Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bruce Lunsford Unveils His "Women's Bill of Rights"

Bruce Lunsford, after much fanfare, unveiled his "Women's Bill of Rights." Much of it sounds fine, except that Lunsford says that these platitudes are "rights" that the government must provide to "women." That implies that we can sue the government every time we are denied one of these "rights."

The whole concept of a metaphorical bill of rights just for women is troubling. Conferring rights on one part of the population based on gender -- that sounds like sex discrimination, exactly what the equal protection clause prohibits. This is no doubt lost on Lunsford, who is running for U.S. Senate but proposing state "rights" for Kentucky women.

Note the mushy, subjective language of what every Kentucky woman has a "right" to:
  • Feel safe in her own home
  • Earn equal pay for equal work
  • Pursue educational and economic opportunities
  • Expect quality childcare for her children
  • Receive fair treatment from government agencies and programs
  • Access quality health care for herself and her family
  • Know the resources available to her to help improve the lives of her and her family
  • Receive life-saving preventative care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings
  • Enjoy a safe and secure retirement
  • Keep her children safe from online predators

If a woman is safe in her home but doesn't "feel safe," has her right been violated? If her retirement is secure but she is does not "enjoy" retirement, has that right been violated? Like Lunsford himself, his "bill of rights" is just bizarre. For instance, he says women have a right to breast and cervical cancer screenings, but apparently men have no right to prostate screenings. (Or maybe Lunsford hasn't finished drafting the "bill of rights for men.")

Granted, breast and cervical cancer screenings are very important -- which is why Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell used his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to support the National Breast and Cervical Treatment Program in the early 1990's, and its expansion to cover treatment in recent years.

Cervical cancer may be a woman's disease, but it is not a woman's issue. It is an issue that affects everyone who has or ever had a mother, wife, sister or daughter. The same is true for all of these "rights."

Lunsford says a woman has a right to "quality health care for her children" but he is on record as opposing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (which created the State Children's Health Insurance Program, S-CHIP, as well as annual mammograms and expanded screenings for Medicare recipients). McConnell voted for this bill.

The supposed "right to quality childcare" is Lunsford's ultimate manifestation of the Nanny State. I'm not sure that the federal government should be in the health care business, but those who disagree will no doubt applaud McConnell for voting this year to double federal childcare funding to $5 billion.

On education, McConnell has worked with Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller to pass the SAVE Act, which gives families a way to save for their children's college education. McConnell likewise opposed the administration and voted against cuts to Kentucky's student loan program.

The reference to "equal pay for equal work" appears to be an allusion to legislation (opposed by McConnell) that would allow a woman to sue for "fair pay" up to 30 years after her alleged discrimination.

It is illegal under federal and state law to discriminate against women -- or men --on the basis of gender. That includes discrimination in the amount of pay. Those laws should be enforced, no question. McConnell agrees that they should be enforced. But again, Lunsford attempts to pander to women (and the trial lawyers) by making it easier to sue, and to sue decades after the fact. That's simply not fair to employers and business owners -- some of whom are women.

At least one woman who attended Lunsford's "bill of rights" reception has publicly recognized that McConnell has supported legislation that makes families safe in their homes. Lexington's Mayor Theresa Isaac, who attended the event, sent a thank you note to McConnell for his help in securing $20 million for the New Hope VI housing complex. Isaac's press release release noted that the project provides "modern, affordable, and attractive housing options for our citizens.” (Emphasis added.)

Women benefit from the New Hope VI project not because they are women, but because they are citizens -- in a state whose senior senator is one of the most powerful in the U.S. Senate.

As a citizen (and woman), I place more trust in the candidate who stands up for everyone's legitimate rights and doesn't pander to one gender with hollow promises to protect made-up "rights".

No comments: