THE ABSOLUTE UNABSOLUTENESS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Republicans have, once again, framed an issue to suit their own misguided – and downright false – interpretation of our Constitution.  The original body of our U.S. Constitution contains scant mention of religion.  One prohibition is the requirement of a “religious Oath” for the purposes of holding office at the federal level – keep in mind the Constitution was a guideline for the relationship between federal authority and state authority.

The new nation had to wait until 1791 to enjoy the efforts of the first Congress in attaching a Bill of Rights to the three-year-old Constitution.  The Bill of Rights added ten amendments that dealt primarily with “rights” that the Founders felt essential to the survival of a free nation.  The First Amendment addressed the issue of religion in two different and juxtaposed areas: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In just one short sentence, the Founders created the potential for some of this country’s biggest social and legal battles.  Yet, the first amendment references the prohibition against establishing a religion first – before providing the free exercise of religion.  The fact that both of these appear before any other right – including freedom of speech and the right to bear arms – demonstrates the paramount importance that the Founders placed on the role of religion – or lack thereof – in the new Nation.

Republicans would have everyone believe – incorrectly – that religious freedom is absolute and that government cannot interfere with what they might consider a realm of religious freedom.  But the reality is that, while beliefs are inviolate, when  religion turns those beliefs into actions, those actions can be regulated by law.

States consistently make laws that interfere with the “free exercise of religion.”  Members of certain denominations cannot handle poisonous snakes even though it is seen as a display of faith and trust in God.  Native Americans are not free to use peyote in their ceremonies without consequences.

Parents whose child dies due to withholding life-saving medication based on a belief that prayer will heal may be held criminally responsible for that child’s death. Thus, to say that religious freedom trumps is false – no right in the Bill of Rights is absolute.  Laws exist on many levels that govern religious freedom, yet Republicans would have the public shudder in fear that our “collective” religious freedom is on the verge of collapse because those who work for religious institutions must provide birth control.

If anything is absolute at all, it is the unabsoluteness of freedom of religion, regardless of the gnashing of Republican teeth and the desire to substitute a Bayer Aspirin for that little round packet of protection.

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DANIELS MANIPULATES WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE TO PUSH PRESIDENTIAL BID

One has to hand it to the Guv – he has figured out a way to sign the bill defunding Planned Parenthood while knowing that enforcement of the bill may very well be enjoined.  His actions are pure and straightforward manipulation with women as the pawns in his game of presidential chess.

I am sure there are those who will say what an  absurd conclusion, but Daniels knows  he is already in hot water with the social conservatives.  His statement last year that a “truce” on social issues may have to be called infuriated those who pride themselves on stepping into the private lives of individuals – especially in the area of abortion rights.  His latest fiasco with defunding Planned Parenthood showcases just what lengths he will go to in order to traverse the maze of earning and keeping support for a presidential bid.

Indiana’s Medicaid program – of which Planned Parenthood is a funding recipient – operates under United States Code Title 42. Public Health and Welfare, and a set of federal regulations called the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).

Here is the applicable “Free Choice of Providers” section pursuant to the C.F.R.:

§ 431.51 Free choice of providers.

(a) Statutory basis. This section is based on sections 1902(a)(23), 1902(e)(2), and 1915(a) and (b) and 1932(a)(3) of the Act.

(1) Section 1902(a)(23) of the Act provides that recipients may obtain services from any qualified Medicaid provider that undertakes to provide the services to them.

(2) Section 1915(a) of the Act provides that a State shall not be found out of compliance with section 1902(a)(23) solely because it imposes certain specified allowable restrictions on freedom of choice.

(3) Section 1915(b) of the Act authorizes waiver of the section 1902(a)(23) freedom of choice of providers requirement in certain specified circumstances, but not with respect to providers of family planning services.

(4) Section 1902(a)(23) of the Act provides that a recipient enrolled in a primary care case management system or Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) may not be denied freedom of choice of qualified providers of family planning services.

(5) Section 1902(e)(2) of the Act provides that an enrollee who, while completing a minimum enrollment period, is deemed eligible only for services furnished by or through the MCO or PCCM, may, as an exception to the deemed limitation, seek family planning services from any qualified provider.

(6) Section 1932(a) of the Act permits a State to restrict the freedom of choice required by section 1902(a)(23), under specified circumstances, for all services except family planning services.

Here is where Daniels has outdone himself on the backs of women’s healthcare services.  Daniels will sign the bill – all the while knowing that he and his Republican minions cannot legitimately restrict freedom of choice – that is pretty plainly set out in the above C.F.R. sections.  If the Republicans do this, and it isn’t countered by a lawsuit, Indiana is in jeopardy of losing its Medicaid funding.

But, Daniels knows that Planned Parenthood will file to enjoin enforcement of his signing of the bill – even before the ink is dry.  Given the explicit sections above, the court should grant the injunction prohibiting the state from denying funds to Planned Parenthood.  I say should since it all depends on how willing the court will be to uphold the federal regulations – states’ rights raising a corollary issue.

This gives Daniels much needed cover with social conservatives, which he desperately needs to rehabilitate his standing in their eyes given his apparent previous willingness to back off social issues.  They will be thrilled that he “stood strong and signed the bill”.  Daniels, on the other hand, will be patting himself on the back knowing he could sign the bill and toss the ball into Planned Parenthood’s court – literally.

One has to admit his strategy is excellent.  Although he won’t ultimately be the nominee – he sure would be following in his old boss’s artful use of manipulation of another issue – WMDs in Iraq – or lack thereof.  But what he has really done is manipulate women’s healthcare services to prop up support for his presidential hopes.

DANIELS DALLIES OVER DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Over the past seven years, Mitch Daniels has attempted to paint his Indiana reign as one of an orderly haven of wondrous progress in our Midwest sea of woes.  But Daniels has failed on numerous occasions.  Who can forget his magical disappearing act when the Indiana House of Representatives flipped to a majority and he found himself unable to pass many of his legislative initiatives.

And, who can forget his privatization mess with IBM – a situation that is still in litigation.   And, to top it off,  just as the new legislative session was underway this year and his presidential star appeared to be in quasi-rising mode, the uppity Democrats walked out of the legislature.  Like a laser beam, the national spotlight shifted to Indiana with questions about Daniels’ struggle to govern given a missing delegation – not the type of publicity the Guv wanted as he continued to mull over a presidential run.

And, now, Daniels finds himself hoisted “on the horns of  a dilemma” – the Indiana legislature has given him a gift-wrapped opportunity to take a stand on abortion by defunding Planned Parenthood.   But, if he signs the legislation, he puts the state at risk to lose an additional $4,000,000 in federal grants for family planning services – a loss that will hurt an already somewhat precarious financial situation.

On the other hand, if he vetoes it, Daniels could antagonize ardent social conservatives already wary of his public statements about the importance of focusing on economic issues by calling a “truce” on social issues.  Although he is not expected to make a decision for a few days, Daniels will, more than likely sign the bill, taking away millions in funding that is marked to help low income women obtain health care services.

As Daniels mulls over his dilemma, the horns he finds himself riding are nothing compared to those of the women who will be deprived of much needed health care that has been available for decades through Planned Parenthood.  But, when it comes to a potential presidential bid, why let the health of thousands of low income Hoosier women get in the way?

Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels, is faced with a dilemma.

STUTZMAN VOTES AGAINST PROTECTING YOUNG WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD

Marlin Stutzman couldn’t bring himself to vote for an international effort to end violence against women around the world by working to protect girls in developing countries through the prevention of child marriage. What kind of mindset drove 157 Republicans – including Stutzman – to vote against this bill?

I would be fascinated to hear Stutzman’s arguments as to why he rejected this bill.  Perhaps he thinks we shouldn’t be meddling in the affairs of other countries in this manner.  Of course, I imagine he supports meddling when it comes to decimating countries to sniff out and kill terrorists.  How is it that the status of women always seems to take a back seat?

So, Congressman Stutzman, exactly what was your reason for voting against this bill?  Just for informational purposes, here are a few of the findings of Congress:

Congress makes the following findings:

    • (1) Child marriage, also known as `forced marriage’ or `early marriage’, is a harmful traditional practice that deprives girls of their dignity and human rights.
    • (2) Child marriage as a traditional practice, as well as through coercion or force, is a violation of article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, `Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of intending spouses’.
    • (3) According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 60,000,000 girls in developing countries now ages 20 through 24 were married under the age of 18, and if present trends continue more than 100,000,000 more girls in developing countries will be married as children over the next decade, according to the Population Council.
    • (4) Between 1/2 and 3/4 of all girls are married before the age of 18 in Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Nepal, according to Demographic Health Survey data.
    • (5) Factors perpetuating child marriage include poverty, a lack of educational or employment opportunities for girls, parental concerns to ensure sexual relations within marriage, the dowry system, and the perceived lack of value of girls.
    • (6) Child marriage has negative effects on the health of girls, including significantly increased risk of maternal death and morbidity, infant mortality and morbidity, obstetric fistula, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
    • (7) According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), increasing the age at first birth for a woman will increase her chances of survival. Currently, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for women 15 to 19 years old in developing countries.
    • (8) Most countries with high rates of child marriage have a legally established minimum age of marriage, yet child marriage persists due to strong traditional norms and the failure to enforce existing laws.
    • (9) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that child marriage is `a clear and unacceptable violation of human rights’, and that `the Department of State categorically denounces all cases of child marriage as child abuse’.
    • (10) According to an International Center for Research on Women analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data, areas or regions in developing countries in which 40 percent or more of girls under the age of 18 are married are considered high-prevalence areas for child marriage.
    • (11) Investments in girls’ schooling, creating safe community spaces for girls, and programs for skills building for out-of-school girls are all effective and demonstrated strategies for preventing child marriage and creating a pathway to empower girls by addressing conditions of poverty, low status, and norms that contribute to child marriage.

The age of the young “brides” makes no difference – they will be forced into sexual relations with much older men.  They will conceive, and they will bear children – often all before the age of 15.

Cost?  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the bill would cost $67 million over five years, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.  We can spend billions and billions on two wars that have had minimal impact, and we can’t bring ourselves to work on an issue that impacts the health and well-being of millions of young women around the world.

Stutzman needs to do some research before he votes on bills instead of taking the knee-jerk Republican stance.

PHARMACEUTICAL BEHEMOTHS BIG WINNERS WITH “MOTHERS ACT ”

For those out there who dislike government – whether at a minimal level or an all out invasion – you should really ramp up on this Act.  Of course, before I write about this, let me make this disclaimer: some will find this Act entirely appropriate – after all it is aimed at diagnosing mental illness and protecting the innocent life of the newborn.

Again, let me provide just a smidgen of my background.  My mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia – as far as could be accurately diagnosed back in the mid ’40s.   She was treated by using insulin shock therapy or, medically, Insulin Coma Therapy (ICT).  ICT is similar to electro shock therapy.  In addition to the ICT, she was also kept on several medications – and, to be honest, I couldn’t begin to tell you what they were.

When we – my brother and I – were very little, mom spent six months in the Richmond mental institution.  We spent the better part of our growing up years and our adult years in the shadow of mental illness.

I learned to know when Mom was going “downhill” – for lack of a better word.  She would start closing all the curtains to darken the house.  We would come home from school to a dim world of light.  I knew when the curtains slammed shut that it wouldn’t be long before Mom went to the hospital again.  She would be gone for a couple of weeks and then come home – seemingly better.  But there wasn’t much in those days that could be done, so her life was a cycle of hospitalization, good days, and then a slow descent into darkness.

The illness culminated in her failed attempt at suicide by overdose when I was 12 and my brother was 10 1/2.  I will never forget the medics putting her onto a stretcher, my brother and I crying, and my Dad telling us to say goodbye because we were never going to see her again.  But she did come home, and she appeared to gain a semblance of control over her mental illness.  She still suffered episodes of darkness and hospitalization, but she never tried to commit suicide again.

I understand that mental illness is serious – I grew up with it.  But the “Mothers Act” – as Congress has decided to label it – is pure patriarchal nonsense and a home run for the pharmaceutical companies.  Typically pharmaceutical companies have given overwhelmingly to Republicans to protect their interests.  But with the 2006 election cycle, pharmaceutical giants figured out where their bread would be buttered and began to bribe donate heavily to Democratic candidates.

In the latest coup for the big druggies, the House of Representatives passed the Mothers Act on March 30, 2009.  The vote – 391 yeas, 8 nays, and 32 nonvoters – is astounding in that with little fanfare or publicity, the House has now sent to the Senate for a vote, legislation that is totally unnecessary and fraught with the potential for abuse.  All nine of Indiana’s representatives voted in favor of the bill.

The following is a primary section:

SEC. 101. EXPANSION AND INTENSIFICATION OF ACTIVITIES.

(a) Continuation of Activities- The Secretary is encouraged to continue activities on postpartum conditions.

(b) Programs for Postpartum Conditions- In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary is encouraged to continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and treatments for, postpartum conditions. Activities under such subsection shall include conducting and supporting the following:

(1) Basic research concerning the etiology and causes of the conditions.

(2) Epidemiological studies to address the frequency and natural history of the conditions and the differences among racial and ethnic groups with respect to the conditions.

(3) The development of improved screening and diagnostic techniques.

(4) Clinical research for the development and evaluation of new treatments.

(5) Information and education programs for health care professionals and the public, which may include a coordinated national campaign to increase the awareness and knowledge of postpartum conditions. Activities under such a national campaign may–

(A) include public service announcements through television, radio, and other means; and

(B) focus on–

(i) raising awareness about screening;

(ii) educating new mothers and their families about postpartum conditions to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment; and

(iii) ensuring that such education includes complete information concerning postpartum conditions, including its symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources.

Of course the Act is the result of the coverage and exploitation of the 2001 death of Melanie Blocker-Stokes, who jumped to her death shortly after her daughter’s birth, allegedly suffering from postpartum depression.  In several different sessions of Congress, the same bill that just passed was introduced and failed.

However this session – with enough lobbying and donations from the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies – the Act passed its first hurdle.   Now it goes to the Senate.  If the Senate passes it, President Obama will have the opportunity to sign it or reject it.

The Act is ludicrous.  Postpartum depression is real – but only about 1 or 2 per 1000 women suffer from it.  Even those 1 or 2 do not ultimately lead to the death of the mother or the death of the child.  What the Act will do is to increase screening and medicating of pregnant mothers.   The problem is that the screening is relevant after the woman becomes pregnant.

That means that – assuming some type of mental instability is detected – the pregnant mother will be put on a prescription medication.  Today, it is common procedure to instruct women in the dangers of smoking and drinking during pregnancy yet the Act would lead to prescribing powerful and dangerous prescription drugs to the pregnant mother.

Chalk another victory up for the pharmaceutical companies and a loss for mothers, in general.

CITY COUNCIL SQUANDERS OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPORT WORTHY WOMEN’S SHELTER

City Council couldn’t quite get its act together to make a decision that would have allowed a worthy and much-needed women’s shelter to begin construction.  Amidst bickering and heated debate, the Council voted to delay its decision on whether or not to vacate Fairmount Place – a ghost of a street that leads to a deadend – so that Charis House could build a women’s shelter which takes in women and children in crisis.

While mouthing platitudes to the goals of Charis House, the Council bought into the the much maligned pretext of  “river front development”  as well as the argument that the structure “just wouldn’t fit” into the Wells Street Corridor of businesses.  The Council caved to arguments by the Wells Street Merchants that the vacation of Fairmount Place would wreak all kinds of havoc in the area including stopping river front development, building a structure  not compatible with the area, and deviating from the goals and objectives of  Plan-It Allen and neighborhood plans.

The design of Charis House is considered “suburban” in nature, which apparently is anathema to the neighborhood despite the fact that Wells Street is a composite of eclectic building styles with no one prevalent design.  The Wells Street business corridor – as it is known – is home to older buildings such as Klemm’s, Hyde Brothers, and the Pantry.  But it also hosts more modern, suburban-looking buildings such as the building that houses an engineering firm, two strip malls, and a grocery store – buildings which are by no means urban in design.

To argue that the Charis House building would not fit is simply a smokescreen.  The design is not fancy – it is functional.  It is a two-story building about the size of the funeral home down the street to the north.  The  site will be about 30,600 square feet  – approximately 175 feet by 175 feet.  My home sits on a lot which is 100 feet long, so the size of the building is about twice the length of my lot.

It will sit back from the street and will be landscaped according to City standards.  A parking lot will be situated in the front of the structure – another complaint from the Wells Street merchants despite the fact that other businesses have parking lots located in the front of their businesses.  Again, another smokescreen.

But the most disingenuous attempt to persuade City Council to deny the vacation of Fairmount Place is the flawed argument that building Charis House will hurt river front development.    What river front development and when?  The St. Marys River, which is the primary river flowing through Fort Wayne and the river which has been touted as the one most amenable to development, tops its banks on a regular basis.  Almost all land lying along the river is located in a flood plain.

State statutes preclude development in a flood plain and/or floodway, so my question is this – how will the river bank be developed when it still lies in a floodplain?  In addition to location in the flood plain, most areas of the St. Marys River are hidden behind lengths of levees, berms, and flood walls – barriers which prevent views of the very river which so many want to develop.  Again, another smokescreen. While river front development may be feasible in limited areas along the St. Marys River, it should not be undertaken in the area touted by the Wells Street merchants.

What a shame the City Council got caught up in a debate that boils down to a choice to help women and children or a choice to buy into disingenuous arguments that do not hold water, and, instead, fall back on arguments that appear on their surface to be legitimate yet underneath are lacking in foundation.

SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON FACES TYPICAL DOUBLE STANDARD IN SOUTH KOREA QUESTIONS

Deciding that matters of state are less important than Hillary Clinton’s views on love, the South Korean press corps perpetuated the alive-and-well attitude that women just don’t deserve the same respect as men when it comes to their roles in high government positions.

Clinton has been traveling abroad this past week, and, of course, has faced the requisite press corps’ questioning rituals.  But, hold the phone, stop the presses, among the questions asked of the Secretary of State during press coverage in South Korea was a completely-less-than-serious question about her thoughts on the “nature of love.” You’ve got to be kidding!  The question came from a “giggly” college student, but drew a tremendous amount of press attention.

In the history of our country, we have had 67 secretaries of state – 3 of whom have been women.  Does anyone honestly believe that this type of question would have been asked of the likes of Colin Powell, Warren Christopher, Alexander Haig, George Schultz, or any of the other 60 male secretaries of state?  Of course not!

And, Hillary, ever gracious, gave her thoughts on the world-shattering issue of the “nature of love” by discussing her relationship with her husband, former President Bill Clinton – which, frankly I suspect was the underlying reason for the question in the first place.  Nary a day passes without some smart-ass comment, cartoon, or slam about his “sexual proclivities” even though the scandals have long passed.

Clinton joked at the start of her response that “I feel like more of an advice columnist than a Secretary of State today.”  Come on people, shame on you, and, if it was a woman reporter who carried the news forward – double shame on you for trivializing the position that Hillary Clinton holds.  It’s time to get serious when women hold positions of power.

Photo Credit: CBS News – Political Hotsheet

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The shifting of the issues from a focus on our global economic mess and the deteriorating state of foreign affairs to a flippant and intrusive question about the nature of love is downright demeaning.  Clinton is an excellent secretary of state who is knowledgeable, intelligent, and energetic when it comes to foreign relations.   To twirl off into the ethereal world of the nature of love has nothing to do with foreign affairs, but it sure has everything to do with the double standard applied to women in positions of authority.

PRIVACY RIGHTS FALL TO DESPERATE ANTI-CHOICE ULTRASOUND TACTIC

When it comes to getting the government out of our lives, the anti-choice crowd exercises a double standard.  Senate Bill 417 introduced by Senator Jean Leising of Indianapolis mandates a woman considering an abortion shall obtain an ultrasound at least 18 hours before the abortion. To top it off, the woman would be responsible for the cost of the ultrasound.

The statute being amended already provided an option for the woman if she wanted to have an ultrasound.  Apparently, allowing the woman a choice just doesn’t sit well with the anti-choice crowd.  Of course this goes hand in hand with the notion that women aren’t capable of making a decision with their doctors about whether or not to have an abortion in the first place.

DIGEST OF INTRODUCED BILL – SENATE BILL 417

Ultrasound before an abortion. Requires that at least 18 hours before an abortion that a pregnant woman seeking an abortion must obtain fetal ultrasound imaging, hear the auscultation of the fetal heart tone if audible, and view and receive a copy of the fetal ultrasound imaging. Specifies that the pregnant woman is responsible for the cost of the fetal ultrasound imaging.

What will they think of next?  Well, here is another bill that has been introduced.

DIGEST OF INTRODUCED BILL – SENATE BILL 192

Adoption of abandoned embryo. Allows an abandoned embryo to be adopted for implantation by another individual under specified circumstances. States that a person who knowingly or intentionally destroys or discards an abandoned human embryo commits unlawful destruction of an embryo, a Class A misdemeanor.

Honest to pete, how will the anti-choice crowd enforce these invasive tactics?  Will they be camped outside the women’s clinics demanding to see the ultrasound image when the women exit the clinic?  Will they visit fertility clinics to ensure that the embryos are kept safe until the adoptive parents arrive?  Does a termination of parental rights hearing need to be held to sever the ties between the biological parents of the embryo and the embryo?

Enough is enough.  The sad thing is that while many in the anti-choice movement chafe and rant against government interference, they turn around and haul in the government whenever they deem necessary to suit their own purposes, and they don’t even see the double standard created by their actions.

ANTI-CHOICERS PUSHING HOSPITAL ADMITTING PRIVILEGES AT STATE LEVEL

The Indiana Senate and House are again poised for a tussle over an anti-choice bill that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in the county in which the abortion is performed.  SB89 has been around the block before and has failed to pass muster.

Remember this is the same legislation that Allen County anti-choicers couldn’t quite manipulate by the Allen County Commissioners.  The Commissioners soon realized that the bill that they were presented this past year was simply a pretext to curtail access to abortions by requiring that the doctor have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  The regulation presented to the Commissioners was gussied up to look like the proponents really cared about those who were having out-patient procedures.

Trouble was, on a closer review of the regulation, it was discovered that the only procedures that were covered were those typically associated with first trimester abortions.  Nary a provision was included that protected men from a failed out-patient procedure by doctors.

In fact, Cathie Humbarger, executive director of Allen County Right to Life made the following uninformed comment:

“All of us want to make certain that if a woman is bleeding at midnight after an abortion and comes into an emergency room, she can have the same quality of medical care that women of Indiana deserve and receive in virtually every other circumstance.”

Now, I have to ask – is Ms. Humbarger actually suggesting that if a woman appeared at an emergency room at midnight in dire circumstances that the personnel would blow off  the Hypocratic Oath and turn her away?  Nah – she surely couldn’t be suggesting that someone with a life-threatening emergency would be shunned and left to stand at the sliding doors of the emergency room.

Senate Bill 89 is simply another step in the direction of ultimately curtailing a woman’s choice.  Perhaps Ms. Hunbarger and those concerned with the incidence of abortion should focus on educating people about how to prevent pregnancies in the first place.

SOUDER TO THIRD DISTRICT WOMEN: NO EQUAL PAY FOR YOU, BABY!

With the presidential election providing the major entertainment for the past number of months, reporting of many pieces of legislation has been lost in the shuffle. One of those bills is aimed at closing the wage gap that still exists and hasn’t changed a great deal in the 45 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963.

At the time of the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women were earning 59¢ for every $1.00 earned by their male counterparts. Today, that disparity has been cut by 18¢ to 77¢ for every $1.00 earned by male wage earners. In 45 years, the gain has been a mere 18¢ – a .004¢ gain for each year the Equal Pay Act has been in effect. The difference is a disgrace and a slam to every working woman who does the same job as her male counterpart.

Our illustrious third district representative, Mark Souder, is doing his part to make sure women stay in their place when it comes to wages. In July of this year, House Bill 1338, the Paycheck Fairness Act, was introduced. The bill passed the House by a vote of 246 to 178 with 9 abstentions. Of the 246 vote majority, 14 were Republicans who had the courage to step up and recognize the inequities that still exist for female employees.

Souder, of course, did the expected – he voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Along with the other Indiana Republican hoard, Souder chose to disregard the infinitesimal gains made by women in 45 years of Equal Pay Act enforcement.

The Paycheck Fairness Act proposes to remedy a number is issues including the following:

  • Improves Equal Pay Act remedies – Plaintiffs will be allowed to recover compensatory and punitive damages instead of the current liquidated damages provided by the EPA.
  • Allows an EPA lawsuit to proceed as a class action lawsuit with potential litigants to opt-out rather than opt-in as is now required. Under the new rules the members will be considered a part of the lawsuit unless they chose to opt-out of the lawsuit.
  • Improves collection of data by requiring the EEOC to provide data identifying the sex, race, and national origin of employees.
  • Prohibits employers from punishing employees who share salary information with each other. This change will make it much easier for employees to learn of pay disparities.
  • Closes a loophole in the employers’ ability to raise the defense that the “disparity” is due to a factor other than sex. While employers currently can literally use about any argument – stronger negotiating skills, higher previous salary – the new Act tightens the affirmative defense by requiring the employer to show that the differential is due to a factor other than sex and is related to job performance.

How any conscientious representative could vote against a bill that is aimed at giving working women parity in the workplace is beyond me. But apparently, it isn’t beyond Souder. He now has two more years to practice his own brand of what he thinks serves the third district. But apparently that doesn’t include the working women of the third. Nope – according to Souder, baby, you should be happy that you have earned a .004¢ each year for 45 years.