A Deadly Three Minutes: The Web of Police Violence That Killed Charleena Lyles

A Deadly Three Minutes: The Web of Police Violence That Killed Charleena Lyles

In the midst of a weekend of nationwide protests demanding accountability for the police shooting of Philando Castile in front of his partner and her child, two Seattle police officers responded Sunday to a call for help from Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old Black mother of four. She was reporting a burglary.

What happened next weaves together several strands of a deadly web of police violence against Black women—including police perceptions of Black mothers and Black women in mental health crisis, police responses to domestic violence, and policing of poverty.

Once the officers arrived at the apartment complex where she lived, Lyles can be heard on audio recorded by the officers’ dashboard camera. She let the officers into her apartment building and calmly and rationally answered their questions. She said that someone broke into her house while she was at the store, told the officers that she had no idea who it was, and described what was taken. The sounds of children are audible in the background.

Suddenly, the officers begin shouting, “Get back! Get back!” One officer calmly suggests using a Taser; another responds, equally calmly, that he doesn’t have one. Within seconds, a series of shots ring out.

The officers had entered the apartment at 9:37 a.m. By 9:40 a.m., they were shooting.

Although completely inaudible on the recording, the Seattle Police Department transcript of the camera footage claims that within seconds of telling officers that the intruders went through an open bag of clothes on her bed, Lyles suddenly said “get ready, motherfuckers” and was holding two knives. Given that the incident took place inside her home, where only Lyles and her children were present, away from other witnesses or cop-watching cameras, we may never know the truth of what happened in that moment.

What we do know is that the two white officers shot Lyles, who was five months pregnant, to death in front of her three children aged 11, 4, and 1, during her request for police help.

Her cousin, Wanda Cockerhern, later said, “They destroyed the four lives of her children. …. Her 11-year-old son had to walk over his mother’s dead body …. I want justice, and we want answers.”

When police violence is framed as a reproductive justice issue, the focus tends—rightfully—to be on Black mothers’ right to parent without fear that their children will be killed by police. However, equally critical to a reproductive justice analysis of policing is the reality that Black pregnant women and mothers like Lyles are also direct targets of police violence, often in front of their children.

While not always deadly, police disdain for pregnant Black women is strikingly common. At times, such violence is explicitly couched in hatred of Black motherhood. For instance, a Chicago police officer allegedly yelled, “You Black bitch, you better be glad I didn’t hit you hard enough to make you lose your fucking baby” as he punched Nicola Robinson in the belly when she was eight months pregnant in 2015. In another incident, a Chicago police officer allegedly bluntly said, “We don’t like Black pregnant women” after his partner hit one.

At other times, as in Lyles’ case, officers exhibit deliberate disregard for the health and well-being of Black mothers and their children—in this egregious instance by shooting into an apartment full of children, hitting and killing a woman who was five months pregnant. In one incident in 2012, Harvey, Illinois, officer Richard Jones allegedly told Kwamesha Sharp he didn’t care she was pregnant as he drove his knee into her belly. She later had a miscarriage and was awarded $500,000 in a settlement; the same officer was accused of raping another pregnant woman. The same year, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy offhandedly defended officers who used a stun gun on visibly pregnant Tiffany Rent in front of her two children during an interaction over an alleged parking violation, saying “Well, first of all, you can’t always tell whether somebody is pregnant.” A Baltimore officer said, “[We] hear it all the time,” after wrapping his arm around Starr Brown’s neck, slamming her face to the ground and pushing his knee in her back as she and her neighbors repeatedly told him she was pregnant in 2009; Brown was later awarded a settlement of $125,000.

Black women have more to fear than immediate physical violence from law enforcement. Lyles’ family members also noted that she was afraid that authorities intended to take away her children. Such fears are well founded–according to legal scholars and family defense practitioners, “in practice, Black children are more likely than other children to be removed when there is no imminent safety concern, and are less likely to be offered voluntary in-home services so that they can remain at home.” Police play an often invisible role in instigating and facilitating removal of Black children from Black mothers, a reality that deeply informs Black mothers’ interactions with them.

At the core of Lyles’ killing is the question of police responses to people who are or are perceived to be in mental health crisis. As many have noted, existing research indicates that a third to half of police killings involve people with disabilities. Police responses to Black women in mental health crises are driven by long-standing perceptions of Black women as, in the words of historian Sarah Haley, “monstrous,” “deranged subjects,” to be met with force and punishment rather than compassion and care. Such perceptions also proved deadly for Deborah Danner, Shereese Francis, Kayla Moore, Eleanor Bumpurs, and countless others. Before they even walked in the door, despite the fact that Lyles was described by family members as “tiny,” weighing less than 95 pounds, both officers responsible for her death had already framed her as a threat, a factor which no doubt contributed to their decision to shoot rather than making any effort to de-escalate the situation.

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has a history of police shootings and excessive force involving people who are or are perceived to be in mental health crisis. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found “a pattern or practice of using unnecessary or excessive force,” noting that the “trend is pronounced in encounters with persons with mental illnesses.” The Seattle Police Department itself estimated that 70 percent of “use of force” encounters involve people with mental illness or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The DOJ concluded that “instead of consistently attempting to de-escalate these encounters, SPD officers too often resort to force quickly and excessively when engaging with this population.” Sadly, five years after the entry of a consent decree intended to address this pattern, Lyles nevertheless fell victim to it. The DOJ also found that half of cases of excessive force involved people of color—in a city that is nearly 70 percent white.

The officers’ pre-existing perceptions of Lyles were also probably based in part in the report from a June 5 incident. Then, officers responded to a call for help, this time involving domestic violence. They claimed Lyles brandished a pair of scissors and refused to let them leave the apartment. That time, officers simply stayed at a distance, placed furniture between themselves and Lyles as she sat on the couch with her daughter, and waited for a supervisor to successfully de-escalate the situation.

Like many Black women survivors of violence, Lyles was arrested instead of receiving assistance. In her case, she was taken into custody for aggravated assault on a police officer, held in jail for ten days, and mandated to obtain mental health counseling. We can only imagine the impact that experience had on Lyles’ perception of police who responded to her call for help weeks later. But we do know that officers reading the report of that incident were prepared to treat her not as a victim, but as a suspect and a threat.

“Each time she called, it cost her something,” Cockerhern, Lyles’ cousin, said. “This time it cost her her life.”

Last but not least, Lyles lived in housing for people transitioning out of homelessness and located in the affluent, predominantly white neighborhood of North Seattle. Local organizer Senait Brown describes overwhelming police presence in the area, where there is a concentration of Black people isolated from broader Black communities. “Folks have been living in fear, of the police, of losing their housing if something goes wrong,” Brown said in a recent interview. Family members shared that Lyles too was concerned that the company that manages her apartment complex was trying to get rid of her.

Each of these factors—and all of the perceptions of Black women, people with disabilities and low-income people that contributed to Lyles’ killing— deserve the concerted attention of our movements for reproductive, racial and gender justice. Devaluation, demonization, and disregard for the health and well-being of Black mothers and their children informs violent and deadly police responses, the absence of alternatives to police responses to mental health crises and domestic violence, and the criminalization of poverty.

Hundreds joined family members for vigils outside Lyles’ home and marches in Seattle, while people took to the streets in protest in Harlem and on Chicago’s South Side. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles will host a gathering tonight in her honor. Across the country, we have expressed collective outrage over the killing of a woman described by her younger sister, Tiffany Rogers, as “a very sweet, calm person.” She added that Lyles was “full of life …. Her kids were her everything …. Anyone that came across her, she touched them in a special way.”

Family, community, and Color of Change are calling for accountability for the officers involved. Beyond immediate calls for justice for Lyles, our charge is to firmly and permanently expand our analyses of police violence and reproductive justice, along with our demands, to address the full truth of Lyles’ life and death. We must also more deeply commit to envisioning and enacting alternatives to police responses to people in mental health crisis.

Changing police policies and training are clearly not enough: On Wednesday, it was revealed that one of the officers who killed Lyles was “a certified crisis intervention specialist.” In the words of Shanelle Matthews of Black Lives Matter, “It’s time that we innovate on some 21st-century approaches to community safety and accountability.”

That’s the least we can do to to honor the memory of Charleena Lyles and prevent another Black mother’s life from being stolen.

NC Woman’s Deportation Order a ‘Symbol of Everything Wrong With the Immigration System’

Earlier this month, in front of a small congregation at Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a shy and reserved Minerva Cisneros Garcia shared her story.

This was not the first time the mother of four children had told it, and it certainly won’t be the last. There will be candlelight vigils, press conferences, and an endless stream of interviews with reporters leading up to June 28, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would like her to board a bus to Mexico, leaving behind her children and home for the past 17 years.

For nearly two decades, Garcia has lived quietly, working, taking care of her children, and doing everything possible to not draw attention to her “situation,” meaning her lack of authorization to be in the United States. Garcia is confused by the media attention—she even texted Rewire one night, asking, “Why do you want to talk to me?”—but also knows she must engage it for a chance to garner enough support to stay.

Garcia was instructed by ICE that she is no longer able to remain in the United States, after checking in with the federal immigration agency annually for the past eight years; after being told repeatedly by ICE agents that she was going to be treated “humanely,” and that she was not a priority for removal. So for weeks, she has pushed her shyness aside and put herself on display in a way that makes her visibly uncomfortable. For Garcia, it is a small price to pay in the hope that she can remain in the United States with her children.

Garcia is a mother of four. Her oldest, Eduardo, is 21 years old and blind due to complications from cancer. Her second-oldest son died of cancer in 2007, seven years after they first migrated to the United States. Her two remaining children, who are 6 and 3 years old respectively, were born in North Carolina. Winston-Salem is the only home they’ve ever known.

After her husband died in 2000, Garcia said, she migrated to the United States with her two eldest sons. When they arrived at the border from San Nicolas, a municipality in southwestern Mexico, she said she had no intention of misleading immigration officials. Garcia told Border Patrol she wanted to enter the United States to find better educational opportunities for her son Eduardo.

“They arrested us because we came here illegally, but I gave them all of my information. I never lied to them, I always told them my name, my kids’ names, who was I was going to live with, everything. They gave me an appointment and let me come into the U.S. for six months at first,” Garcia told Rewire at her small, tidy home in Winston-Salem.

But Garcia didn’t make her appointment. The attorney she had at the time instructed her not to, saying they would deport her on the spot. Bad legal advice plagues many undocumented communities, subjecting countless people to deportation orders.

“I didn’t want to get deported because I wanted my kids to have a better life, especially my oldest, who is blind. So I didn’t go back, and immediately it became a deportation order,” Garcia said.

Despite the order, nothing happened. Garcia continued to work and pay taxes using a pin number assigned to her by the government. ICE never came to her door. But in 2009, Garcia was driving in North Carolina and encountered a checkpoint. Checkpoints are seemingly innocuous to U.S. citizens, used for checking driver’s licenses or cutting down on DUI’s. For undocumented immigrants, any interaction with law enforcement can trigger deportation, especially when agencies participate in immigration enforcement programs like Secure Communities or the 287(g) program, which essentially deputizes local law enforcement to double as immigration officials.

Checkpoints continue to be an issue in the state, even in its most “liberal” and immigrant-friendly cities like Durham, which has faced criticism from advocates for the practice along with its collaboration with ICE.

The county where Garcia encountered the checkpoint participated in 287(g). She was jailed for one night and then released, she told Rewire.

“They let me go. ICE came to speak to me in the jail and said they would not deport me because they knew the situation with my son and they wanted to be humanitarian. They told me to find a lawyer to fix my situation. So I did,” Garcia said. “Since then I reported to the [ICE] office. Every time they said OK, you’re fine, you don’t get in trouble, everything is fine. But now everything is not fine.”

“It’s Not Possible for People Like Her”

Garcia’s children play in their shared bedroom as she scrolls through immigration stories on her phone. When she sat down with Rewire, Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of ICE, had recently said, “If you’re in this country illegally, and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable. You should look over your shoulder.” This conflation of immigration with criminality has been an effective line of rhetoric from the Trump administration, which has used a series of anti-immigrant executive orders to criminalize the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in the United States.

“It’s very difficult to understand. If we did something wrong or bad, I would understand. I understand we have to pay consequences in life. But I’m paying consequences as if I did a bad thing, and all I do is work and take care of my children,” Garcia said.

Garcia cites April 23 as the day that everything changed for her. She went to her regularly scheduled appointment with ICE, but unlike the previous years—when she was told she was “fine” and that as long as she continued working, paying her taxes, and “staying out of trouble,” she wouldn’t be targeted for deportation—this time ICE officials told her they were unsure of her future and they would contact her attorney.

Later that week, Garcia received a letter with another appointment date from ICE. But this letter also said she had until June 30 to leave the country.

As instructed, Garcia attended her next meeting with ICE in June and, as instructed, she brought with her the $150 bus ticket back to Mexico, proof to immigration officials that she would leave the country. The bus ticket is for June 28. When asked if she will get on that bus should her attorney be unable to get her a stay of deportation, Garcia tells Rewire she does not know and simply hopes “that day doesn’t have to come.”

Minerva and her youngest son. (Tina Vasquez/Rewire)

Whenever she leaves the house alone, Garcia’s youngest son, who is exceptionally close to her, expresses fear that someone will “steal” her. His fears are not unwarranted.

“Will [ICE] go to the bus stop to make sure I get on the bus? Will they look for me at my home? I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen to me or my kids,” Garcia said.

President Obama’s administration was responsible for more deportations than any other president’s in history, and his “felons, not families” rhetoric has been widely criticized by immigrant rights’ advocates for denying the realities of many immigrant and mixed-status families, including the fact that re-entering the country to reunite with family is considered a felony. But under Obama, there were some protections in place for people like Garcia. In 2011, the Obama administration implemented a policy change to scale back on the number of people being deported who had formed deep ties in the United States and were not considered a threat to public safety. All of this has changed under President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Reuters broke the news that the Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of undocumented immigrants who, like Garcia, had been given a reprieve from deportation under Obama. Between March 1 and May 31, Reuters reported, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases. Upon learning this, Garcia says her April letter instructing her to prepare to leave the country makes more sense.

Garcia’s attorney, Helen Parsonage, said her client is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the immigration system and that the people who will respond to her story by saying Garcia should have just come “the right way” or that she must “get in line” to become a citizen are grossly misinformed about the realities of the U.S. immigration system.

“There are no avenues for people like Minerva. It’s not possible for people like her,” Parsonage said.

As the American Immigration Council reported, the “line”—or pathway to citizenship—for the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants simply does not exist. Immigration to the United States on a temporary or permanent basis is limited to three routes: employment, family reunification, or humanitarian protection. Each of these routes is “highly regulated and subject to numerical limitations and eligibility requirements,” according to the American Immigration Council. Not only that, but most undocumented immigrants do not have necessary family or employment relationships and cannot access humanitarian protection, including refugee or asylum status.

There are other factors that prohibit undocumented immigrants from ultimately attaining citizenship, including the visa backlog. To obtain citizenship, a migrant must first obtain a green card. Depending on what type of green card the person was eligible for, they must then wait an additional three or five years before applying for citizenship. Furthermore, there is a cap in place for the number of people admitted to the United States each year on family visas, which is when a U.S. citizen sponsors a family member who is an immigrant.

This effectively has caused a first-come, first-served immigration system, and people from Mexico, like Garcia, experience some of the longest wait times for visas. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), the services-arm of the Department of Homeland Security’s federal immigration agencies, is just now processing family visa applications from Mexico that were submitted in April 1996.

There are also the costs associated with obtaining an attorney to help in the complicated process of filing all of the necessary paperwork—and the cost of naturalization itself. In 1990, the application fee for naturalization was $90. The cost is now $725, including an $85 biometric fee.

The only hope that a person like Garcia had for deportation relief was Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), an Obama-era policy that was designed to protect undocumented immigrants with children in the United States who are either permanent residents or U.S. citizens. Like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), DAPA would have provided undocumented parents with protection from deportation, work authorization, and the ability to obtain a driver’s license. Also like DACA, it was not a pathway to citizenship.

Twenty-six states sued the federal government against the policy, arguing President Obama overstepped his authority in enacting it. A federal court agreed and blocked the administration from enforcing the policy. In June 2016, a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court kept that order in place, and the program was put on hold. That was until last week, when the Trump administration rescinded the policy.

Parsonage told attendees of Garcia’s candlelight vigil last week that what this mother is “enduring” is an example of the changes the country has seen in the last five months.

“We’ve been going to the ICE office for years and everything has been fine. Nothing changed on Minerva’s end, but all of a sudden there was a change in the system and a change in ICE. All of a sudden these people who said Minerva was not a priority, who said they weren’t interested in deporting Minerva, all of a sudden have made Minerva a priority. We’re seeing this time and time again, people who’ve been here 10, 20, 30 years are all of a sudden being told they are not wanted. It’s making me sick to my heart to see this happening. Our legal system is broken and we need to put heart back into our immigration system,” the attorney said.

There is also the fact that under Trump, “61 percent of people who are issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge, which is the first document in an immigration court proceeding [to determine whether or not they’ll be granted protection from deportation] have been detained,” said Christina Fialho, co-founder and executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).

“This is compared to 21 percent under Obama. We’ve also seen that ICE has pretty much eliminated its own bond process [in immigration detention]. ICE isn’t releasing anyone on immigration bonds. It’s severely curtailed the asylum parole process. So what this means is that more people are being detained under Trump and when they are detained, less people are being released,” Fialho told Rewire.

As June 28 approaches, the date Garcia’s bus to Mexico departs, Parsonage is hoping to get her client a stay of deportation. Garcia tells Rewire she is hoping for a miracle, and does not like to think about a world in which she is forced to choose between obeying unjust immigration laws and staying in her home of 17 years with her three children.

It is her hope, she said, that America “chooses the right thing.”

“I know America. In other countries when there is a problem or something bad happens, like an earthquake, America sends help. America is humanitarian,” Garcia told Rewire. “In my situation, how they are treating me, is not how they are. It’s not who America is. I can’t understand it.”

Ten Myths About #NoJusticeNoPride

This month, the social justice group No Justice No Pride (NJNP) disrupted the Capital Pride parade in Washington, D.C. The protest attracted a lot of coverage, including some high-profile endorsements of the collaborative’s demands, which focus on ending Pride’s general complicity with corporate and state institutions that criminalize, harm, and exploit queer and trans people. Just as the D.C. group, of which I am a member, was inspired by recent actions in Phoenix and Toronto, groups across the country have picked up the NJNP baton and are now protesting at the local level.

The D.C. action has prompted some commentators to promote false claims about the history and present realities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and two-spirit (LGBTQIA2S) communities. This article corrects those myths.

MYTH #1: Pride is a celebration, not a protest. Our community has no battles left to fight.

FACT: Pride marches commemorate a rebellious insurgency against police brutality and exploitation at the hands of bar owners who colluded with the police. The 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City was led by trans women of color, and it sparked a movement. Even though “gay liberation” has evolved into “LGBTQIA2S rights” over the past 60 years, power within “our community” has been overwhelmingly consolidated in the hands of white, cisgender men.

A “community,” by definition, is only safe when all of its members are fully safe. We are not safe. We have many battles to fight, especially with #45 in the White House. People who do not recognize that fact hold a set of privileges that protect them from the daily harms faced by LGBTQIA2S and non-binary people who are also immigrant, Black, Latinx, Muslim, indigenous, disabled, low-income, and/or homeless. It’s time to get educated.

MYTH #2: Having police in the parade makes Pride safer.

FACT: The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, D.C., has a long history of violence toward the LGBTQIA2S community, in particular our Black, Native, Latinx, low-income, trans, and gender-nonconforming members. Police profiling of LGBTQIA2S people, particularly people of color, is endemic. In D.C., members of our community are routinely criminalized for “driving while Black” or “walking while trans.”

According to 2015’s National Transgender Survey, 58 percent of all trans people who had interacted with the police within the past year reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment, or assault. A staggering one in five Native transgender women reported having been “physically attacked, sexually assaulted, and/or forced to engage in sexual activity to avoid arrest by a police officer” in the past year alone. As D.C.-based poet and educator Bianca Vasquez eloquently explains: When Capital Pride invites armed, uniformed police officers to march in Pride, they force LGBTQIA2S people to walk with and publicly praise their oppressors.

As for the claim that an increased police presence at Pride promotes safety, after the Pulse massacre queer and trans people of color repeatedly explained that increased policing at Pride made them less safe, not more. Native women agreed. Black Lives Matter refused the organizational grand marshal role in San Francisco Pride in 2016 for the same reason. We cannot stop the MPD from policing Pride in the name of “public safety.” We can, and must, refuse to celebrate an institution that brutalizes our communities.

MYTH #3: Corporations have been at “the forefront” of the LGBT rights movement. They are our allies!

FACT: LGBTQIA2S people have fought for our rights, including within our places of work. Corporations are not people. Corporations joined in only when “equality” became profitable. This is not a revelation. Corporations have been remarkably honest about why they chase the “pink dollar.”

During the first AIDS crisis, for example, people created pill buyers clubs, mutual aid societies, housing organizations, and soup kitchens. People campaigned ceaselessly for justice. Corporations? They fireddemonized, and exploited us. More recently, pharmaceutical companies with “100” ratings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index have been associated with predatory trials on homeless peoplefined billions for illegally marketing drugs, and found to have unduly influenced medical research. Workplace anti-discrimination policies do not excuse such violence.

“Allies” do not support us only when it is profitable to do so, or in exchange for brand rehabilitation. Allies do not only support some of “us” while profiting from evicting, exploiting, imprisoning, deporting, or abusing others.

MYTH #4: Pride is expensive to run, and the organizers need corporate sponsorship to keep the event free.

FACT: Permits for “parades” and “block parties” are expensive. Permits for political marches and rallies (which can include sparkly pop performers) are free. MPD will turn up in either case, as established. Real “allies” would donate to Pride without demanding wall-to-wall branding. This happens elsewhere. In Reykjavik, for example, Pride bans corporate logos, “to keep the focus on the cause.” Vienna Pride caters to over 100,000 people, with no registration or entry fees, and featuring a tiny number of vetted commercial floats.

Many Capital Pride fringe events charge entry and participation fees, despite sponsorship. Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos claims that funds raised by Capital Pride are “earmarked for the community.” Yet even small, local, nonprofits must pay $725 to join the parade and festival, and local reporters have inquired about how much money raised by Capital Pride actually reaches the community.

Ultimately, budgeting choices reflect priorities: Right now, we’re selling out our community for Miley Cyrus and a pool party. Claiming this is the only way displays a sore lack of imagination, and a complete disregard for LGBTQIA2S people’s concerns.

MYTH #5: But mass incarceration, immigration detention, militarism, police brutality, indigenous rights, redlining… these are not LGBT issues!

FACT: LGBTQIA2S people face extreme, institutionalized discriminationprejudiceviolence, and wildly disproportionate incarceration rates throughout the criminal justice system and at the hands of immigration “enforcement” agencies. The result? One in five young people in juvenile detention are LGBT or non-binary people of color. Transgender adults are eight times more likely than the general population to be jailed. LGBTQIA2S people are also far, far more likely to be forced into povertyhomelessness, and low-wage labor, and to face workplace harassment.

Capital Pride celebrates corporations that invest in, lobby for (sometimes illegally), and profit from: mass incarceration and immigration detentionredlining and predatory mortgage lendingenvironmental degradationNative genocideborder walls and “securitization” policies; drone strikeswar; arms sales to violently homophobic governments; and reductions in minimum wage and labor protection laws.

During the NJNP protests, some angry parade-goers screamed “We don’t care!” at an indigenous-led blockade of the Wells Fargo float. That may be true. Claiming that the harms caused by Wells Fargo (HRC Equality Index Score: 100; Ethical Score: 0) are not LGBTQIA2S issues? Entirely false.

MYTH #6: Barring corporations and violent state institutions from Pride discriminates against their LGBT employees, who have a right to march. Participation criteria is a slippery slope toward unfair exclusion.

FACT: NJNP believes that people should be able to march regardless of their employer, not because of it. Capital Pride currently discriminates against all LGBTQIA2S people whose employers are unwilling or unable to pay extortionate participation fees. Pride sponsorship deals increasingly include “exclusivity agreements,” which in some cases have outright banned competitors’ employees from parades. Capital Pride has offered exclusivity agreements. Pretty ironic.

Organizations should not be able to buy our implicit endorsement and pinkwash their harmful practices. Most folks agree that some organizations have no place in Pride. Opinion just differs over which, and why: Gays Against Guns members cannot condone small arms manufacturers, but are okay with bomb-makers marching in Pride. Charlotte Pride banned Gays for Trump, and few are complaining. (Meanwhile, Trump’s “key ally” is a high-tier sponsor of Capital Pride.) Is Milo Yiannopoulos welcome at Pride, if he pays the fee? Or Turing Pharmaceuticals, which hiked HIV drug prices by 5,556 percent?

Pride must have principles, otherwise it is meaningless. The most privileged among us do not get to define them, because they clearly do not recognize who, and what, harms our community.

MYTH #7: No Justice No Pride is creating divisions within our community.

FACT: NJNP has revealed deep-seated and longstanding divisions within LGBTQIA2S communities; it has not created them. “Unity” is illusionary. Large NGOs poured resources into marriage equality, promising: “We’ll get to trans issues later!” After the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, wealthy donors walked away from the fight, seeing their battle as won. Racism and transmisogyny is rife on dating apps. A high-ranking Capital Pride volunteer published transphobic and dog-whistle anti-Muslim tirades without sanction. While Pulse is whitewashed into “an attack on all of us,” LGBTQIA2S Latinx are told to be quiet when speaking out on injustice.

From Sylvia Rivera in 1973, marginalized LGBTQIA2S people have a long history of “interrupting” Pride, of challenging exclusionary practices, and of engaging in debatesRespectability politics has generally won out, with the notable exception of ACT UP (now hailed as heroes). The “community” has largely looked away from urgent issues—bathroom billsmurders of trans women of color, police brutality, harassment of immigrantshomelessness, access to health care—because they disproportionately affect low-income, non-citizen people of color. Far from creating divisions, NJNP is inviting the community to turn back, and to pursue solidarity and justice over individual reward.

Trans and queer rights icon Sylvia Rivera addresses the St Christopher St Day Rally crowd in 1973. Her call to action to defend and support incarcerated community members was met with jeers.

MYTH #8: NJNP demands are unreasonable. They didn’t give Capital Pride any time to respond to their concerns. They should try to change the organization from within.

FACT: “No Justice No Pride” is only the latest group to raise concerns with Capital Pride. People have been making the same points for years, in private conversations and emails to board members and articles in the local press (in 2015 and 2016). They have issued petitions and even interrupted the Wells Fargo float in 2013. This year, we raised concerns as an unified force, at board meetings in April and May. New York and Los Angeles Pride organizers responded to similar calls, on a similar timeline. Capital Pride Board Members dismissed, patronized, and silenced those who reached out.

The board works largely behind closed doors. It is appointed internally, with zero community consultation. It is 72 percent cis male, 78 percent white, and 94 percent cisgender. Only folks who are not discouraged by Old Boys Club demographics find members approachable. It took us repeated, polite requests just to get information about supposedly “open” meetings. At the last-minute “Community Dialogue” in May, the board ignored trans women of color, and sat silently as “supporters” hurled racist epithets across the room.

NJNP’s “Transformative Vision of Pride” is highly achievable. Acknowledge our presence on Piscataway land. Establish a democratically elected board, representative of our community. Center trans women of color. Put community well-being before corporate cash. Follow the lead of major organizations, like the National LGBTQ Task Force, and divest from Wells Fargo. Capital Pride already knows how easy it is to move bank. It did it in 2013, supposedly because “[Capital Pride] supports businesses who support our community.” It’s time to finally make good on that promise.

MYTH #9: “No Justice No Pride” is a small fringe group, not a grassroots effort. It is funded by [insert large national organization] to fracture our community.

FACT: We’re a group of individuals compelled to this voluntary action because of our backgrounds, experiences, and political beliefs. We’re LGBTQIA2S. We’re citizens and non-citizens; folks born and raised in D.C., and people who have made the District our home. We’re Asian, Black, Brown, indigenous, Latinx, and white. A handful of us work for national governmental organizations, or social justice groups, though most are deeply connected to local community projects. We wish we were better funded, but we’re just supported by donations. Around 60 of us participated in blockades. Hundreds more attended solidarity marches on June 9 and June 10.

Local groups supporting NJNP include: MijenteBlack Lives Matter DCBYP 100GetEQUALTrans Women of Color CollectiveResist ThisRestaurant Opportunities Center of Washington, D.C. (ROC-DC)Indigenous Resistance: Crushing Colonialism, and The Future is Feminist, among others. We’re not fringe, and we’re not going away.

MYTH #10: NJNP ruined Pride for everyone!

FACT: NJNP slightly inconvenienced some parade-goers. Temporary disappointment does not compare to the oppressive, often fatal, realities members of our LGBTQIA2S community face every single day at the hands of Capital Pride sponsors and invited participants. NJNP has elevated an urgent, national conversation. And we’re not sorry.

Study: Anti-Abortion State Laws Deny Science

A recently released Guttmacher Institute report finds that at least ten common categories of state laws and policies restricting abortion run contrary to science.

These anti-evidence laws are prevalent across the country, leaving almost a third of all U.S. women of reproductive age (ages 15-44) living in a state with at least five such restrictions.

This conclusion may sound obvious to those familiar with the hostile legislative landscape regarding reproductive rights and health. But “Flouting the Facts: State Abortion Restrictions Flying in the Face of Science” systematically documents the sheer scope of policies that ignore public health and social science research about the safety of abortion, among other issues. In this political environment—where anti-science attitudes at the state level are increasingly echoed by the Trump administration—researchers must keep reiterating there are such things as evidence and actual facts.

Rachel Benson Gold, Guttmacher vice president for public policy, and Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager, co-wrote the report, which was released in May. They note that “much of the anti-abortion universe has long been an evidence-free zone.”

This analysis comes just a year after the U.S. Supreme Court used research to declare some Texas abortion restrictions unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In its 5-3 decision, the Court clearly was convinced that there were no public health reasons undergirding Texas’ admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center provisions, which required abortion providers to obtain rights to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of their practice and forced clinics to have hospital-like facilities. The Court decided that the provisions did not improve women’s health, but actually worked to impede access to abortion.

The data-driven decision apparently didn’t sway many state legislators. According to Guttmacher data released in June, 1,257 reproductive health-related provisions were introduced in statehouses across the country in 2017; more than 40 that restrict abortion were enacted.

Those provisions join a deluge of pre-existing anti-choice legislation, which the May report categorized into three broad areas: those that target abortion providers, require various types of counseling or waiting periods, or use fetal pain as a pretext for restricting abortion access.

For each policy identified, scientific evidence or consensus contradicts the legislation’s claims or purpose:

  • Ambulatory surgical center and hospital admitting privileges requirements: These two restrictions at the center of the Whole Women’s Health case have been shown to restrict care without improving safety. While some states have blocked these restrictions by court order, some before and others after the Whole Woman’s Health decision, 18 states still have ambulatory surgical center requirements in place, and three still have admitting privileges laws. Both provisions place onerous facility requirements on providers and contributed to the closing of 16 of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics.
  • Telemedicine bans for abortion: Despite a 2014 joint American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Society of Family Planning practice bulletin and recent studies asserting the safety and effectiveness of using telemedicine in abortion provision, 18 states still ban the use of telemedicine for abortion care.
  • Restrictions on medical staff who can perform abortions: In 38 states, equipped health-care providers—such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives—are prohibited from performing abortions in the absence of a doctor. The World Health Organization’s 2012 guidelines disagree with such restrictions, and studies in various states have concluded that these health-care professionals can equally and safely provide abortion care.
  • “20-week bans” and fetal pain bills: The two most common pieces of legislation built on the fetal pain pretext are “20-week bans,” which exist in 17 states, and policies that require a woman to be informed that a fetus can feel pain, which are on the books in 13 states. Bans at 20 weeks are unconstitutional, arbitrary, and counter to statements and recommendations published by leading U.S. and international OB-GYN groups.
  • Mandatory waiting periods: These laws exist in 27 states and require people to wait between 18 and 72 hours after receiving counseling to have an abortion. Framed as a way to provide possible patients with time to consider whether they want to have an abortion, research has disproven this narrative. A 2008 survey found that 92 percent of women were confident about their choice to have an abortion when they made the initial appointment. A subsequent 2017 study found the majority of patients’ decisions to be unaffected by waiting period laws, and in some cases the laws only increased rates of confidence in decisions to have an abortion.
  • Mandatory counseling: Three of the remaining policies require a doctor to counsel their patients about the effects that abortion can have on their mental health, breast cancer risk, or future fertility—all claims that have been roundly contradicted by research. A 2015 statement of facts from ACOG affirmed there is no link between abortion and breast cancer or future fertility; nor is there an increased risk of mental health conditions. The National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and other medical organizations have all come to the same conclusions about the connection between having an abortion and one’s increased risk of breast cancer: There isn’t one.

Overall, 28 states have at least two of these restrictions in place. These restrictions are harmful: intervening in the patient-provider relationship, greatly limiting access to abortion care, or spreading misinformation. Individually or en masse, such restrictions amount to an unnecessary mountain of barriers for people seeking abortion care.

Nikki Madsen, executive director of Abortion Care Network, said in a press release:

Since 2010, state lawmakers have been engaged in a relentless crusade to push abortion out of reach: They’ve quietly passed more than 334 new restrictions on abortion. It doesn’t come as a surprise to abortion care providers or the women who seek their services that these laws aren’t based on science—but it should be a shocking wake-up call to lawmakers. We see what you’re doing, and it has nothing to do with women’s health and safety. This study shows that there’s no claim too specious for an anti-abortion lawmaker to use to justify taking away a woman’s health care.

While the Guttmacher report focuses on state level restrictions, it acknowledges that changes at the federal level are also of concern—and essentially create a compounding anti-abortion effect.

Various administration appointments and federal policy efforts are promoting anti-science rhetoric and action. In particular, the Trump administration has appointed individuals who subscribe to anti-choice, anti-science beliefs and whose track records show a commitment to restricting abortion access. President Donald Trump is packing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a science-denying cast; HHS Secretary Tom Price has previously that stated “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control, and Charmaine Yoest was appointed as HHS assistant secretary for public affairs. Yoest previously worked as president and CEO for Americans United for Life, a prominent anti-choice organization that, as Rewire’s Ally Boguhn detailed last month, has been the architect of some of the legislation outlined in the Guttmacher report.

Combined with these federal appointments, the state-level policies outlined by Guttmacher paint a clear picture of an ever-present and overarching anti-choice agenda. Guttmacher’s sobering report illustrates that each law, policy, or court case is not an isolated example of “alternative facts.”

Maine Republicans Are Again Trying to Make a Fetus a Person

People could sue over the death of a fetus under a bill that cleared Maine’s Republican-led state senate Tuesday by a one-vote margin.

The legislation allows a person to file a wrongful death suit for actions leading to the death of an “unborn viable fetus,” which is defined as at least 24 weeks’ gestation. The pregnant person or health-care provider cannot be sued.

The bill is expected to be heard Wednesday in the house, where Democrats hold a slight majority.

LD 327 is a form of “personhood” legislation that has been rejected in ballot measures many times. Such bills chip away at abortion access and undermine reproductive autonomy, while granting the state the power to investigate, and potentially prosecute, cases of fetal death. In Alabama, the state Supreme Court recently permitted a woman to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against her doctor on behalf of her six-week-old embryo, as Rewire reported.

“This bill is another attempt to establish fetal personhood and will harm pregnant people more than it will protect any developing pregnancies,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of law and the courts. “The law tries to establish fetal viability as a fixed moment in time, despite the fact that both the medical community and the courts have said time and time again that viability is unique to each pregnancy.”

Mason Pieklo suggested prosecutors might extend the reach of Maine’s “personhood” legislation, if enacted, to cases of self-induced abortion.

“Despite the fact it purports to exclude abortion, as the Purvi Patel case in Indiana illustrates, that won’t necessarily stop law enforcement from trying to prosecute women who end their own pregnancies,” Mason Pieklo said.

Legislators in six states have enacted a form of so-called personhood legislation by writing into state law that life begins at conception, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These laws require a pregnant person to be told their fetus is a person as part of a state-mandated consent process.

The Maine GOP legislation is a reboot of a similar measure that failed in 2013, and has several of the same backers. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Eleanor Espling (R-New Gloucester) has sponsored or co-sponsored five other anti-choice bills, according to Rewire’s legislative tracker.

Espling contends the bill isn’t about legal personhood.

“This is asking for a woman, a family, who has had something taken from them to collect damages,” she told Maine Public Radio.

The Maine house narrowly rejected the legislation in a vote this month, as the Associated Press reported.

Georgia Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Challenging 20-Week Abortion Ban—But Don’t Lose Hope Yet

On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit challenging the state’s 20-week abortion ban for procedural reasons. That means the current lawsuit is dead—but the court left the door open for it to be refiled.

In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of Eva Lathrop, an abortion provider in Georgia challenging the ban. She sought a preliminary injunction that would block enforcement of the law.

Lathrop named Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R), along with a handful of state actors—the head of the department of public health, the attorney general, the Fulton County district attorney, among others—in their official capacity as lawmakers and alleged that the 20-week abortion ban was a violation of the rights to equal protection, due process, and privacy in the Georgia Constitution.

The defendants moved to dismiss the case on the grounds of sovereign immunity, a judicial doctrine that bars people from suing a state or its political subdivisions, agencies, and departments without the state’s consent. While the rules of sovereign immunity vary from state to state—with some waiving sovereign immunity entirely—Georgia’s rule is rather strict. It bars lawsuits against the state and lawsuits against state actors acting on its behalf in their official capacity. But Georgia does permit lawsuits against those very same state actors in their individual capacity. These lawsuits include those for injunctive relief—which is what Lathrop was seeking when she asked the court to block the 20-week ban.

So why did Lathrop file her lawsuit against state officials in their official capacity if Georgia law bars such suits?

Because Georgia law didn’t bar Lathrop’s suit when she filed it.

In 1995, in a case called IBM Corp. v. Evans, the Georgia Supreme Court abandoned the rule that sovereign immunity bars lawsuits against the state and its officials for injunctive relief. After acknowledging that earlier cases had routinely distinguished between suits against state actors in their official capacities (which were barred by sovereign immunity) and suits against state actors in their individual capacities (which often were not), the Georgia Supreme Court abandoned this distinction and held that a suit for injunctive relief to restrain an illegal act was exempt from Georgia’s sovereign immunity rules.

In other words, if a plaintiff was seeking an injunction to stop the state from committing an illegal act—like restricting abortion after 20 weeks—the plaintiff could pursue litigation against the state and state actors in their official capacity.

But then in 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed course in Georgia Department of Natural Resources v. Center for a Sustainable Coast. In that case, the Georgia high court overruled Evans and “reaffirmed that the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars suits against the State, its departments and agencies, and its officers in their official capacities for injunctive relief.”

So in 2012, when the ACLU filed this lawsuit, Georgia’s sovereign immunity rules weren’t quite as strict as they are now thanks to the court’s 2014 decision in Sustainable Coast. 

But all hope is not lost: Lathrop can proceed with her suit if she files it against the state actors in their individual capacities. The outcome for her, in this case, would be the same.

“While we disagree with today’s ruling that sovereign immunity bars suits against state officials in their official capacities, we appreciate that the court’s decision keeps the courthouse doors open for these very important cases, including our challenge to Georgia’s unconstitutional abortion ban,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, in a statement.

“By providing a path for Georgians to hold their legislature accountable for unconstitutional laws, this ruling means we can now continue the legal fight against Georgia’s unconstitutional abortion ban. While the abortion ban has been in place, women in Georgia have been unable to get the health care they need. That’s why we challenged the law in the first place and why it is so important to get this case back on track quickly,” Young continued.

It is unclear what Lathrop’s next steps will be. Perhaps her lawyers will refile the case in state court against the same officials, but in their individual capacity instead of their official capacity. That would solve their sovereign immunity problem, according to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Or, her lawyers could choose to file the lawsuit in federal court, which is what plaintiffs in the other lawsuits challenging 20-week abortion bans did, with great success. In Arizona (Isaacson v. Horne) and Idaho (McCormack v. Hiedeman), plaintiffs successfully challenged the 20-week abortion bans. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (where Arizona and Idaho sit) ruled that U.S. Supreme Court precedent permits a woman to terminate a pregnancy at any point before viability, not just before 20 weeks’ gestational age.

The question becomes, then: Why didn’t Lathrop file her lawsuit in federal court in Georgia in the first place? She would have had no sovereign immunity problem, since in 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Ex Parte Young said that the 11th Amendment permits lawsuits seeking prospective injunctive relief against state actors in federal court despite the state’s sovereign immunity. If Lathrop had alleged a violation of the U.S. Constitution in addition to the Georgia Constitution—which she didn’t—she could have sued state officials in federal court in their official capacity. A federal court would have had jurisdiction over both her state and federal claims, because of a civil procedure quirk that allows federal courts to have jurisdiction over state claims if they are substantially related to the federal claims. 

I can only speculate, but Lathrop’s attorneys at the ACLU may have been hesitant to file in federal court out of fear of what the conservative 11th Circuit might do if the case made it to their doorstep.

The Ninth Circuit has already ruled that 20-week bans are unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit is a reliably liberal court. The Fourth Circuit, which has also been reliably liberal—having handed down decisions like that in Gavin Grimm’s case against Gloucester County School Board, where the Court said the school board couldn’t ban Grimm from using the bathroom that aligned with his gender identity—is poised to decide whether or not North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional. Presumably, lawyers for the plaintiffs challenging North Carolina’s ban thought they had a good chance of success there. And since the ACLU is representing plaintiffs in both the North Carolina and Georgia cases, it stands to reason that they didn’t feel they’d have much luck in the more conservative 11th Circuit.

This is all speculation, of course, but considering that the law regarding sovereign immunity changed drastically between 2012, when the case was filed, and 2017, when the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed the case, I’d say it’s speculation grounded in fact.

Lathrop would not have had had any sovereign immunity problems if not for Sustainable Coast, a 2014 case that bars suit exactly like hers. So when deciding whether to file in federal court in Georgia, or in state court, Lathrop’s lawyers likely never expected the case to get dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds.

Whatever Lathrop’s attorneys choose to do now, know this: 20-week abortion bans are unconstitutional. So Lathrop should win based on current law—but, given the anti-choice push currently happening in state and federal courts around the country, it’s all up in the air.

Republican Karen Handel Wins Georgia Special Election

Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s special election for the open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The race—which has garnered national attention and record breaking fundraising—closed out Tuesday night with Handel receiving more than 51 percent of the vote to Ossoff’s 48 percent, according to unofficial results posted Wednesday morning.

“This is not the outcome any of us were hoping for, but this is the beginning of something much bigger than us. So thank you, thank you for the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had the honor of being a part of,” Ossoff said during his Tuesday night concession speech to a crowd of hundreds of supporters that gathered at a hotel in the southern portion of the district. The crowd responded with chants of “2018,” seemingly encouraging the Democrat to run again in the upcoming midterm elections.

“At a time when politics has been dominated by fear and hatred and scapegoating and division, this community stood up, women in this community stood up,” Ossoff said to cheers. “And we showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight.”

Emotions ran high among the crowd after Ossoff’s speech, as supporters expressed both disappointment and optimism.

“I am disappointed in my neighbors, in my people. They didn’t stand on the right side of history,” Congressional District 6 resident Byanti Joseph told Rewire after Ossoff’s concession speech. “They don’t stand for the same values that we stand for, and that’s disappointing,” she added, vowing, “This is not the end. This is only the beginning.”

The special election runoff had a 58 percent voter turnout, with just under 260,000 of the district’s nearly 448,000 registered voters casting ballots. None of the special elections in Georgia last year had more than a 15 percent voter turnout rate. More voters cast ballots in the Sixth District in this race than in the 2014 midterm elections, though that race featured governor, lieutenant governor, and U.S. senator races at the top of the ticket.

Handel’s 51 to 48 win, about a four percentage point gap, represented 9,702 more votes for her than for Ossoff according to the unofficial results. During the 2014 midterm election, Tom Price, who is now the secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, carried the district with 66 percent to his opponent’s 34 percent of the vote, a difference of about 68,000 votes. He was running for re-election against a relatively unknown opponent with a fairly inactive campaign.

When asked about working with Handel, district resident Aasees Kaur said, “Ultimately it’s on her if she chooses to listen and advocate for every person in this district and not just the majority. But we have to try and we have to do our part to build those relationships with her office.” Kaur volunteered as a precinct captain for Ossoff during both the April 18 special election and the June 20 runoff.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, which spent significant sums in the district to oppose Handel, framed the loss as a “narrow” one demonstrating a shift away from anti-choice politics.

“The fact that this race was close at all shows that voters are sick and tired of candidates who obsess over restricting access to abortion instead of focusing on the priorities of hardworking families,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “In a district that elected a Republican by 23 points just seven months ago, this narrow election result proves that momentum is shifting away from the Republican Party and their anti-choice agenda.”

Handel will now represent her district in the House, where she will be able to add her voice to the chorus of Republicans seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s signature health-care reform law, and roll back access to reproductive health care.

Handel told a crowd gathered at her election night party Tuesday night that “We need to finish the drill on health care,” seemingly referencing congressional Republicans’ unpopular attempts to repeal the ACA and replace it with a policy that would leave millions without access to health insurance.

GOP Quarreling Could Doom Sweeping Anti-Choice Bills in Missouri

Lawmakers in a state that has some of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws are poised to pass legislation that would go even further in eliminating access to abortion care. However, a clash between a politically ambitious governor and frustrated state lawmakers could create political gridlock that may sink the legislation.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) this month announced that for the second time he would call lawmakers back to Jefferson City, Missouri’s capital, and requested legislation be sent to his desk that targets so-called “abortion sanctuary cities” and increases medically unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics.

State Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) told Rewire there is bipartisan agreement that Greitens has called lawmakers back to the capitol for political reasons. “I don’t believe for a moment that this is about the policy that we’re putting into place in the state of Missouri,” Schupp said. “I think that the special sessions are based on politics.”

Schupp was not convinced that Greitens’ justification meets the “constitutional intent” for calling a special session. The state’s constitution gives the governor the power to call a special session in “extraordinary occasions.”

State Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) told the Associated Press that Greitens’ rhetoric had “poisoned the well.” Dixon is among a growing number of Republican lawmakers who have grown frustrated with the governor’s tactics. “It really has been a consistent poisoning from really throughout the campaign and it did not change when he came to the building,” Dixon said.

Lawmakers opened the special session last week in the state senate, as the seniors, families, and children committee held an hours-long hearing on a trio of anti-choice bills, and voted to advance each bill with a party-line 4-2 vote.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an obstetrician and gynecologist from St. Louis, testified against the bills during the senate committee hearing, and dismissed the special session as a political stunt, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“There are some real ways that the legislature could promote health and even reduce the need for abortion, but it would require women’s health to be viewed as something other than a political football,” McNicholas said.

After reportedly 14 hours of closed-door negotiations, the state senate Thursday morning passed a compromise version of the bill that did not include some of the abortion restrictions requested by the governor

SB 5, sponsored by state Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester), combined elements of the two other bills passed by the committee: SB 6, sponsored by Dixon, and SB 1, sponsored state Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis).

The senate approved SB 5 with a 20-8 vote.

The bill approved by the state senate included language intended to nullify an ordinance passed in St. Louis that bans landlords and employers from discriminating against people based on their reproductive health choices. The GOP bill would prohibit cities and municipalities from passing ordinances that require people or organizations to “participate in abortion,” and included protections for “alternatives to abortion agencies,” also known as anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers, or fake clinics.

The bill would increase the state attorney general’s jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the state’s abortion laws; create additional reporting requirements concerning fetal tissue reports; create whistle blower protections for people involved in performing abortions; change the license requirements of abortion facilities; and increase inspections of facilities that provide abortion care.

Koenig conceded that there were “concessions” made during negotiations, and lawmakers on both sides characterized the bill as a “watered-down” version of what Greitens had requested. “There are certainly some things in here that definitely got watered down,” Koenig said, reported the Columbia Missourian.

Schupp was a key figure in the negotiations, and told Rewire that she worked with her Republican colleagues to prevent more severe restrictions from being included in the bill, which included provisions from the two other bills considered by the senate committee. Schupp warned that “unless the house passed the bill exactly as it is, with every comma intact,” it could unravel the results of the tenuous negotiations by the senate.

Immediately after the passage of the senate bill, the governor’s top policy adviser and anti-choice activists called on lawmakers in the house to amend the bill.

The house children and families committee on Monday held a hearing on SB 5, and attached several controversial amendments to the bill. Committee Chairwoman Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) said the bill passed by the senate “did not meet the muster that we felt like was important to go forward for the state,” reported the AP.

Among the amendments approved by the committee was a provision to prohibit staff members of abortion clinics from requesting that ambulances responding to medical emergencies at clinic not use sirens or flashing lights.  Another amendment approved by the committee would allow the Attorney General to prosecute violations of the state’s abortion laws without first notifying local prosecutors.

The committee approved the amended bill with 7-3 vote along party lines.

McNicholas, who also testified during the senate committee hearing, said that any legislation that further restricts abortion access will have negative impact, reported St. Louis Public Radio. “Every version of this bill is bad for Missouri,” she said. “What we saw today was the unfortunate reality of how health care policy in Missouri is being created.”

Samuel Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, told the Associated Press that the legislature is on the cusp of approving major changes to the state’s laws. “If this passes, it would be the biggest change in Missouri’s abortion laws in at least ten years and possibly since 1986,” Lee said. 

The house on Tuesday considered more than a dozen amendments to SB 5, and approved an amendment to create additional inspection requirements of abortion clinics and another amendment to created additional forced counseling requirements. After several hours of debate approved the amendment version of the bill by a 110-38 vote

M’Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, said in a statement that SB 5 “imposes additional, medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers,” and falls outside of the bounds of the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

“Missourians are tired of politicians ignoring the Constitution and denying access to health care in order to climb a political ladder,” Mead said. “Lawmakers need to stop interfering with Missourians’ personal, private medical decisions and go back to work creating policies that promote citizens’ health and well-being.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) told the Kansas City Star that he hopes the state senate accepts the house amendments and sends the bill to the governor. “My hope is that the Senate will approve our changes and send this important pro-life piece of legislation to the governor’s desk to be signed into law,” Richardson said.

The changes made to SB 5 by the house may result in a political stalemate.

Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) told Rewire that if SB 5 was amended by the house, it could create a “stand off” between the house and senate leadership. “If the governor puts enough pressure on house leadership to change the bill and make it better, but the senate won’t come to conference, then the bill will actually die,” McCreery said.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) told the Post-Dispatch that the senate bill was the product of negotiations that avoided the use of parliamentary tactics to overcome Democratic opposition. “You can only do what you can do,” Richard said. “We did the best we could do with what we had.”

Typically when the house and state senate pass different versions of the same bill, the bill is then referred to a conference committee. Five members from each chamber then negotiate a final version of the bill, which is sent to each chamber for final approval. 

If no agreement between the house and state senate can be reached, lawmakers could make a motion to adjourn and end the special session.

McCreery said if the chambers adjourn it would amount to a “huge defeat” for a governor who she said has been “disrespectful” of the legislative process. “This shows that running as a political outsider is fine and dandy,” McCreery said. “Now this is what happens when someone doesn’t understand the process, and they don’t understand the different branches of government, and they don’t understand teamwork.”

The state senate will reportedly be in session on Thursday, but lawmakers are not expected to take up SB 5 until next week.

Reproductive rights advocates have promised to challenge the law in court if lawmakers manage to send a bill to the governor’s desk. Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said that “if the Missouri legislature passes once again clearly unconstitutional regulations,” Planned Parenthood will pursue all legal avenues, reported the Missourian.

New Lawsuit Takes on Four Anti-Choice Arkansas Laws

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of an Arkansas abortion provider challenging restrictions that impose severe burdens on a pregnant person’s constitutional right to abortion care.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Arkansas, challenges four abortion restrictions passed by the state’s GOP-held legislature, according to the complaint.

HB 1032 bans the dilation and evacuation procedure, a commonly used method for second-trimester abortions, thus making abortion care unavailable for some patients as a pregnancy progresses.

HB 1566 imposes fetal tissue disposal requirements and, according to attorneys for the plaintiff, can be interpreted to bar medication abortion and miscarriage care using medical abortion methods.

HB 2024 makes abortion care for patients between the ages of 14 and 16 conditional on the disclosure of private medical information to local police and preservation of fetal tissue as “evidence”—even though, according to the complaint, the sexual conduct of the vast majority of patients don’t suggest abuse or other criminal conduct.

These three provisions are slated to go into effect July 30.

The fourth law, HB 1434 requires doctors to spend unnecessary time trying to obtain medical records of the pregnant patient’s “entire pregnancy history,” potentially resulting in delays that would deny that patient abortion care. That law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2018.

The lawsuit names as defendants Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Pulaski County, Arkansas, along with state officials from the Arkansas State Medical Board. The suit seeks injunctive relief blocking enforcement of the four laws.

“Arkansas politicians have devised new and cruel ways to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion this year—and we’re fighting back. From essentially banning abortion in the second trimester to violating women’s privacy, these measures represent a new low,” Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of Center for Reproductive rights said in an emailed statement.

“The Supreme Court made clear one year ago in Whole Woman’s Health that politicians can’t stand between women and their constitutional rights,” Northrup continued. “The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to use the full force of the law to ensure these rights are protected and respected for all women.”

California Workers May Soon Take Family Leave Without Losing Their Jobs

When Alfonso Garcia’s daughter was born, his employer, a small San Jose, California, area tow truck company, turned down his request for two weeks off, even though Garcia qualified for paid parental leave.

Garcia worked for a small company, one with fewer than 50 employees. If Garcia took time off, there was no guarantee under existing law he’d have a job when he returned.

“I felt stressed out,” Garcia, 27, told Rewire. “I was worried I’d lose my job, and then I wouldn’t be able to care for my family,” said Garcia, the breadwinner for his wife and newborn daughter.

Although the the state’s family leave program provides up to six weeks of paid time off to care for a new child, polling suggests nearly two in five employees don’t use it for fear of losing their jobs.

A new bill in the state’s Democratic-held legislature would change that, guaranteeing roughly 2.7 million California parents who work for small companies the opportunity to bond with birth, foster, and adoptive children. SB 63 extends job protections to small employers, requiring businesses with between 20 and 50 workers to allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of leave to spend with a new child—without fear of losing a job. Right now, only employers with 50 or more workers are required to guarantee a job.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the bill’s sponsor, said state law hasn’t kept up with the desire among parents to bond with their new children.

“More and more moms are in the workplace, and more dads are wanting to be involved with their children,” she told Rewire. “Many of our policies have remained frozen in time.”

New fathers accounted for nearly 36 percent of the 249,293 most recent parental leave claims, according to the state Economic Development Department. Paid parental leave is associated with a host of benefits, including lower infant mortality and improved maternal and child health outcomes. Leave taking by fathers was found to promote gender equity and increase fathers’ involvement with children, which is associated with greater language skills and improved cognitive and social development.

SB 63 cleared the state senate, and is set for a hearing Wednesday in the state assembly’s Labor Committee.

California was the first state to enact paid family leave, but it now trails other states in offering job protections. If the bill becomes law, California would join Rhode Island and New York in providing job-protected paid family leave.

The legislation’s backers include nearly 70 work-and-family and health advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Medical Association, and First Five California. Dozens of industry groups, such as the California Chamber of Commerce, oppose the legislation, suggesting it’s a “job killer.” California’s governor last year vetoed a nearly identical bill authored by Jackson. Jackson told Rewire she has made overtures to the governor’s office and listened to his staff’s concerns.

“The bottom line is it’s time for our parental leave policies to reflect the realities of working families in the 21st century,” she said.