(WOMENSENEWS)--Women's individual life journeys refract our view of what constitutes "women's issues." As a voting bloc, women will determine who will be the next president. Women usually vote in higher numbers than their male counterparts--in the 2004 election, women were 60 percent of voter turnout--and to date, record numbers of women of all ages have voted in the primaries.
Breadwinners might dwell on the unmet need for high-quality affordable child care. Caregivers might talk about their social contributions being undervalued and having no safety net. Women in every walk of life who are not safe at home might focus on the failure of the legal system to offer better protection.
For more information:
Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, Freedom on Our Terms conference summary
How will such concerns be met by the next president?
That's the big question behind all the following queries from readers, staffers and advocates gathered by Women's eNews.
This Sunday, April 20, two days before the Pennsylvania primary, Women's eNews will co-sponsor a nonpartisan forum on the power of the women's vote at Bryn Mawr College, just outside Philadelphia. Editor in chief Rita Henley Jensen will moderate the discussion among a family court judge, a law professor, a district attorney, a former member of Congress and the head of a women's legal rights organization. Representatives of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are expected to make appearances as well.
Jensen will offer each a print-out of this posting and ask for an e-mailed response from the campaign, to be posted on our Web site.
Under your health care plans, would you support federal insurance for birth control?
Do you believe that as a method of encouraging safe behavior and lowering the teen pregnancy rate, condoms should be available at public school infirmaries or distributed in health classes? If so, how will you justify this decision during a debate with your Republican opponent?
As president, would you sign a budget bill that included substantial federal funds for abstinence-only education, although it has been proven to be medically inaccurate?
--Sarah Seltzer, WeNews correspondent
In April 2007 the John Roberts Supreme Court overturned precedent by eliminating a requirement that abortion restrictions include an excpetion to protect the heatlh of women in the Gonzalez v. Carhart case. Would you work to establish a federal law guaranteeing a woman's right to choose?
When picking jurists to appoint to the federal and Supreme Court, will you select only those nominees who support abortion rights and uphold the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision?
-- Cynthia L. Cooper, Women's eNews correspondent
Cervical Cancer Prevention
Do you support a federal requirement to immunize girls with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
Will you provide federal funding to pay for all girls to receive the vaccine?
What will you do to get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified at long last? Will you support the three-state Madison strategy, which calls for ratifications by only three more states, or the congressional bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney that would begin the process all over again?
--Marie Shear, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women has been ratified by 180 nations, but not the United States. What is your position on CEDAW? What will you do to get the United States to sign on to this treaty, and how much of a priority will this be for you?
-- Pat Yosha, reader, Exeter, N.H.
Women are more dependent on Social Security than men because they live longer, have fewer employment pension benefits and experience higher rates of poverty in retirement. Will you prevent privatization of the Social Security Trust Fund in order to ensure its viability through the 21st century? Will you increase the Social Security tax cap above its current level of $97,500 in order to keep the trust fund healthy and reduce the heavier burden carried by female taxpayers as a result of the cap?
The second-earner bias in the tax code--which taxes secondary incomes at higher rates than the first income--was injected in 1948. These days it undermines the finances of a two-income family and continues to discourage women from employment but hasn't been changed. Why not?
--Kristin Maschka, Women's eNews commentator
Feminist and pro-women's rights organizations are opposed to continuing TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), especially the time limits and the 40-hour work requirement components. These groups recognize that the "reform of welfare as we know it" enacted in 1996 under President Bill Clinton has been a disaster for poor women.
What are your plans for improving income assistance to poor women and their dependents? Will you increase income assistance to women and their dependents? Will you increase funding for the food stamp program?
--Susan Feiner, Women's eNews commentator and professor of economics and women's studies, University of Southern Maine
The women's shelter in Peoria, Ill., has been building strong programs since 1976, and the loss of federal funding will most likely close essential services such as court advocates, specially trained emergency room nurses, rape crisis training and others. The effect will be devastating to the entire community and will be repeated in city after city after city nationwide.
President Bush has proposed cutting funding by roughly one-third for the Violence Against Women Act in 2009. Funding for victim assistance grants have been reduced by 40 percent ($159 million) since 2006. What are you going to do to restore full funding to VAWA and the Victims of Crime Act?
--Dolores Klein, Millie Hall, Kathleen A. Reising, readers, Peoria, Ill.
AgingWomen over 65 are the majority of older Americans. Early in his campaign, John Edwards specifically targeted our concerns--Social Security, geriatric primary care, affordable prescription drugs--in his 11-point "Declaration of Independence for Older Americans." (http://www.johnedwards.com/issues/seniors/)
A comparable designation does not appear on either the Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton Web sites under "Issues." Why?
--Naomi Dagen Bloom, reader, New York City
A Met Life study a number of years ago coined the term "caregiver glass ceiling" meaning that thousands of women lose about $700,000 during their career due to elder caregiving responsibilities: they don't take a promotion, work part time or leave work altogether; spend their own money; become stressed and sometimes depressed.
How would you help family caregivers, who are mostly women, take care of elderly parents, spouses, partners and relatives?
What services would you fund in local communities to help elders age in place in their homes and communities with dignity?
--Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy, Council of Senior Centers and Services, New York
Approximately 40,000 women die from breast cancer annually. Will you support the research of organizations like the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass., that is working to identify the links between the environment and women's health?
Will you spend as much money to fight breast cancer in this country, currently over $700 million each year, as we spend to fight AIDS in Africa, over $8 billion proposed next year?
-- Ragnhild Munck, reader
Rape is a huge problem in the United States and every two minutes there is a sexual assault. One in six women will be assaulted in her lifetime and only 6 percent of rapists receive a jail sentence. We need better victim's rights, unbiased police work, consistent prosecution, higher conviction rates and help for survivors.
What will you do as president to protect our citizens and show that this crime is taken seriously?
--Christy Forrester, reader, Seattle, Wash.
Freedom on Our TermsIn November 2007, the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute hosted the Freedom on Our Terms conference to commemorate the historic 1977 National Women's Conference. The women who attended developed a national plan of action and demand full equality for women and girls in our lifetimes. As president, what will you do in your first 100 days in office to end sex discrimination on every level and under every category?
--Liz Abzug, co-founder and president, Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, and Women's eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century 2008
Immigration and Deportation
Last year, the federal government deported more than 870,000 undocumented immigrants, including many who had citizen children living in the United States. Will you support immigration law reforms that stop deportations that break apart families?
Will you require the Department of Homeland Security to process and issue visa applications to immigrant women who are battered and abused by their spouses as required by a federal law passed in 2000?
Women earn 77 cents for each dollar a man earns for equal work. Will you support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which steps up federal enforcement of equal-pay mandates? And will you support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it less difficult for bias victims to sue their employers for wage discrimination?
Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.