Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Once Again Cities Are At The Forefront

http://www.citylab.com; October 20, 2017


Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today in the forum is  how cities re standing up for women's health.  Blogger felt this was a timely topic since women's issues have become a white hot issue in the state and federal halls of government.  If you have been following the main stream and social media pages, you probably have been reading a lot about an upcoming special election in the state of Alabama.  

On December 12, 2017, voters will go to the polls to elect a someone to permenantly fill the seat vacated by (for) now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  On the ballot are former United States Deputy Attorney Democrat Doug Jones and Reublican former Judge Roy Moore.  Rather than focus on issues that Alabamans truly care about, the spotlight has to turned to Judge Moore's history of inappropriate sexual relationships with underage girls.  Yours Truly cannot decide what is more infuriating: his repeated denials of any wrong doing and hiding behind religion, the Republican party's tepid (at best) response to the accusations, or the fact that Mr. Moore might actually get elected to the Senate.  Actually, it is all infuriating and repugnant.  Even more infuriating is the way the accusers are shamed and diminished by co-workers.  Women, the typical accuser, have been historically dismissed as hysterical and irrational; gaslighted-"are you sure it happened that way?  Maybe you misunderstood.  Maybe you shouldn't have dressed that way."  Rubbish.  The only thing the accusers can do is stay silent.  Make no mistake, paedophilia should always be condemned.  No adult should be allowed to have sexual contact with anyone under the age of eighteen.  Period, end of discussion.  No one should be allowed to have any non-consenual sexual contact with anyone.  Since Mr. Moore refuses to do the right thing and step down, Blogger can only implore voters in Alabama to turn out en masse on December 12 and do the right thing.  On to which cities are standing up for women's health.

Congressional Republicans and Republican state houses are doing their very best to eliminate well-funded women's health and sexually transmitted disease.  Jacksonville, Florida is probably one place you will not any of these services.  The city landed close to the bottom of a new report, Local Reproductive Freedom Index (localreports.org; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) by the National Insititute for Reproductive Health, which graded America's 40 most populous cities according to their scope of reproductive health, rights, and Justice policies.

Alastair Boone writes in her CityLab article "Here Are the Cities Standing Up for Women's Health," Jacksonville's one-star rating reflects the city's lack of numerous reproductive health protections, such as funding for abortion clinics, STI prevention campaigns, and community-based sexual education programming."  However, NIRH Andrea Miller sees a ray of hope: "In February, Jacksonville passed historic legislation [jacksonville.com; Feb. 15, 2017date accessed Nov. 15, 2017] that prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender people.  It's last city of its size secure such protections."

Ms. Miller told CityLab,

Jacksonville has take this historic step of protecting LGBTQ people...That is a remarkable move.  Because they've proven that the kind of organizing and engagement between the community and elected officials can move us forward.  That's really what we hope people will take from this.

Ms. Boone reports, "No city received a perfect score of five stars-meaning no city has matched each of the 37 policies tracked by the NIRH, a New York-based advocacy organization that promotes reproductive freedom."  The report offers a roadmap for the positive steps cities are already taking and how they can increase access reproductive healthcare for their residents, especially for residents in rural communities.

Andrea Miller continued, 

Our urban centers are the linchpin for healthcare delivery for so many people...Not just for their own residents but for those who live tens if not hundreds of miles away.  

Here is a very real fact, in many Midwestern rural counties, "the average woman has to drive more than 180 miles to get an abortion [citylab.com; Oct. 5, 2017 date accessed Nov. 15, 2017].  compare this to a woman living closer to a major urban urban who has to drive fifteen miles to the nearest Planned Parenthood or comparable clinic.

National Institute for Reproductive Health ranking comes at a time when anxiety over the future of reproductive healthcare is growing under the current administration.  Ms. Boone reports, "In January, the president appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch who's expect to be a foe of abortion rights [theguardian.com; Sept. 22, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017], and reinstated the 'global gag rule, which halts U.S. funding to international NGOs that provide or promote abortion services."  This past July, the Trump administration slashed Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program two year short (citylab.com; Aug. 15, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) into a five-year funding period that promoted community-based strategies to halting teen pregnancy.  Last month, Mr. Trump announced a new rule (mother jones.com; Oct. 6, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) that permits employers to opt out of birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans.

No surprise that coastal cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City occupy the top of the ranking with 4.5 stars.  These cities have enacted numerous protections for women and families, like funding for abortion, reproductive health education, support for anti-discrimination polices, and a $15 minimum wage (the city of Los Angeles plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020).  Ms. Boone observes, "On the whole, larger coastal cities with long histories of investment in social justice causes score the highest."

The average rating of the surveyed cites was two stars, even the highly rated coastal cities have room for improvements.  For example, San Francisco lacks zoning ordinances outside abortion clinics.  New York City still has not defunded alleged crisis pregnancy centers (prochoiceamericaorg; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017), which are nothing more than fronts for anti-abortion clinics.

Some cities are working to maintain access to controversial reproductive health services, even as Republican-dominated state legislatures work to eliminate them. Ms. Boone reports, "Columbus, Ohio, for example, passed [columbus.legistar.com; June 22, 2016; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017] the 'Healthcare Workers and Patient Protection Ordinance' in 2016 to establish 15-foot buffer zones around clinics, within which certain behaviors are strictly penalized."  In 2015, Cook County, Illinois ensured abortion coverage (nirhealth.org; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) for low-income women as part of a joint intiative by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, the Chicago Abortion Fund, and the Illinois American Civil Liberities Union.  In each case, efforts have resulted after state or federal actions threatened these protections.

Local Reproductive Freedom Index offers solutions to pro-choice lawmakers in cities like St.Louis, that have a harder struggle against conservative state legislatures, or local cultures, to further reproductive rights.  Alastair Boone reports, "To get higher minimum wages and more paid family, for example, city officials can insist that tax incentives for companies are linked to living wage and comprehensive benefits requirements."  Municipalities can ensure that healthcare for its employees include reproductive health options and counseling, including abortion.

Andrea Miller told CityLab,

Every city has a budget.  Every city makes decisions about how they use their budgetary power...Municipal elected officials have a really important bully pulpit.  Standing up not only sends a powerful message, but it's also the beginning.  That's why we did this.