Women’s Rights Advocates Oppose Palin
September 5, 2008
WASHINGTON, Sep 5 – Alaska governor Sarah Palin — John McCain’s choice for vice-president — may be a woman, but she is opposed to most policies that women’s rights advocates espouse, say feminists and reproductive health experts.
Palin has served as governor of Alaska for two years, prior to which she was mayor of the town of Wasilla. While many have interpreted the Republican presidential candidate’s unprecedented choice of running mate as an appeal to women voters, many feminists strongly disagree with Palin’s opposition to various pieces of fundamental women’s rights legislation. Her ultra-conservative stance on issues like abortion, sex education, gay marriage, gun control, and the environment indicate that her candidacy is in fact an entreaty to the country’s social conservatives, they are saying.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the nonprofit Feminist Majority Foundation, says:
“Sarah Palin strongly opposes women’s abortion and family planning rights. She is a proponent of teaching creationism in schools; a global warming skeptic, and an opponent on key environmental issues, such as protecting the polar bear in Alaska, and is for oil and natural gas drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Sarah Palin stands with John McCain, who is opposed to affirmative action for women in public employment, public education and public contracting, is opposed to legislation fighting wage discrimination for women (the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act), is opposed to the Violence Against Women Act, authored by Senator Joe Biden [the Democratic vice-presidential candidate], and has a zero rating with women’s rights groups.”
Further elucidating Palin’s anti-feminist politics, Marcy Bloom, civil liberties advocate and executive director of Aradia Women’s Health Center, Seattle’s first nonprofit abortion and gynecological health center, writes:
“[Palin] is a self-described hockey mom, mother of five, is in favor of capital punishment, does not believe that global warming is human-made, is a long-time member of the National Rifle Association, and supports the teaching of both creationism and evolution in public schools. As would be expected, Sarah Palin also opposes medically accurate sexuality education programs and stated in 2006 that “she would fund [only] ‘abstinence-until-marriage’ education.”
Furthermore, while she has been quick to speak out against such women’s rights staples as abortion, “Palin’s record on race and diversity has been the blankest of blank sheets,” writes Earl Ofari Hutchinson from New America Media, an alliance of ethnic media organizations in the United States.
“Palin has taken no position on immigration, affirmative action, job and housing discrimination, school re-segregation, police-minority community relations, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system….Democrats, much of the media, and a big segment of the public have pounded Palin for her non-existent experience and public pronouncements on foreign policy and national security matters. But she has been absolutely expansive on these issues in comparison to her past and present mute silence about diversity and civil rights.”
Women demonstrate in favor of keeping abortion legal. Particularly troublesome for women’s rights advocates is Palin’s staunch support of McCain’s proposal to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion across the United States. Specifically, Palin maintains that abortion should be permitted only if the mother’s life is in danger.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, says:
“According to an article in the Alaska Journal (3/16/08), when Palin was running for lieutenant governor in 2002, she sent an e-mail to the Alaska Right to Life board saying she was as ‘pro-life as any candidate can be.’ She is also on the record stating that she is opposed to abortion even in the case of rape or incest.
Palin is also a long-time member of the “pro-woman, but anti-abortion group” Feminists for Life (FFL). The organization’s slogan is “Refuse to Choose: Women Deserve Better than Abortion.” Bloom elaborates:
Co-opting genuine woman-focused language and values, and wrapping it in a false blanket of “woman-centered solutions” and alleged loving concern for women, FFL cleverly uses a “pro-woman, pro-life philosophy” and completely manipulates the feminist terminology of empowerment. Their Web site speaks out on numerous issues of concern to women, such as violence against women, honor killings, coercive sterilization, literacy, child care, sex trafficking, and female genital mutilation. They support deceptive anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers as real solutions for women, with the centerpiece of their work being that abortion is exploitive, coercive, and always wrong and harmful, for any and all women everywhere, in every circumstance.
Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice, offers further insight on Feminists for Life while discussing her opposition to Palin’s candidacy:
[Feminists for Life’s] mission is to “serve” women who are “already pregnant.” In fact, their legislative program is almost totally focused on the Elizabeth Cady Stanton bill, a little known measure that would provide modest funding to colleges for resources to help pregnant women stay in college.
Despite these women’s rights advocates contention of Palin’s self-proclaimed feminism, however, Hillary Clinton, who recently lost the Democratic nomination for president to Barack Obama by a slim margin, states:
We should all be proud of Gov. Sarah Palin’s historic nomination and I congratulate her and Sen. McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Gov. Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.
Day 1 at the 2008 Republican National Convention. But will Palin’s vice-presidential candidacy draw in the scores of women that had been otherwise opposed to McCain’s politics? Jerome Grossman, chairman emeritus of the anti-nuclear weapons advocacy group Council for a Livable World, is doubtful:
Palin’s nomination competes with Obama’s in exploiting American guilt by offering voters a choice between correcting the underrepresentation of blacks and women. Of course, the election of President Obama will be more significant than the election of vice-president Palin, but the contest does offer a choice of remedies to historic exclusions: do one now, the other later. Will Palin attract many of the women who voted for Hillary in the primary elections? I doubt it. Most of them are feminist to some degree, feminists who will be repelled by Palin’s ultra conservative positions. Equality for women may be their most important issue, but most of them have a range of liberal beliefs that Palin cannot satisfy.
Not surprisingly, Bloom ends her commentary on Palin’s candidacy on a defiant note:
We absolutely need more diversity and far many more smart, perceptive, and well-informed women in leadership roles for the good of the country and the world. But not this anti-choice, pro-gun, and inexperienced woman governor. To the Republicans I say – do not ever pander to me and don’t you dare insult my intelligence. Do not give us a candidate who opposes everything that enhances the lives, health, and opportunities for women and children.