Good news for families everywhere, no matter how much the moms and dads are leaning in. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) just introduced a Senate bill that would create a national paid family leave policy.
The legislation, called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers for the birth or adoption of a new child, to help a seriously ill immediate family member or if the worker falls seriously ill his or herself. In these cases, workers will receive benefits equivalent to 66% of their monthly wages, with a cap of $1,000 per week. The money would come through an insurance plan similar to Social Security and would be administered through the Social Security Administration.
Around the 1992 election, like the political junkie-in-training I was, I walked around my grade-school wearing campaign buttons featuring the dynamic duo of Jewish female California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, plus new First Lady Hillary Clinton. It was the Year of the Woman, a historic moment for women in politics — and a backlash to the Anita Hill fiasco — that hasn’t been replicated since.
Last night’s election may be remembered as a similarly banner moment, an example of, as social media would quaintly put it, “revenge of the ladyparts.”
The story of last night begins with resounding defeats for some of the most extreme and obnoxious anti-women Tea Party type candidates: Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, Richard “God’s Will” Mourdoch, Joe “abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother” Walsh and more. Even the shell-shocked folks on Fox News acknowledged that a lot of these races had been the GOP’s to lose, and the candidates’ outmoded, offensive — but deeply revealing — beliefs about gender, abortion and rape lost it for them.
But the losses for (“team rape”)[http://jezebel.com/5958480/team-rape-lost-big-last-night] were women’s gains. This widely-circulating photoset shows a montage of some of the amazing women who were elected or re-elected last night — 19, possibly 20 women in the Senate, a new high.
The debate over birth control has made many of us think about how much money we as women spend on our reproductive health care — between birth control pill co-pays, visits to the gynecologist, cancer screenings, and all the necessary pre-natal care. Because of issues attendant with our fertility and reproduction, insurance companies have regularly charged women more — a practice that’s supposed to end under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act (but won’t, if it gets repealed).
Bryce Covert has been blogging about women and economics over at the Nation, and she breaks down the numbers here:
She writes: “A new report out this week from the National Women’s Law Center found that insurance companies have been charging women $1 billion more than men for the same coverage. In fact, in the states that haven’t banned the practice of jacking up prices for women — known as gender rating — women were charged more for 92 percent of the best-selling health plans. The difference can’t be explained by a higher cost of maternity care:…Why might insurers decide women are more expensive? Because they tend to use more services — like going to the doctor more often for regular check ups.”
Like many other feminist political junkies this morning, my emotions were sent back and forth.
At first I was dismayed by the announcement that President Obama had agreed to a compromise (or was it an “accommodation”) on his smart policy that would have required employers, even most religiously affiliated ones, to consent to employee insurance plans that included free contraception.The Catholic Church has been raising a huge fuss about this — and the media has largely taken its side — and so the fear was this would be a full capitulation.
But when the plan was revealed, many began to realize that the “accommodation” might have in fact been a master stroke by the administration, at least politically speaking. The new rule will allow women at these institutions that object to contraception coverage to get that coverage, free of charge, directly from insurance companies.
Jodi Jacobson broke it down moments after the announcement:
The Slate folks recently had an online spat about Congress’s idea to help cover the cost of health care with a 5% tax on elective cosmetic surgery. On the main site Christopher Beam argued against the tax, using studies to show that, despite assumptions that this would only affect the rich, one-third of the people getting plastic surgery make under $30,000 a year, while 86% make under $90,000. He also makes the case that better-looking people are often more productive and higher earners.
Meanwhile, Jessica Dweck, over at Slate’s women’s-interest blog the XX Factor, argues that there is nothing wrong with the so-called “botax.” She thinks that this would be more akin to a sin tax, as opposed to a payroll or an income tax, and best serves as a discouragement to questionable behavior. Dweck writes:
If the majority of those going under the knife cannot afford to do so, the government should dissuade its low-earning citizens from frittering away their scarce resources on larger breasts and firmer calves and encourage them to invest in education instead.
Now the fact that the tax was presented as a way to cover the estimated trillion-dollar cost of the proposed health care bill, and it was not an attempt at “father Obama knows best,” as Dweck calls it, is besides the point. This is still a pretty interesting debate on the plastic surgery.
At first I read Dweck and cheered.
Last Friday, Michelle Obama spoke to leaders of several women’s groups arguing that “overhauling the nation’s health care system was of critical importance to women and part of ‘the next step’ in their long quest to assure full opportunity and equality.” With healthcare reform at the forefront, it is becoming more and more obvious that the status quo is sexist, unfair and often dangerous for women. For the first time in a long time, I am getting angry.
Maybe I’m angry because, often, Viagra is covered by health insurance but birth control is not, even though it is often used to treat crippling abdominal cramps and other menstrual symptoms. Maybe I’m angry because while contraception benefits both partners in a heterosexual relationship, the onus of seeking and paying for birth control always falls on the woman.
Or maybe I’m angry because I recently found out that a number of health insurance companies deny women coverage, citing “domestic violence” as a pre-existing condition. Excuse me? As Feministe explains, this is “blaming the victim” at its worst. Essentially, this policy reinforces the belief that only “weak” women get physically abused, and that weakness is so much of a liability that such a woman is not eligible for health insurance. Not only is this ideologically repulsive, it denies healthcare coverage to women who are experiencing violence and have an immediate, physical need for healthcare services.