FIGHTING BACK IN THE WAR ON WOMEN. Despite the recent Komen victory, the GOP’s extremist attack on women’s health rages on. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell declared that the GOP would pursue legislation allowing any employer to deny contraception in health insurance plans. Republican Senator Roy Blunt proposed an amendment to the Affordable Care Act to exclude coverage if an employer claims that it “violates their religious or moral convictions.” This week, the Oklahoma Senate passed anti-abortion “personhood” legislation, affirming that “life begins at the moment of conception.” And Republican lawmakers in Virginia went beyond personhood to outlaw certain types of contraception and mandate an invasive ultrasound procedure for women undergoing abortions.
The Komen victory was a riveting lesson in the power of organized outrage. Yet, as I argued this week in “2012: Year of the Woman,” we need more for long-term progress on women’s reproductive health. We need election of more pro-choice legislators in Congress and state legislatures. As I told MSNBC’s The ED Show, the upcoming election could see a record number of women candidates elected to Congress, with the support of organizations like EMILY’s List. Six incumbents and five challengers, including Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Susan Bysiewicz (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would be the first women to represent their state in the Senate. If the power of organized outrage is channeled into electoral politics, 2012 might prove to be a Year of the Woman and advance women’s voices in decisions about our own health.
ALEC REVISITED. Monday’s New York Times editorial, “The Big Money Behind State Laws,” spotlights the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), described as “a little-known conservative organization financed by millions of corporate dollars.” The Times rightly points out ALEC’s pernicious influence in state legislatures across the country. But it was The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy that—thanks to a leak by Ohio-based activist Aliya Rahman—obtained more than 800 ALEC documents representing decades of model legislation. In an accompanying expose in the August 1-8, 2011, issue, The Nation offered an inside look at the priorities of ALEC’s corporate board and millionaire benefactors: efforts to undermine labor rights, voting rights and healthcare; revamp the prison industry; and strengthen school privatization. Thanks to grassroots momentum in the states, Democratic lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin have introduced the “ALEC Accountability Act,” which requires groups pushing model legislation to publicly disclose its funding sources. More on that here.