U.S. Rep. Maloney, With Coalition of NYC Women Leaders, Details Top Twenty President Bush Policies That Hurt Women

Group Urges Strengthening of  Women's Rights, Women's Health Initiatives & Women's Equality by President & Congress

"There's nothing funny about this Top 20 list"

August 24, 2005 (New York, NY): Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-14) and members of many of the country's leading women's rights organizations gathered on the steps of New York's City Hall to deliver a scathing indictment of President Bush's policies on women's health care, women's equality and women's rights.  As part of the lead-up to Women's Equality Day on August 26th, Congresswoman Maloney presented a list of the Top 20 Bush administration actions that have hurt women. 

"Over time, the Bush administration has eroded, bit-by-bit, our nation's laws, policies and programs that promote women's equality," Maloney said.  "This quiet, behind-the-scenes maneuvering has left women here in America and around the world much worse off than they were just a few years ago."

"That's why we're here this afternoon: to drag Bush's policies out of the Stone Age and into the light of day.  These attacks on women's rights are a clear demonstration that for this administration, no good law advancing women's health and rights will go unharmed."

Congresswoman Maloney's report on the Top 20 Bush administration policies that have hurt women follows.

Bush Administration's Top 20 Policies

That Hurt Women

1. Bush refuses to state his position on birth control: The White House has refused to comment on whether President Bush supports or opposes access to birth control. The White House's silence on birth control comes at a time when women's access to contraception is threatened. Pharmacists across the country have recently refused to fill prescriptions for birth control because of personal objections and the House of Representatives has voted to strike any mention of birth control from legislation on family planning. If Bush were serious about preventing abortions in America, he would work to make birth control more widely available --rather than duck the issue.

2. Bush imposes the Global Gag Rule on family planning: One of President Bush's first actions in office was to put in place a global gag rule prohibiting international health care organizations from providing or advising on the option of abortion, even in countries where choice is legal and in cases where the woman's life is in danger. The effects of this policy have been devastating. In Ghana, 1,700 community organizations providing family planning services in rural areas have been denied funds. In Kenya, five family planning clinics have been forced to close, causing major obstacles to women seeking contraception and obstetric care. Stifling the flow of information on family planning issues would be unconstitutional in our own country and it is unconscionable when imposed on women and families around the world.

3. Bush Administration to stop gathering information on women in the workforce: On July 29, 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics decided to stop gathering information about women in its monthly payroll survey. Without this crucial information, the Department of Labor will no longer have statistics on the number of women employed in specific industries or on the wage disparity between men and women. Furthermore, the DOL will be unable to analyze the number of job losses and gains by women in the United States. The bureau says it has stopped collecting this data because the form employers must fill out is "to long." This decision is troublesome at a time when women continue to make less than their male counterparts and suffer unequal treatment at high profile companies like Wal-Mart, one of America's largest employers.

4. Bush actions heighten risk of pregnancy and STDs in women around the world: At the Children's Summit in May 2002, the Bush Administration blocked expansion of sexuality education for adolescents - even those who are married while teenagers. Instead, the Bush administration promoted an abstinence-only approach, which, a recent New York Times editorial notes, assumes that young women are able to choose when to have sex. In fact, women in the third-world are often married at very young ages. As a result, they lack the information and power to make decisions about sex. Abstinence-only education simply does not work for married or sexually active teenagers who need information about condoms and other forms of birth control.

5. Rejects over-the-counter status for the "Morning-After Pill": The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to go against the recommendation of an expert scientific panel and reject over-the-counter (OTC) status for the Plan B contraceptive, the so-called "Morning-After Pill." Additionally, the Department of Justice refused to include mention of the pill in its recently released guidance on treating rape victims.  The administration took these actions despite the fact that the FDA Nonprescription Drugs and Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committees had recommended making Plan B available OTC by a 23-4 vote.  What's more, a recent study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that "the use of safe, effective emergency postcoital contraceptive methods could result in 1 million fewer abortions and 2 million fewer unintended pregnancies each year in the United States."

6. Bush Freezes funding to UNFPA: In July 2002, President Bush froze funding for UNFPA. UNFPA is an international development agency that provides reproductive health care services and fights the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, UNFPA reduces global poverty while ensuring the safety and dignity of women around the world. The President's decision to withhold funds from UNFPA ran contrary to bipartisan Congressional agreement, the President's first budget request, the recommendation of his own "expert team" sent to investigate UNFPA's activities in China, and the Secretary of State, who had testified to UNFPA's "invaluable work " around the world. Instead of heeding the advice of his appointed advisors, President Bush used his executive power to withhold $34 million appropriated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In subsequent years, his budget has contained no funding for UNFPA.

7. Withdrawal of support for Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: The Bush Administration withdrew its support for Senate ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is unratified by only a handful of countries, including Iran, Sudan and Brunei. Although 180 countries around the world have already ratified the treaty, the Bush Administration has actively worked against ratification.

8. President Freezes $3 million in funding to the World Health Organization: President Bush froze $3 million in funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in an effort to appease anti-choice pressure groups who oppose the WHO's Human Reproduction Program. His stated reason for taking this action is that the organization conducts research on mifepristone, otherwise known as RU-486, even though no U.S. monies are spent on mifepristone research.

9. Administration attempts to weaken agreements that protect women: At the UNESCAP meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in December 2002, the U.S. delegation fought to change language of a landmark international reproductive health care agreement (the International Conference on Population and Development - ICPD) to reflect the belief that life begins at conception. The Bush administration tried to pressure Asian nations into watering down the global consensus on reproductive health and rights, claiming that the document promoted abortion and underage sex. It also tried to substitute language that would eliminate sex education, undermine condom use in HIV/AIDS prevention, and water down policies that help prevent and treat unsafe abortions. In the face of international outcry, the administration was forced to back down.

10. So-called 'Partial Birth' Abortion Ban: By passing a bill that mirrors the unconstitutional abortion ban overturned in Stenberg v. Carhart, the President and the Republican Congress have privileged ideology over women's health. The Supreme Court made it clear that a ban without an exemption for women's health would not pass constitutional muster. Instead, the Bush Administration pushed for the broadest possible ban, perhaps hoping that a change in the make-up of the Supreme Court would yield a different result.

11. Expands the Global Gag Rule to HIV/AIDS funding: Bush expanded the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, to include HIV/AIDS programs. This action mandates that, to be eligible for U.S. funding, programs must separate their family planning work from their work to prevent HIV/AIDS -- even though family-planning efforts have proven track records of success in combating the spread of the deadly virus. This action harms women in two ways: it undercuts the effectiveness of family-planning efforts and weakens efforts to prevent HIV, to which women are much more susceptible than men.

12. Bush Administration attempts to deny asylum to women who have fled sex trafficking: President Bush has said that "human trafficking is one of the worst offenses against human dignity." But, in March 2003, the Bush Administration tried to implement regulations that denied asylum to women who have fled trafficking, sexual slavery, honor killing, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence in their home countries and who are not being protected by their own governments.

13. Bush's Plan to Privatize Social Security is bad for women: Women are more likely than men to depend on Social Security for their financial well-being - not only in retirement but throughout their lives - because of survivorship and disability benefits. The vast majority of Social Security recipients are women -- almost 60 percent of all beneficiaries age 65 and over. This percentage increases as people age. Meanwhile, women are less likely to have pensions than men, and more likely to rely on Social Security for a significant part of their income in their old age. Without Social Security, more than half of white senior women and about two-thirds of African American and Hispanic senior women would live in poverty. Because Social Security helps level the playing field for women, cutting their benefits would make it even harder for women to achieve financial security in retirement.

14. Rape cases in Army's ranks inadequately prosecuted: An Army task force on sexual assault completed a report in June 2004 revealing that sex abuse claims within the Army's ranks increased by 19% from 1999 to 2002. The number of rapes reported rose by 25%. Both numbers far outpace the growth of Army personnel, which grew 6%.

15. President Bush fails America's women in uniform: The Bush Administration cut the membership, staffing, and funding for DACOWITS (Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services); revoked much of the committee's autonomy by giving control to the Pentagon; watered down DACOWITS's attention to women's issues; reduced the number of installations that DACOWITS visits each year; and has hindered its effectiveness by requiring committee members to travel to installations in groups.

16. Unborn Victims of Violence Act gives fetuses same rights as mother: Instead of trying to protect pregnant women from violence, the Bush Administration pushed for legislation that would increase the rights of fetuses. As a result, Congress passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which treats embryos and fetuses as separate individuals in crimes against pregnant women.

17. Bush attacks Title IX: The Department of Education recently circulated a new "clarification" for Title IX compliance that will make it easier for colleges and universities to say they are providing equal athletic opportunities for women without actually doing so. Historically, schools had to prove that they were expanding athletic opportunities for women. Now, schools need only send out an email survey to female students to gauge their interest in sports. If young women do not respond to the survey (and many people treat such e-mails as spam and ignore them), funding for women's athletics will be cut. Title IX has been extraordinarily successful, particularly in promoting women's athletics and expanding women's educational opportunities. Prior to Title IX, women comprised only 2% of college students participating in sports. Thirty years later, women make up more than 43% of college athletes. After the passage of Title IX, sports participation by high school girls increased by 800%. Not only is it healthier for women to participate in athletics, but participation in sports has opened up opportunities for women to obtain scholarships. Now is not the time to obstruct Title IX.

18. Bush's budget cuts hurt women and children: The Administration has proposed deeper and deeper cuts in services for women and their families. Women are more likely to live in poverty and rely on federally funded housing, health, and education programs. Bush has consistently proposed deep cuts in Medicaid, housing programs such as Section 8, HOPE VI, and the Community Development Block Grant. On top of that, Bush proposed eliminating the Women's Educational Equity Act, a relatively inexpensive program that helps women and girls achieve equal treatment in school. Fortunately, two of my colleagues and I were able to pass an amendment and save it. Undeterred, Bush has also proposed cuts to Title I and other education programs that teach technology, improve teacher quality, and provide financial aid for college-bound students.

19. The Bush Administration's policies attempt to cut number of children served under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): The Child Care and Development Block Grant provides child care funds for low-income families. Because CCDBG is severely underfunded, only one out of seven children eligible for federal child care assistance receives help. The first Bush Administration budget would have resulted in a $200 million cut in child care. By the Administration's own estimates, its current budget would result in 300,000 children losing child care assistance by 2009. Without child care assistance, it is much harder for low income women to go to work, provide for their children, become self-sufficient, and end the cycle of poverty.

20. The Administration closed the White House Women's Office: Immediately after President Bush's inauguration in January 2001, the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach was quietly closed. The office, established in 1995, had monitored policy initiatives developed in the White House and cabinet departments for their impact on women and served as a liaison to outside organizations concerned about policies affecting women. In March 2001, the White House confirmed that this office had "expired." Clearly, the Bush Administration is not interested in how its policies affect women.