Disappointed Doesn’t Cut It Anymore: A Mother’s Rebuttal of President Obama’s Plan B Politics

Dec 9, 2011 by

Kate StewartThe MOMocrats welcome this guest post, written by Kate Stewart. Cross-posted with permission from Amplify.

Disappointed doesn’t cut it anymore.

Disappointed, angry, dismayed — these are only some of the emotions I am feeling this afternoon after hearing President Obama’s poor excuse for restricting access to Plan B One Step.

I am also scared.

Scared about the health of my daughters.  As the mother of two daughters, just like President Obama, I try to use “common sense” as much as possible. But, also like President Obama, I am not a doctor; I am not a scientist. I use my own judgment when it comes to things I am confident I can handle — a case of the sniffles, a little cold.

But, I also understand that it is my responsibility as a parent to know when I don’t know all the answers and it’s time to turn to experts. And that, apparently, is where the President and I disagree.

When my daughter’s pediatrician gives me medical advice, I listen. Carefully. American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine make recommendations about my daughters’ health, that matters to me. A lot. And I believe it should.

Today, President Obama has made the irresponsible – and nearly incomprehensible — decision to support HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ move to block the FDA from expanding access to Plan B One-Step emergency contraception. Whether the President’s decision was motivated by well-intentioned ignorance or political cowardice is beside the point. Either way, this move will adversely impact millions of women, particularly young women, across the country.

President Obama has decided to ignore scientific research and medical advice and has sacrificed the health of young women. And I want to know why. Why, Mr. President? Why would you reject years of research and the best scientific thinking the medical community has to offer? Why, for the first time in U.S. history, did your administration intervene to overrule the FDA’s ability to make decision about medical science?

On Monday, I was optimistic. The FDA was expected to expand the availability of Plan B One-Step, a form of back-up birth control that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if something goes wrong with regular contraception. Indeed, the FDA tried to do just that: make Plan B One-Step available to all women — without age restrictions and without needing a prescription. If either of my daughters ever needs back-up birth control, I hope I will be among the first to know and I would help them in whatever way I could. But, life is not always as we want it to be, and therefore, it is essential that young people have the access to the information and services they need to ensure their health and safety. I thought we were headed in this direction on Monday. But, my optimism suddenly turned to dismay.

Yesterday, in a shocking move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the FDA and blocking its decision to expand access to emergency contraception. I held out a brief hope that President Obama would intervene and allow the FDA to do its job unhampered by politics, but those hopes were soon dashed as well. Today, President Obama came out in support of Secretary Sebelius’ action – and, in doing so, decided to play politics with the lives and health of young women.

To say I was shocked when listening to the President is an understatement. It’s not just that I disagree with his position, it’s that his reasoning is so hollow and unsubstantiated. This Harvard-educated legal scholar who has signed presidential directives about the importance of science-based policy suddenly sounded eerily like Rep. Michelle Bachman. He framed his reasoning “as the father of two daughters,” when my own two daughters most needed him to be acting like the President of the United States. He invoked the specter of 11 year-olds buying Plan B next to “bubble gum and batteries,” as if 11 year-olds wander into CVS to buy $50 medications every afternoon. In the end, he felt that these concerns should overweigh the best advice of every major medical organization, years of research, and the recommendations of the FDA itself. How is this different than Rep. Bachman condemning HPV vaccines because of unscientific misinformation from a woman in the grocery store?

I understand that President Obama is uncomfortable with the idea that young teens may need emergency contraception. That worries me too. Rather than deny them access to a fully safe medication that could help prevent unintended pregnancy, perhaps we should be doubling down on comprehensive sex education — and expanding access to contraception in the first place — so that fewer of our daughters ever need Plan B at all. But, for those who do, we still have a responsibility to make sure that any woman who needs emergency contraception has access to it when they need it.

As I write this my daughters are at school and I am figuring out how to get them a quick dinner before heading off to a school holiday party this evening. Of all the other things, on my to do list today as a working mom, I really did not believe I would be writing about my shock and disappointment in President Obama and, yes, my fear for my daughters’ future.

Was this part of a back-room deal, trading away the rights of all our daughters for some inside-the-beltway political ploy? Mr. President, why? I still want to know. I need something more than your current, cowardly excuses.

Mr. President, many of us were stunned by your remarks today. We need a better explanation for why you decided to sacrifice my daughters’ safety and well-being.

I hope you will join me in expressing your outrage and demanding that President Obama reverse this decision. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION.

Kate Stewart will be joining Advocates for Youth as Executive Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs beginning in January 2012. She is a public opinion research and communications specialist who has worked with a wide-range of advocacy and non-profit organizations on communications, policy, and public affairs. Most recently, she was a partner in the research and strategic communications firm, Belden Russonello & Stewart, LLC, where she created communications and public relations strategies for clients on civil liberties, public education, reproductive health, and reproductive justice. Kate has also been an adjunct professor at American University, where she taught public communication research and served on the Governing Council of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Kate has been a member of Advocates’ Board of Directors, mostly recently serving as Board Chair. Kate received a B.A. with high honors in history from Haverford College and her M.S. in survey methodology from the University of Maryland.

Disclosure:  I am a member of the Board of Directors of Advocates for Youth.  -Glennia

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MOMocrats Readers: Tell Us Who You Are Survey

Aug 2, 2011 by

After nearly torpedoing the world economy with the manufactured debt ceiling crisis, the Tea Party House of Representatives has decided to take a three-week break. (Never mind that they leave the FAA floundering without a budget; if I were them I'd consider taking the train back home to my district — it's kind of hard to enforce airline safety when the government stops paying the workers).

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The MOMocrats also have summer plans, which include a reunion in San Diego this week for the BlogHer conference. Unfortunately, not all of us are able to be there — but enough MOMos from around the country will be in attendance to allow us to have an extended, in-person meeting. This is fitting, because Elizabeth Edwards' keynote at BlogHer was the inspiration for the MOMocrats site back in 2007. It will be something like a homecoming.

It will also be our first opportunity for a quorum of MOMos to make plans about where we want to take the site in 2012. We've changed a lot since '07, and we suspect our readers have, too. But those are only suspicions. We invite you to do us the favor of taking a short survey, to help us determine what our priorities will be. 

We're hoping for as many readers as possible to participate by 3:00 PM Pacific Time tomorrow (August 3), so we can use it as a framework in our planning session.

And if you're going to be at BlogHer, we hope you look us up!

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Medicaid In Extremis

Jul 5, 2011 by

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Three months ago the Republicans opened debate on the FY2012 budget when Rep. Paul Ryan

released The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise. In that plan, he proposed a remaking of Medicaid that would eviscerate the program’s core purpose: provide health care to the most vulnerable.

Many labor under the misconception that Medicaid is health benefit open to any low-income American. In reality, states are only required to cover impoverished children (including those in foster care), pregnant women, some disabled persons, some adults with dependent children, and the elderly. In fact, more than 2/3 of Medicaid spending pays for services for the disabled and elderly; children consume about 1/5 of the total funds with the rest going to adults.

Childless adults, even those with incomes far below the poverty line are not automatically eligible for Medicaid. Nor are the parents of Medicaid-eligible children automatically eligible for coverage. For example, in Alabama, parents’ incomes cannot exceed 24% of the federal poverty line – less than $5000 a year for a family of three. Eleven other states all have income eligibility well below the FPL.

Mr. Ryan, and Republicans in general, have argued that Medicaid is too expensive. Yes, it is expensive precisely because it is the payer of last resort. Children on Medicaid receive Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis Testing (EPSDT) services, aimed at preventing health problems. EPSDT includes childhood immunizations, medical and mental health exams, lead toxicity screening, vision and dental services, and lab tests. Apart from poor children, some kids come by their eligibility via inpatient medical or psychiatric stays (sometimes called institutional eligibility, as opposed to community eligibility) or via SSI because of extreme low birth weight.

Medicaid is expensive precisely because it operates as a safety net and covers services unavailable via private insurance or Medicare, such as long-term institutional nursing care.

Republicans are expending a lot of breath arguing that Medicaid’s quality of care is poor. I can only guess willful ignorance of any of major public health literature on the social determinants of health. Medicaid beneficiaries rely on food aid (SNAP or WIC), are more likely to live in areas with high lead levels, more likely to live in areas too remote or unsafe to exercise, and more likely to suffer stress. Having a health benefit does not convey some magical immunity to disease or disability. Medicaid is a medical benefit for people who have concomitant health challenges and outcomes to match.

I will more than agree that Medicaid is straining states’ budget. Combine a major recession (lower revenue) with massive unemployment (loss of benefits) and you end up with the perfect fiscal storm of reduced state revenue at precisely the same time that more people need services. The federal government did help some, via TARP, when they raised the federal share of Medicaid funding for states. And it will help more in 2014 when it pays 100% of the costs for newly eligible beneficiaries, many of whom are at this moment sitting in EDs running up the uncompensated care side of the ledger.

(Oh, and by the way, no word on whether the Republican proposals will preserve family planning’s special status. Unlike other health services, the feds pay 90% of the cost for family planning, out of recognition of its incredible effectiveness and cost savings. Somehow I doubt that Republicans are very concerned about the unmet health needs of women.)

The Republicans straight up lie when they say that Medicaid is completely inflexible as-is and needs to be turned into a block grant.

Block grants are Beltway-speak for bucket of money. Entitlement programs like Medicaid impose requirements and limits on the states to receive money. Do the limits impinge upon states’ flexibility? Yes of course. Which is why the federal government allows demonstration projects and waivers – Section 1115, 1915(b) or (c) or some combination thereof, Money Follows the Person, and 1915(i). Without block-granting anything, Congress managed to grant scads of flexibility to states through the normal legislative process. Maybe someone should remind the Republicans that they can, y’know, amend existing laws.

Block granting Medicaid means we lose the federal floor of eligibility. The minimums now required of states will evaporate. Instead of guarantees for the most vulnerable citizens, governors get oversight. Do we really want to leave Medicaid eligibility to the political winds? In Virginia, a governor can serve only 1 term. Might families have to grapple with new and different eligibility every.four.years? If the Republicans are so very concerned with outcomes, why potentially interrupt continuity of care?

The Republicans can only pretend that cuts to Medicaid will solve the economic crisis as long as we let them. Remind them of what LBJ said when he signed Medicaid into law:

“But there is another tradition that we share today. It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance….And this is not just our tradition–or the tradition of the Democratic Party–or even the tradition of the Nation. It is as old as the day it was first commanded: ‘Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, to thy needy, in thy land.’” [Deut 15:11]

We must confront Republicans with the reality of Medicaid — a child, a pregnant woman, a bed-bound senior, or a disabled adult. If they still refuse to give up tax breaks for hedge funds managers, preferences for fossil fuels, and tax cuts for families making a quarter-million a year, then we should — we must — confront them at the ballot box.

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MOMocrats at Netroots Nation 2011

Jun 20, 2011 by

The MOMocrats get around! As the 2012 Presidential campaign is pretty much upon us, MOMocrats Joanne Bamberger (aka PunditMom) and Cynematic participated in a panel to let progressive candidates and activists know that they need to be paying attention to social media moms if they want to win.

Sitting at your desk while you’re eating lunch? This video of the panel is a perfect way to get caught up with the power of women online! Thanks to former Congressional candidate Krystal Ball and Anita Jackson of MomsRising for making this panel awesome!

Watch live streaming video from fstv3 at livestream.com

And, we also had a chance to meet the fabulous sponsor of our MOMochats — Bubble Genius — who was an exhibitor at Netroots Nation! Can’t wait to try out the samples we came home with!

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For Less Weiner, Elect More Women

Jun 7, 2011 by

Congressman-Weiner-2011OK, so I fell for Anthony Weiner's lies about the whole "woe is me, my Twitter account was hacked" thing. But, honestly, were there many of us who thought that in this day and age of political sex scandals — or scandals involving semi-nude self-portraits — that any elected official would be stupid enough to Tweet images of himself to women he'd never even met and think he wouldn't get caught? If the first rule of the internet is that E-mail is forever, it's not a leap to realize that all social media is forever, as well. Delete things as much as you want, the fingerprints will always be there.

The level of dumb-assness (yes, that's a very journalistic word!) in the whole Weiner story is amazing to me. In the immortal words of George W. Bush — fool me once, um, wait, uh, won't get fooled again.

While the few rules I offered Congressman Weiner about how to deal with the media when they think they've got the goods on you aren't quite relevant anymore, I've got one more for him and all the other powerful men out there:  

Dudes, keep your body parts and delusions of grandeur to yourselves!

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Down to the Wire in NY 26: Help Kathy Hochul Keep Her Lead Over Corwin

May 20, 2011 by

Over at our MOMocrats MOMochat radio show, we've had some fun talking about the special election to replace disgraced GOP Representative Chris Lee. (You remember: He was the dude who got in trouble for soliciting dates on Craig's List. Yes, he was married and campaigned on "family values.")

At the time, those in the know thought Lee's seat would be a shoo-in for another Republican. After all, this district is considered the most conservative one in the state. The Republicans were quick to nominate their candidate for the seat: Jane Corwin, who is already known to the voters as their representative in the state Assembly. She had a four-week head start on her Democratic opponent, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul.

And then a funny thing happened — not "ha ha, funny" but political kismet: Paul Ryan unveiled his "Path to Prosperity" (which Cynematic more correctly describes as the "Road to Ruin"), which would gut Medicare and Medicaid and place seniors squarely at the mercy of the insurance market. Republican Corwin supports the plan…

…and suddenly, the Democratic candidate is in striking distance of picking up the seat in NY 26.

It appears that most Americans like Medicare just the way it is… a fact Republicans seemed to understand two years ago, during the health care debate, when they misled older voters into thinking that the Affordable Care Act was a sneak attack on the program.

One of the aspects of this campaign that had us chuckling on the radio show is this satirical site, which came into being because Corwin's people were not as thorough as they should have been when snapping up domains for the candidate. (Social Media 101: Just because you got a .com for your campaign site doesn't mean you don't also need to own .org, .edu, .info and .tv, too.)

Hochul is one of the candidates backed by EMILY's List, the PAC devoted to promoting the election of  pro-choice Democratic women to all levels of government. And right now, the group is recruiting grassroots supporters to phone bank with Get Out the Vote calls to Democrats in NY 26.

From their website: "Even just an hour of your time will make the difference for Kathy, and we'll provide you with all the information you'll need to make calls to mobilize targeted voters."

Sign up here.

EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock will be our guest on Wednesday's edition of MOMocrats MOMochat.

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