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Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

By Susana Sánchez, Community Mobilization Intern

In a historic decision on June 1st the New York Senate signed into law a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (Senate bill 2311-D) becoming the first state in the country to enact a law granting labor rights to domestic workers. The law guarantees basic worker rights: an eight hour day, overtime, one day off a week, paid holidays, paid vacation and sick days, the right to collectively organize, and requires employers to give 14 day termination notice to employees. In addition, employers who violate the law might receive a civil penalty from the state commissioner.

The law is a significant gain for the labor and women’s rights movement. It has been well documented that most employers do not even see themselves as employers and their domestic workers as employees. The law begins to change that dynamic; it clearly defines domestic workers as employees under the definition of New York minimum wage law. However, one has to dig deep into the legislation to understand the extent to which this law affects women of color, particularly, undocumented immigrant women.

Domestic work, in its broad definition, has being historically performed by women of color.  Currently, more than 90 percent of domestic workers are women of color. In New York, one percent or less of domestic workers was born in the U.S. Across the country Latina, Caribbean and African immigrants (mostly undocumented) have taken over the sector because many of them are undocumented and/or lack the language skills to work in other industries.

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An article published online last week in the journal Pediatrics suggests that $13 billion and over 900 infants’ lives could be saved if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months.

According to the most recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is beneficial to the health of both the mother and child. It may decrease rates of ovarian and breast cancer among women and bone-related injuries and diseases. The AAP recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, and non-exclusively breastfed for the first year and beyond as desired.

In this study, the authors undergo a cost analysis using data from previous studies. They calculated the approximate number of infants that are breastfed and the number that are not exclusively breastfed using data from a 2005 CDC survey. Then, they looked at a collection of diseases for which a lower risk has been reported for exclusively breastfed infants and the associated health costs for those diseases. The study did not look at every disease associated with breastfeeding, and in particular left out type 2 diabetes because of insufficient data. The overall conclusion shows that the US incurs billions of dollars in excess costs due to the

At the end of the day, breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice. However, given its health benefits, it should be a more accessible option for women who do prefer to breastfeed their children. Not every mother-child pair is capable of breastfeeding, but those that are should be able to do so without excessive inconvenience. Today, many women are unable to breastfeed their infants due to inadequate maternity leave, inability to take time off of work, and insufficient access to counseling about lactation. Additionally, healthcare providers often fail to inform women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and are unable to give women practical advice regarding breastfeeding.

Increasing support services for breastfeeding could save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, which could be directed towards saving additional lives.

By Zarah Iqbal, Policy Intern

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Since the economic downturn in 2008, a study produced by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that a sizeable number of women have altered their childbearing plans because of the recession. The report, highlighted by The Washington Post, surveyed 947 women ages 18 to 34 that can get pregnant and live in a household with an average income of below $75,000. Some findings show that:

•    31% want to delay pregnancy
•    28% want fewer children the previously intended
•    7% no longer want any additional children

Senior Research Associate, Laura Lindberg states that, “Women, especially those that are facing financial difficulties, want to avoid unintended pregnancy more than ever, and many of them are having difficulties affording their contraception to do this.”

Guttmacher’s findings include:

•    29% of women agreed with: “With the economy the way it is, I am more careful than I used to be about using contraception every time I have sex”
•    46% of the women who said they did not want more children also said they are “thinking more about sterilization”
•    1 in 4 women have had to delay gynecological or birth control visits in the past year to save money
•    23%  of the women said that they are having more difficulty paying for birth control than in the past
•    8% said they sometimes do not use any birth control as a way to save money.
•    18% of women using the birth control pills reported inconsistent use as a way to save money.

Due to lack of health care, added stress, and the current economic situation, women are actively seeking out cheaper and better ways to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy. Planned Parenthood President, Cecil Richards, said that this study “confirms what we are hearing at Planned Parenthood health centers across the country.”

Unintended pregnancy and the financial downturn also affect men. HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report reports that in early 2009 doctors began to notice an increase in vasectomies. And while the recession might end soon, according to Lindberg, “indicators may take a long time to translate into families”

By Carlos Blanco, Community Mobilization Intern

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A Gallup survey commissioned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently reported that the rough economy is impacting women’s reproductive health in considerable ways.  Decisions about when to become pregnant, how many children to have, what type of contraception method to use, and whether or not to attend their yearly well-woman exams are being influenced by the present dismal economy.  When it came to their reproductive health, survey statistics included:

  • One in seven (14%) women reporting they had postponed their annual ob-gyn checkup;
  • 14% of all women ages 18-44 reporting that the economy has influenced their plans to increase family size; and
  • 9% (nearly 1 in 10) of married women indicating that the bad economy was a factor in their decision to postpone a planned pregnancy.

Also interesting to note is that compared to one year ago, more women are both concerned about having an unintended pregnancy and more conscientious about using birth control to avoid that from happening.  Though women reported that having a reliable form of contraception was extremely important to them (9 on a scale of 1 to 10), one must consider whether women will continue to be able to afford birth control, especially when public health clinics and family planning programs nationwide are undergoing funding cuts.  The Gallup survey found that ten percent of women were worried about their ability to keep paying for contraception, some had switched their birth control method, and some had quit using it all together.

It is evident that when worried about their financial situation, women are more likely to forgo routine health care and cut back or stop taking their prescribed medications.  As it is, Latinas disproportionately lack health insurance and access important services like breast/cervical cancer screenings and early prenatal care in lower numbers.  This, compounded with the cultural notion that Latinas put familia first makes the situation even more daunting.  Necesitamos seguir la lucha por el aceso a salud reproductiva para todas las mujeres.

By Norma Haro, Research Intern

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The Mercury News reported recently on the  increase in birth control related visits across Northern California clinics. Comparing the number of visits per month to the previous year, there has been a peak of 25% more visits in December 2008 compared to December 2007 at these clinics.

The article quotes San Jose clinic manager, Eileen Sims: “women coming to her clinic for birth control tend to fall into two categories: those who want to start and those who are on birth control but lost their job or private insurance and can no longer afford the cost.”  Besides the cost conundrum women find themselves in with affording birth control, the article also reports that immigrants, who are here on visas, are concerned about losing their jobs if they become pregnant, and therefore are increasing their birth control usage.

The majority of people served at Planned Parenthood clinics, and other public health clinics in California, depend on Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care and Treatment), the state’s Medicaid program for family planning services. A recent report put out by the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, reveals an increase of women in need of Family PACT services from 1999 to 2004, topping off at 1.6 million women receiving services in the 2003-2004 Fiscal Year. Unfortunately this program is at risk of getting its funding cut, due to major budgetary problems in California. Other states, such as Texas, are also experiencing budgetary problems in health care.

We recently wrote about the six Planned Parenthood clinics in El Paso, TX that have been closed due to monetary problems. These Texas clinics provided vital sexual health services to both men and women, and now there are more people who are without a clinic to access, so it is extremely important that we fight to keep the clinics that are left, open in every state.

Robin Mangini, Research Intern

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The El Paso Times is reporting that due to lack of funding, Planned Parenthood is closing all of its health-care centers (six in total) in El Paso, TX today. Sadly, this is not the first time that Planned Parenthood has been forced to close their clinics due to financial difficulties. In recent times, clinics in the West and Northern areas of Michigan, Lynchburg, West Virgina, Seattle and Latham, NY, were shut down for similar reasons.

Conservatives have shown a positive response to the news: they are glad that these clinics are being closed because they believe it will reduce the amount of abortions taking place. But the closings will do nothing to reduce abortions and might even cause an increase. Planned Parenthood (PP) offers not only family planning services but also health services for pregnant women. Because some of the services offered by PP help prevent both unwanted and unhealthy pregnancies, the closing of clinics will mean that women, especially low-income and immigrant women who do not have access to health care, will not have access to reproductive choices. This will have a particularly large impact on Latinas, since El Paso has such a high concentration of Latinas and many of them are low-income.

Another important point is that abortions are only a small portion of the services that Planned Parenthood offers. In some areas of the country, Planned Parenthood is actually the primary provider of gynecological services. For pregnant women, Planned Parenthood offers very important services such as pre-natal care and anti-smoking treatments and other services that improve their health and therefore increase the chances of them of bearing healthy children.  The closing of these clinics will also have a negative impact on women suffering from STDs, urinary tract infections, and other infections that Planned Parenthood often treats. Also HIV and (cervical) cancer are other conditions that Planned Parenthood provides services for. This means that many women, those pregnant and those who aren’t, will be suffer the negative effect of this lack of funding.

What is even more alarming is that, due to the financial crisis, services that Planned Parenthood offers have actually become more critical and more needed. An article on the Mercury News argued that, since more and more people are losing their jobs and their medical care, more women “are taking steps to avoid having a child” because they are concerned that they will not be able to afford it. Planned Parenthood clinics in Northern California, like many other family-planning clinics and gynecologists, are experiencing higher volume of women visiting their clinics and requesting family-planning services.

Planned Parenthood Executive Director Analinda Moreno recently told the media that the closing of these clinics in El Paso was one of the hardest decisions they have had to make.

Contributed by Carolina Rizzo, DC Policy Intern

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One of the first laws to be signed by President Obama will allow women to sue for pay discrimination in the workplace.

 

After being passed by the House on Jan 9th, the bill was recently approved by the Senate.   A monumental step for women is that all 16 female senators, both Democrat and Republican, voted for the bill.

 

Prior to this law, employees were able to sue for unequal pay, but there was a loophole—a claim needed to be made within 180 days of the company’s decision to pay a worker less than their counterparts.  However, for women like Lilly Ledbetter, whom the bill is named after, 180 days isn’t enough time to detect payment discrimination.  For Ms. Ledbetter is wasn’t until the end of her 19 year career with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that she became aware that she was a victim of payment discrimination.

 

Just last year, the Census Bureau estimated that women only receive 78 cents for every dollar made by men doing equivalent jobs.  Even worse, it is estimated that Latinas make 55 cents for every dollar a man makes

 

“By swiftly passing this legislation, Congress sets a new tone for employment rights,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU legislative counsel.

 

The passing of this bill is a huge step for women’s rights.  For women making less than their male counterparts, it is reassuring to know that we are under an administration that respects the work of women and their right to equal pay.  Furthermore, the bill applies to discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, disability and age, helping to separate employment from prejudice.

 

Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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As the battle continues on President Obama’s economic stimulus package, the Senate is expected to start debates over the proposed $400 million intended for use on STD prevention. Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Appropriation health subcommittee, stated:

The initiative includes grants to communities for health promotion, immunization programs, health screenings and counseling, smoking-cessation programs, scholarships and loan repayment for health professionals, research, and evidence-based disease-prevention strategies.

 By passing this bill, we can hope to see improvements in the education, prevention, screening and diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States.  However, while the bill is contributing to supporting women’s rights, not all the initial steps are being taken.  A separate portion of the economic stimulus package which would have allocated $200 million for providing contraceptive coverage under Medicaid was removed.

 

For Republicans and Democrats that don’t support the stimulus package, their argument is that portions such as STD prevention and providing contraceptives will provide little short-term help in boosting the economy.  But what they fail to see is how economics plays a role on one’s health, and health plays a role in economics?  Dismissing the need for resources and education that can improve women’s health is a failure not only to women, but to children and men, all of whom may be affected by STDs or unintended pregnancy.

 

Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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The Center for American Progress Action Fund focused on the Career Wage in a recent report on pay equity between men and women. The “Career Wage Gap” is the difference in income between men and women that occurs over a long period of time (without intentional discrimination). This is different from the “gender gap” that only considers the annual difference in median wages of men and women who are employed full-time and excludes women who work part-time or take time away from the workforce for unpaid family care giving. Lower earnings naturally make it harder for women to provide education, child care, and basic supports for their children, as well as to build assets like home ownership. Moreover, the income gap translates into a retirement gap as well.

 

At current rates, the average full-time female worker loses approximately $434,000 in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of the gender pay gap… Women with a college degree or higher lose $713,000 over a 40-year period versus a $270,000 loss for women who did not finish high school. The gap exceeds $300,000 in 15 states, $400,000 in 22 states, and $500,000 in 11 states. 

Check out this map to see these gaps illustrated nationally.

 

Currently, the average woman earns 78 cents for every dollar a man makes over a year. Women who work year-round still earn less than men in comparable jobs and at all educational levels. The wage gap increases over a woman’s lifetime and is even worse for African-American and Hispanic women.

 According to the National Women’s Law center, Latinas and African American women earn 52 and 63 cents on the dollar, respectively, compared to white male counterparts. This means women of color must work twice as hard to provide for their families and survive.

 

Conservative Supreme Court Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas recently dealt a blow against pay equity. In the case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (2007) Lilly Ledbetter sued for gender-based pay discrimination. The jury agreed and awarded her $223,776 in back pay for her 19 years with Goodyear. Unfortunately, due to what dissenting Justice Ginsberg states is a “cramped interpretation” of title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the court decided that employers are protected from lawsuits over race or gender discrimination if the claims are based on decisions made over 180 prior or more. In other words, “she should have sued sooner,” was their justification for not compensating her for discrimination that they admit did occur. Outrageous! Take action.

 

Contributed by Marcela Villa, DC Policy Intern

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