Live blogging White House call for Women's Equality Day

By Emily Wales on
August 26, 2009

To mark this year’s celebration of Women's Equality Day (today!), members of President Obama’s administration are hosting a special conference call to provide updates on the work they’ve done for women and girls. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, a former EMILY’s List candidate, will join Tina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, to discuss their efforts and to answer questions about health care reform’s effects on women. And we want you to be in the know.

We’ll be live blogging during the conference call starting at 4:00 p.m. EST, and we’d love for you to follow along and chime in with your own comments.

LIVE BLOGGING UPDATES

4:05 p.m. - Waiting for the call to begin. Hopefully, we'll get started soon.

4:08 p.m. - Tina Tchen, the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, is kicking things off. Formed in March, the Council is a coordinated effort across government agencies. Tchen said that President Obama believes the issues of women and girls are the issues of everyone, so it was essential in forming the council that all agencies were involved.

4:15 p.m. - Tchen mentioned the President's proclamation on Women's Equality Day. She also made a nice tribute to Sen. Ted Kennedy, calling him a "champion of women's rights" and health care issues, of course.

Regarding health care, here are a couple quick things Tchen mentioned:-21 million women and girls who are ininsured-Women have higher premiums than men

Up next: Melody Barnes...

4: 17 p.m. - Barnes, the President's Domestic Policy Adviser and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, is talking about the importance of preventative services for women. She also spoke about the number of women who delay care because of costs -- nearly half of women surveyed in one study... Wow.

4:19 p.m. - Sebelius said that as we all move through health care reform, we should be thinking, "What would Teddy [Kennedy] do?" So true. The "Lion of the Senate" worked to bring health care to all Americans, and now it's our time to carry on his work.

4:21 p.m. - Sebelius: Today's town halls are "nothing" compared to what suffragists faced to create "fundamental change" in this country, which is also what health care reform is trying to do today. Also, Sebelius said that, although Medicare barely passed, it's now so essential for citizens. Interesting point.

4:23 p.m. - The importance of women! Sebelius said that when women get involved, they have the power to create change -- in elections or for reform!

4:26 p.m. - Sebelius just confirmed what Barnes said earlier -- that in some states discrimination is entirely legal for health care providers against women. The premium rates for a young woman are outrageously higher than young men. Also, Congress needs to hear from constituents who support reform. That's our call to take action!

4:28 p.m. - Questions from the audience. Question 1 is from Lisa about reports on the current state of women and girls. Read a report from the Council here. Tchen said that we should check back online to get more information regarding the report and to learn more about upcoming events, calls, etc. from the Council. Best way to get the latest info is to check online regularly.

4:30 p.m. - Question from a member of the Dem Women's Caucus. Reproductive choice issues. Tchen said current federal policy around funding abortions likely won't change. Decisions will continue to be made by health care professionals. Sebelius: Some policies currently cover a great deal of reproductive rights issues, while others cover less. That likely will be the same. The public option would have a benefit plan recommended by experts.

4:35 p.m. - Christy Hardin Smith from Firedoglake - Conscience clause question. Will women, particularly in rural areas, have access to a full range of services? If pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions, how will those women receive care? Sebelius responding about HHS's review. Said President has made clear that he feels previous legislation was limiting for women.

4:46 p.m. - Question from Karen: Shares views of some of previous speakers. Truly values having reproductive rights included in the public plan, and there's a high cost of not providing medically safe abortions. Karen also said that she has a great deal of trust in the Obama administration and is very hopeful for the change that reform will make in the lives of women.

4:49 p.m. - Tchen said something really important in response to Karen's comment -- that the Council on Women and Girls needs input from constituents to do its work. That's why it's so important that we continue to stay engaged and check back to get the latest information on what they're doing.

Response: It's pretty incredible to be on a call with three key leaders in President Obama's administration. We've heard from a number of our members who are interested in learning how health care reform will affect women's lives, and this call couldn't have made that more clear. Legal gender discrimination against women seeking care in a number of states? Outrageous -- and exactly why we need change. Obviously, the Council on Women and Girls is eagerly watching legislative developments in Congress, as are we. I think we should all take Tina Tchen's advice and play an active, engaged role in this debate. With such high stakes, we can't afford to sit this one out.

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