have impacted men. This news has sparked many discussions about how gender roles may or may not be affected in traditional American families. Will Dad now run the household while Mom earns the income? Will Mom still do 17 hours of housework per week?

While who washes the dishes may be of great concern within the four walls of any couple's kitchen, there is an issue of much greater importance that hasn't been talked about. Women still earn, on average, just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. Plus, the number of women in the top paying jobs is trending downward based on a comparison of how many women held executive positions in 2008 versus 2007. This means while American families sort out who will take out the trash and who will scrub the toilet, they also need to figure out how they will live on less income. Mom and Dad may be able to swap chores, but they still can't swap earning potential.

Those who think pay inequity is caused by women who opt out of full time, fast track careers may continue to think this is a women's issue brought about by choice, therefore affecting only women. But a shift on the national payroll will affect all Americans: women, children and men. It is important that we take note of this, especially in light of the current economic climate. Women are consistently paid less than men for the same work, and when it becomes those women that are the financial heads of households, it is entire families that suffer, likewise when women are boxed out of the top-earning jobs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Putting an End to Bullying


By Jacqueline White

My adopted daughter was born in the projects of the South Bronx, some of the meanest streets in America, and in her early years was tutored in its ruthless code. Though able to escape to Minnesota through her first adoption, she remains proud of her “New York skills”: her ability to throw down, to fight back, to not get punked.

I tell you this because Amy would want you to understand that for Amy Perez, a tough kid from the Bronx, to perceive her suburban Minneapolis high school as so dangerous she had no choice but to drop out, well, it had to be truly treacherous. It’s been more than a decade now, but when word got out that Amy was a lesbian, she was jumped twice and roughed up. The school administration offered no help: she was told she had brought on the attacks herself because of her sexual orientation.

School had been Amy’s refuge, the one glimpse of normalcy she had in the abusive chaos of her biological, foster, and first adoptive homes. Even after her first adoptive mother kicked her out upon discovering Amy’s love letters to another girl, Amy still went to school though she was homeless. She loved school and, as she has said, “The books and the teachers loved me back.” She was staying in a youth shelter when, on cable TV, she happened to catch her classmates walking across a stage to receive their diplomas. The sight was devastating.


By John Coffman

Energy utility lobbyists have been exerting increasing influence over Missouri by rewriting laws that are supposed to protect consumers.

Since 2003, utilities have successfully lobbied for seven unfair surcharges to be added onto our utility bills. Energy monopolies love surcharges because they allow rates to increase without a full audit by the Public Service Commission, and even allow rates to go up during a period when the utility’s overall costs are going down.

This onslaught of extraordinary new ways to raise rates for electricity and natural gas has not even stopped in the face of the current deep recession. In fact, 2009 may be the year that politicians succeed in overturning the citizen-led ballot initiative that banned Construction-Work-In-Progress (CWIP). The anti-CWIP statute was passed by voters by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in 1976 and remains one of our most important consumer protection laws. This law currently prevents electric utilities from raising rates for power plants that are not yet providing power.


By James Marlow Jr.

At a recent congressional hearing, Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise told Congress that Georgia cannot meet a proposed mandate to obtain at least 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Wise went on to say that other states would be able to meet the requirement, which may soon be imposed by new federal regulations.

With all due respect to the commissioner, he greatly underestimates Georgians’ ability to rise to this challenge and, in the process, clean up our air and create thousands of new, high-paying jobs.

Wise claims Georgia lacks the sunlight that has allowed other states to successfully generate solar energy. This assertion, is just plain wrong.

By Gregory Taylor

All across America each year, children start kindergarten unprepared to learn. In some states, the vast majority of kindergarteners aren’t ready for school. Many of them fall behind and never catch up.

We can change that.

The children are victims of failure and neglect by the very entities that should support them most: their families, schools and governments.

As the Obama administration, Congress and state policymakers work to revamp education, they need to target the youngest learners -- those most often overlooked by traditional school systems. They must make sure that children are ready for school and, equally important, that schools are ready for them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How is Your Texas Health Care?


By Katie Mahoney

This is the story of Rachel in Bexar County, whose mother is 73 years old and hasn't been able to afford to see a doctor for the past 10 years, even though she found a lump in her breast several years ago.

It's also the story of the El Paso County mom who can't afford health insurance for herself and drives to Mexico when she needs to see a doctor or fill a prescription

And it's the story of the woman in Tom Green County who needed a routine medical procedure but couldn't find a clinic in town that she could afford and didn't have transportation to another city.

These are just three of the hundreds of Texas women who have taken the Healthy Women, Healthy Families survey since last summer. Healthy Women, Healthy Families, a statewide coalition of more than 25 grassroots and nonprofit organizations, was launched by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Foundation in 2008 to improve access to quality healthcare services for Texas women and families.

By Carolyn Cook

When our forefathers broke from the tyranny in Great Britain, they left nothing to chance. They put it in writing.

In unified thought, spirit and action, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 white, male, landowners representing 13 colonies. Hardly reflective of America today, it formally challenged the notion of the “divine right of kings” and guaranteed wealthy men equal rights.

Ironically, god-given rights were customarily denied to women. Considered the property, they were barred from decisions that would impact their social status indefinitely.

Commemorating the spirit of proclaimed freedom, the Declaration of Independence provides the rationale though which the United States Constitution is interpreted. Therefore, the Supreme Court renders its judgments based on a legal precedent established 239 years ago of equality among men only!


By Amanda Woodrum

Public transportation was once again not made a priority in Ohio’s nearly $7.3 billion transportation budget.

Habitually, we spend less than 1 percent of our state transportation dollars on public transit, giving us the low ranking of 40th in the nation for our relative commitment to transit. Per person, Indiana spends 3.6 times more, Michigan nearly 10 times more, and Pennsylvania 33 times more than Ohio does on public transit.

Transportation spending should better reflect the positive role public transit can play in creating a more equitable, vibrant and sustainable Ohio.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed

Friday, April 3, 2009

Moderate Taliban is an Oxymoron

By Martha Burk

In my book "moderate Taliban" ranks right up there with "organic Vienna sausage" as an oxymoron.

But, the president mentioned reaching out to the so-called moderate militias in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago in talking about how to quell the violence and fix the mess Bush left him with.

Obama recently fleshed out his blueprint for gaining a peace when he announced plans to send 4,000 more American troops and a few billion more dollars through a supplemental appropriation.

Women's groups, both in the U.S. and Afghanistan, want to make sure any shifts in policy don't further harm women and girls. Despite Bush administration claims to the contrary, females have been set back -- way back -- since 2001. Most are once again in the burqua, and girls are being attacked with acid for the crime of going to school. Women are often deprived of food, and have been kicked out of bread lines by the Taliban.


By Page Gardner

As a woman and a Virginian, I was proud to help so many women get registered to vote for the 2008 elections. Women’s Voices. Women Vote, the organization which I founded, registered over 40,000 women in the state of Virginia in the months leading up to the November elections.

These women made the effort to get registered because they believed that change was possible. Then these same women came out in November and voted for change and for hope. Now, we must hold our elected leaders accountable for bringing about that change that we voters have demanded. President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget is an important next step in bringing about that change.

Why is President Obama’s budget important to women? Women, and particularly unmarried women, have been disproportionately impacted by the current recession. Unmarried women face a much higher unemployment rate than Americans as a whole, are more likely to be uninsured and are paid substantially less than men. Women need the additional investments in health care, education, and energy reform that are made possible by the proposed budget. These investments will mean tangible improvements in the lives of Virginia women.


By Chris Guinther

“It’s an average teenager’s weekday…going to school, being beat up, having lunch money stolen...the usual. It’s sad to say, but bullying is at its worst these days. About 1 out of every 4 teens admits they are bullies or are being bullied. Many schools don’t even care about those things. They say it’s just a part of life. Bullies can be very dangerous. Bullies are a part of everyday life, but they shouldn’t be. Too many people are being tortured on a daily basis. I may just be a kid, but I hope that I can open your eyes.”

After I read this middle school student’s essay, my first question was, “Why should any student believe that torturing and bullies are a part of everyday life?” The follow-up question has to be, “What are we doing to help?”

The answer to the first question is simple. Bullying is not just “kids being kids” and should never be considered as a rite of passage. In many cases, it’s keeping our children from being successful or it’s keeping them from coming to school. In some cases, it’s killing them. The “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” report indicates that those who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed and far more likely to be suicidal.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed


By Amy Hanauer and Roberta Garber

The just-passed federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will relieve need and help halt the economic hurricane that is devastating Ohio. The stimulus provides a long-overdue chance to make a down payment on a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable Ohio, something our organizations have advocated for years. Smart targeting and good oversight will ensure that the stimulus funds do the most to revitalize Ohio communities.

Stimulus resources offer new hope for Ohio. The plan includes funding for renewable energy investments, home repair and weatherization, worker training for the jobs of today and tomorrow, infrastructure improvements, and pre-school programs. These will provide immediate spending and put Ohioans back to work, which is crucial in this downturn, but they also represent long-term investments in a stronger economy.

Trained workers will better meet the skill needs of employers and be more likely to earn enough to support their families; children who have attended preschool will require less remedial education; weatherized homes will use less energy and save families money; and improved public transit and infrastructure will attract new economic development to Ohio’s urban and rural core communities.

By Dr. Lorna Marshall

As specialists in the field of fertility, we cringe every time a higher order multiple pregnancy (three or more gestations) receives special attention. Almost every Mother’s Day contest for “Mother of the Year” selects a woman who has carried and delivered four, five, or six babies at once. Jon & Kate Plus 8, which chronicles a couple raising twins and sextuplets, has become one of the most popular reality TV shows. To fertility specialists, such pregnancies are associated with preterm labor, tiny babies that need weeks or months of special care in the nursery, and likely one or more children with long-term health or behavioral difficulties. So, in a way, the public outcry against the recent birth of octuplets by Nadya Suleman can have a positive effect.

It’s hard to believe that any conscientious professional would ever consider transferring six embryos into a young woman’s uterus. The current guidelines by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine state that women less than 35 should have one or two embryos transferred into their uterus. Indeed, there are times when medical judgment suggests that perhaps three instead of two embryos can be transferred when their quality is poor or when there have been multiple failed cycles. And, yes, a patient has a right to make her own decisions about health care, but her physician has an obligation to ensure that those decisions are well-informed. Dr. Kamrava’s decision to transfer six embryos into the uterus of 32-year-old Nadya Suleman deviated so much from professional guidelines that every agency that has the power to sanction him should.

When medical care falls below the standard of care, there are many avenues available to reprimand the physician. Hospitals can withdraw privileges, medical societies can expel a member, state licensing boards can suspend the physician’s license, and patients can file a liability claim. Whatever official sanctions are imposed, the negative publicity has significantly harmed, if not ruined, Dr. Kamrava’s career. The public backlash should strongly deter other physicians as well.