Just one thing

Just like a gazillion others, I’ve been thinking about what Obama could/should do, in his first 100 days in office, that would be small in terms of the effort required (falling within executive powers entirely, no Congressional courting/approval required) but that would make an immediate, huge, difference to many people.

I ended up deciding that there were so many things that needed fixing, that I would be better off focussing on what I would be horrendously disappointed to find that he was not going to do. So here’s my One Thing that I will be broken-hearted if he does not do it:

  1. negate the Global Gag Rule (aka Mexico City Policy)

Our continuing research shows the gag rule is eroding family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. There is no evidence that it has reduced the incidence of abortion globally. On the contrary, it impedes the very services that help women avoid unwanted pregnancy from the start.

What’s your One Thing?



Categories: media, Politics

Tags: ,

30 replies

  1. Get the US government out of the torture business.
    Do you think he’ll look at Kyoto?

  2. He should commit the executive to obey and serve the constitution and other applicable law (that would include the torture issue). This single issue is far important than anything else, and is extremely unlikely to happen.

  3. This single issue is far important than anything else, and is extremely unlikely to happen.

    I too wonder whether this president-elect will be able to withstand the temptation of the precedents set by the incumbent president.

  4. I don’t have one thing in particular. Just that I hope I won’t be too disappointed.

  5. I don’t think there’s much hope on the global gag rule, though I would be delighted to be wrong. Obama’s been pretty clear that he doesn’t support reproductive rights — such as his notion that a woman’s pastor and family should have a say in her medical decisions. Then again, the global gag rule is so manifestly stupid it’s hard to imagine a reason not to repeal it.
    As for committing to obeying the Constitution, again, as delighted as I would be to be wrong, I’m not sure there’s much hope. Obama is a creature of corporate special interests, which is how he got this far. The deep pockets like an executive they can buy that will snatch as much power as possible, and if he wants their support for re-election, they will make it relentlessly clear that this is what he is expected to do.
    It’s worth bearing in mind Obama’s record as a senator through all of this — this is the man who votes “present” rather than take even the most minimal stand. His Senate record is the record of plausible deniability. All talk, no action. It’s beautiful talk, well-crafted, exquisitely delivered by a person of such consummate grace he apparently can’t take a bad picture, which is a wondrous relief after the last eight years. But it’s just talk all the same.

  6. Obama’s been pretty clear that he doesn’t support reproductive rights — such as his notion that a woman’s pastor and family should have a say in her medical decisions.
    The whole “in consultation with her family and pastor” thing makes me squirm too, but I don’t think that we can say that Obama doesn’t support reproductive rights. He has a 100% rating from NARAL, and, importantly, he never suggests that the “family and pastor” thing should be legislated– it’s all just rhetoric. Annoying rhetoric, to be sure, but I think it’s fairly clear that he’s doing that to pander to people who are “on the fence” about abortion, rather than because he personally thinks women should be limited in this way. As such, I have high hopes that he’ll repeal the global gag rule– and that would be nicely symbolic as his first executive order too, given that its implementation was Bush’s first act as President.

  7. Oh, I hope he repeals it too.
    I’m just saying there’s a difference between hope and reasonable expectation of future behavior. Presidents turn out in hindsight to have behaved extremely predictably based on their previous electoral record. Obama’s previous electoral record doesn’t look good on reproductive rights. There isn’t a reasonable basis for expectation based on his record that he’ll behave responsibly on this one.
    I very much hope he does it anyway.

  8. Please, please, please Mr President, get rid of this stupid Defense of Marriage crap. It’s making me sad.

  9. Is there some kind of petition-y, email writing thing we can set up? Where we get as many people on board via the feminists sites we link to to send a gazillion letters/emails asking him to please just get the damned global gag rule pulled – like wham? I mean for real, do it early, and people will have forgotten by the end of the first term.

  10. Flipping climate change and pollution. It’s probably too late already, but dear god so much has to be done.

  11. Helen, I’m confused about what you think Obama’s voting record on reproductive rights is, because it’s not what I’ve seen mentioned.

  12. OT, but related to reproductive rights, did y’all see this snippet on Malcolm Turnbull defending the right to choose at an Australian Christian Lobby conference? I’m not sure how much voting influence Australian Christians have over either party, having never seen the numbers, but it’s certainly an interesting media signal that he’s sending. Maybe he’s interested in chasing after the votes of one-time Democrat voters?

  13. I’m with Anna. The way that different states can have widely varying rules on who can marry and under what circumstances (eg people who have certain diseases can be prevented from marrying in some states; first cousins can marry in some states and under some conditions in others) is based on outdated medical understandings and is generally ludicrous. A Federal Marriage Act could tighten all this up, remove the concept of marriage as a religious institution and make it available to all Americans, no matter what their sexual preference. People would then be free to be married by the state or in a religious ceremony.
    But it doesn’t come above reproductive rights, IMO

  14. TimT, from that article:

    Mr Turnbull said he was committed to promoting marriage and families. He thought more people should get married.
    “We (the Liberal Party) have a passionate commitment for the family, for the promotion of the family. And that is something that we will pursue … with the passion of the hunter pursuing his quarry across the hills.”

    I’ll just rush right on out and get hitched, lest I find the Libs breathing down my neck.
    Wait, wut?
    He also says “more people should get married”, and in the same breath says that gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed, and then with what’s left of that breath says there should be no discrimination against same-sex couples in general. Logic FAIL.

  15. I would like that One Thing to be setting up a fund and perhaps a dedicated institute, too, dedicated to designing an economic model for a postindustrial society which does not depend on growth to survive.

  16. I believe Turnbull is quite socially liberal personally, and I’ve always had the feeling that he’s lying when he says he doesn’t believe in equal marriage rights. I have the same feeling about Barack Obama.
    Please note that this is not a defense of either– it merely shows that both are willing to throw LGBT folk under the bus when it’s politically expedient, and that is completely unacceptable. But I do hope it means that both have the potential to eventually do the right thing.

  17. I don’t know – I’ve been hoping that about Obama, but I haven’t managed to convince myself. Having just finished the “Faith” chapter of The Audacity of Hope, I’m now much further away from being convinced.
    One Liberal who has been a long-time worker for access to reproductive healthcare for women and has also been in the Lib minority on gay rights is my rep Mal Washer, and I give him all credit for that even though he doesn’t get my vote. He has spoken very strongly against foreign aid restrictions on reproductive health services, calling them – and local abortion bans – “repugnant” and “ridiculous”.

  18. I’ve been thinking about reading The Audacity of Hope– is it worth it?
    I’ve just always had the sense, when I’ve seen Obama talking about marriage rights, that he’s squirming internally, because he knows that in opposing equal marriage, he’s doing something that goes against everything he wants to stand for– it reminds me of the way Julia Gillard looked when she defended Labor’s “marriage is between a man and a woman” stance a few years ago. But perhaps I’m just projecting that onto him.

  19. Ummm… not sure, it depends what “worth it” means for you. I wanted to read his words in long-form, uninterrupted, without the distraction of video and speechifying. For that, for me, it’s been worth it so far.
    I know what you mean about the projecting – I swing back and forth on that, too. Sometimes it seems to me that he has repeated “compromise” and “bipartisanship” to himself too many times, and started believing that there really can be a middle ground on human rights. Other times, not so much. Maybe that’s a calculated political stance, or maybe he hasn’t yet figured that out for himself yet.

  20. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/08/AR2008110801856.html

    Never more delighted to be wrongwrongwrong!!!! Woohoo, I hope this is true and gets done fast!

  21. Silly Washington Post, requiring reader registration. Haven’t newspapers realised yet how counterproductive to getting eyeballs on their content this practise is?
    People, try this link instead and see if it takes you right there (this workaround works for the NYT, dunno if it works for the WaPo)

    A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak on the record about the inner workings of the transition.
    In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in office.

  22. Forgot the key paragraph for this thread:

    The new president is also expected to lift a so-called global gag rule barring international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from counseling women about the availability of abortion, even in countries where the procedure is legal, said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he rescinded the Reagan-era regulation, known as the Mexico City policy, but Bush reimposed it.

    Stem cell research ban as well.

  23. Now if only he’d follow that by ditching the Anti-Prostitution global gag rule so we could make some headway into combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in developing nations.
    hexy’s last blog post..Lex Wotten sentenced

  24. hexy, I’ve never heard of the Anti-Prostitution global gag rule. 😦 Do you have the time to tell me about it?

  25. Anna:
    Long story short, the US government requires all organisations that deal with HIV in developing nations to have policies opposing prostitution (phrased explicitly as both opposition of a legal sense and opposing “the practice” of prostitution) or they lose their funding. Groups that advocate decriminalisation, which is the preferred model of sex workers around the world, risk losing their funding, even if they phrase their advocacy in terms of the wishes of the sex workers they represent. It limits the services that can be offered to condom provision and exit services, and specifically prevents helping sex workers lobby for legal protection and rights or working to defeat sex worker stigma. It stops US-funded organisations from working with local, sex-worker run sex-worker rights groups and local peer organisations, or even local groups that don’t specifically support OR oppose sex work. It also seems to be preventing organisations from offering sex-worker focussed preventative health care and education.
    Whatever your personal feelings on sex work, it’s a simple fact that sex workers who are not trying to leave the industry are more likely to seek support from organisations that are not explicitly anti-sex-worker. In areas experiencing an AIDS crisis, this policy is killing people.
    hexy’s last blog post..Lex Wotten sentenced

  26. Thanks, hexy. I appreciate you explaining it.
    I’m rather surprised I’d never heard of it, but not surprised it took place. I do hope President-Elect Obama repeals that as well – as you say, it’s killing people.

  27. It was implemented during the Bush years, so considering the tone of his election I imagine the door is open for him to do so.
    hexy’s last blog post..Lex Wotten sentenced

  28. Annnd… look!
    The Australian (via the Times Online): “Obama to shut down Guantanamo Bay

    Barack Obama will move swiftly to close Guantanamo Bay as soon as he takes office, his aides have revealed, a clear and early sign of how aggressively he wants to break with President Bush the moment he is sworn in.
    Mr Obama is planning to ship dozens of terror suspects from the prison to face criminal trial in the US as part of a plan to shut the jail down. It is a controversial move but one that demonstrates how abruptly he plans to change Washington in terms of policy, personnel and tone the moment he enters the Oval Office.

    [“Mr” Obama? If they’re not going to use “President-Elect”, you’d think they’d at least plump for “Senator”?]

  29. In followup, the Obama/Biden transition team’s site, change.gov, has had its Civil Rights policy page updated to include info on LGBT rights including this:

    Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions.

    Not certain when this was revised, but it was within the last week. Wonder how long it’ll take the media to catch wind.

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