“The Most Invisible Entity” : EU Focuses on Girl Children

Anna Wilkowska-Landowska

This summer, the European Council adopted a set of indicators to monitor the advancement of girls' rights to access education and sexual and reproductive health care, and to ensure the eradication of child sexual exploitation.

This summer, on June 9, 2008,
the European Council adopted a set of indicators to monitor the advancement of girls’ rights to access education and sexual and reproductive health care and to ensure the eradication of child sexual exploitation.

A set of actions for the advancement
of women in various areas of their lives was agreed to at the United Nations
World Conference on Women in 1995, as the follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action. Then, in December 1995, the European
Council of the European Union concluded that the implementation
of the Beijing Platform for Action, in the Member States and institutions
of the European Union would be reviewed on an annual basis. Since 1999
the Council has adopted conclusions on indicators and benchmarks, thus
making the annual monitoring process more focused and structured. Sets
of quantitative and qualitative indicators have been developed by the
EU presidencies in themes, relating to the 12 critical areas of concern
of the Beijing Platform for Action (a few examples: in 2000 the
French Presidency adopted indicators on women in the economy, or the reconciliation of work and family
life, in 2002 Danish Presidency adopted indicators on violence against women or in 2004 the Dutch Presidency adopted
indicators on sexual harassment in the workplace).  

And this year, the European
Council has looked at the next critical area of concern specified in
the follow-up to the Beijing
Platform for Action — the girl child.
The girl child as a social group is declared to be the most invisible
entity in society and as such is left behind in human development. The
two most important international instruments for girls’ rights, the Convention on
the Rights of the Child

(CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women

(CEDAW), are not being implemented adequately. The issue of the girl
child is regionally and locally conditioned and it is therefore insufficient
to address it at the level of the state. Therefore the above-mentioned
document relates to age segmentation, since it confirms that many interventions
target young children or older adolescents. As a result, many at-risk
girls between the age of 6 and 14 years are left out.  

In the Conclusions on the Girl Child, the Council stresses, among other
things, that access to sexual and reproductive health care and education,
and the elimination of all forms of violence against the girl child,
including trafficking, are crucial for the empowerment of girls and
women, and encourages the member states to develop sexual and relationship
education. The Conclusions contain three indicators to monitor
and improve the position of girls in the EU:

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1. Sex and
relationship education:
parameters of sexuality-related education in
schooling (primary and secondary)
— assesses
the sex and relationship education provided in school programs and analyses the key elements
of such education which plays an important role in the development of the girl child’s
sexual and reproductive health, and gender roles and relations, and is therefore
a necessary prerequisite for gender equality.

2. Body self-image: dissatisfaction
of girls and boys with their bodies —
examines
different self-perception of girls and boys regarding their body
image, which has implications for public health. Girls’ and young
women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies does
not always reflect a physical condition, but may be the result of culturally
imposed norms and images which are significantly influenced by the media.
It is therefore important to tackle the reasons underlying the dissatisfaction
of girls and boys with their bodies.

3. Educational accomplishments:
comparison of 15-year-old students’ performance in
mathematics
and science and the proportion of girl students in tertiary education
in the
field
of science, mathematics and computing and in the field of
teacher training and
education science — addresses the discrepancy between the
aptitude of girls in mathematics and science literacy (which does not
significantly differ from that of boys), as compared with their subsequent
choice of further educational field at the tertiary level, where boys
and girls continue to follow traditional educational paths. The indicator
helps to assess the potential impact of policies and measures to encourage
both girls and boys to explore non-traditional educational paths and
thus to use their talents and potential to the full. 

All these indicators help to
focus country’s efforts in relation to the girl child status, and
urge further actions
to be taken to protect and empower the girl children. First of all, there
should be measures adopted to prevent and eradicate child prostitution
and pornography, as well as actions to enable girls, including pregnant
girls and teenage mothers, to continue their education. It is also necessary
to provide information and services to girls with regard to sexually
transmitted diseases, as well as reproductive and sexual health. For
example, education programs on sexual and reproductive health have been
developed in the Czech Republic or Latvia. The Czech Republic also established
programs to educate young people about HIV/AIDS. Looking at the situation
in many Eastern European countries (very recent examples from Romania
and Poland, but also many others which we do not know about), it is
clear that information campaigns and workshops to prevent teenage pregnancy
have to be launched.  

Whether the indicators prepared
by the European Union institutions really work in practice or are helpful
in analysing the progress made, is still difficult to assess, but
it seems to me that any type of guidance which is more concrete and
explicit in terms of benchmarks may prove to be more effective than
declarations contained in various international documents. The EU has
always played a role of a guardian of commonly accepted rules and standards;
let’s just hope it will be more demanding towards its member states
with regard to the critical areas of concern described in the Beijing
Platform for Action and its adequate implementation. The status of the girl
child in many countries has not been discussed at all, so the above
documents should be understood as a first little step in a good direction,
although, as mentioned above, more intensive steps have to be yet undertaken.

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

News Violence

Issa Rae Scholarship Fund for Alton Sterling’s Children More Than Doubles $200,000 Goal

Nicole Knight Shine

Actress, writer, and producer Issa Rae's fundraiser for the family of a Black Louisiana man killed by police this week has attracted thousands of donors.

A scholarship fund that actress, writer, and producer Issa Rae started for the five children of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old Black man killed Tuesday by Baton Rouge police, has raised more than $400,000 within its first day online—doubling its original $200,000 goal. 

Rae, the award-winning creator of the online hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, started the GoFundMe page Wednesday amid widespread outrage over Baton Rouge police repeatedly shooting Sterling as he was being held on the ground. The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the killing, which was captured on at least two cell phone cameras.

At a widely publicized press conference following Sterling’s death, his teenage son sobbed, calling out, “Daddy!”

“If you feel helpless,” Rae wrote on the GoFundMe page, “but want to play a small part in easing the burden of #AltonSterling’s family, consider donating to this scholarship fund for his 15-year-old son (and his other kids).”

Police have killed 136 Black people in 2016, according to the Guardian, which tracks police shootings. Its records indicate that Sterling was the seventh Black person killed by police in Louisiana this year.

Rae later tweeted that supporters had donated $200,000 within the first nine hours of the fundraiser.

Rae said all funds would go to Sterling’s family. By Thursday afternoon, almost 14,500 individuals had contributed to the online fundraiser.

The day after Sterling’s death, Minnesota police shot another Black man, 32-year-old Philando Castile, during a traffic stop, an incident captured on Castile’s girlfriend’s cell phone and that is now under investigation. Reports indicate the officer shot Castile at least four times as he was pulling out his wallet to show his identification.