Women remember what happened in 2013!

It is hard to comprehend how much damage NC’s Conservative lawmakers did during the 2013 legislative session. The war on women may not have been what the NC General Assembly (NCGA) intended, but a war on women has been waged! The NCGA has dismantled much of women’s rights progress of the last 50 years! Women are especially hurt by 1) new laws 2) tax changes 3) new budget. We talked about the budget, which turns out to be MUCH WORSE than even the NCGA expected, with a $445 million shortfall by June 30, 2014. Read more in “Show Me The Money,” last post.

**Huge economic losses**

The worst economic decisions (before the budget) were made early (Feb/Mar 2013). Federal programs were cut without regard to NC citizens. By March, the two most economically devastating bills were signed into law.

  1. refusal to expand Medicaid
  2. refusing federal emergency unemployment benefit and slashing benefits for the newly unemployed.
These are both particularly hard on women.
* Refusing to expand Medicaid hurts women on all fronts. Many of the 500,000 NC residents that won’t be covered are women earning low income. Many of the 18,000-25,000 jobs that Medicaid expansion would have brought would go to women in the health care field. The money from having health care coverage, and more jobs would have bolstered economies across NC. Instead, the working poor can’t afford health care, NC lost out $2 BILLION in 2013 alone (Washington Post), and NC lost out on tens of thousands of new jobs. In addition, rural clinics and hospitals are under extreme financial strain and may close.
* Unemployment Insurance – $700 million in federal money was rejected. Plus, they slashed unemployment benefits by fully one-third. But there was a further zinger for women – they eliminated a family hardship provision that directly affects caregivers – most are women.

* Expect more domestic violence in very stressed areas, like the 4 struggling counties most affected by the House Of Raeford turkey plant closings in 2013. They got the full effects of slashed benefits – less money, much shorter coverage periods, and emergency federal unemployment insurance blocked by the new law.

** Monster Voter Suppression Law**
Everyone knows the monster voter suppression law hurts minors, seniors and the elderly. But a 2013 study revealed surprising statistics on who the voter id portion would hurt the most– women! The study was based on comparing voter registration with DMV/ID data in the system in 2013. The study shows that women make up 64% of active registered voters without an acceptable NC Photo id under the new definition. By comparison-22% of active registered voters are African Americans but they are 31% of the active registered voters who do not have a NC photo ID. Report at www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/EarlyVoteSDRID.pdf

Women from students to the elderly will be prevented from voting. Women can’t vote bad lawmakers out and get good ones in if we won’t have the exclusive ID they require for us to do so. And besides voter id changes, many local boards, now run by ‘conservatives’, moved polling sites far away from students. This fight on moving polling sites away from universities was best demonstrated in Watauga County/Boone—blog.wataugawatch.net/2014/03/nc-state-board-of-elections-fine-by-us.html

Minorities can sue – thank goodness. Yet women have no standing, no guaranteed rights in the constitution. The need for an Equal Rights Amendment for women is very clear.

Women are pushing back. Four joint resolutions bills were introduced into the US Senate and House supporting the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee women are written into the constitution so that no state administration can get away with making laws that discriminate against women or take away our rights.

**Undermining Women’s Ability to Survive, Much Less Prosper **
NC’s new tax plan causes a deep loss of revenue ($445 million by June 30, 2014 per our article on page 1 and many Budget and Tax Center and NC Policy Watch articles). The tax plan further shifts the burden to middle and low income earners– the wealthy and corporations get huge tax cuts. NC can’t keep up with the needs of women, their children or their communities with less and less money.

The budget slashed programs aimed at helping women. For example, the budget eliminated the Displaced Homemaker Program which helped mostly women get into the workforce. The NC Council for Women had administered 35 programs across NC – all gone. It also cut off state support for the Women’s Business Center, which helps women entrepreneurs.

** Public Education Cuts Hurt Women Disproportionally**
Lopsided tax cuts remove $683,000,000 from the budget over 2 years at the expense of public education. The NCGA did this knowing almost 10,000 teacher and teacher assistants would lose their jobs. They also made teaching worse in other ways—no raises AGAIN, and the recent removal of both career status and higher pay for teachers with graduate degrees. About 80% of teachers and staff are women. Remaining staff AND STUDENTS are hurt by overload and lack of resources, and by teachers leaving in droves! During the 2013-2014 school year, over 600 teachers have left Wake County alone!! Teachers are also leaving universities. Our teachers can get huge pay raises in every neighboring state.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) seems to be doing all it can to hurt the very people it exists to help. DHHS went ahead with a new system to manage Food Stamps – called NC FAST. NC Fast has been more than slow, preventing people from getting food stamps FOR MONTHS in many counties. Last fall, DHHS was caught biasing an official report to make NC’s Medicaid program sound bad (goal to privatize it). DHHS deployed another new system (NC Tracks) which has prevented doctors and hospitals from being paid – causing some businesses to close, but further limiting access to health care. Also caused lawsuits.

** Motorcycle Abortion Law (House Bill 353) and New Regulations that WILL Close Clinics**
The legislative history of House Bill 353 and its content is disgraceful. It is a pastiche of several bills tacked onto two totally unrelated bills as amendments. The fig-leaf public hearing on the bill focused mainly on the proposal to require clinics that provide abortion services to be licensed as surgi-centers—a standard that could result in shutting down all but one clinic in the state, and which is totally unnecessary from a health or safety standpoint. The Governor, who made a campaign pledge not to support any new restrictions on abortion, signed the bill in July 2013, and caused an unforgettable, unforgivable insult to protesters involving cookies.

With clinic closings, we can expect illegal abortions to be the only viable option for many, resulting in possible infection, permanent infertility or death.

Overall this session is the worst in living memory for women and children. NC’s new economic policies hit the poor the hardest, while the middle class also suffers. Meanwhile, the rich and corporations are making out like bandits.

Women need an Equal Rights Amendment to get any standing for legal grounds to fight this war on women in court. All of us must hold lawmakers and our governor accountable.

By Gailya Paliga, President of NC National Organization for Women

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