Subject: Luke Ravenstahl's appearances before the 7th and 14th Ward Committees
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 17:42:50 EST
Dear Barbara, Sam and other interested committee people,
Earlier this month, one of my sister members of the 7th Ward Democratic Committee told me of a conversation she had had with Luke Ravenstahl when he requested her support. She told me she had asked him about his vote as a member of City Council against protecting health care facilities – particularly women's health care facilities – from harassment, particularly by anti-abortion forces. She told me she was very upset by his answer, and that he further informed her that he was not only against the Constitutional right to abortion, he was also against birth control. I was amazed and somewhat incredulous about this answer, so I decided to ask him the question publicly.
On February 7, the 7th Ward held its forum. I had asked every candidate to detail her/his record on hiring and promotion of women of all colors and men of color. As a follow-up to Ravenstahl's answer, I said, "You can understand my concern, since I recently learned that you are not only opposed to abortion, but also against birth control. So I worry about your attitude to women generally."
The acting mayor responded by nodding as I stated his position. When he didn't verbally respond, one 7th Ward member complained that those issues had nothing to do with being mayor. But another member objected to that characterization, stating that public safety was an issue, and Ravenstahl had refused to protect women at the health clinics. A spirited debate occurred, during which Ravenstahl stated that he did not believe that there was any harassment at the clinics, just people trying to gently persuade women. Many of the 7th Ward members objected to that characterization. I tell you this in background so you know why I was asked by a 14th Ward Committee member to attend your forum last Thursday (2-22-07) to assess Luke Ravenstahl's answers to questions about women'sconstitutional rights.
Imagine my surprise when Ravenstahl essentially called one of the 14th Ward members a liar, saying "no such private conversation had taken place." And he, of course, left out the fact that he had confirmed his anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-right to privacy positions publicly in front of the 7th Ward committee. I was also amazed to discover that in the space of a couple weeks he had changed his position on public safety from one in which he denied there was a problem to "it is now the law and I will enforce it."
I feel that the 14th Ward committee members (and others, for that matter) should know that Ravenstahl lied in his presentation, which is why I'm writing this note. I hope you will consider forwarding it to your members and other interested people. I am also copying this to a number of Democratic leaders who have asked me about my experiences with Ravenstahl. I'm also adding members of political organizations for whom these issues are important. And of course, my contact information is listed below for anyone who wishes to discuss this with me.
As a parenthetical note, please let me answer those few members of the 7th Ward and 14th Ward who fail to see what relevance this has to being mayor of the city of Pittsburgh. Besides the already stated public safety question, there is a question of whether Ravenstahl bears allegiance to the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions as his oath of office requires or to his private religious views. In addition, it is easy to see that someone who becomes mayor of a major city in his youth is likely to envision a long political career, moving into higher office where he might have an opportunity to actually outlaw the right to privacy.
Finally, we must always keep in mind that real women and their families have a right to be trusted, and suffer and die when they are not. Ultimately, the issue is not just about abortion in Pittsburgh, but whether women and children in the world's poorest countries will live or die. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in 16 women dies in childbirth, compared with one in 2,800 in the developed world. A woman dies every 7 minutes from an unsafe abortion. Five million people were infected last year with HIV. These numbers have increased dramatically under the Bush administration, and are just a part of the reason why support for women's legal constitutional rights is a key portion of the Democratic Party platform.
Thanks very much for reading and passing this on.
Jeanne K. C. Clark
- Ms. Clark did indeed include her contact info (email address, phone #) in the above email. I have edited it out, but will happily provide it to other bloggers who may wish to contact her, as well as to anyone in the mainstream media who would hopefully want to write on this subject.
- Ms Clark is a Democratic Committeewoman, a longtime activist for women's rights, and has served as a political and media strategist to candidates and issue campaigns on local, state and federal levels.
- It should be noted that during the public comments section of the Bubble Zone Bill City Council Meeting, the OUT-OF-STATE college students who flooded that session used the same language as Luke that there were "just people trying to gently persuade women." Ravenstahl choose to believe these OUT-OF-STATE college students' assessment of the situation over the testimony of LOCAL WOMEN and newspaper reports. I'm only surprised that he didn't manage to use the phrase "prayerful and peaceful" which the students used ad nauseam.
- David's own firsthand account of Ravenstahl on the subject of contraception at a 14th Ward Committee meeting can be found here.
- For anyone who wishes to start up again the tired, straw man argument that I or David are saying that Ravenstahl would try to ban the sale of contraceptives, or who keeping playing ignorant by stating that the Mayor's views on contraceptives would never come into play in city policy, I will remind you all that cities often have programs to distribute condoms to IV drug users, and NYC was recently in the news for their new condom giveaway program. Also, of course, it would certainly seem that Ravenstahl decided his vote on the Bubble Zone Bill based more on his own religious training than on the fact that it was a public safety issue.