Convoluted Government

By Tracee Sioux

I got this email from Population Connection,, a watchdog group that monitors legislation concerning reproductive issues in the United States and around the world.

"Dear Tracee,
We wanted to update you about recent developments in the House of Representatives. Last Thursday, the House voted to exempt shipments of contraceptives from the provisions of the global gag rule. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered language which would authorize the change. Population Connection urged a "yes" vote on the provision. It passed, 223-201. Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) then proposed an amendment to strike the new regulation. Population Connection urged a "no" vote on their amendment. That amendment failed, 205-218. That means there were 5 representatives who voted to change the regulation, and then immediately voted to change it back! In other words, they voted for it before they voted against it!"

In plain words, more girls and women in third world countries will now be empowered with contraception. That's a good thing!

Government action gets so convoluted with sneaky amendments and provisions stuck in seemingly unrelated legislation. It's common practice. Which is why most Americans feel unempowered when it comes to creating change in the government. That's why I like an email like this from a watchdog group every now and then. It helps me decipher some of the "we snuck it in" going on in congress. It's my right to know and, I think, my responsibility to find out. Sometimes that gets a little tricky.

Also, it allows me to track how my representatives are voting, which helps me see through campaign propaganda. Take this provision about the Global Gag Rule, for instance, why would Stupak and Smith oppose contraception? I think issues get turned to black and white or Rowe vs. Wade very easily. But, the reality is that though Stupak and Smith probably run on a Pro-Life platform, it's unlikely the majority of their voters are so extreme as to be anti-contraception. There IS a difference.

In fact there are a lot of differences: 1. contraception empowers girls and women, 2. paying for contraception is cheaper than paying for AIDs and HIV treatment or feeding orphans, 3. we shouldn't morally legislate for the whole world or they will hate us (remember those terrorists?).

I encourage you to find a watch dog group that monitors an issue you care about. Maybe health care? Then take action with a letter here or there to make a difference in government.

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