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Group calls for more attention to women's issues

November 18, 2003
By: Joi Preciphs
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A women's advocacy group charged Tuesday that state budget cuts are responsible for a decline in the health and welfare of Missouri women.

The group, Alliance for the Status of Missouri Women, is calling for comprehensive changes to policies they believe have muted the state's response to the economic, educational and health needs of women.

The governor's wife, Lori Hauser Holden, was the opening speaker at ceremonies in the statehouse commemorating the anniversary of a 2002 research study that gave Missouri a "C" grade for the well-being of its women.

Although a Republican woman holds the legislature's highest office as House Speaker, Holden questioned the commitment of Republicans to women's issues.

"I am concerned about the philosophy of the Republican-led legislature in the regard of women's status," Holden said in an interview after the ceremonies.

Holden said during her speech that obstacles to improving women's quality of life have gotten worse in the state.

In addition to this event, the alliance held simultaneous engagements in St. Louis and Kansas City with other prominent women to call attention to the below-average results the state received last year in a report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington D.C.-based research group.

In that report, the Institute rated the status of Missouri women in several areas, including employment and earnings, reproductive rights, health and well-being, social and economic autonomy and political participation.

Alliance representatives said evidence of the state's worsening stance include the repercussions of budget reductions and withholdings over the last four years that have affected programs that support women.

Holden and others cited the recent termination of the comprehensive family planning program, increased infant mortality rate and rate of hospitalization, cutbacks in Medicaid health coverage, reduced child-care assistance, and the inattention to the needs of women who live in poverty as key examples of this phenomenon.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson (D-Columbia) said the state could begin to remedy problems by prioritizing health care and child care.

"When we cut access to health and child care, these women and their families have nowhere to turn," she said.

Wilson said that the alliance should generate bipartisan support because the issues are universal to all women.

The alliance plans for a statewide Call-to-Action next March to build coalitions and set an agenda for the future.