When I arrived at the annual summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in New Orleans last week, the first thing I did was pick up my name tag.  Unfortunately, my name tag read “Mr. Hadley Heath.”  Mr. Hadley Heath?  This kind of thing happens to me all the time.  They changed it immediately to Ms. Hadley Heath, and all was well!

Obviously, this was an honest mistake on ALEC’s part… but another “Ms.” thinks ALEC is a sexist organization.  Elisabeth Ampthor, after protesting at the ALEC Conference in New Orleans, wrote for Ms. Magazine Blog that ALEC is an anti-woman bully:

Women are not ALEC’s only target, but the group’s free-market, profit-first model legislation disproportionately hurts women, who make up the majority of public sector workers, the majority of the heads of single-parent households and the majority of dependents on Medicare.

Overturning health-care reform is probably ALEC’s biggest anti-woman initiative. Everything they are doing to guide states in repealing “ObamaCare” will make life worse for women. Ms. reporter Andrea Grimes explains: “Since Medicaid helps low-income pregnant women, the elderly in nursing homes (most of whom are women and two-thirds of whom are Medicaid-funded) and disabled children and adults, you can imagine the consequences [of ALEC’s model legislation]: a 90- year-old woman evicted from her nursing home, an autistic child no longer given aid, a young pregnant woman unable to afford prenatal care.”

First of all, I’ve known some of the folks who work for ALEC for a long while now, and I just spent a few days surrounded by them in the Big Easy.  Funny, I never heard one anti-woman comment.  In fact, I think ALEC is pretty pro-woman.  I felt totally encouraged and respected, and I got to see my friend Christie Herrera (yep, a woman) who is the director of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force.

Now that that’s out of the way… I must say that upon reading Ampthor’s analysis, I’m torn between disappointment and regret.  

Disappointment, because I suspect that Ampthor might be intentionally, knowingly using women as a means to advocate for big-government policies that actually impact both men and women, and to scare the latter group by crying sexism. 

And regret, because we were both in New Orleans at the same time, and maybe my suspicion about Ampthor is wrong, and I missed the chance to sit down with her and have a conversation about this stuff.

Like a lot of American women, I’m pro-free-market because it gives me greater control over my life and my resources.  Greater freedom.  Truer equality.  More choices.  That goes for education, career, and yes – health care.  I don’t believe that employers, or insurers, or the government should treat me differently from a man.  I think I should be judged by my merits, my potential (my potential risk), and not by my gender.

Finally, Ampthor really only wrote one thing that made me a little sad.  She said, “I want to see a happy, healthy, diverse, well-fed, educated populace-but that’s a different vision of the United States than the one ALEC and its corporate backers are pushing.”  That’s just not right.  ALEC (as well as other free-market groups like IWF) wants a happy, healthy, diverse, well-fed, educated populace too.  We might disagree with big-government types about how to get there, but it’s really unfair to say that’s not what we want.  In my mind, that’s pretty much something that every American would want.