PPC News

Woman’s National Democratic Club Memorializes Jo Cox

On what would have been Jo Cox’s 42nd birthday, (June 22), the Woman’s National Democratic Club—along with Bryan Bettis, ONE, Oxfam, and the White Ribbon Alliance—held a moving memorial service for the slain champion of Syrian refugees and member of the British Parliament. She had been assassinated a week earlier by Thomas Mair, who resented Cox’s support for Britain’s remaining in the European Union and shouted “Put Britain First” before killing her.  Cox left behind her husband, Brendan Cox, and their two children Cuillin, age 5, and Lejla, 3.

WNDC members  and many of Cox’s former Oxfam colleagues and other friends received  a white rose when they walked in.  Jo had been  dedicated to the White Helmets, a search-and-rescue organization seeking peace in Syria, who have saved more than 50,000 lives. She had also worked earlier at the White Ribbon Alliance to end maternal mortality.

Services, which were held globally,  included a video stream from Trafalgar Square in which Lily Allen sang “Somewhere Only We Know” a travel sing-along for the family, and a speech by husband Brendan Cox.  Jo was celebrated for her career in international human rights, called a “modern day suffragette,” and (by White Ribbon Alliance Executive Director Betsy McCallon) a “tremendous champion of peace, diversity and inclusiveness.” Local friends also recalled her vibrancy.

Husband Brendan Cox marveled at her energy. “Jo lived her life to the full with a pedal to the floor and with missing brake pads, she was a mountain climber, a runner, a cyclist, an avid reader, an awful cook, a swimmer, a great exaggerator, a wild food forager, a middle-lane driver, a log carrier, a ball of energy and determination and, above all else, she was a mum.”

“She just wanted people to be happy and for the world to be a fairer place, that’s where her politics came from, not from the libraries of Cambridge or to any theoretical attachment to a narrow ideology, but from the streets of Batley and her own empathy. When she saw pain, she wanted to do all she could to alleviate it. Whether that was the pain of older people in her constituency, or the pain of those forced to flee their homes and seek sanctuary as refugees.”

The service included the reading of this poem (by Dorothy Oger) in D.C., and in London by actress Gillian Anderson.

“I shall stand for love
Even with a broken soul
Even with a heavy heart.

I shall stand for love,
For the world is wounded.
Not just my little piece of land,
Where I am mostly safe,
Where I am mostly well,
But our world, everywhere

Every day.
I shall stand for love,
Because we need more light,
Not more deaths,
Not more power,
Not more bombs.

I shall stand for love,
So that our children are safe
So that our friends are sheltered
So that our borders are open.

I shall stand for love,
Even with a broken soul,
Even with a heavy heart.”

 “Everything Jo fought for is under threat in our world,” said Paul O’Brien of Oxfam America. Attendees were encouraged to #LoveLikeJo, emulating a life dedicated to advancing human rights and peace for all.

Veena Trehan, Chair
Global Women Task Force

WNDC Campaign Committee–Off to a Great Start!

WNDC’s 2016 Campaign Committee’s enthusiastic team is gathering momentum, meeting at the Club every Wednesday at 10:30 am to plan strategy for this crucial election season.

So far we have:

  • Met with the Laila Mohib, Director of the Democratic National Committee’s Democratic Woman’s Alliance.
  • Hosted two seminars to explore the delegate selection process.
  • Sent information packet to resident and non-resident WNDC members about how to get involved in WNDC’s election efforts. Packets included lists of state Democratic chairs. state primary and caucus calendars, lists of primary and national election dates, state delegate selection protocols, and a script with talking points to encourage voter participation.
  • Provided (through WNDC) space for an evening reception by the Women’s Information Network, a coalition of young, progressive Democratic women.
  • Joined a DNC conference call on how to promote outreach to members and other groups this campaign season.

Our future plans include:

  • Phone banking to get out the vote (GOTV) for our members and Democratic organizations at all levels.
  • Collaborating with and providing space with other Democratic activists.
  • Exploring other opportunities for WNDC to get involved.

After the devastating impact of the 2014 elections, we need to SWEEP BACK into the White House, the Congress, the state governorships and legislatures, city councils, and every office.

We need your help—as little or as much as you can give. Please join us!

Karen Pataky
Vice President for Public Policy and Political Action

TRAP Laws Are Legislative Assault–Not Safety Rules to Protect Women

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (heard by the Supreme Court on March 2) hinges on TRAP, or Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers laws, which require clinics providing abortion services to meet the same medical standards as surgical suites providing invasive cardiac procedures, tonsillectomies, sinus surgery, and other similar procedures. The Texas law at issue in this case, which caused the majority of Texas abortion clinics to close, requires that all Texas abortion providers meet these TRAP standards.

These regulations—which aim not to protect patients but to limit access to abortion—mandate minute and irrelevant features such as the size of procedure rooms, the size of hallways (two stretchers wide), the size of the parking lot, the type of snacks available, and the type of awnings over the entrance. Their goal is not to protect patients but to keep them from exercising their right to an abortion. Other mandates such as resuscitative equipment and infection control measures are superfluous because such medically necessary standards are already in place, and abortion providers are currently equipped to meet these standards.

The most recent TRAP requirement abortion opponents are proposing is that abortion providers have “hospital admitting privileges,” a phony concern that is not required of other medical or dental offices. In fact, patients who present to an emergency room by ambulance or on their own most often will NOT have a physician with admitting privileges at that hospital.

Emergency rooms are legally required to care for every person who presents for care, without exception. Every patient must be evaluated and rendered care in the emergency room by that hospital’s emergency room physicians. The presence or absence of a personal physician who has admitting privileges is irrelevant.

The real question is whether or not facts matter. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that “barriers to care — under the guise of concerns about patient safety — are bad medicine. Women in need of abortion should not be forced to burden themselves and their families in order to get the health care that is right for them. Other needed forms of health care are not subject to these unfounded restrictions and attacks.”

Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down Wisconsin’s “admitting privileges law” in 2015, saying “Courts should weigh the medical evidence behind a regulation against the impact. If the evidence is feeble and the burden substantial, the burden is undue.” We concur with that judicial rationale and demand the Supreme Court to follow this standard.

The Supreme Court must rely on the facts of evidence-based medicine rather than abortion opponents’ tactics to limit women’s access to needed services. The Court must reaffirm women’ rights to make their own private and confidential health care decisions.

Karen Pataky, NPC
Chair, Health Care Task Force

Celebrating Berta Cáceres and Protecting Environmental Rights

Four days before International Women’s Day, feminist and human rights icon Berta Cáceres—a powerful organizer for indigenous rights and democracy—was assassinated. Fellow activist Nelson Garcia was also murdered less than two weeks later, on March 15, after Honduran Security forces violently evicted an indigenous Lenca community.

Cáceres, whose mother was a midwife and governor, had started the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) when Berta was a young woman. She led campaigns on a variety of issues but is particularly celebrated for mobilizing the Lenca people against the Agua Zarca dam, which threatened their access to water, food and medicine.

For this critical effort, COPINH built a roadblock that lasted a year. Through legal and community action, they convinced the International Monetary Fund and the Chinese company, Sinohydro, to withdraw from the project. Another Honduran company, DESA, reinstated the dam project on the Gualcarque River, which COPINH continues to oppose.

In 2015, Cáceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman prize, comparable to a Nobel Prize, for the environment in South and Central America.

Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator for Friends of the Earth Mexico, was with Cáceres during the March 3 attack. Cáceres died in his arms. He was also injured, later detained, held in inhumane conditions, and questioned. After being released, he was escorted to the airport by the Mexican ambassador, but has been ordered by Honduran authorities to stay in the country for 30 days.

These events occurred within the context of repressive Honduran leadership that has stepped up violence since the 2009 coup d’état that occurred after the democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya, ordered a non-binding straw poll to consider democratic revisions of the constitution. The Honduran military and judicial system opposed Zelaya, and he was removed from office and forcibly flown to Costa Rica. The United Nations and the Organization of American States called the action a “coup,” but the United States did not intercede to support Zelaya’s return.

Since the coup, Honduras has pursued mass privatization of rivers and cities. More than 100 other members of COPINH have been murdered, child refugee numbers have increased 40-fold, and Honduras has been ranked the most dangerous country for environmental advocates. Terror has reigned for citizens while the government has protected multinational corporations and financers from any accountability.

Cáceres’ and Garcia’s deaths must be met with justice.

There must be independent investigations into their deaths and full accountability for the perpetrators. Castro must be safely returned to his home, and criminalization of COPINH activities must end.

So too must the United States deeply question our long history of support for brutal regimes. And we must end “security” aid to Honduras and other repressive governments.

Cáceres, a vocal critic of the coup spoke of a way forward: “We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own self destruction … Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way, in a way that protects life.”

Veena Trehan, Chair,
Global Women Task Force

Republicans Say No to “Lame Duck” Supreme Court Appointment–Who Are You Calling Lame?

Within the first hour of the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had decisively emerged from mourning and rejoined the battle against functional democracy. “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” said McConnell. “Delay, delay, delay,” constitutional expert Donald Trump added, just to clarify. But when it comes to inaction, obstruction, and down-right sabotage, the Republican-controlled Senate already knows the drill.

Republicans say the American people should have a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court Justice.  But the American people have spoken, and now their voice must be honored. They spoke when they denied last-honest-cynic McConnell his number one goal by reelecting Barak Obama. And each state had a voice when it originally voted to be governed by the Constitution, including Article II, which clearly states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the Supreme Court….”

President Obama—an actual expert on and former professor of constitutional law—knows that. Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and all their Senate colleagues know that, too. After all, by their oath of office they swore to support and defend the Constitution.  Past presidents in their final year in office have known that, too, and have a history of performing their constitutional duty without past Senates balking at performing theirs.

What would Justice Scalia think of this abdication of constitutional responsibility by so many of his most ardent admirers? As the expounder of textual originalism, the doctrine that one should look to the text of the law and interpret it as it was intended at the time it was adopted, Justice Scalia would have pointed out that Article II doesn’t contain any exceptions for what Republican leaders are calling a “lame duck” presidency. Even those who typically disagreed with Justice Scalia find the Republican interpretation of the Constitution laugh-out-loud lame.

Which brings us to the definition “lame duck.” A lame duck presidency refers to the period between the election of a president’s successor and time that successor assumes office. We are obviously not in that period.

However, there’s another definition of lame duck: an ineffectual person or thing. This hardly describes a president who in the last months alone has taken decisive action on gun violence, immigration, protecting environmentally sensitive lands, and averting a nuclear confrontation in Iran, all in the face of relentless opposition. That doesn’t exactly sound ineffectual.

But what about the obduracy, stalling, and grandstanding by the Senate’s Republican majority that have rendered this vaunted institution dysfunctional and ineffectual at legislating? By preventing its members from performing their moral and constitutional duty to serve the American people, Republicans have reduced the Senate to political theater, little more than a partisan tool that sets the bar of expectation pathetically low and still fails to clear it. Now that is truly lame. What we are stuck with might be called a “lame duck Senate.”

Gail Gottlieb
Public Policy Committee