Remembering Rosie: We Will Not Forget You

Marcy Bloom

The Hyde Amendment killed Rosie Jiménez. She died thirty years ago today, and we remember her because she has become a symbol of all women and girls everywhere who are denied their human right to safe, legal, funded, and accessible abortion care.

Her face has haunted me for thirty years.

I've only seen one photograph of Rosaura "Rosie" Jiménez. It shows a pretty young woman with long, dark hair, dark eyes, a mysterious smile, and a striped blouse. To me, she looks very pleased about something. I wonder what Rosie was thinking and feeling the day that photo was taken. I am not sure I will ever know.

What we do know is that Rosie was a young Chicana living in McAllen, Texas, in the late 1970s. The daughter of migrant farm-workers, she was a single mother raising her 5-year-old daughter and also a scholarship student six months away from her teaching credential. She had her entire future ahead of her, and she looked forward to completing her education so that she could leave field and factory work for opportunities far more promising. Rosie realized that she was pregnant, and, too poor to pay for a safe and legal procedure at a clinic, she sought out a cheaper, unsafe abortion, and suffered a painful death from an infection that ravaged her body. So committed was she to a better future for herself and her child that a $700 scholarship check was found in her purse when she died. She could have used her college money for safe abortion care at a clinic, but she was saving it for her education–her passport out of poverty. Rosie gambled with her life and tragically lost. She became the first known victim of the Hyde Amendment which, in 1977, cut off Medicaid funding for safe abortion care to women on public assistance.

The hateful and oppressive Hyde Amendment killed Rosie Jiménez. She died on October 3, 1977, at the age of 27. We remember her because she has become a symbol–a human face–of all women and girls everywhere who are denied their human right to safe, legal, funded, and accessible abortion care.

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Since 1995, the Abortion Access Project has organized Rosie Jiménez Day on October 3 and sponsored a series of events and speak-outs every October-October is National Abortion Access Action Month- in remembrance of Rosie.

It's been thirty years now since Rosie Jiménez died. So much has changed in our world. Tragically, what has not changed is that abortion as a human right for women is still debated and denied, and the Hyde Amendment still exists. It still violates women's human rights to life, equality, privacy, non-discrimination, and health and it still unjustly bans abortion funding for low-income women. These women are still prevented from accessing abortion, one of the safest and most important procedures a woman can have and a critical choice that all women should be able to have.

A recent report by the National Network of Abortion Funds called "Abortion Funding: A Matter of Justice" passionately states:

Abortion access is a matter of justice. The Hyde Amendment and subsequent state bans on Medicaid funding deny abortion rights and reproductive freedom to some of the most disadvantaged women in our society-those who depend on the government for their health care. Given the racial distribution of poverty in the United States, funding bans discriminate against women of color…In addition, federal funding bans unfairly penalize immigrants, disabled women, Native American women receiving care from Indian Health Services, women in the military, and women in prison. Young women, who tend to have few financial resources of their own, are also especially burdened by policies that deny abortion funding.

In addition, Heather Boonstra of the Guttmacher Institute writes in "The Heart of the Matter: Public Funding of Abortion for Poor Women in the United States:"

Poor women…Medicaid enrollees who are the poorest of poor Americans…have become pawns in the congressional debate over abortion since abortion became legal nationwide in 1973. For opponents of abortion, public funding has been a proxy for overturning Roe. As recently retired Representative Henry Hyde, long time anti-choice Republican member of Congress from Illinois for whom the amendment is named, told his colleagues during a congressional debate over Medicaid funding in 1977:

‘I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody from having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the…Medicaid bill.'

Since then, the Hyde Amendment has passed every year as part of the federal appropriations budget of the Department of Health and Human Services. This is a national disgrace that makes scapegoats out of poor women, young women, and women of color–the most vulnerable women in our country. Hey, says Hyde and his buddies, if you can't take away the rights of all women, let's just take away the right of the most marginalized.

It's may be hard to believe–but perhaps not, given the numerous successful strategies of the anti-choice movement–but thirty years of the pain, oppression, and discrimination caused by the Hyde Amendment has actually been supported and upheld by a 1980 Supreme Court decision, Harris v. McRae. Boonstra further states that the Harris case decided that the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment did not violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution, declaring that "a woman's freedom of choice does not carry with it a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices."

Further, Boonstra indicates that the decision further proclaimed that the federal government is entitled to choose to encourage childbirth over abortion by paying for childbirth, but denying abortion funding. "According to the Court, because the government did not cause women to be poor, it is not obligated to level the playing field for poor women: ‘Although government may not place obstacles in the path of a woman's exercise of her freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation, and indigency falls within the latter category.' "So let's get this clear. It's not the government's fault that women are poor (it's not?), and even though abortion is legal, the government is not required to make true access to abortion care a reality. But it's constitutional to pay for childbirth and not abortion and, in so doing, deny women true reproductive choice and justice.

What all of this sexist and racist legal discussion (I refuse to call it an analysis) results in is that 32 states are able to ban the use of state Medicaid for abortion. They are legally required to provide coverage in the cases of a woman's life endangerment, rape, and incest, but very rarely do so. One state theoretically provides coverage in cases of life endangerment, but that reality is also far different. Seventeen states elect to use state Medicaid monies to pay for women's safe abortion care.

What does this mean for women's lives and rights in 2007 America? The cost of a first-trimester abortion can be more than a poverty-level family lives on in a month. Low-income women who struggle to raise the money for an abortion do so at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. They forgo food, risk eviction, and pawn their possessions as they attempt to raise money for an abortion. Some are forced to continue the pregnancy (the National Network of Abortion Funds states that as many as one in three low-income women who would have had an abortion if the procedure were covered by Medicaid are instead compelled to carry the pregnancy to term), abandon their education, and stay trapped in poverty–which were Rose Jiménez's worst fears. In a sad twist of irony, as poor women attempt to raise money for their abortions, Boonstra of the Guttmacher Institute reports that they are often delayed by an average of three weeks, often pushing them into a second trimester abortion procedure that may take longer to perform, and that costs more.

Abortion access is an important matter of racial justice as well as economic justice and women's rights. To assure justice and equality for all women, the National Network of Abortion Funds has instituted a pro-funding campaign "Hyde: 30 Years is Enough! Fund abortion. Protect dignity and justice for women." And the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is calling for women's stories to learn more about how the Hyde Amendment negatively affects women in the Latina community and to break the silence around abortion for Latinas.

Legal abortion is essentially illegal for millions of women in the US. If there is no clinic in your community (87% of US counties do not have an abortion provider) , if you can't pay for it, if you can't get one, then what is a pregnant low-income women supposed to do?

Rosie Jiménez's fate is a terrifying answer. How many more tragic stories such as Rosie's do we have to endure until this reproductive health crime against so many women finally ends?

Read more about the challenges faced by abortion funds, and hear from abortion fund staffers themselves, in Andrea Lynch's "Abortion Funds: Putting Women's Needs at the Center."

Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.

News Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns as Chair of DNC, Will Not Gavel in Convention

Ally Boguhn

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective after the convention, amid controversy over leaked internal party emails and months of criticism over her handling of the Democratic primary races.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel on Monday that she would not gavel in this week’s convention, according to Politico.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a Sunday statement announcing her decision. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”

“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Just prior to news that Wasserman Schultz would step down, it was announced that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would chair the DNC convention.

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation comes after WikiLeaks released more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, breathing new life into arguments that the Democratic Party—and Wasserman Schultz in particular—had “rigged” the primary in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton. As Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee pointed out, there seems to be “no bombshells” in the released emails, though one email does show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the DNC, emailed asking whether an unnamed person could be questioned about “his” religious beliefs. Many believe the email was referencing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).

Another email from Wasserman Schultz revealed the DNC chair had referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as a “damn liar.”

As previously reported by Rewire before the emails’ release, “Wasserman Schultz has been at the center of a string of heated criticisms directed at her handling of the DNC as well as allegations that she initially limited the number of the party’s primary debates, steadfastly refusing to add more until she came under pressure.” She also sparked controversy in January after suggesting that young women aren’t supporting Clinton because there is “a complacency among the generation” who were born after Roe v. Wade was decided.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders in a Sunday statement. “While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Sanders had previously demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation in light of the leaked emails during an appearance earlier that day on ABC’s This Week.

Clinton nevertheless stood by Wasserman Schultz in a Sunday statement responding to news of the resignation. “I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” said Clinton. “There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”

Clinton added that she still looks “forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.” Wasserman Schultz faces a primary challenger, Tim Canova, for her congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district for the first time this year.