Anti-Choice Assaults: Why?

Michigan is experiencing its very own War on Women in the legislature in Lansing, as evidenced by HB 5711, the anti-abortion package of bills under consideration by legislators in the state Capitol. Do you ever wonder why this is happening, and whether there is a “big picture” plan driving the actions of Michigan legislators?

It turns out there is such a group and they do have a plan. It is the Americans United for Life organization, or AUL, with national headquarters in Washington, DC. This organization is not to be confused with National Right to Life, although both are anti-abortion groups.

AUL, founded in 1971, is one of the most effective creators of anti-abortion legislation in the country. It can be seen as the pro-life equivalent of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the “corporate legislation mill,” according to the article entitled “Wham, Bam, Sonogram” in the September/October issue of Mother Jones.

In the 1990s AUL concentrated on rolling back reproductive rights incrementally at the state level. AUL lawyers, for example, wrote dozens of model bills that were shared with state and federal legislators. As a result, 92 anti-abortion restrictions were passed in the U.S. last year. So far in 2012, 13 laws promoted by AUL, or based on its model legislation, have passed.

According to AUL’s website, “Our model legislation enables legislators to easily introduce bills without needing to research and write the bills themselves.” You might want to read that sentence again, to let the impact of the message sink in.

The plan is for AUL’s growing body of state laws, such as those introduced in Virginia and Kansas, to set precedents, with the eventual outcome of changing federal abortion law. The tactic that has been effectively used in states like Michigan is to draft legislation around “concern for women.” The concern is purported to be for their safety and the condition of clinics that provide abortions.

In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health nonprofit, reported that 26 states across the U.S. were “hostile” to reproductive rights. Therefore, it is important that pro-choice groups and organizations like AAUW reject the War on Women in every instance where it appears.

Be aware that legislators in Lansing are being manipulated by forces outside the state and are being handed pre-digested bill language that, in the words of AUL, they neither researched nor wrote themselves. How scary is that? What are we going to do about it?

Barbara Bonsignore

AAUW of Michigan Public Policy Director

August 19, 2012

Posted under Voter Education, Women and the 2012 Vote

2012 GOTV

Posted under Photo Gallery

This post was written by janetw on May 29, 2012

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AAUW Releases State by State Gender Wage Gap Rankings

The average wages of a woman living in Washington, D.C., is 91 percent of the earnings of her male counterpart.  New state by state research released by The American Association of University (AAUW) shows some of the location-based differences can be explained by demographics.  According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) the high percentage of federal jobs in D.C. may contribute to the narrower wage gap, an area with a small private sector.  Wyoming, (ranks 51) on the other hand, characterized by male-dominated industries like coal mining, may account for the wage discrepancy in this area of the country. Michigan ranks 42 with a 74 percent gender wage gap.

Read more at the Huffington Post Women‘s page.

Posted under AAUW of Michigan, Equal Pay

Frogs vs. Pay Equity?

Are frogs more important than economic security for women and families?  Apparently amphibians rate higher with Michigan legislators evidenced by the resolutions introduced in the House on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. HR 0230, a resolution to declare April 28, 2012, as Save the Frogs Day was gaveled approved, while HR 0229, a resolution to declare April 17, 2012 as Pay Equity Day in the state of Michigan, was sent to committee. This kind of insipid approval for banal activities indicates weak leadership, and a lack of concern for the economic issues that affect Michigan women and families.

I like frogs. They play a beneficial role in our ecosystem and environment.  However, on the scale of economic importance in the lives of working women and families, frogs fall near the bottom of the list. Ribbit!

Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that despite nearly 50 years of equal pay laws, American women still earn 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid, unchanged from 2011. According to AAUW’s The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, women of color earn even less with African-American women earning 70% compared to white men’s earnings and Hispanic and Latina women earning 61% of white men’s earnings. Asian women salaries show the smallest gender gap at 88 percent of white men’s earnings.

Current equal pay laws need to be updated. Michigan House and Senate pay equity bills – HR 4611-4614 and SB 0340-0343 – would:

  • Strengthen the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to make it clear that sex-based wage discrimination is illegal under Michigan law,
  • Increase penalties for wage discrimination based on gender,
  • Establish a pay equity study commission,
  • Allow employees to learn what their co-workers earn so they can know if they are receiving equal pay.

Many states have yet to pass equal pay legislation. Wisconsin recently repealed its Equal Pay Enforcement Act, removing a woman’s ability to sue for back wages, attorney’s fees and punitive damages in state court.

If you’re a Michigan resident, contact your state legislators and tell them to pass the pay equity bills, now!

Posted under AAUW of Michigan, Equal Pay, Equity in the News, Women and Economic Security

This post was written by janetw on April 19, 2012

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Women’s pay gap has lifelong consequences

The pay gap continues to persist.  According to AAUW’s The Simple Truth About the Gender Gap, “women’s annual earnings as a percentage of men’s annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers is 77 percent.”

Janet Watkins talks about how the long-term impact of the wage gap affects women and families in a guest commentary that can be read at the online edition of the Detroit Free Press.

Posted under AAUW of Michigan, Equal Pay, Equity in the News, Women and Economic Security, Women and Work

This post was written by janetw on April 18, 2012

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AAUW of Michigan Testimony on Bullying

Testimony of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Michigan

before the

Michigan Civil Rights Commission

Forum on Bullying

Cadillac Place, 3054 W. Grand Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48202

January 25, 2011

Good afternoon. My name is Barbara Bonsignore and I am the Public Policy Director of AAUW of Michigan. I appreciate the opportunity to give testimony on the subject of bullying and harassment.

AAUW is a membership organization founded 130 years ago and has approximately 100,000 members and 1000 branches nationwide. We break through barriers for women and girls and believe all students deserve safe learning environments. AAUW of Michigan has approximately 3,000 members and 43 branches throughout the state.

Public schools face longstanding challenges in preventing and effectively responding to instances of bullying and harassment. Bullying and harassment interfere with a student’s ability to achieve. In addition, bullying and harassment can lead to even greater safety problems.

Sexual harassment is a type of harassment and AAUW has released several research reports on this topic including Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America’s Schools, which revealed that four out of five students in grades eight to 11 had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

The following are some startling statistics about the prevalence of bullying and harassment in schools.

· Close to half of all children are bullied at some point while they are at primary or secondary school.[i]

· In Michigan, 24 percent of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the prior year.[ii]

· 7.4 percent of high school students reported missing school because they felt unsafe. In Detroit, 19.1 percent of students reported missing school because they felt unsafe.[iii]

The definition of harassment that is commonly used and is used in legislation pending in Congress is: conduct that adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities because the conduct, as reasonably perceived by the student (or students), is so severe, persistent, or pervasive; and includes conduct that is based on-

(i) a student’s actual or perceived race; color; national origin; sex; disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; or religion;

(ii) any other distinguishing characteristics that may be defined by a State or local educational agency; or

(iii) association with a person or group with one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics listed in clause (i) or (ii).

Bullying is a type of harassment that unfortunately places the student (or students) in reasonable fear of physical harm.

On October 26, 2010 the Department of Education in Washington, DC issued guidance in an effort to support educators in combating bullying and harassment in schools and clarified that a school’s response, or lack of response, when a student is bullied or harassed may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws, such as Title IX.

Title IX protects students from unlawful sexual harassment in all of a school’s programs or activities, whether they take place in the facilities of the school, on a school bus, at a class or training program sponsored by the school at another location, or elsewhere. Title IX protects both male and female students from sexual harassment, regardless of who the harasser might be.

In conclusion, all children must have a safe environment in which to learn. It is encouraging that attention is being paid to the problem of bullying and that both national and state departments of education are attempting to help educators better understand their obligations, while providing resources to allow prompt and effective action to be taken in an effort to end harassment and bullying in schools.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.

Barbara Bonsignore

AAUW of Michigan Public Policy Director

(248) 375-0062


Note:  This is a short version of the testimony to comply with the 3-5 minute limit on presentations.  Anyone wishing to obtain the longer, more detailed text may contact Barbara at and it will be provided in a pdf file.

[i] American Association of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (May 2008). Facts for Families on Bullying. Accessed November 2, 2010, from

[ii] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (4 June 2010). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance- United States 2009 Table 17. Surveillance Summaries, MMWR 2010;59 (No. SS-5). Retrieved December 28, 2010, from

[iii] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (4 June 2010). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance- United States 2009 Table 19. Surveillance Summaries, MMWR 2010;59 (No. SS-5). Retrieved December 28, 2010, from

Posted under Education

This post was written by BarbaraB on January 27, 2011

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Want to Pay Tribute? Then Pay Equally.

This op-ed originally posted September 5, 2010 at the Huffington Post

For the 128th time in our nation’s history, we celebrate Labor Day — with last visits to the neighborhood pool, picnics, and barbecues that signal the end of summer. Yet for women and their families, recognition of the American worker rings rather hollow in the face of pay inequity.

That’s because women across the country work just as hard their male counterparts do, yet they continue to receive less pay — just 77 cents on the dollar, on average. A day off is not the only compensation American women require or deserve; without equal pay, our Labor Day celebrations don’t ring true for many.

The 23-cent average difference between men’s and women’s pay isn’t simply about fairness. This long-standing pay disparity hurts our nation, too. With women increasingly assuming the role of sole breadwinner, equal pay is not just a matter of equity but the key to a family’s ability to make ends meet in a struggling economy and a critical factor in our nation’s efforts to work its way out of this recession. This serious problem needs immediate Senate action.

That Senate action is passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182), a bill that will provide a sorely needed update to the 1963 Equal Pay Act and help create a climate where pay discrimination isn’t tolerated. This critical bill, which passed the House in January 2009, will close loopholes and strengthen incentives to prevent pay discrimination, as well as bring the Equal Pay Act’s practices in line with other civil rights laws.

Fortunately, support for the Paycheck Fairness Act is growing. So are the number of co-sponsors of the bill. In a recent poll by the Paycheck Fairness Act Coalition, 84 percent of American voters expressed support for this new law to create more avenues for women to receive fair wages. President Barack Obama is also on board, having co-sponsored the bill as a senator. He has promised to sign the bill into law, calling the Paycheck Fairness Act a “common-sense bill.” In fact, passage of the bill is one of the key recommendations of his administration’s Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, which he announced in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

We are closer than we have ever been to seeing this critical legislation enacted, which is why for the past three weeks AAUW members and coalition partners around the nation have been pushing hard to raise awareness about the pressing need for the Paycheck Fairness Act. We have hosted “Get It Done” (un)happy hours, sent letters to our senators, encouraged the men in our lives and families to speak up for fair pay (this is not a woman’s issue–it’s a family issue!), and used social media tools to get the message out.

Pay discrimination starts early — “the minute college grads throw their caps in the air,” as one economist observed. Research shows that over a 35-year career, the pay inequity shortfall in women’s earnings is about $210,000. While September 2 headlines about young, educated, childless women making more than men show that we are making progress, such studies also underscore the ongoing reality of pay discrimination. While the average American woman still earns 23 percent less than her male counterpart does, the gap is biggest among older women and smallest among younger women. Further, much of the improvement in the gender pay gap has not been the result of women’s pay increases but rather is due to men’s decreasing or stagnating wages in traditional jobs that don’t require a college degree, such as construction and manufacturing. That situation helps no one, least of all American families.

Earlier this year, AAUW and the National Partnership for Women and Families released some startling facts. In California, the nation’s most populous state, we learned that without the pay gap, working women and their families in that state could afford

  • 54 more weeks of food bills (one year’s worth!),
  • Three more months of mortgage and utilities payments,
  • Six more months of rent,
  • Two more years of family health insurance premiums, and
  • 2,000 additional gallons of gas.

It’s now up to the U.S. Senate to do the right thing for American families. It’s time for swift action on the Paycheck Fairness Act. If a vote on this bill is delayed until next year with a new Congress, we’re back to square one. The recovery of the American middle class begins and ends with well-paying jobs, but that can’t happen if women continue to earn less than they deserve for equal work.

As we honor our nation’s workers this Labor Day, what better way to laud them than to pay workers equally, regardless of gender? Help us convince the Senate to bring this bill up for a vote and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this month.

American families have waited long enough.

Posted under AAUW of Michigan, Equity in the News, Women and Economic Security

This post was written by janetw on September 13, 2010

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AAUWMI State Convention Photos – 2

Posted under Photo Gallery

This post was written by janetw on July 16, 2010

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“Quality Public Education is the foundation of a democratic society”

July 2, 2010

This message is a call to action for supporters of public education who are being asked to contact Senator Carl Levin’s office to show opposition to vouchers.  See the contact information below.

AAUW has a long history of opposition to vouchers in public education. In the 2009-2011 AAUW Public Policy Program the Public Policy Principles for Action specify that, “AAUW believes that quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society.” In the Biennial Action Priorities the text reads, “To support a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity, and diversity, AAUW advocates opposition to the use of public funds for nonpublic elementary and secondary education.”

I was recently informed, by Kathleen Straus, President of the Michigan State Board of Education, who had been in consultation with Roberta Stanley, Director of Federal Affairs at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in Washingto, D.C., that there is a provision in the Department of Defense budget bill that would provide VOUCHERS for special education students who are dependents of service personnel. The provision would put the Senate on record supporting vouchers, and could potentially set a dangerous precedent.

The strategy in dealing with the bill seems to be to let the provision pass in the Senate, then work to remove it in conference committee. However, there is no assurance that the proposed strategy will work.

I have been in communication with Lecia Imbery, AAUW Public Policy Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, who assured me that her office is working with Roberta Stanley at NSBA and trying to get the voucher provision removed from the bill. She suggested that phone calls or personal contacts from Michigan constituents would be helpful to national AAUW efforts. Please contact Senator Levin’s office and request that the voucher provisions be removed from the bill.

Senator Car Levin

269 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C., 20510

Phone (202) 224-6221

Fax: (202) 224-1388

Thank you for your participation on this important issue.

Barbara Bonsignore

AAUW of Michigan Public Policy Director

2665 Steamboat Springs Drive

Rochester Hills, MI 48309


Posted under Education

This post was written by janetw on July 8, 2010

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