Reports have consistently shown that 1 in 5 college women will experience sexual violence at some point during their university careers, and more attention has been paid to the crisis in recent months. The Obama administration has taken action to combat campus rape, and California is doing its part to move the needle as well.
On Monday, the Golden State, which has shown itself to be a leader in these efforts, took another step toward protecting women students. The California Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation that would redefine sexual consent in strong terms.
If passed by the state Senate, bill SB967 would require “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” by both parties engaging in sexual contact.
“Sexual assaults are too common on our campuses, and the need for change is now,” said California Assembly member Jimmy Gomez (D).
All California schools that receive federal funding would have to adhere to the “affirmative consent” definition. The bill would also require schools to implement “victim-centered” response policies and develop sexual assault prevention programs.
Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system, endorsed the bill Monday and said in a statement that the University of California has “no tolerance for any form of sexual violence or harassment.”
Napolitano formed a task force in June to oversee campus sexual assault investigations after a Washington Post report revealed that three UC schools ranked among the top 20 schools with the highest number of “forcible” sex assaults between 2010 and 2012.
“Sexual violence is a serious crime that we will never tolerate,” Napolitano said in a June statement. “We aim to be the national leader in combating sexual violence on campus, and the mission of this new task force is to continue to review and improve our efforts to make sure the University of California employs innovative, evidence-based and consistent practices across the system.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter Tuesday to California post-secondary school leaders, including Napolitano, urging them to voluntarily adopt parts of her Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act), which was introduced in Congress last month. Sen. Boxer is asking California’s public and private universities to hire independent advocates for sexual assault prevention and response, a measure that would be required if her bill becomes law. The advocates would ensure survivors had access to appropriate medical care, forensic and evidentiary exams, counseling, information on their legal rights and guidance on reporting crimes to law enforcement.
“As our students return to campus, they are counting on their universities to not only educate them, but also to protect them,” Sen. Boxer wrote in her letter. “Yet, as you know too well, campus sexual assault has reached epidemic levels in our country, and I am writing to ask you to create an independent victim’s advocate on your campuses.”
Let’s hope California’s schools and legislators make the right choice for students!
Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett.
During an ESPN interview last week, Mo'ne Davis stressed that she really just wants to play ball.
In last week’s Little League World Series, Mo’Ne Davis was the all-star on the pitcher’s mound: she became the first girl to throw a shutout game in the history of the series.
Oh Joy Sex Toy is a weekly comics series that graphically explores sex and sexuality. This week, Erika Moen offers some sage advice on threesomes.
Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich announced this month that Richard “Rick” Hodges will be the new director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), an appointment that Kasich critics say is politically motivated and potentially illegal.
Ohio law requires that the director of the state Department of Health be either a licensed physician with a degree in medicine or “an individual who has had significant experience in the public health profession.”
Hodges, who left his position as the executive director of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission—a body that oversees the maintenance of the toll highway—to take the job at the ODH, is not a licensed physician in the state. Whether or not he fits the second qualification is also unclear, making his appointment controversial.
Shortly after the site noticed the omission, Hodges apparently edited his LinkedIn page to include qualifications and experience related to public health. A copy of Hodges’ resume, obtained by the right-wing blog Third Base Politics and widely reported to have come from the governor’s office, was then published as evidence of his health experience.
More recently he has held high-level positions at the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, the Metropolitan Builders Association, and the Mechanical Contractors Association, among other positions.
According to his LinkedIn page, Hodges has some professional experience in the health-care sector: He served as the director of Coordinated Care from 1994 to 1998, during which he oversaw an association of self-insured corporations and health-care providers, and as the director of planning and marketing for the Fulton County Health Center for two years.
The ODH is responsible for setting and implementing statewide health policy, managing programs such as the public health outreach initiative Health Ohio and the federal welfare program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), keeping public health statistics, and responding to public health crises in the state, like the recent outbreak of measles.
As its director, Hodges will be the department’s face and its leader, setting priorities and directing staff toward carrying out the department’s mission to improve public health.
“Our objection to Hodges is based on the fact that he is not legally qualified for the job,” says Jaime Miracle, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, one of the many groups that have been critical of Kasich’s appointment. “It’s his signature on emergency orders on algae blooms crises. What happens if half of his medical team thinks there’s one way to go and half thinks it’s the other? It’s up to him, not up to his advisors.”
Miracle says that aside from the concern with whether Hodges is fit to direct the ODH and set the standards for health in Ohio in general, she is also worried about what Hodges’ appointment means for abortion providers.
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is definitely a more contentious relationship between the department of health and the subset of ambulatory surgical facilities that provide abortion care,” Miracle told RH Reality Check. “We’re seeing the forced closure of these clinics for no reason, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that the licensing of abortion providers is a political operation.”
Kasich has long used the director of the ODH to target and close Ohio abortion providers, including an abortion provider in Cincinnati. The ODH regulates certain health-care facilities, and has the power to grant, as well as revoke, the operating licenses of surgical facilities, including many abortion providers.
Kasich in 2013 signed into law an anti-choice bill that requires surgical abortion facilities have written transfer agreements with local private hospitals. Failing to secure a transfer agreement, which has proven difficult in many cases, the clinic’s license to operate as a surgical facility will be revoked—in many cases an action that shuts down the clinic entirely. The ODH director is responsible for overseeing which clinics should have their licenses revoked, and signs his or her name on the paperwork to shut down the clinic.
At the start of 2013, Ohio had 14 abortion clinics. Now ten remain, three of which are currently in legal limbo.
Hodges, during his term in Congress, sponsored three anti-reproductive rights bills, including one requiring parental notification prior to abortion and another prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions for state employees.
According to Plunderbund, Hodges was the recipient of the “Friend of Life” award given by the United Conservatives of Ohio during his term in Congress. RH Reality Check was unable to confirm that such an award was given to Hodges.
Though Hodges’ stance on abortion might be unclear at this point, Kasich’s is not. He is a staunch anti-choice advocate and has appointed abortion foes to powerful medical positions during his time as governor. Kasich in 2012 appointed Mike Gonidakis, who currently serves as the president of the Ohio Right to Life, to the Ohio State Medical Board.
Kasich also chose Dr. Mary Applegate to lead as interim medical director of the department.
In a statement, Gov. Kasich clarified the reasoning behind his appointments: “With his proven management ability, Rick is well prepared to lead the department to carry out its mission, and Dr. Applegate’s medical expertise will allow her to support Rick by focusing on medical issues and assisting him in recruiting an expert clinic team.”
In the past 30 years only two directors of the state agency have not been doctors, according to the Washington Times.
The post Is Ohio’s Department of Health Director Legally Qualified to Serve? appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Rogue abortion provider Dr. Steven C. Brigham may permanently lose his ability to legally practice medicine after a New Jersey judge recommended a permanent revocation of his medical privileges.
Brigham has a troubling past, and has been under investigation by state authorities for medical practices that have pushed the boundaries of ethics and the law.
If the decision is upheld by the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, Brigham will no longer have any valid credentials to practice medicine in the United States. This would also force Brigham to close eight abortion clinics that he operates in New Jersey.
Brigham operates American Women’s Services, which list offices in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, in addition to the offices in New Jersey. Since the 1990s, Brigham has operated a dangerous practice, despite repeated complaints to authorities from reputable providers over the course of several years.
In August 2010, an 18-year-old patient was left with major internal injuries after what was supposed to have been a routine surgical abortion performed by a Brigham-affiliated clinic. The doctor who performed the emergency surgery on her at a Baltimore hospital contacted the authorities, leading to a raid of the clinic by law enforcement, who found fetal remains in freezers.
Brigham’s medical privileges were suspended in 2010 when the Board of Medical Examiners found that “his continued practice presents a clear and imminent danger.”
In November 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of Facility Licensure and Certification issued an order against Philadelphia reproductive health clinic Integrity Family Health for failing to disclose an affiliation with American Women’s Services.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that in the 86-page decision, Administrative Law Judge Jeff Masin wrote that Brigham’s “past conduct is troubling.”
“He has suffered license revocations. He has run afoul of the licensing authorities in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. He has a conviction for failure to file income taxes. And here, he has demonstrated a willingness to play fast and loose with the law in Maryland,” Masin wrote.
The decision comes after Masin heard evidence last year from New Jersey prosecutors showing that Brigham used a dangerous scheme in which he would begin abortions in New Jersey and then transfer patients to Maryland to complete the procedure.
Brigham would induce fetal death in his Voorhees clinic and would then surgically removed the fetuses at a clandestine clinic in Elkton, Maryland.
Image: Cecil Whig / YouTube
The post Rogue Abortion Provider’s Medical License Could Be Permanently Revoked appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Michael Pitre, author of Fives and Twenty-Fives, served two tours in Iraq. He says, "It was not glamorous and it's not SEAL Team 6; it's just work, and I wanted to tell a story about that."
On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services proposed new regulations that could expand birth control access for low-income residents while requiring health providers that object to contraception to refer patients to providers that will provide contraceptive care.
Expected to take effect on October 1, the policy changes would increase Medicaid funding for health-care providers to provide birth control for women patients as well as vasectomies for men.
The new policy is meant to directly address the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby, which allows closely held corporations to deny employees health insurance plans that cover birth control. Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, told the Chicago Tribune that the Court’s decision was of “extreme concern” to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and state health officials. However, the new regulations will only affect people receiving Medicaid benefits.
“It is an opportune time when women across the country are paying attention,” Hamos told the Tribune. “[The department] can really use that attention to focus on what’s available to them through Medicaid.”
Payments for vasectomies and intrauterine devices (IUDs) would be doubled. Medicaid reimbursements would be immediately delivered to health-care providers such as Planned Parenthood that are providing long-term contraception.
Hamos cited Colorado’s program of providing affordable birth control as a model to use for family planning policy; teen birth rates dropped by 40 percent over five years after a state initiative increased access to affordable contraception throughout the state.
No cost estimates have been issued by the state for the new policy. Hamos noted that the federal government currently pays 90 percent of Medicaid costs for family planning services.
The department is soliciting public comment on the proposed regulations through September 15.
The post ‘Hobby Lobby’ Aftermath: Illinois Seeks to Expand Birth Control Access appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Eight: the number of legal abortion providers that, barring a federal court’s intervention, will remain in Texas as of Monday, September 1, when the final provision of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2, goes into effect.
That’s one legal abortion provider for every one million Texans who could become pregnant, according to an estimate from the University of Texas’ Texas Policy Evaluation Project.
Those eight facilities will all be located along the I-35 and I-45 corridors, in major cities in the eastern half of the sprawling state. No legal abortion facilities will operate south or west of San Antonio.
Planned Parenthood will operate five of those eight abortion-providing ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), in Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Austin, and—as part of a contract with an existing ASC while a new Planned Parenthood facility is under construction—in San Antonio.
“Our building is still undergoing construction,” in San Antonio, Mara Posada of Planned Parenthood South Texas told RH Reality Check. But, she said, “we’ve made arrangements with another surgery center here in San Antonio for Planned Parenthood staff to provide abortion care.”
Three more independent, non-Planned Parenthood facilities will operate in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
But even the presence of eight licensed, abortion-providing ASCs does not guarantee that all eight will, at any given time, be providing legal abortion care.
Much depends on the facilities’ ability to find doctors who can obtain and maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals. Many of those hospitals face pressure to deny privileges to abortion-providing doctors from anti-choice groups, which have threatened to protest and picket outside hospitals that grant privileges to abortion providers.
Image: Texas via Shutterstock
The post Soon in Texas, One Abortion Provider for Every One Million Potentially Pregnant Texans appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Today, we join thousands of women across the country to commemorate the ratification in 1920 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Ending those restrictions created pathways for women to have a say in the decisions that shape our futures. A robust women’s movement moved Congress in 1971 to designate August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. The movement challenged Congress to make women’s equality a core American principle. It was the right thing to, not only for the sake of the equality, but for the good of our nation. The leadership and contributions of women were needed to enable, govern and secure the future.
Nearly 100 years later, we are still working towards democracy and equality for every woman—without restrictions based on race, class, age or experience. And we have some distance to travel.
Women remain underrepresented in positions of influence and power and over-represented in positions of abuse and vulnerability. Every 28 hours, a black woman in this country loses her child to police or vigilante violence. Unjust and outdated immigration policies separate unprecedented numbers of women and their families each and every day. Domestic work, the work that makes all other work possible, is still highly under-valued and under-regulated. Ninety-five percent of domestic workers are women of color and immigrant women, and they remain excluded from many federal labor laws. Our unsustainable economy is powered by women who too-often work for poverty wages, with the burden disproportionately borne by families of color.
Today, however, we celebrate because we believe that history is on our side and equality is our future. And the brand of equality we will create for the future will make us whole, because it won’t allow us to separate one form of equality from another. It will address the fact that more than two-thirds of the minimum-wage workforce is women. It will account for our global economic reality and connect us to women in Bangladesh who risk their lives to work in dangerous factories. It will acknowledge our right to love and marry who we choose, and every family’s right to come home to each other and share a healthy meal together at night. It will account for our needs, hopes and dreams as Americans living in 2014.
We celebrate today because the movement for women’s equality is growing and winning. We celebrate because domestic workers in Massachusetts, California, Hawaii and New York are hard at work implementing Bill of Rights legislation developed and won by domestic workers and the families who love them. We celebrate because home care workers are developing state and local policies to ensure that we have enough support for the vast number of families caring for their parents and their children at the same time. We celebrate because marriage equality has moved from an impossibility to an inevitability in states across the country. We celebrate because, despite congressional inaction, the President of the United States will be taking action to support immigrant families. We celebrate because mothers are on the front lines of building communities that are free of violence, whether in their own homes or in their communities.
Even as a mother buried her son yesterday in Ferguson, MO, a chorus of new voices has joined those in Ferguson to say enough is enough; women, communities of color, Americans will accept nothing less than full equality. From social media to social action, we are seeing people across the nation take a stand for a new brand of what women stood for in numbers so many years ago. Together we are building upon the work of our foremothers and redefining citizenship in 21st century America; we are creating a society that values all of our work and our families, and a democracy that embraces who we truly are as a nation.
This year, Women’s Equality Day coincides with an international day of action in support of the pursuit of justice for Mike Brown, his family, his communities and hundreds of thousands of families like his (for more information and to get involved, please visit www.handsupunited.org). We hope you’ll join us and those around the world in demanding that our nation stand firm in it’s commitment to liberty and justice for all. When black lives matter, women’s lives matter and all of our lives matter, we all win. Let us celebrate Women’s Equality Day by working toward our new democratic vision, and take our nation forward together.
Photo of the 19th Amendment from Wikimedia Commons
Ai-jen Poo is executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance
Alicia Garza is director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance
The Love/Lust issue of Bitch debuts in early September. The cover is a direct play on the 1969 book cover for David Reubens' Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).
Bloomberg News took the campus sexual assault backlash to a new low last week with a piece describing how “hook-up culture” is on the decline at elite colleges now that there’s a heightened awareness of sexual assault on campuses. The focus of the article is the “burden” male students carry as a result of new interest in the campus rape epidemic. So what is the burden that is so heavy it warrants an entire article?
- Having to be more cautious about gauging the interest of a romantic pursuit
- Having to avoid making romantic pursuits “feel uncomfortable”
- Having to learn what constitutes consent
- Having to be more cautious about making decisions while drunk
- Having to be more cognizant of how social media comments may appear to others
In other words, the new campus anti-rape movement has made male students more thoughtful and less predatory, but journalist John Lauerman and former Bloomberg intern Jennifer Surane frame this in negative terms.
The authors indulge in gross victim-blaming throughout the piece and reinforce the notion that women are responsible for not getting raped. One example is this lengthy quote from Chris Herries, a 22-year-old Stanford student:
Some men feel that too much responsibility for preventing sexual assault has been put on their shoulders. While everyone condemns sexual assault, there seems to be an assumption among female students that they shouldn’t have to protect themselves by avoiding drunkenness and other risky behaviors. Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad? We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk.
Herries could not have said it more clearly—women who get drunk or engage in other “risky” behaviors “deserve” to be raped—and the authors made the decision to print this without exposing it as a rape myth.
Lauerman and Surane also mischaracterize the campus rape epidemic as a muddy miscommunication problem, effectively portraying rape as difficult for men to avoid. For example, in a passage describing a male student having to think twice about whether he should offer a coed a beer, they use this quote from a 20-year-old economics major: “I don’t want to look like a predator … It’s a little bit of a blurred line.”
In case there was any doubt, Lauerman and Surane wrap up their piece by overtly portraying male college students as victims. In a section titled “Witch Hunt,” they quote liberally from William Pollack, a Harvard psychologist and head of the Centers for Men and Young Men: “While sexual assault is undoubtedly a real problem, heightened attention in the media has created a ‘witch-hunt’ environment. Most males would never do anything to harm a young woman. We’re starting to scare the heck out of the wrong people.”
Articles that perpetuate rape myths matter because they shape public opinion, and this is not Lauerman’s first time making harmful claims. He previously wrote about the “hardships” men face when they are found responsible for rape on campus, arguing that alleged male perpetrators face bias in campus adjudication processes (despite overwhelming bias in the opposite direction that leads to about 2 percent of campus rapists being held accountable). I’ve worked with Lauerman in the past but stopped after getting into an argument over whether or not opening an article about a survivor by saying she was drunk framed the assault in victim-blaming terms. When I told him the feminist blogosphere would call him out on it, he had a good long laugh. I hope that the feminist blogosphere has the last laugh by holding Lauerman and other irresponsible reporters responsible for promoting dangerous rape myths.
Dr. Caroline Heldman is associate professor of politics at Occidental College. She is also the lead complainant on the Title IX complaint against her school. She has previously published on the new anti-rape movement on college campuses.
Here's all the news on our radar today:
While I was in church on Sunday, I thought about the hard choices women face. My preacher spoke from a passage in Exodus about the saving of Moses. As the story goes, the pharaoh was planning to kill all the Hebrew boys in fear that they would eventually take over and rule over the Egyptians. To save his life, Moses’ mother and sister put him in a waterproof basket and sent him down the river in hopes that an Egyptian woman would take pity on him and adopt him. She did.
When I heard this passage, I immediately thought of mothers across North Carolina who are fearful that they will not have the ability to raise their children safely, with adequate education and health care.
On Tuesday, August 26, we will have the opportunity to highlight the hard choices women have to make daily during Women’s Equality Day, which honors the enfranchisement of women in 1920 and is now recognized around the country to address the diverse and important concerns of women. In North Carolina, the day coincides with the North Carolina Moral Week of Action, which is being held August 22 to 28 to expose the harmful legislation being imposed by North Carolina house leaders on all state residents. North Carolina organizers thought it was important to incorporate Women’s Equality Day in the Moral Week of Action since many of the policies at issue, including the state’s recent voter identification law, adversely affect women.
My faith encourages me to ensure the health of my community. Like the women in the story of Moses, women in my community fight hard to make their voices heard and protect their children. Many women look to their faith communities to help support their families, and these faith communities across North Carolina work hard to support struggling families. They help with bills, child care, and spiritual and emotional support.
But sometimes, this isn’t enough. Funding and resources at churches and other communities of faith are limited. Most churches don’t even have the budget to provide after-school care, tutoring, or other assistance for women and their babies.
We need to live in a society that does not have barriers to health, economic security, and safety so women won’t have to fear for the health of their bodies and the bodies of their children. Women should not have to be afraid that they cannot feed themselves and their families.
That’s why women of faith have been taking the lead in the Moral Mondays movement. We are tired of families living in financial fear and living without adequate health care. We believe it is the duty of the state to make sure our communities have access to good education, health care, and public safety.
Tara Romano of North Carolina Women United also recognizes the importance of women’s voices in the Moral Mondays movement. She was on the initial calls planning the Moral Week of Action, along with other women organizers who in early July had already begun to plan a Women’s Equality Day. That’s when leaders of the NAACP asked Romano to take the lead in coordinating the Raleigh event for Women’s Equality Day.
“Almost all the organizers were women, and most of the speakers were women,” Romano said. “This is a good opportunity in the NAACP to see that we are a big part of this movement.”
Since a diverse group of women were able to set the agenda, we have an opportunity to talk about reproductive justice in a more inclusive way. I’ve written how this was not always the case in North Carolina.
For me, reproductive justice encompasses much more than making sure women have access to contraceptives and safe abortion, but also making sure women have the financial security to raise children in a safe and healthy environment.
In the past year in North Carolina, the North Carolina General Assembly refused to expand Medicaid, a policy that would help many women be healthy enough to care for their children. Yes, pregnant women automatically get prenatal care under Medicaid, but a woman needs health care well before she decides to get pregnant. A woman’s health before she is pregnant can determine the health of her pregnancy and child, and good health reduces infant mortality. So yes, all women, mothers or not, need health care.
The assembly also cut subsidies for after-school care for their children. After-school programs are expensive, costing families up to $500 a month. With the subsidies, some families were paying as little as $9 a week for after-school care, care that included homework help and enriching academic activities that help their children succeed. Now families will have to scramble after school to find safe, affordable, and adequate care for their children.
We also live in a state that just passed a law allowing concealed guns in public spaces. This law is dangerous for women: Five women in the United States die each day from gun violence, often at the hands of their partners. What’s more, given the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the killing of Mike Brown, mothers are worried that their child may in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the loosening of gun restrictions nationwide makes our public spaces even more dangerous. All mothers should be able to raise their children in a community that is safe from gun violence.
The list goes on. For instance, our state legislators rid us of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which had helped many women in low-wage jobs stretch their paychecks a little more to pay bills. Shelia Arias, a mother of two children from Durham, will speak on the importance of the EITC for working families at Tuesday’s event. “It’s a way to help hard working people make ends meet and handle unexpected life emergencies,” Arias said, speaking from personal experience.
We also live in a state that has restricted access to voting under its new voter identification law, which disproportionately affects women, especially women of color and low-income women without the necessary identification. In some cases, these women will have to use their limited funds to purchase a new ID. In addition, the law has closed many voting sites and cut early voting short. Early voting sites gave women who work inflexible hours the flexibility to vote. Now, women may be discouraged from showing up to the polls at all.
Women’s Equality Day gives us another opportunity to let North Carolina legislators and voters know why women should show up to the polls in record numbers on Election Day. We’re sponsoring voter registration drives and “get out the vote” efforts across the state to make sure that women, representing over half of the electorate, have what they need to make their voices heard.
In general, the day is a reminder that women in North Carolina need access to services that will help their families. We cannot continue to live in communities where women are constantly worried about how they will meet their most basic needs, like feeding their children.
The post Women’s Equality Day Comes to North Carolina, Amid the Moral Week of Action appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The events that have unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, in recent weeks have revealed many tragedies, among them the fact that the death of so many youth of color in this country is still debatable in its status as a vaunted “feminist issue.” But it is, and the expansive definition of reproductive justice, which reaches into the universe of conditions necessary to create and sustain life, shows us how.
As RH Reality Check Senior Legal Analyst Imani Gandy put it so well in a recent tweet:
I saw so many people on Twitter saying "I don't want to have/raise black children in this country." That is a reproductive justice issue.
— Imani ABL (@AngryBlackLady) August 10, 2014
The resonance of the phrase “my body, my choice” owes much to its essential simplicity. But that same simplicity leaves out a great deal. A number of writers, like Dani McClain, Hannah Giorgis, Tara Culp-Ressler, and Emma Akpan, have written about a much broader idea, whose standard has been borne mostly by women of color for the last 20 years: The death of Michael Brown, and the systematic terror it induces, is a reproductive justice issue.
Put another way, there can be no reproductive justice for all until the state-sanctioned murder of Black youth in this country is addressed.
Bodily control neither begins nor ends with reproductive health care—that was only ever one battleground, albeit an important one. When one’s choice of whether or not to have a child is coerced by a terror inflicted on you and others like you, one’s reproductive rights are also being trampled upon. The word “terror” is not hyperbole as Hannah Giorgis revealed when she wrote of her reaction to Brown’s murder:
When I heard Sunday night that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri, my heart sank. My skin pulled tight around my hands, my stomach churned itself into knots. My mind raced, visions of my brothers’ faces collaged into the painfully familiar sight of yet another innocent Black boy breathing — and bleeding — for the last time.
She shares this waking nightmare with countless other Black mothers who live in fear of their children falling to the vengeful divinity of the state. “Any force that systematically and unapologetically turns unconsenting Black wombs into graveyards,” she says, “is a reproductive justice issue.”
For one’s children to be random, unwitting blood sacrifices to the prejudice of faceless others is not freedom. To have reproductive freedom means, among many other things, that your choice to raise a family will not be revenged upon by collectivized prejudice wielding batons and handguns.
Children of Color as Crisis
A theme of the protests in Ferguson has been the fact that our much-cherished rights evaporated at just the moment when they were most needed.
Michael Brown’s right to due process was hardly in evidence. And for the protesters, much the same was true: Their First Amendment rights were stripped, as were those of many of the journalists trying to cover the historic events as they unfolded. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments fluttered away. Suddenly, even police regulations about providing names and badge numbers no longer applied. On and on, rights were butchered in the charnel house of Ferguson’s streets.
But equally glaring and shocking was the fact that Michael Brown’s mother was denied her right to a family she could raise in safety.
Far from being a “separate issue,” as some would like to imagine, what happened to Michael Brown is as much a profound indictment of our lack of reproductive justice as it is our lack of racial and economic justice.
If reproductive choice is about deciding whether or not one can have a family, or how large one wants her family to be, then structural violence imposed on a community is a constraint upon that freedom. If a woman like Marissa Alexander, for instance, cannot defend her own life and her children from an abusive parent, that too is a violation of reproductive freedom.
The issue is not only the tragic loss of a child, or an unjustly incarcerated mother. It’s the fact that for the entire Black community in our society, there is a calculus to be made about one’s children that’s not prevalent among whites. It’s the knowledge that your child might be stolen away by the very people who should be protecting him or her, and the knowledge that they will die a second death as a bloodthirsty press seeks to retroactively justify the atrocity by holding up their whole life for scrutiny and debate, as if anything revealed by such remorseless vulture-picking could ever excuse such a killing.
It is here where the question of “Whose lives are valued?” enters into the picture, for how cheap must a life be if millions of onlookers can think that stolen cigars justify a murder? Can we have reproductive justice if the children of some are considered inherently less valuable by several orders of magnitude? If the life of a child or a young man or woman is so cheap that misunderstandings, small mistakes, or false accusations justify their deaths, what can then be said about the rights they enjoyed in life and how valuable they turned out to be?
For First Nations and Native American peoples this, too, is a pressing question. The disproportionate murders of their children, particularly young women, is an appalling atrocity that has only unfolded quietly because such lives are undervalued. Writing about the death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl whose body was found in a river, Dr. Sarah Hunt, a researcher on violence against Indigenous people, concluded her piece by saying, “Treating our deaths as unremarkable is a form of violence that needs to stop along with the murders themselves. Taking steps to end the violence now is the only route to justice.”
A similar debauching occurs with the lives of Latino/a children in this country, especially immigrants. They are treated by the rest of society as a virus infecting the state, and their deaths—whether in the United States or in the countries to which they may be deported—are treated as both seemly and unremarkable. Amid all this violence and chaos, Latina mothers are condemned as being threats themselves for bearing these children—their decision to have a family, and any decision they make about saving that family (such as making the unarguably difficult choice to send your child over the border alone), are subject to a dehumanizing scorn in the press.
The great moral crime is that the deaths of all these people are treated as the seemly garnish to an otherwise just and progressive world.
It’s why Renisha McBride was killed—her part in the white suburban slasher drama that depicts all Black people as inherently dangerous was decided for her long before she staggered up to Theodore Wafer’s front door. It’s why Islan Nettles’ murder has not been properly investigated, despite the fact that it occurred next to a police station. It’s why Trayvon Martin’s death ignited controversy rather than universal condemnation. It’s why CeCe MacDonald went to prison for defending herself against a man who wanted her to pay with her life for the crime of her very existence. It’s why far too many other men and women have been slain.
The reproductive justice perspective is a simple one: All lives must be valued as equal. There can be no reproductive justice without racial justice. This means that the families of people of color must be seen as having equal value. It means that a child’s real or perceived imperfections should never be seen as an excuse for murder. And it means that the decisions of Black, Latino/a, or Native people to have children should not be constructed as a crisis. Rather, we should see the equal and just care of these children as a shared responsibility—a challenge, yes, but no more a challenge than raising one’s own family should be.
Children of color are not a crisis.
A Militarized Public
Much has been made of the militarization of the police in this country, and that must be addressed without delay. But we are making a tremendous mistake if we believe that taking the police’s tanks and assault rifles away will make things better.
The militarization of the mind is what we must fight with vigor. Police have merely clad themselves in the armor that fits their timeless pretensions. They were always a paramilitary force in word and deed—now they simply have the means to clothe themselves like it.
But this militant mind was never limited to the police. It leads to the terrifying fantasies that George Zimmerman and Theodore Wafer acted out when they committed their murders. It has made monsters of people’s children; it has cut a swathe through people’s families. It’s the same violent reflex that has taken the lives of countless transgender women of color, people whose very right to exist is being fought for on the furthest frontier of reproductive justice politics.
The militarized mind dehumanizes and then justifies the treatment, which accrues to the inhuman.
It is easy to see a logical extension between angry Facebook users posting memes about “welfare cheats” and “anchor babies” and those who try to justify the slaughter of a young person of color. You see the broad arc here: Dehumanize, then kill, then slay their memory. The kids are cast as spongers, or invading immigrants who will rape and kill, or talentless gang-bangers—all of whom are “stealing” hardworking (white) Americans’ money while constituting an existential threat to the nation as a whole. Inevitably, someone is killed, and just as inevitably people try to justify the death.
Armies of children are reduced to caricatures.
The real question is, how is this not about reproductive justice? How could anyone think otherwise?
The answer lies in the same dehumanization that leads to this weeping list of crimes, and it infects feminism as well. Ferguson is a moment for all of us who call ourselves feminists to refuse the seductions of racism; we must refuse to fail. It’s also a moment for all of us non-Black people of color to recognize that although we cannot lay total claim to the issue of police violence visited on Black children and Black parents, we are inextricably bound up in all of this and cannot afford to be silent.
There’s a movement in there somewhere. And we would all do well to answer its call at last.
Image: a katz / Shutterstock.com
The post The Price of Our Blood: Why Ferguson Is a Reproductive Justice Issue appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Two weeks after Michael Brown, who was to begin his first year at Vatterott College this fall, was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson as he was walking down the street with a friend, a coalition of racial justice activists and community organizers across the country coordinated a nationwide student walkout, dubbed on Twitter as the #HandsUpWalkOut day of action.
Organizations including the Dream Defenders and the Organization for Black Struggle, along with groups that have formed in the two weeks since protests started in Ferguson, sent out calls via Twitter and several newly created websites, asking students to walk out of class Monday, which also happened to be the day of Brown’s funeral, and gather in a central campus location.
— Dwayne A. Mack Ph.D. (@mfcbook) August 25, 2014
The response was huge, and hundreds of students at around ten colleges on Monday walked out of class in solidarity. “We knew immediately that we needed to organize something on our campus,” said Reuben Riggs, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, who along with students from St. Louis University organized one of the most successful walkout events.
“Many of us identify with Mike Brown, whether they’re young Black men or trans people of color,” Riggs told RH Reality Check, noting that many students are targeted and subjected to the same system of oppression that was used to justify Mike Brown’s killing.
Around 300 students and faculty attended the St. Louis walkout, and though they held signs expressing their anger at the lack of justice for Mike Brown and the other young people of color killed in police shootings, the students were silent as they gathered on campus on their first day of classes.
Brown’s father, who attended the funeral of his 18-year-old son that morning, asked that participants turn whatever protest they had planned into a silent vigil or peaceful gathering.
“We march in silence in memory of Mike Brown, and through our silence, we speak our minds in the fight for local and global justice,” said student organizers in a press release on behalf of St. Louis and Washington universities.
— OBS-STL (@OBS_StL) August 25, 2014
At a smaller event 900 miles away, the students at Syracuse University in New York ended their walkout with a community discussion about race and systemic violence. Meeting in the university’s chapel, Syracuse students discussed how the criminalization of youth of color affects access to education. “We talked about how young kids, in preschool or elementary school are getting sent home and expelled in a way that sends a message that kids don’t belong in schools,” said Emelia Armstead, a senior public relations major at Syracuse, who organized the event on her campus along with the school’s Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program (JUMP), a student organization that seeks to increase educational opportunities for underserved youth. Participants at both schools had the sense that students can and should play a role in shaping the debate on police violence and racism in the United States. The St. Louis press release speaks to this:
As students from Washington University and St. Louis University, we seek to amplify not only our voices but also the voices of our community in the call for justice for Mike Brown. [...] By gathering, we memorialize yet another unjust killing of a young black man and make clear our stance that students everywhere must act. We are engaging the issues of our day by stepping away from our computer screens and textbooks and transforming our thoughts into action. Today, we pay respect to the many lives extinguished by unnecessary police violence. Tomorrow, we will continue in the fight for justice and work to reaffirm the value of every single human life.
“Ferguson is Syracuse and Los Angeles. As much as it might be easier to act like this is a St. Louis problem, it’s not. It’s a US problem and it’s everywhere,” said Armstead.
Here are more images from #HandsUpWalkOut events today, taken by Twitter users:
— OBS-STL (@OBS_StL) August 25, 2014
— Reggie Kush (@GoatMouf) August 25, 2014
Image: RuptlyTV via YouTube
The post Students Walk Out With Their Hands Up to Protest Michael Brown Shooting appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.
On Friday, the Obama administration offered yet another tweak to the accommodation process for employers objecting to complying with the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I have the basics of the rule change here, while Imani Gandy has this must-read piece on why the administration needs to stop fiddling with the rule and start defending it.
In addition to the legal challenges filed by the religious right challenging the birth control benefit in the ACA, apparently some insurance companies are trying to dodge covering contraception as well.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ferguson Police Department finally released its incident report in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9. Naturally the report is incomplete and, according to the ACLU, in violation of the law.
The conversation surrounding the killing of Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson, Missouri, needs to center on the value, or lack thereof, society places on Black lives.
We’re a long ways from justice for Michael Brown. Don’t miss Natasha Chart’s take here.
One of the police officers who was arresting journalists in Ferguson, Missouri, is the defendant in a civil rights lawsuit that accuses the officer of hog-tying and injuring a 12-year-old Black boy who was checking the mail at the end of his driveway.
This piece explains how a Supreme Court case from the 1980s may help shape the federal investigation into Michael Brown’s shooting and the Ferguson Police Department.
An Illinois school district is taking the wrong approach to Ferguson by instructing its teachers not to discuss the events in class.
According to this piece in Reason, a majority of Americans want to criminalize parents who let their children play at the park unsupervised.
Here is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaking more truth on our country’s race problem, and the Court’s role in exacerbating that problem.
Leave it to conservative legal commentators to take a thoughtful interview answer and try and turn it into a “cat fight” between Justices Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
A former teacher at a Montana Catholic school who was fired for being unmarried and pregnant has sued the school for pregnancy discrimination.
A court in Colorado dismissed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, accusing the reproductive health-care provider of providing “taxpayer funding for abortions.”
Reproductive rights advocates in Louisiana filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s newly passed law requiring abortion-providing doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
A Cincinnati, Ohio, clinic will stop providing abortions after deciding not to appeal a decision revoking its license.
The Roberts Court stepped back into the marriage equality fray and issued a stay to a federal court ruling striking Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages.
Finally, some good news: California lawmakers voted to ban involuntary sterilization of inmates.
The post Legal Wrap: More Changes to Contraception Accommodation Means More Lawsuits appeared first on RH Reality Check.