06.19.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) African nations this week pledged to eradicate child and forced marriage in the region at the African Union Summit, according to African Union Goodwill Ambassador to End Child Marriage Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda.
Goodwill Ambassador Gumbonzvanda announced this political commitment to eradicate child, early and forced marriages at a panel event at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday hosted by state delegations, UN agencies and NGOs including the African Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, UNFPA, WHO and the governments of Sierra Leone, Italy, Belgium, and Uruguay.
In 2013, the U.N. Human Rights Council—principal body at the UN that promotes and protects human rights for all—adopted a procedural resolution dedicated to ending child marriage. The event this week called for the Human Rights Council to adopt a substantive resolution that recognizes the human rights implications of child, early and forced marriage, and encourage states to use their national and regional experience, to influence and promote the strongest possible inclusion of language addressing CEFM within a comprehensive human rights based approach
“The illegal and unconscionable practice of child and forced marriage has been ignored by too many governments for far too long, violating the human rights of countless young girls and women across the globe,” said Rebecca Brown, global advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s action by the African Union echoes the many U.N. resolutions and regional initiatives developed to end child marriage, and it is an important and positive step toward change. It’s time governments fulfill their promises and take the necessary next steps to ensure these policies are implemented and enforced.”
During the panel event, Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center, discussed how South Asia is making strides to end child marriage. Last year the government of Nepal hosted a convening on using the law to end child marriage, particularly focusing on the need for legal accountability for child marriage. Ms. Upreti also introduced the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), which has led the development of a regional action plan to end child marriage that reflects the commitment of all eight South Asian states to take steps to end child marriage as a matter of human rights from 2015-2018.
In 2013 the Center issued the report Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity examining the consequences of child marriage, which subject girls to serious crimes, including domestic violence and marital rape, placing their reproductive health and lives at serious risk. The report questions the failure of governments to prevent and prosecute cases of child marriage. Since the launch of the report, the Center has supported the efforts of SAIEVAC, in building a regional commitment to end child marriage and applauds the progress being made under the leadership of SAIEVAC to promote stronger legal accountability to end child marriage in the region.
The Center has played a part in some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured historic financial reparations for the family of a young Brazilian woman who died from preventable pregnancy complications—the first time an international human rights decision named maternal health a human rights. And at the European Court of Human Rights, the Center called upon Poland to ensure adolescents’ reproductive rights after access to a legal abortion for a rape survivor was repeatedly obstructed.
Some people only open their mouth to change feet, and so seems to be the case for California lawmaker Shannon Grove.
Last week, we reported her comments from an anti-choice event in Sacramento, where Assemblywoman Grove said the following:
Texas was in a long period of drought until Governor Perry signed the fetal pain bill. It rained that night. Now God has His hold on California.
The headline of our piece was, “California Assemblywoman: Drought Represents God’s Wrath Over Abortion.”
Over the past week, our story has gained significant traction in state and national media. Now Grove is desperately trying to walk back from her embarrassing gaffe.
Earlier this week, she issued a bizarre statement in which she claimed that we had “incorrectly quoted” her comments.
RH Reality Check stands by our reporting. We believe we quoted Grove fairly, accurately, and in context.
Here’s what the evidence shows.
A week before we published our story, our reporter, Zoe Greenberg, exchanged multiple emails with Grove’s spokesperson, Greg Burt, in which she explicitly included the exact quote we used, and asked a series of questions about the quote. Greenberg also spoke with Burt by phone. Of course, we have copies of those emails.
If Grove believed she had been misquoted, she certainly didn’t avail herself of multiple opportunities to say so. At no point did she or Burt dispute the exact words of that quote, including the claim that God had a “hold” on California.
For your enjoyment, here are some of the questions Greenberg asked about what Grove meant by her comment:
Given those questions, there was no possibility that Burt didn’t realize the thrust of our piece.
Burt declined to give a substantive reply to my email today seeking clarification on why neither he nor Grove attempted to push back against our reporting until after we had published our first piece. He also did not respond to our request to produce audio or visual evidence that supports Grove’s version of events.
And on June 11, after the story was published, Grove posted this to her Facebook page:
Is this drought caused by God? Nobody knows. But biblical history shows a consequence to man’s actions.
She did not assert that she had been quoted incorrectly.
In fact, parsing her recent statement, Grove doesn’t deny the essence of the quote, but rather, the interpretation of it.
“I did not say God made it rain in Texas because of the fetal pain bill,” she wrote in her statement. “I did relay a report I heard I knew would be interesting to my audience. I told them after the governor signed the fetal pain bill, it rained that night. I did not say, that God made it rain because of the bill.”
Got that? Grove just randomly babbled about some unrelated events, with no intention of suggesting a causal link between them.
And if you believe that, I’ve got a desalination plant to sell you.
Of course, the real-world test of what Grove’s comments meant is whether she intended her audience to understand—and whether they did understand—her to be saying that God was punishing California for its laws that comply with the U.S. Constitution.
And it turns out we know that’s exactly what Grove conveyed to them.
We know that because another of the prominent anti-choice leaders present at the event told us they thought Grove’s comments were “crazy.” The leader, who spoke to us on background, later clarified that they wouldn’t characterize Grove herself as crazy, but that Grove’s claims that she had been misquoted left them bewildered.
So here we have it: Grove jumping from making “crazy” comments, to disingenuous ones. Her press release is in keeping with the apocryphal official who calls a press conference to announce that he is not stupid.
I already know what you’re thinking. “What? An anti-choice activist playing fast and loose with the truth? Say it ain’t so!” Yes, it’s shocking, but Grove, like many of her anti-choice colleagues, seems ready and willing to dissemble when she sees fit.
One last curious observation about Grove’s statement. In our report, we noted that Grove—a member of the state agriculture committee—appears to be oddly hostile to small fish. Referring to state conservation measures, she previously asked, “What civilized society destroys its own food source for a three-inch fish?”
It’s a matter of basic common knowledge that the collapse of creatures at any point in an ecosystem can have ricocheting effects on other parts of the system, and as a result, on the economy. You know, it’s similar to the way that anyone with a basic respect for scientific facts will agree that abortion rights are critical to both the health and economic security of women and families.
Now, there are sensible debates to be had over how to best conserve California’s precious water supplies, including the protections afforded to native fish under provisions of the Nixon-era Endangered Species Act—and many of these conversations are already taking place. Grove, however, has dodged this sensible debate; in her view, apparently, little fish are not among God’s beloved creations.
In her recent statement, Grove doubled down on that contempt. “I have elevated awareness that this state has wasted water by shipping millions of acre feet of fresh water out into the ocean over the years just to save a few fish,” she wrote.
So there we have it: California Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, slippery-tongued foe of reproductive rights and three-inch fish.
Image: Shannon Grove/ YouTube
The post Shannon Grove: From a ‘Crazy’ Comment to a Dishonest One appeared first on RH Reality Check.
House Republicans moved forward Wednesday with another attempt to overturn the District of Columbia’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), this time using the budget process.
The House Appropriations Committee passed a budget rider sponsored by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) that prohibits the use of new funds to enforce the law. The rider passed on a 28-22 vote, with two Republicans joining 20 Democrats to oppose it.
The GOP-led House recently took a formal vote to block RHNDA, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health choices, such as firing a woman for having an abortion or choosing to use birth control.
That House vote was ultimately a symbolic gesture, and the law went into effect. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sponsored a version of the bill in the Senate, but the chamber didn’t take action in time to send the motion of disapproval to the president. Obama had threatened to veto the bill if it ever reached his desk.
The vote was the first time in 23 years that Congress had formally tried to exercise its authority to overturn a new law passed by the district.
But it’s more common for Congress, as it’s doing now, to use the budget appropriations process as its tool of choice to interfere with D.C. home rule. Congressional Republicans have used the appropriations process to block D.C. efforts on issues like using abortion funds for low-income women and legalizing both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
“It is bad enough that Congress uses D.C. as their own bizarre social experiment, but when in doing so they attempt to write discrimination into law, that is a bridge too far,” Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of campaigns and strategy of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement.
It’s not clear how effective the budget-based maneuver will be if it passes, as D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson told Roll Call in April.
“The Human Rights Act is … a protection for an individual. It’s not a government program,” Mendelson said. “John Doe doesn’t have the right to discriminate against you. So if Congress says we can’t spend any money to implement that, what does that mean? … It’s not clear how Congress could stop that.”
While the measure wouldn’t require employers to offer insurance coverage of abortion or contraception, D.C. council members were motivated by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision to try to add protections for employees.
Conservative objections to RHNDA—that it would violate the religious freedom of employers—are similar to the conservative arguments made in Hobby Lobby.
Some conservative groups even vowed to disobey the law, but as RH Reality Check has reported, they appear to be fighting a straw man—the provisions they promised to disobey don’t seem to be part of the law.
More than 100 local D.C. businesses have signed a letter to Congress in opposition to overturning RHNDA.
“We are employers in the District and we believe that all women should have the ability to make personal decisions that affect their reproductive health without our intrusion,” the letter reads. “We support freedom of religion and belief—but not the right to impose those beliefs on others.”
The post House GOP Keeps Trying to Overturn D.C.’s Reproductive Health Anti-Discrimination Law appeared first on RH Reality Check.
South Carolina legislators have dropped exceptions for rape or incest from a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization. HB 3114, which had various amendments tacked on by both the house and senate this year, will likely be taken up in January with only an exception for fetal anomaly, said Democratic state Rep. Robert L. Ridgeway.
“We have agreed on some of the language but there’s still one or two areas that we need to fine tune,” Ridgeway told RH Reality Check. “Due to the lateness, everything is probably on hold until January.”
The original house bill, introduced in December, included only an exception for the life of the pregnant person. After being passed by the GOP-dominated house, senators added exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal anomaly. But anti-choice lawmakers in the house rejected those amendments, leading to the convening of a committee to iron out the differences in the two versions.
After meeting Wednesday, Ridgeway, who sits on the committee, told RH Reality Check that it had decided to add exceptions only for fetal anomaly and not rape or incest. Ridgeway, a trained medical doctor, said that the fetal anomaly exception should be left on because it’s essentially a medical decision to be made by a doctor.
By contrast, rape and incest are “judicial” decisions, and so could be kept off of the bill, he said.
Other sticking points included a question about how to word the part of the bill that will outline physician liability. The bill’s original text included unique punishments created for physicians who performed abortions after 20 weeks, but the new bill will subject those physicians to general malpractice liability.
Though time is running out for the bill this year, it will be taken up in its current form in 2016.
The post South Carolina 20-Week Abortion Ban Won’t Include Rape or Incest Exceptions appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s quest for military justice reform faced another setback on Tuesday, when the Senate blocked a vote to include the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) as an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The amendment failed on a 50-49 vote; it had majority support, but did not get the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. Last year, the MJIA fell five votes short of overcoming a filibuster.
The MJIA would end the practice of letting military commanders make decisions about prosecuting sexual assault cases from their ranks.
Gillibrand, along with many advocates for military sexual assault survivors, says these reforms are necessary because survivors don’t trust the system. Commanders often retaliate against survivors, or they may even be the ones accused of assault. Even sympathetic commanders are said to lack the legal training they would need to properly assess the cases.
A recent report from Human Rights Watch found reports of retaliation against service members who report sexual assault. Survivors most often report being socially ostracized and threatened with violence by their peers, but they say commanders also retaliate by refusing to promote victims or demoting them to lesser duties.
The Pentagon’s most recent survey on sexual assault found that rates of retaliation haven’t changed, and that one in seven survivors was assaulted by someone in their chain of command.
“It is unacceptable that the retaliation rate has remained unchanged, and that the Pentagon cannot point to a single case where a penalty was levied against an individual who retaliated against a survivor who reported,” Gillibrand said in a statement after the vote.
The MJIA has an unlikely list of bipartisan supporters, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). A prominent Democratic opponent of the bill is Sen. Claire McCaskill (R-MO), who says that the reform wouldn’t do anything to prevent retaliation.
Gillibrand has called on President Obama to publicly support the bill, arguing that military brass—and thus the members of Congress who follow the Pentagon’s lead—would change their position “overnight” if the commander-in-chief declared the reform necessary.
“Those opposed to a fair justice system for our troops and their families are listening to the same generals that were against gay Americans serving their country or allowing women to serve equally,” said retired Colonel Don Christensen, the Air Force’s former chief prosecutor, in a statement.
The post Military Sexual Assault Reform Blocked Again in Senate appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Abortion providers in Arizona will not be forced to tell their patients that medication-induced abortions can be “reversed” while a lawsuit challenging the requirement proceeds in federal court.
The requirement is part of SB 1318, a law passed this spring that primarily bans state residents from purchasing any health insurance plan through the federal marketplace that includes abortion coverage. The law includes a mandate that abortion providers must tell patients both orally and in writing that they may be able to reverse the effects of a medically induced abortion—a scientifically inaccurate claim.
Arizona’s requirement is the first of its kind in the nation.
The provision was scheduled to take effect July 3, but reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit in June challenging the measure, arguing it violated the constitutional rights of both patients and providers. Advocates argue that there is no credible evidence to support the state-mandate statement that medication abortions can be reversed, and that such a claim forces providers to steer their patients toward an experimental practice that has not been shown to work or to be safe.
Those providers claim the requirement violates the medical standard of care, noting that it is opposed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
About half of all abortions performed in the state involve medication, as opposed to surgical methods. Medication abortions are preformed early in pregnancy and are among the safest methods for terminating a pregnancy.
A hearing on the lawsuit had been scheduled for June 23. But according to court documents, a key witness for the state is unavailable at that time, so the parties agreed to a pause in the enforcement of the provision until the hearing can be rescheduled.
The court documents do not identify which state witness was unavailable for the June 23 hearing.
U.S. District Judge Steven Logan rescheduled the hearing for three days in late October. In the meantime, the state is prohibited from enforcing the “abortion-reversal” mandate.
The post Arizona Doctors Won’t Have To Lie to Patients About ‘Abortion Reversal’—For Now appeared first on RH Reality Check.
In Sunday’s New York Times, Mairav Zonszein wrote a fascinating op-ed about the pointless, aggravating, and insulting process that women in Israel have to endure in order to get an abortion. The procedure is legal there; it’s free for women between the ages of 20 and 33; and 98 percent of women who ask for an abortion get one. To obtain one, however, you must go in front of a committee that is allowed to ask nosy and personal questions.
The committee near Zonszein immediately approved her request, likely because she isn’t married. But, as she notes, women who are married or live in more conservative parts of the country “tend to go through a more grueling, protracted process in which they are questioned further and at times even pressured not to go through with it.” The piece is a nice reminder that support for abortion restrictions has little to do with “life,” and everything to do with signaling to women that our bodies do not truly belong to us.
Overall, Zonszein offers a compelling argument that abortion rights shouldn’t just be about access, but about respecting a woman’s right to dignity and to autonomy over her own body. “Israel’s policy sends a message to women that while the state will facilitate our abortions in practice, it refuses—in principle—to grant us the freedom to make that decision ourselves,” Zonszein writes. She compares Israel unfavorably to other Western countries where “abortion is lawful and largely free of restrictions.”
Unfortunately, it was the one part of an otherwise great piece that wasn’t quite true. In fact, the process of needing to get approval for an abortion is surprisingly common in a lot of Western European countries. In England, abortion is paid for by the National Health Service, but a woman has to get two doctors to sign off on the claim that she will be physically or mentally hurt by continuing the pregnancy. In Germany, it’s a similar story: Women need a doctor to claim mental distress, undergo counseling, and wait three days for the procedure. Same thing in Italy, where a doctor must detail a woman’s reasons for abortion and she has to wait a week to reflect. New Zealand, Finland, Switzerland: Requiring a woman to cough up a reason deemed acceptable enough by third parties is really standard practice. France used to have a similar law, but it was changed last year on the grounds that it’s sexist to have policies that carry the built-in assumption that women aren’t capable of making this choice on their own and need someone else to decide if their reasons are good enough.
It might seem a bit churlish to complain about these laws, when, in practice, they rarely impede actual access to abortion—something Katha Pollitt rightly pointed out in the Nation in response to a spate of conservatives such as David Frum, Michael Gerson, and Ross Douthat arguing, largely in defense of exas’ law restricting abortion care, that countries like these are more “conservative” on abortion rights than the United States. That is a facetious stance, as Pollitt noted, because it doesn’t take into account how much easier and more affordable abortion is in most of these countries.
There’s something very telling, though, about requiring women to tap-dance a little to earn an abortion, particularly when no one would dare suggest—for good reason—that women have to ask for permission to give birth. It shows that attitudes about abortion are actually shaped by attitudes about sex and gender roles. Women are supposed to want babies, and if they don’t, they’re supposed to be apologetic and do penance for defying their “natural” role.
Meanwhile, in the United States, it is true that women are protected from having to give their reasons for an abortion in the first trimester, because Roe v. Wade decided the procedure is protected under constitutional protections for privacy. Nothing is more invasive of your privacy than forcing you to go in front of a committee and explain how much crying you’ve been doing, or how afraid you are that your husband might find out you’re cheating, or how you just aren’t sure the man you’re having sex with is the one you want to marry. A lot of that may come out in private consultation with your doctor, but private is the key word here. There is no government requirement that you expose this part of yourself to justify your abortion in this country, which is a good thing.
But this idea that women should have to justify their desire to abort is baked right into the debate over abortion access in this country nonetheless. That’s most obvious when it comes to the endless fighting over exceptions to proposed abortion bans: whether rape or incest is good enough to deserve the procedure, or if your life needs to be imperiled. The entire existence of crisis pregnancy centers is built on this belief that women don’t really know how badly they supposedly want this baby and need lots of coaxing and “counseling” to know their true minds. Mandatory waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, mandatory scripts full of falsehoods about abortion—they’re all about establishing the idea that women are not good decision-makers about their own bodies and need nosy strangers butting in on this very personal decision.
No wonder we saw so many conservatives trying to praise various European and Israeli restrictions on abortion. It’s not really about the life of the fetus, but about trying to guilt-trip and persecute women for not adhering to their very rigid ideas about what we should be and what we should want. It’s about trying to make us feel like we’re bad or broken if we greet news of a pregnancy with anything but glowing joy and an immediate desire to start painting a nursery. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with wanting a pregnancy and being happy about it. Many women who have abortions, at other points in their lives, experience happy and wanted pregnancies. But that’s the point: Our lives are complex and diverse and don’t fit into narrow preconceptions about what they should or shouldn’t be. And our abortion laws should reflect that, by acknowledging that a woman—not a third party, not a politician—is the expert in her own life and what she needs when facing an unintended pregnancy.
The post Around the World, Women Are Forced to Justify Their Reasons for Abortion appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Maine’s Republican-majority senate voted 21 to 14 against a targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) bill on Friday, after the state’s Democratic-led house voted down the proposal last month.
LD 1312, introduced in April, would have required outpatient abortion clinics to be licensed by the state Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and reapply for its license on an annual basis. Abortion clinics in the state are currently subject to oversight by the state Board of Medicine.
The bill also would have subjected providers to operational standards for abortion clinics, which don’t exist in Maine and would have had to be developed as a result of the bill. Advocates said the proposal would have allowed the state HHS to unilaterally adopt unnecessary abortion restrictions that would force the closure of clinics in the state.
“The reality is putting this law into place would give the Department of Health and Human Services the opportunity to come in whenever they see fit and add additional regulations,” said Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
The Virginia Board of Health enacted TRAP regulations in 2013, requiring clinics to conform to the architectural standards of hospitals. Three clinics have closed since the regulations were passed. TRAP laws in Texas, recently upheld by a district court, have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to shut down.
The state senate vote on LD 1312 last week effectively kills the bill, which was rejected by the Democratic-led house three weeks ago.
The post TRAP Law Goes Down in Maine’s GOP-Controlled Senate appeared first on RH Reality Check.