It’s become painfully obvious that women still lack a voice in legislatures around the country and in governor’s mansions as state after state find sneaky, undemocratic, underhanded ways to undercut our civil liberties, our constitutional rights and our autonomy in red state after red state. The christofascist wing of the Republican Party has snuck drastic anti-women’s health laws in many states. I passed a billboard today on a local Catholic church reading “More Planned Parenthood means more abortion”. I wanted to stop and spray paint “More Catholic Churches mean more Child Rape” because it makes as much sense. Women are taking to the street and need to do so in greater numbers.
North Carolina House Republicans are pushing legislation that would restrict abortion access, attaching the measure to an unrelated motorcycle safety bill on Wednesday and giving neither the public nor Democratic legislators any advance notice.
On Wednesday morning, state Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D) wrote on Twitter, “New abortion bill being heard in the committee I am on. The public didn’t know. I didn’t even know.”
“I wish I had more time to look at this new bill before I had to ask questions about it or debate it,” he added.
The bill then passed the state House Judiciary Committee in a 10-5 party-line vote.
The stealth maneuver came after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) threatened to veto a similar Senate bill on Wednesday morning. The Senate legislation would require abortion providers to meet strict licensing standards and would mandate that a doctor is present for the entire procedure.
The state’s top health official has called for lawmakers to slow down on the abortion legislation, and in his 2012 campaign, McCrory pledged not to sign any legislation that would further restrict abortion access.
House Republicans tweaked the Senate legislation: A doctor would have to be present when the first drug in an abortion procedure is administered — rather than for the entire procedure — and clinics would not have to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
Every Monday since April, thousands of North Carolina residents have gathered at the State Capitol to protest the grotesque damage that a new Republican majority has been doing to a tradition of caring for the least fortunate. Nearly 700 people have been arrested in the “Moral Monday” demonstrations, as they are known. But the bad news keeps on coming from the Legislature, and pretty soon a single day of the week may not be enough to contain the outrage.
In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.
The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.
The state has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country, and many Republicans insulted workers by blaming their joblessness on generous benefits. In fact, though, North Carolina is the only state that has lost long-term federal benefits, because it did not want to pay back $2.5 billion it owed to Washington for the program. The State Chamber of Commerce argued that cutting weekly benefits would be better than forcing businesses to pay more in taxes to pay off the debt, and lawmakers blindly went along, dropping out of the federal program.
At the same time, the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools. Though North Carolina has been growing rapidly, it is spending less on schools now than it did in 2007, ranking 46th in the nation in per-capita education dollars. Teacher pay is falling, 10,000 prekindergarten slots are scheduled to be removed, and even services to disabled children are being chopped.
“We are losing ground,” Superintendent June Atkinson said recently, warning of a teacher exodus after lawmakers proposed ending extra pay for teachers with master’s degrees, cutting teacher assistants and removing limits on class sizes.
Republicans repealed the Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that was the first in the country to give death-row inmates a chance to prove they were victims of discrimination. They have refused to expand Medicaid and want to cut income taxes for the rich while raising sales taxes on everyone else. The Senate passed a bill that would close most of the state’s abortion clinics.
And, naturally, the Legislature is rushing to impose voter ID requirements and cut back on early voting and Sunday voting, which have been popular among Democratic voters. One particularly transparent move would end a tax deduction for dependents if students vote at college instead of their hometowns, a blatant effort to reduce Democratic voting strength in college towns like Chapel Hill and Durham.
The Texas House of Representatives approved sweeping abortion restrictions on Tuesday, including a ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy and tougher standards for clinics that perform the procedure.
The vote of 98-49 came after a full day of sometimes emotional debate. Before the measure can head to the state Senate, it needs a final vote from the House, which is expected on Wednesday.
The House approved the same proposal during a previous special session of the legislature, but it failed to pass in the Senate after Democratic Senator Wendy Davis staged an 11-hour filibuster that gained national attention.
Here’ in Louisiana, we are trying to stop devastating cuts to Domestic Violence programs and programs to help families with handicapped children. We are asking for a special override session to restore the funding and override a line item veto by the governor that would reestablish funds to these programs.
Domestic violence service providers across Louisiana are facing their second budget crisis in 2 months. The Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services unveiled its proposed budget Thursday. The plan includes a cut of $1.4 million dollars to domestic violence services; this is in addition to the $1 million the Jindal administration cut in the December, mid-year budget adjustments.
Programs will be losing $2.4 million of the $6.2 million the state was spending on domestic violence services. This means emergency shelters across the state will have lost more than 38% of their funding from DCFS in just over six months. This makes a significant impact in a state that consistently leads the nation in domestic homicides.
Executive Director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Beth Meeks, warned during the last round of cuts that ‘the situation was precarious and further cuts would destabilize the system’. She calls the current situation dire, “In the last round of cuts programs laid off about 10% of their staff and many used up any rainy day reserves they had set aside. At this level of cuts programs will be forced to reduce and eliminate services in some areas, if they can survive at all.”
According to statistics collected by DCFS, Louisiana domestic violence shelters provided almost 91,000 nights of emergency shelter in the last year and took more than 38,000 crisis calls. There are 18 programs in Louisiana funded by DCFS to provide around the clock emergency domestic violence services. The programs documented more than 1800 unmet needs during that time period due to low staff and full shelter beds.
These states are cutting protections to women’s health and safety and children’s health and safety while transferring lots of resources to create a plague of regulations for abortion providers. This is completely unacceptable. Women need to be taking to the streets now!