Before you do anything else, click on www.empty-handed.org put out by Population Action International, Nathan Golon filmmaker. It won the Best Film or Miniseries award at the Population Institute’s Global Media Awards banquet on December 2, 2010 in San Francisco which I attended.
Next click on http://www.populationmedia.org/where/united_states/psa-campaign/ which is the ELEVATOR public service announcement about an ever more crowded planet. The one criticism I have of this PSA is that it doesn’t mention family planning. As the elevator gets more and more crowded, we learn that over 200,000 people are added to the planet every day which amounts to about 75 millon more people a year. This is not too funny when you think about food and water security, climate and energy security, environmental issues, and present and coming battles over resources.
Access to family planning is a human right established in United Nations human rights documents. Yet, there has been and still is a severe shortage worldwide of family planning commodities. Good Grief!
Since 2002, when I started www.34millionfriends.org of the U.N. Population Fund I have been very conscious of all the web sites and pronouncements of all governmental and NGO reproductive health care entities. It is very fair to say that family planning is the forgotten stepchild, the non- emphasized ingredient of the reproductive health care movement. Yet family planning (contraception) is the most cost effective intervention for healthy women, children and families. And NO WOMAN who wants it should ever have to go without.
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Yet somewhere between 200 and 215 million women lack access. We must share in the despair of the women in www.empty-handed and we must change the world’s perception of this great gift of 20th and 21st century science. We must speak out.
And people are speaking out. I just learned that there is a coalition dedicated to ending the shortfall. Please see www.rhsupplies.org. At www.unfpa.org you can click on Essential Supplies on the left.
I want to quote from my previous diary entry “Gender Based Violence: An Expanded Definition and a Pessimistic Assessment”: “Margaret Atieno, 38 years old from the Siaya district in rural Kenya, had six children and didn’t want any more. Her husband had two other wives and there were thirteen children in all. He was against the use of contraceptives. She went to a clinic and was told that an IUD could solve her problem but the clinic had run out. Before she could make a return visit, she was pregnant again.” People I view this as a form of gender based violence It does violence to her defintion of herself, to her self empowerment, to her very being.
Nearly everyone reading this has planned her family. We have knowledge and means. We have not had to ask the questions which constitute the title of this diary entry. Family planning for those who want it is a win-win-win-win-win. For women, for children, for population stabilization, for the planet, and for peace. When talking about reproductive health both here and abroad, let’s have a “FAMILY PLANNING SPEAK-OUT!
Content note: This article contains graphic descriptions of intimate partner violence.
In July 2014, a judge found then-Carolina Panther defensive end Greg Hardy guilty of assault and communicating threats against Nicole Holder, a woman he had dated. When she testified during that trial, she told the court a horrific account of the night of May 13, when, Holder said, Hardy picked her up and threw her multiple times (one time down onto a pile of loaded guns); dragged her by her hair; and ripped off her jewelry and flushed it down the toilet. At one point, Holder said, Hardy put his hands around her throat: “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared, I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.’” Another person in the house called the police, telling the dispatcher, “He’s beating her ass in there. Some girl’s getting her ass beat upstairs and I heard it. And I seen it. He is beating her ass right the fuck now.” Holder was scratched, bruised all over her body, and there was swelling on her arms and back.
Hardy was sentenced to 18 months’ probation. On Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys signed him to a one-year contract.
Hardy’s attorney Chris Fialko said he’ll appeal and Hardy has asked for a jury trial in superior court. In North Carolina that means the terms of Hardy’s probation are on hold until the trial—so he’s free to travel with the team to training camp and compete in games.
And Carolina let him do both until September, when the angry public fervor over Ray Rice boiled over into large-scale awareness about Hardy’s case. He was then deactivated by the team and placed on National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell’s exempt list, meaning that although he could not play and the team could replace him on the roster while his case was pending, he was still paid. In late February, the Panthers released him.
Between the original bench trial in which he was found guilty and the jury trial Fialko requested on appeal, the district attorney prosecuting the case says Hardy settled with Holder in a civil suit. When the DA tried to locate Holder to have her testify again for the jury trial, they could not. There is no public documentation of the settlement and so no knowledge of whether it included an agreement not to testify, but the prosecution expected her to do so in the jury trial. When the DA last talked to her in November, she told them she did not want to testify again. She “intentionally made herself unavailable to the State,” prosecutors said in February. The result was that all charges against Hardy were dismissed last month.
We still do not know (and likely never will) why Holder chose not to testify again. Both Travis Waldron at ThinkProgress and Aaron Gordon at Vice Sports have written thoughtful pieces about why victims of domestic violence are generally reluctant to testify—fear for their safety being the main reason. We know Hardy had threatened Holder, based on what she told the court when she testified at the original trial. “He had told me in past,” she said, “if I took food out of his family’s mouth he was going to kill me.”
Hardy himself has acknowledged that when angry, he can be terrifying. In February 2014, he described to Sports Illustrated what he’s like on the field when that happens:
Once you piss me off, I forget everything. Everything after that is the monster. I’m going to take you out. When you cross that line, I’m gonna take it to a place you’ve never seen before.
Holder, based on the threats she said Hardy made towards her, very possibly feared him and any possible retaliation. It’s also jarring to read Hardy’s quote knowing that the kind of behavior Holder would fear off the field is encouraged and praised on it.
Professional football is a business, players are employees, and Hardy is not guilty under the law. But he was convicted of both committing violence against Holder and threatening her. The case fell apart during the appeal process, during which it appears Hardy and Holder interacted, at least in civil court, and we know his history of threats against her. In the end, the NFL has the legal right to hire him. No one is actually disputing that. What is being disputed is whether the NFL has a larger obligation to the community it serves, and the NFL itself has been saying since September that it does.
Dallas signed Hardy to a one-year contract with a base salary of $750,000 and millions more in incentives that could total $13.1 million if he plays next season. As Jane McManus wrote at espnW, that might not happen. The NFL is still doing its own investigation; right now, Hardy is still on Goodell’s exempt list, and it’s unclear if he’ll ever actually play for the Cowboys. The league might actually punish Hardy in the end and keep him off the field. That he can be signed in the meantime, and that a team feels it is worth the possible financial risk or public relations mess still indicates that it is worth questioning how seriously teams are taking the NFL’s own stated obligations to respond to acts of violence committed by its players.
Professional football is an incredibly popular and lucrative business. In a society whose criminal justice system is better known for failing victims of domestic abuse and/or violence than helping them, we often turn to other powerful institutions to do the cultural work of holding abusers accountable. The NFL, holding a prominent place in our community, is one of those, especially at this moment in time. Since September, there has been a huge amount of scrutiny on the league about how it handles players (less, I’ll note, about how it handles owners) who commit violence against women.
And the NFL has responded—at least in appearance. In the fall, the NFL partnered with No More, a group whose sole task is to raise awareness about violence against women. Melissa McEwan and Lauren Chief Elk have been questioning No More’s work and efficacy since January 2014. Diana Moskovitz wrote a scathing piece for Deadspin about the relationship between the NFL and No More last month. Just this past weekend, Jane Randel, No More’s co-founder and one of four women the NFL hired in September to help overhaul the league’s policies regarding violence against women, spoke on a panel at South by Southwest on violence in sports. Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight was the moderator; he asked Randel point-blank “how she could be sure No More was making a difference and not just providing public relations cover for the NFL.” In short, Randel didn’t actually answer Casselman, instead answering her own question of “Why are you working with them” with “Would you rather everyone step back and not work with them?” This, itself, is a construction that makes it seem like there are only two options: no one work with them, or No More does. This answer was, in microcosm, a perfect example of why people are so frustrated with No More and the NFL’s inaction on this issue. Hardy signing with Dallas is yet more evidence that the NFL’s so-called commitment to combating violence against women is nothing more than lip service.
Perhaps the NFL will do the right thing here with Hardy, but it is hard to bet on that. From all we’ve seen so far, the NFL and its teams have no real plan to combat violence against women or enforce consequences against players who commit it. Should we prepare for Hardy showing up in a No More PSA?
Even if Hardy never dons a Cowboys jersey, it matters that the Cowboys made this move. In September 2014, responding to Goodell’s punishment of Ray Rice, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said there was “a lack of tolerance” for “spousal abuse” in the NFL. This week, Jones released a statement after signing Hardy, writing, “Our organization understands the very serious nature of domestic violence in our society and in our league. We know that Greg has a firm understanding of those issues as well.”
How Dallas knows that about Hardy is unclear. From this very signing, there’s no indication that the Cowboys understand anything about the seriousness of the issue of domestic violence—or, more cynically, that they care. Certainly the team is not practicing intolerance of abuse. Mike Freeman, NFL national lead writer at Bleacher Report, wrote yesterday that by signing Hardy, “Dallas sold its soul to win.” And, Freeman argues, with Hardy they will win—because Hardy is very good at what he does.
That’s the point, though, isn’t it? That once more, the NFL and/or its teams have shown that what happens on the field matters more than what happens off it, and that violence on the field is acceptable even if it comes with that parallel behavior off the field.
Beyond all this, I’m especially saddened to see the Cowboys sign Hardy, because the team—and Dallas as a whole—have made positive moves in the past around this issue. In March 2013, I attended an anti-domestic violence rally in the city, at which multiple former and current Cowboys spoke to an audience of thousands about why it’s men who need to take the lead on ending this violence. (Rewire’s Andrea Grimes was also there and reported on it at the time.) For two years now, when I have been asked by media outlets about what teams can do to draw attention to this issue, to reach men, to be proactive instead of reactionary, and to partner with their local communities around this problem, I’ve mentioned this rally as a positive example. It will be harder to do that moving forward. I’m not sure that I will anymore.
The rally, along with the Dallas Men Against Abuse Campaign—which Cowboys players have also been involved in—have been important parts of Mike Rawlings’ tenure as mayor. As a result, Rawlings, who is currently running for re-election, has been part of major national discussions on the topic. Staying true to his message, Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday, “I’m a big Cowboys fan. I love them to death and I want them to beat the Eagles every time they play. But at some point, being a sports fan gets trumped by being a father, husband, wanting to do what’s right for women, so this is not a good thing.”
About the rally, Andrea Grimes wrote in 2013:
Sportscaster Dale Hansen is something of a living legend in Dallas, where he’s been a nightly news staple for thirty years, building a reputation as a jokester, even a smart-ass. But he didn’t come to Saturday’s Dallas Men Against Abuse rally to talk Cowboys or make wisecracks about the Mavericks. He came to tell thousands of men what it was like growing up in an abusive home.
On Wednesday night, Hansen gave an impassioned televised speech to express his anger at the Cowboys’ decision to sign Hardy, noting that “now you can beat a woman and play with a star on your helmet.”
There’s a reason that when Rawlings decided he was going to try to end domestic violence in the ninth-largest city in the United States, he enlisted the help of not just athletes but of professional football players. They hold cultural capital, and our treatment and valorization of them reflects back at us our ideas about what it means to be a man and what behaviors we deem acceptable. Our treatment of them also then reveals which people we are willing to sacrifice in order to get the best of the sport on the field. (This is as true for off-the-field victims of their violence as it is about the brutal nature of the game for the players themselves.) This is why the Cowboys signing Hardy makes Dale Hansen mad, why Mike Rawlings says this isn’t a good thing, why Mike Freeman says the Cowboys have sold their souls, why people are so skeptical of the NFL’s relationship with No More (and with No More itself), and why we are constantly questioning the league’s commitment to their intolerance of men’s violence against women. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words.
Many of the employers suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive benefit, including Wheaton College in Illinois, fail to offer employees robust parental leave coverage, an analysis by Rewire shows.
After giving birth to her third child last fall, biblical studies professor Amy Peeler took a financial hit in order to stay home with her newborn for nine weeks. Peeler, who is married, teaches the New Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois, one of the religious nonprofits suing the federal government to avoid providing their employees with insurance coverage of certain birth control methods.
Having joined Wheaton’s faculty in 2012, Peeler had not accrued enough sick leave to spend as much time as she wanted with her new baby. Currently, the evangelical college’s policy is for employees to use accrued sick leave hours and short-term disability leave (at a reduced wage rate) to pay for the bulk of their parental leave, said Wheaton’s media relations director LaTonya Taylor, who also noted that Wheaton reimburses faculty up to $10,500 of eligible adoption-related expenses.
Peeler told Rewire that, in the end, she had enough sick time saved up to cover three weeks of her leave; the university granted her three weeks of paid leave so she wouldn’t have to return in the middle of the semester; and she received three more weeks of disability leave at 60 percent of her normal salary. None of these accommodations, however, amounts to a true paid parental leave policy, an entitlement that would apply equally to all employees.
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“I felt very supported by the administration and my fellow colleagues,” Peeler said in a phone interview, about her pregnancy. “But I wish it hadn’t been the case that my family and I had to take a financial hit already in a time when you have lots of expenses with a new baby.”
Many of the employers currently suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive benefit fail to offer employees robust parental leave coverage, an analysis by Rewire shows.
Some of these organizations claim to oppose certain contraceptives on the false grounds that they cause abortions. Yet despite their stated commitment to protecting and fostering new life, many of these employers offer only the minimum federally mandated unpaid time off to employees, making it difficult for many families to have children without missing at least a few paychecks.
Wheaton College’s lawsuit against the birth control benefit is among about 100 other cases involving corporations and nonprofits, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm representing many of the litigants. In late June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding the closely held corporations do not have to comply with the birth control benefit due to their sincerely held—but scientifically unsupported—religious beliefs that emergency contraception and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can cause abortions. The remaining lawsuits are pending.
These entities do not offer paid parental leave, according to research by Rewire. Each has been granted an injunction delaying enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Under federal law, employees of these companies may take up to three months of unpaid leave, and can also use their accumulated sick or vacation leave.
About 70 cases have been granted injunctions, meaning employers do not have to comply with the health law requirement while their cases are being litigated. While the majority of plaintiffs involved in these cases did not respond to inquiries into their parental leave policies, Rewire was able to identify the policies of 15 nonprofit plaintiffs, which essentially offer only the federally required unpaid parental leave for employees with newborns (the federal policy is gender-neutral), which in some cases may be supplemented by employees’ unused sick or vacation days. (See sidebar, at left.)
To be sure, paid parental leave in this country is rare. The United States joins a small group of smaller nations—such as Suriname and Papua New Guinea—that do not provide government-funded support for paid parental leave or require employers to offer paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. And only about 11 percent of Americans who work for private employers are offered paid parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The federal government does require—through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—that employers with more than 50 employees offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child. But the employee has to have worked for the company for at least a year and has to have clocked at least 1,250 hours within the last 12 consecutive months. And, as Peeler noted, those without paid leave are losing their paychecks at just the time they are facing greatly increased expenses.
Data show that families benefit financially from paid parental leave and children experience health benefits from having their mothers home for a period following childbirth. In her 2011 Journal of Health Economics article on the effects of unpaid maternity leave on children’s birth and infant outcomes in the United States, economist Maya Rossin-Slater found that “maternity leave led to small increases in birth weight, decreases in the likelihood of a premature birth, and substantial decreases in infant mortality for children of college-educated and married mothers, who were most able to take advantage of unpaid leave.”
But of course, not every family can afford for its sole or co-breadwinner to go without pay for several weeks. Evidence shows unpaid family leave can lead to financial struggle. According to a 2012 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor, among those who received partial or no pay while taking FMLA leave in 2012, about a third reported borrowing money, 37 percent reported delaying paying their bills, and about 15 percent reported going on public assistance. (In addition to caring for a new baby or for pregnancy-related reasons, qualified reasons for FMLA leave include caring for oneself or for a sick parent, child, or spouse; caring for sick service members; or for reasons related to a military service member’s deployment.)
Currently only three states—California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—provide government-supported paid parental leave; thus, the data on its effects on families in the United States are limited. But in a 2013 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, economists Charles L. Baum and Christopher J. Ruhm argued that California’s policy of six weeks of parental leave at 55 percent of the usual pay—enacted in 2004—shows positive effects on labor outcomes (the state already had an existing disability insurance program that gives mothers access to paid leave following the birth of a child). Baum and Ruhm found that paid leave increased mothers’ employment and wages in the long-term, and had “positive effects … on hours and weeks of work during their child’s second year of life and possibly also on wages.”
Though paid parental leave in the United States is rare, there is a debate going on at Wheaton College over whether the lack of guaranteed paid maternity leave is consistent with the school’s pro-family stance. As with many of the other litigants, Wheaton College is a Christian institution that opposes abortion, as well as certain forms of contraception that it believes are “abortion-causing drugs,” despite evidence that these drugs do not cause abortions. (Wheaton claims to cover some contraceptives in its employee health plans but does not specify which ones.)
It was this stance that drove Wheaton urban studies and politics professor Noah Toly to write Wheaton President Philip Ryken last September, calling out what he saw as a “performative contradiction,” between what Wheaton claims is a pro-family, “pro-life” position, and a policy that makes it difficult for female faculty members both to have children while seeking tenure and excelling in their careers, as reported by the Wheaton Record in October 2013.
“We should offer a fully paid semester of leave,” Toly told the Wheaton Record at the time. “That would put our money where our mouth is concerning family-friendliness and our pro-life position.”
To that end, a small faculty committee has been working with the Wheaton administration toward developing a paid maternity leave policy for faculty. (Peeler told Rewire that many on the committee also recognize the need for a formal paternity-leave policy, but that might not be addressed at this time.) Jillian Lederhouse, who chairs the committee as well as Wheaton’s education department, said the administration contracted with the Education Advisory Board to collect data on parental leave benefits among a wide range of liberal arts colleges. She said the committee is working to present a draft policy proposal to the administration by the end of this semester.
“[T]he college has been looking into this for quite some time, and we seem to be nearing a resolution that should result in an enhanced childbirth leave policy for faculty women,” Lederhouse said in an email. “Both the faculty and administration have recognized the need to improve in this area.”
Peeler said she thinks Wheaton’s stated values should translate to “more supportive” parental leave policies, but she also pointed out that improving its maternity leave policy is essential to improving its gender gap problem within the faculty, which is currently 65 percent men and 35 percent women, according to its current faculty list.
“I’ve heard this in meetings that they would like more of a gender balance on the faculty,” she said, explaining that “in evangelical circles they’re usually skewed male. Typically evangelicals are a bit more conservative, and so women maybe would stay home.”
An improved maternity leave policy would bring Wheaton in line with other organizations that oppose the birth control benefit, and which Rewire has identified as offering more comprehensive, paid parental leave policies. These include Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina (which has not yet been granted an injunction), which offers paid leave for mothers but not fathers, outside of sick and vacation days; Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa; and the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, which offers employees (or their spouses) 20 days of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child, after one year of employment. Notably, the Archdiocese explains that this leave policy is “supportive of the Church’s Respect-Life position.”
But even if parental leave policies were improved for many of these organizations, Americans at large lack access to even unpaid maternity leave. Hobby Lobby appears to be among many corporations that offer employees little beyond what is mandated under federal law.
As former Hobby Lobby employee Felicia Allen told Rewire last month, her understanding is that the arts-and-crafts chain only offers unpaid FMLA leave following the birth of a child. However, after only working for five months as a part-time cashier at a Hobby Lobby store in Flowood, Mississippi, a nine-months’ pregnant Allen did not qualify for any leave. She said she was initially reassured she could keep her job after having her baby, but was later told by a supervisor she would be terminated. Allen sued Hobby Lobby for pregnancy discrimination, but her case was dismissed, as she had signed a binding arbitration agreement when she was hired.
Neither Hobby Lobby nor its fellow Supreme Court victor and wood furniture manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties responded to requests for information on their parental leave policies.
As the challenges to the contraceptive mandate rage on, it remains to be seen what will come of numerous corporations, universities, and nonprofits potentially making it difficult for employees to access expensive but effective birth control methods and whether that will lead them to enhance their parental leave policies.
Writing for the legal blog Law360 shortly after the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, Dallas attorney Alana Ackels questioned what the fallout of the decision would look like.
“How could failure to provide coverage of these contraceptive methods turn into higher long-term costs for the employer in terms of maternity leave, prenatal care, and postnatal care?” Ackels wrote. “For the employers in Burnwell [sic], the issue was not cost, it was religious beliefs. However, as other employers consider whether to deny health care coverage of certain contraceptives for religious reasons, they should not lose sight of the long-term financial consequences those short-term decisions may have.”
Clarification: A prior version of this story stated that Wheaton College “opposes contraception and abortion.” The story has since been clarified to reflect the fact that Wheaton does not object to all forms of contraception, but rather to specific forms that it erroneously claims cause abortion.