Fatherhood Initiatives and Grothman’s Senate Bill 507

Senate Bill 507 introduced by Wisconsin Republican Senator Glenn Grothman is the last in a series of outrageous attacks on the rights of women, and it signals a clear trend. Senate Bill 507 moves to amend existing state law by “requiring the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize (non-marital) parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” In addition, Grothman thinks that the food stamp program makes single motherhood more attractive to women than marriage, so he would like to restrict the types of foods that can be purchased with food stamps, make Section 8 housing more cramped, limit applicants’ value of assets owned to $2000, and eliminate school choice.

These attempts to legislate a repressive agenda are shocking, but such tactics have historical precedents. John Locke, for example, thought it was only right that women should have no property rights. He thought it would ensure their cooperation. In other words, it would make them unable to survive outside of a patriarchal marriage. This effort has at its core the determination to own female reproductive potential, but since this is a well-kept secret it is usually called something else, even among the liberal media. For example, some have attributed the latest tactics to a ‘fear of women’s sexuality’. But it is being called by other names as well. I recently read an article on an ACLU page where a professional black woman complained that she was treated disrespectfully at her OBGYN’s office. She insisted it was racism. I would wager that a few million white women could prove her wrong, if they cared to. But if women possess such a valuable resource, bad behavior on the part of doctors and legislators seems to make no sense. In the next few posts I will attempt to make sense of this. The discussion will begin with a look at the implications of Grothman’s bill for Wisconsin.

Some have observed that the Republicans’ woman-baiting can only help Obama in the coming election. But aside from a secret pact to help Obama, is there anything else that could make elected representatives act in ways that are contrary to the interests of their constituents? Lobbies would probably be at the top of the list.

Already many onerous pieces of legislation have been enacted at the state and local level. Both David Albo’s trans-vaginal sonograms idea in Virginia and Glenn Grothman’s Senate Bill 507 in Wisconsin were proposed to state legislatures. It turns out that fatherhood organizations are active in both states and these organizations have an active and energetic lobby. Although Wisconsin has strict laws against politicians benefiting personally from lobbyists’ gifts, their presence provides an important piece of the puzzle–a source of funding.

One question that arises in light of Grothman’s proposal has to do with the potential of an increased work load for social workers in Wisconsin. Social workers are traditionally over-worked and under-paid, and yet this bill would force them to red-flag families who have no history of problems. In other words, even if families don’t require intervention, this law would require Wisconsin’s social services to add them to their work load. Therefore, Grothman can’t be serious, right? On the contrary, there seems to be a good chance that this bill will become law.

On October 7, 2011, the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported that “Milwaukee County will receive up to $5.4 million over three years, through a federal grant program aimed at boosting marriage rates, reducing the number of unwed births and helping men find jobs. The county’s award through the Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood program, announced Friday by County Executive Chris Abele, will be disbursed through a variety of community groups. The county will hire the Center for Self-Sufficiency, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit, to help evaluate local program proposals. The fatherhood initiative is expected to help about 2,000 families a year.” ((Schultze, Steve. “County to Receive $5.4 Million for Fatherhood Initiative”. March 11, 2012. Available: http://www.jsonline.com/newswatch/131333099.html October 7, 2011)) Note that this is a federal grant program.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but there are several pages of job openings with Wisconsin social services. ((indeed.com. March 11, 2012. Available: http://www.indeed.com/q-Social-Worker-l-Wisconsin-jobs.html))

On June 21, 2010, Obama announced a new fatherhood and families fund at an event in Washington D.C. He said it was part of a ‘nationwide fatherhood initiative’. The fund is titled, the Fatherhood, Marriage and Innovation Fund and will “scale up effective fatherhood and family strengthening programs across the country.” It is part of a White House effort to bolster fatherhood, part of which is run by its faith-based initiatives office. ((Fabian, Jordan. “Obama Announces Fatherhood Initiative”. The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room. March 11. 2012. Available: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/104421-obama-announces-fatherhood-initiative-))

On the same day the Washington Post reported Obama’s intention to ask Congress to move on his $500 million budget request for a Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund, which would give grants to nonprofits that support fathers and families, including job training programs and economic incentives for dads. (my emphasis) According to Obama, economic support for fathers is nothing new, but the marriage building efforts were previously ‘undernourished’. This article ends with a quote from the president.

“Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian.”

Note that in this list he includes: a father and mother (father listed first), a single father, and two fathers, but he does not mention a single mother.

Also in the Washington Post article, Roland Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, praised Obama’s leadership. Warren’s organization was founded in 1994 and recently contracted with the federal government to produce public service announcements promoting fatherhood.((Washington Post, Post Politics. March 11, 2012. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/21/AR2010062100006.html))

Maybe the Republicans will manage to drive voters to Obama after all. Apparently, they are on the same team. Unfortunately, we have seen that one aim of fatherhood organizations is to help fathers wage persistent court battles that eventually deny mothers guardianship of their children. They have been successful the majority of the time, even when the fathers have a history of abuse. ((Wilson, Trish. “How Can a Good Enough Mother Protect Herself”.©1996 March 11, 2012. Available: http://abatteredmother.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/mothers-under-siege-tactics-of-the-fathers-rights-movement-how-can-a-good-enough-mother-protect-herself/))