March 10, 2009

American Women and the Great Recession Series, Part 4 of 4

Today’s post marks the last in the series on women and the economy, and while we are now several weeks out in the post- Economic Stimulus Package world of 2009, there has been no decline in the amount of scrutiny on the Package and its implications for women.

Reproductive health experts for example, were disheartened that the Package, now known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), succumbed to pressures in Congress and failed to expand national family planning program-funding, which would have served as a major cost-savings measure in the short and long-term. In addition, despite countless studies that have questioned the efficacy of abstinence-only education programs and exposed their inaccuracies and harmful messages on gender and sexuality to young people, Congress still increased abstinence-only education funding in the ARRA.

Nevertheless, the public and non-profit sector agencies that serve women and girls in communities across the US are assessing the situation and hitting the ground running to create meaningful change and improvements in the quality of life for women and families going forward. Given the opportunity to affect change within the existing funding under the ARRA and the health and education spending provisions in President Obama’s proposed budget, women’s advocacy organizations, especially those that work to empower women and families with lower incomes and reduce poverty, are generating new policy analyses and proposing their own methods of accessing funds for much-needed programs.

This forward thinking on post-stimulus issues and programs include a wide range of women’s policy priorities, including expanding quality childcare in states, increasing funding for family planning, eliminating abstinence-only education funding while funding programs that teach both abstinence and contraceptive methods for youth in schools, and many more:

“Making Use of Economic Recovery Funds: Child Care Policy Options for States,” Center for Law and Social Policy, National Women’s Law Center: http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/ccdbg_arra_policies.pdf

Policy Analysis and Action around Expanding Federal Family Planning Program in the Federal Budget, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association: http://www.nfprha.org/main/index.cfm?Category=Main&Section=Main

Recommendations for Expanding Services Under Medicaid and Bolstering Title X, The Guttmacher Institute, http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2009/02/23/index.html

No More Money Campaign, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US, http://www.nomoremoney.org/index.cfm?pageid=956

A New Day: The Obama Administration and US Health and Reproductive Policy, The Guttmacher Institute, http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2009/03/04/index.html

Although many individuals and families are suffering in the midst of this deep recession, which may worsen before it improves, we can only hope that when the economic downturn lifts, our society will emerge stronger and our shared interests and greater good will be better served by a significantly raised collective consciousness. As we move into a new era, hopefully one of recovery which will lead to greater transparency, accountability, and security, we are told by economists that our way of creating livelihood will have to evolve, and innovations in all industries and sectors will need to be made in order to navigate the changing world’s economy.

In the same vein, public and non-profit agencies that serve and advocate on behalf of women and girls will also need to become responsive in new ways to shifting economic circumstances and join this evolution. Call me optimistic, but it looks like they already have begun.
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Written by Emily J. Kronenberger, Policy Analyst at the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities and founder of New Wave Grrrl, a health information and resource sharing blog for women. Emily is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, serves on the Board of Trustees at the Alice Paul Institute and volunteers as the Director of Policy Initiatives at the Younger Women’s Task Force of New Jersey.

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