The "war on women" came to Santa Cruz yesterday in advance of International Women’s Day. A small skirmish broke out in the County Board of Supervisors chamber over a motion made by the lone women on the Board, Ellen Pririe.
Despite twice having voted unanimously to endorse the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995 and again in 2005 the Board could not get unanimous support for a rather harmless motion intended to remove obstacles that may exist for women and girls in accessing county services.
Pririe’s motion was to direct various County departments to work with the County Women’s Commission to develop a survey to identify gaps in data collection and other practices that could lead to gender inequities in County services and funding decisions and to develop training for department heads to help them better understand how the choices they make may influence gender inequities.
The Board’s consideration of the proposal stems from a recent report by the County Women’s Commission on the Status of Women and Girls in Santa Cruz County (SOWAG) that found that a failure to gather and disaggregate data by gender has an adverse affect on addressing gender inequities which were identified in a number of areas.
Supervisor Greg Caput, who represents south county, opposed the motion on the grounds that CEDAW was mentioned in the letter presented to the Board by members John Leopold and Mark Stone in support of the proposed action. Caput claimed that his objection was to using an international treaty as a “template” for the study.
Women’s Commissioner from the 5th District, Sheila De Lany, a Boulder Creek jeweler, spoke in favor of the motion and was asked by Caput why the U.S. Senate has yet to ratify the treaty signed by President Carter. After providing a short lesson in Senate rules De Lany pointed out that the U.S was among seven countries including of Iran, Somalia, and Sudan who have not yet ratified the treaty.
Supervisors Pririe, Stone and Leopold all took their turns trying to assure Supervisor Caput that the County was not entering into any foreign treaties to no avail. Ultimately the Board voted 4-1 to approve the motion.
After casting the lone vote against the motion, Caput told Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppins that as a pro-life Catholic he objects to language in the treaty supporting womens' access to abortions. Apparently Caput objects to Article 12 which reads: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.”
The fact that the County will proceed with steps intended to eliminate discrimination against women in their practices and funding decisions is to be commended, however, the fact that in 2012, in Santa Cruz County, there is one member of the Board who opposes such efforts should be a wake up call, particularly as we contemplate who will be on the Board in 2013.