Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Monday, March 6, 2017

President Obama's Executive Orders on Women's Rights Issues

Mary Pat Treuthart, Feminist-in-Chief? Examining President Obama's Executive Orders on Women's Rights Issues, 91 Chicago-Kent LRev 171 (2016)

"I didn't run for President so that the dreams of our daughters could be deferred or denied. I didn't run for President to see inequality and injustice persist in our time. I ran for President to put the same rights, the same opportunities, [and] the same dreams within the reach for our daughters and our sons alike. I ran for President to put the American Dream within the reach of all of our people, no matter what their gender, or race, or faith, or station." President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President and the First Lady at International Women's Day Reception (Mar. 8, 2010) * * * 

Initially  . . .  a report card of sorts on President Obama's first 100 days in office concluded “[t]he Obama Administration has taken giant strides for women in terms of employment, reproductive health[,] and elevation of women's rights domestically and globally.” Particular early achievements noted by the editors included (1) overturning the global gag rule; (2) appointing seven women to cabinet-level positions; (3) creating the position of ambassador-at-large for women's global issues; (4) establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls (CWG); and (5) restarting the contributions by the United States to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). All of this seemed like a propitious start, but the question posed by some observers was: Would the momentum continue?
 A year later, the reaction from prominent women leaders to President Obama's progress on gender equality was decidedly more mixed. Terry O'Neil, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) opined that “[t]he administration is not taking enough of an initiative to change the reality for women.”***


What are women's rights issues? Certain topics may be more readily associated with the concept of women's rights in the policy arena, but there is no single unassailable definition of the term “women's rights issues.” A common description is a “set of policies that concern women as women.” Another approach is to characterize women's rights issues as those “where policy consequences are likely to have a more immediate and direct impact on significantly larger numbers of women than of men.” At least one scholar proposes that a degree of intentionality is a prerequisite and that women should be the “intended beneficiary, constituency, or object” of a particular action. Mere heightened interest by women in a specific topic would not necessarily categorize it as a women's rights concern; rather, the promotion of greater equality and opportunity for women while recognizing their differences from men is an essential part of the equation. Here, being mindful of the aforementioned explanation, this examination will concentrate primarily on executive orders that involve the empowerment of women, gender-based violence, reproductive rights, and employment.

Constitutional, Gender | Permalink


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