Roundup: Vermont Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Emily Douglas

Vermont legislature overrides Governor's veto of same-sex marriage bill; assessing new members of the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Illinois can't force pharmacists to dispense EC; Maryland student punished for taking birth control.

Breaking: Vermont Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of Same-Sex Marriage Bill
Just this morning, the Vermont legislature overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. From

The Vt. Senate voted
to override the governor’s veto of the same-sex marriage bill. This
morning, the Senate voted 23 to 5 to override that veto. Two senators
were absent and Washington County Republican Bill Doyle who had
initially supported same sex, this time voted to sustain the veto.

Vt. House voted around 11 a.m. to override the veto. The vote was
100-49. 100 votes were needed.

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Assessing New Members of the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The 15 remaining members of the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships have been announced, and Frances Kissling, on Religion Dispatches, and Faith in Public Life both respond.  Frances’s take:

Nineteen members of the Council represent religious organizations. Not
one of the organizations they represent has played a strong role in
reforming religion; in fact they have defended themselves against
internal reform. There is not a single academic theologian in the
batch. Thinkers are sorely absent. The majority of the men representing
religious organizations who have been named to the Council either
personally or institutionally represent the most conservative religious
thought on women’s nature, identity and reproductive choice. Of course,
views on reproductive choice are not the only issue—and certainly not
the most important issue—facing the Council.

in Public Life offers biographies of each appointee, writing, "It’s a
diverse group with wide ranging views on the issues — spanning the
religious and ideological spectrum."

Illinois Can’t Force Pharmacists to Dispense EC
Illinois judge has said that the state cannot force pharmacists to
dispense emergency contraception if they object to the medication on
religious grounds, reports Huffington Post. "Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz issued a temporary restraining
order Friday until he can hear arguments against the rule from
druggists who object on religious grounds."

Student Punished for Taking Birth Control
public school student in Fairfax County, Md., was suspended, and will
possibly be expelled, for taking birth control pills during the school
day, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland reports. "The teenager (whose name has not been released) was caught discreetly
taking her pill during Oakton High School’s 25-minute lunch break.
According to school officials, this constituted a serious violation of
the school district’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs. An honor roll
student and talented athlete, she was nonetheless given the maximum
permissible suspension; her case was referred to a panel of school
officials, who are now deliberating the possibility of expulsion. This
punishment, as per the Fairfax County Handbook of Student Responsibilities and Rights, is equivalent to the one she would have gotten had she brought a gun to school."

Civil Rights, Women’s Groups Speak Out for Dawn Johnsen
NARAL Pro-Choice America has launched a campaign in support of Office of the Legal Counsel director nominee Dawn Johnsen, reports TPM.  "Last week, the group NARAL Pro-Choice America announced that it would be mobilizing
activists and supporters to help confirm not just Johnsen, but two
other Obama nominees–Judge David Hamilton nominated to serve on the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and Governor Kathleen Sebelius,
nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services…Among
the signatories [to a letter in Johnsen’s support] were NARAL, the
National Abortion Federation,
National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women,
National Partnership for Women & Families, and the National Women’s
Law Center."  Meanwhile, reports WhoRunsGov, Sen. Arlen Specter has met with Johnsen and is weighing whether to support her.

Putting Anti-Choice Opposition to Obama at Notre Dame in Perspective
Anti-choice opponents of President Obama’s planned commencement address are protesting, but when New York Times covers the opposition, the paper puts it in perspective:

Notre Dame is regarded as an academic powerhouse and conservative
Catholic bastion. But in a mock election here in November, Mr. Obama
defeated Mr. McCain among students by about 11 percentage points. He
won roughly the same margin of victory among Catholic voters in the
national election.

Some 97 percent of seniors who have sent
letters to the school newspaper, The Observer, support Mr. Obama as the
commencement speaker, said the editor, Jenn Metz. Letters from alumni,
however, have overwhelmingly opposed his appearance.

Other News to Note

April 6: Bio-Medicine: Mayer Labs Acquires Today(R) Sponge Distribution Rights

April 7: Washington Times: Tiller win doesn’t end saga

April 5: Pro-Life Movement Gains Victory on House Floor

April 6: California Catholic Daily:  “Deja vu all over again”: California Catholic Conference’s Lobby Day 2009 agenda ignores abortion — again

April 6: MSNBC: When fertility treatments become frightening: Carrying multiple fetuses can increase risks for both mother and babies

April 3: Wicked Local Brookline:  Brookline neighbors alarmed by abortion clinic plans

April 6: LifeSite News: Last Chance to Ask Obama Administration to Retain Conscience Protections for Pro-Life Doctors

April 6: Healthcare Republic News: Obese patients need warning about Pill

April 6: OK Magazine: VIDEO: Zac Efron Talks About Condoms… Again

April 6: Gawker: Levi Johnston’s Tyra Trainwreck: The Highlights

Arpil 6: Union Leader: Parental rights: The abortion exception

April 6: Religion Dispatches: White House Conference Call Seeks Common Ground on Abortion

April 5: The National Post: The next moral quagmire: conscience: Politics collides with freedom of workers’ beliefs

April 6: LifeNews: Pro-Life News: Contraception Compromise, Abortion a "Blessing," New Zealand, Montana, Missouri

April 6: The Onion: Panicked, Sweat-Covered Pope Reverses Longstanding Ban On Abortion

April 6: WSJ Blog: Abortion Foes Call Republican Response to Sebelius ‘Baffling’

April 6: National Journal online: Pro-Lifers Want Tougher Line On Sebelius

April 6: Cincinnati Enquirer: New abortion law Tuesday

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.