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From Fight to Fix on Obamacare

I just got a letter in my inbox the other day from someone calling on Missouri Republicans to dig in on Obamacare. But across the country, the dial is moving away from a fight to a fix. Some moderate Republicans who were against the concept of government run healthcare (and still are) are trying to tweak the law. The good news is there are lots of good ideas being floated by Republicans.  Unfortunately, we are not hearing enough about them. Instead of criticizing these pragmatic Republicans for being flip floppers, we should maybe take a look at the programs they’re proposing. I have Obamacare and I am not happy with it. I wanted patient centered catastrophic coverage connected to a health savings plan and to be able to choose my own doctors. I can’t even connect with the salesperson at my provider to try to switch.

It is interesting to me that the solution will lie somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, we have Presidential candidate Gov. Bobby Jindahl proposing a plan to cover 10 million of the 40 million Americans without insurance. On the other hand, only 8 million people have signed up. Maybe that is close to the number of people who wanted it and needed this safety net to help them get it. And maybe, if we can dial down the pre-primary partisanship, we will see there are moderate solutions in front of us. 

  • Monica Wehby, Oregon GOP Senate Candidate, Shifts Message On Obamacare Repeal
Posted: Updated: 

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WASHINGTON — Monica Wehby, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Oregon, has spent months positioning herself as the moderate, establishment candidate in the crowded GOP primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.

She’s struck a milder tone on issues such as abortion, immigration, and gay marriage, mindful of voters who have not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2002. But as the GOP moves to frame this year’s midterm elections around Obamacare, it’s not entirely clear where Wehby stands on the health care law.

In her first television ad, titled “It’s Not Brain Surgery,” Wehby draws upon her experience as a pediatric neurosurgeon to discuss “how devastating Obamacare is for Oregon families and patients.”

She also notes her call for a federal investigation into Cover Oregon, the state’s health care exchange. And in her approval of the message, Wehby states, “As your senator I will fight to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Watch the ad above.

Wehby released a radio ad Thursday stating she’s “the only candidate for Senate who has fought to stop” Obamacare.

Her views on Obamacare appear to have changed from a couple of months ago. During an interview with the Portland Business Journal in November, Wehby was specifically asked if she would repeal Obamacare if elected.

“That’s not politically viable at this point,” Wehby answered. “We can’t get it repealed with Obama in office. We have to focus on coming together with solutions.”

Wehby suggested creating a health care system where individuals could purchase insurance plans with pretax dollars across state lines. “Expand health savings accounts … Allow people who want it to have catastrophic policies,” she said of her proposals.

Wehby has also expressed support in the past for the Healthy Americans Act, legislation introduced years ago by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Wehby told The Oregonian in February that the bill, often referred to as “Wydencare,” was “a good plan.”

“It was a market-based approach,” Wehby said, adding that while she didn’t support every aspect of the plan, she and Wyden “think a lot alike in regards to health care.”

State Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend), Wehby’s main opponent in the GOP primary, has used such statements to attack her. “In principle, it’s 90 percent there with Obamacare,” he said of Wyden’s proposal.

Conger put out a radio ad last month tying Wehby to both the Wyden and Obama health care plans. “If it sounds like Obamacare, regulates like Obamacare, and costs like Obamacare, it is Monica Wehby’s Obamacare,” he said.

Wehby has pointed to some parts of Obamacare that she would like to keep, such as coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions and allowing parents to keep their children on their health plans until age 26.

Charlie Pearce, a spokesman for Wehby’s campaign, denied that Wehby was not in favor of repealing the health care law.

“Dr. Wehby has stated on many occasion that ideally she would vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with a patient centered, market based approach, similar to the replacement plan she outlined last November,” Pearce told The Huffington Post in an email. “Dr. Wehby has never stated she would not vote for repeal, only that it is not politically viable at this point, which is a statement of fact,” he added. “However, with a strong likelihood that Republicans take back the Senate this fall, there is a good chance that a replacement plan similar to Dr. Wehby’s will be enacted by Congress next year.”

Wehby isn’t the only Republican Senate candidate to send mixed messages on Obamacare repeal. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has focused on fixing the law rather than repealing it, but now touts his commitment to fighting Obamacare in an ad.

Given the number of GOP primaries pitting tea party candidates against establishment contenders, moderate Republicans face a complicated task. On one hand, they have to convince conservatives they staunchly oppose Obamacare. On the other, they must grapple with surging enrollment in the health care exchanges, which the president announced Thursday has surpassed 8 million.

 

Old Habits Die Hard

 

Missouri Republicans have a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of women by redirecting the kinds of election year politics around social issues. But old habits do die hard.  It is going to take strong women who respect the rights of the individual to parse through the election year politicking behind some of the new laws being debated in Jefferson City this week. First, lawmakers have put Missouri in the top 3 states trying to craft legislation to dial back abortion rights. Second, our state Senate is considering a conscience bill that would allow employees to opt of treatments that violate their religious beliefs about abortion, stem cell research and contraception. I don’t think anyone should ever have to provide a pill or healthcare service to someone that violates their religious beliefs. Neither a company nor an individual employee. Providing contraception as part of a health insurance package is very different than providing an abortion inducing pill. But why would someone choose to work in a healthcare setting whose procedures violate their faith? This conversation is all about choice. 

How will Republicans get their right on messaging around job creation and tax reform across when they continue to ignore the fact that a growing segment of voters would prefer to agree to disagree on abortion. The truth is the average woman in this country (and I would argue in this state) isn’t focussed on abortion rights in her day in and day out life because she reasonably believes no politician in their right mind is going to try to overturn Roe v. Wade. The people focussing on abortion are male pols who are playing politics with our bodies. As a Democratic lawmaker from St. Louis said in this Post-Dispatch article today, “You should not be in the womb of a woman.” If you are against government regulation, in favor of the rights of the individual and want to focus on jobs, stop trying to slide pesky legislation past us. We need to elect more women to public office. And we need those women to be capable of parsing thru the issues. Parental notification is one thing; requiring women to watch a video or strengthening ultrasound requirements is harassment. 

There is only one provider of abortions in the state of Missouri. Yet, there is a disproportionate amount of time, energy and money being given by our State Legislature to a new set of laws that would multiply the number of inspections, toughen the laws around financial disclosure and require advanced ultrasounds. We women need to stand up and say, “Stop.” 

 

Missouri lawmakers considering more restrictions on abortion

The majority contain new restrictions and requirements focusing on the process a woman goes through to obtain an abortion and on the St. Louis-based clinic that is the last abortion provider in the state.

The Missouri House gave first-round approval Wednesday to the tripling of the 24-hour waiting period, and the Senate spent four hours debating it. Senate floor leader Ron Richard told reporters afterward that he’d like to use a procedural vote to force the issue.

“I’m for life, not death,” Richard said, adding that he had not discussed the issue with other Senate Republicans.

The Senate has typically been the sticking point for abortion restrictions, with Democrats stalling the bills or seeking compromises. Last year, only a single abortion-related bill passed.

“You’re acting like women are stupid, like women are idiots,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, during debate on the waiting period. “Hopefully this bill goes down in flames. You should not be in the womb of a woman.”

Elizabeth Nash, the state policy director for the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights and research group, said Missouri was among the top three states with the most abortion restriction introduced this year. The 72-hour waiting period has not been proposed in any other state this year, Nash said.

While 26 states have a waiting period before an abortion, only Utah and South Dakota require a woman to wait 72 hours. The Alabama House approved a 48-hour waiting period last week.

Another bill the Missouri House has debated would require notifying both custodial parents before a minor has an abortion. Only one parent would have to consent, as under current law. Notification in writing of the other parent five days before the procedure would amount to a five-day waiting period for minors, according to opponents.

 

Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia, introduced the bill because of his experience with his daughter. He said he was lucky because his ex-wife wanted him to be involved but he was shocked that both parents do not have to be notified.

“Our daughter made the very courageous decision and decided not to have an abortion,” Miller said. “I realize my family is blessed, I know others are not. However I feel it’s only common sense to notify these custodial parents.”

Opponents of the measure argue that not every child feels comfortable with both parents. The House spent a short time debating the bill on Wednesday before a Democratic lawmaker who opposes abortion introduced an amendment to exempt victims of rape or incest.

About 15 of the bills introduced relate to abortion providers or requirements before the abortion. Increased inspections, greater financial documentation and strengthened ultrasound requirements have been introduced. Measures to increase criminal penalties and requirement for greater medical malpractice coverage have been introduced.

The House version of the 72-hour waiting period mandates that the state’s health department create a video with the same information contained in the 26-page booklet of information provided verbally and in writing. Women would be required to watch the video. Supporters of the measure, which has also been introduced as a separate bill, said it was simply another tool.

Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Florissant, asked if women would be arrested if they closed their eyes during the video. “It’s insulting,” she said.

Another proposal that’s had a hearing in the House and is scheduled for a hearing today in the Senate would quadruple the number of inspections required for abortion providers — from once each year to four times. Bill sponsor Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, said he wanted to make sure the clinics were safe and sanitary.

“We want to make sure that the women’s health is not in danger,” Wallingford said. “I don’t believe my bills restrict (abortion).”

Nash said she was not aware of any other state requiring four yearly inspections of any clinic or ambulatory surgery center, as most are licensed and inspected each year.

There is only one abortion provider in Missouri, a clinic in St. Louis operated by Planned Parenthood.

Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, introduced the same proposal in the House. She said “continued medical emergencies” at the clinic justify more inspections.

Abortion opponents say that based on ambulance visits, there have been more than 25 medical emergencies there since 2009.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an abortion provider at the St. Louis clinic and an instructor at Washington University, said about 6,000 procedures occur each year, and that 25 emergencies over a four- or five-year period is a low number. She said the emergencies don’t always involve an abortion patient.

“The physician is going to err on the side of caution,” McNicholas said. “If there’s any chance a woman is going to need an increased level of care, we’re going to transfer the patient, regardless of if there are protesters standing outside or not.”

The same bill also changes a key definition, removing “psychological or emotional” risks to a woman’s life or health from a medical emergency exemption from the waiting period. Supporters said the change provides help for women who are suicidal before granting them abortions.

“It’s important that the underlying emotion or stress doesn’t cause the decision,” Wallingford said. “Going ahead and giving her the abortion may not help her state of mind.”

Nash said this narrowing of the exception for “life and health” of a woman has been common across the nation in recent years.

McNicholas said exemptions based on the life or health of a woman were rare, but the change may affect a small number of women seeking to get their insurance to cover the procedure.

“I think we’re also going to see an increase in attempts by women to end their pregnancies in a way that’s not safe,” she said.

Other abortion-related bills include tax credits for alternative-to-abortion agencies, or crisis pregnancy centers, which are often run by religious groups and do not provide information about abortion. Measures to increase tax credits have had hearings in the House and Senate.

Proposals to prohibit any regulation on the advertising of these centers are also being considered in both chambers.

Many Democrats and abortion rights supporters have attributed the proliferation of bills this year to election-year ambitions. Abortion opponents and the legislators pushing the bills attributed it to strong “pro-life” beliefs, personal experiences and an accumulation of bills.

Pamela Sumners, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, said abortion restrictions were “red meat” for Republican voters, and Republicans wanted to use their veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

“Some states are just testing grounds for bad legislation to be replicated elsewhere,” Sumners said. “Where you have the numbers, it’s an easy strategy to implement.”

Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said the lack of recent abortion-related bills passing the Senate may have contributed to the increased number of bills this year. “I think there’s some concern that Missouri is not doing enough to protect life,” he said.

Abortion rights advocates have resigned themselves that at least one bill restricting abortion will pass this year. Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said she’s open to negotiation.

“My job is not necessarily to stop the legislation,” Justus said. “I’m always ready to sit down and negotiate an agreement that is the least harmful to women.”

Marie French is a reporter in the Jefferson City bureau. You can follow her on Twitter @mre545.

 

Missouri House approves ‘conscience rights’ bill for third time

 
 
February 12, 2014 2:00 pm  •  By Marie French mfrench@post-dispatch.com 573-556-6185

JEFFERSON CITY   •   Medical workers would be protected if they refused to participate in procedures such as abortions, fertility treatments or stem-cell research under a bill given initial approval by the Missouri House.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said his bill protected the “conscience rights” of workers who did not want to provide specific, limited procedures that violated their religious beliefs. He said it also protected patients from having someone distracted while treating them.

“This is good for workers in giving them more rights. This is good for patients,” Jones said. “Do you want that person taking care of you who is not 110 percent invested in what they’re doing and is sitting there wondering if they’re violating their religious beliefs?”

The bill would prohibit retaliation from employers if an employee gave “reasonable notice” that they didn’t want to participate in specific procedures. Jones said he had revised the bill from previous years to include exceptions for emergency situations.

 The procedures listed in the bill include abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, reproductive assistance, human stem-cell research, human cloning, non-medically necessary sterilization and fetal tissue research.

Besides employees, the bill also protects institutions from being required to provide any procedure that violates its “conscience,” which would be determined from its guidelines and mission statement. The definitions in the bill include protections for refusing to refer patients for the specific procedures listed.

Opponents of the bill said it would interfere with women’s access to medical services and was government intrusion into health care. Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said the bill specifically targeted procedures women have come to expect and rely on.

“This is this body trying to put themselves in our gynecology offices telling our doctors exactly what they can and can’t do,” Newman said. “This is one more vagina-specific bill in an election year.”

Jones said that the intent of the bill was solely to protect workers and their religious freedom under the First Amendment. He said Newman had brought political “vitriol” into the debate and said that if the other side really thought the government shouldn’t be involved in health care, then they should help dismantle the president’s health care law.

“This is simply codifying and giving greater freedom and more rights to institutions that do not want to provide certain services,” Jones said.

Debate on the bill was ended quickly and the measure was approved 116-38. After another vote, the bill moves to the Senate. Last year, the bill was not debated in the full Senate.

(The bill is HB 1430.)

Marie French is a reporter in the Jefferson City bureau. You can follow her on Twitter @mre545.

 

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GOP Edge in generic 2014 matchup; Americans unhappy with both parties

CBS NEWSFebruary 26, 2014, 6:30 PM

More than eight months before the November midterm elections, 42 percent of registered voters would pick a generic Republican for Congress, while 39 percent would back a generic Democrat if the midterm elections were being held today. Of course, national polls are not perfect predictors of congressional elections, since the conditions and state of the race in each individual district vary.

 

2014 House Vote

 

Among Republican voters, 86 percent say they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district. Eighty-five percent of Democrats similarly say they would support their party’s candidate. Among voters who are independents, more express a preference for the Republican candidate in their district (43 percent) over the Democrat (27 percent).

 

The poll suggests that Americans remain disenchanted with both political parties.

Perceptions of the two parties have changed little in the past year: while more view the Democratic Party than the Republican Party in a positive light, majorities have a negative opinion of both parties.

 

Views of the Parties

 

And majorities think neither party has the same priorities for the country that they have themselves.

 

 

A Look Inside the Republican Party

While 41 percent of Republicans see their party’s nominees as about right, a third thinks they are not conservative enough. Tea party Republicans, who make up 42 percent of Republicans, would pull their candidates further to the right; 50 percent say their party’s candidates are not conservative enough. By comparison, 67 percent of Democrats think their candidates are about right.

 

Republican Candidates Today Are Generally

 

The recent vote in Congress to raise the debt ceiling until next year finds disfavor among Republicans (69 percent disapprove), even more so among tea party Republicans (82 percent disapprove).

Americans disapprove of House Speaker John Boehner by a 2 to 1 margin – perhaps partly due to widespread dissatisfaction with Congress – but his own party’s rank and file also disapprove (49 percent), as do just over half of tea party backers (52 percent).

 

Approval of Speaker John Boehner

While a majority of Republicans (and most tea party Republicans) are mostly hopeful about the future of the Republican Party, about four in 10 are mostly discouraged. Democrats are more positive; just 20 percent are mostly discouraged about their party, and 77 percent are mostly hopeful.

The poll asked about a number of issues: 70 percent of Republicans would like to see the health care law repealed, and while more than half are opposed to raising the minimum wage, 42 percent favor that. A majority think illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally in some way (including 36 percent who back citizenship), but 39 percent think they should be required to leave the country. Three in four Republicans would like abortion to be further restricted or not permitted at all.

But there are specific issues on which Republicans themselves disagree. Republicans under age 45 are far more likely than their older counterparts to think same sex marriage and marijuana should be legal. Younger Republicans are less likely to think Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs to taxpayers, and fewer think the U.S. should take a lead role in solving international conflicts.

 

Views on Issues Younger Vs Older Republicans

 

 

There are also clear differences between tea party and non-tea party Republicans on some issues. Tea party Republicans are more likely to think same sex marriage should not be legal, to oppose raising the minimum wage, to want the 2010 health care law repealed, and to say deficit should be reduced with spending cuts only.

 

Views on Issues Tea Party Vs Non-Tea Party Republicans

 

When it comes to their vote, there are some issues on which Republicans could be flexible and vote for a candidate who disagrees with them, but there are other issues on which they would draw the line.

Health care reform is a deal-breaker: only 27 percent would ever consider voting for a candidate who disagrees with them on that issue — it even outranks abortion (42 percent) in that regard. Fewer than half would consider a candidate who parted with them on immigration (41 percent) or same-sex marriage (47 percent). But global warming isn’t as critical (56 percent), nor is the minimum wage (59 percent).

The poll also asked Republicans about outreach to various voter groups, including those that the party has lost in recent years. Rank-and-file Republicans overwhelmingly (67 percent) say their party should do more to address the concerns of the middle class.

About a third of Republicans would like to see the party reach out further to women and Hispanics, but most Republicans say the party is doing enough to reach out to those groups already. Republicans are more apt to say the party should do more for gun owners (43 percent). Very few (18 percent) would have it do more for big business.

The poll finds some dissatisfaction with the Republican Party among a segment of the party’s own rank and file. Although two in three have a favorable view of their party, 29 percent of Republicans hold an unfavorable view. Just 54 percent of non-tea party Republicans have a favorable opinion of their party; that percentage rises to 72 percent among tea party Republicans.

In contrast, 85 percent of Democrats feel favorably toward the Democratic Party.

Whatever their differences or dissatisfaction, Republicans’ voting behavior shows strong party allegiance (the same is true for Democrats). Eighty-six percent intend to vote for the Republican candidate in their district for the House, and only 3 percent currently plan to vote Democratic. More than half of Republicans say they would consider voting for a Democrat – though in practice, exit polls routinely show that few actually do. In contrast, just 39 percent of Democrats would consider voting for a Republican for Congress.

A Look Inside the Democratic Party

Like Americans overall, most Democrats are dissatisfied (50 percent) or angry (17 percent) with the way things are going in Washington, but they are optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats are mostly hopeful about their party’s future, while far fewer – 20 percent – are mostly discouraged. Liberal Democrats are especially hopeful.

Two in three Democrats are satisfied with where their candidates fall along the ideological spectrum. While 41 percent of Americans overall think the Democratic Party is nominating candidates that are too liberal for them, this is true of just 9 percent of Democratic partisans. Another 18 percent think they aren’t liberal enough. Sixty-five percent of liberal Democrats – who make up 42 percent of the Democratic Party – view their party’s candidates as about right.

By a wide margin, more Democrats than Republicans express satisfaction with the ideology of their candidates.

 

Your Partys Candidates Today Are Generally

Democrats also widely believe that their party shares their priorities for the country: 76 percent think so (compared to 38 percent of Americans overall). Among Democrats, majorities of key constituent groups within the party, including both men (72 percent) and women (78 percent), whites (77 percent) and blacks (72 percent), and Democrats of all age, income, and education levels think their party shares their priorities.

Still, most Democrats believe their party can do more for middle class voters: 70 percent say so. About half of Democrats think their party is doing enough for women voters and Hispanic voters – two groups thought to be crucial to securing an electoral victory in November – while fewer think their party should do more for gun owners (30 percent) or big business (20 percent).

Liberal Democrats differ from moderate and conservative Democrats on whether their party is doing enough for women and Hispanics: 56 percent of liberal Democrats think the party should do more for women voters, and 51 percent think it should do more Hispanic voters.

While many Democrats think the Affordable Care Act needs some changes to make it work better, just 16 percent think the law should be repealed. Fifty-five percent think abortion should be generally available, 70 percent think same-sex marriage should be legal, 86 percent favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and 71 percent think illegal immigrants already in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship. Sixty-six percent of Democrats think global warming is caused by human activity (compared to 46 percent of Americans overall).

Like Republicans, Democrats are split along generational lines on two prominent issues where public opinion is changing rapidly: legalizing same sex marriage and marijuana. More younger Democrats than older Democrats favor legalizing each.

There are also differences between liberal and moderate/conservative Democrats on abortion, same sex marriage, legalizing marijuana, immigration and global warming.

As for the impact of these issues on their voting behavior, Democrats are the most inflexible on the Affordable Care Act and abortion: six in 10 could not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on these issues. Democrats are a bit more flexible on immigration – 47 percent would be willing to vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on this.

Fifty-five percent of Democrats would not consider voting for a Republican for Congress, rising to 61 percent among liberal Democrats. In contrast, most Republicans (55 percent) say they would consider voting for a Democrat (although few now say they would cast their House vote for one).

________________________________________________________

This poll was conducted by telephone February 19-23, 2014 among a total of 1,644 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll included a general population sample of 1,003, along with additional interviews to yield the following sample sizes: 519 Republicans, 515 Democrats, and 610 independents. The additional interviews were obtained through callbacks to people indicating party id on a previous poll. The total sample was then weighted to party distribution targets from the general population portion of the poll.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The margin of error for Republicans, Democrats and independents is 6 points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 

 

Somebody is Listening

Somebody is Listening

There’s a shift occurring in the conversation around abortion and it might surprise you whose script is changing. It’s not just the Republican Party that is talking about how to dial into women’s thoughts in a way that doesn’t cost them elections. Or the far right which now claims to be “lonely” but mighty in holding steadfast to its religious convictions and the hold they have on politics. You wanna talk about lonely? How about the lone Republicans still hoping to see separation of church and state? At least somebody is listening to women. And right now, the “good listener” award goest to Planned Parenthood for changing its messaging to reflect the fact that we do need to “agree to disagree” on abortion. And that it doesn’t make you anti-women to be pro-life. In fact, if you look at their website, PlannedParenthood.org, you might be surprised that the out front messaging right now is about abstinence and preventing unwanted pregnancies … and the ensuing abortions unwanted pregnancies can lead to.

The current flap over the age at which teenage girls should have access to the Plan B pill is pitting Planned Parenthood against its friends, President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. That is after a New York Judge said any age limit on access to the pill is arbitrary and hurts the girls at greatest risk for becoming pregnant, those under 15. And it is creating a classic “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” scenario as religious conservatives and Planned Parenthood wind up on the same side, both criticizing the decision to eliminate any age limits on access.  

Unlike some of the other restrictive measures that have made headlines around abortion recently, this latest battle has more politicians running for cover than heading to the microphone. And curiously, it’s a conversation that hasn’t necessarily ignited among Moms.

A New York judge has ruled that the age limit for access to the Plan B pill, which the FDA set at 15, is arbitrary and doesn’t reflect the reality that kids younger than that are sexually active.  15 is probably two years younger than the age that any Mom wants to acknowledge that her kids could be sexually active. But, that is exactly when you are supposed to start talking about sensitive topics. The question is what about situations that are beyond someone’s control or what about the kids, and we know this is happening, who may be active and at risk for pregnancy at 12 or even 11.? The fact is it may not be happening in your house or even at your school or in your community but it is happening. 

Jezebel.com is celebrating the unapologetic activism of this judge. According to the site, Judge Edward Korman said, “And the bottom line is is that it’s not possible to provide the data on 11 year olds and 12 year olds. That’s the bottom line. And that’s what the FDA found and if that’s going to be the decision of the Secretary – and by the way, if it were possible to somehow separate it out, it wouldn’t make a difference to me. The issue is you’re using these 11 and 12 year olds to place undue burdens on the ability of older women to get this emergency contraceptive.”

So, where are the Republicans who are willing to stand up and talk about Plan B? Banning the morning after pill was part of the GOP’s platform at its convention last August. But many in the Party are now recognizing that that emphasis on social issues may have cost them a lot of women voters. This is a conversation that Moms will want to dial into where they definitely have a voice. At the very least, it is in an important issue that bears discussion. 

Below are links to two articles that might be worth reading. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/health/judge-refuses-to-drop-order-on-contraceptive-pill-without-regard-to-age.html?_r=0

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/obama-new-morning-after-pill-limit-article-1.1334023

 

It's Muddy in the Middle! / Christine Doyle

It’s Muddy in the Middle! / Christine Doyle

Moderate Moms’ business cards are purple which is the color of compromise. Neither all Blue nor all Red, the message is we are defining ourselves as true Moderates. Yes, each of us may tend to vote mostly Republican or mostly Democrat but even that is up for grabs. Over the last year, here in Missouri, moderate Republicans, like myself, often felt like we embraced our party but our party didn’t acknowledge us. I was repeatedly told I was either a “self-hating Democrat” or an “Independent.” During a phone survey, I was asked if I identify as a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent. I said, “Republican” but I realized after I hung up, I should have said, “Independent Republican.”

If you are someone who cares about the bottom line and is concerned about how we are going to pay for government services going forward, we like you. Because all of the compassion in the world doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out how to pay for it. If you are someone who is tired of the fight around social issues and would like to “agree to disagree” on abortion, we like you. Personally, I agree with Massachusetts Republican Senatorial Candidate Scott Brown who said, “abortion should be safe and rare.”  But, I would never presume to tell someone else what would be right for them on as delicate an issue as abortion.

We applaud that Congressional Republicans are coming around or shall we say, “coming out,” on gay rights. Because, just like abortion, no one is telling you you have to be gay or have an abortion just because you can tolerate someone else’s right to do so.

I read recently that it is impossible to hold to two opposing thoughts. Says who? Why can’t it be okay to have federal standards but local control of our schools, to be pro-choice but respectful of people’s individual religious beliefs, to agree states have the right to opt out of medicaid expansion if the money isn’t there and to provide business with the incentives to fill in the gap by creating bigger pools with greater purchasing power.  While at the same time saying we cannot be a country that turns its back on its sickest citizens by denying them access because of pre-existing conditions. Why can’t you agree Planned Parenthood plays an important role in educating inner-city teens about safe sex without worrying you will be labeled pro-abortion. You can’t because you’ve been told you can’t by Congress and the media. But if ModerateMoms plays one important role, it is to say, you can. We can give the politicians political cover until it is safe for them to say what they really think.

We are also debunking the myth of what Republicans and Democrats can and cannot talk about. Moderate Republicans can talk about guns. But, in a way that leaves both pro-gun and anti-gun reform groups feeling safe. It sounds really touchy-feely but the truth with guns is that it isn’t the gun itself but the feeling attached to it that can be so dangerous. A socially marginalized troubled youth feels powerful when he opens fire in a movie theatre. A law abiding citizen feels safe when he keeps a gun in his house to protect his family. A gang member feels he has to shoot or be shot. A recreational hunter feels relaxed when he spends a day shooting duck. School shootings, rapid fire magazines and assault weapons make many Moms feel very unsafe. But so does the idea of a one Connecticut paper wanting to publish the addresses of the homeowners who own guns after Sandy Hook. What?

I really believe the only path to progress for our country is going to be to let people decide what works for them, whether that is a town, a county or a state. And for us to acknowledge that the recovery is going to come by rebuilding our local economies. It’s important, too, that we start to be able to work with the other side. A Democrat asked me the other day who a moderate Republican’s opposition is and my initial response was, “The Tea Party.” But the truth is the Tea Party deserves a lot of credit for bringing the current embrace of fiscal reform to light. Democrats are rightly suspicious of the far Right and view the Republicans’ attempt to be more inclusive of minorities with great suspicion. But that isn’t really fair either. While moderate Republicans like me really like how inclusive of gays and minorities the Democrats are, I don’t like the suspicion with which all Republicans are viewed.

What women voters want / Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post

 

How many years of the woman have we had? Let me count.

To the extent that women’s votes count more than men’s, it’s been the year of the woman since at least 1964 — when women began outvoting men.

 In 2008, 10 million more women than men voted, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The operative assumption, obviously, is that women pick winners and losers as a voting bloc. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that more women are trending toward Barack Obama than Mitt Romney. But this owes only partly to the usual “women’s issues.” And it is, potentially, temporary.

Thanks to certain outspoken members/supporters of the GOP, the Democratic Party has been able to capitalize on a fiction created by the Obama campaign — the alleged “war on women.” It is not helpful when people such as Rush Limbaugh call Sandra Fluke a “slut” for her position that insurance should cover contraception. Then there was Todd Akin’s strange intelligence that victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant, a flourish of rare ignorance. Check the birthrates in countries where rape is employed as a weapon. Finally, some Republican-led states have waved one too many ultrasound wands at women.

While these incidents and anecdotes provide handy faces for dart practice, they constitute a war on women only if all women find these positions reprehensible. And only if all women care more about contraception and reproductive rights above all other issues, which is not the case.

This also happens to be the year of the fiscal cliff, when automatic spending cuts take effect at the same time Bush-era tax breaks expire. It’s the fourth year of a $1 trillion budget deficit. It is a year that the number of unemployed Americans is still too high and economic recovery too slow.

It is also the year that al-Qaeda caught its breath and began gaining traction again, and when terrorists murdered one of our ambassadors. It is another year when America’s standing as the world’s brightest light continues to dim, and that the Arab Spring descended into an extremist winter.

These are things that women care about, too.

Women, in other words, recognize the gravity of the problems this nation faces and are likely to pick a candidate based on these issues rather than on a party’s platform on abortion and contraception.

In fact, women, who are not a monolithic group any more than men are, don’t really rank reproductive issues at the top of their concerns. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that fewer than 1 percent of respondents mentioned women’s health or birth control as top election-year issues. On access to birth control and abortion, attitudes tend to reflect party affiliation rather than gender. A USA Today-Gallup poll this year found that women split on abortion in numbers comparable to the country as a whole, which is 49 percent to 45 percent favoring abortion rights.

Topping women’s concerns are the same things that are men’s highest concerns: the economy and jobs. The smartest candidate will recognize this sooner rather than later.

In Virginia’s Senate race between former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen, Kaine, the Democrat, has tried to merge the issues. Abortion and birth control are fundamentally economic issues, he says. Few seem to recall that, in one of the early Republican primary debates, Romney responded to a question about contraception as follows: “It’s working just fine. Just leave it alone.”

This doesn’t sound like a call to arms against women.

When subsequently asked what he thought about the gender gap, Romney said he wished that his wife, Ann, were there to answer the question. Romney benefits greatly from his better half, as he would put it, but he errs in thinking a woman would do a better job answering the question than would a man.

Women do not require special handling because, for the most part, they do not think of themselves first or primarily as women. (This is big news for those men who failed to take note.)

Women think of themselves as breadwinners and job-seekers. They think of themselves as parents who want good schools and enough money to send their kids to college. They think of themselves as Americans who worry about national security and the nation’s image abroad.

These are the issues that matter to women, the vast majority of whom will cast their votes accordingly. How about we ditch the gender nonsense and declare this the year of the American?

kathleenparker@washpost.com

By , Published: October 9

How many years of the woman have we had? Let me count.

To the extent that women’s votes count more than men’s, it’s been the year of the woman since at least 1964 — when women began outvoting men.

In 2008, 10 million more women than men voted, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The operative assumption, obviously, is that women pick winners and losers as a voting bloc. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that more women are trending toward Barack Obama than Mitt Romney. But this owes only partly to the usual “women’s issues.” And it is, potentially, temporary.

Thanks to certain outspoken members/supporters of the GOP, the Democratic Party has been able to capitalize on a fiction created by the Obama campaign — the alleged “war on women.” It is not helpful when people such as Rush Limbaugh call Sandra Fluke a “slut” for her position that insurance should cover contraception. Then there was Todd Akin’s strange intelligence that victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant, a flourish of rare ignorance. Check the birthrates in countries where rape is employed as a weapon. Finally, some Republican-led states have waved one too many ultrasound wands at women.

While these incidents and anecdotes provide handy faces for dart practice, they constitute a war on women only if all women find these positions reprehensible. And only if all women care more about contraception and reproductive rights above all other issues, which is not the case.

This also happens to be the year of the fiscal cliff, when automatic spending cuts take effect at the same time Bush-era tax breaks expire. It’s the fourth year of a $1 trillion budget deficit. It is a year that the number of unemployed Americans is still too high and economic recovery too slow.

It is also the year that al-Qaeda caught its breath and began gaining traction again, and when terrorists murdered one of our ambassadors. It is another year when America’s standing as the world’s brightest light continues to dim, and that the Arab Spring descended into an extremist winter.

These are things that women care about, too.

Women, in other words, recognize the gravity of the problems this nation faces and are likely to pick a candidate based on these issues rather than on a party’s platform on abortion and contraception.

In fact, women, who are not a monolithic group any more than men are, don’t really rank reproductive issues at the top of their concerns. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that fewer than 1 percent of respondents mentioned women’s health or birth control as top election-year issues. On access to birth control and abortion, attitudes tend to reflect party affiliation rather than gender. A USA Today-Gallup poll this year found that women split on abortion in numbers comparable to the country as a whole, which is 49 percent to 45 percent favoring abortion rights.

Topping women’s concerns are the same things that are men’s highest concerns: the economy and jobs. The smartest candidate will recognize this sooner rather than later.

In Virginia’s Senate race between former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen, Kaine, the Democrat, has tried to merge the issues. Abortion and birth control are fundamentally economic issues, he says. Few seem to recall that, in one of the early Republican primary debates, Romney responded to a question about contraception as follows: “It’s working just fine. Just leave it alone.”

This doesn’t sound like a call to arms against women.

When subsequently asked what he thought about the gender gap, Romney said he wished that his wife, Ann, were there to answer the question. Romney benefits greatly from his better half, as he would put it, but he errs in thinking a woman would do a better job answering the question than would a man.

Women do not require special handling because, for the most part, they do not think of themselves first or primarily as women. (This is big news for those men who failed to take note.)

Women think of themselves as breadwinners and job-seekers. They think of themselves as parents who want good schools and enough money to send their kids to college. They think of themselves as Americans who worry about national security and the nation’s image abroad.

These are the issues that matter to women, the vast majority of whom will cast their votes accordingly. How about we ditch the gender nonsense and declare this the year of the American?

 

Gloria Steinem and why she is ambivalent about Obama

Gloria Steinem and why she is ambivalent about Obama

Article by Rachel Cooke The Guardian/The Observer Photo by Mike McGregor for the Observer
Gloria Steinem has been an outspoken figure on behalf of women’s rights and the pro-choice movement for half a century. Here, she talks about her opposition to cosmetic surgery and her ambivalence about President Obama

The last person to interview Gloria Steinem for the Observer was Martin Amis, in 1984. He waited for her at the offices of Ms, the magazine that she co-founded in 1972 – “Pleasant though I found it, I was also aware of my otherness, my testosterone, among all this female calm” – and then they headed out together to Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, where Gloria was, as ever, to address a group of students. To read this piece now is excruciatingly embarrassing, especially given Amis’s more recent conversion to what he likes to call the “gynocracy”. Feminism? From the male point of view, he said back then, the reparations look to be alarmingly steep. As for Steinem herself, she is “the least frightening” kind of feminist, being possessed of – prepare to be amazed! – both a sense of humour and good looks. She was, he wrote, relief slowly blooming, “nice, and friendly, and feminine… the long hair is expertly layered, the long fingers expertly manicured. Fifty this year, Ms Steinem is unashamedly glamorous.”

A quarter of a century later, and Steinem is still glamorous: wildly so. But the point is surely that this glamour derives, just as it always did, as much from her extraordinary career – in other words, from her brain – as from her appearance (Mart unaccountably failed to spot this). At 77, she remains tiny of waist and big of hair – and, yes, the nails are as smooth and as shiny as a credit card – but what strikes you most, at least at first, is how preoccupied she seems. She is so busy. It has taken me the best part of two years to bag this slot with her, and even now I’m here, I’m uncertain how much time, in the end, she will have to spare. Does she remember who I work for? I can’t tell. I have the impression that she believes I live in New York – and sure enough, when I eventually tell her that I’ve flown in from London, she looks first amazed, and then, quickly, solicitous. (She might be distracted, but Steinem is also famously nice.)

We are in her flat on the Upper East Side, a womb-like, slightly hippyish basement stuffed with velvet cushions and piled polemics (my going away present, plucked from one of these piles, will be a slim volume by her former Ms colleague, Robin Morgan, called Fighting Words: A Toolkit for Combating the Religious Right). It’s a swanky address but, as she points out, she bought it aeons ago, when even such lowly forms of life as political activists and freelance journalists could still afford a piece of Manhattan real estate. In one corner of the sitting room is her desk, lit by a single lamp; in the other, the desk of her assistant, Amy, who also sits beneath a neat halo of light. Here, two sunbeams in the troglodytic gloom, they drink Starbucks, fire off emails, write books, and generally plan the next stage of the revolution. Visitors like me, though welcomed with pomegranate juice and, when this is discovered to have run out, coconut water, are an unwelcome distraction from the main event, which is work. “I hope to live to 100,” she says. “There is so much to do.”

Her looks, though. Let’s get them out of the way first. She smiles. Before she joined the women’s movement, she was merely “a pretty girl” (not that she necessarily thought so: her famous aviator shades were, she says now, something to hide behind, and her streaked hair a tribute to Audrey Hepburn’s turn as Holly Golightly, Truman Capote’s country bumpkin-turned-cafe society girl – a character to whom she “totally” related). Afterwards, she was “suddenly beautiful”, and though the attention this brought was occasionally useful, mostly it was just a pain in the butt: the tiresome suggestions that she had only got on thanks to her appearance; the hurtful ire of that other great feminist, Betty Friedan, whose loathing of Steinem seemed mostly to be motivated by envy. In the early days of Ms, a local pornographer stuck a huge picture of a naked woman on his building. This woman had Steinem’s face and Steinem’s hair and, from a few blocks away, looked as though she was surrounded by floating pink salamis. Up close, however, the passerby would soon realize his mistake. “Pin the cock on the feminist,” said the poster. Steinem had to look at it every morning as she arrived at work.

And now? When she looks in the mirror, what does she see? “Well, I’m shocked. Sometimes, you’re passing a store, and you see this person in the window, and you think: who is that? Oh, it’s me. But I’ve also realised that ageing is a bit like what being pregnant must be like, by which I mean that your body knows how to do something that you don’t know how to do – and it’s quite interesting. Your body loses what it needs to support someone else, and it keeps what it needs to support you. That’s very smart. Just watching the process is somehow fascinating.”

A few years ago, during a brief stint hosting the Today show on NBC, she had a little fat removed from around her eyes so, as she once put it, “I didn’t look like Mao Tse-tung and I could wear my contacts.” But she looked worse afterwards. “And what I care about is the message, and I realise that if I had plastic surgery, it would just distract people. It would be like having a bad toupee; they wouldn’t listen.” She is appalled by America’s obsession with cosmetic surgery – “I keep thinking: Georgia O’Keeffe wouldn’t have had Botox” – and would like to mount some kind of campaign against it: a warning, perhaps, of its side effects. “It is part of an obsession with youth, but it is also pushed – and this is much more reprehensible to me – by pornography, in which women are made to look like children. What has sent me over the edge is this operation in which the labia minora is tucked in. That’s what they think women should look like. It’s horrifying. It normalises abnormality.” Straight-backed in her armchair, she grimaces theatrically.

Steinem is presently hard at work on a long overdue book of inspirational essays about being on the road – rarely a week goes by without her taking a plane – but in the meantime, she has been popping up elsewhere: an HBO documentary, Gloria: In Her Own Words; a long “oral history” of Ms, in honour of its 40th birthday, in New York magazine (among other things, this piece revealed that possible names for the ground-breaking Ms included: Sojourner, Lilith and, er, Bimbo). The film – it has not yet been screened in the UK – is riveting. Those who think of Steinem and see only a placard and a megaphone will be startled to see her younger self ironing, discussing her marriage prospects, and tap dancing in an elevator.

She is an extremely good tap dancer, having once believed that hoofing was her ticket out of Toledo, Ohio, the city where she grew up. Her childhood was difficult. The family was poor, and lived and travelled for a time in the trailer her father, Leo, used to ply his trade as an antique dealer. When Gloria was only a few years old, her mother, Ruth, had a nervous breakdown, and it left her an invalid, “someone who was afraid to be alone, who could not hang on to reality long enough to hold a job, and who could rarely concentrate long enough to read a book”. In the fullness of time, her much older sister having left home, and her parents having separated, Gloria became her mother’s full-time carer. She was then just 10 years old. When she finally escaped – having graduated high school, she won a place at Smith College, Massachusetts – she was so determined not to be “sucked back in”, she resisted travelling to see her father even on his deathbed, fearful that if he recovered, she might end up having to care for him, too. He died alone, and she still regrets this.

In 1960, having moved to New York, she began working as a journalist. It was tough. If finding an apartment was difficult – a single woman who could afford to pay her own rent was clearly a hooker in the eyes of most landlords – winning serious work proved to be well nigh impossible. Editors thought female employees were there for only two things: either you would spend the afternoon in bed with them, or they would sort your mail. In 1963, she went undercover and trained to be a Playboy Bunny for Show magazine, revealing in the process just how badly the girls were treated (“I learned what it’s like to be hung on a meat hook… the costume was so tight, it would have given a man a cleavage”). But though this eventually helped her to get work at the New York Times and New York magazine, she still found herself writing about such important matters as textured stockings. Did this make her angry? “Well, I was disappointed that this was what I was stuck with, but I did try to get absorbed. I researched the hell out of textured stockings! And I was happy to be making a living.”

Then, overnight, everything changed. She went to cover an event – a “speak-out” – in which women would talk about their experiences of abortion. Steinem had had an abortion herself, aged 22, in London. But she had never spoken of it. She felt a “big click”. The secrecy surrounding abortion suddenly seemed so oddly counterproductive. “It [abortion] is supposed to make us a bad person. But I must say, I never felt that. I used to sit and try and figure out how old the child would be, trying to make myself feel guilty. But I never could! I think the person who said: ‘Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament’ was right. Speaking for myself, I knew it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. I wasn’t going to let things happen to me. I was going to direct my life, and therefore it felt positive. But still, I didn’t tell anyone. Because I knew that out there it wasn’t [positive].” A low laugh. “I don’t know about you, but I re-virginised myself several times, too.”

Before she knew it, she was a fully paid-up member of the women’s movement, and she regards it as having saved her life. “For me, this is, and always has been, politics 101,” she says. “The idea that women are supposed to be the means of reproduction. If they – I mean ‘they’ in the larger sense: patriarchy, nationalism, whatever you want to call the mega-structure – didn’t want to control reproduction, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. Remember my age. I didn’t know that I had a choice for a long time. I didn’t want to get married and have children, but I thought it was inevitable, and so, I kept saying: not right now. I kept putting it off. After feminism, I suddenly realised: not everyone has to live the same way. Imagine that!” She never did have children – though she eventually married – and has never regretted it. “I suppose I could analyse it, in the sense that I looked after my mother. But I don’t know that’s really it. That’s too neat. I just never wanted to.” Her sister, on the other hand, had six. “Yeah, she took care of my social obligations. She once said to me: ‘I’m really glad you didn’t get married and have children. If you had, then you would have it all, and I would be jealous.’ I thought that was very honest.” Didn’t she worry about being thought of as cold and unfeminine? She casts me a look. “Who wants to be feminine?”

Steinem never intended to be so visible a figure in the women’s movement – or so she insists. She hated public speaking, and feared conflict. “I know. I’m in the wrong business. But you have no choice, however hard it is. I experience it like this: either I am invisible, or someone I identify with is invisible, and it makes me so angry. It’s so wrong, and then I just can’t resist. I have to do something.” Is she tough? “That’s a good question. I don’t know. Different things hurt you surprisingly. But I always had the feeling, which makes you tough under duress, that I was a survivor.”

But whether she intended it or not, there followed the most remarkable and radical few years – so radical, in fact, that when you look at the footage, you can hardly believe this was America. Steinem’s critics like to point out that, though she has published several books, unlike Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, or Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, none of them is a set text; her fame, they say, is disproportionate to her influence (and, boy, was she famous: Richard Nixon was recorded furiously ranting about her; his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, meanwhile, once made a flirty reference to her in a speech). But no one can say that she didn’t get stuff done. She led – in boots and polo neck – march after march. She testified in the Senate on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment, and co-founded the Women’s Action Alliance and the National Women’s Political Caucus. The first issue of Ms, which was the first periodical ever to be created, owned and operated entirely by women and sold out in a week, contained a feature titled: “We have had abortions”. It was signed by singer Judy Collins, tennis player Billie Jean King, and writers Susan Sontag, Grace Paley, Anais Nin and Nora Ephron (not all of these women had necessarily had abortions; the statement was inspired by those non-Jewish Danes who, during the second world war, wore yellow stars, daring the Nazis to arrest them too). A year later the Roe v Wade judgment was passed down, and abortion was effectively legalised.

“Of course, it has gone back,” she says, now. “In this large country, 85% of counties have no abortion services. The clinics that do exist are still under threat. The so-called ‘right to life groups’ are less likely to firebomb – they got called terrorists, which was awkward – but they still picket and run false clinics and take photographs of women as they go in. One of our two main political parties is anti-abortion, and in some states, they have passed extraordinary legislation so that even those who fall pregnant as a result of incest or rape must hear lectures and see ultrasound pictures. South Dakota tried to pass a law saying that murdering an abortion clinic doctor would be self-defence. It is a struggle, all the time, and it always will be.”

In the earliest days of this struggle, she was supported by other women – civil rights activist Florynce Kennedy; Congresswoman Bella Abzug – and she loved the warmth of their embrace. “It was like finding a family,” she says. “As wildly different as we may be, and we certainly were, women share hopes and a certain vision of the world, and a certain shit detector. That was one of the greatest rewards.” It makes her cross when people complain that groups of women can be bitchy. “Do women compete for the favours of men? Yes. They’ve spent 5,000 years competing. It [competition] is true of any subordinated group. But once you get a sense of possibilities and shared experience, it becomes the most powerful community. I see a form of it when I travel. I’ll be walking through an airport, say, and my plane will be four hours late, and a woman cleaner will say: ‘Here, take these magazines I’ve collected’, or: ‘When I’m tired, I sleep in the closet over there. Would you like to use it?’ It’s the same with the flight attendants. It’s a floating community.”

Did men’s attitudes to her change after she became a feminist? Were relationships more difficult? “No, on the contrary. It attracted people. It’s much worse if you’re pretending [not to be a feminist]; then you attract the wrong person. At New York magazine, I was the only woman, and after I wrote the abortion article, my [male] friends there said to me: ‘Don’t get involved with these crazy women. You’ve worked hard to be taken seriously.’ And I thought: they haven’t a clue who I am, and it’s my fault because I never told them. So I had better relationships afterwards. I mean, I need to think about which lovers came before, and which after, but I think we’re all still friends. That’s the test.” She smiles. “I remember so well the intensity and jealousy and all that. I always tell younger women: don’t worry, eventually all your old lovers will be your friends.”

The only mistake she ever made, relationship-wise, was media magnate Mort Zuckerman, in the late 1980s. She had turned 50; her mother had recently died; she felt exhausted. “When you’re depressed, nothing matters,” she says. “When you’re sad, everything matters. They’re profoundly different states, and that was the only time in my life I felt depressed, and the only time in my life I had a relationship with somebody whose values I didn’t share. Nobody understood why I went out with him. But he could dance, he was funny, and I was too fatigued to argue. It was pure fun. He was somebody I knew I would never have to look after.”

Steinem is used to hostility and, frankly, regards it as an improvement on ridicule. Still, even she was amazed by the response when, in 2000, at the age of 66, she married David Bale, a South African-born entrepreneur and environmentalist and the father of actor Christian Bale. The fish had found her bicycle! “Some people understood,” she says. “But most didn’t. What was odd about it to me – and I realise this is arcane – is that we had spent 30 years changing the laws. The institution of marriage had changed out of all recognition.” But in any case, the truth is that she didn’t suddenly think: I want to marry this man. That would have been to deny all that had gone before: the other men she had loved, the things she believed so passionately. “Why would I do that? We wouldn’t have got married if he hadn’t needed a visa. We loved each other, we wanted to be together, but we wouldn’t have legally married if it hadn’t been that he still had a British passport. The other element was that my friend, Wilma [Mankiller, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation] offered us a Cherokee ceremony.” And thank God they did marry, she says. Soon after, Bale was diagnosed with brain lymphoma; he died in 2003, aged 62. Their marriage meant he could be treated on her insurance, a fact that has only increased her support for same-sex marriage.

His death must have felt so unfair. “Well, that’s true, and it was terrible, terrible, the two years of his illness and afterwards. But, looking back, though I don’t believe anything to be pre-ordained… there was a purpose. His purpose in my life was, as my friends all said, to make me feel deeply, and to live in the present. Because I live in the future. My purpose was to give him something that he hadn’t had. We discovered that he liked to travel with me, and after an event [a speech on campus], he would have 500 young women around him, all so relieved to see that you can be a feminist and have a relationship with a man – and he was so excited by it. At Smith [College], he would walk round campus saying: ‘Which one of these young women is going to be president?’ And then… I ushered him out of life. His kids were there, and they were wonderful, but a contemporary is a different thing. In a way, he taught me about dying.”

Has she been able to continue living in the present? Not really. The future runs through her brain like ticker tape. This book, and the next (about native cultures). The speeches she will make. The campaigns she will join. “Only the women’s movement will take up gun control,” she says. “Because women are both the victims and the false excuse for keeping guns: [they say they’re] to protect our women.” But she remains – startlingly so, I think – an optimist. “Of course I think we need to get much angrier about childcare, about flexible working patterns. It’s alarming to me that women are still encouraged to blame themselves. No one can do it all. If I had $5 for every time we’ve tried to kill off superwoman, I’d be very rich. But women are planning their lives, they have choices, and that didn’t happen before, believe me. We thought our husbands and children would dictate everything.” Even the Dominique Strauss-Kahn debacle is, for her, a sign of how things have shifted: “The maid knew she had rights. The DA plucked the future president of France off a plane. That’s progress.”

Is she disappointed by Obama? “Well, however disappointed and however angry anyone may be, our only opposition party is so completely taken over by crazy people that to vote for him is to vote for ourselves. He has to win.” But how does she feel about him? “I sort of feel the same [as I did before]. He has a good heart and a good mind, and while I appreciate that he doesn’t increase [crank up] the hostility level, that’s also a problem. Unlike Hillary [Clinton], who spent eight years under fire from crazed rightwingers, he is not a fighter. That was always the good news, and the bad news. I worked for Hillary, and I thought she’d be the better president. But I never thought she’d win. It was too soon for a woman to win.” But when will it not be too soon? She doesn’t know. The dream would be another Obama term, followed by Clinton standing for the presidency. “Whatever happens, I think she has made a difference. She has presented a vision of a woman who could be president. She was so smart and so brave, and she hung in there. She’s a miracle. She has changed the molecules in the air.”

We have been talking for a long while now, and Steinem, almost in spite of herself, is finally giving me the whole of her attention. But then, a door opens – “That’s my Kenyan house guest,” she says – and the bubble has burst. I can sense her wanting to check her emails.

We head for the door. She hugs me, and I realise how slight her body is; she feels almost frail, which is a surprise. Then she hands me Morgan’s book, which she has signed. It seems all of a piece with Steinem’s generosity that she would give me another woman’s book rather than one of her own (either that, or she sincerely believes I will find it useful to be able to quote screeds of Thomas Jefferson, Susan B Anthony and Toni Morrison at my enemies). On the subway, I open it and read what she has written. “To Rachel,” it says. “Who is part of my/her own country!” I’m not exactly sure what this gnomic phrase means. But perhaps it’s only the spirit of the thing that counts. As the train clatters downtown, I allow myself to feel feisty, and just a little bit fond.