Entries by Debra Fitzpatrick

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Health reform and women: the road ahead

Repeal. Replace. Repair. Whatever shape the next iteration of policy change takes in health, it will affect every American. Health is an everyday experience, and the trials of accessing health care services and the importance of health insurance coverage touches every American life. Another reality of health care in America is that it is experienced differently by women and men. Sex differences in health care utilization are well documented. These differences are driven by a range of factors that may also influence how health care policies applied broadly affect men and women differently.

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The Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Limits of Liberal Reform

In 1996, the suicide of a young Texas man named Rodney Hulin, Jr. in the wake of multiple sexual assaults partially spurred Congress to unanimously pass the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The purpose of the nation’s first federal civil law addressing sexual violence behind bars was to call for nationwide data collection on the problem of prisoner rape and federal grants to help states combat it within prisons, jails, police lockups, youth facilities, immigration detention facilities, and community corrections. While PREA was developed with good intentions by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) in concert with prisoner rights’ advocates from across the country, and has been lauded by the American Civil Liberties Union and Just Detention International, it falls far short of what is needed to protect all prisoners, especially women, people of color, transgender individuals, and disabled people.

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Food Stamp Work Requirements and the Implications of Devolution

On January 23, 2017, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker announced a new pilot program to require the state’s food stamp recipients who have children to work 80 hours per month for those benefits. The change would require approval from the Trump Administration, since federal policy currently prohibits states from imposing additional requirements on food stamp recipients. Unlike the Obama administration, which utilized those policies to protect and expand access to this and other programs, President Trump has signaled his intention to weaken those guidelines or eliminate them completely.

US Women’s Cabinet Representation Falling through the “Concrete Floor”

Since 1993, every U.S. president, regardless of party, has included at least three women in his initial Cabinet. Clinton appointed four women in his second term (and five total across his presidency). Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, had three female appointees in his first term and four in his second. Barack Obama appointed four women in his first term and, eventually, another four in his second term. According to political scientists Claire Annesley, Karen Beckwith, and Susan Franceschet, the United States, for decades, has had a “concrete floor” of nominating at least three women to cabinet posts. How has U.S. President Trump fared? At this point, he has fallen through the “concrete floor” with just two women nominated and confirmed for his cabinet. This marks a stunning reversal to a decades long norm.

Baby UI Revisited: Paid Parental Leave under Trump

What are the merits of a program delivered through Unemployment Insurance? While the idea holds promise for allowing the US to finally join the rest of the developed world in providing wage supports to parents after the birth or adoption of a baby, a deeper examination of the proposed policy parameters and funding mechanisms suggests that additional work is needed to craft a national program that accomplishes key policy goals and minimizes unintended consequences.

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Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault under Trump

Two important Trump education picks have either refused to endorse or openly criticized Title IX, the landmark 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded program. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, refused to answer whether she would enforce the law during her confirmation hearing, while Jerry Falwell Jr., Trump’s pick to lead a federal task force on higher education, has stated he would like to curb the rules that require colleges to investigate campus sexual assault under Title IX. What might a rollback of Title IX under the Trump administration imply for the incidence of campus sexual assault and campus climates? The challenges and opportunities to fight sexual assault on campus are better understood when we consider 1) legislation in place concerning campus sexual assault, and 2) the role of formal and informal institutions in the enforcement of these laws. Specifically, enforcement of existing formal rules has helped to create campus climates in which it is clear that sexual violence is not tolerated, and in which victims are encouraged to come forward and report crimes because they can expect a quick, protective response. A change in federal policy will bring about a corresponding and equally important change in informal institutions, sending a chill over campuses that have only recently begun to work in earnest against campus sexual assaults.