Don't Ask, Don't Tell falls temporarily - and with it the hopes of a repeal of the military abortion ban; the U.S. fails on almost all measurable goals for improving women's health; Afghan women get a hand from the UN and a new report and more.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell falls temporarily – and with it the hopes of a repeal of the military abortion ban; the U.S. fails on almost all measurable goals for improving women’s health; Afghan women get a hand from the UN and a new report and more.
The irony that Republicans have blocked a vote on the Defense Bill which included a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, delaying the opportunity for our Gay and Lesbian service members to be treated with dignity and respect by our governmentt, cannot be lost on anyone who knows that Human Rights Day 2010 is tomorrow. It’s the day when we commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As UN Ambassador Susan Rice said in a statement this evening,
On Human Rights Day, the United States celebrates deep truths we hold to be self-evident and honors a stirring Declaration signed by 58 nations—a universal affirmation that human beings have equal worth, equal dignity, equal consequence, and equal rights. And we continue to work for the day when no one will endure discrimination or suffer persecution.” But not everyone continues to work for that day – not, apparently, some Republicans who are not willing to allow all Americans the right to live free from discrimination and persecution. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) say they’ll introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal the policy, however.
It is, of course, worth noting that the block on a vote on the Defense Bill also takes a repeal of the military abortion ban off the table, for now, as well. The abortion ban is included in the bill. The military abortion ban is deeply discriminatory, barring safe and legal access to abortion care for our female service members or female relatives of military members, covered under the military health insurance. The ACLU has more.
Nick Baumann at Mother Jones has an in-depth exploration today into the push, led by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to essentially end insurance coverage for abortion care, via the decidedly incompletely named “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Bill. The law would permanently codify the Hyde Amendment into law; the amendment which prevents federal funds from going towards abortion care (thereby ensuring that low income women and women of color are disproportionately affected by this lack of access). But it would go far beyond that by referencing “tax benefits” quite vaguely, likely preventing Americans who have health savings accounts and non-employer paid insurance coverage from accessing any private insurance coverage for abortion.
The United Nations, today, urged leaders of Afghanistan to enforce a recently enacted women’s rights law in the wake of what a recent report has documented as on-going women’s rights violations in the country. From child marriage to honor killings, women’s rights are being undermined but, with the passage of this new law, the country has the opportunity to make significant change.
The U.S. is failing when it comes to women’s health. According to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health Sciences University, we have fallen short of almost every single measurable goal from incidences of Chlamydia rising to the number of women accessing Pap smears decreasing. We have not met the federal government’s Healthy People 2010 goals – our unintended pregnancy rate hovers at 50%, the goal is 30%. Only seven states require that prenatal care is covered in all individual and group health plans. More here.
A Texas GOP lawmaker has teamed up with an anti-choice organization to raise awareness about the supposed prevalence of forced or coerced abortion, which critics say is “wildly divorced from reality.”
Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) during a press conference at the state capitol on July 13 announced an effort to raise awareness among public officials and law enforcement that forced abortion is illegal in Texas.
White said in a statement that she is proud to work alongside The Justice Foundation (TJF), an anti-choice group, in its efforts to tell law enforcement officers about their role in intervening when a pregnant person is being forced to terminate a pregnancy.
“Because the law against forced abortions in Texas is not well known, The Justice Foundation is offering free training to police departments and child protective service offices throughout the State on the subject of forced abortion,” White said.
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White was joined at the press conference by Allan Parker, the president of The Justice Foundation, a “Christian faith-based organization” that represents clients in lawsuits related to conservative political causes.
Parker told Rewire that by partnering with White and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), TJF hopes to reach a wider audience.
“We will partner with anyone interested in stopping forced abortions,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re expanding it to police, social workers, and in the fall we’re going to do school counselors.”
White only has a few months remaining in office, after being defeated in a closely contested Republican primary election in March. She leaves office after serving one term in the state GOP-dominated legislature, but her short time there was marked by controversy.
During the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, she directed her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in an email to Rewire that White’s education initiative overstates the prevalence of coerced abortion. “Molly White’s so-called ‘forced abortion’ campaign is yet another example that shows she is wildly divorced from reality,” Busby said.
There is limited data on the how often people are forced or coerced to end a pregnancy, but Parker alleges that the majority of those who have abortions may be forced or coerced.
‘Extremely common but hidden’
“I would say that they are extremely common but hidden,” Parker said. “I would would say coerced or forced abortion range from 25 percent to 60 percent. But, it’s a little hard be to accurate at this point with our data.”
Parker said that if “a very conservative 10 percent” of the about 60,000 abortions that occur per year in Texas were due to coercion, that would mean there are about 6,000 women per year in the state that are forced to have an abortion. Parker believes that percentage is much higher.
“I believe the number is closer to 50 percent, in my opinion,” Parker said.
Busby said that White used “flawed research” to lobby for legislation aimed at preventing coerced abortions in Texas.
“Since she filed her bogus coerced abortion bill—which did not pass—last year, she has repeatedly cited flawed research and now is partnering with the Justice Foundation, an organization known to disseminate misinformation and shameful materials to crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said.
White also sponsored HB 1648, which would have required a law enforcement officer to notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if they received information indicating that a person has coerced, forced, or attempted to coerce a pregnant minor to have or seek abortion care.
The bill was met by skepticism by both Republican lawmakers and anti-choice activists.
State affairs committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told White during a committee hearing the bill needed to be revised, reported the Texas Tribune.
“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”
‘Very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem’
White testified before the state affairs committee that there is a connection between women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and women who are coerced to have an abortion. “Pregnant women are most frequently victims of domestic violence,” White said. “Their partners often threaten violence and abuse if the woman continues her pregnancy.”
There is research that suggests a connection between coerced abortion and domestic and sexual violence.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the American Independent that coerced abortion cannot be removed from the discussion of reproductive coercion.
“Coerced abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem, which is violence against women and the impact it has on her health,” Miller said. “To focus on the minutia of coerced abortion really takes away from the really broad problem of domestic violence.”
A 2010 study co-authored by Miller surveyed about 1,300 men and found that 33 percent reported having been involved in a pregnancy that ended in abortion; 8 percent reported having at one point sought to prevent a female partner from seeking abortion care; and 4 percent reported having “sought to compel” a female partner to seek an abortion.
Another study co-authored by Miller in 2010 found that among the 1,300 young women surveyed at reproductive health clinics in Northern California, about one in five said they had experienced pregnancy coercion; 15 percent of the survey respondents said they had experienced birth control sabotage.
‘Tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion’
TJF’s so-called Center Against Forced Abortions claims to provide legal resources to pregnant people who are being forced or coerced into terminating a pregnancy. The website includes several documents available as “resources.”
One of the documents, a letter addressed to “father of your child in the womb,” states that that “you may not force, coerce, or unduly pressure the mother of your child in the womb to have an abortion,” and that you could face “criminal charge of fetal homicide.”
The letter states that any attempt to “force, unduly pressure, or coerce” a women to have an abortion could be subject to civil and criminal charges, including prosecution under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
The document cites the 2007 case Lawrence v. State as an example of how one could be prosecuted under Texas law.
“What anti-choice activists are doing here is really egregious,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of Law and the Courts. “They are using a case where a man intentionally shot his pregnant girlfriend and was charged with murder for both her death and the death of the fetus as an example of reproductive coercion. That’s not reproductive coercion. That is extreme domestic violence.”
“To use a horrific case of domestic violence that resulted in a woman’s murder as cover for yet another anti-abortion restriction is the very definition of callousness,” Mason Pieklo added.
Parker said a patient might go to a “pregnancy resource center,” fill out the document, and staff will “send that to all the abortionists in the area that they can find out about. Often that will stop an abortion. That’s about 98 percent successful, I would say.”
Reproductive rights advocates contend that the document is intended to mislead pregnant people into believing they have signed away their legal rights to abortion care.
Abortion providers around the country who are familiar with the document said it has been used for years to deceive and intimidate patients and providers by threatening them with legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing an abortion.
Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, previously told Rewire that abortion providers from across the country have reported receiving the forms.
“It’s just another tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion—tricking women into thinking they have signed this and discouraging them from going through with their initial decision and inclination,” Saporta said.
Busby said that the types of tactics used by TFJ and other anti-choice organizations are a form of coercion.
“Everyone deserves to make decisions about abortion free of coercion, including not being coerced by crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said. “Anyone’s decision to have an abortion should be free of shame and stigma, which crisis pregnancy centers and groups like the Justice Foundation perpetuate.”
“Law enforcement would be well advised to seek their own legal advice, rather than rely on this so-called ‘training,” Busby said.
Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.
Linda Greenhouse has another don’t-miss column in the New York Times on how the GOP outsourced the judicial nomination process to the National Rifle Association.
Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick has this smart piece on how we know the U.S. Supreme Court is the biggest election issue this year: The Republicans refuse to talk about it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to fill in the blanks left by “abstinence-centric” sex education and talk to their young patients about issues including sexual consent and gender identity.
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