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Professor Johnsen Testifies No One is Above the Law

Posted by Arlene Brens, Fellow | Posted on: February 26, 2009 at 03:26 pm

by Arlene Brens, Fellow
National Women’s Law Center

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing yesterday on the confirmation of Dawn E. Johnsen for Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). In her opening statement, Professor Johnsen stated that “the officials who lead the government are not above the law.”  With that statement, Johnsen set a different tone for the future of the OLC. She also emphasized that the purpose of the OLC is to provide accurate, unbiased legal opinions to the President and that her personal views on a particular legal subject would not influence her legal analysis if confirmed.  Moreover, Johnsen indicated that the OLC should favor releasing legal opinions unless there is, for example, a compelling national security interest. This indicates that, if confirmed, Johnsen would lead OLC in a dramatically different direction than the OLC under the Bush Administration -- when infamous legal opinions that justified the use of torture in interrogations and argued for the expansion of presidential power were issued. As a former student in Professor Johnsen’s Constitutional Law class, I can think of no other person more qualified to provide the President with legal advice on matters of national security and the constitutional restraints on executive power.
While much of the questioning at the hearing focused on the role of the Office of Legal Counsel and limits on executive power, questions pertaining to abortion and judicial nominations were also raised.  Senator Specter accused Johnsen of equating pregnancy with slavery.  In response, Johnsen said explicitly that she has never argued that abortion restrictions or forced pregnancy violate the Thirteenth Amendment. She thought that Senator Specter might have been referring to some language in a footnote in an amicus brief Johnsen had written almost twenty years ago. The larger point of the brief (filed in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989), which the National Women’s Law Center signed) was that limits on abortion affect women’s equality, and the footnote (number 23 if you’re interested) merely stated that forced pregnancy is “disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude” because of the physical demands involved.   

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Early Education Makes a Cameo Appearance in the President's Address

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: February 25, 2009 at 08:00 pm

by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst
National Women’s Law Center

In his address to Congress last night, President Obama laid out the three components he believes are key to the future strength of our economy and our nation: energy, health care, and education. And he made clear that a critical component of his agenda on education is early education:

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Coming Up - International Women’s Day

Posted by NWLC, Intern | Posted on: February 24, 2009 at 07:59 pm

by Natalie Monkou, Communications Intern
National Women’s Law Center

March 8 is International Women’s Day. Here’s a heads up about two ways to celebrate of the lives of women around the world.

From our friends at Women for Women International:

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Weekly Round-Up

Posted by NWLC, Intern | Posted on: February 23, 2009 at 06:42 pm

by Natalie Monkou, Communications Intern
National Women's Law Center

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A Shameful Sixteen Percent

Posted by Brigette Courtot, Senior Health Policy Analyst | Posted on: February 20, 2009 at 06:04 pm

by Brigette Courtot, Policy Analyst
National Women’s Law Center

This post is part of a series on Women and Health Reform.

African American women aren’t any more likely to get a cancer diagnosis than white women (in fact, incidence rates for some cancer types—like breast cancer—are considerably lower among African Americans) but they are more likely to die from it. According to a new report from the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate for African American women is 16 percent higher than the rate for their white peers. This racial disparity reflects poorer survival due to later stage at diagnosis and less access to appropriate and timely treatment, with the authors concluding that this type of health inequity is the result of “social and economic disparities more than biological differences associated with race.”
The disparity in death rates among the two groups is even greater when you examine rates for specific cancers. Compared to white women, African American women are more than twice as likely to die from cancers of the stomach and cervix. They’re nearly 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer—the most common cancer diagnosis for women of both races. These statistics might be a little less distressing if the disparity gaps were shrinking over time, but they are not. Over the past three decades, the gap in overall cancer death rates between African American and white women has barely budged; for colorectal and breast cancers it has actually grown.

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A Princess of a Different Color

Posted by Ellen Newcomb, Program Assistant | Posted on: February 20, 2009 at 05:51 pm

by Ellen Newcomb, Program Assistant
and Rose O’Malley, Program Assistant
National Women's Law Center

With all of the recent news about the economic recovery package, unemployment, and health insurance, you may have missed the news on the most important of topics: Princesses!

Disney has decided to celebrate Black History Month in its own way by promoting its upcoming holiday flick, The Princess and the Frog, which will feature the first ever black Disney princess. Princess Tiana has a doll, she has a voice, and she is coming to a theater near you!

Our reaction is mixed, but the one thing we agree upon is: It is about time! Why has it taken the over 70 years that Disney has been making animated musicals for them to represent or even recognize a significant percentage of the population of American girls who see their movies, buy their dolls, and wear their costumes every Halloween?

Answering that question would take more time and expertise than we possess, but in the meantime, let’s get back to that whole “mixed reaction” thing. Those involved with the project seem very excited, but it is not without its critics. Princess Tiana retains those familiar unrealistic body proportions that can crush any average sized girl’s self esteem, and some have pointed out that her hair appears distinctly…Caucasian. And should we even want our children to aspire to princess-hood? What about the ideals of education and a fulfilling career? And what parents want their daughter to think that life is all about finding a man?

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And the Conversation Continues…

Posted by Mary Robbins, Program Associate | Posted on: February 20, 2009 at 04:26 pm

by Mary Robbins, Program Assistant
National Women's Law Center

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