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Reproductive Rights News

The conservatives advocating for over-the-counter birth control are taking a tip...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 19:35
The conservatives advocating for over-the-counter birth control are taking a tip from the ancient Greeks - distracting you with something that looks great while their real agenda attacks birth control.

Cosmopolitan's Joanna Coles gets it. “I’m very proud we can tackle issues like a...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 17:00
Cosmopolitan's Joanna Coles gets it. “I’m very proud we can tackle issues like abortion and politics. I feel very strongly that the single most important decision a woman will make in her life is when to have a baby. Women should be able to own that decision.”

The BEST Work Advice Nobody Ever Gives You
Up ahead, our very honest conversation — and proof positive that this Superwoman is unlike any other.


NARAL Pro-Choice America - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 14:00

14 Reasons We All Need Feminism
Pizza rolls, not gender roles.

Our DC Men for Choice event is only 10 days away! Have you gotten your tickets y...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 12:00
Our DC Men for Choice event is only 10 days away! Have you gotten your tickets yet? Buy them here → and RSVP to the event below!

The fact that these investigations aren’t happening is an insult to survivors ev...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 11:00
The fact that these investigations aren’t happening is an insult to survivors everywhere.

Here's Why Victims of Sexual Assault Don't Go to the Police
In the urgent conversation about how universities should be dealing with campus sexual assault, there are some who object to the idea of university disciplinary boards handling these cases to begin with, asking: Why not just go straight to the police? This question is misleading, as Emily Bazelon po…

How often do we have to say this? Women seeking legal reproductive health care a...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 20:00
How often do we have to say this? Women seeking legal reproductive health care are NOT the same as terrorists.

Ohio Lawmaker Compares Fighting ISIS to Fighting Abortion
Ohio State Rep. Matt Lynch (R) appeared at a press conference yesterday before an "Appeal To Heaven" rally at the Ohio statehouse, which was promoted by anti-abortion activist Janet Porter.

Crisis pregnancy centers claim to help, but their services are built on delibera...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 18:00
Crisis pregnancy centers claim to help, but their services are built on deliberately lying to women every step of the way.

How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
Crisis pregnancy centers bill themselves as organizations out to offer "pro-life counseling," in the words of Chris Slattery, the president of E.M.C. Pregnancy Centers. Pro-choicers, however, argue that the centers are deceptive, presenting themselves as medical facilities and even abortion clinics…

On the agenda? Making suntan lotion better. Not on the agenda? Guaranteeing your...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 16:30
On the agenda? Making suntan lotion better. Not on the agenda? Guaranteeing your reproductive freedom.

Suntan Lotion, Not 'Social Issues,' the Priority on GOP Women2Women Tour
Republicans continue to grapple with ways to attract more women voters, even in reliably conservative states.

Anti-Choice Gubernatorial Candidate Dismisses Importance of Abortion Debate

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 16:24

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez told the Denver Post Thursday that a governor has “very little impact” on a woman’s right to choose.

“I’m not going to deny what the law provides you,” Beauprez told the Post, calling a woman’s right to choose the “law of the land.”

In response, NARAL Pro Choice America shot off a news release blasting Beauprez for his “attempt to downplay his extreme, anti-choice positions.”

The organization cited a 2006 radio interview (listen here beginning at 30 seconds) during which Beauprez stated his opposition to all abortion, including in cases of rape and incest.

Beauprez told the Post Thursday that he is “personally pro-life” but opposes the “personhood” amendment that’s on Colorado’s November election ballot. He wasn’t asked about exceptions for rape and incest.

In March, Beauprez told other reporters that he remains a backer of the federal “personhood” abortion-ban bill, which he co-sponsored as a Congressman in 2006.

Beauprez’s campaign did not immediately return a call from RH Reality Check seeking comments, including an explanation for his belief that governors have “very little impact” on a woman’s right to choose.

The Guttmacher Institute tracks state laws that, in fact, restrict abortion rights, and the organization has produced a chart categorizing such laws.

“Since the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, states have constructed a lattice work of abortion law, codifying, regulating and limiting whether, when and under what circumstances a woman may obtain an abortion,” Guttmacher writes in the preface to its chart.

Last year in the Colorado legislature, a “personhood” bill was introduced by anti-choice Republicans and struck down by pro-choice Democrats, who control the state legislature here.

Beauprez was not asked if he’d sign this bill or other legislation mandating abortion restrictions, if he beats Hickenlooper in November.

NARAL Pro-Choice America pointed out that Beauprez said, in the same 2006 radio interview, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, he’d sign a bill banning all abortions in Colorado.

“We’ve see what happens in the states when governors take women’s reproductive health decisions away,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in a news release. “Colorado women need a governor they can count on to stand up for their rights, not a politician who will flip-flop and say anything to get elected.”

Beuauprez’s opponent, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, is pro-choice.

Colorado’s gubernatorial race is considered a toss-up, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week. A Quinnipiac University poll, also from this week, showed Hickenlooper losing by ten points.

Republican senatorial candidate Cory Gardner, running against Sen. Mark Udall, has taken a similar position, withdrawing his support for the state “personhood” amendments but remaining a co-sponsor of a proposed federal “personhood” law. Gardner, however, has said the federal law is symbolic, despite fact checks that found otherwise.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The post Anti-Choice Gubernatorial Candidate Dismisses Importance of Abortion Debate appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Gender Pay Gap Worse for Women of Color, People From Louisiana

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:34

A new analysis of this week’s Census data on income and poverty, which found a statistically insignificant narrowing of the wage gap between men and women from 77 to 78 cents on the dollar, finds that the wage gap is much wider for women of color and varies widely state by state.

The analysis by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finds that most women of color make even less compared to white men than white women do. In comparison to white, non-Hispanic men, Hispanic women in 2013 made 54 cents on the dollar (the widest gap), African-American women made 64 cents, American Indian and Alaska Native women made 59 cents, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women made 65, and Asian-American women made 90 cents. White women made 78 cents on the dollar, more than every racial and ethnic group other than Asian-American women.

The gap also widened slightly for Native women and for Pacific Islander women, while it slightly narrowed or stayed the same for other groups.

The gap narrows when you compare most women of color to men of their same race, since there is also a pay gap between white men and men of color. For instance, Hispanic women make 90 percent of what Hispanic men do, and African-American women make 91 percent of what African-American men do. Only Asian-American women’s gap widens, to 79 cents from 90, when compared to other Asian-American men.

State-based data found that Washington, D.C., stayed on top with the smallest wage gap between male and female full-time workers—91 percent. New York (86 percent) overtook Maryland (85 percent) for the number two slot. And Wyoming was replaced by Louisiana as the worst state for gender pay gaps. This year Wyoming had a 69 percent gap, with last-place Louisiana far behind at 66 percent.

A number of factors could determine whether a state will have a high or low wage gap. “The numbers shift around from year to year, and it’s hard to pinpoint specific reasons for it,” Christianne Corbett, senior researcher at AAUW, told RH Reality Check. “The kinds of industries in a state form part of the answer. Available jobs vary in part as a reflection of industry. As men and women still tend to work in different industries and in different jobs, their opportunities and earnings vary by state.”

Education can also be a factor; witness the primacy of over-educated D.C. But D.C.’s high level of public-sector employment helps too, since government jobs tend to have a lower pay gap.

The bottom five states, including Louisiana, tend to rely heavily on “kind of traditional male jobs,” Lisa Maatz, vice president of governmental relations for AAUW, told the Associated Press. “In West Virginia you have coal mining; in Wyoming you have ranching and farming. In North Dakota, there’s a booming energy and gas industry.”

Critics are quick to point out that the wage gap doesn’t take into account factors like education, industry, and experience. The AAUW analysis acknowledges this is true, and that when you account for those kinds of factors, you come up with a seven-cent gap that can’t be explained.

But a seven-cent gap is not insignificant, the authors write—”AAUW welcomes people to donate 7 percent of their paycheck to us if they think that’s a small number not worth quibbling over”—and the bigger wage gap numbers are still crucial because they give a snapshot of how much money women are able to make for their families. The big wage gap number also, the report says, “makes clear that, for whatever reason, women are making less money than men. Period.”

Image: Woman no money via Shutterstock

The post Gender Pay Gap Worse for Women of Color, People From Louisiana appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Senate Rejects Last-Ditch Effort to Roll Back Immigration Reform

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:21

Read more of our coverage about the Obama administration and immigration reform here.

On Thursday, the Senate rejected a last-minute Republican effort led by Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) to scuttle President Obama’s current and future efforts at immigration reform.

If successful, the move would have prevented President Obama from taking executive action on immigration reform, and would have sunsetted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives millions of young undocumented immigrants a two-year reprieve from deportation and work authorization.

The move involved a complicated aspect of Senate procedure.

Sessions wanted to offer anti-immigration amendments to the continuing resolution, a piece of legislation passed on Wednesday by the House that would fund the federal government through December 11 if also passed by the Senate.

But Senate rules limit the number of amendments that can be offered on any particular piece of legislation. So majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used a procedure called “filling the amendment tree”—offering the maximum number of amendments so that there was no room for any others. Sessions moved to table Reid’s amendment tree, but the Senate defeated his motion in a 50-50 tie. Fifty-one votes were needed to pass it.

By rejecting the Sessions motion, the Senate averted a possible crisis—the House and Senate needed to agree on an identical continuing resolution to keep the government funded. Disagreement between the two bodies over whether to include the anti-immigrant provisions in the bill could have led to a government shutdown.

The Sessions motion was political as well as ideological. It forced vulnerable Democratic incumbents into a potentially difficult vote heading into the last few weeks of a re-election campaign that will likely feature Republicans portraying Democrats as “pro-amnesty” for supporting programs like DACA.

Five Democrats, four of whom face difficult re-election fights this November, joined all 45 Republicans in voting yes: Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). All but Manchin are up for re-election this year, and this vote could give them some political cover on the campaign trail while still giving Reid the exact number of votes he needs to squash the anti-immigration amendments.

The Senate passed the final version of the continuing resolution by a vote of 78 to 22.


The post Senate Rejects Last-Ditch Effort to Roll Back Immigration Reform appeared first on RH Reality Check.


NARAL Pro-Choice America - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 14:00

Millions Of Women Don’t Have To Pay A Dollar When They Pick Up Their Birth Control
Under Obamacare, the number of women who aren't charged for the pill has jumped by 450 percent.

Amid Criticism, NFL Announces Support for Domestic Violence Prevention Organizations

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 11:59

Read more about intimate partner violence and the Ray Rice case here.

The NFL has started a long-term partnership with two national domestic violence and sexual assault resource centers, according to a memo sent to league teams and staff on Friday.

The memo, sent by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, outlines a plan to support both the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. In addition, Goodell said that NFL staff will soon be required to participate in programming to educate them about domestic violence:

Starting within the next 30 days, all league and team personnel … will participate in education sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault. These initial sessions will begin to provide the men and women of the NFL with information and tools to understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault.

The changes are in response to the controversy over recently fired Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s assault on his then fiancée, and the league’s initial neglect in handling the situation with the severity it deserved.

Goodell said that, according to the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, calls to the hotline increased by 84 percent immediately following the leak of a video depicting Rice attacking his fiancée.

Katie Ray-Jones, the hotline CEO, told the Huffington Post that following the public outcry over the Rice video, women who had never before identified their relationships as abusive started calling in asking for help. “We had an outpouring of women saying, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t realize this happened to other people.’ They thought they were living a life that was very unique to them.”

Ray-Jones also said that because of a lack of resources and staffing, the hotline was unable to answer many of the calls that came in. Annually, the hotline doesn’t answer over 77,000 calls because of a lack of resources.

The memo sent today says the new partnerships will help address this problem:

The NFL and The Hotline have initiated an immediate process to make services available by adding expert advocates, training and other resources to respond to the increased volume of calls. The Hotline will add 25 full-time advocates over the next few weeks that will result in an additional 750 calls a day being answered.

The NFL’s support also will enable Loveisrespect to service 24-hour-a-day text chats with young adults affected by dating abuse. Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, is a resource to engage, educate and empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships.

Goodell ends the memo by promising to continue the NFL’s new emphasis on domestic violence. “These are by no means final steps,” he writes.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Amid Criticism, NFL Announces Support for Domestic Violence Prevention Organizations appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Women are going to make THE difference in this year's elections.

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 11:18
Women are going to make THE difference in this year's elections.

Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters
DENVER—The Colorado referendum on women is just 47 days away. That’s not its official title. Most people here refer to it as the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Cory Gardner.

Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott to Square Off Friday Night in First of Two Debates

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 11:16

Texas gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott will square off Friday night in the first of two televised debates, this one broadcasting from Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley.

Davis, a Democratic state senator from Fort Worth, initially challenged her Republican opponent to six debates, to be hosted in cities across Texas, but Abbott refused, saying he would participate only in the two televised debates he’d already agreed to—one on September 19 in the Valley, and a second later in the month in Dallas hosted by the ABC news affiliate WFAA.

Abbott, the state attorney general, subsequently dropped out of the second Dallas debate, saying he didn’t like the town hall format and would only participate in a seated debate without a live audience. A new second debate has been rescheduled to air September 30 on KERA, Dallas’ PBS affiliate.

This year will be the first time since 2002 that Texans elect a new governor, after Rick Perry announced he would not seek a fourth term in office. Despite the fact that Abbott is not the incumbent, he’s been leading in statewide polling and echoing the actions of his Republican predecessors, who have historically been reluctant to participate in statewide debates, opting to delay or cancel appearances against their opponents.

The Abbott campaign released its first anti-Davis attack ad this week, accusing her of ethical violations during her tenure on the Fort Worth City Council, though the Dallas Morning News noted that “there’s no evidence that her legislative actions violated state or federal law.”

The Davis campaign, for its part, has focused on challenging Abbott’s record on rape, focusing on a 1998 Texas Supreme Court decision wherein Abbott ruled that the Kirby vacuum company was not obligated to screen its employees for background checks after one employee raped a Texas woman in her home while on a sales call.

Tonight’s debate will air at 6 p.m. Central time, and be broadcast on the McAllen Monitor website and in media markets across the state.

Image: RH Reality Check

The post Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott to Square Off Friday Night in First of Two Debates appeared first on RH Reality Check.

White House: ‘It’s on Us’ to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 11:02

Read more of our coverage on consent and sexual assault on U.S. college campuses here.

The Obama administration is launching a new campaign Friday in its ongoing effort to tackle the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign, called It’s On Us, suggests that every member of the campus community has a role to play in changing the culture of sexual assault that has gone unchecked for too long.

Created in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, the campaign will be officially launched at a Friday afternoon event attended by both President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Early indications from the White House suggest that the campaign will focus on the role of bystanders and emphasize the importance of everyone stepping in. The White House told reporters, “The campaign reflects a belief that sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play.” To that end, the website, which went live on Friday morning, asks visitors to take the following pledge:

I pledge: To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur. To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

It also provides 13 tips for helping to stop sexual assault, including:

  • Trust your gut. If something looks like it might be a bad situation, it probably is.
  • Get someone to help you if you see something—enlist a friend, RA, bartender, or host to help step in.
  • Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.
  • If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
  • Never blame the victim.

The campaign also includes public service announcements. One will be played for the first time at the launch event and is said to include numerous celebrities, including actors Jon Hamm and Kerry Washington, basketball star Kevin Love, and musicians Randy Jackson and Questlove. It will be played again at a number of college football games this weekend.

The campaign is the latest in a series of steps the Obama administration has taken this year to call attention to—and help solve—the problem of sexual assault on campus. In January, President Obama announced a new White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, saying at the time, “Sexual violence is more than just a crime against individuals. It threatens our families, it threatens our communities; ultimately, it threatens the entire country.” In April, the task force released a report called Not Alone, which said the task force would work with the colleges and universities to provide best practices for both preventing and responding to sexual assault; build on the federal government’s enforcement efforts to ensure schools are meeting all legal requirements; improve transparency of the government’s enforcement activities; and enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable.

In May, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of the higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

With this campaign, however, the White House is targeting not just administrators but students as well, and is hoping that if we all share the burden we may be able to change the social norms and behaviors that make campus rape so prevalent.

Image: White House via Shutterstock

The post White House: ‘It’s on Us’ to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Texas Republicans Attempt to Reach Women Voters by Appropriating Feminist Successes

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 10:27

This week, the Texas Republican Party’s Red State Women—which, according to its website, is “committed to engaging, empowering, and inspiring all Texas women” to join up with the GOP—launched a new initiative for fans of context-free statistics and right-wing politics: “The Female Fact(Her).

Get it? Fact-her.

The website is a laughable attempt to appropriate some selected successes of feminism—for example, better educational opportunities for women, and workplace advancements that have allowed a very few of them to rise to the highest echelons of the business world—and attribute them to the Republican politicians who have dominated Texas politics over the last 20 years. In doing so, the campaign is apparently trying to unite all the Texas womenfolk who’ve been oppressed by Obamacare’s affordable birth control, who long to carry their assault rifles to Target:

It is important to showcase the Female Fact[hers] to challenge the Democrats deceptive campaign aimed at defining women as victims. Republicans seek to shatter the glass ceiling by promoting policies that give women more economic opportunities, better educational options and freedom from burdensome regulations.

Sweet, sweet freedom! From burdensome regulations that would have, you know, allowed women to sue discriminatory employers for equal pay, or denied their children the once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity to attend school near a fertilizer factory full of unregistered explosive chemicals.

The site, which is littered with seemingly random statistics (“57 percent of college students are women,” “70 percent of all mothers with children under 18 work”) is a weird mix of hilarious, absurd, and pathetic. The desperation wafts from the screen: No, really, believe us, the GOP loves the ladies, we’re totally telling you the truth, swear to goodness, honest-Abe, Republicans think women are just the very bestest! (Boy) Scout’s honor!

In a press release announcing the Female Fact(Her)’s launch, state Sen. Jane Nelson (R)—who cast the very first “no” vote against creating the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program back in 2005—said that “the facts show women in Texas are far better off under Republican leadership than they were during a century of Democrat control.”

Who are “women in Texas,” anyway? A monolith, apparently, when it comes to the Female Fact(Her), which is essentially devoid of racial analyses or breakdowns by immigration status. Lesbian women, queer folks, and trans people are nowhere to be found contributing to this magical Female Fact(Her), which seems to be geared specifically to appeal to white, cisgender, middle-class married mothers, people with the privilege of never not imagining themselves as the default “woman.”

That does make sense—it’s hard to talk about how great Texas women have it when the Republican Party is systematically disenfranchising women of color with racist voter ID laws, or when trans and gender non-conforming Texans live in poverty at more than twice the rate of the general population—but it belies Red State Women’s claim that all “women” are thriving under Republican leadership.

And dagnabbit, correlation just ain’t causation. It is true that, in general, Texas women probably are more politically and economically empowered than they were 100 years ago, when they didn’t have the right to vote and couldn’t even charge their husbands with rape. However, it would be absurd to argue that, for example, the dearth of female CEOs in 1950—let’s just go with the Republicans’ hyper-capitalistic claim that women in the boardroom are a de facto sign of definitive forward progress—had anything to do with which political party held power at the time. There are so many other social, cultural, and economic factors at play that have contributed to the overall improvement of (some) women’s lives that it would be difficult to name them all. What we can say is that in spite of conservative politicians’ best efforts at maintaining the status quo, women have managed to forge ahead.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the GOP. “The facts are on our side,” said Sen. Nelson in the release. “We are the party for women.”

The party for women that has overseen the quadrupling of Texas’ maternal mortality rate? The party for women that has so far shuttered more than half of Texas’ legal abortion providers? The party for women that championed steep cuts to children’s Medicaid? The party for women that opposed a Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act? The party for women that voted to dismantle a money-saving program that provided free contraception and cancer screenings to tens of thousands of low-income Texans?

That party for women?

The Female Fact(Her) is just Texas Republicans’ latest attempt to make something true that is demonstrably false simply by willing it to be so.

As a piece of propaganda, the site probably appeals to Republicans the way a “Just Say No!” campaign really speaks to kids who would never have said “yes” in the first place.

The site is full of little tidbits—how many women are enrolled in college, how many women fended off a rapist with a gun, how many women are the “primary shoppers” in their households—as if the numbers themselves prove anything about how great Texas women have it. In fact, the Female Fact(Her) mixes and matches Texas-specific stats with broad nationwide numbers, as if Texas Republicans, in their lady-loving majesty, have had a direct impact on the betterment of women’s lives in, say, Boise.

But there is one glaring omission: the words “despite this.”

“Women comprised 56.8 percent of all college students, equaling 11.3 million women enrolled in 2012,” but despite this, only about a quarter of America’s full professors are women.

“82 percent of elementary and middle school teachers are female,” but despite this, Texas Republicans cut $4 billion from the state’s education budget in 2011.

“In 2012, Texas females represented 55 percent of the state electorate and outnumbered registered male voters by 795,000 voters,” but despite this, just 21 percent of the members of the Texas legislature are women.

I could go on. And I have no doubt that if I did, I’d be accused of perpetuating the idea that liberals love to situate women as victims—an idea that the Female Fact(Her) is expressly intended to counter, as if observing the reality of systemic gender oppression is what really keeps women down, rather than thousands of years of patriarchal rule. As if Democrats simply announced that women were oppressed, and did nothing to empower them. Considering the reality that Democrats have backed some of Texas’ most pro-woman legislation, such as the state fair pay act and a federal Medicaid expansion, this is a patently false proposition.

Of course Red State Women opposes the idea of women as “victims,” because victimhood presumes an aggressor—an aggressor that has, all too often, had the letter (R) next to his name. To do so would be to acknowledge that the kinds of policies Red State Women espouses (though none of those policies are actually laid out on the Female Fact(Her); it’s purely an aggregation of factoids from sources both reliable and specious) have done a great deal to ensure that women do not have the resources they need—like mandated parental leave, affordable child care, a living minimum wage—to succeed.

The Female Fact(Her) has to walk a delicate line: show how strong and influential women can be without making them look too intimidating to the cadre of middle-aged white guys who dominate the Texas GOP at its highest ranks. Those behind the site, after all, don’t want women to seem so powerful that they might, for example, demand equal work for equal pay, or so powerful that their rape kits are processed in a timely manner, or so powerful that they are legally able to decide whether to carry their pregnancies to term.

Or, perhaps, so powerful the party might allow a lady to run for a statewide office this year.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Texas Republicans Attempt to Reach Women Voters by Appropriating Feminist Successes appeared first on RH Reality Check.

The Criminal Justice System Is Failing Black Families

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 09:37

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

Marissa Alexander, a Florida mother of three, is currently undergoing a retrial and facing 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive and estranged husband. Though the bullet didn’t hurt anyone, Alexander would be serving a 20-year sentence if the ruling had not been overturned following her first trial. She is Black and a woman, and that’s all those who prosecuted her cared to know.

Her imprisonment and the historical injustices suffered by so many Black and brown people have led to a major uproar and deeper conversation about the criminalization of Black women and how it has significant effects on the Black family structure. The criminalization of the Black community is breaking up the Black family and by doing so is perpetuating the cycles of poverty and oppression in our society, especially when Black children are being put in foster care at a greater rate than other children.

Now that I’ve shared some of Alexander’s story, here is a snapshot of mine.

It’s 3:00 a.m. I am awakened by bright lights and men with big attitudes. Police officers have entered my mother’s home without warrants, guns at the ready, pointed at my 18-year-old brother. I have never felt more in danger than I did at that point, surrounded by individuals whom I’m supposed to trust to protect me. Instantly I realize that my little brother, whom they assume is my big brother—the person they are really after, for missing a court date—is a threat simply because of his Black maleness.

My big brother is not home that night, but the police find him at a friends’ house a few weeks later. I recall seeing my brother’s scars on his arms and shoulders from that day. The wounds never healed properly from the dogs that the police unleashed on him; the dogs bit into him to the muscle, and the scars, visible and invisible, never fully healed. He was handcuffed and hauled away, and I was left behind—writing to him while he was in jail, then prison.

He was a criminal and he was Black; that’s all the police cared to know when they treated him in that violent manner.

Marissa Alexander’s story resonates with me, not because I am a mother, or even a past victim of domestic violence, but because even before the moment police stormed my home, my life has been greatly affected by the systematic expansion of the prison system and excessive criminalization of my community. At a time when lines are drawn on the value of Black lives, we must unearth and fight how the unjust system harms most those who are already suffering.

While the specifics of Alexander’s trial and defense are unique, she is not alone. Thirty percent of African-American women have experienced domestic abuse, putting their lives in constant danger. This has been seen time and time again, and is currently a mainstream issue because of video that surfaced of Ray Rice abusing his now wife in an elevator. Although the Ray Rice/NFL scandal has received international attention and criticism, so many more women experience this violence every day and will be forgotten when the next big story hits. There is a clear link between intimate partner violence and a person’s ability to maintain bodily autonomy and care for their children—two crucial tenets of reproductive justice. She may have successfully shooed away her abuser, but instead of supporting her in finding safety and protecting her children, the state has relinquished Alexander’s freedom and her ability to bond with her youngest child.

Another way the justice system affects the Black family can be seen in how incarceration disproportionately affects people of color. Keeping a family structure intact is nearly impossible with the incarceration of a parent. Separated children are often put into foster care, even though studies show that children raised in the foster care system are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system in the future.

Dr. Dorothy Roberts is right: Incarceration of women “inflicts incalculable damage to communities …. [transferring] racial disadvantage to the next generation.”

Roberts has also clearly laid out the intersections of the foster care and prison systems and their disproportionate impact on Black women. She writes that the fact that one-third of foster care children are Black and landed there after being removed from Black women’s care “is evidence of a form of punitive governance that perpetuates social inequality.”

Nearly 80 percent of women behind bars are mothers serving time for offenses largely related to domestic violence, sexual abuse, drug addiction, other health problems, and homelessness. In fact, over three-quarters of the women sitting in prisons have histories of severe violence by an intimate partner as adults, and 82 percent suffered physical or sexual abuse as children. This is another example of how the justice system fails women who are actually in need of counseling programs, support groups, and treatment programs so that they can live and raise their families in a productive and healthy way.

Instead, from 1986 to 1991 the incarceration rate of Black women drug offenders increased 828 percent. In 2010, Black women were put in jail at nearly three times the rate of white women. And, the majority of jailed women lived with their minor children before their arrest. These trends do not seem to be slowing.

The criminalization of Black women makes it nearly impossible for Black women to care for our families. When we do try and protect our families we’re punished, as in the case of Marissa Alexander, and even when we’re not punished our children are being harassed and harmed. This injustice toward Black mothers cannot continue!

Far from rehabilitating in the ways our communities need, this system is attempting to break us.

There was never a mention of drug rehab programs or rehabilitation programs to help my brother rejoin and be productive in society.

The disproportionate and constant surveillance, harassment, threats, arrests, and family separation experienced by my older brother, and many Black men and women in my community, illustrates how our justice system fails people of color, and hurts the communities that need justice most.

Amidst this dire situation, if there’s one thing I know about my folks, it is that we are resilient: We will find a way to survive, fight back, and keep on. Organizations and individuals are seeing this attack on families of color and are taking a stand to protect our family and communities. SisterSong and the Free Marissa Now campaign joined together over the summer to host “Standing Our Ground”—an event to discuss the intersections of the (in)justice system and reproductive justice in the case of Marissa Alexander and others, and to shed light on attacks of this on communities of color throughout the nation. Having attended the conference, I was struck by all the organizations and beautiful women of color who showed up—bringing their expertise and experiences to the table. I knew I was not alone. My story, our suffering is connected. That power and the determination to win the battle for our rights and the rights of our families are carrying me through the events in Ferguson, Missouri, where a senseless killing and the outrage that followed show us that our basic rights to live are being challenged.

Conversations like these are lifting the veil that has obscured the connections between domestic violence, reproductive justice, and the criminalization our communities experience for simply being. Things will only improve when Black women and mothers are seen as human—when our lives are treated as they matter as much as anyone else’s; when our bodies and privacy cannot be violated, and if they are the incidents are met with public outrage; and when communities join together to fight laws that turn those suffering from violence into criminals.

It’s become clear that in order for our people to survive and thrive we must call out this unjust criminal system, and take a stand for ourselves. The “American dream” sold to us never included communities of color, and doesn’t enable us to raise our families in safe environments. We as women of color—often the foundation and heads of our households—need to start trusting ourselves and making our own seats at the table. No longer should officers be able to push us around in our own homes and take away our right to protect our families.

We are the experts on our communities while those in power are just outsiders looking in with no real connections to our day-to-day lives and lived experiences. We’re told that prisons are supposed to protect our families from danger, but in reality the policing of our communities and families presents a danger so grave, I question whether we can survive it. We must stop living in fear and call out those in positions of power and the policies they create that are out to harm and hinder our communities. We must join together and stop being our toughest critics, because now more than ever our communities are under attack. We have come to a time in history, again, where simply being able to walk outside and live our lives is being threatened. We are resilient as a community and our resilience is being challenged. It’s no longer time to be on the defensive; it’s time we stand because it’s clear that our justice system isn’t looking out for us.

Image: CNN / YouTube

The post The Criminal Justice System Is Failing Black Families appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Colorado Anti-Choice Group Could Push Through ‘Personhood’ Amendment in November

RH Reality Check - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 09:14

When voters are presented with the text of Colorado’s latest “personhood” amendment, which would “protect women and children” by adding “unborn human beings” to the state’s criminal code, they’re mostly supportive of the measure, according to Vote No 67 campaign manager Fofi Mendez, citing internal focus groups and polling.

But when voters are told that Amendment 67 would have the “same dangerous consequences as Colorado’s two previous ‘personhood’ amendments,” which aimed to give legal rights to zygotes (fertilized eggs), voters turn against the proposal, Mendez said.

“If we have the funding to support our campaign, then we will be able to defeat this,” she said, adding that the campaign is about $1 million shy of its $3.8 million goal. So far, $947,000 has been contributed, according to campaign finance reports.

The statewide Vote No 67 campaign includes both volunteer and paid canvassing, phone, and grassroots organizing activities, as well as paid advertising and social media. About $1 million worth of advertising time has been reserved, and ads will begin airing in about a week.

Proponents of Amendment 67, who last year submitted more than the 86,000 signatures required to place their measure on the ballot, say they’re operating on a shoestring budget, relying on volunteers.

Over the past six weeks, the organization behind Amendment 67, A Voice for Brady, has spent $30, and it has raised about $1,800 since June, according to campaign finance reports. Personhood of Colorado, an organization that funded previous “personhood” campaigns in the state, is inactive.

Asked why recent expenditures were so low, A Voice for Brady spokesperson Jennifer Mason said via email: “A lot of our expenditures were pre-buying spots at fairs, etc., over the past several months that are just taking place now. We can’t compete financially with our opponents, Planned Parenthood.”

“It is certainly suspect that a Voice for Brady does not seem to be disclosing either its in-kind and/or other expenditures,” Mendez told RH Reality Check. “We know that they have been putting literature out in various parts of the state.”

“Because proponents are hiding where their resources are, we don’t have any idea whether they are going to go up on the air or the radio,” said Mendez, pointing to better funded “personhood” campaigns in North Dakota and Tennessee as an example of what might happen in Colorado.

“We are a grassroots effort, and our greatest asset is our volunteers,” Amendment 67 spokesperson Mason responded via email. “We are relying on them to spread the word about Brady’s story and Amendment 67.”

Brady was the name chosen by Healther Surovic for her 8-month-old fetus, which was destroyed when a drunk driver slammed into Surovic’s car in 2012. Surovic survived the crash and asked Personhood USA activists to help place the “Brady Amendment” on the Colorado ballot.

Both Mason and Surovic have said they relied on hundreds of Colorado churches and about 1,000 volunteers in their signature-gathering effort last year.

“Amendment 67 is not the way to protect pregnant women,” Mendez said, whose Vote No 67 coalition includes dozens of organizations. “This amendment goes too far. It has dangerous consequences. It has the potential to make criminals out of women and doctors. It’s government intruding on our personal and private lives. And because it’s wrapped in a different package, so folks need to unwrap it and look at the fact that it’s the same as it was in 2008 and 2010.”

The 2010 “personhood” measure defined a “person” in the Colorado Constitution as “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”

The 2008 measure was similarly worded. Both were defeated overwhelmingly by Colorado voters.

The key provision of Amendment 67 reads: “In the interest of the protection of pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and negligent and wrongful acts, the words ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings.”

Mason and other backers of Amendment 67 contend that it cannot, by itself, ban abortion. They argue that 38 states have so-called fetal homicide laws. Twenty-four of these states, including Florida, give legal rights to fetuses at early stages of development and allow them to be considered victims of crimes, like the reckless act against Surovic in Colorado.

Drunk drivers in Florida, as a result, could be charged with murder for causing a tragedy like Surovic’s, whereas now they cannot face such charges.

Florida’s law passed this year, and pro-choice activists worry about how courts, there and elsewhere, might chip away at abortion rights based on the definitions of a human being contained in laws like Florida’s.

Colorado has a statute, the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, which allows prosecutors to bring charges, but not murder, for recklessly terminating a pregnancy. The law specifically does not “confer personhood, or any rights associated with that status, on a human being at any time prior to live birth.”

Image: Petition via Shutterstock

The post Colorado Anti-Choice Group Could Push Through ‘Personhood’ Amendment in November appeared first on RH Reality Check.

GoFundMe thinks women seeking abortion care are on par with criminals and terror...

NARAL Pro-Choice America - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 18:00
GoFundMe thinks women seeking abortion care are on par with criminals and terrorists. Unbelievable. Tell GoFundMe to change their policy:

Seeking change
Abortions are expensive. They also happen to be most valuable to those who can scarcely afford them. Given these circumstances, crowdfunding seems like a reasonable solution.


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