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The Moral Dimensions of a Freeze in Federal Funding

8:04 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by William Smith for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

In September 2008, then-Candidate Obama, in his first Presidential debate with Senator John McCain, pounced on his rival when McCain raised the hard-hearted suggestion of freezing all government spending with the exception of defense, entitlement programs, and veteran’s affairs, to reduce the deficit.

Obama countered with a now-famous and punchy one liner: “The problem is you’re using a hatchet when you need a scalpel.”

This week, the President seems to have taken up the hatchet and embraced the McCain approach. It’s not quite his “read my lips” moment, but it has – at best – the potential for the most fundamental of disappointments.

The issue is that the President’s retort was not just a really well constructed and pithy punch to McCain’s cold-as-steel demeanor – an appeal from the compassionate candidate who knew and understood the challenges of the everyday American. No, it was, first and foremost, a profoundly moral statement. It was meant to underscore that the President viewed domestic needs as not just important, but a fulfillment of the social contract we have with one another as Americans and he saw a federal government shirking its responsibilities at home. It was the modern equivalent of President Lincoln’s line that the role of government is “to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves."

Obama’s quip underscored that the government was not performing its primary function in the way Lincoln described. In fact, Obama went on to say that "There are some programs that are very important that are currently underfunded," Obama said.

The real truth is that the President has not really, fully taken up the McCain proposition. Not fully. The President will not propose that everything – every line in the federal budget – get frozen in time for his proposed three-year timeframe. Instead, there will be a mixture of things that are cut, flat funded, or even given increases. And while such outcomes are always the product of the budget process, the 2011 federal budget he will propose next week is unique in that wherever programs fall along the fault lines of the top line spending freeze, it will say volumes about the moral vision of the President and his Administration.

For those of us who work on behalf of sexual and reproductive health who have one hand in public health and the other in social justice, we’re nervous. We’re nervous because the issues we care about most have languished for the better part of a decade as the federal government failed to meet the unmet need to secure sexual health in our country. Instead, STD prevention and services funding has stalled, causing clinic closures and impacting the ability of people to access prevention and treatment. HIV funding has fared a bit better, yet people with HIV or AIDS are once again on lists across the country waiting for government support to access live-saving medications. Family planning funding has limped along but its increases – when they came – paled in comparison to the billion dollars spent on wasteful programs like abstinence-only-until-marriage during the same time period. This has created the most striking lack of adequate services from coast to coast. So no one should wonder why we have 19 million new cases of STDs every year, or an HIV epidemic worse than we ever thought possible, or rising rates of teen and unintended pregnancies.

This week, the President also made one of the most remarkable statements of any President in recent memory when he said, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” I don’t think it was the insincere gesture of a politician struggling for purpose or seeking consolation. This is the real thing. It is character in the truest sense of the word and the same type of self-sacrifice that forces this good man to make the tough decisions for a nation that, in the end, may ultimately cost him another term – including his decision to fix the fiscally bankrupt house of government he inherited from a previous Administration.

But that tough decision needs to recognize that our public health system in states across the country, as well as our sense of social justice, demands that the budget the President proposes not shirk from the moral obligation to do the right thing on sexual health. Sure, discretionary spending is rather small in the overall picture, but it is the critical source of funding for sexual health programs. We simply cannot afford a cut from the budget scalpel anywhere on sexual and reproductive health programs.

Anywhere.

Culture of Lies

11:29 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Social conservatives cannot complain that their issues have not been heard in the 2008 campaign, in exactly the fashion they wanted.

John McCain selected the far-right’s hand-picked candidate as his running mate, Sarah Palin, instead of either of his preferred choices, Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. McCain used one of the far-right’s most egregious and most thoroughly debunked attacks, that Barack Obama supports infanticide, in the final presidential debate. The Republican Party platform is recognized as the most extreme platform in history on cultural issues. Palin has talked up "Culture of Life" issues in her very few interviews, and John McCain has as well, going on record saying he believes life begins at conception. The Republican National Committee, several pro-life lobbying groups, at least two independent expenditure campaigns and the McCain campaign have used television, radio, mail, internet and robo-calls to deliver what appears to be a coordinated message on the "Born Alive" infanticide charge.

The McCain-Palin campaign attacked comprehensive sexuality education, supported bans on gay marriage, and several fundamentalist Christian churches openly defied tax and election law by endorsing the ticket from their pulpits to further energize their base. Everyone is talking about the importance of the Supreme Court and attacks Read the rest of this entry →

NBC McCain-Palin Interview: Is an Abortion Clinic Bomber a Terrorist?

7:01 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Watch the video here.

NBC’s Brian Williams asked Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin about their attacks on Sen. Barack Obama and his association with Bill Ayers, and if they would define abortion clinic bombers as domestic terrorists.

Palin said she wouldn’t condone such actions and ultimately worked her way to saying that "terrorist" would be defined as anyone who seeks to destroy innocent Americans, meaning that she seems to agree that abortion clinic bombers are terrorists. McCain felt the need to to clean up the answer later in the interview saying that anyone who breaks the law, including bombing an abortion clinic, should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Here’s an idea — how about just de-politicizing private, personal health care decisions that individuals should make for themselves, and repudiating the extremist rhetoric of the anti-choice protesters that create a culture where clinic violence is celebrated. Better yet, how about repudiating the lies being told right now in mailers, robo-calls, and in TV ads about the so-called "Born Alive" bill that contribute to the culture of anti-choice extremism and violence.

McCain has previously said he was "proud of everyone attending our rallies" which includes Paul Schenck who has been linked to Read the rest of this entry →

Debate Analysis: Objective Indicators Suggest Education, Prevention, Pro-Choice Values Win

3:01 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

The Culture War is over.

By every objective, measurable analysis, from CNN’s dial tests, to MSNBC’s focus group in Kansas City, to the CBS and Fox News flash polls — to our own server-crashing high traffic volume following the final presidential debate — Americans are embracing the pro-education, pro-prevention, and pro-choice values RH Reality Check writes about every day.

Senator John McCain gave far-right social conservatives in the anti-choice community everything they asked for, perhaps more.  Instead of picking a pro-choice running mate in Sen. Joe Lieberman or Gov. Tom Ridge, he chose Gov. Sarah Palin who rallied the base.  In the final presidential debate, McCain went so far as to mock "health" threats to mothers as a reasonable exemption for women with crisis pregnancies, a position he once challenged George W. Bush on in a GOP primary debate in 2000. 

Late-term abortions are rare, less than two percent of all abortions, and are always medically necessary, by law.

McCain even adopted the anti-choice lexicon using politicized phrases like "pro-abortion" and "partial-birth abortion" which is not actually a medical term. After saying he would not use a litmus test to select judicial nominees, McCain seemed to contradict himself saying, "I would consider Read the rest of this entry →

McCain Repeats Debunked ‘Born Alive’ Attacks in Debate

9:05 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

In the final presidential debate, Senator John McCain repeated long debunked lies about Sen. Barack Obama’s record on the Illinois Born Alive Protection Act, lies that heve been repreated and promoted since Alan Keyes lost to Obama in the US Seante race in 2004. This full frontal effort may appeal to the extreme far-right of his base, but it was a dial test loser on CNN. Americans are fed up with the far-right’s Culture War. The CBS insta-poll shows Obama winning the debate 53 percent to 22 percent with 24 percent saying is was a draw.

The extreme fringe of anti-choice community has been pushing this attack for months, in television and radio ads from 527s and special interest lobbyists like the National Right to Life Committee.

The coordinated efforts are suggest that in voting against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act Senator Barack Obama is "responsible for killing a bill to provide care and protection for babies who are born alive after abortions" and that "he later misrepresented the bill’s content." NRLC has filed a request for an advisory opinion from the FEC as to whether the ad falls within FEC guidelines, TPM reported.

The anti-choice movement says it needs Read the rest of this entry →