For immediate release: May 6, 2004

Contact: Camden Richards or Lela Shepard at 202-588-5180


Statement of Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center

(Washington, D.C.) Forget breakfast in bed this Sunday. What mothers really need this Mother’s Day is affordable child care, good health care for themselves and their kids, a fair shake on the job, and support for the programs and services that their families rely on. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is pushing policies that make it harder to be a mother this Mother’s Day. Last month, the National Women’s Law Center released a report, Slip-Sliding Away: The Erosion of Hard-Won Gains for Women Under the Bush Administration and an Agenda for Moving Forward. This report took a close look at the Administration’s policies and found a consistent pattern of reversing progress for women in every aspect of their lives: their opportunities to succeed at work and in school, their economic security, their health and reproductive rights. Mothers — and all women — deserve a lot more than they are getting.

Policy makers can and should make it easier for mothers and families. One area that needs urgent attention is child care. Instead of working to expand access to affordable, high-quality child care, the Bush Administration has underfunded and undermined child care programs. Only one out of seven children eligible for federal child care assistance receives help. But the Administration would make the problem worse. It has proposed to cut the number of children served by the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides subsidies for child care for low- and moderate-income families and funds to improve child care quality. By the Administration’s own estimate, this change alone would result in 300,000 children losing child care assistance by 2009. It has also proposed modifications to the welfare law that would impose harsh new work requirements on families in poverty, while opposing increases in their child care assistance. The U.S. Senate has rejected this approach and, by a vote of 78-20, approved a $7 billion increase in child care funding over five years, but the bill remains stalled in the Senate. On a related front, the Administration has proposed a radical and untested plan for Head Start, which could seriously undermine this successful early learning program for low-income children.

Another closely related area of concern is the Administration’s tax polices. Many Americans know that the Administration, and its allies in Congress, offer tax cuts that benefit the wealthy few as the solution for every economic problem the country faces. [m1] Some Americans know that they propose paying for these tax cuts, in part, with deep budget cuts. But few Americans know that the services and programs that must be cut to make room for these tax cuts are especially important to mothers and their children. In addition to child care, these critical programs include housing subsidies, the Women, Infants and Children nutrition programs, Pell grants to help pay for college, and aid to state and local governments – without which states are cutting child care and other key programs that mothers depend upon. Yet a U.S. Senate budget resolution that would impose restraints on new tax cuts is currently being resisted by the House of Representatives, with the support of the White House.

Moreover, the women and families who are paying the price for these tax cuts receive few of their benefits. More than one-quarter of families headed by a single parent, the vast majority of whom are headed by a mother, get nothing from the 2001 or 2003 tax cuts. The benefits go, instead, to the very wealthy: the average tax cut for millionaires was about $113,000 in 2003. This is five times the income that a typical single mother with children lives on for an entire year. But instead of supporting mothers struggling to fed and clothe their kids, educate them and raise them right, the Administration's budget proposes to cut services they need -- and give even more tax cuts to millionaires.

Their child care and tax policies are two examples of ways in which the Bush Administration’s policies are making it harder to be a mother this Mother’s Day. But many more actions are occurring almost completely out of the public eye. That is not by accident, given that many of these initiatives are out of touch with the views and aspirations of most American women and men. We’ve documented in our report a wide range of policies and actions that are harmful to mothers and, indeed, all women. For example:

n The Labor Department repealed a rule to help employees obtain paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

n The Department of Education, without explanation, “archived” Title IX guidance on preventing sexual harassment in schools, making it unavailable to administrators and parents trying to protect children from sexual harassment.

n The Administration ended the Equal Pay Initiative and has removed all materials on narrowing the wage gap from the Department of Labor’s website. The Department of Justice has also dropped cases challenging sex discrimination in employment.

n The Department of Education reduced Title IX enforcement while it established a Commission that proposed weakening athletics policies that open opportunities for female students.

n A plan to privatize Social Security that the Administration supports would require deep cuts in Social Security benefits for all future retirees, whether they participate in a private account or not. For example, by the Administration’s own analysis, a woman retiring in 2075 (working at an average wage) would receive benefits 46 % below current levels if she did not participate in a private account and 69 % below current levels if she participated in a private account. Even if she received an average return on a medium-risk portfolio from her private account, her combined income would be 21% below current benefit levels.

n The Administration’s plan to “restructure” Medicaid, changing it from an entitlement program to a block grant, will result in more women without health insurance.

n Women’s reproductive rights are being taken away by Administration-backed laws criminalizing abortion and giving the rights and status of “personhood” to fetuses and embryos, while family planning programs vital to women’s health are being undermined.

n Medical research is being undermined and scientific information distorted to serve an anti-abortion and anti-family planning agenda. For example, the National Cancer Institute posted information on its website that falsely suggested there may be a link between abortion and breast cancer.

n The Defense Department limited the role of a 55-year-old advisory committee designed to promote recruitment and retention of women in the military and appointed all new members to the committee, at least one of whom does not support opening new opportunities to women and called the Army “a vast day-care center, full of unmarried teen-age mothers using it as a welfare home.”

n The Administration has placed individuals hostile to women’s interests on other expert advisory bodies as well, such as those responsible for domestic violence and reproductive health.

n The Administration has selected judicial nominees opposed to critical rights for women and girls. One judicial nominee wrote that wives must “subordinate” themselves to their husbands.

n The Administration proposed funding emergency shelters, crisis hotlines and other domestic violence services at 26% below authorized levels.

The Administration has taken some constructive actions on issues of importance to women, such as filing a brief in an important family and medical leave case before the Supreme

Court and prosecuting those who smuggle women and children into this country for prostitution and other abuses. These positive actions are overshadowed, however, by the overwhelming number of actions and policies that cause great harm to women.

But as the Center’s report shows, it does not have to be this way. The Administration can and should take action to improve the lives of women and girls. Some of these steps include: fully enforcing the civil rights laws; expanding and improving child care, Head Start and early learning programs; strengthening access to health insurance and family planning; increasing retirement security, especially for older women—our grandmothers—living in poverty; and adopting fair tax and budget policies that adequately fund services women and their families rely upon.

This Mother’s Day, let’s clean house. Let’s help moms everywhere get the help and support they need. It’s the best Mother’s Day present we could give.


For more information, please see an executive summary of the National Women’s Law Center’s report at

or a full copy of the report at

The National Women's Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights. The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.