The Continuing War on Women’s Health

 

President Obama speaking

President Obama speaks to a group about Health Care on Wednesday

Written by: Katie Garren

 

Recently, President Obama made a statement on the subject of birth control that became a hotly contested issue. Recently, there seems to be an increased focus placed on the matter of women’s health.  This matter always seems to come up during an election year. This year has been no different, with a slew of Republican hopefuls bringing up the subjects of birth control and abortion.

In Obama’s policy, he stated that health insurance plans would be required to provide free birth control to all female employees, including plans for Catholic hospitals, universities and charities.  The President’s administration saw this as a matter of equality for women.  Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said upon the policy’s announcement, “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”  This policy was intended to provide even preventative medicine for both men and women.  The contraceptive requirement was accompanied by requirements for blood-pressure screening and childhood immunizations.

The speech quickly became a talking point, both for people who approve and those who do not approve of its requirements.  Religious leaders were not at all open to the concept of providing contraceptives to women.  Catholic bishops were outraged, saying that this requirement “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.” They later vowed to fight the legislation through the other two branches of government.  Many leading Republicans also saw an opportunity to attack the President’s speech and interpret it as anti-religious. “This attack … on religious freedom in our country cannot stand and will not stand,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a speech on the floor of the chamber.  Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich added to the increasing ire having said, “If he (Obama) is re-elected he will wage war on the Catholic Church the day after (he is elected). We don’t trust him.”

On Friday, Obama changed his position. In a calculated measure, Obama sought to quell the controversy created by his policy.  In this revision, he states that religious organizations would not be required to provide free contraceptives to female employees.  “Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women,” Obama told reporters.

We the Tweeple: Twitter and the 2012 Presidential Election

Written by: Allison Hibbs

“I really think 2012 is going to be the Twitter election.”

That’s what Dick Costolo, CEO of the social media giant, told attendees at a tech conference in California in late January; although the same words might have been uttered by any avid Twitter user who has followed political conversations on the website during the onslaught of GOP debates or the recent State of the Union address leading up to the 2012 Presidential election. Commentary, discussion, fact-checking and ideological rants have flooded the site during these events, involving participants in an interactive political conversation reminiscent of a no-holds-barred town hall brawl.

In fact, among twitterers, trending conversations have often proven to be far more popular than the actual events themselves, a sentiment repeated often during the debates in particular – and with more than a hint of irony.

Twitter appreciation from tweeps during GOP debate on 1/26/12.

Tweets range from inane to insightful, from snarky insults to eloquently phrased questions or impassioned pleas. Anyone looking to get in on the action simply has to add the right hash-tagged phrase to his or her comment to be included in the thread. Keeping up with comments in the heat of the moment becomes nearly impossible, but one has only to go back to the thread when they have time and they can read up on what was said, follow links to related news stories, check the integrity of comments made by those on stage during the event or simply laugh at the more humorous tweets.

During the CNN Debate hosted by John King, opening comments made by Newt Gingrich blasting King for opening with a question about his personal life were widely ridiculed and reposted by active tweeters. While the audience seemed to appreciate his indignation, the twitterverse was not as kind.

1/19/12 CNN debate/ Begala tweet re: Gingrich

It is fairly common knowledge – at least among those familiar with the social medium – that the use of the Twitter platform was an advantage to the Obama camp during the 2008 election cycle: he received far more mentions than his opponent and a disproportionate number of Twitter users identified themselves as democrats. (This doesn’t take into account the number of tweets regarding Republican vice-presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin, who received a large amount of mentions – most of which were unfavorable.) But Twitter has gained significant numbers over the last four years and Republican politicians have increasingly taken to using the platform for their own messaging and organizational purposes. GOP presidential hopefuls employ staff members to follow the tweets during their appearances to find out which topics they are concerned with and which personality attributes or answers they prefer. There is, unquestionably, much to be learned from immediate feedback and they intend to take it to heart.

From the look of it, however, they’ve got a lot of catching up to do if they want to turn the advantage in their favor. During the President’s State of the Union address on Jan. 24, tweets were significantly less scathing and more topically relevant than those posted during the debates. Twitter users still seem to skew further to the left of the aisle than the general public.

Tweets re: GOP debate vs. SOTU

Nevertheless, Twitter has – if nothing else – had the effect of combating political apathy and has brought the public political debate to a whole new level. Those who are chagrined when barred from political discussion in social forums have now found an outlet through which they can share ideas, facts, emotions and hopes – in the hopes of staying informed, sharing information and influencing election outcomes, presidential or otherwise. A new era in politics has indeed arrived.

Welcome to Election 2012, the Year of Twitter.