The following article by Vanessa Williams was posted on the Washington Post website March 22, 2017:
This post has been updated.
The Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative think tank, has drawn fire on social media and from some progressive commentators for its decision to give its inaugural “Working for Women” award to Vice President Pence.
Pence was scheduled to receive the award at a reception Wednesday, but the forum issued an advisory Wednesday afternoon saying that it had “just been informed by the office of the Vice President that due to current events and scheduling the Vice President will no longer be able to attend the reception.” The group said it would find a later date to give Pence the award. The advisory said that Kelleyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump and a member of the organization’s board of directors, might attend.
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law some of the country’s strictest antiabortion measures, and as a member of Congress, he repeatedly voted against federal equal-pay bills. He also drew national attention to his state over a religious-freedom law that many interpreted as anti-gay, leading to a backlash among major corporations and some prominent Republicans.
An initial news release about the event said that the “Working for Women” award “recognizes an individual who values free markets, works to create a more dynamic and innovative work world, and celebrates the valuable contributions women make to society.”
The reception, in honor of Women’s History Month, will also recognize 20 members of Congress who support the free-market policies that the Independent Women’s Forum argues will better help women take care of themselves and their families. The Independent Women’s Forum also is observing it’s 25th anniversary this year,
In a statement Wednesday in response to criticism of its choice for the award, the organization it “decided to recognize Vice President Mike Pence because of his long commitment to advocating for limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility including rolling back heavy taxation and regulation, which will ultimately enable economic growth and human flourishing, and which is in line with IWF’s own mission statement.” It put together a list of actions Pence took as governor that advanced that mission, saying he “pushed forward the largest tax cuts in the states history,” created new jobs and supported school choice.
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the forum, has said in the past that the organization does not take a position on abortion and instead focuses primarily on economic issues.
Abortion rights groups and activists fought Pence’s attempts to enact severe restrictions on abortions when he was governor of Indiana. He signed a law last year banning abortion of fetuses with disabilities or because of their race or sex. The law also required that women have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before a scheduled abortion, and it said that fetuses that were aborted or died in a miscarriage must be buried or cremated. Parts of the law were struck down by the courts.
Laura Shanley was so incensed by what she saw as Pence’s intrusive and insensitive antiabortion tactics that she launched a Facebook campaign called Periods for Pence. Women were urged to call the governor’s office and report on the status of their menstrual cycles, lest they be accused of miscarrying and failing to properly dispose of the fetus.
Pence also was criticized for voting to defund Planned Parenthood when he was a member of Congress. Shanley said the district he represented had a shelter for victims of domestic violence who relied on the services of the clinic.
Some online critics expressed incredulity at the news that Pence is being honored by a women’s group.
Celebrating Women’s Revisionist History Month, allow me to present a man determined force women to relive the past. http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/03/mike-pence-to-receive-a-working-for-women-award.html …
Mike Pence Is Receiving a ‘Working for Women’ Award
— gemini girl (@FlanneryElise) March 17, 2017
Elisabeth Sherman, writing for Playboy, wondered, “Shouldn’t the Independent Women Forum be recognizing other women for their hard work?”
If, however, the Independent Women’s Forum chose Pence primarily for his positions on pocketbook issues, then he’s their guy. Both the vice president and the forum oppose most of the gender-equality policies pitched by progressive women.
The group has produced a report, “Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives,” that lays out its economic agenda. It argues against enacting equal pay laws, mandating paid family leave and raising the minimum wage as putting unnecessary burdens on employers. Instead, the report calls for changes to the tax codes, more flexible work schedules and allowing workers to set aside pretax dollars to replace their income if they need to take family leave.
In 1997, Pence wrote a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star taking the newspaper to task for downplaying a study that he said showed children in day care are less affectionate toward their mothers. “Sure, you can have it all,” he wrote, “but your day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick.” He called for a “family-friendly” tax code that would support one parent staying at home.
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