News - Happy Mother's Day, Mr. President

Bush policies no holiday treat for women and children

As we approach the celebration of Mother's Day, it is becoming abundantly clear that President George W. Bush is working to make sure that women and children have little to celebrate.

In his first 100 days of office, President Bush has acted quickly and deliberately to disenfranchise women and children. He has taken more aggressive actions aimed at limiting women's freedoms, and in just a short time has taken drastic measures that are sure to leave women and children behind.

W Is Not for Women, an organization that addresses the presidency's impact on women's issues, has compiled a report that grades George W. Bush's first 100 days as president. In the report, Bush was given an "F" for implementing policies that impede women achieving higher economic status, diminish women and children's health, weaken environmental standards that protect women and children, and for appointing officials who do not support women and children's issues.

Just as his assaults on the environment are a payback to big business, his assaults on the right to choose and women and children's health are a payback to far-right social conservatives.

The president began his assault with the appointment of John Ashcroft as attorney general. Since then, his overwhelming hostility to women's reproductive rights has lead to the reinstatement of the global gag rule on family planning, a threatened review of RU 486, and the potential elimination of contraceptive insurance coverage for federal employees.

The Bush administration apparently has no shame. They introduced the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, claiming its goal is to protect pregnant battered women — but the legislation only increases penalties for abusers and recognizes the fetus as a person, and doesn't address the plight of the battered woman at all. The obvious intent of the bill is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. If Bush really wants to address the issues of battered women, then he can reconsider his decision to reduce funding for programs proven to address effectively the issue of violence against women.

Even more appalling is Bush's commitment to doing away with safe, legal abortions in America even as he eliminates prescription contraceptives in federal employee's insurance plans. The apparent lack of reasoning behind that misguided decision defies common sense; again, the ultimate impact is felt in the area of women and children's heath. Studies show that women who plan their pregnancies visit their doctors regularly, are healthier themselves and have healthier pregnancies and babies.

As detailed in the W Is Not for Women's report, Leaving Women and Children Behind: The First 100 Days of the Bush Administration, the president has proposed deep cuts in health benefits for the uninsured. Since women and children make up the majority of the country's poor and uninsured, these cuts will disproportionately affect them.

A blaring wake-up call for women under the Bush administration sounded when he quietly dismantled the Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach with little fanfare and no explanation. Created under President Clinton, the office ensured that there was a voice within the White House walls to address issues of concern to women when they arose.

Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. The president is likely to name two, or maybe even three, justices to the Supreme Court over the course of his term — enough to overturn Roe v. Wade. Bush has said his model justices are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two strong opponents of the right to choose. He has a team of hard-core conservatives sifting through names even now.

On Sunday, many of us will set aside a day to honor our mothers and reflect on the struggles and rewards facing all mothers, married or single, working or stay-at-home, wealthy or even — yes, Mr. President — poor.

Will the current administration take a day off in its campaign to undermine all the rights our mothers have worked for on our behalf? Probably not.

Let's honor our mothers and their fight for our freedoms by opposing President Bush's attacks on the interests of women and children.

Do it for Mom.

Beth Cope is executive director of the Georgia Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.??

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