President Obama and Congressional leaders are entering a critical phase in negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and prevent default on the nation’s legal obligations. Feminist leaders are speaking out to protect vulnerable groups from suffering while corporate interests fight to stay on the government dole.

“The nation must not default on our legal obligations, and meeting those obligations must not be held hostage to demands that will injure the most vulnerable in our society. The president and Congressional leaders must not balance the nation’s budget on the backs of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

“Whether the Republicans like it or not, the budget deficits cannot be reduced by cutting spending alone. Revenue must be raised by restoring taxes on the wealthy to previous levels, closing loopholes that allow major corporations to escape taxation, and ending federal subsidies to profit-bloated oil corporations,” continued Smeal.

Republicans proposals, including the House-passed (in a straight party line vote) 2012 Ryan budget effectively eliminate the guarantee of Medicare for future generations. In addition, it drastically cuts the Medicaid program by $750 billion and converts it to block grants to states. Instead of having a right to access benefits, eligible poverty-level pregnant women, children, elderly and disabled persons will be at the mercy of individual states.

“They cannot use the deficit as an excuse to cut vitally-needed women’s programs such as domestic and international reproductive health and family planning programs. This has nothing to do with cutting the budget. Every $1 spent on family planning saves the government some $4 in other costs,” said Smeal. “And lowering the Social Security COLA by using the Chained Consumer Price index is unacceptable. Retired women, whose average Social Security check is only $1000 per month, need real COLA increases.”

What Americans really want in the deficit-reduction package is what Congress must do: restore taxes on the wealthy, cut defense spending, and stand strong for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and health programs such as family planning.