Police Violence And Sex Workers in Europe, Central Asia

Anna-Louise Crago and Aliya Rakhmetova and Acacia Shields

The state consistently fails to punish police who commit violence against sex workers.

This article is part of a series published by Rewire in partnership with the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) to commemorate the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, December 17th, 2010. It is excerpted from Research For Sex Work 12, published 17 December 2010 by the NSWP, an organization that upholds the voice of sex workers globally and connects regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers. Download the full journal, with eight more articles about sex work and violence, for free at nswp.orgSee all articles in this series here.

SWAN (Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network of Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia) is a network of 16 projects and organisations providing services to sex workers in 15 countries. In 2007, SWAN members voted at the annual meeting that police crackdowns and violence were the most pressing issues facing sex workers in the region. As a result, SWAN launched a participatory study to document the situation. Sex workers played a leadership role in creating and administering the study as well as in interpreting the results. This is the first sex worker-led piece of research to document human rights violations against sex workers in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Thirteen groups from 12 countries participated in the survey and a total of 238 male, female and transgender sex workers were interviewed between September and December 2007. In May 2009, qualitative data on police crackdowns were collected in Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The results of both sets of data were published in a report entitled Arrest the Violence (2009).1

In all countries except Poland and the Czech Republic, sex workers interviewed reported alarmingly high levels of physical and sexual violence from police officers. In certain countries, the recurring themes of police violence described give a strong indication that this is a generalised phenomenon. In the year preceding the survey, some 42 percent of sex workers in the region reported having experienced physical violence by the police and 36 percent having experienced sexual violence (Table 1).

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Though the sample is small, it is worth noting that the five transgender sex workers interviewed reported higher levels of police violence than their non-trans peers. All of them, without exception, had been physically and sexually assaulted by police officers. Though the nine male sex workers interviewed reported lower levels of sexual violence from the police than their female peers, they faced higher levels of physical violence. This highlights the importance of further participatory action research on human rights abuses against male and trans sex workers.

Crackdowns, Violence and Extortion

This study found an important link between police crackdowns and violence. Police violence against sex workers was frequently reported to occur in the context of severely repressive actions. In one country for example, four sex workers specified that sexual violence from police

officers occurred ‘every time I was taken to the station’. Sex workers throughout the region are very vulnerable to violence while in police custody. In Bulgaria, one sex worker said: ‘The police take us away and push us into the river.’ In Russia and Ukraine, sex workers shared that policemen frequently gang-raped them. The respondents repeatedly condemned the ‘lawlessness of police’ and shared their experiences of being illegally detained, framed for crimes they did not commit, forced to clean the police station, or outed as sex workers, as gays or as trans.

‘The police beat you up, demand money and will detain you until you pay.’ (Kyrgyzstan)

‘If I do not pay, then they bring a criminal case against me and they shut me in jail.’ (Lithuania)

 In Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Serbia and Macedonia, sex workers reported that crackdowns were often part of a larger system of police extortion that is enforced through threats, detention, physical violence and rape. In such a system, police fines and arrests are often unofficial, undocumented and indistinguishable from extortion. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, sex workers reported having to pay off the police every day they worked. In many countries ‘fines’ amount to all the money sex workers have on them, and often include taking their jewelry or phones. This system exists to varying degreesin all of the countries in this study except for Poland and Czech Republic. In most countries, such extortion is underpinned by tremendous violence, as the following quotes show:

‘They beat a fine for prostitution of 1500 Rubles out of me.’ (Russia, Siberia)

‘If you don’t pay the money, the police gang-rape you.’ (Russia, Siberia)

‘If I don’t pay the money, they threaten to beat me up, take my documents away, and force me to have sex.’ (Ukraine)

 In Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine sex workers reported being tested for HIV or STIs against their will after being picked up by the police. They felt that the threat of such testing was an additional tool that was sometimes used by police officers to claim extortion money.

Consequences of Crackdowns

This study found that police violence fuels general violence against sex workers. Fears of police violence, extortion or arrest often push sex workers into hiding and force them to work in isolated areas where they are more vulnerable to general violence and cut-off from support or HIV services. Additionally, sex workers reported that their lack of access to police protection creates a climate of impunity for crimes against them and has made them easy and frequent targets of violent attackers from the general population. This is, in part, reflected in the very high levels of physical and sexual violence respondents in all countries faced from people such as clients, bosses, partners, drunk hooligans, thugs, skinheads, and other passers-by.

Sex workers and key informants also reported that crackdowns sometimes result in homelessness and family separation. This occurs when sex workers cannot afford paying extortion money and have to resort to give up their homes, when they are imprisoned for long periods, deported following a raid or when their family learns of their occupation due to a raid and throws them out. Homelessness due to police crackdowns increases the vulnerability to violence and to HIV for both sex workers and their children.

Police violence and mistreatment severely compromise sex workers’ ability to report violence against them. The most frequent reasons cited across all countries for not reporting violence

to the police were fears of: police mistreatment; being in worse danger (from police or perpetrator); arrest; and being outed to the police. The latter often referred to a fear of being regularly extorted or attacked. Many sex workers cited previous negative experiences or those of colleagues as confirming their fears.

The number of sex workers who said they felt they could report violence to the police is extremely low, with 100 percent of sex workers interviewed in Serbia, Lithuania and Macedonia believing they cannot go to the police and over 50 percent in the other countries, except for North-Western Russia and Poland.

State Policies Condoning Abuse

The human rights abuses committed by the police against sex workers in the countries studied cannot be dismissed as simply the acts of dishonest officers, but are rightly considered manifestations of state policies that tolerate, and in some cases even encourage, violence against sex workers. Acts of physical and sexual assault are serious crimes under the domestic laws of the countries in which research was conducted and, when committed by agents of the state, also amount to violations of international law. These include violations of the rights to security of the person and respect for the inherent dignity of each human being, and the right to be free from torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

A consistent pattern of state failure to punish or otherwise hold accountable police officers who commit violence against sex workers amounts to a policy – whether explicit or implicit – of tolerance for such abuses. In some cases, state policy appears intentionally designed to harm sex workers, as when police are instructed to use harsh measures to clear sex workers from a given area.2 In addition, antiprostitution laws and policies that criminalise, penalise or otherwise stigmatise sex workers facilitate human rights abuses against sex workers by creating excuses for officials to control and punish sex workers.

End Note

This study was conducted in 12 countries but the statistics reflect only eleven. Due to safety concerns, we had to remove the data from one country. Following public statements by sex workers denouncing violence, members of the local SWAN group administering the survey received death threats and faced the possibility of the government closing down their centre and seizing confidential medical records. The data from this country paints a stark portrait of generalised routine sexual and physical violence by law enforcement officers associated with crackdowns. This experience and the data illustrate why the need to support sex workers in

combating violence by state actors is so urgent. We dedicate this article to the twenty sex workers in that country who risked so much to tell their story.

Notes

1 SWAN (2009). Arrest the Violence. Human rights abuses against sex workers In Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network, www.swannet.org

2 See, for instance, the case of a 2009 police cleansing operation in Bulgaria, described in Arrest the Violence in the section on Physical and Sexual Violence

Excerpted from “Research For Sex Work 12, December 2010”

 

SWAN (Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network of Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia) is a network of sixteen projects and organisations providing services to sex workers in fifteen countries. In 2007, SWAN members voted at the annual meeting that police crackdowns and violence were the most pressing issues facing sex workers in the region. As a result, SWAN launched a participatory study to document the situation. Sex workers played a leadership role in creating and administering the study as well as in interpreting the results. This is the first sex worker-led piece of research to document human rights violations against sex workers in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

 

Thirteen groups from twelve countries participated in the survey and a total of 238 male, female and transgender sex workers were interviewed between September and December 2007. In May 2009, qualitative data on police crackdowns were collected in Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The results of both sets of data were published in a report entitled Arrest the Violence (2009).1

 

In all countries except Poland and the Czech Republic, sex workers interviewed reported alarmingly high levels of physical and sexual violence from police officers. In certain countries, the recurring themes of police violence described give a strong indication that this is a generalised phenomenon. In the year preceding the survey, some 42 percent of sex workers in the region reported having experienced physical violence by the police and 36 percent having experienced sexual violence (Table 1).

 

Though the sample is small, it is worth noting that the five transgender sex workers interviewed reported higher levels of police violence than their non-trans peers. All of them, without exception, had been physically and sexually assaulted by police officers. Though the nine male sex workers interviewed reported lower levels of sexual violence from the police than their female peers, they faced higher levels of physical violence. This highlights the importance of further participatory action research on human rights abuses against male and trans sex workers.

 

Crackdowns, Violence and Extortion

 

This study found an important link between police crackdowns and violence. Police violence against sex workers was frequently reported to occur in the context of severely repressive actions. In one country for example, four sex workers specified that sexual violence from police

officers occurred ‘every time I was taken to the station’. Sex workers throughout the region are very vulnerable to violence while in police custody. In Bulgaria, one sex worker said: ‘The police take us away and push us into the river.’ In Russia and Ukraine, sex workers shared that policemen frequently gang-raped them. The respondents repeatedly condemned the ‘lawlessness of police’ and shared their experiences of being illegally detained, framed for crimes they did not commit, forced to clean the police station, or outed as sex workers, as gays or as trans.

 

‘The police beat you up, demand money and will detain you until you pay.’ (Kyrgyzstan)

‘If I do not pay, then they bring a criminal case against me and they shut me in jail.’ (Lithuania)

 

In Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Serbia and Macedonia, sex workers reported that crackdowns were often part of a larger system of police extortion that is enforced through threats, detention, physical violence and rape. In such a system, police fines and arrests are often unofficial, undocumented and indistinguishable from extortion. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, sex workers reported having to pay off the police every day they worked. In many countries ‘fines’ amount to all the money sex workers have on them, and often include taking their jewelry or phones. This system exists to varying degreesin all of the countries in this study except for Poland and Czech Republic. In most countries, such extortion is underpinned by tremendous violence, as the following quotes show:

 

‘They beat a fine for prostitution of 1500 Rubles out of me.’ (Russia, Siberia)

 

‘If you don’t pay the money, the police gang-rape you.’ (Russia, Siberia)

 

‘If I don’t pay the money, they threaten to beat me up, take my documents away, and force me

to have sex.’ (Ukraine)

 

In Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine sex workers reported being tested for HIV or STIs against their will after being picked up by the police. They felt that the threat of such testing was an additional tool that was sometimes used by police officers to claim extortion money.

 

Consequences of Crackdowns

This study found that police violence fuels general violence against sex workers. Fears of police violence, extortion or arrest often push sex workers into hiding and force them to work in isolated areas where they are more vulnerable to general violence and cut-off from support or HIV services. Additionally, sex workers reported that their lack of access to police protection creates a climate of impunity for crimes against them and has made them easy and frequent targets of violent attackers from the general population. This is, in part, reflected in the very high levels of physical and sexual violence respondents in all countries faced from people such as clients, bosses, partners, drunk hooligans, thugs, skinheads, and other passers-by.

 

Sex workers and key informants also reported that crackdowns sometimes result in homelessness and family separation. This occurs when sex workers cannot afford paying extortion money and have to resort to give up their homes, when they are imprisoned for long periods, deported following a raid or when their family learns of their occupation due to a raid and throws them out. Homelessness due to police crackdowns increases the vulnerability to violence and to HIV for both sex workers and their children.

 

Police violence and mistreatment severely compromise sex workers’ ability to report violence against them. The most frequent reasons cited across all countries for not reporting violence

to the police were fears of: police mistreatment; being in worse danger (from police or perpetrator); arrest; and being outed to the police. The latter often referred to a fear of being regularly extorted or attacked. Many sex workers cited previous negative experiences or those of colleagues as confirming their fears.

 

The number of sex workers who said they felt they could report violence to the police is extremely low, with 100 percent of sex workers interviewed in Serbia, Lithuania and Macedonia

believing they cannot go to the police and over 50 percent in the other countries, except for North-Western Russia and Poland (Table 2).

 

State Policies Condoning Abuse

 

The human rights abuses committed by the police against sex workers in the countries studied cannot be dismissed as simply the acts of dishonest officers, but are rightly considered manifestations of state policies that tolerate, and in some cases even encourage, violence against sex workers. Acts of physical and sexual assault are serious crimes under the domestic laws of the countries in which research was conducted and, when committed by agents of the state, also amount to violations of international law. These include violations of the rights to security of the person and respect for the inherent dignity of each human being, and the right to be free from torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

 

A consistent pattern of state failure to punish or otherwise hold accountable police officers who commit violence against sex workers amounts to a policy – whether explicit or implicit – of tolerance for such abuses. In some cases, state policy appears intentionally designed to harm sex workers, as when police are instructed to use harsh measures to clear sex workers from a given area.2 In addition, antiprostitution laws and policies that criminalise, penalise or otherwise stigmatise sex workers facilitate human rights abuses against sex workers by creating excuses for officials to control and punish sex workers.

 

End Note

 

This study was conducted in twelve countries but the statistics reflect only eleven. Due to safety concerns, we had to remove the data from one country. Following public statements by sex workers denouncing violence, members of the local SWAN group administering the survey received death threats and faced the possibility of the government closing down their centre and seizing confidential medical records. The data from this country paints a stark portrait of generalised routine sexual and physical violence by law enforcement officers associated with crackdowns. This experience and the data illustrate why the need to support sex workers in

combating violence by state actors is so urgent. We dedicate this article to the twenty sex workers in that country who risked so much to tell their story.

 

About the Authors

Anna-Louise Crago and Aliya Rakhmetova are with SWAN. Acacia Shields is a consultant to

Open Society Institute.

Contact person: Aliya Rakhmetova, swan@tasz.hu

 

Notes

1 SWAN (2009). Arrest the Violence. Human rights abuses against sex workers In Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network, www.swannet.org

2 See, for instance, the case of a 2009 police cleansing operation in Bulgaria, described in Arrest the Violence in the section on Physical and Sexual Violence

News Human Rights

Number of People Dying in Texas Police Custody ‘Really Jarring’

Teddy Wilson

“I think this story is really a story that we’ve known for a long time which is that too many people are incarcerated,” said Amanda Woog, a postdoctoral legal fellow and Texas Justice Initiative project director. “The other story that is emerging is that a lot of folks have known for some time too, which is that too many people are incarcerated pre-conviction.”

Nearly 7,000 people have died over the past decade while in police custody in Texas, according to a report by the Texas Justice Initiative (TJI). About 1,900 of those people had not been convicted of a crime. 

Many had not even been charged with a crime.

The TJI report analyzed data collected and published as part of a project by the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin.

Unlike people who are executed by the state, which the report notes is “painstakingly documented,” the accounts of those who die while in custody are not widely known. “They occur at every point and phase of our criminal justice system, in a manner that remains largely untracked and unexamined,” the report’s authors wrote. 

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From 2005-2015, there were 6,913 people who died while in police custody in Texas. The number of deaths in police custody has increased over the years. There were 683 in 2015, the highest number of deaths in a single year during the ten-year span, during which there was an average of 623 deaths per year.

Amanda Woog, a postdoctoral legal fellow and TJI project director, told Rewire that the sheer number of people who have died in custody in Texas has been “really jarring for people,” and that the data shines a light on Texas’ incarceral state. 

“I think this story is really a story that we’ve known for a long time which is that too many people are incarcerated,” Woog said. “The other story that is emerging is that a lot of folks have known for some time too, which is that too many people are incarcerated pre-conviction.”

The report found that racial disparities present in the state’s criminal justice system “generally translate into racial disparities in custodial mortality.”

While Black people comprise 12 percent of the Texas population, they account for 30 percent of custodial deaths. Forty-two percent (2,872) of those who died in custody were white, 28 percent (1,915) were Hispanic and 1 percent (66) were from other racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The different categories of deaths while in custody mirror the categories used in the custodial death report.

Under Texas law, when a person dies in police custody, in jail or prison, or as the result of a police officer’s use of force, it is required that the law enforcement agency “file a written report of the cause of death” to the Texas Attorney General’s office.

The attorney general’s office has collected the information contained in those reports and published the results in a single database since 2005. The overwhelming majority of deaths were reported as natural causes.

Wong told the Texas Tribune that if the 4,870 deaths reported from natural causes were examined further, the explanation of those deaths may change how they would be categorized.

“If someone wasn’t charged, then maybe the person filling out the form didn’t think they could say that a homicide had occurred,” Woog said. “But the injuries might be consistent with someone having been attacked.” 

There were 772 (11 percent) deaths due to suicide, 573 (8 percent) people who died due to “justifiable homicide,” 275 (4 percent) who died from alcohol or drug intoxication, 255 (4 percent) who died for other reasons, and 168 (2 percent) who died from an accidental injury.

Maya Schenwar, editor in chief of Truthout and the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, told Rewire that the number of in-custody deaths in Texas “does seem like a high number.”

“One of the things that this documents, and is so important to recognize, is that this is not just people going [into prison] and dying of natural causes,” Schenwar said. People who are incarcerated “are more likely to die in a situation that a is result of [medical] neglect or suicide or than they are on the outside.”

The TJI report highlights the number of those who have died while in custody without being convicted of a crime. Many had not been charged with any crime.

Pretrial and bail policies have resulted in tens of thousands of people spending time in Texas jails without being convicted of a crime. Of the 63,989 inmates being held in Texas county jails in 2014, 38,745 inmates (60.55 percent) were being detained pre-trial, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards annual report

The report found that 76 percent of 1,111 deaths in local jails were people not convicted of a crime and 16 percent of those people had yet to even be charged with a crime. 

The number of people who have died prior to booking or in the process of an arrest increased by 84 percent over the last ten years, from 83 deaths in 2005 to 153 deaths in 2015.

Woog told Rewire that the 573 reports of “justifiable homicides” over the past ten years present a challenge to analyzing the data because the state does not define the term in the individual reports.

“It is a term that I think we need to move past, at least when we’re talking about data collection for police involved shootings,” Woog said. “It’s kind of turned into a proxy term in reporting for ‘officer involved shootings,’ but from a data collection point of view it’s not a perfect proxy by any means.”   

As noted by the report’s authors, the term “justifiable homicide” “appears conclusory when it is not clear who made the decision that it was justifiable.” The term is both “under inclusive and over inclusive with respect to officer-involved shootings.” 

Nearly all of the incidents of so-called justifiable homicide occurred prior to booking and without any charges filed: 562 (98 percent) of deaths that were deemed “justifiable homicides” occurred prior to booking and 530 (92 percent) of justifiable homicides happened to people who had not been charged with a crime.

There were two justifiable homicides in prisons and nine justifiable homicides in jails. There were three justifiable homicides of people who had been convicted of a crime, six justifiable homicides of those who were on parole, and 34 justifiable homicides of individuals who were the subject of criminal charges.

Schenwar told Rewire that the report highlights something that is “very pervasive in the system,” and that there is a need to examine the problem of medical and mental health neglect in jails and prisons. 

“Prison causes death in so many different ways and a lot of them are ways in which we might not be able to directly document,” Schenwar said. “Looking at these data sets you might not be able to say that ‘prison killed this person,’ but you can start looking at them and realize that they might be much more likely to die while incarcerate because of these reasons that can’t be connected dot to dot.”

Woog told the Texas Tribune that information will help inform the public discussion on police brutality and violence within the criminal justice system.

“We can’t have an informed conversation about who’s dying at the hands of police or who’s dying in jails if we don’t literally know who’s dying and how they’re dying,” Woog told the Tribune. “I think this information can help us get to the bottom causes of mortality in the criminal justice system and with that lead us to solutions.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Victim Blames, Clinton Talks Subminimum Wage

Ally Boguhn

A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday found that 74 percent of registered women voters said they viewed Donald Trump “unfavorably.”

Donald Trump this week continued to defend his campaign manager after he was charged with simple battery against a reporter, and Hillary Clinton took on the subminimum wage.

“She Made Up This Story”: Trump Ignores Video Evidence to Defend Campaign Manager Against Battery Charges

Trump refused to back down from his defense of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after Lewandowski was charged with simple battery for allegedly forcefully grabbing and bruising a former Breitbart reporter at a campaign event.

Police in Jupiter, Florida charged Lewandoski Tuesday after reporter Michelle Fields on March 8 complained that he grabbed her by the arm, threw her off balance, and left bruises. Fields was attempting to ask Trump a question when she felt someone “yank her left arm,” according to the arrest report

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Fields later showed an officer “her left forearm, which revealed bruising from what appeared to be several finger marks indicating a grabbing type injury.”

In the weeks since the incident, Trump and Lewandowski have attempted to discredit Fields, calling her “delusional” and flatly denying an altercation ever occurred, though the Washington Post’s Ben Terris corroborated her account.

Video evidence of the incident appears to corroborate Fields’ account. Nonetheless, during an interview Wednesday on NBC’s Today Show, Trump claimed that Fields “made up this story.” He suggested she had provoked the incident. “She grabbed me by the arm, I didn’t even know who it was. But she went through Secret Service because they were surrounding me and we were walking out. And by the way she was asking me questions she wasn’t supposed to because the press conference had ended.”

Trump suggested he should press charges against Fields for what happened.

The GOP frontrunner cast doubts on Fields’ story, according to NPR, saying, “Wouldn’t you think she would have yelled out a scream if she had bruises on her arm?”

“What Donald Trump is doing fits the very definition of victim blaming, and it is not only unacceptable, it is actively dangerous,” Nita Chaudhary, cofounder of advocacy group UltraViolet, told the New York Times. “They are belittling Michelle Fields’s [sic] claim despite overwhelming evidence.”

“Comments like this essentially perpetuate violence against women,” Chaudhary added.

Trump’s campaign has been plagued by controversy over his treatment of women—and it could cost him votes. A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday found that 74 percent of registered women voters polled said they viewed Trump “unfavorably.”

Trump has been harshly criticized for lobbing sexist remarks at Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly throughout the campaign season, accusing her of being a “lightweight” with “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” after she questioned his disparaging comments about women during an August debate.

This rhetoric led the Our Principles PAC, a super PAC formed by former Mitt Romney staffer Katie Packer, to create an ad highlighting direct quotes the candidate has made, including using terms directed at women like “bimbo” and “fat pig.”

Clinton Speaks Out Against Subminimum Wage

Clinton condemned “legal loopholes” that allow employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage during a Monday campaign stop in Madison, Wisconsin.

“When it comes to jobs, we’ve got to figure out how we get the minimum wage up and include people with disabilities in the minimum wage,” Clinton said in response to a question from an audience member about the candidate’s plan to address rights and job opportunities for disabled workers.

“There should not be a tiered wage, and right now there is a tiered wage when it comes to facilities that do provide opportunities but not at a self-sufficient wage that enables people to gain a degree of independence as far as they can go,” Clinton continued. “When people talk about raising the minimum wage, they don’t always talk about the legal loopholes that we have in it and I want to get rid of those and I want to get rid of that for people with disabilities too.”

Some employers are able to pay those with “a physical or mental disability” less than the minimum wage, or the subminimum wage under the Federal Labor Standard Act (FLSA). According to the Department of Labor, “Employment at less than the minimum wage is designed to prevent the loss of employment opportunities for these individuals.”

Disability rights advocates say that the policy has led to the exploitation of many of these workers.

Ari Ne’eman, co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, told the Huffington Post that Clinton’s comments were “game changing” for the issue. “To see a major presidential candidate take a stance on this is a very significant step,” Ne’eman said.

What Else We’re Reading

Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during a town hall event that women who receive abortion care should face “some form of punishment” if the procedure is outlawed, then backtracked amid criticism. But as Irin Carmon wrote for MSNBC, “Women are already being prosecuted for having abortions” in the United States.

Trump’s comments on punishing women who have abortions shines an “accidental spotlight on one of the most inconvenient truths of the Republican platform,” explained Jessica Valenti for the Guardian.

“I wear that as a badge of pride. I’m not going to apologize to anyone,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in response to criticism of his calls to “patrol and secure” U.S. Muslim communities.

Politico’s Rachana Pradhan and Paul Demko ask where Cruz’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is. 

The Iowa Supreme Court will decide whether the state will restore voting rights to more than 20,000 ex-felons in the state.

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