The Bloomsday Race is one of Spokane, Washington’s biggest events of the year. This year was no different, as thousands participated, even with new security measures in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last month. The event went off with no problems. Well, except for one minor issue.
The anti-choice activists who brought giant graphic posters to the route as a means of protesting abortion.
Officials admit that they have no recourse, which is exactly what the protesters wanted. Some people got angry. Others yelled. Many more complained that their children couldn’t avoid the pictures. “The images where [sic] horrific and disturbing. No need for that type of protest during a family event,” wrote one person on a Facebook page for the event, according to the Spokesman Review.
Public protest of abortion using graphic material has been a staple of the anti-choice movement since the early 80′s, when activist Joe Scheidler advocated it as a number of different steps in his “Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion” handbook for protest and “sidewalk counseling.” From fliers with graphic pictures that were handed out at public events and marches to larger photos outside of clinics where women would be terminating pregnancies, Scheidler was an enthusiastic advocate for the power of a gruesome image, although he did recommend that the ones at clinics be positioned away from the person doing the actual “counseling” of women prior to their entrance into the clinic in order to not scare them. He also encouraged the use of such photos at pro-choice events or when picketing the homes, private offices, clubs, and places of worship frequented by providers.
Much as anti-choice protesters still use many of the exact same photos as they did in the 80′s, they use many of those same “99 Ways” tactics to protest on the streets. Scheidler’s son has continued using those tactics to oppose a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, making viewing abortion photos the price of attendance, and the Director of the National Pro-Life Congress did the same for an NAACP awards dinner in Michigan. One anti-abortion extremist in Ohio made viewing his bloody display a prerequisite for voting early at a mostly liberal polling place.
Still, for the most part the target remained adults, and adults in places where anti-choice advocates assume the majority would support abortion rights. That is beginning to change as more protesters are seeking to give the photos wider distribution, and directly impact those under the age of 18. High schools are becoming a favorite protesting place of late, with one “truth truck” driver stating that the giant photos of “dismembered fetuses” displayed on the side of his truck are the only way to get the message across. “They have to see it, not just hear about it,” protester Pablo Flores told the Imperial Valley Press. “It wakes up the people.”
The message implied is clear: If you want these pictures to go away, end abortion. Until you do exactly what they say, they will continue to bring their protests everywhere people gather. Especially family events involving children.
Is it emotional blackmail? Of course. Those who support it say “sometimes the truth is graphic,” as their signs were representative of the realities of abortion. But they hardly represent reality. The majority of abortions in the United States—more than 90 percent—take place in the first trimester and the vast majority of those at the embryonic stage. Whatever the doctored photos being used for “public display,” they all have been magnified to ensure they are as gruesome as possible. “Truth” in most cases would be up to 2 inches long in real life, but wouldn’t be nearly as visible (and hence grisly) on a 6′x10′ placard.
That all body parts and bodily functions tend to have a yuck factor (especially when a zoom lenses is involved) shouldn’t be lost on the anti-choice contingent. After all, these are the same people who feel that teenagers need to be protected from seeing a demonstration of condom use because it is “too explicit.” If sex ed should be handled “by parents, not states,” then why is the new front line of abortion protesting the direct targeting of youth with graphic pictures, explicitly rejecting a parent’s right to decide what is or isn’t appropriate for young children?
To anti-choice activists, the answer is simple. The ends justify the means. Just ask Professor Eugene Volokh, who is defending such a case of graphic anti-choice posters being used in a protest at a church in Colorado. Volokh argues that the case is a simple one based on first amendment rights and freedom of speech, which should always supersede any potential harm that could be brought to young children who are forced to view said “speech.” If there was any doubt that his own personal views might be clouding the issue a bit, however, it should be noted that Volokh told the New York Times that these images are providing “valuable information to young people.” He stated that “vivid images are ‘very often the most effective way of conveying a moral truth’ and that ‘the gruesomeness of the image reflects the gruesomeness of the act.’” Obviously, in this case, “truth” is in the eye of the lawyer.
The belief that forcing the “truth” via graphic images is worth the cost isn’t just one held by the fringe of the anti-abortion movement, but is surfacing now more among the groups once believed to be the more moderate, public faces of “pro-life.” A recent example is the Susan B. Anthony List’s incessant exploitation of the Kermit Gosnell trial as a means to attempt to garner public support for new restrictions in abortion care. The SBA List was allegedly criticized by members of the GOP for promoting the mini-documentary “3801 Lancaster,” a 20 minute movie about the illegal clinic operated by the Philadelphia doctor charged with murder, due to its graphic content. Justifying her group’s decision to embrace the “horror” side of abortion, Dannenfesler explained that at a certain point you simply have to make people uncomfortable if that’s what it takes to get the point across.
“I had to really search my own conscience because we generally don’t put a horror picture, we usually show the beauty of the unborn child,” President Marjorie Dannenfelser told Newsbusters, a conservative website. “At some point in time, it became appropriate for the rest of the country, beyond just the activists to actually see what we’re talking about, to see the visual argument…[T]here just comes a point in movements where it would be malpractice to not give the visual argument when it gets to such a point as we are right now.”
Dannenfesler was speaking about showing the documentary to legislators, not young children, but her words aren’t much different from those who pose graphic placards at schools, in public intersections, or even large public events geared towards children. Monica Migliorino Miller, a Michigan anti-choice activist and the woman who took many of the photos currently being used in protests, said this when it came to the issue of children seeing the graphic images:
This crisis requires that the truth be publicly exposed — and the magnitude of the injustice that we face overrides the possibility that children will see the pictures. It simply makes no sense to forego the public exposure of our national slaughter that has sent tens of millions of children to their deaths for the sake of sparing children who might see the photos and who might be affected by them. The horrific injustice of abortion and our nation’s continued support for it requires that the photos be shown — despite the possibility of children seeing the disturbing images…[T]o impose as requirements that children will never see the photos or that they will never be upset by them are simply unjustified demands in light of the need to reveal the truth about abortion in order to bring this injustice to an end.
Even if the entirety of the anti-choice movement isn’t ready to move into a full frontal visual assault yet, enough of them are willing to do so to make any potential outing a protest scene, and more abortion opponents are coming to their side. Want to feel safe to take a child outside without the concern that you may have to explain what the giant bloody baby skull across the street is all about? it’s simple, just do what they say and end abortion.
Otherwise, you have no one to blame but yourself.
The post Anti-Choice Protestors Bringing “In Your Face” Tactics to a Family Event Near You appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The 2013 legislative session closed in Missouri on May 17th, as the House and Senate wrapped up their final day of voting. For low-income and uninsured women in the state, the end couldn’t come soon enough. Lawmakers made it a priority to block expansion of Medicaid and access to birth control access, while at the same time funneling tax credits to so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) which provide misleading or outright inaccurate information, and are often run by volunteers passing themselves off as health care providers. Add into the mix a new law that will make it more difficult for women to access medication abortion services, and Missouri politicians proved yet again their willingness to deny women access to health care.
“The Missouri Legislature is following a disturbing trend in state legislatures across the country,” said Peter Brownlie, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Paula Gianino, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri in a joint press release following the session’s close. “Just months after women’s health was a determining issue in a historic election, 42 states saw hundreds of provisions introduced to restrict access to health care and to put politicians between a woman and her doctor. Yet again, we are seeing the wrong priorities come out of the Missouri Legislature on matters of women’s health. Instead of increasing access to preventive health care, the legislature is working to restrict access to birth control and non-surgical abortion while giving millions of tax dollars to groups that are known to provide misleading information to women about their pregnancies.”
The legislature has now made it legal for medical providers not only to refuse to offer care or fill a prescription, but refuse to offer a referral as well, thanks to HB 457, a new and expanded “conscience” protection bill. The implications could be devastating for those in rural areas seeking access to emergency contraception in a limited window of time, who may need to travel great distances to find a hospital willing to provide the drug, or for those attempting to fill birth control prescriptions in areas with few pharmacy options. The state also passed a bill that forbids the practice of telemedicine as a means of delivering medication abortion, by prohibiting use of RU-486 unless the patient is in the physical presence of a doctor.
Also passed this year is an extension of a program that allows donors to crisis pregnancy centers to write the donation off on their taxes. CPCs in the state claim that donations to their groups began to drop when the original program expired. Crisis Pregnancy Centers in many states have been under fire for passing themselves off as medical centers, for refusing to mention up front that they offer neither abortion nor contraception nor provider referrals, and for spreading medically inaccurate falsehoods by claiming, for example, that abortion drives up the risk of cancer, that contraception has high failure rates, and that condoms do not prevent sexually transmitted infections.
The legislature also refused to expand Medicaid, which will continue to affect low-income uninsured women who need access to basic preventive medical care. Currently, Missouri’s Medicaid program covers only those at 32 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion, which would have been fully funded by the federal government, would have raised the cap to 132 percent of the federal poverty level, or for single people making approximately $15,000 a year. Expansion would have provided an additional 267,000 individuals in the state to be covered by Medicaid, according to the Missouri Budget Project.
Still, there are a few bright spots in the session when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. The state’s medication abortion bill might have required even more trips back to the clinic, but an amendment passed eliminating such language. And a bill to revamp “informed consent” prior to obtaining abortion never gained any ground (and even better, a phantom spousal consent bill never got introduced).
Now, the legislature rests for another year. Meanwhile, activists on both sides will watch to see if Democratic Governor Jay Nixon will veto the medication abortion bill, sign it, or simply allow the bill to become law by not acting.
The post End of Missouri 2013 Legislative Session Leaves Women Even Worse Off appeared first on RH Reality Check.
“All the women living with HIV in my organization have been subjected to various forms of violence before and after diagnosis, from sexual violence, psychological, economic to institutional violence.”
This was one testimonial from a consultation conducted by the Athena Network and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS.
Such testimonies of violence are not isolated.
In Chile, 77 out of 100 women have experienced violence, mostly at the hands of partners, fathers, and to a lesser extent strangers.
In Guatemala, women living with HIV reported that when disclosing their HIV status, they experienced increased violence from their partners, relatives, community members, and service providers.
In Panama, 35 percent of the 82 HIV-positive women involved in a study had been victims of abuse; 33 percent indicated that their family discriminated against them due to their HIV serostatus, 51 percent said that their confidentiality had been violated, and 15 percent stopped going to the HIV Treatment Clinic for that reason.
In El Salvador, 41 percent of women reported at least one form of stigma and discrimination, compared to 34 percent of transgender people and 23 percent of men.
And in the Dominican Republic, 42 percent of women reported physical violence, 37 percent emotional violence, and 22 percent sexual violence from their partners.
Yet, as in all regions, deep gender inequality means that violence against women is not always recognized by those who experience it. Olive Edwards, a facilitator at the Jamaican Community of Positive Women, said, “When we started to have a focused discussion on violence against women living with HIV, the women in our groups (where we usually vent about acts of discrimination) were silenced. … We are bound by a culture of gender inequality and norms that increase our vulnerability to violence and HIV.”
A recent report, the result of a collaboration between the Latin American and Caribbean Movement of Positive Women (MLCM+) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), highlights violence throughout a woman’s life as an important underlying determinant of her vulnerability to HIV.
Drawing on interviews with women living with HIV in 14 countries, the report suggests that women’s vulnerability to HIV and its consequences may be increased by the lack of institutional responses and support to women experiencing violence. Violence within families and communities is normalized, and women internalize this attitude. Fear of violence can influence women’s decisions regarding disclosing their status, accessing services, changing their place of residence, accessing education for their children, participating in the labor market, and in interpersonal relationships with relatives, partners, and neighbors. Importantly, contextual factors such as armed conflict and violence, and racial discrimination are vital when examining the lives of women living with HIV.
How can this gap in awareness best be addressed? Back in 2006, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership found that a key gap is the “lack of systematic mechanisms for mutual learning between women’s organizations and HIV organizations.” Seven years later, this is still the case. When a draft of a document called “Ethical consideration for an integral response to human rights, HIV and violence against women,” published by a project of the Inter-American Commission of Women, was presented to a gathering of women living with HIV in Central America, discussions quickly turned to how the participants feel the wider women’s movement in the region is failing to address the specific issue of violence against women with HIV.
Yet we argue also that the failings are not just within the broader women’s movement; governments too must integrate policies and programs to address violence against women living with HIV within their fiscal policies. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, 23 out of 32 countries reported that they are implementing activities on violence against women as part of their current HIV national strategies. However, only 15 countries currently include a specific budget line for women in their HIV strategic national plan.
Fortunately, there is reason for optimism, given a strong regional history of participatory, community, and human rights work, as well as the political will and momentum evident in a number of initiatives in the region. The Inter-American Commission of Women project called Human Rights, HIV, and Violence Against Women in Central America: Integrated Responses is one such initiative, as are the collaborations between ICW Global and Latina and Development Connections, which have focused on violence against women with HIV since 2007. Organizations of people, and specifically women, living with HIV are taking a stand on violence, including RedBol in Bolivia, Red de Mujeres Guatemaltecas Positivas en Acción, and Genesis Positivo Panama, as are REDLACTRANS, a regional transgender network, and REDTRASEX, a network of sex workers.
Such examples are seeds of hope. Yet given the dimensions and social implications of violence against women living with HIV, urgent measures are still needed to strengthen such initiatives through intersectoral collaboration, research, policy dialogue, and capacity building.
The post Addressing Violence Against Women Living With HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean appeared first on RH Reality Check.
While I suspect most teen sexting is relatively harmless, most of us are rightly concerned about incidents where naked pictures of teenagers get forwarded and distributed without their consent. In most cases, a girl shares a nude photo of herself with a boy (or man, in some cases) whom she trusts will behave appropriately with this vulnerable image, only to have him show it off to others, post it online, or otherwise try to shame her for it. In a couple of sad cases, the humiliated girl has even committed suicide. It’s a problem that needs fixing. Unfortunately, West Virginia’s approach—to outlaw sexting and charge those found “possessing, distributing or producing sexually inappropriate photos, videos or other media” with delinquency—is exactly the wrong way to go about this.
This law may be well-intentioned, but it will almost certainly serve mainly or even entirely to punish victims who are already enduring a public humiliation. After all, the only way that a “sext” will come to the government’s attention is if it’s being disseminated, usually without the person in the photograph’s permission. Private text messages that are kept private will, for obvious reasons, not draw legal attention.
I can confidently predict how the enforcement of this law will turn out most of the time: A girl will send a nude picture to a boy. He will forward it, publish it, and share it generally. Once it becomes known that the picture is out there, the girl, who is already suffering from a public shaming, will be charged with delinquency. The boy who originally forwarded the message may get charged, but in many to most cases, probably not. After all, it’s easier to prove that she was engaged in sexting, because of the image, than to bother to figure out who forwarded it first. They can’t charge everyone who shared the image, right? So she, the victim of this hateful behavior, will be the one punished. It’s tailor made for victim-blaming and abuse.
How do I know that’s how it will go down? Well, common sense should be good enough, but we also have actual real world evidence. High schools have already experimented with punishing students for sexting, and the punishments often fall more heavily on the girl whose only crime was trusting too much, and not the boys who violated her trust. Jezebel reported in April about a teenage girl who sent a topless photo of herself to her male friends, and sure enough, she was the one who got expelled while the boys weren’t punished.
The ACLU shared a similar story from 2010 where girls in the sexts were charged with child pornography, even though the photos didn’t even have nudity:
Only the girls who appeared in the photos were threatened with child porn charges. If the DA did in fact regard these photos as pornographic, why not file distribution charges against the boys? A clue may be found in their argument before the 3rd Circuit. In narrating the case, their attorney explained how, after the girls were photographed, “high school boys did as high school boys will do, and traded the photos among themselves.”
We have no reason to believe this law won’t be handled in a similar fashion, where girls are punished for creating sexts, but boys aren’t for sharing them. You could try to justify this by saying that the fear of legal consequences might make girls a little more cautious about who they trust with nude images of themselves, but that argument falls apart when you examine it at all. After all, the girls already know the risks of being humiliated if the image gets out there. If they didn’t already have misplaced trust in the recipients of the nude images, they wouldn’t be sending them. So adding more risks won’t likely change the calculation there.
The problem here is that adults all too frequently focus on the “sex” part of sexting, when the real issue is not sex, but misogyny and a violation of trust. It’s only natural that girls will be tempted to use digital technology to take nude photographs. Sexual experimentation is a normal part of adolescence, and human beings have used every kind of media technology throughout history to make erotic representations. It’s just what we do. The issue here is not that girls are experimenting with sex, but that so many boys think so little of girls’ humanity that they would subject girls to a massive public shaming just for the hell of it.
To be clear, most boys are not engaging in this shaming behavior. Preliminary research shows that only 11 to 12 percent of boys have shared private images with people who weren’t meant to see them. Still, that number is alarmingly high, suggesting that this kind of disrespect and misogynist belief that a woman deserves to be abused for daring be sexual is really widespread. This is the problem that needs to be dealt with. Boys need to be explicitly taught to respect girls’ privacy, and if they violate trust someone put in them to keep private images private, then they are the ones who need to be punished, not the girls.
After the Steubenville case, where boys filmed and photographed themselves raping a girl, you would think that people understand that problem is that so many boys feel not only that it’s okay to humiliate and bully girls in this way, but that it makes them a hero in the eyes of their friends. Unfortunately, our massive cultural hang-ups about female sexuality make it hard to see this. Which is why laws like this one in West Virginia will absolutely be used to abuse already-victimized girls, while not doing anything productive to prevent the real problem, people forwarding sexual messages without permission.
In one week, three military officers in charge of preventing and addressing sexual assault were arrested on various sexual assault charges, including sexual harassment, stalking, and forced prostitution.
This highlights a startling trend: a recent Pentagon report estimates that 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the military in 2012. These revelations have finally brought national attention to the widespread problem of sexual assault in the military.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for an immediate re-evaluation of all sexual assault prevention officers and recruits. And President Obama has publicly condemned the epidemic levels of military sexual assault cases:
"Not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but it also is going to make and has made the military less effective than it can be. And as such, it is dangerous to our national security."
The national outrage is loud and clear. This story has the attention of our nation's leaders. So we have to ask: What do some of the most outspoken anti-choice politicians have to say?
Top anti-choice politicians Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have yet to come out and denounce the horrible acts happening to women in the military. Their official government websites and social media pages don't have as much as a statement about how these assaults cripple our country and endanger Americans both in and outside the military.
The silence really says it all. Anti-choice politicians who refuse to take a stand for survivors of sexual assault contribute to the same victim-blaming and shameful silence that keeps women from reporting their sexual assaults in the first place.
This is not a problem to be buried and forgotten. No matter how much anti-choice politicians would prefer to look the other way.
This is not a famous picture, but it should be. Forty years ago, the March 22, 1973 issue of Jet magazine featured Dr. T.R.M. Howard and a staffer attending a prostrate female patient on its cover, all under a yellow headline: “Legal Abortion: Is it Genocide or Blessing in Disguise?” This remarkable image reportedly depicts preparations for one of the first legal abortions in Illinois (though it could also have been staged).
Just two months after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe v. Wade decision and a week after Illinois OKed the procedure on its soil, Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason (or T.R.M.) Howard began performing legal abortions at his Friendship Medical Center in Chicago. According to the accompanying feature story, Black and white women alike jammed the clinic’s waiting room and phone lines. Outside, Jesse Jackson—once a protégée of Howard’s—picketed and called abortion Black genocide.
In the wake of polarizing national debates about abortion, it’s difficult to imagine that a national magazine would feature an abortion procedure on its cover. And with clinic bombings, harassment, and the assassinations of abortion providers, it is equally hard to imagine many abortion providers would opt for this level of exposure.
But images have long been the currency of both the pro-choice and anti-abortion movements. In 1973, Ms. magazine published the searing image of the naked, kneeling body of twenty-eight-year-old Gerri Santoro, who died from a self-induced abortion in a Norwich, Connecticut hotel room in 1964. The Silent Scream, a 1984 film partly funded by the National Right to Life Committee, claimed to show a fetus writhing in pain during an abortion and became a staple in the arsenal of anti-abortion visual arguments. Earlier this decade, billboards showing winsome Black children towered over streets in Atlanta and New York, blaring messages such as, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” With ever more advanced ultrasound technology, pictures of fetuses are now stock images in the fight to keep abortion legal and accessible; in many states, ultrasounds are required viewing in pre-abortion counseling blatantly designed to dissuade women from terminating their pregnancies.
Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate know that images are worth far more than the proverbial thousand words. The 1973 Jet cover image, in particular, operates on multiple registers. First, we can’t underestimate the impact of the prime real estate given to this image. Jet magazine has circulated millions of copies and occupied a place of pride in Black homes, barbershops, and newsstands since its founding in 1951.
Nor can we, in our current climate, underestimate the power of showing a Black abortion provider. When abortion opponents point fingers at what they call a racist abortion industry targeting communities of color, the providers they imagine are white. The most notable exception is not an heartening or representative one: Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia provider who was found guilty of three counts of murder on Monday. (Though multiple parties expressed concern about his methods, his facility’s sanitary conditions, and its higher-than-usual complication rates, his clinic continually used untrained staff, performed abortions after legal limits, and generally functioned as a last-resort house of horrors for poor women with advanced pregnancies.)
Jet also published brief blurbs about Black women’s abortion-related deaths and the trials of Black health-care providers accused of performing illegal abortions before 1973. The December 16, 1954 issue’s medical news column mentioned legal action against Los Angeles chiropractor Edmund George Peters, who had previously served a six-month sentence on the county road camp for an abortion charge, and Dr. Henry Landry, an Alexandria, Virginia physician suspected in an abortion-related fatality. (Howard himself was brought up on multiple charges but not convicted.)
But the above photograph wordlessly counters the predominant imagery of pre-Roe abortions. This is not the makeshift and blood-spattered back-alley room in a shady neighborhood. Howard appears in a sparkling white lab coat, and his helper is decked out in scrubs and a hairnet. They seem the picture of medical efficiency and professionalism, not untrained shysters. The image captures a moment of social, legal, and medical transition: the movement of abortion from the often-unsafe backrooms to the regulated clinic.
The Jet cover and article also mark Howard’s own transition into legal provision of abortion care, but the magazine doesn’t directly acknowledge Howard’s long history of providing illegal but safe abortions pre-Roe. Before Heather Booth co-founded the Chicago clandestine abortion service commonly known as Jane in the late 1960s, she helped a friend seek an abortion through a group that provided medical services to civil rights activists; they referred the young woman to a doctor who was almost certainly Howard. When Howard parted ways with Jane, he joined forces with the Clergy Consultation Service, a referral service through which he performed hundreds, maybe thousands, of abortions.
Howard is one of the most significant civil rights leaders to fly under the history radar—though his story is well-documented in Black Maverick, a biography by husband-and-wife team David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito. As an insurance salesman in Mississippi, Howard gave young (future civil rights activist) Medgar Evers his first job. In 1951, he founded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a civil rights organization that called for economic boycotts before the Montgomery bus boycotts. He packed civil rights rallies with his fiery rhetoric, and some anointed him a civil rights leader to watch. The Klan watched him, too, especially as he led efforts to uncover the truth behind the murder of fourteen-year-old lynching victim Emmett Till; he enraged J. Edgar Hoover with his full-throated condemnation of a U.S. government that half-heartedly investigated Deep South violence—when it deigned to investigate at all. And, finally, Howard led the segregated, Black National Medical Association when the group began clamoring for hospital integration.
Yet Howard didn’t just belong to the civil rights movement. Like Black physicians and midwives before him, he belonged also to the abortion rights movement. In his inimitable and controversial way, Howard pointed out in Jet that abortion could be safe, legal, and even convenient; he proposed the “lunch hour abortion”—in which a woman could have a complications-free procedure and return to her desk in a jiffy. He countered Black militants’ charges that abortion is “Black genocide” with a broader social critique: “You see, genocide takes many forms. A malnourished body caused by a lack of food is genocide. A slum apartment infested with rats and poison paint peeling is genocide. Bad school which plunge [sic] Blacks into a dismal economic plight is genocide.”
It seems that nobody likes an inveterate and unapologetic boundary crosser. Howard, who died in 1976, isn’t in the canon of civil rights leadership, probably because he differed with movement heroes such as Thurgood Marshall, was a notorious philanderer—and provided abortions (and unapologetically made money from them). Yet neither is he remembered in the standard pro-choice narratives.
Dr. T.R.M. Howard was many things—entrepreneur, physician, and a civil rights rabble-rouser. For the pro-choice activist, he is a loud reminder that all abortion activism did not emerge from a mainly white mainstream feminism. For Black communities, often labeled as staunchly anti-choice, Howard’s history points to how central African Americans have always been to the fight to maintain reproductive freedom. For a civil rights movement that has focused on “big men” and still far too few women, Howard’s career demonstrates how civil rights and women’s rights can and did converge.
Image: JET Magazine
The post T.R.M. Howard: Civil Rights Rabble-Rouser, Abortion Provider appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Emma Weinstein-Levey is the press intern at NARAL Pro-Choice America
Picture this: Your best friend calls you. She and her boyfriend practiced safe sex last night, but the condom broke. She's freaking out and doesn't know what to do. She isn't on birth control, she can't afford an unplanned pregnancy and isn't ready to become a parent, and she's afraid to tell her parents.
You tell her not to worry because she can get emergency contraception at her local pharmacy. Your friend and her boyfriend go to the pharmacy together and pick up some emergency contraception (EC) or Plan B®. Without the fear of unplanned pregnancy, she can go on with her life.
This is how it should be, right? Accidents happen, even when you're careful. So it makes sense that there should be a backup method available for when things don't go according to plan.
Sadly, that's just not the reality. Women often face shame and judgment when they try to buy Plan B® from the pharmacy, and some pharmacists refuse to sell Plan B® altogether!
Medical professionals agree that emergency contraception should be available to all women, but it's currently only available without a prescription to women over 17.
A federal judge ruled that emergency contraception should be available over-the-counter without age restrictions. But since then, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice have made matters more complicated by prioritizing politics over science.
The struggle for wider availability of emergency contraception is an integral part of choice. EC empowers young women (and men!) to take charge of their reproductive health and allows them to decide when, how, and with whom to start a family.
That's the definition of reproductive freedom.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights appeared in court Friday to ask a federal judge to prevent an Arkansas law that would ban abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy from taking effect. Following arguments, Judge Susan Webber ruled from the bench and temporarily blocked the law from taking effect, ruling that the ban cannot take effect while the legal challenge to the law proceeds.
The law was passed in March when the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto. The ban is set to take effect on August 16.
“This law is an extreme example of how lawmakers around the country are trying to limit a woman’s ability to make the best decision for herself and her family,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “Far from safeguarding women’s health, these laws are designed with one purpose—to eliminate all access to abortion care.”
The ruling came just two days after Judge Webber rejected efforts by the state to dismiss the legal challenge on a variety of grounds, including arguments by state attorneys that doctors and patients must wait for the ban to take effect before they have sufficient legal challenge to sue. “We have asked the court to stop this dangerous law from going into effect,” Holly Dickson, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement. “This law is aimed at allowing politicians to insert themselves into deeply personal and private medical care and decisions for which they should have no say.”
The Arkansas abortion law is one of the most extreme in the nation, surpassed only by the recently enacted North Dakota measure banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.
“Today’s decision ensures that the women of Arkansas will remain protected from this blatant unconstitutional assault on their health and fundamental reproductive rights,” Nancy Northrup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Such an extreme ban on abortion would have immediate and devastating consequences for women in Arkansas, especially those who could not afford to travel out of state to access reproductive health care. We are confident that the court will continue to uphold women’s constitutional right to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and ultimately strike down this harmful law permanently.”
The physicians are represented by Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Talcott Camp at the ACLU, and Bettina Brownstein and Holly Dickson with the ACLU of Arkansas.
Image: State of Arkansas
The post Arkansas Judge Temporarily Blocks State’s 12-Week Abortion Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.
05.17.13 - A federal judge ruled today that Arkansas’ extreme ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy cannot take effect while the legal challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arkansas is ongoing.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today’s decision ensures that the women of Arkansas will remain protected from this blatant unconstitutional assault on their health and fundamental reproductive rights.
“Such an extreme ban on abortion would have immediate and devastating consequences for women in Arkansas, especially those who could not afford to travel out of state to access reproductive health care.
“We are confident that the court will continue to uphold women's constitutional right to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and ultimately strike down this harmful law permanently.”
The Center and the ACLU filed the lawsuit, Edwards v. Beck, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of two physicians who provide abortion services at a Little Rock clinic, arguing that the Arkansas law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning pre-viability abortions.
The physicians are represented by Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Talcott Camp at the ACLU, and Bettina Brownstein and Holly Dickson with the ACLU of Arkansas.
The Arkansas law banning abortion at 12 weeks is one of the most extreme in the nation, only surpassed by the recently-enacted North Dakota measure banning the procedure as early as six-weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. The Center for Reproductive Rights has committed to also challenging the North Dakota law before it is scheduled to take effect in August 2013.
Days after Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, anti-choice groups Operation Rescue and Life Dynamics are drawing attention to a Houston abortion clinic where they say the “next Gosnell” has been practicing. In response, the lieutenant governor of Texas has launched a new investigation into the doctor, who was already investigated earlier this year, with no evidence of wrongdoing found at that time.
The groups accuse Dr. Douglas Karpen of performing later, illegal abortions, of ending the life of fetuses that were allegedly born alive despite the abortion procedure, and of improperly charging patients for services. They have made public video testimony from former clinic workers and an undercover video that one former employee “smuggled out” of the clinic. In addition, former employee Deborah Edge wrote an opinion article for LifeNews.com supporting the allegations and discussing how she left the clinic with the help of former abortion clinic worker turned anti-choice speaker and activist Abby Johnson.
The complaints against Karpen were investigated and dismissed earlier this year by the Texas Medical Board, which noted in a February 8 letter provided by Operation Rescue that “there was insufficient evidence to prove that a violation of the Medical Practices Act occurred. Specifically, this investigation determined that Dr. Karpen did not violate the laws connected with the practice of medicine and there is no evidence of inappropriate behavior.”
Amid pressure from abortion opponents following the public release of the allegations against Karpen, the state has opened the case back up for further review. According to one blogger for the Houston Chronicle, “Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson’s office finally contacted [Operation Rescue's Troy Newman] this morning, after [the Operation Rescue report] was published and hundreds of people called Anderson’s office.”
The Christian Post reports that Republican Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has announced a new investigation into Karpen’s clinic and procedures, saying “Harris County authorities” would be looking into the accusations.
The post Anti-Choice Activists Push for Texas Abortion Provider to Be Re-Investigated appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, more than a million people have fled, causing a refugee crisis of enormous magnitude. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), upwards of 3,000 Syrians a day have registered as asylum seekers in neighboring Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. The lion’s share of these refugees—between 300,000 and 400,000—have ended up in Jordan, with approximately 30 percent of the total settling in the Al Zaatari refugee camp and 70 percent moving into host communities throughout the country. UNFPA further estimates that three-quarters of the refugees are women and children.
By all accounts, displaced Syrians are encountering grim conditions, with overt violence, supply shortages, and filth more the rule than the exception.
The Al Zaatari refugee camp, administered by the UN High Commission for Refugees, was built to accommodate 60,000 people, but there may be as many as 120,000 refugees there now, according to the New York Times. Yifat Susskind, executive director of MADRE, was in Jordan and visited the Al Zaatari camp in mid-April.
“Jordan is a highly functioning state, but it is resource stressed, especially for water,” Susskind told RH Reality Check. “Syrian refugees are putting a huge strain on the population, and tensions have developed. For example, Syria is a beautiful, green country with adequate fresh water, so it does not have a culture of conservation. One of the big issues in the camp is that refugees are protesting the amount of their daily water ration. At the same time, water-strapped Jordanians are beginning to resent camp residents who they perceive as having easy access to all the water they need.”
In addition, Jordanians are fearful that the Syrian influx will inflame already pervasive problems, including deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, and the overgrazing of land.
Even more daunting are safety concerns. Al Zaatari’s toilets are unlit so many woman are terrified to use them at night, and there is a need for more routine health-care services, including basics like adequate access to sanitary pads, and ongoing educational programs for youth. Although UNFPA reports that it provided reproductive health services to more than 3,600 women in the camp during two weeks in early April, Susskind said that there are nonetheless barriers that need to be addressed, among them the distance between the health center and the location of many people’s temporary housing. “The camp is so large that it can take an hour and 15 minutes to walk to the area where services are offered,” she said.
“For women who are in the last months of pregnancy, who are sick, or who have just delivered a baby, this location poses a terrible hardship,” Susskind said. “There has been talk of trying to raise money for a shuttle bus, but this has not yet happened.”
Despite this criticism, Susskind is quick to commend UNFPA for its valiant efforts. Still, as she spoke, she shook her head at the enormity of the issues facing aid workers each day.
Dealing with survivors of sexual trauma or rape is even more problematic, she continued: “We know that rape and domestic violence always increase in times of war and displacement, and we know that many of the women became refugees after being raped or out of fear that sexual violence would be perpetrated against them or their family members.”
She went on, “There is no way to estimate the number or refugees who have been raped or sexually abused, and it is really clear that this is a topic the women won’t talk about. Syrian refugees have a lot of disincentives to keep them from coming forward to talk about these issues. They live in a culture where honor killing is practiced and where the blame and shame of rape is placed exclusively on them.” This means that crisis counseling teams need to be attuned to the signs of trauma that typically appear in survivors, from the inability to bond with a newborn to disassociation to overt clinical depression.
Women Under Siege Director Lauren Wolfe, writing in The Atlantic, calls Syria “a nation of traumatized survivors,” and notes that men as well as women have been violated by government forces and plainclothes militia in a campaign meant to humiliate, intimidate, and ultimately stifle resistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
What’s more, overwrought and fearful families have pushed girls as young as 13 into arranged—some would call them forced—marriages. In more than a few instances, this has unwittingly placed them in the hands of traffickers; in other cases, it has meant moving adolescent girls far from their families, isolating them from everyone they have ever known.
Meanwhile, the number of refugees keeps growing as more and more people opt to leave Syria, on foot and by paying drivers to transport them across borders that may eventually be closed. While humanitarian groups such as Handicap International, the Jordanian Red Crescent, Mercy Corps, and UNICEF are working to provide supplies to this diaspora, the specific needs of women and girls all too often fall through the cracks. Code Pink and MADRE, among other feminist groups, are working to address and meet female needs; they recently teamed up to purchase 350 solar lanterns so that at least some of the women in Al Zaatari can be more relaxed about walking in the camp after dark. They are also fundraising to train midwives to counsel women who show signs of sexual abuse and trauma.
The post Stoking Fire: Addressing the Specific Needs of Female Syrian Refugees appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Hi Rounders-up! Your trusty editor Pearl here, bringing you a fun-size news rodeo. We’re a bit short-staffed this week as our powerhouse Mallory is on a well-deserved trip to Europe after receiving her jurisdoctorate from OU Law School! CON~GRAD~S MALLORY!!
We also read about several stories on the national stage this week:
Happy Friday y’all! I would like to take this opportunity to entreat you to neither kill others’ vibes nor to allow yours to be killed.
Pearl walked out the door and they screamed “IT’S ALIVE”