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The National Women's Political Caucus of Washington State is a grassroots, multi-partisan, volunteer-run, membership organization dedicated to increasing women's participation in the political process and getting more feminist women elected and appointed in Washington State. The NWPC is a national organization that was founded in 1971 and has chapters in 20+ states.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Future of Public Campaign Financing and the Impact on Women Candidates
Posted by: Antoinette Bonsignore

Do women candidates benefit from the public financing?  The short answer is yes - public financing invites a diverse candidate pool.  Public financing of campaigns generally involves candidates opting to receive taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns.  In order to qualify candidates must adhere to strict contribution limits – sometimes as little as $100 per individual - as well as strict spending limits.  The spending limits requirements range from caps on how much can be spent during primaries to how much candidates can spend of their own money.  Once a candidate qualifies for public financing – such as collecting enough contributions from small donors -- they then become eligible to receive public funding.  Theoretically public financing removes or reduces the corrupting influence of large corporations, lobbyists, and other special interests seeking to buy elections and buy candidates.  This then reduces the constant, single-minded focus on fundraising allowing candidates to better address the issues affecting voters’ lives.  In today’s ever evolving Citizens United atmosphere – the need to reduce the corporate and special interest influence in campaigns is greater than ever. 

Women entering politics for the first time benefit from public financing because the campaign spending gap between challengers and incumbents is decreased.  Political scientists studying public financing laws have found that public financing increases the number of women running for office; and women are more likely to opt into public financing while men are less likely.  Challengers are also more likely to participate while incumbents are less likely.  Research also shows that establishing contribution limits benefits challengers against incumbents; and low contribution limits make elections more competitive but high contribution limits and/or no limits benefit incumbents.

The League of Women Voters fully supports public financing as well as matching fund trigger provisions in states offering public financing.  Trigger provisions provide additional funding when an opponent opts out and receives contributions or spends more than the candidate that opts in.  The Brennan Center for Justice is an excellent resource for information dealing with ongoing litigation involving state public financing laws.  There are lots of resources available for voters interested in finding out about the Citizen Funded Elections movement and the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826)

In 1998 the voters of Arizona passed the Citizens Clean Elections Act.  The program has increased the number of women and minorities running for office in Arizona.  The referendum was passed in reaction to Arizona elections corruption scandals.  The Act set up a full and voluntary public financing system for legislative and statewide races.  Some Arizona candidates challenged the “triggered funds” provision contained in the Act claiming that it violated their First Amendment right to free speech.  Opponents said that the fear of “triggered” funds kicking in kept them from raising and spending money – that this fear censored candidates that opted out of the public financing system.  The theory is that a candidate that opts out will spend right up to the triggering threshold but not any more– thereby limiting that candidate’s First Amendment rights. 

One of the more critical things the Roberts Court majority revealed in Citizens United is the Court’s never-ending desire to expand upon previous Court rulings establishing the theory that money equals speech.  And if the Roberts Court majority continues to build on this theory that money equals speech then all campaign spending restrictions will inevitably collide with the right of free speech.  The constitutionality of the triggered funding provision of the Act will now be decided the U.S. Supreme Court in McComish v. Bennett

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don’t Let Pharmacists Discriminate Against Women
Posted by: Antoinette Bonsignore
The Washington State Board of Pharmacy (BOP) should require that all Washington pharmacies provide full access to all medications prescribed by medical professionals.  Pharmacists should never be given the power to override the medical judgment of your doctor.  Pharmacists should never be allowed to substitute or impose their own personal judgments on any woman who is simply trying to get a prescription filled for either contraception or emergency contraception. 

In the case of Stormans et al v. Selecky et al. two pharmacists and a pharmacy challenged the BOP rules that mandate all licensed pharmacies to fill a patient’s prescription regardless of a pharmacist’s personal beliefs or judgments.  In October 2007, a federal district court in Tacoma issued an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the neutral BOP rules until a trial could be scheduled.  The federal district only limited its ruling to pharmacies and pharmacists that were refusing to distribute the Plan B emergency contraceptive.  The district court decided to target women’s contraception for unique and unfair scrutiny under the BOP rules.  

Eventually, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rescinded that injunction and declared that the district court abused its authority.  The actual trial is now on hold to give the BOP enough time to change their rules.  The BOP is now trying to change those neutral rules to give any pharmacist the right to pass judgment on any woman trying to get her prescription filled. 

The “morning after” pill, also known as Plan B, will only work if you take it within 72 hours after having unprotected sex.  So, if a pharmacist arbitrarily denies you access to Plan B, your risk of becoming pregnant increases.  You would be forced to go to another pharmacy for your emergency prescription.  This is a big problem if you happen to live in rural area where your transportation choices may be very limited or if you are handicapped and unable to travel long distances. 

Low-income and women living in rural areas will bear the greatest burden if the BOP changes its rules.  The woman that can least afford to bear this burden will be the woman who lives somewhere with access to only a few pharmacies and would need a car to get to those pharmacies.  The burden increases when you consider other obstacles such as inflexible work schedules and child care.  When you have a limited amount of time to get emergency contraception and limited financial resources - low income women become the most vulnerable victims of this discrimination.  Access to birth control simply represents basic health care for the 98% of women that will use birth control at some point during their lives. 

The endless claims by anti-choice activists that if you take Plan B you will terminate an existing pregnancy are simply false.  Plan B is an emergency contraceptive only -- it will not cause an abortion.  The abortion debate has somehow become bizarrely conflated with your right to get Plan B at a pharmacy or for that matter any other form of contraception.  Whatever opinion a pharmacist may have about abortion is beside the point; a pharmacist must dispense all legal forms of contraception.  This has absolutely nothing to do with abortion rights but the debate has become twisted to make it all about abortion. 

Last week, the BOP finished the second round of its two public hearings on this issue.  The BOP is still accepting public comments.  The BOP cannot allow their rules to be subverted to give a pharmacist the legal authority to discriminate against women choosing to fill a prescription for any form of birth control. 

You can contact the BOP and Governor Gregoire to urge them to keep the existing rules by sending written comments to Doreen E. Beebe, Board of Pharmacy, P.O. Box 47863, Olympia, Washington 98504-7863 or by email to accesstomeds.wsbop@doh.wa.gov, or by fax to (360) 236-2901.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top 10 Tips from our Smart Women Salon on Volunteering on Campaigns

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Women's Equality Day, where do we stand?