San Francisco lawmakers this week passed an ordinance creating protections for people entering and leaving the city’s abortion clinics. The ordinance, passed unanimously by the city Board of Supervisors, is meant to mitigate the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June buffer zone ruling.
The California city had passed a law in 2013, which like the Massachusetts law was modeled after, established a 25-foot “buffer zone” around reproductive health-care clinics, which protesters can’t enter. But in June, conservative justices on the Supreme Court struck down Massachusetts’ law, ruling that it infringes on protesters’ right to free speech. San Francisco stopped enforcing its own law as a result.
Since June, city policymakers have worked to create new clinic protections that are in line with the Court’s controversial ruling.
“When reproductive rights came under attack by the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority,” said David Campos, the ordinance’s sponsor, “our office stepped up to make sure patients here in San Francisco have access to health care without extreme harassment.”
Instead of creating a protest-free zone outside of clinics, the ordinance passed this week regulates the kind of protesting allowed within the zone.
Now, anti-choice picketers determined to yell or use megaphones will have to stand 50-feet away from clinic entrances, while those engaging in “quiet, consensual conversations” can stand closer.
Protesters are also barred from impeding access to entrances, and the law gives power to law enforcement to disperse protesters violating the provisions.
“It’s not a buffer zone in the way it was before,” Campos said in a statement. “It actually focuses on the conduct of the individual and if that individual is harassing someone.”
The new ordinance mirrors a law passed by the Massachusetts legislature in July in response to the Roberts Court’s buffer zone decision. At the time of its passage, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said that the law would protect women from facing “intimidation or threats when trying to access reproductive health care services.”
Campos echoed that sentiment in a statement on his Facebook page, saying that he’s “proud that our law balances First Amendment rights with the rights of patients to access medical care without having their privacy violated, their dignity insulted, and their health compromised.”
The post San Francisco Lawmakers Fight Back After Supreme Court’s Buffer Zone Ruling appeared first on RH Reality Check.
On November 4, control of the Senate will be in your hands. The elections are going to come down to the wire, so your vote will matter big time. And the differences between these candidates couldn't be more stark. In each race, one candidate will protect access to safe, legal abortion and affordable birth control - while the other will take away your rights. The choice in these Senate races is as clear as a stack of chocolate chip pancakes or a bag of rusty nails at Sunday brunch.
In response to the attacks of reproductive-health care, Sen. Udall has said, "It astounds me to that some still think the legality of birth control and access to reproductive health services should be subject to debate."
Sen. Kay Hagan
As a Latina Catholic and Coloradan, I care about my community. I hold a deep respect for all life, and an equally profound reverence for the respect due to every person’s conscience. I believe in social justice—the idea that each person has value, and that all of us have a moral duty to stand up for those who are poor and marginalized. I also believe in celebrating the diversity of beliefs held by my neighbors and friends by ensuring that each of us has freedom of and from religion. To me, these values are simply part of being a good person and a faithful Catholic. That’s why I am proud to be part of a statewide campaign of Catholics against Amendment 67.
Amendment 67 flies in the face of all my Catholic values. By banning birth control, abortion, and in vitro fertilization, this dangerous measure would prevent women from following their consciences when making critical moral decisions. By seeking to codify one narrow viewpoint on when life begins and whether abortion or contraception should be available, Amendment 67 would also prevent people from following their own beliefs—religious or otherwise—about these deeply personal issues. Bans on reproductive health care like Amendment 67 also particularly harm the poor and marginalized members of our communities, which is why such measures are unconscionable to me as a Coloradan and incompatible with my Catholic faith.
Throughout the Catholic tradition, from its earliest times to today, scholars, saints, and ordinary Catholics have had differing beliefs about when a developing life becomes a person. Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas Aquinas, two important Catholic theologians, considered the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy to be a person.
Today, not a single opinion on the subject has been pronounced as the one true Catholic belief, because there isn’t one. There are 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, and 780,000 of us right here in Colorado—we will not always agree on all things. There is no doubt, however, that our faith teaches us that a woman is a person with rights, responsibilities, and a conscience that must guide her to make the best decision for herself in light of her circumstances and beliefs, and the vast majority of Catholics have taken this to heart.
You don’t have to take only my word for it. You can listen to my fellow Coloradans Alison, Ruben, Kathy, Gina, and Mary Alice speaking out as Catholics who trust women to make these decisions for themselves with the support of family, faith, and friends they choose. Catholic civil rights and social justice champion Dolores Huerta lends her voice, too, reaching the community on the radio in English and Spanish.
At times, people are faced with the moral decision of continuing or terminating a pregnancy. For many women and men, the news of a pregnancy can be a cause for great joy, anxiety, or concern about this new life. Some experience all of these feelings, and they may change throughout a pregnancy. As a Catholic, I stand with my friends, family members, and neighbors by supporting their ability to make the decision that is best for them, even if it is not the same one I would make.
In countries where extreme proposals like Amendment 67 are the law, women suffer and die. In El Salvador, for instance, where the national constitution includes language similar to Amendment 67, more than 600 women have been jailed since 1998 for having abortions or miscarriages. This kind of extremism has no place in Colorado, a state that I love and where all people should be able to thrive.
As a pro-choice Catholic committed to social justice, I am speaking out—not in spite of my faith, but because of it. And I am proud to be part of a brave group of Catholics in Colorado and around the world who are doing the same. If you want to know what Catholics really think about the reproductive justice issues of abortion, contraception, and women’s moral autonomy, just listen to us—and stand with us in our struggle for justice for Colorado women.
The post A Colorado Catholic Speaks Out Against Amendment 67 appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Voters in 42 states on Election Day will decide an assortment of ballot measures, also known as initiatives or issues, that cover various largely polarizing political issues. Voters in five states—Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota—will decide ballot measures to increase those states’ minimum wage.
Each measure would increase the minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but how far above that threshold and the timeline for the increases vary by state.
Illinois is the only state of the five where the ballot measure is not legally binding. The ballot measure would only advise the state legislature to take action and increase the minimum wage. The Minimum Wage Increase Question would potentially lead lawmakers to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 per hour.
If each measure is passed (and Illinois lawmakers acts on their constituents’ advice), it would increase the pay of at least 680,000 low-wage workers in those states, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
Only two states, Alaska and South Dakota, include language on the ballot measures that would mandate an annual increase in the minimum wage to adjust for inflation. South Dakota is the only state in which the measure also addresses workers whose wages are made through gratuity or tips.
Each measure was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative process, with the exception of Illinois. In order for the measures to qualify to be placed on the ballot, activists in the four states gathered and verified a total of more than 200,000 signatures.
There are organized campaigns and political action committees actively working to support the measures in each state, but there is no similar organized opposition to the minimum wage measures. While there is a partisan divide between supporters and opponents, Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate in both Alaska and Arkansas have voiced their support for boosting low wages.
Alaska Ballot Measure 3
In Alaska, Ballot Measure 3 would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour beginning January 1. The minimum wage would be increased again to $9.75 per hour a year later. The state’s minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation or increased by $1 over the federal minimum wage—whichever is higher.
While the median household income is above the national average and the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average, the cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than most other states. Alaska has the fourth highest cost of living in the United States, behind only Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut, according to a report by the Department of Labor.
Republicans in the state house last spring introduced and passed HB 384, which would have increased the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, and to $10 per hour in 2015. Even though the bill would have increased the minimum wage by more than the ballot measure, Democrats opposed it because they claimed Republicans would simply repeal the law the next year as they had done before.
Alaskan Republicans passed a bill in 2002 to mandate that the state’s minimum wage increase with inflation. That same year Democrats had successfully placed a measure on the ballot to increase the minimum wage. Once the legislation was passed, the measure was by law forced to be removed from the ballot. The next year, Republicans passed legislation to remove the inflation adjustment from the minimum wage.
When the legislative session was adjourned in April, HB 384 died in the state Senate Finance Committee.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) has come out in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage, and has also co-sponsored legislation to increase the federal minimum wage. Begich’s Republican opponent Dan Sullivan initially opposed the minimum wage increase, but later changed course to support the measure.
A Public Policy Polling poll found that 58 percent of Alaskans surveyed support the measure to increase the minimum wage.
Arkansas Issue 5
The $6.25 per hour minimum wage in Arkansas is lower than the federal minimum wage, but is superseded by federal law. Issue 5 would increase the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 per hour on January 1. It would also increase the minimum wage twice more, to $8 per hour on January 1, 2016 and to $8.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.
The ballot measure survived a court challenge, as the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that it could remain on the ballot. Little Rock businessman Jackson T. Stephens challenged the measure on the grounds that the deadline to submit signatures was not met and that signatures submitted by supporters were invalid.
Federal Election Commission filings show that since 2010, Stephens has contributed $1.4 million to the Club for Growth Action independent-expenditure super PAC.
The Club for Growth endorsed Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) for U.S. Senate in Arkansas and launched attack ads against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Cotton has received more than $546,000 in campaign contributions from the Club for Growth, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Pryor and other Arkansas Democrats have made increasing the minimum wage a focal point of the campaign. Pryor criticized Cotton for his lack of support for measure. Cotton, who voted against increasing the federal minimum wage, announced his support for the measure, effectively blunting Pryor’s criticism.
Nebraska Initiative 425
Nebraska’s Initiative 425 would increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9 per hour over two years. The minimum wage would be increased from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour on January 1, and then increase to $9.00 per hour at the start of 2016.
If passed, it will be the first time the state’s minimum wage was higher than the federal minimum wage.
The median household income in the state is just below the national average, but the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average. Supporters of the measure claim the increase is needed in part because Nebraska had the second highest percent of hourly workers at or below minimum wage when compared with surrounding states.
Opponents this fall held a press conference and outlined their opposition to Initiative 425. They claim it would increase costs for small business and do little to help the working poor. The press conference was organized by the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a conservative think tank headquartered in Omaha that promotes right-wing economic policies.
The founder of the Platte Institute is Pete Ricketts, the Republican candidate for governor. Ricketts’ father, Joe Ricketts, is the founder of the online brokerage firm Ameritrade, and the founder of Ending Spending Action Fund, a 501(c)4 that has spent millions over the last few years supporting conservative candidates.
South Dakota Measure 18
Measure 18 would increase the minimum wage in South Dakota from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour beginning January 1. It would also mandate an increase in the minimum wage each year to adjust for inflation. Workers who earn wages through tips would also see a wage increase, as the measure would increase their hourly pay from $2.13 to $4.25 per hour.
One in six employed South Dakota workers would likely see an increase in their wages if the minimum wage were raised, according to an analysis by the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute. The analysis also found that one in seven children in the state have at least one parent that would be affected by the minimum wage increase.
The Lincoln Journal-Star endorsed voting for Measure 18, because the benefit of increasing the minimum wage outweighed the possible negative impact.
“Fears of negative economic impacts have proved exaggerated in the past when the minimum wage was increased,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.
Measure 18 appears to have significant support from South Dakota voters, as 60 percent of likely voters said they support the minimum wage increase, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll. Twenty-eight percent oppose the increase and 13 percent are undecided.
The post Minimum Wage in Five States Could Look Vastly Different After Election Day appeared first on RH Reality Check.
As Election Day draws near, many Republican candidates in tight races are making public statements in support of women’s reproductive rights that seem to conflict with their records.
Some Republican candidates appear to be trying to neutralize the “war on women” criticisms to narrow the gender voting gap that favors Democrats among women voters.
Iowa’s Joni Ernst, a staunch conservative who narrowly leads Democrat Bruce Braley, said during a recent debate that she supports women’s access to contraception, as well as exceptions to save a woman’s life if abortion were banned.
Braley said Ernst’s words contradicted her policies; her support for a fetal “personhood” amendment, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would make contraception less affordable or even ban it entirely.
A “personhood” amendment, which defines a fertilized egg as a person, could ban all abortion without any exceptions, as well as many common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.
Hobby Lobby sets a precedent for unequal contraceptive coverage depending on the religion of a woman’s employer, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean women are no longer guaranteed no-cost birth control through insurance.
Ernst called it “laughable” that Braley would question her, a woman with three daughters, on the issue of contraception.
She said her support for Hobby Lobby “doesn’t mean a woman can’t get reliable, safe birth control. She can still go to her doctor and receive birth control.”
That wouldn’t necessarily be the case if Ernst’s “personhood” amendment had passed. And Ernst’s statements echo other Republican candidates who gloss over affordability issues and suggest the “access” debate is really about whether women are legally allowed to buy birth control at all.
Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner made headlines for advocating over-the-counter birth control while supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Just like Ernst, Gardner supported a “personhood” amendment that he dismissed as a mere “statement” on his “pro-life” principles. Gardner, in a move that confounded supporters and detractors alike, also denied that the measure he supported existed in the first place.
Colorado, where voters will decide on Tuesday whether to pass a “personhood” amendment that could criminalize abortion, boasts two other Republican candidates who have made statements that clash with their records on women’s health.
In one of the closest House races of the year, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) ran an ad that prominently displayed the logo of Planned Parenthood, which “surprised” a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains since Coffman had previously voted to defund the organization.
Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has extreme anti-choice views, including support for a fetal “personhood” measure, and he has bragged about his “100 percent pro-life voting record.”
But voters listening to Beauprez on Colorado Public Radio might have thought otherwise given his statements about supporting women’s “choice of whether to use birth control or not,” and “people’s right to choose.”
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, yet he has run ads that use language about leaving the final decision up to a woman and her doctor.
Brown also co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed employers to opt out of providing any kind of health coverage, including contraception, due to moral objections.
The post GOP Candidates in Key Races Downplaying Anti-Choice Views appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Early voting in Tennessee has begun and many residents have already taken to the polls to cast their ballots for Amendment 1, a highly controversial and extreme anti-choice ballot initiative.
The Memphis-based reproductive rights organization SisterReach on Thursday held a conference on Amendment 1, its impact for Black communities, and the need for Black women to get out to the polls in the next week.
“We stand today because pending legislation has the potential to send women back to the back alleys where we died from unsafe and unsanitary abortions,” SisterReach founder and CEO Cherisse Scott said. “It has the potential to exacerbate not only the mass incarceration of our men and boys. We assemble today to impress upon Black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote.”
If passed, Amendment 1 gives state lawmakers the power to enact, amend, or repeal state laws regulating abortion by writing into the state constitution language that includes, “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
A Tennessee Supreme Court decision in 2010 found that a law restricting abortion access violated the state constitution, which provides more explicit protection for abortion than the U.S. Constitution. By changing the state constitution to clarify that it does not protect the right to abortion access, Amendment 1 would likely open the floodgates for a wave of anti-choice restrictions, many of which other red states have already seen.
Though abortion restrictions affect everyone, women of color, and particularly Black women, are in a unique position: Black women in the United States are five times more likely to have an abortion than a white woman, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The evidence as to why this is the case is clear: It’s due to inequality. Lower incomes mean less access to health care and low-cost contraception, which leads to a higher rate of unintended pregnancy and in turn abortion.
Low-income women often have more unstable living conditions, which could contribute to lower contraceptive use; women who must focus on survival often can’t put contraception high on their list of priorities, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Black women are also the target of racist anti-choice campaigns, which use Black women’s decisions to get an abortion as a jumping-off point for arguments for “pro-life” policy.
At least one Georgia anti-choice bill was mobilized by printed billboards across the state with the slogan “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” The bill was eventually quashed by a coordinated effort, primarily on the part of SisterSong, a women of color reproductive justice collective in the state.
“The voices of Black women are often demonized, marginalized and tokenized in many human rights discussions like abortion, mass incarceration, criminalization, sexual assault, domestic violence, and rape,” Scott said. “Our goal is to provide space for women most impacted to speak directly to the conditions we are expected to thrive in—conditions which have reduced us to mere survival instead of the ability to lead healthy lives, raise and provide for our families in safe and sustainable communities free from violence from individuals or the government.”
At the conference on Thursday, held in a church, reproductive rights activists were joined by faith leaders in the state, including the Rev. A. Faye London, who gave an impassioned speech.
“I stand here with Black women and declare that our voices do matter, our lives do matter, our stories do matter, our families do matter,” she said. “We must vote, because our lives matter, our lives are in our hands.”
The post SisterReach Holds Conference on Tennessee’s Extreme Anti-Choice Initiative appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner co-sponsored an abstinence-only federal grant program, which included a requirement that, in courses for teenagers, grant recipients include information about the benefits of refraining from sexual activity until marriage.
It also required education about sexual abstinence as the “optimal sexual health behavior for youth.” Gardner’s stance on abstinence-only sex education has received scant attention on the campaign trail in one of the country’s most competitive and important races.
Gardner’s bill mandating the $110 million program, known as the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, was introduced on Valentine’s Day 2012, the same day Democrats introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, which aimed to “expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools and ensure that federal funds are spent on effective, age-appropriate, medically accurate programs.”
Gardner’s bill provided funds for “teaching the skills and benefits of sexual abstinence as the optimal sexual health behavior for youth; and teaching the benefits of refraining from non-marital sexual activity, the advantage of reserving sexual activity for marriage, and the foundational components of a healthy relationship.”
Gardner has apparently not commented publicly on the bill and an email to his office seeking comment was not returned.
Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), co-sponsor of the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, said he was concerned, as a parent, about his children contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
“This caught my attention because as a father, with two of my four kids in their late teens, I want them to avoid such risks,” he said, according to a report in The Hill. His solution was more federal funding for “risk avoidance education,” also referred to as abstinence education.
A survey by Advocates for Youth found that 70 percent of Americans oppose education programs focusing only on abstinence until marriage.
Social issues have played a prominent role in Colorado’s Senate contest, but the debate has skirted sexual education, focusing instead on birth control and abortion issues.
Gardner’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, has issued a steady stream of attacks on Gardner’s past and current support for “personhood” legislation at the federal level. Udall has also highlighted Gardner’s longstanding opposition to abortion during his political career.
The post Gardner Pushed for $110 Million in Abstinence-Only Education Funding appeared first on RH Reality Check.
One of the worst, most prevalent clichés espoused by far too many in the reproductive rights movement is that young people take gender equality and reproductive freedom for granted. Although the implication is an offensive one, the argument continues to resurface in a variety of forms—and each time, it effectively erases the extensive leadership and work of many youth activists.
Most recently, the stereotype emerged again in an October article for the liberal publication The American Prospect, where writing fellow Rachel M. Cohen concluded that in general, “campus feminists have devoted much of their energy to challenging their universities’ failure to adequately handle sexual assault cases—often at the expense of abortion rights advocacy.”
Cohen’s frame is curious for a number of reasons. For one thing, it singles out campus feminists as agents of change, while letting other progressive constituencies off the hook. What about left-leaning political groups and human rights groups? Shouldn’t they, too, be pushing for abortion access?
Furthermore, it pits the issues of sexual assault and abortion rights as mutually exclusive and locked in a zero-sum game for attention. On the contrary, many people—especially feminists—would argue that the two goals are interconnected flash points within the ongoing struggle for gender equality and sexual liberation.
The paths toward change for these issues are distinct from each other too. In 2011, the Department of Education made universities an even more actionable target in the fight against assault on campus with guidance clarifying that universities receiving federal funds have enforceable and measurable obligations to address sexual violence under Title IX, the landmark 1972 regulation prohibiting gender discrimination in education. Universities have no parallel mandate under the law to ensure their students are able to access abortion; decision-makers with the power to make a difference tend to sit in distant government buildings.
Thus, it is perfectly possible for members of college communities to push for both safer universities and wider access to reproductive rights. However, I’d like to broaden the discussion beyond addressing Cohen’s individual points. Instead, I’ll examine the groundbreaking work young people are already doing for reproductive rights—on and off campus—and point out ways to support their efforts.
Abortion Activism on Campus
In stark contrast to implications that enthusiasm for abortion rights and reproductive justice is withering on the quad at the college near you, some student leaders, and the national organizers supporting them, say that campus organizing has been growing more rapidly in recent semesters.
“Last week marked the first time we’ve had enough regular volunteers to table every day of the week,” Abby Grace, a senior at Georgetown University and president of the reproductive rights group H*yas for Choice, told RH Reality Check. As a Catholic university, Georgetown does not recognize H*yas for Choice as an official student organization. In September, Georgetown police removed its members from demonstrating from for the second time in 2014, which then led to a larger campaign to support free speech on campus.
Advocacy for abortion rights takes different forms, depending on the institution. Some groups choose to affiliate as chapters or action networks of larger national organizations, whereas others use support materials at their discretion or are wholly independent. According to Planned Parenthood’s website, for instance, there are more than 200 groups in 45 states active in its Planned Parenthood Generation Action Network for student leaders.
In addition, student activists at about 80 colleges use materials from the reproductive justice nonprofit Advocates for Youth’s 1 in 3 Campaign, which publicizes individual abortion stories from around the world. “As a result, during the 2013-2014 school year, each chapter directly reached at least 500 students and faculty members with information and stories,” Kate Stewart, who serves as the group’s executive vice president for public affairs, told RH Reality Check in an email. “In addition, Advocates [for Youth] assisted each chapter to place a campaign ad in their campus newspaper, in total reaching an additional 450,000 students, faculty, and alum[s].”
Representatives from some national organizations say that many student groups, rather than focusing on abortion alone, approach reproductive rights issues as a facet of combating societal inequality.
“Young people see the intersections of [sexual health and justice] issues wholeheartedly,” said Julia Reticker-Flynn, an associate director of youth organizing and mobilization at Advocates for Youth. For example, students see on-campus safety and contraceptive availability as interconnected, rather than discrete, points of activism.
Within college communities, she explained, “People see what is happening to them and in their community and want to do something about it. [When students have] a friend who has HIV or a friend who is LGBT, or who has been sexually assaulted, or had an abortion,” she said, they often see similarities in the responses their peers’ situations garner, and they want to combat stigma on all such fronts.
Reticker-Flynn also points out that students fighting shame around abortion can and do use lessons learned from the struggle against on-campus sexual assault. Referencing the success of sexual violence speak-outs such as Take Back The Night, she says that Advocates for Youth is working with student groups to share their abortion experiences in similarly safe, empowering spaces. The University of Michigan, the University of Central Michigan, and the University of Central Florida all held abortion speak-outs last year and this year; according to Reticker-Flynn, between 200 and 300 people attended those events.
“Student” Doesn’t Always Mean “Young Person,” and Vice-Versa
Even as we explore just a few of the ways people are standing up for reproductive rights at colleges, however, it is vital to remember that students and young people are not always the same populations.
Using the campus setting as a symbol for youth activism as a whole privileges those with the financial means to attend college, and translates to talking about people who are disproportionately white. In some communities, college-age may seem to encapsulate most people in their late teens and early 20s. In others, it does not. Focusing solely on organizing at universities, therefore, can leave out those people who are most severely impacted by the vicious cycle created by poverty and punitive restrictions on access to abortion services.
And make no mistake: Beyond universities, young people are organizing for abortion access.
They may not be carrying coat hangers and using phone trees to connect with women they met at a consciousness-raising session in somebody’s dorm room, the primary methods some advocates might recognize as activism, but these reproductive rights supporters are here and they are effective.
Young people defeat abortion bans. Young people answer phones for abortion funds. Young people lead rallies in statehouse rotundas. Young people keep mainstream pro-choice organizations running by serving as their entry-level organizers and often-unpaid interns—and seriously, shame on those groups that talk the social justice talk and don’t pay every member of their organization.
Young people are expanding the conversation beyond “choice.” Young people blog for reproductive justice. Young people are proactively including men in the conversation. Young people gather support on social media and hold decision-makers accountable. Young people are at the core of organizing in red states. Young people serve as clinic escorts and demonstration organizers and, for RH Reality Check, authors in a young writers program that I am so honored to manage.
Young people are active, and they are saying the “abortion” word proudly. But they are also situating abortion access within a broader context, drawing on decades-long work led by women of color in developing an intersectional conception of reproductive justice that champions the right to abortion, the right to healthy pregnancy, and the right to raise children in safe communities. So, again, a frame pitting abortion rights against sexual violence directly conflicts with the way that many young organizers approach these issues, since they are talking about both and more.
In just one example, H*yas for Choice is also focusing this year on what Abby Grace, too, called “the intersectional nature of reproductive justice.” It recently hosted the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health to discuss how documentation status affects a woman’s access to all forms of reproductive health care.
It’s important to note, as well, that “intersectional” doesn’t necessarily mean “feminist.” A few key points: Intersectionality is about experiences. It values the experiences of individual people, and the discriminations and privileges they face on the basis of not just biological womanhood, but also race, ethnicity, documentation status, class, ability, and gender identity. Speaking for “all women” and arguing for “choices,” which frequently happens in dominant feminist dialogues, erases and homogenizes the people who lack the same options as white women with graduate degrees and credit cards.
Many youth leaders who advocate for abortion and reproductive justice, then, have grown frustrated with—and sometimes offended by—explicitly feminist organizations who fail to incorporate this variety of backgrounds into their efforts. For example, in recent years, the issue of transgender inclusion has become particularly important for young organizers. Recently, the National Women’s Law Center released a video featuring Sarah Silverman soliciting a sex change in order to rise above the wage gap; many young people felt that the effort reinforced the gender binaries and genital policing that they are directly trying to dismantle as a core of their practice.
Meanwhile, some activists have also been dissatisfied by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), which offers a countrywide campus organizing program that includes a campaign on abortion access. Kristy Birchard, a former FMF campus organizer, told RH Reality Check that for many students, “FMF represents top-down politics. I think it really does represent a lack of inclusion for a lot of people who haven’t felt represented by the feminist movement, and even though [FMF] tries very hard to be inclusive, that’s just where it ends up most of the time.”
Each year, FMF hosts a National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in the Washington, D.C., area; the past two years have prompted pushback on social media that the conference is not doing enough to create a trans-inclusive space.
“Probably the issue or the language that has been the most striking … [for] students … is trans inclusivity, queerness, and how important that is to them,” said Meghan Shalvoy, who worked as a campus organizer with FMF from 2010 to 2012. Although she says she and her peers fought to establish a gender-neutral bathroom at the annual conference, there was resistance from the leadership against using terms like queer, which are largely positive for young people but taken as offensive by some older activists. “I know that having it not feel like a safe and inclusive space was really offensive to students,” she continued.
For well-funded individuals and groups that want to amplify the efforts of young people organizing for abortion and reproductive justice, situations like these present important opportunities for change.
In order to better support on-the-ground efforts, Shalvoy advised, those with resources should “be more responsive to … student organizers and prioritize [them] over funders.” When it came to her time with FMF, she said, “It never seemed like the organizational leadership was interested in hearing what was happening on campus, but rather pushing an agenda that lined up with these Democratic [Party] values … It all goes back to grant funding.”
“There [are] some really basic obvious things of providing opportunities for funding and access to trainings and those mentorship pieces,” Reticker-Flynn pointed out. But, she said, it’s also important not to disregard the work youth activists are already doing.
“It’s challenging to hear over and over again that young people aren’t engaged on this issue and aren’t working on it; for myself and others we see the opposite. I think it’s really important to value that work and to create opportunities for young people to be seen as leaders in this movement, so when an event or action happens to not just have young people showing up to the event, but to have young people leading these conversations.
I remember one event where a young person had collected 5,000 signatures and they were introducing the speaker,” she said. “I thought they should be the speaker.”
The post Actually, Young People Are Leading the Abortion Access Movement Forward appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Right-wing media outlets are up in arms about an ad campaign, produced by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, depicting couples unable to have sex due to a condom shortage caused by GOP senatorial candidate Cory Gardner.
In one ad, a couple appears under the covers, apparently about to have intercourse, but a groping hand comes out from under the blankets and finds only empty condom packages. Then you see a sour-faced man looking at the camera and a women, half covered, arms-crossed, drumming her fingers on her right arm.
In another ad, a man disappoints a woman when he returns empty-handed from condom shopping, blaming Gardner’s birth-control ban.
Why the shortage? The radio, TV, and online ads present a world in which U.S. Senate candidate Gardner—who could give Republicans a Senate majority—has been elected, a federal “personhood” bill co-sponsored by Gardner has been passed, and common forms of birth control, like IUDs, have been banned, causing a rush on condoms.
Gardner’s stances on birth control and abortion have been at the center of the heated Colorado race throughout the fall.
John Sexton at the right-wing online site Breitbart.com called the “war-on-womeny” advertisement a “contender” for the “worst ad of the 2014 election cycle,” and he gave it a market-oriented critique:
[E]ven if we grant the stupid premise here, would condom makers be unable to meet the extra demand for their product? How long would it take them to ramp up production? I don’t know exactly but I suspect the answer is not very long. So this is basically a dystopian future which will last about a week until the market meets the demand.
Syndicated talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh weighed in, saying, “You know, I joked not long ago—and how many times have we joked the Democrats would eventually claim Republicans are trying to outlaw sex, and, lo and behold, this is what this is trying to say.”
The ads are targeted at young voters, whose turnout is key to a victory over Gardner by pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
At Hotair.com, “AllahPundit” said:
I’m surprised that NARAL thinks he’d leave condoms alone; if the GOP’s goal, as more excitable feminists assure themselves, is to keep women pregnant and out of the work force, it makes no sense to leave condoms on the shelves after the pill has disappeared. Maybe NARAL figured that a simple double-standard critique was more effective.
Guy Benson at the conservative Townhall.com wrote this about the “abortion zealots” at NARAL:
NARAL doesn’t quite paint a picture of Gardner banning [condoms], too–but he’d surely try, right? If he fails in outlawing condoms, perhaps he’d personally trek from one drug store to the next buying every Trojan in sight with dirty Koch brothers money.
Polls show the race between Gardner and Udall, which could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate to be tied, will come down to Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts.
Image: Truth Revolt/Youtube
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