If today, sitting at your computer, you decided to Google the phrase “why I love my internship,” you would get around one hundred and twenty-four million results.
If you were to read some of the most popular articles, you’d find reasoning along the lines of “I love my internship because it gave me real-world experience,” or “it helped me decide what career I want to go into,” or “it looked really good on my resume.” You’d hear such buzz phrases as “taken seriously,” “real work,” and “exciting schedule.”
It’s true when I say that my internship with the Feminist Majority Foundation provided all these things and more. But I’m happy to say that my internship really wasn’t your typical experience.
The first reason has to do with the movement itself. Within women’s rights there are many niches of organizations and smaller movements working towards other things. The term ‘women’s rights’ is simply an umbrella, and under it are so many other issues (reproductive rights, gender based violence, human trafficking, etcetera) that are being worked on. And yet all the organizations and all the people involved in all the issues that qualify as ‘women’s rights issues’ tend to stick together. We hold events together. We have meetings with each other. We attend rallies together. It’s a great way to find solidarity and thus people to create lasting connections with (can you say Sunday brunch?), not to mention the unparalleled organizational advantage it lends us as a movement.
So I say that not only did my internship give me a network, but a family. I’ve met countless women at meetings that have not only reached out to me as coworkers, but mentors. I’ve had coffee with them, I’ve had lunch with them, and I’ve developed valuable friendships with them. Even the feminist politicians and public figures I’ve met have been as warm and welcoming as the staff members, encouraging me to visit when I’m nearby and keep in touch.
That’s not just business.
My internship supervisors have also been more understanding and personable than I could ever ask for. When I was undergoing housing difficulties during my first few months, FMF senior staff sat down with my supervisor and spent hours making phone calls to find me a new place.
That’s not just business.
When I went home to visit and address a family situation, my supervisor sent me e-mails about what I’d missed (“and I wish you could have been there!”) and encouraged me to reach out if I needed any help at all.
That’s not just business.
In the women’s right’s movement, ‘solidarity’ is a word we value, and it’s a word that’s been proven true in my time here. Coming to DC was a big, scary step for me, and I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was able to take a semester off without conflict because I began college early, but that came with the fact that I’m eighteen years old in a city full of older interns, and I didn’t know how that would play out either. I don’t have big city experience, and I was nervous – to say the least. But in this internship and in finding my feminist family, I’ve been able to find myself. Outside of a school setting, I think people grow into themselves, but here, I truly believe I’ve been able to grow into my best self possible.
I cannot express fully in words how happy I am to have chosen Feminist Majority Foundation, and how happy I am that they chose me.
Another Texas clinic has stopped providing abortion care, this time in West Texas. On Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Austin declined to grant an El Paso doctor a temporary restraining order against HB 2, the Texas law that, among other things, requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The restraining order would have allowed one El Paso clinic, and one clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, to reopen and provide legal abortions.
Dr. Pamela Richter, who is one of a group of abortion providers who filed suit against the State of Texas in early April, had asked the court for a temporary restraining order against the admitting privileges provision of HB 2 after discovering her temporary admitting privileges had been revoked, without notice, by Foundation Surgical Hospital of El Paso.
Judge Lee Yeakel—who also heard an earlier suit concerning HB 2, Planned Parenthood v. Texas, last fall—said that while he believed “irreparable harm” would be caused to El Pasoans who could not obtain legal abortion care at Reproductive Services, the plaintiffs did not fulfill all parts of the four-pronged legal test for granting temporary restraining orders.
A deputy attorney general representing the state argued that the one million people who live in the El Paso area could visit the one remaining El Paso clinic, or travel across state lines to New Mexico—where abortion providers are not required to have admitting privileges—to obtain abortions.
“There’s one clinic to service approximately one million people, and there are no driving time issues” in El Paso, argued Jimmy Blacklock, referencing the 150-mile drive that residents of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley must make to obtain legal abortion care after both clinics there closed earlier this year.
According to court documents, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) informed Reproductive Services’ Dr. Richter in a letter dated April 1 that she was not in compliance with HB 2 because she lacked hospital admitting privileges; when Richter responded that she had temporary admitting privileges at Foundation, DSHS replied that it was “the agency’s view that Dr. Richter’s temporary admitting privileges did not satisfy the admitting privileges requirement.”
But attorneys for Reproductive Services subsequently discovered, after contacting Foundation directly, that “the hospital would no longer honor those admitting privileges” at all as of April 11. In court on Wednesday, one of Richter’s attorneys said that “no explanation was provided as to why” the doctor’s privileges had been revoked. Reproductive Services immediately ceased providing abortions, canceling more than 30 scheduled appointments.
“At no time were they providing abortions with the knowledge that Dr. Richter did not have admitting privileges,” said Stephanie Toti, counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing the plaintiffs.
Attorneys for Dr. Richter say she has performed about 17,000 legal abortion procedures in the last decade at Reproductive Services, none of which required a hospital transfer due to complications.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and owner of the Rio Grande Valley Whole Woman’s clinic that closed in March, said at the downtown Austin courthouse on Wednesday afternoon that she could have reopened her clinic had Judge Yeakel issued the temporary restraining order (TRO).
“If we were to get a TRO, we would have reopened,” said Hagstrom Miller. Despite months of effort since the admitting privileges provision of HB 2 went into effect on November 1, 2013, Hagstrom Miller has been unable to find a hospital willing to grant her doctors who provide abortions with admitting privileges in the Valley.
In court documents, abortion providers say that “pressure from abortion opponents” has prompted Texas hospitals to revoke admitting privileges to doctors who provide abortions. Others, like Hagstrom Miller’s physician in the Rio Grande Valley, have been unable even to obtain applications for admitting privileges from local hospitals in their deeply socially conservative communities.
“No path is open to us,” she said.
Image: Medical law via Shutterstock
The post Legal Abortion Care Ends at Another Texas Clinic After Hospital Revokes Privileges Without Notice appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Tim and I have talked a lot in the last few weeks about a new home; what we want, what we don’t want, where we would put things, what we would do with a new garden… all theoretical stuff. For some reason the other day we started talking practical; what order we would pack things, doing it ourselves vs. hiring a moving company (guess which one of us wants to do it ourselves, and which one of us wants to hire a moving company?!)… and it occurred to me that even though there’s no official offer on a place, and won’t be for at least another six weeks, maybe I should start packing now. After moving 23 times in 25 years, I bought this house in May of 1995. Next month I will have been in this house for 19 years. That’s going to be a lot of random crap to pack up. Or, if I get my shit together, a lot of random crap NOT to pack up. Our garbage container can expect to be pretty full for the next six weeks.
It probably sounds unreasonable to rent a small storage unit in order to start packing things up and moving them to get them out of the way so we can pack more things, eh?
Don’t answer that.
Also: Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez's health is said to be stable but "very fragile"; Dave Eggers' new book is called Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
The steady incursion of new skills and perspectives in the leadership of the Lambda Literary Foundation is vital not only to its growth but also to its connection to the community it serves. The Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to its Board of Trustees.
Sandra Nathan, of Marin County, California, has a long history of effective leadership, particularly in the nonprofit sector. She brings to the Board executive-level experience in areas as diverse as aging, LGBTQ issues, and communities of color. Ms. Nathan joined the Foundation Board due to her “deep passion and interest in LGBTQ literature,” noting “there is no other organization solely devoted to ensuring our voices are fully reflected. I am also a frustrated writer, and hope to slow down long enough to become an author in my own right. Having served on the boards of several national organizations, I hope to make a meaningful contribution by supporting the effective governance and growth of the foundation, and ensuring it has the resources to fully actualize its mission and vision.”
John Rochester, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, reads up to a dozen books a month, mostly LGBTQ. “As an avid reader of LGBTQ literature of all types and genre, I felt it was time to give back and share some of my non-literary talents with an organization that has helped provide me with such joy.” Along with his enthusiasm, he adds a rich experience in fundraising and community leadership, having earned a 2010 Point of Light Award.
Amy Scholder, a New York City resident, is a legendary figure in the world of independent publishing. “I look forward to deepening my relationship with the Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that cares about LGBTQ diversity and creativity,” says Ms. Scholder, who brings to the Board a broad understanding of the current literary landscape.
The Lambda Literary Foundation is delighted to have these three talented, dedicated individuals join the Board of Trustees. Founded in 1989, the organization nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility, and encourage development of emerging writers.
Sandra Nathan currently serves as Vice President, Programs and Loans for the Marin Community Foundation in Novato, California. In a previous stint in philanthropy, she served as CEO of the Richmond(California) Community Foundation.
Professionally, Sandra has over 25 years executive level experience,which has included positions at the national level with organizations including AARP and the National Council on Aging; and within California’s cities and counties, including San Diego County, Santa Clara County, San Francisco County and the City of Oakland. During her stint at the national level, she worked diligently on social and economic justice issues facing older adults, and at the local level,ensured there are culturally sensitive services and supports for diverse populations, including LGBTQ and people of color. She pioneered in the development of the one of the first outreach programs to older adults at risk of HIV/AIDS and oversaw a strategic plan for older adults who are gay and lesbian.
Currently, Sandra also serves on the Board of Directors of Generations United, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Grantmakers in Aging.
John Rochester is a Vice President, Portfolio Manager, Wealth Advisor for Morgan Stanley. He currently serves as the Board President for Santa Fe Performing Arts – a children’s education, outreach and adult contemporary performing arts organization. He has served on local community and national boards that address diverse issues such as health/social services, hunger, the arts, children’s education and several LGBTQ organizations. John has received a number of awards for his charitable work including the National Volunteer of The Year for Colin Powel’s America’s Promise, The Alliance for Youth, What a difference a day makes as well as the Point of Light Award - the United States President’s Volunteer Service Award.
John received his Bachelor of Arts from Simpson College and has been actively involved in media and the performing arts his entire life. In addition to continuously working in the financial industry for the past 27 years, John has been active in national print and video promotion and he hosted a nationally syndicated financial radio show from 1995 through 2007. He currently resides with his husband in the town in which he grew up – Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Amy Scholder is the editorial director of the Feminist Press. She has been editing and publishing progressive and literary books for over twenty years. Her visionary style has brought high visibility to her authors, and has been praised for its contribution to contemporary literature and popular culture. She has also served as editor-in-chief of Seven Stories Press, US publisher of Verso, founding co-editor of HIGH RISK Books/Serpent’s Tail, and editor at City Lights Books. Over the years, she has published the work of Sapphire, Karen Finley, June Jordan, Kate Bornstein, Kathy Acker, David Wojnarowicz, Dorothy Allison, Mary Gaitskill, Joni Mitchell, Kate Millett, Elfriede Jelinek, Muriel Rukeyser, Laurie Weeks, Justin Vivian Bond, Virginie Despentes, Ana Castillo, and many other award-winning authors.
Mimi Pond's graphic memoir is a rose (or in this case aqua) tinted recollection of her time waitressing at a bohemian diner in Oakland in the 1970s. Reviewer Etelka Lehoczky says it's a sweet tribute.
All the Heat We Could Carry is a compelling, fierce, vivid, yet sometimes understated and curiously dry in tone, collection of poems by Charlie Bondhus, describing life as a gay soldier in Afghanistan. Bondhus cultivates a theme of heat: sustained, transferred, endured, enjoyed or suppressed, whether in the desert, the bedroom, the front porch, or the end of a pier. His decision to cloak volatile, profoundly disturbing content may seem counter-intuitive, but is actually dead-on, as this kind of material demands a kind of nonchalance. Otherwise it might feel manipulative and purple. Overblown. There is a quiet precision to Bondhus’ poems, like sealing something dangerous, despairing or grotesque in a glass jar.
In a calmly perverse turn, Bondhus compares the deconstructing of a gun to a boy’s natural sense of curiosity and awe in ”Rifle Cleaning.” A man’s boyish appreciation for the phenomenal is twisted into a fascination for weaponry. “First, disassemble /into the major groups: /upper, lower, bolt carrier./ Handle each piece like a young boy/ unpacking a box of seashells, striped rocks, pine cones ; / marvel at how something this metal / could be so breakable. Think about the body.” Consider how the poem gropes for definition in the line: “marvel at how something this metal”. It’s as if the narrator is searching for the dividing line between the hard organic substance of natural treasures, and the fabricated skin of steel. When he says, “Think about the body,” a transformation is implied. The mundane task of maintaining one’s tools becomes a reflection, a reverie on what it means to assume the role of warrior, with its contained or subjugated humanity.
In the poems describing the narrator’s connection to a lover (perhaps partner) we sometimes gather the partner is also a soldier. Not all of Bondhus’ poems raise this issue of shared experience, though it’s implied that two men who have seen warfare, and understand the other’s difficulties. In “July” he paints a wry tableau of domestic tranquility. Two men manifest spousal validity by enduring the heat, on a day when the more cautious have chosen to stay indoors: “No one else on their porch; / it’s hot, and everything sticks / to everything. Still we resist / spending this golden day – / the clearest of the year- / behind curtains./” Further down, the protagonist mentions how “The neighbors got used to us/ a long time ago, but sometimes kids, / the more observant ones, stare.” Like so many of the poems in All the Heat, “July” is cunning in its subdued rhetoric. Bondhus takes a very ordinary scenario, reading books and drinking ice tea in the summer sunshine, and turns it into quiet defiance. Rather than evoking a confrontational stance, the contact he explores between lovers (both men) is detailed, but not lurid. In “At the Grappling Tournament” he considers how fluidly conflict can change to consortium: “…searching out the trick spot/ where muscle and bone fail/ while I knotted my arms about your shoulders, / in the soft violence of an embrace.”
Much of All the Heat submerges us in the subdued atrocities of the battlefield. In “A Quiet Day in Kandahar” the narrator describes a card game in which they are killing time, using a deck featuring delectable naked ladies. Bondhus carefully places this situation in context, creating a rare moment of relief from the devastation, relatively innocent fun tainted by ghoulish humor and mortality they need to forget. A steppe eagle appears, “…gliding on a heavy breeze which rolls into camp/ and scatters the cards, / every which way / filling the air/ with a flurry of tits and ass./ ….Two civilian casualties, Mendoza snickers, / dumping his cards on the table.” In another blindingly subtle piece, Bondhus has evoked the sad, cruel instruments necessary to survival as a soldier, the distraction, cynicism and frozen emotion required to simply function, from day to day. Everyone’s future is subject to calm, arbitrary fate.
It is challenging to find the words to adequately praise All the Heat We Could Carry. Charlie Bondhus takes excruciating, sometimes nightmarish, sometimes melancholy ordeals and makes them accessible, by the meticulous use of restrained, pointed, focused language. He taps into extraordinary subject matter by refusing to shift gears into something frantic or tawdry. The protagonist might be stuffing another soldier’s corpse into a body bag, or gathering firewood in the back yard, or tussling naked, joyously, with his flawed yet perfect boyfriend. He draws us into these scenarios with sharp, intense, yet nuanced wisdom. He refuses to assign blame, yet none of us are off the hook. All the Heat We Could Carry is a truly remarkable collection.
All the Heat We Could Carry
by Charlie Bondhus
Main Street Rag
Paperback, 9781599484365, 72 pp.
Get ready to return to Litchfield prison. The trailer for the second season of the series Orange is the New Black was released today, and things are looking particularly severe for the inmates this season.
Based on the bestselling memoir by Piper Kerman, the entire season will be released June 6 on Netflix.
Ellah Allfrey reviews Kinder Than Solitude, by Yiyun Li.
While Republicans in state legislatures across the country are passing severe restrictions on reproductive rights, Republicans in Nevada have voted to drop opposition to abortion from the state party’s official platform.
According to reporting by the Reno Gazette-Journal, the adoption of the new platform, with the anti-abortion language removed, by an overwhelming vote was tempered by a battle that took place over whether the party should endorse candidates for elected office in the state. Currently, delegates are allowed to vote to endorse Republican candidates, and those who receive a majority of the vote receive the state party’s endorsement. A motion to end this process failed by a 205-271 vote. The debate split the party between establishment Republicans, who supported the process, and grassroots activists, who wanted the process to end to prevent party bosses from undermining more conservative candidates.
State party chair Michael McDonald told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the vote was about “inclusion, not exclusion.” Dave Hockaday, a member of the committee that drafted the party platform, said the change could help the party back out of people’s personal lives. “We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact,” said Hockaday.
The Nevada Republican Party platform now stands in stark contrast to the national Republican Party platform adopted at the 2012 Republican National Convention, which includes support for “a human life amendment” to the Constitution that would criminalize abortion and many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and treatment of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions such as cancer.
Nevada has several laws on the books supporting reproductive rights, including one that guarantees women access to abortion care and other reproductive health-care services. However, Nevada does restrict low-income women’s access to abortion care, allowing publicly funded abortion only in cases in which the life of a pregnant woman is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
The Nevada state legislature, which is controlled by Democrats (a Republican, Brian Sondoval, currently serves as governor), is not in session. During the 2013 legislative session, while Republican-controlled state legislatures were passing record numbers of anti-choice laws and Republicans across the country introduced hundreds of anti-choice bills, not a single anti-choice bill was introduced in Nevada.
The post Nevada Republicans Reject National Party’s Strict Anti-Choice Platform appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Compared with colleagues in some of their neighboring countries, sex workers in Switzerland appear to have it quite good. Prostitution there has been legal since 1942, and the country is known today for its a fairly liberal and pragmatic approach to the industry. News of the “drive in” sex boxes installed on the streets of the country’s largest city, Zurich, to offer privacy for street prostitutes and their clients went around the world and was heralded by many (although criticized by some) as an example of a sex-friendly policy. The requirement for sex workers to pay taxes and social security contributions is another example of the integration of the industry into regular Swiss public and bureaucratic life.
But even in countries with a liberal attitude toward selling sex, issues steeped in morality tend to find a way to creep in. In Switzerland, it comes in the shape of a legislative hangover from the ’60s that blocks the legal rights of prostitutes in the courts and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. In Switzerland, an oral agreement is legally recognized as a binding contract, just as it would be if it had been written down. Every time a sex worker agrees with a client on the price, time, and any other terms of their exchange, a contract is made.
One of the ways a contract—made by anyone—can be declared null and void is if a court decides it is immoral. This is what the Swiss Federal Court, the country’s highest court, did around 30 years ago with prostitution. So today, even though prostitution is legal, sex workers cannot rely on the courts to uphold their legitimate employment complaints.
“The advantage to having contracts would be that sex workers could go to the justice system when they say that they haven’t been paid or the price is not normal or anything like that,” explained Michel Félix de Vidas, spokesperson for Aspasie, a Swiss association representing sex workers in the country. De Vidas warns that without the confidence that they will be backed up, sex workers are left vulnerable to exploitation, even though they are working legally. “It should be based on human rights rather than morality. Here sex workers have to pay health care, they have to pay [taxes], so they should have rights,” he says. Those advocating for a change in the law in favor of the legal rights of sex workers point out that the judgment was made at a different time in a society that was not the same as the Switzerland of today.
“There has been an evolution in society,” said Andreas Caroni, a lawyer and politician for the liberal FDP party in Switzerland. “This judgment was a 1960s and 1970s position towards prostitution. Switzerland was quite conservative with some of its policies around sex and sexuality until 1990. It was even punishable to advertise condoms, for example. Now, in 2014, I think quite a few people would agree that these contracts are fine, or at least normal.”
Caroni says that he asked his party’s member on the Swiss Federal Council if this was also his view on the world. “He replied that he no longer sees such contracts as immoral,” said Caroni. He added that there are federal court judges who would see it this way too if a case was brought before them.
A report by the country’s Federal Department of Justice and Migration published last month has also added pressure for strengthening the legal rights of prostitutes, pushing the issue further up the political agenda. The report, which included contributions from experts from a broad range of groups working in or around the industry, concluded that there are several key priorities for sex workers in the country, including the need for better protection from exploitation. “There have been some problems for prostitutes, such as abusive situations, violence, exploitation, working conditions—this isn’t helping the women,” said Ursina Jud Huwiler, who coordinated the report for the department.
Reiterating their position against adopting the Swedish model of criminalizing the purchase of sex, the experts in the report agreed that to improve working conditions, there must be an abolition of moral legal standards and improved protection. “This is one of the main recommendations made for changes in the law: more protection for sex workers,” said Jud Huwiler. She added that there is now a sense that things are beginning to change regarding the issue of contracts between sex workers and clients.
Recent challenges to the law also suggest that the country is on the verge of improving these legal rights—it’s just a matter of exactly how to do it. In Zurich a few months ago, a court contradicted the federal court judgment when it ruled that a contract between a prostitute and a “John” was not immoral and therefore valid. But this judgment does not automatically apply to the country’s other courts. Now the Canton of Bern, one of the 26 regions in Switzerland, has called on the Committee of Legal Affairs of the National Council to create a legal basis for saying contracts between sex workers and “Johns” are valid.
Caroni, who sits on the committee, said committee members are thinking about how support for sex workers’ rights could be put on the books. “So we don’t just have to rely on the courts, we are thinking about how we should write it into law. To keep up the pressure, we asked the federal administration for guidance on how this could be written in if it was needed, and we are still waiting to hear the options. But if a federal court decides that the contract is moral then we won’t need to do anything; it is just a back up plan,” he said.
One of the problems with this “plan A” is that it might be a while before a federal court ever gets to hear a case that deals with this issue, as it would need to go through all the lower courts first.
Aspasie is one organization that’s calling for a top-down approach to legislative change—but the group also thinks the legal problems for sex workers extend further, to the issue of contracts with brothel owners as well as with “Johns.” At the moment, there is a section written into the country’s criminal code, called Article 195, that states sex work activity must not be supervised or controlled by someone else, and prostitutes must be free to “determine the time, place, volume or other aspects of their work.” This regulation was included with the intention of protecting people from exploitation and trafficking, but according to Aspasie’s Félix de Vidas, because Article 195 makes it difficult to bring complaints over a contract with a brothel owner to a judge, it should be revisited.
Ursina Jud Huwiler agrees that the law as it stands means it is not possible for prostitutes to work in such a way that they are dependent on others, with what the Swiss call a “classical working contract,” but pointed out that the group of experts recommended in their report that self-employment offers better protection for sex workers.
“This is a separate issue to the morality one—this is about self-determination,” she said. “The majority of the group agreed that it would be better if the prostitutes are self-employed. The majority of the group thought that working independently gives prostitutes better protection and that it doesn’t protect them from everything, but that it does protect them a little more.”
Image: Swiss law via Shutterstock
The post Advocates Fight for Sex Workers’ Contracts in Switzerland appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The 1968 Miss America protest where, contrary to popular belief, no bras were burned. Photo via Media Myth Alert.
When West Virginia’s legislature voted to ban abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation in March, West Virginia Democrats overwhelmingly backed the ban. Not only did 33 out of 53 Democratic delegates and 19 out of 24 Democratic senators vote for the measure, but all 11 sponsors of the original house bill were Democrats.
That move deliberately defied the national party’s support of abortion rights.
“We’re not on the same step with the national party platform,” Rep. David G. Perry (D-Oak Hill), the bill’s primary sponsor, told RH Reality Check. “It doesn’t reflect the majority of West Virginians.”
To be sure, West Virginia Democrats—the dominant party in state government and among registered voters—lean conservative on a range of issues, including energy, environmental, and social issues. Writing at the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog leading up to the 2012 presidential election, Micah Cohen noted that in recent years (really since 2000), “[j]ust like Georgia … West Virginia has gone from solid blue to solid red on presidential electoral maps. But unlike Georgia, West Virginia still elects Democrats in statewide races.” Cohen also mentioned West Virginian politicians’ pride in their independence from the national Democratic Party.
Still, the West Virginia Democrats’ wide support of a 20-week abortion ban sent ripples of delight throughout the anti-choice establishment.
West Virginia’s governor last month vetoed the ban, but not before the state Democrats’ decision to vote in favor of it led the Susan B. Anthony List—a leading anti-choice organization—to claim the Democrats’ move was evidence that a 20-week abortion ban is “modest legislation.”
An analysis by RH Reality Check—using our newly released RHRC Data tool—shows that West Virginia’s Democrats were not alone. A handful of Democratic lawmakers in at least five states have recently broken with the national party and voted against reproductive rights. The anti-choice votes—which include support for some of the most extreme anti-choice bills in the nation—are noteworthy because of the traditionally strong relationships between women’s groups and the Democratic Party.
Erika West, political director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a nonpartisan reproductive rights advocacy group in Washington, D.C., told RH Reality Check that voters in conservative, mostly anti-choice districts have not been engaged enough by advocates on reproductive rights issues, and thus Democrats in these districts vote anti-choice without much political risk.
“I think unfortunately there are a lot of districts and states in this country where we haven’t proactively—and by we, I mean anybody who’s interested in advancing reproductive freedom for women and families, whether that’s the Democratic Party, which says that they do, or organizations like us—done really deep voter engagement on the issue in a long time and what is at stake,” West said.
The national Democratic Party platform from 2012 contains strong statements in favor of reproductive rights. It says that the party “strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay” and “oppose[s] any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”
The West Virginia Democrats’ support for the 20-week ban defied not only the national party’s stance on abortion rights, but their own.
The Mountain State’s Democratic Party platform says:
The Democratic Party of West Virginia is concerned about the attacks on women’s reproductive health and health services in the US and West Virginia. Although we have made significant gains in women’s health in West Virginia, much remains to be done to improve quality of care and access to comprehensive health services, including family planning.
Asked where West Virginian voters who support abortion rights are supposed to turn, Perry—who said he plans to re-introduce the 20-week abortion ban next term—simply emphasized that they are in the minority in his state.
“I’d say it’s about 10 percent,” he said, estimating the percentage of voters whom he believes support abortion rights in West Virginia, for which he provided no evidence.
Margaret Chapman Pomponio—executive director of WV Free, a nonpartisan nonprofit advocates for reproductive rights in West Virginia—said Perry’s 10 percent estimate is laughable.
“Unfortunately, there’s a perception that West Virginians are anti-choice,” Pomponio told RH Reality Check. “That’s actually not the case at all when you talk to West Virginians about the individual circumstances a woman is facing when she needs abortion care.”
Indeed, in a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Planned Parenthood Health Systems (a Planned Parenthood affiliate, with offices and health centers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) released in early March, 51 to 62 percent of voters surveyed across three West Virginia Senate districts said abortion should be legal at 20 weeks’ gestation in the event that severe fetal abnormalities are predicted. And 47 to 62 percent of voters in these districts said abortion should generally be legal in all or most cases. (The public poll and accompanying memo were provided to RH Reality Check by Planned Parenthood Health Systems.)
In her 12 years of lobbying on reproductive justice issues in West Virginia, Pomponio said she has seen the Democratic leadership consistently embracing abortion rights in its party platform but trying to skirt away from the issue in the legislature.
“It’s really the only issue that will bring out the worst in people under the capitol dome,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Susan B. Anthony List seized on West Virginia’s Democratic support to try to push for bipartisan backing of the federal 20-week abortion ban—which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year but has stalled in the Senate—by targeting U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Earlier this month, the group announced a $20,000 radio ad buy to encourage Manchin “to become the first Democratic senator to cosponsor the federal Pain Capable Unborn Child Act.”
“Momentum is growing for this popular measure to move forward in Washington as well, where Senate Democrats should take a cue from their West Virginia counterparts,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a press release published after West Virginia’s legislature passed the ban last month. “We encourage Senator Joe Manchin to embrace his self-avowed pro-life position and become the first Democratic cosponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”
But West Virginia is not the only state where Democrats are flouting their party’s official policy.
In Texas in 2013, the openly anti-choice Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) authored one and co-authored three anti-abortion measures (he sponsored multiple versions of the same bills in different special sessions).
Lucio authored SB 17, which, had it passed, would have required a woman to complete a three-hour adoption course at least 24 hours before she could have an abortion, excepting a pregnant woman with a life-threatening medical condition or a minor whose pregnancy was the result of sexual assault or incest.
And Lucio co-authored:
SB 1, an omnibus abortion bill that included a 20-week abortion ban, admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements, and restrictions on medication abortions. SB 1 was the senate companion bill of HB 2, which was passed and signed into law during the second special legislative session called by Gov. Rick Perry in July 2013. Challenged portions of the law were recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
SB 24, which would have required abortion clinics to comply with the minimum standards for an ambulatory surgical center. The bill failed, but its provisions are included in the omnibus abortion bill that was signed into law last summer.
SB 521, which would have prevented abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from giving sex education or family planning instruction at public schools.
In Florida last year, openly anti-choice Rep. Daphne D. Campbell (D-Miami Shores) co-sponsored HB 845, or the “Florida Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act,” which, had it passed, would have banned abortions sought because of a child’s anticipated sex or race. The law would have required abortion providers to sign an affidavit attesting that they are not performing the abortion because of the fetus’ sex or race.
Campbell and Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) co-sponsored HB 1129, the “Florida Infants Born Alive Bill,” which stipulates that infants born alive after an attempted abortion are “entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as any other child born alive in the course of natural birth.” The bill requires that health-care practitioners who have knowledge of violations to this law report the violations to the state health department.
In Michigan last year, Reps. Terry L. Brown (D-Pigeon) and Charles M. Brunner (D-Bay City)—who claims to have been “Right to Life from the start”—co-sponsored HB 4187, which would have amended Michigan’s informed consent statute to require a physician to perform an ultrasound at least two hours prior to an abortion and offer the patient an opportunity to see the sonogram and hear the fetal heartbeat.
In Pennsylvania last year, Sen. Richard A. Kasunic (D-Dunbar), who recently announced his plans to retire from the state senate, co-sponsored SB 275, which, had it passed, would have prohibited state municipalities from using any public money to pay for abortion, with the limited exceptions of reported rape and incest and life-endangerment of the mother.
Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone (D-Reading) co-sponsored HB 818, signed into law last summer, which prohibits insurance providers from offering abortion coverage in the state’s health exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act, with the exception of reported rape and incest and life-endangerment of the mother.
But NARAL’s Erika West said the vast majority of Democrats around the country are still advocates for reproductive rights, despite the anti-choice votes of a small number of lawmakers.
Coming into this election season, she said she is heartened to see candidates embracing their pro-choice views in campaigns, a strategy she said was proven effective by Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial win in Virginia last November.
“What we’re seeing is a lot more Democratic candidates leaning in,” West said, referring to the issue of abortion rights and reproductive freedom. “We wish we had some Republican folks as well doing the same, but more Democratic candidates are leaning into the issue and using it effectively as an attack point against anti-choice opponents.”
The post Anti-Choice Advocates Seize on West Virginia Democrats’ Support of 20-Week Abortion Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.
A crackling new translation of Giorgio Scerbanenco's crime novel Private Venus has just been released. Critic John Powers read it in a single sitting.
There is no doubt that this is an exciting time for the anti-trafficking movement. In 2013, President Obama expressed a commitment to combating human trafficking, declaring it “one of the great human rights causes of our time.” He also reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which for the first time since its inception recognized child sex trafficking as a form of sexual violence, and signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act into law.
There has even been more attention paid to the long overlooked issue of child sex trafficking in the United States—that is, the trafficking of U.S. children—with hearings in both the House and Senate emphasizing the link between foster care and a child’s increased vulnerability to being exploited and trafficked. Meanwhile, a new report from Georgetown Law maps out this dangerous intersection of foster care involvement, sexual abuse, and American girls’ trajectory into a life of exploitation and slavery.
This new momentum on the issue of trafficking reveals a true tipping point in where we are as a movement. But there is one crucial element that is glaringly absent from the discussion. With as much emphasis as there has been on the crisis of human trafficking and its devastating effects on the lives of millions around the world and at home, there is almost complete disregard for the unfettered demand that is fueling this multibillion dollar industry. Yes, we’ve made significant strides in recasting survivors as victims, and yes, we have succeeded in bringing more and more exploiters and traffickers to justice; however, we are still struggling to combat the demand side of this equation by pursuing and deterring buyers.
The House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing to confront the issue of domestic child sex trafficking. The most powerful segment of the hearing came to light during the testimony of survivor advocate and young woman leader Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew. She courageously detailed the repeated incarceration she suffered—the experience of being locked up for being bought and sold for sex when she was only a child, while the adult men who purchased her for sex were never arrested or prosecuted for their crimes against her. Walker Pettigrew explained:
While in detention, I was so hurt that I was the one who was locked up. It seemed like they always wanted to detain me and my pimp, both people of color, instead of focusing on the buyers who were adults—and primarily white—no one seemed to care about them! It hurt that even when I was released, I knew this cycle would continue because buyers were always going to get what they wanted and get to walk away. Some of them would even pay more knowing I was an adolescent.
Walker Pettigrew’s experiences were corroborated when Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) repeatedly asked representatives from the FBI and state police to describe law enforcement’s response to buyers of child sex. Both FBI and state police representatives explained that buyers are rarely, if ever, apprehended as a matter of law enforcement policy.
It is important to note here the racial implications of failing to hold buyers of child sex accountable—a point that was reinforced by the state police officer’s testimony at the hearing. Traffickers are generally the Black and brown men we already incarcerate. Buyers, on the other hand, tend to be educated, white professionals.
Just as law enforcement must shift its current practices to bring more buyers to justice, so too must the anti-trafficking movement—which takes so much of its language from the anti-slavery abolitionist movement—steer away from perpetrating racial disparities in how we discuss who ought to be criminalized. As a human rights movement, the anti-trafficking community must fight for laws, policies, and practices that hold both the trafficker and the buyer accountable for their crimes.
Much like we do in any other case of child sexual abuse or child rape, those who purchase sex from our children must be brought to justice—and not merely on misdemeanor solicitation charges, but through federal laws that criminalize the purchase of sex with children or state laws criminalizing sex with minors. Because as Walker Pettigrew powerfully makes clear: “This is not prostitution—this is child rape.”
The post ‘John’ or Child Rapist? On Holding Buyers of Child Sex Accountable appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Reproductive rights advocates scored a major victory Wednesday when a federal district court permanently blocked a North Dakota law that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
The law at issue, HB 1456, would have prohibited abortions after a heartbeat was detected and subjected any physician who knowingly violated the “heartbeat ban” to felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison. In June 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to block the law. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic, and its medical director, argues that the law clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and unnecessarily places women’s health in danger by banning pre-viability abortions. In July, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland issued an order temporarily blocking the ban, calling the legislation “a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women.
Wednesday’s order blocks the law permanently.
“Today’s decision puts a stop to this attempt by North Dakota politicians to send the women of their state back to the dark days before Roe v. Wade, when reproductive health care options were limited at best and deadly at worst,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “The court was correct to call this law exactly what it is: a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women. But women should not be forced to go to court, year after year in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights. We hope today’s decision, along with the long line of decisions striking down these attempts to choke off access to safe and legal abortion services in the U.S., sends a strong message to politicians across the country that our rights cannot be legislated away.”
The fight over HB 1456 is not the only reproductive rights challenge happening in North Dakota. The Center for Reproductive Rights also filed lawsuits challenging measures that would essentially ban medication abortion in the state and impose the medically unnecessary requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they are performing abortions. The North Dakota Supreme Court is currently considering the ban on medication abortion, while the admitting privileges case has been settled.
As reported by RH Reality Check, taxpayers paid nearly $230,000 in attorneys’ fees from January 2011 to December 2013 defending anti-choice measures in North Dakota. At the request of North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the state set aside $400,000 in 2013 to defend anti-choice restrictions in court.
Image: Lawsuit via Shutterstock
The post Federal Court Permanently Blocks North Dakota ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Here's all the feminist news on our radar today:
• Some funny ladies in the Bay Area (above) are gearing up for Femprov, San Francisco's first all-women improv festival. [Femprov]
Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.
It was announced today that a list of New York City law firms which hire women is being prepared by Kappa Beta Pi, a legal sorority, so female graduates of law schools will not have to waste their time applying to local firms that will automatically reject their applications.
Emily Marx, Secretary of the sorority’s New York Chapter said: “We are cataloging the city’s law firms where embryo Portias are welcome on the same terms as their fellows. It is hoped that graduates with good scholastic records will thus be saved weeks of weary job hunting.”
Marx’s project will be extremely valuable to the new graduates, who won’t have to repeat her experience. When she canvassed 175 law firms while looking for a job after graduation, all but 25 said they didn’t want a woman lawyer in the office, and though the rest held out some hope, they had no vacancies.
Marx’s first interview was with the somewhat bemused senior partner of a well-known law firm who was quite astonished to see a woman applying for a job. But she was encouraged when he said that he would never want to be accused of turning down a Yale graduate who was a member of the Law Review just because she was a woman. After consulting with the other senior partner, however, he came back and told her: “No girls.”
After weeks of similar rejections, Marx did finally get hired, and says that there are more such open-minded law offices in New York, but women need to know which ones they are.
There are about 35 chapters of Kappa Beta Pi, mostly in the West, because many Eastern law schools do not admit women. About 250 members now hold positions in New York City law firms, but the problem is to find work for the 100 new graduates who come to the city looking for jobs each year. Kappa Beta Pi was the first legal sorority, founded in 1908 at the Chicago-Kent College of Law to promote high standards among women law students and practicing attorneys.
The number of women lawyers has been increasing rapidly, though they still constitute a small percentage of the profession. According to the 1870 Census, only five women were actively practicing law at that time. By 1900 that number had increased to 1,010, and stood at 1,738 as of the latest Census in 1920. Hopefully, projects similar to the one outlined today will be tried in other cities as well, and will help that number continue to increase in the future.