Here is their Action Alert calling on women to stop the bill from their website:
"Please Call Your Member of Congress and Vice President Gore:
Urge your Representative to vote against The Fathers Count Act of 1999, H.R. 3073, as this bill will funnel millions of dollars over the next five years to local and national organizations, many of them likely to be father's rights groups and right wing religious organizations.
For example, promoting marriage is a required part of eligible program services. We know that in some cases, marriage to a violent or irresponsible person is what caused the mom and kids to be in poverty to begin with - yet only groups who will actively pursue marriage as a goal in itself (you can guess who those groups are) can receive and use these federal funds to promote their agenda.
The legislation will soon be moving to the House floor, when finalized by the Ways and Means Committee. H.R. 3073 has moved quietly through committee, with the text of the bill not appearing on the website for Congress until just last week. There now appears to be a concerted push to quickly pass this questionable legislation.
In recent news, Vice President Gore has endorsed most of the provisions of the bill; please urge him to take a closer look and withdraw his support.
Why this bill is bad for women and children:
This bill comes at a time when welfare-to-work programs are both limited and underfunded in helping custodial parents become economically independent so they can support their children.
The rationale seems weak for prioritizing federal assistance to non-custodial parents when the need is far greater for custodial parents, although either could qualify for help under recent revisions to the bill. The overwhelming majority (84%) of single-headed households with children under 18 are maintained by women.
The Fathers Count Act would authorize over $150 million in grants to organizations that will do ALL THREE of the following:
"(1) promote marriage through counseling, mentoring, disseminating information about the advantages of marriage, enhancing relationship skills, teaching how to control aggressive behavior, and other methods:
(2) promote successful parenting through counseling, mentoring, disseminating information about good parenting practices, training parents in money management, encouraging child support payments, encouraging regular visitation between fathers and their children, and other methods; and
(3) help fathers and their families avoid or leave cash welfare . . . And improve their economic status by providing work first services, job search, job training, subsidized employment, career-advancing education, job retention, job enhancement, and other methods."
Some of the provisions of the bill are narrowly written so that specific national father's rights groups will be the only ones to qualify for the funds.
A provision in the bill would also allow a state to cancel child support arrearages in certain situations; other aspects could undermine state efforts to collect past due child support payments. Other changes to state and federal child support enforcement programs need to be more carefully evaluated.
Further, H.R. 3073 may not survive a constitutional challenge for gender discrimination. Even though a section was added -- at the request of women's groups -- to say that both men and women are eligible to receive assistance, every other aspect of the Fathers Count Act indicates that programs are intended to help only men.
Any bill tying federal benefits to gender would be unconstitutional as it violates equal protection guarantees under the Fifth Amendment.
Call (202) 224-3121 today and ask your member to oppose this bill. Some of the goals of H.R. 3073 are laudable, but the approach is all wrong. Groups that actively oppose women having custody of children should not receive federal funding for counseling or mentoring, nor should any organization "fronting" for these interests be awarded public funds. With scarce funds, tell your Representative that when every custodial parent is receiving needed assistance for training, job placement, child care and transportation, then we can start spending money on non-custodial parents who aren't currently taking responsibility for their kids.
The National Organization for Women believes that Congress should slow down the process to develop a bill that is carefully conceived, protects children and their mothers, and assures that irresponsible men's custody groups do not receive millions of taxpayer dollars. Please call your Representative today and follow this up with a call to your two Senators as the bill may move quickly to the Senate.
More Background on the Father's Rights Movement:
The Fathers Count Act could direct over $150 million in federal dollars to private organizations which have been leaders in the so-called men's rights movement. For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to loosely knit organizations which have sprung up in the wake of tougher enforcement of child support orders and whose goals are to remove physical custody from the mother and award custody to the father (thereby negating his child support obligations).
Unfortunately, custody is sometimes awarded to parents who are documented batterers or child sexual abusers. The National Organization for Women has received (and continues to receive) thousands of letters and calls from women who have lost custody, often after blatant violations of due process, false allegations and biased testimony.
These men's groups have organized effectively at the national level to convince key members of Congress and Vice President Gore (who has taken a leadership role on this issue) that they are respectable and responsible entities. Several national "fatherhood" organizations have close ties to fathers' rights groups and have among their membership many extremist activists.
These activists maintain numerous websites and chat rooms on the Internet which spout hatred towards women and counsel men on how to get out of child support obligations.
The Fathers' Count Act purports to help poor under- and unemployed fathers -- many of whom may be absent parents -- by providing parenting training, maintaining child/access visitation centers, counseling on how to control aggression and anger, become a better marriage partner, improve their credit records, and meet child support obligations. Undoubtedly, these are worthy goals.
We question whether any of the men's custody groups who have been instrumental in writing this legislation are appropriate entities to provide such services. We further doubt that they would be effective counselors in assisting fathers on how to meet child support requirements.
Also, there is insufficient appreciation of the pervasive problem of domestic violence and question whether Congress, in promoting marriage (as the bill specifies), would place more women and children at risk. Right wing religious groups backing this bill have an agenda of promoting marriage at all costs, regardless of the risks some marriages would pose to the safety of women and children.
Thank you for taking action and for participating in NOW's Action Alert network!"