Court Deals Blow to Pence-Era Indiana Anti-Choice Law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit on Thursday affirmed a district court’s ruling striking down two provisions of an Indiana law that restricts access to abortion care and imposes burdensome regulations on abortion providers.

Officials from Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana on Friday praised the court’s decision during a joint press conference.

Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said during the press conference that existing law makes it “crystal clear” that a pregnant person has an absolute right to determine whether to terminate a pregnancy.

“Indiana sought to invade that right,” Falk said. “The law was, in effect, trying to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.”

HB 1337 made numerous changes to state laws, including requiring forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, creating regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and banning fetal tissue donation that has led to the development of vaccines and has had other public health benefits.

Physicians are prohibited from providing abortion care if the physician knows that the pregnant person is seeking the common medical procedure solely because of the “race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability.”

The omnibus anti-choice bill was passed by wide margins by the GOP-dominated Indiana legislature. It was signed into law in March 2016 by former Gov. Mike Pence (R).

The ACLU of Indiana in April 2016 filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of PPINK, as well as two abortion providers. The lawsuit challenged the so-called final disposition and anti-discrimination provisions of the law. The plaintiffs claim the law imposes an undue burden on a person’s right to choose abortion care, that the the law violates due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and that it infringes upon the First Amendment right of free speech.

District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in September 2017 ruled that the law was unconstitutional, and the Seventh Circuit Court’s three-judge panel unanimously upheld Pratt’s decision.

Judge William Bauer wrote in the 40-page decision that anti-discrimination provisions “clearly violate well-established Supreme Court precedent” and the fetal tissue regulations “have no rational relationship to a legitimate state interest.”

Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of PPINK, said in a statement that there was “no medical basis for these restrictions,” and that the state was interfering in the relationship between patients and medical professionals.

“Every person deserves the right to make their own personal decisions about abortion,” Gillespie said.

Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill has not stated if the state will appeal the court’s decision. Falk said he would not be surprised if the state sought review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

This Week in Sex: Study Says Most Young Women Unfazed by Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Young People Still Feel Invincible Against STIs (and Don’t Get Tested)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are rising among young people, with more than half of new cases occurring among those who are between the ages of 15 and 24. A few years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that one in four young women had an STI. And yet, a new survey finds that young people feel invincible and aren’t concerned that they will contract STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Quest Diagnostics, a network of medical labs across the country, surveyed 3,400 women in this age group and found that only 39 percent of those who were sexually active had used a condom the last time they had sex. But most of them (nine in ten) did not feel vulnerable to chlamydia or gonorrhea infection.

The survey also found that only 56 percent of sexually active young women surveyed had ever gotten tested for STIs. The relationship between young women and their health-care providers may be to blame for the low rate of testing. Many young women (27 percent) said that they were embarrassed to talk about sex with their providers, 27 percent admitted not telling their providers the truth about their sexual history, and only 28 percent of them had asked providers for STI tests.

But providers are falling down on the job as well. Despite knowing that young people are at high risk for STIs, only half of participants (51 percent) said a clinician had asked them whether they wanted an STI check.

Deborah Arrindell, vice president for health policy at the American Sexual Health Association, told Rewire.News, “Open, honest conversations about sexual health between young people and their providers and parents are essential. Getting tested and treated for STIs is no big deal. But not getting tested—especially when so many STIs don’t have any symptoms—is like just waiting for avoidable problems.”

The CDC recommends that all sexually active women younger than 25 be tested for both chlamydia and gonorrhea at least once a year.

Survey Asks About Sex and Condom Use During Women’s Periods

There are so many euphemisms for menstruation—the nonspecific “that time of the month,” the cutesy “a visit from Aunt Flo”, and the unappealing “on the rag”—that it’s pretty clear we’re not all that comfortable talking about our periods.

The subject of sex during our periods is even more taboo. But the people at Clue, a Berlin-based fertility app and website, want to change that. They partnered with researchers at the Kinsey Institute, a sexual health research organization in Indiana, to ask women what they think about sex during their period and what they do when “surfing the crimson wave.”

The survey included 95,000 people in more than 200 countries. To be included in the survey, respondents had to have menstruated in the past three months.

The research found that only 15 percent of women engage in their normal sexual behavior during their periods. About half of women (49 percent) avoid any genital contact during that time, 41 percent report avoiding contact with their own genitals and focusing on their partner’s pleasure instead, and 21 percent avoid all sex including nongenital behaviors. Genderqueer and nonbinary women were more likely to engage in their normal sexual behavior during their periods (21 percent).

The survey also found that condom use declined during a woman’s period. Among respondents who were having vaginal intercourse, 64 percent reported using a condom when they were not bleeding, but only 49 percent said they used a condom during their periods as well. Overall, those surveyed did not seem concerned about pregnancy or STIs during their period: Thirty percent of those who didn’t use a condom during their period said they were less concerned about pregnancy at that time, and one in three said they were unconcerned about STI transmission during that time.

Clue and the Kinsey Institute point out that these assumptions are based on misinformation. A woman can get pregnant during her period.

Moreover, STI acquisition rates are actually higher during menstruation than they are during other times of the month. They explain: “During certain times of your cycle, including your period, the changes in your immune function and vaginal environment may make it more likely you’ll contract an STI/HIV if you’re exposed.” They go on to say, “If you get a period and have sex with people with penises … always use a condom with an untested partner, especially on your period.”

Rife With Bias, Texas Pamphlet on Minors’ Abortion Access Comes Under Fire

The Texas Department of State Health Services redesigned a pamphlet designed to explain judicial bypass—the process by which minors can get a judge’s permission for an abortion in lieu of parental permission—to pregnant teens. The pamphlet, aptly titled “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?,” is required by statute to include information about alternatives to abortion and information about health risks of abortion.

But advocates in the state say the new version is far worse than the original.

A number of organizations including NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Jane’s Due Process have sent letters to the department, pointing out errors that they claim are based on ideology and not science. The organizations point to manipulative language (such as referring to all fetuses as babies and all pregnant women as mothers) as well as inaccurate and incomplete information.

In its letter, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas notes that the revised brochure lists death as the first risk of abortion procedures and says that this is misleading because “abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures and far safer than childbirth, which carries a risk of death 14 times higher than abortion.” In addition, the pamphlet discuss links between abortion and breast cancer, mental health issues, and future infertility. All of the claims run counter to scientific research which has found no link between abortion and any of these outcomes.

The letter, signed by Alexa Garcia-Ditta, the organization’s director of communications and policy, states: “Informed consent is a vital component of ethical health care, but this booklet does not contribute to a patient-centered decision making process. It is misinformation intended to coerce minors and perpetuate fear and stigma. This booklet has been influenced and driven by political ideology, not medicine or science, and we believe that pregnant minors deserve better than this.”

In a similar letter, Tina Hester, executive director of Jane’s Due Process, a legal referral and advocacy organization whose purpose is to ensure appropriate legal representation of pregnant teenagers, explains that the pamphlet provides inaccurate and incomplete information about judicial bypass itself. For example, while the pamphlet repeatedly refers to “your parents’ consent,” suggesting teens need permission from both parents, the law only requires one parent to consent. Moreover, the pamphlet never mentions that nonparent legal guardians and managing conservators can also provide consent. Hester says that these errors harm the young people they serve, many of whom are not in contact with one or both of their biological parents.

Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the health department, told the Austin Chronicle that the department is reviewing and considering the comments and will post the final draft of the brochure when it has finished.

No Teen Sex Near Traffic Circles, Says Norwegian Roads Department

If you needed further proof that Europeans have an entirely different attitude toward teenage sex than Americans, look no further than the latest campaign by Public Roads Administration of Norway.

The government agency recently warned graduating high school students to avoid sex on “roundabouts” during a monthlong celebration of the end of their studies. Students celebrating their accomplishment are known to drink heavily, party a lot, and sometimes challenge social norms, hence the need for the warning.

The fact that this is an accepted and not hidden aspect of teen life is itself a notable difference between Norway and the United States, but we here at This Week in Sex were most struck by the rationale behind the new no-sex-in-traffic-circles campaign.

Terje Moe Gustavsen, the head of the Public Roads Administration explained: “Everyone understands that being in and around roundabouts is a traffic hazard. It may not be so dangerous for someone to be without clothes on the bridge, but drivers can get too much of a surprise and completely forget they are driving.”

We cannot imagine Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao saying anything about teen sex. But if she did, we’re betting it would have more of an abstinence-only message. Something like “Sex in rotaries before marriage will inevitably lead to pregnancy, STDs, and death.” Definitely a billboard in the making.

Arizona Teachers Have Issued Their Demands. Now They’re Ready to Walk Out.

Arizona educators have voted to walk off the job in a first-ever statewide strike to demand more school funding and a halt to tax cuts.

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said in a press conference Thursday that 78 percent of the more than 57,000 educators who voted supported a walkout, calling the vote “historic.”

“Arizona educators have delivered a strong message tonight, and overwhelmingly support walking out of their schools for their students and their communities and their colleagues,” Thomas said.

Teachers plan to walk out Thursday, with three days of walk-ins leading up to the event, said Noah Karvelis, a teacher and leader with the grassroots group Arizona Educators United. The walk-out announcement comes after weeks of walk-ins—as teachers across the state mobilized behind the #RedforEd movement—and follows a promise by the state’s Republican governor to raise educator pay 20 percent by 2020.

Educators say years of underfunding have decimated schools. Their demands include about $1 billion to restore education funding to 2008 levels, competitive pay for school support staff, and no new tax cuts until student spending reaches the national average, as the Arizona Republic reported.

Arizona is ranked among the nation’s worst states in per-student spending. A 2017 report by the state auditor found teachers’ pay shrank as class sizes grew. The state receives a larger share of federal education dollars than the national average, but spends less of it in the classroom, the report found.

“I am committed to getting teachers this raise and am working to get this passed at the Legislature,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey commented on Twitter following the announcement. “We need teachers teaching, and kids learning.”

The Arizona vote follows a successful nine-day strike in West Virginia and builds on a groundswell of teacher-led action in GOP-held states.

But Arizona teachers in the “right-to-work” state face risks by walking out. It could be considered illegal under a decision by the state attorney general, and teachers could lose their teaching credentials, as the Associated Press reported.

Even so, Karvalis, an organizer, struck a defiant note Thursday night. “We can no longer allow the status quo in this state to go unchanged,” he said.

“We have crumbling school infrastructure here right now. We have kids sitting in broken desks, studying out of 25-year-old textbooks in a room with a leaky ceiling, and that’s unacceptable,” he said. “We’re truly in a state of crisis here in Arizona.”

Joe Manchin’s Primary Opponent Taps Into Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Momentum

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of the least popular members of the U.S. Senate, faces a progressive challenge in a state won in a landslide by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

A Morning Consult poll released this month indicates Manchin’s job approval dropped from 60 percent to 43 percent between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018. 

Manchin’s precipitous drop in job approval has made the former West Virginia governor the fifth least popular senator, according to the poll. The poll results follow Senate race ratings released this month by the Cook Political Report, which dubbed Manchin’s seat as a competitive “toss-up” that could fall to either party in November’s midterm election.

Manchin’s political affiliation has been difficult to pin down thanks to his tendency to vote in line with President Trump’s position 61 percent of the time, including the president’s funding attack against so-called sanctuary cities. The New York Times has dubbed Manchin, who met last year with the architects of a discredited smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, “the most conservative Democrat in the Senate.”

Manchin’s opponent in the state’s upcoming Democratic primary, Paula Jean Swearengin of Mullens, West Virginia, is following Sanders’ leftward trend, including refusing corporate PAC contributions. She hopes to continue the work Sanders started when he drew working class support with a populist platform, as Swearengin has trumpeted progressive priorities like tuition-free prekindergarten and college, a minimum wage increase, and Medicare for all. Manchin is not among the 16 Democratic senators who have co-sponsored Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of voters who backed Sanders in the 2016 West Virginia primary identified health care as their most important issue. Two-thirds of Sanders voters in West Virginia said the next president should be more liberal, according to CNN exit polling

“This used to be a Democratic state,” Swearengin said in an interview with Rewire.News. “Democrats are tired of not having a Democratic candidate. When you have Democrats that act like Republicans, they’re not Democrats anymore.”

Swearengin said she is aware of the challenges she faces in running for a Senate seat in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Trump, but she believes West Virginians are primarily looking for a candidate who understands working class needs and seeks to diversify the state’s economy outside of the push for natural gas.

“The people in this state are hungry for real change,” Swearengin said. “And if we do not try to fight back and put a real Democrat in that seat to stand for the people of West Virginia, we’re in big trouble.”

“Joe Manchin is well-known, but he is not popular, because he calls it a ‘bipartisan effort,’ but we know that he serves his funders,” she said. 

Swearengin is the only candidate running for Manchin’s Senate seat who has only accepted campaign donations from individuals, as opposed to corporations or corporate PACs.

However, these and other reports of Manchin’s dwindling chances in the upcoming general election have been foreshadowed by West Virginia voters’ historic, steadily increasing support for the Republican Party.

All 55 counties were carried by Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, while in 2014, both chambers of the West Virginia legislature switched to Republican control for the first time since the 1930s. Republicans won all of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1921.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced his switch to the Republican Party during a rally with President Trump in 2017, after being elected as a Democrat the year before. President Trump carried the state with a whopping 69 percent of the state’s vote in November 2016.

Despite Trump’s sagging approval rating, a Gallup poll released in late January found that West Virginia voters still remain among his most ardent supporters, giving him a 61 percent approval rating in 2017, compared to the then-national average of 38 percent, which has since crept to 40 percent.

As for what has caused this historic shift in West Virginia, state GOP Chair Melody Potter said Democratic policies have harmed the working class“Our state has been turning red because people are tired of 83 years of Democrat rule in West Virginia,” Potter said in an interview with Rewire.News, “which brought higher taxes, terrible energy policies and low jobs.”

Potter said West Virginia’s notable Republican support in the 2016 presidential election only proves the point that the state is looking for a party change.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chair Belinda Biafore said that sentiment only exists on a national level. She said Democrats still hold the majority of local offices in West Virginia courts and municipalities.

Biafore and Manchin’s backers, including the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), said they remain optimistic about Manchin’s chances for re-election.

“The seat’s going to be vulnerable just because of how well Trump did there, but West Virginia’s not like everywhere else,” said Phil Smith, UMWA communications and governmental affairs director. “They’re not like other folks who may look at party before people. They’re used to voting for Joe Manchin for things. He’s always come through for them. And I think they’re going to do it again.”

The Cook Political Report Senior Editor Jennifer Duffy told Fox News last week that only conservative Democrats like Manchin could win in West Virginia.

Biafore said she finds this to be true, for now.

“I think that [moderateness] helps him, definitely,” Biafore said. “West Virginia Democrats are a little bit more moderate than a lot of states. There’s not enough liberal Democrats to win to win races right now when you look at our electorate. You have to win votes. You have to look at the whole picture.”

Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said Manchin’s “wiggle room” as the state’s highest Democratic leader is needed to effectively secure measures needed to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“He prides himself on working across the aisle,” Zuckett said. “When you look how things get done in Congress, that’s when things get done, is when the two parties work together for the betterment of the country as a whole.”

Zuckett said West Virginians are recognizing the importance of having a Democrat on Capitol Hill to advocate for social programs they use, primarily health care, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. In 2015, nearly one-third of the state’s population relied on Medicaid and CHIP programs that Republicans have sought to gut through the proposed Affordable Care Act repeal.

“I don’t think they got what they voted for, and I think a lot of people are realizing that,” Zuckett said. “We’ve been sort of a mono-economy for much of the state’s history, so we need these social programs to continue. But it seems like Republicans are hellbent on dismantling these programs that support working families and people in need.”

That mono-economy of the coal industry had played a significant part in West Virginians’ rejection of Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate after she said a Clinton administration would put “a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton won just 26 percent of the state’s vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Her opponent in the Democratic primary, Sanders, beat Clinton in West Virginia by 14 percentage points. Sanders drew widespread support from voters in households that earn less than $50,000 annually, while capturing 70 percent of the vote from those aged 17-29. Fifty-four percent of West Virginia Democratic primary voters who identified as “very liberal” voted for Sanders, while 41 percent supported Clinton. 

Republican candidates running for Manchin’s seat include Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-WV) and former Massey Energy chairman and CEO Don Blankenship.

Manchin’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

West Virginia has a mixed primary, in which party members may vote only in their own party’s primary, but voters who are unaffiliated with the two major parties may participate in one party’s primary. The primary election will take place Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

Gina Haspel’s Nomination Shows Torturing Muslims Earns You a Promotion, Not Prosecution

The systemic abuse of people of color in the United States is nothing new. Communities of color have been disproportionately demonized and criminalized under the guise of public safety, national security, or some equally precarious reason. State violence has and continues to disproportionately affect various communities, whether through police brutality, detention, or death. Equally troubling is that the state agents that perpetrate, authorize, or condone these acts of violence are rarely, if ever, held accountable.

In the context of the War on Terror, state violence has been the modus operandi of U.S. policies targeting Muslims that have often been based on premises of collective responsibility and guilt by association. One of the most egregious forms of state violence, torture, has been used extensively post-9/11 on Muslim prisoners facing an often farcical journey through the justice system—even though torture is against both U.S. and international law. As made evident by recent moves by the U.S. administration, those responsible for this kind of violence are unlikely to face consequences anytime soon. In fact, the opposite may happen, with torture being rewarded.

This applies to deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Gina Haspel, who was nominated by President Trump last month to be the head of the organization. Haspel’s nomination—which may be confirmed after her Senate hearing, currently scheduled for May 9—has been decried by advocates and activists across the board for her role in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program in a “black site” in Thailand.

Details of the extent to which Haspel oversaw the torture of specific detainees remain murky, yet it is clear she oversaw the U.S. base in Thailand at some point during its operation between early-to-mid-2002 and when it closed in December of that same year. We know that Haspel did supervise the base during the brutal torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded three times. It is less clear whether she oversaw the torture of Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian prisoner who was waterboarded 83 times. She did, however, write a cable ordering the destruction of videotapes documenting CIA torture, making calls of accountability across the board even more difficult.

The CIA’s now well-documented torture program post-9/11, which lasted from 2002 to 2008, ranged from forced rectal feeding (a form of rape) to making prisoners stand on broken legs and shoving them into coffins. All of these abuses and more were part of a cruel system of human rights violations that have recently resurfaced in the wake of Haspel’s nomination. And they reveal that the utter dehumanization of prisoners—Muslim prisoners in particular—in CIA custody is no impediment to career advancement. Though the apparatus of torture and the questions surrounding its use and illegality extend far beyond Haspel’s nomination, her potential appointment as CIA director is indicative of four things in the American socio-political-historical context: a lack of unanimous agreement that torture is illegal and should be completely abandoned in the current iteration of the “War on Terror”; the carte blanche impunity given to high-level officials no matter how egregious their crimes; American exceptionalism and historical amnesia; and the acceptance of the wholesale dehumanization of Muslims among U.S. government officials, both at home and abroad.

No Consensus on Torture

Under the second Bush administration, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo wrote the now-infamous torture memo stating that anything short of organ failure or death did not rise to the level of torture. Specific tactics approved by former Attorney General John Ashcroft included prolonged standing, stress positions, and sleep deprivation. In the early years post-9/11, questions of accountability were almost nonexistent because of a lack of public knowledge and the legal gymnastics government officials were going through to make a once-outlawed practice acceptable in the national security context. The few incidents that were exposed—such as the Abu Ghraib scandal, where Iraqi prisoners were abused and humiliated—were brushed aside with the “few bad apples” response also common in the framing of systemic police abuse in the United States.

By the time Barack Obama became president, torture had been widely stigmatized. Therefore, one of his first acts was to sign an executive order ending the use of what the Bush administration had called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included sleep deprivation, waterboarding, prolonged standing, and other tactics that effectively constitute torture. But the memo did not abandon the use of extraordinary rendition, a tactic used by the United States whereby supposed terror suspects were sent to countries hosting black sites. The Obama administration also allowed force feeding, which the United Nations also considers torture. The executive order, therefore, was limited in the ability to abolish torture in its totality both because it was an order—with the potential to be overturned by Congress and the next president—and because it still allowed room for certain types of abuses to go unabated.

Obama’s lack of seriousness in curbing torture could also be seen in his failure to hold officials accountable for it—a deterrent necessary for preventing future acts of torture. For example, he rebuffed the push to declassify the 7,000-page Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on torture that was released in 2014 about the tactics used under President George W. Bush, leaving much of it hidden from the public.

In light of the infrastructure built by President Bush and preserved in many ways by President Obama, Haspel’s nomination by a president who has specifically condoned torture is exponentially problematic. Not only has Trump stated his desire to reinstate the use of torture, including waterboarding; he has also indicated a desire to reopen CIA black sites.

Moreover, the current head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, is not categorically against torture, and previously wrote to the Senate Intelligence Committee that if that if the law became a barrier to gathering evidence, he “would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law.” The willingness to both evade current laws and create legal maneuvers in order to torture prisoners, coupled with staff fully prepared to implement this agenda, made Pompeo’s nomination frightening; it makes Haspel’s far more dangerous, given her past.

With this historical legacy and no real accountability measures in place, Haspel’s nomination indicates that the United States will not only continue practices excluded from weak bans on torture, but also reintroduce tactics that have been widely condemned and upheld as illegal, such as waterboarding.

Carte Blanche Immunity

Torture is banned in domestic law through the anti-torture statute, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C; the United States is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. And yet, there has been virtually no accountability for those who have ordered, condoned, or participated in the torture apparatus.

Beginning with the famous torture memos written by attorneys under the Bush administration, those who provided legal cover for torture have faced few, if any, consequences. For instance, Yoo, who said that there was no law that would prevent torture—including “crushing the testicles of the person’s child”—and who authored the torture memos, is now a thriving law professor at University of California, Berkeley. Gina Haspel’s nomination is also indicative of this carte blanche impunity, especially since her record on torture only resurfaced because of the nomination, not out of a real desire to hold any officials accountable for these crimes or to bring justice to the victims.

As Juan Mendez, an Argentinian torture survivor and U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, wrote in 2015 with regard to CIA torture, “The U.S. government has effectively handed ‘get out of jail free’ cards to those who authorized torture, with significant consequences. Many of those same individuals have written memoirs and gone on talk shows, particularly since the Senate’s landmark report on torture was released six months ago, to explicitly disavow any regret or compunction for what they still call enhanced interrogation.”

But disavowal of torture was as unlikely then, with a president who supposedly condemned torture, as it is now, with an explicitly pro-torture president. Obama’s words early on his presidency and prior to the release of the CIA torture report, when asked to comment about Bush-era torture, were that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” This statement didn’t just effectively let previous torturers off the hook, it initiated a precedent of proactive impunity—in other words, extending forgiveness to your predecessor so your successor will do the same for you. The cycle will undoubtedly continue. 

Furthermore, in the course of the narrative surrounding Gina Haspel’s nomination, the CIA itself has largely not been held accountable as an institution. Contestations of Haspel’s nomination are necessary and appropriate, but if we are serious about ending systemic torture, we must challenge institutional norms within the CIA that allow these abuses to happen in the first place.

In 2016, when the CIA conducted a closed briefing for the Senate Intelligence Committee in response to its report on torture, then-director John Brennan stated, “The agency over the course of the last several years took actions to address shortcomings.” Second to the egregiousness of torture itself, the description of the CIA’s crimes against humanity as “shortcomings” represents the extent to which the CIA can consider its abuses “mistakes,” in the interest of “national security,” and escape from any semblance of punitive measures to curb its ability to conduct further torture. Haspel’s nomination instead of her prosecution simply continues this legacy. The outcome of her nomination will almost surely have absolutely no impact on CIA conduct going forward.

Impunity, therefore, is not an exception. It is policy.

American Exceptionalism and Historical Amnesia

When the declassified portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture was released at the end of 2014—documenting some of the most gruesome torture techniques, including prisoners freezing to death and others having their eyes gouged out—there were widespread condemnations. But many of those condemnations were rooted in the notion of torture as un-American or as a departure from American history. For example, in the foreword to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who spearheaded the creation of the report, stated, “It is my sincere and deep hope that through the release of these Findings and Conclusions and Executive Summary that U.S. policy will never again allow for secret indefinite detention and the use of coercive interrogations.”

The same false narrative of a torture-free United States was also evident in Independent Maine Sen. Angus King’s response to the torture report: “This is not America. This is not who we are.”

But here’s the problem: This is exactly who we are. Because of U.S. exceptionalism, or the idea that we are a country without flaws, any deviation from our idealistic notions of who we are is treated as just that—a deviation. In fact, the United States has long been a purveyor of violent torture, a history that Alfred McCoy documents extensively in his book A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. This includes the Cold War torture techniques perfected by the CIA in the 1963 Kubark manualIt also includes a list of tactics that were shepherded around the world to destabilize and brutalize populations, notably many countries in Latin America. Many of these tactics—such as waterboarding, stripping and blindfolding prisoners, and stress positions—were recycled post-9/11.

The Wholesale Dehumanization of Muslims

While impunity and false narratives have operated together to downplay the seriousness of torture and the longstanding infrastructure that has allowed it to continue, institutionalized Islamophobia has also played a role. After the release of the 2014 Senate report on torture, a Washington Post-ABC News poll asked a sample of people in the United States whether they thought “the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified.” Fifty-nine percent responded that it was justified. The question of whether torture was moral, legal, or ethical was never asked: Muslim prisoners, therefore, are simply a means to our national security ends.

Even in the face of narratives that called for holding the CIA accountable for their role in torture, Muslim victims have been completely erased. For example, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and who expressed deep concern over Haspel’s nomination, said, “This was a grave chapter in our history. The actions taken under this program cost our nation global credibility and they put the lives of Americans at risk.” Similarly, in response to the 2014 torture report, President Obama said, “These harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.”

Notably, neither Obama nor Heinrich mentioned Muslims, because they are apparently only a liability to Americans’ perceptions of their greatness or an impediment to pursuing U.S. interests, not human beings deserving of dignity. Furthermore, in a context where torture has become synonymous with “Muslim,” it is clear that this abuse of human rights could only happen, be ignored, and adapted as policy because of the rampant Islamophobia that has bolstered and legitimized the War on Terror apparatus.

Haspel’s nomination has put torture back into the spotlight, but for all the outrage, little has registered over the past 16 years to hold government officials accountable—never mind to acknowledge or address the harm caused to the Muslim prisoners who have been released from U.S. custody and those who remain imprisoned.

But the War on Terror has always been about targeting Muslims and excluding them from the bounds of humanity. Torture is just one tactic to ensure that Muslims are dehumanized. That dehumanization justifies, in a cyclical pattern, subsequent abuses. That’s why this nomination should bring torture squarely to the forefront, but also address the lasting impact of this dehumanizing system on Muslims more generally: to better understand how Islamophobia operating in one context bolsters its operation in another.

Khaled al-Sharif, who suffered abuses by the CIA, said in reference to his experience that “you realize it was a nightmare, but still you feel afraid and shaking with fear.” There are many more prisoners like al-Sharif, and Haspel’s nomination might make the reality of traumatic nightmares a reality for many more Muslims.

This is why torture must be contended with, its legacy addressed, and its advocates sanctioned. This is why the Senate report on torture must be revived with vigor. This is why Haspel’s nomination should not only be condemned; she should also face prosecution. No one should be rewarded for torture or any other crimes against humanity.

Ask a Queer Chick: How Do I Know If My Ex-Boyfriend’s Ex-Girlfriend Has Feelings for Me?

I’m so ready for it to be summer. I just got my warm-weather Alternative Lifestyle Haircut and I’m ready to cut the sleeves off my Sleater-Kinney t-shirts and drive around with the windows down, eating ice cream and listening to “Pynk.” But the sun keeps showing up and then disappearing again, like that girl who says she’s totally over her ex, but really, you have to wonder. While we wait for her to get it together, please enjoy some fresh, early-season advice!

I think I’m falling for my ex-boyfriend’s other ex-girlfriend. I’ve been with one other woman in my life and it was a great experience—we were close friends who also enjoyed being intimate with each other—but I never wanted to date her. However, now that I am close friends with my ex’s ex, I have really intense feelings of wanting to be in a real relationship with this woman. We both admitted crushes on each other and have gone on dates and kissed. I am just hesitant because I feel I am overly invested and need to slow down. I don’t want to come off as ignorant, but are there nuances in a homosexual relationship or interaction that differ from a hetero one? I think women come off as flirty with each other a lot! I am flirty with some of my best girl friends but have no intention of sleeping with them or having a partnership with them.

I’m feeling like I should just be honest with her but I also don’t want to scare her away. The other side of this is that she is also a woman and sometimes we feel more deeply and more quickly than men do… so is she feeling this way also?

I think perhaps you’re hoping that I have some kind of special Queer Crystal Ball, or a spidey sense that tells me when ladies are into each other. But I didn’t even realize Poussey was gay until the second season of Orange Is the New Black, so you are barking up the wrong bisexual. There’s no Sapphic-to-English translation on this one. You’ve been on some dates, you’ve admitted you were crushing on each other, you’ve kissed: You’re at the classic Early Stage Relationship Crossroads, trying to figure out if this will be something serious. And of course, you’re afraid to make yourself vulnerable and admit you want to take it further, because what if she doesn’t feel the same?

But none of this is materially changed by the fact that she’s the first woman you’ve ever felt this way about. It’s the same dilemma you’ve probably faced before with dudes. Your only options are to keep your mouth shut, never mention how you feel, and hope she magically intuits that you want to girlfriend her … or share your heart and risk rejection.

You’re afraid of scaring her off, but if you want a serious relationship and she doesn’t, scaring her off is actually a good thing. A casual friends-who-sometimes-smooch arrangement with someone you secretly pine for is just slow-motion emotional evisceration. You don’t want to pour your whole heart into someone who’s only giving you back scraps. I mean, right now you do, because she’s so pretty and no one else in the whole world has ever made you feel like this and you’d crawl through broken glass just to casually run into her on the way out of the local queer-owned coffee shop and bookstore. But if she’s not interested in taking things to the next emotional level, you’re better off knowing now and moving on. Otherwise you might wake up in two years realizing you’ve squandered enormous time and emotional resources hoping you could casually end up married to her by not making a big thing about it.

It is a big thing, though. You are having serious feelings about this woman; treat those feelings with the respect they deserve. Take her out on a nice date (I don’t mean “nice” as in “spend a lot of money,” but as in “think about what you know about her and plan something meaningful”) and tell her, “I’m really enjoying spending time with you and my feelings are only growing stronger. Where do you see our relationship going?” She might give you the answer you’ve been dreaming of; she might not. But you’ll never know until you ask.

I am a queer cis lady who will be marrying a hetero cis dude, and I feel very strongly about NOT simply taking my fiance’s last name. (Smash the patriarchy in little ways, right?) We would both like to share a name in order to feel like we are a cohesive new family, as well as for the sake of any hypothetical kids.  Hyphenation seems clunky, and it seems unfair to make him take my last name if I don’t want to take his, although we both like that it starts with the letter Q.

We’ve talked about taking a brand new name (Phoenix? Obama? Smith??) versus mushing our current last names together.  Do you have any brilliant suggestions?!

This question was originally sent to Jolie “Ask a Clean Person” Kerr, whose advice column was born on the Hairpin just like this one, and she forwarded it to me (with the writer’s permission) because the ‘pin lives on in the friends we made along the way. If you don’t own a copy of Jolie’s book, buy it already; it’s a wonderful accessory to all your wild fantasies about living in a house that’s actually clean.

I love this question because it highlights one of my favorite things to yell about after a couple beers, which is All Our Societal Institutions Are Tainted By The Patriarchy, Let’s Burn It All Down And Build Treehouses Instead. The whole concept of marriage as we understand it today is rooted in the idea that women are property to be transferred from one man to another! It’s an ongoing challenge to maintain an egalitarian relationship in a world strewn with the remnants of oppressive structures (and also quite a few very intact, still cheerfully operating oppressive structures).

So I very much approve of and am excited about your desire to build your family on a foundation untouched by archaic gender roles, but unfortunately I’m not sure there’s a perfect way to do that while still, like, existing in the world. There are drawbacks to every alternative—losing the symbolic history associated with your given family name vs. the knowledge that that name was handed down through generations of adherence to patriarchal definitions of family, et cetera. I am a big fan of a shared hyphenated last name, but I do understand that that’s easier to rock when you came into the marriage with shorter names like “Miller” and “King.” The longer the component names are, the longer, and more potentially unwieldy, the final product. I also love long names, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

I want to first suggest that you spend a few more minutes with the idea of your dude taking your last name. You both like it, it’s more compact than hyphenating, and it’s the most overtly patriarchy-smashing option (people will get SO UNCOMFORTABLE and you can just stare at them and blandly say “Why does this bother you?”). Yes, to some extent this counts as asking him to do something you don’t want to do, but your stated reason for not wanting to take his name—it’s a holdover from a time when marriage was how you bought a woman from her father—doesn’t really apply to the reverse scenario. If he doesn’t like that idea, that’s valid, but from your letter it sounds like you’ve dismissed this possibility without discussing it, and I think you should discuss it!

Otherwise, I think the best thing to do is kick around some of your favorite options for a totally new shared name or a mashup of your two given names. Sit with them for a day or two each; try introducing yourself in a few different ways and see which one feels the most like “ooh, that’s who I want to be.” And remember that once you pick one, it will very quickly become your name—even if you feel torn between several options right now, after the decision is made you’re unlikely to have regrets. (My partner and I waffled for months between King-Miller and Miller-King. Now Miller-King sounds unutterably weird to me.) Your new name will become part of who you both are, and a symbol of the life you’re building together. That matters much more than the specific collection of phonemes you choose.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, and I hope both your new name and your wedding bring you lasting joy!

Got questions about queer identities, relationships, sex, etiquette, or which season of Buffy has held up the best? Send them to [email protected]! Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

A Recent Court Decision Will Help Ensure Women Are Actually Making as Much as Men

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided an important case that has far-reaching, and positive, implications for ensuring that women are paid the same as men. In Rizo v. Yovino, the Ninth Circuit ruled, for the first time, that employers may not consider previous salary history when deciding whether a gender wage disparity is permissible.

The United States has had an Equal Pay Act (EPA) for 50 years. It mandates that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. Specifically, it prohibits any sex-based wage discrimination “between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.”

The issue in this case is related to what is usually known as the gender pay gap, which typically refers to the gap between gender and racial population averages across all jobs, rather than what women earn versus men at the same workplace in the same job. For example, generally white women make roughly 80 cents for every dollar a white man earns. It’s much worse for Latina women, who earn as little as 42 cents when compared to every dollar earned by white men, and Black women, who make about 67 cents on the dollar against white men. However, the EPA deals specifically with men and women who work in the same place in roughly the same position requiring roughly the same skills. Functionally, it addresses a microcosm of the overall gender pay gap.

There are several exceptions to the EPA’s mandate of equal pay. A company can pay different wages under a seniority or merit system, a compensation scheme based on production levels, or on a differential “based on any other factor other than sex.” It’s that catchall exception that was at issue here.

In Rizo, the plaintiff, Aileen Rizo, began work as a math consultant in California at the Fresno County Office of Education in 2009. Before working there, she had worked as a math teacher in Arizona. The County’s hiring schedule set the salary of new hires based on their prior salary: It added 5 percent to the prior salary and placed the new hire on the appropriate step of the salary schedule based on that.

After talking with male colleagues that were doing the same work for the county as she was, Rizo learned that her male colleagues had been hired at higher salary steps and were therefore earning more money than she was. In a step system, if you start on a lower step, you likely will never reach your colleagues who started on higher steps, as much of your procession up the steps is tied to the passage of time. In other words, it’s tough to leapfrog steps while you remain in the same job.

Rizo sued and alleged that the disparity in pay violated both the EPA and Title VII, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex.

The County admitted that Rizo was paid less than her male counterparts but explained that it was permissible because basing a starting salary on prior salary history was a “factor other than sex” under the EPA. With that in mind, the County moved for summary judgment at the district court level, arguing that the case should be dismissed and not proceed to trial. The lower court disagreed and held that “a pay structure based exclusively on prior wages is so inherently fraught with the risk—indeed, here, the virtual certainty—that it will perpetuate a discriminatory wage disparity between men and women that it cannot stand.”

The County appealed, and initially a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit agreed with the county based on a 1982 Ninth Circuit case, Kouba v. Allstate Insurance Company. That case had previously held that prior salary was a “factor other than sex” under the EPA. However, the Ninth Circuit then agreed to hear Rizo’s case en banc, meaning all judges on the court were present, rather than a panel of three. The appellate court then overturned both the panel decision and explicitly overruled Kouba.

One of the reasons the Ninth Circuit decided to overturn the Kouba decision was because of the very nature of the Equal Pay Act. It noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had called the act “broadly remedial.” What that means is that the EPA was designed to remedy the pernicious and long-standing problem of wage discrimination against women. If there are an abundance of loopholes that allow the wage gap to remain, the purpose of the EPA is swallowed by its own exceptions.

More specifically, the Ninth Circuit found that prior salary can’t be a factor in setting an employee’s current salary because nothing about one’s prior earnings is a “legitimate measure of work experience, ability, performance, or any other job-related quality.” Worse, given that women are routinely underpaid, basing current salaries on previous salaries simply serves to continue and exacerbate the wage gap at any given job.

This decision means that women living in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington—the states that comprise the Ninth Circuit—will now no longer have their current salary based on their former salary. The Rizo decision explicitly says that consideration of prior salary is forbidden whether it is the only factor in setting a current salary or only one of many factors.

There’s a massive equal pay lawsuit currently in the mix that may be affected by this ruling. A California state court just issued an order finding that a group of female employees who have sued Google for pay discrimination may proceed with their class-action lawsuit. The women suing Google have alleged that Google pays women less than they pay men in jobs that are substantially similar. The lawsuit covers a wide variety of jobs at Google, including everything from software engineers to sales associates to preschool teachers. It alleges that Google is in violation of the California Equal Pay Act, which is substantially similar to the federal EPA.

The lawsuit raises several issues about how Google pays its employees, but the one that is relevant here is that Google currently expressly considers a new hire’s prior salary when it sets compensation. When a new employee’s prior salary is at or less than Google’s baseline compensation for that same type of job. Google pays them Google’s baseline compensation. If the prior salary is higher, Google pays above its baseline compensation. Much like the case in Fresno County, Google organizes its salary scale via steps, which means that women that start at a lower step on the scale have little to no chance to catch up, wage-wise, to men that have started at a higher step.

Since Rizo sued under the federal version of the EPA, her case was decided at the federal level. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit opinion covers the federal courts and cases that arise under federal laws. That means the Rizo decision doesn’t necessarily control what the California state courts would rule in the Google case. But given that the federal EPA and the California EPA are broadly similar, it may very well have a positive effect.

The Trump administration recently rolled back Obama-era rules that would have provided greater wage transparency by requiring companies like Google to report salary gap information. This leaves the courts as one of a dwindling number of venues where women can pursue equal wages. The EPA is toothless if the underpayment of a woman in the past leads to her underpayment upon hire at a new job. Unfortunately, at this point, it looks like that will have to be fixed federal circuit by federal circuit.

This Pro-Choice Doctor Hopes to Take the Seat Once Held by One of Congress’ Most Stringent Anti-Choice Voices

Trent Franks, before resigning in scandal, spent roughly 14 years using his seat representing Arizona’s 8th Congressional District to push extreme positions, including his hardline stance against reproductive rights.

A much different kind of lawmaker hopes to take his seat this month. Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a pro-choice doctor, says on her campaign site that she “fervently believe[s] our elected representatives should support policies reflecting clearly established women’s reproductive health rights.” Her platform charges “progressives and conservatives” should “work together” on the issue, and calls for abortion care to “stay safe, legal, and rare.”

“Of course, avoiding an unwanted pregnancy is the BEST way to reduce the number of terminations,” says Tipirneni’s website. “Data has definitively shown that abortion rates drop when there is simple access to contraception and sex-education. We should have comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education in the classroom and ensure unhindered access to effective contraception.”

Shauna Trinidad, a board chairperson with NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona, told Rewire.News that working to elect Tipirneni was “extremely important,” pointing to anti-choice legislation passed recently in Arizona as evidence of what can be done by lawmakers who oppose abortion rights.

“Reproductive rights have been chiseled away at in recent years, with the passage of various Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws and the recent signing of SB 1394 in Arizona,” she said, referring to a measure signed into law this month that will require those seeking abortions to explain why they are having one. “Electing pro-choice officials to represent us is vital as we work towards guaranteeing every person the right to make their own decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices.” Trinidad continued.

EMILY’s List, an organization that works to elect Democratic pro-choice women to office, endorsed Tipirneni in April but did not mention the candidate’s views on reproductive rights in its announcement, instead saying she would “be a strong advocate for working families” and that she would be “dedicated to expanding all Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America had stronger words in its endorsement, which came a week before the election. “After spending more than a decade as an emergency room physician, Dr. Tipirneni understands better than anyone the importance of protecting a woman’s right to essential health care and the ability to make her own medical decisions,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. 

The endorsement came with a promise from Tipereni to “fiercely protect women’s reproductive health rights.”

Tipirneni will need to win over voters in a district where the odds appear stacked against her. President Trump in 2016 carried the district by roughly 20 percentage points, according to CNN, and “Republicans hold a voter registration advantage of nearly 80,000” there. The seat is rated as “likely Republican” by Roll Call’s Inside Elections project, having only recently shifted from being “solid Republican.”

And Republicans have a candidate who, like Franks, is staunch in her opposition to reproductive rights. Former state Sen. Debbie Lesko sponsored several pieces of anti-choice legislation, including efforts to defund Planned Parenthood—a perennial goal of congressional Republicans.

Lesko has spoken out against using fetal tissue from abortions when related legislation in the state was up for a vote in 2016. “The truth is, is that no one with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s (diseases) has been cured from using aborted fetal tissue research,” she said according to the Arizona Capitol Times, though fetal tissue research has led to groundbreaking medical breakthroughs such as the polio vaccine and could lead to innovation in treating the same diseases Lekso noted.

In 2014, Lesko introduced a measure disingenuously named the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which allowed for surprise inspections of abortion clinics purportedly to keep women safe—though abortion care is safe and highly regulated.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, guaranteed health insurance coverage of contraception without a co-pay, Lesko authored legislation later signed into law to undermine the law if an employer claimed to have religious objections to workers using birth control. As the State Press reported at the time, Lesko’s measure would have permitted “employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.”

“I personally don’t have a moral objection to contraceptives, but I respect the people that do,” Lesko said at the time, according to CNN.

The position would put Lesko squarely in line with Republicans in the U.S. Congress and Trump administration officials who have waged a war against the ACA’s popular birth control benefit.

Lesko in 2011 introduced HB 2384, a law that sought to exclude organizations that “promote” or refer for abortions from being eligible for the state’s Working Poor Tax Credit Program. The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the ACLU sued the state to stop the law, and the state eventually gave up on efforts to defend it.

When speaking during a committee hearing in favor of the legislation, Lekso suggested her work to restrict abortion was her life’s purpose: “I believe God has put me here for a reason,” she said. “And I truly believe that one of the purposes that I have been put in this position is to protect the lives of innocent children.”

Lesko on her website says that she is “so proud of [her] record in the legislature that upheld the sanctity of life and protected the unborn.” It goes on to detail her belief that “life begins at conception,” language in-line with so-called personhood rhetoric, which could criminalize abortion and many forms of contraception if put into law, and a promise not to allow taxpayer funding to pay for abortions (though taxpayer funding is already blocked from doing so thanks to the Hyde Amendment).

These positions—and the involvement of high-profile pro-choice endorsements of Tiperini’s campaign—have prompted anti-choice groups like National Right to Life to jump into the race. Lesko received an endorsement from the organization on Tuesday. The group in its endorsement pointed to the Republican’s support for legislation to restrict abortion at 20 weeks. 

The Susan B. Anthony list had jumped into the race in January to back Lesko, also pointing to her stance on a 20-week ban.

The special election to replace Franks, who resigned in December after allegations of sexual misconduct, will be held April 24.

Reproductive Justice Advocate Alejandra Pablos Granted Bond

An immigration judge in a Tucson, Arizona, federal court has granted bond for immigrant rights and reproductive justice activist Alejandra Pablos.

Pablos works as the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH); is a member of We Testify, an abortion storytelling leadership program of the National Network of Abortion Funds; and works with Mijente, a social justice organizing network.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained Pablos on March 7 “in retaliation” for protesting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at a rally in Virginia earlier this year, according to advocates. As Rewire.News’ Regina Mahone reported, Pablos was placed in deportation proceedings, losing her legal permanent resident status, more than two years ago following a drug-related arrest and a Driving Under the Influence charge.

Tania Unzueta, the legal and policy director for Mijente, told Rewire.News in a phone interview that Mijente has been fundraising money for Pablos’ bond and that she will be released after her $8,000 bond is paid. The activist spent 43 days in Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center, the deadliest such facility in the country, speaking to Mijente members at least two times a week. 

“Of course this experience has been really hard on her, the way detention is hard for everyone. But she’s also a public figure and because of that, she’s had negative interactions with guards,” Unzueta said.

Pablos is one of many activists recently taken into ICE custody. In January, the co-founders of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir, were detained in the same week in what advocates say was a targeted attack that included government surveillance. Ragbir’s deportation has been stayed, while Montrevil has been deported to Haiti.

Meanwhile, Memphis-based immigration reporter Manuel Duran was arrested earlier this month with eight other people following a protest. The eight activists were released on bail while Duran was transferred to ICE custody and remains detained in Louisiana.

Unzueta said it’s important for the U.S. public to understand that ICE is President Donald Trump’s “personal police force,” meaning the federal agency’s employees follow his orders to go after as many immigrants as possible. Soon, the legal and policy director said, the Justice Department may begin targeting U.S. citizens who help undocumented communities organize.

“A majority of people don’t understand how political ICE is and how so much of this isn’t actually about laws; it’s very much about carrying out a political agenda and in the case of Trump, it’s a racist, anti-immigrant agenda,” Unzueta said.

Unzueta said that for undocumented activists, it’s difficult to know if they’re being targeted because of their work or because of their immigration status.

“It’s a situation a lot of us find ourselves in,” Unzueta said. “Right now I’m working on the case of Maru Mora-Villalpando in Washington [state] and ICE has made it very clear that they’re trying to deport her because she’s undocumented, but they found out she was undocumented because of her activism. Alejandra was in deportation proceedings under Obama and because of her criminal record, she very well could have been deported under Obama too. The fact is that she was arrested at a DHS protest in Virginia, which alerted ICE to her criminal case in Arizona. Because of that, I would say today’s decision in court is directly tied to the pressure ICE feels because of Alejandra’s organizing background.”

A number of immigrant and reproductive rights organizations have voiced their support of Pablos and demanded her release, including the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Detention Watch Network, Planned Parenthood, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which released a statement outlining how Pablos has supported “countless women to defend their rights.”

“The impact of her detention is devastating, not only for [Pablos’] own well-being,” NDWA’s political director, Jess Morales Rocketto, said in a statement. “But also for her family and community who depend on her, and the chilling effect this action will have on others exercising their right to protest.”