Tuesday, October 30, 2012

National Organization for Women's Terry O'Neill vows "no surrender" to attacks on women's reproductive rights

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Terry ONeill has headed NOW since 2009
  • Terry O'Neill has headed the National Organization for Women since 2009
Ever since the country heard of Sandra Fluke, members of the Democratic Party have claimed that the Republican Party is waging a "War on Women," while GOP women have furiously called such claims bunk.

But according to the National Organization for Women's (NOW) Terry O'Neill, the Democrats took that line from her organization.

"We have been sounding the alarm about a War on Women even before the 2010 elections," O'Neill told CL on Tuesday. "But when the 2010 elections came around, the first since the Citizens United case, you had corporate and billionaire money flooding into the elections, and Tea Party extremists gaining power in this country, and they have accelerated the War on Women to warp speed."

O'Neill was specifically referring to what she said was more than 90 anti-reproductive rights laws passed in state legislatures in 2011 (the Guttmacher Institute reported that 80 such bills passed as of mid-2011).

"My organization is non-partisan," she said of the 'war on woman' tagline."Okay, they want to earn political points from that. We have issues," she said of the state-by-state laws regulating abortion rights that have prospered throughout the country in the past two years.

In Florida, there were no less than 18 proposed bills regarding abortion in 2011. Let's not forget about Amendment 6 on next week's ballot that would prohibit funding most abortions with tax dollars (critics say that's already the law), and allow a future Florida Legislature to pass legislation restoring parental rights.

O'Neill talked with CL in the parking lot of the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library in South Tampa, a half-hour after she joined a number of locally elected Democrats like Kathy Castor and City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione to promote early voting. Shortly after that, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi led a group of GOP women to early voting.

Although there's been a lot of discussion about Medicare in this election, O'Neill said she has worries about what the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan budget would do to Medicaid.

Romney wants to "block grant" Medicaid, which would turn the program over to the states. O'Neill said that would "devastate" the program, specifically funds that currently go to nursing homes.

"My mom was in a nursing home for six years. I can tell you, well over 70 percent of residents in nursing homes are women. And well over 70 percent of the workers in nursing homes are women. So when the thousands of nursing homes get shut down under the Romney-Ryan plan, where are those women going to go?" O'Neill asked.

Former President Clinton expressed similar concerns about what the Romney-Ryan budget would do to Medicaid during his celebrated speech at last month's Democratic convention in Charlotte.

O'Neill is also concerned with the fact that President Obama's health care reform law will go away if he's not re-elected, saying it would put 10 million women out of receiving prenatal care.

"Mitt Romney wants to take that away," she said, mentioning the country's high infant mortality rates, which she added is directly attributable to the fact that women don't have access to prenatal care.

O'Neill expressed little love for Ryan's voting record, referencing his support to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that did not offer extended protections for American Indians or illegal immigrants.

The NOW president said she expects to continue fighting against the War on Women, regardless of how next week's general election shakes out.

"My organization is going to continue to say, no surrender. And we will stop that war," she said.

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