On March 10, about 250 supporters of the nonpartisan Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee gathered at the Hyatt Regency for the 16th annual Presidents’ Circle Luncheon. With a stellar panel of District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Community Environmental Council CEO/Executive Director Sigrid Wright, Planned Parenthood President/CEO Jenna Tosh, and CAUSE Executive Director Maricela Morales, the discussion, “Moving Feminism Forward in Challenging Times,” touched on many issues of concern to women.
Dudley began the program by sharing that we “need to dust ourselves off” after the shock of the election and not become re-victimized, and “make sure that everyone in our community is protected and respected.”
Wright shared how her organization views climate change as the single biggest issue and how environmental issues are social justice issues in that they impact poor residents the most.
Tosh shared that from Planned Parenthood’s perspective, the biggest issue is the House GOP leadership’s “Repeal and Replace” bill which would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding in the Medicaid Program. There are 850,000 patients in California who rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare, and 35,000 here in the Central Coast Region. Of Planned Parenthood’s $15 million regional budget, this bill would eliminate $10 million. Tosh emphasized that since no federal funds can be used for abortions, what is at stake is women’s preventative care. She encouraged guests to keep up the pressure through protests, rallies, and other actions.
Morales identified the most pressing issue for CAUSE as deportation, with authorities apprehending undocumented immigrants without warning, allowing them to take only the clothes on their back. She related how children don’t want to attend school for fear their parents won’t be there when they return and because of the bullying they are subjected to at school. Tosh stated that at Planned Parenthood, ever since the election, deportation has become the biggest fear of its clients.
Dudley pointed out that the District Attorney’s office does not work with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and stressed the importance of assuring the immigrant community of this fact so that immigrants, who are often vulnerable members of society, will not be fearful to report crimes. Without this assurance, crimes go unreported, and victims become re-victimized.
Dudley shared how important it is to not just focus on the political arena, but also to look around us and see who is being marginalized and “be there for each other and make sure that people feel safe.” Wright echoed these sentiments, noting the importance of supporting each other, “of re-engineering the social fabric,” and that everyone can be a part of that. Wright also noted that while action is important, philanthropy is, as well, in this new era where the nonprofit sector will be called upon to provide the safety net.
Dudley stated that we in CA “are very, very myopic,” and that getting out the vote in CA is not going to win a national election. As evidence of how blessed we are in Santa Barbara, she noted that the Board of Supervisors last year voted to fund a new attorney position in her office to deal with wage theft and environmental crimes, and “that doesn’t happen other places.” She urged guests to reach out beyond Santa Barbara to make sure that Planned Parenthood gets funded not just here, but in other parts of the country as well.
Board President Catherine Swysen stressed the importance of passage of the ERA bill to “send the message that women’s rights are human rights and that gender equity is a must in any society.” She encouraged guests to contact Comgressmember Salud Carbajal and Congressmember Julia Brownley to urge them to co-sponsor the ERA bill (HJ 33).
Founded in 1987, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee is a nonpartisan political action committee whose core mission is to elect feminist candidates. It endorses candidates, develops position papers on a wide range of issues affecting women, engages in advocacy work, offers educational and social programs, and does grass-roots organizing work. In January, it took 600 people to Los Angeles to participate in the Woman’s March. The committee is an all-volunteer organization with more than 400 members, including some men. It has recently seen an uptick in membership of young women and has an active Young Feminists Committee.
The committee will be holding an ERA March for Equality on March 26. For more information about the event and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee generally, go to sbwpc.org.
Send event invites to Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gail Arnold