Bachmann wants government out of personal family choices…what the what?


And by personal family choices, she means light bulb choices.

And by personal family choices, she means light bulb choices. Via the Star Tribune:

“The government has no business telling an individual what kind of light bulb to buy,” Bachmann said in a statement Wednesday. “This mandate has sweeping effects on American families and businesses and needs serious consideration before taking effect

The mandate to which Bachmann is referring is a law that requires phaseout of incandescent light bulbs and the adoption of high efficiency compact fluorescent bulbs. She’s reinvigorated her campaign to pass the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” which would do away with the light bulb mandate.

Bachmann further added: ““The American people want less government intrusion into their lives, not more, and that includes staying out of their personal light bulb choices.”

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Regardless of your stance on light bulb choice, you still have to still have to ask yourself: “Are you kidding me, Representative Bachmann?”

Bachmann is totally A-OK with the government intruding on family decisions and choices made in the doctors’ office involving the most PERSONAL of personal choices: a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. Bachmann even supports allowing the government to prohibit a woman from having an abortion, even when it means the woman might die if she continues the pregnancy. She doesn’t just support it— she co-sponsored the bill!

Here’s the truth: Bachmann has been a strong supporter of government intrusions into women’s lives. Just don’t mess with lightbulbs— My lighbulb, my choice.

 –Karina, Web Editor, Planned Parenthood Advocate

Analysis Human Rights

Family Separation, A Natural Byproduct of the U.S. Immigration System

Tina Vasquez

There are millions of children in the United States born into households where one or more of their parents are undocumented—and thousands of these parents are deported each year.

To honor migrant mothers in detention this Mother’s Day, the immigrant rights organization CultureStrike has partnered with, NWDC Resistance, and Strong Families. Visitors to can pick out a card and write a message to a detained mother, and members of CultureStrike will deliver printed cards to detention centers nationwide.

A card from a stranger on the internet is a small gesture, but one that could have been meaningful to Monica Morales’ mother when she was detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center late last year. Morales told Rewire her mother, usually a fighter, was depressed and that her morale was at an all-time low. She’d been picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the border while attempting to escape her abusive ex-husband in Mexico and the gang violence that plagued her neighborhood in Chihuahua. After being deported in 2010, she was trying to reenter the United States and reunite with her family in Amarillo, Texas, but the reunion would never happen.

As an adult, Morales is somewhat able to make sense of what occurred, but she worries about what she will tell her three young children about what has happened to their family. These are hard conversations happening all over the country, as there are millions of children in the United States born into households where one or more of their parents are undocumentedand thousands of these parents are deported each year. And, advocates say, there are few, if any, programs available to help immigrant children cope with their trauma.

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“There’s Literally Nothing We Can Do”

On any given day, there are 34,000 people in immigration detention. Prior to the “border crisis” that brought thousands of Central American women to the United States seeking asylum, the Women’s Refugee Commission reported that 10 percent of those in detention were women. Since 2009, that figure has likely increased, but the exact number is unknown.

Morales’ mother was one of them.

Though they were both located in Texas at the time, Morales said getting her mom’s phone calls from Hutto was heartbreaking and that she couldn’t have felt further away or more helpless. Morales hit her breaking point when one day, her mom called sobbing, saying she and seven other women were forced to spend the day in a room covered in urine, blood, and excrement. It was shortly after that Morales’ mom decided to participate in the hunger strike Rewire reported on earlier this year.

“My mom would always tell me that dogs at the pound are treated better than they are in Hutto and other detention centers,” Morales said. “At least at the pound, they try to help the dogs and they want them to get adopted. At places like Hutto, they don’t care what happens to you, they don’t care if you’ll get killed if you get deported. If someone is sick, they don’t care. If someone is suffering, they don’t care.”

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s oldest and largest for-profit private prison corporation, runs Hutto. The company has come under fire many times for human rights violations, including at Hutto, which was once used to detain immigrant families, including children. The Obama administration removed families from the facility in 2009 after numerous allegations of human rights abuses, including, according to the Texas Observer, “accounts of children suffering psychological trauma.” In 2010, there were also multiple allegations of sexual assault at the detention center.

Morales’ mother was not aware of Hutto’s history of abuse cases, but Morales told Rewire that after the hunger strike, her mother and other women who participated believed they were being retaliated against by Hutto officers because they had brought more bad publicity to the facility. Morales’ mom was deemed by detention officers a “dangerous detainee” and had to wear a different color uniform to identify her as such, Morales said. She was also placed in solitary confinement for over a month before she was transferred to another detention facility.

Six weeks ago, Morales’ mother was deported back to Chihuahua where she must remain for 20 years, because those who have been deported once before and then attempt to reenter the United States within a period of “inadmissibility” automatically trigger a longer ban.

Advocates have told Rewire that transfers to other facilities and solitary confinement are common tactics used by both detention and ICE officers to retaliate against those who go on strike.

During the time of the hunger strike, ICE denied allegations that it was retaliating against detainees in the form of transfers and solitary confinement. A spokesperson said in a statement to Rewire that it “routinely transfers detainees to other facilities for various reasons, including bed-space availability or to provide greater access to specialized services needed by particular detainees.” The spokesperson added that Hutto “does not have solitary confinement areas.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, Morales told Rewire that her head is heavy with thoughts of her mother. The chance they will be able to see each other anytime soon is slim. If her mom attempts to reenter the United States a third time and is caught, she will be permanently barred. Morales is a DACA recipient, which means she qualified for an immigration policy put into place by President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a work permit and exemption from deportation renewable every two years (but for only as long as the DACA program is in place). It also means Morales is unable to travel outside of the United States unless there is an emergency, and for obvious reasons, those are not the conditions under which she wants to see her mother.

“We can’t see my mom for 20 years and there’s literally nothing we can do,” Morales told Rewire. “I can’t go to Mexico. The only way I can go is if something were to happen to my mom, and I pray I don’t have to go in that situation. And honestly, I would worry if the [Border Patrol] would let me return to the U.S. even though I’d have my paperwork in order. I’ve heard that happens. If you’re in my situation, everything is so risky and I can’t take those risks. I have three children. My youngest child has health issues and he needs medication. My second child suffers from tumors and he needs yearly check-ups. I can’t risk my status in the U.S. to go back.”

Like her mother, Morales is a domestic abuse survivor and she is upset by how immigration laws have impacted her family and offer little recourse to women who are attempting to escape violence. If nothing else, she said, this anger has moved her to be more politically active. Not only has she started a campaign to get Hutto shut down, but she is doing interviews and other activities to shine a light on how the U.S. immigration system further traumatizes survivors of domestic violence, the mental health issues that arise when being forced to navigate such a “horrible” system, and the family separation that has become a natural byproduct of it all.

“I don’t think Americans know what this does to our families or our communities,” Morales said. “I wonder a lot that if people knew what happened to our families, if they would even care. Moms [are] in detention for years just for trying to give their kids a better life. Parents [are] being deported and killed and their children have to be raised by other people. Do people even care?”

The Morales Family

Morales and her sister are working together to pay for bi-weekly psychiatrist sessions in Mexico for their mom, who is struggling with being separated from her only support system and who Morales strongly believes was severely traumatized by her experiences at Hutto.

“She can’t work; she can’t reintegrate herself into society. She can’t leave the house by herself; she can’t be in the house by herself. After being detained, my mom was treated so bad that that I think she started to believe she deserved it. My grandma says my mom can’t sleep at night, she paces. My grandpa asks her what’s wrong and she just says she feels like she’s suffocating. She can’t calm down. She has a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression. She’s different than she used to be,” Morales said.

The Impact of Immigration Policies on Families

Wendy Cervantes is vice president of immigration and child rights at First Focus, one of the few children’s advocacy organizations in the country to focus on immigrant families. Cervantes told Rewire that if adults, much like Morales’ mom, struggle mightily with family separation and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from trauma experienced in their countries of origin and exacerbated by navigating the U.S. immigration system, what must it be like for children?

While it’s certainly true that all immigrant families fear family separation, the challenges faced by mixed-status families like Morales’ are unique. “Mixed status” is in reference to a family comprised of people with different citizenship statuses. A parent, for example, may be undocumented, but their children are American citizens or are “DACA-mented.”

A report from Human Impact Partners, Family Unity, Family Health, found that “nationwide, an estimated 4.5 million children who are U.S. citizens by birth live in families where one or more of their parents are undocumented.” And when deportations occur on the scale that they have under the Obama administration, not only do they separate families, but they have overwhelming an effect on the health and well-being of children. Besides being more apt to suffer poverty, diminished access to food and health care, and limited educational opportunities, children suffer from fear and anxiety about the possible detainment or deportation of their family members. This leads to poor health, behavioral, and educational outcomes, and sometimes results in shorter lifespans, according to Family Unity, Family Health.

In 2012, Colorlines reported that about 90,000 undocumented parents of American citizen children were deported each year. The number has declined since then. In 2013, government data showed it was 72,410, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only documents the number of parents with children who are citizens, not cases in which parents with undocumented children are deported.

“If a kid has to go back to a violent country they’ve never been with their deported parent or if they have to stay behind without a parent or go into the child welfare system, none of it is ideal,” Cervantes told Rewire. “The constant fear your parent will be detained or deported has very large consequences on children, who are showing signs of PTSD at younger and younger ages. The immigration system can really take a kid’s childhood away from them.”

Who Will Address Their Trauma?

The American citizen or DACA-mented children of undocumented parents suffer from things like anxiety and depression because of fears their parents will be detained or deported, Cervantes told Rewire. Furthermore, there are well over one million undocumented children in the United States and to her knowledge, there are no services provided for these children to cope with their trauma.

According to the American Psychological Association, “research indicates that unaccompanied refugee minors experience greater risk of mental illness than general populations.” Based on work she’s done with unaccompanied minors from Central America, Cervantes said the levels of PTSD in these children is “on another level,” which is part of the reason why she said she’s so appalled by the administration’s aggressive approach to the Central American asylum-seeking population, which she said is greatly lacking in empathy.

“I’ve met unaccompanied kids who have told me horrendous stories. They witness horrible things on their journey here, but they were also escaping horrible things in their country of origin. An 8-year-old witnessing a girl he knew from his neighborhood getting gang-raped as part of a gang initiation and seeing his best friend getting beheaded by a gang on his way to school,” Cervantes told Rewire. “How many years of serious counseling and professional help would it take for an adult to be OK after seeing such violence? Now consider we’re talking about a child. It’s so disturbing, and then these same kids get placed in facilities that are like jails. How are they expected to function?”

While counseling is offered in detention, those services have been highly criticized by pediatricians, therapists, and advocates as inadequate at best, especially considering that the counselors in the facilities often only speak English. It’s also important to note, Cervantes said, that these services are only offered while the child or parent is detained. Once they’re released, there isn’t a clear federal program that offer assistance to directly address their trauma.

Rather than sitting around and hoping a program will eventually be created, advocates are currently working on gathering a team of psychiatrists to visit detention centers and assess the mental health services offered. Next week, First Focus will also be launching a TV and radio campaign about family separation spanning eight states, using donated airtime valued at $1 million.

Over the years as she’s worked in immigration, Cervantes is routinely surprised by how little most Americans seem to know about how the immigration system actually works and the very real ways things like detainment and deportation rip families apart, traumatizing people of all ages. She told Rewire that she hopes the upcoming campaign humanizes the issue and helps people understand that family separation isn’t a rarity and that it happens in every community in every state.

“I’m actually very disturbed by so much of the immigration process, especially how we treat families who are seeking asylum and who have risked their lives. I have to believe that if Americans came to understand this, they’d be disturbed too,” Cervantes said. “I just wish I knew why we can’t be compassionate to people who really need our compassion.”

UPDATE: This piece has been updated to include new details about the First Focus program, including that the campaign will span eight states, up from three.

Commentary Abortion

The Institutionalization of Abortion Stigma: What Care at an Ambulatory Surgical Center Can Look Like

Annika Mukherjee

Under HB 2, Texas' omnibus anti-abortion law, doctors must fulfill medically unnecessary requirements just to stay open, forgoing a patient’s comfort.

It only takes a visit to one community clinic and one ambulatory surgical center to see how HB 2, Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, is taking its toll on patient care. Doctors must now fulfill medically unnecessary requirements just to stay open, forgoing a patient’s comfort.

This situation will only get worse if the Supreme Court lets HB 2 stand. The Court, when its term begins October 5, could take up a challenge from reproductive rights advocates to “determine whether Texas can force more than 75 percent of the State’s abortion clinics to close.” While we wait to hear from the Court, I’d like to share my experience of touring two clinics—one that was constructed before HB 2 and one that was built to comply with the restrictive law.

Whole Woman’s Health (WWH) is a feminist organization that offers comprehensive gynecology services for people, including abortion care. During my internship at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Marva Sadler, WWH’s director of Clinical Services, gave us a tour of the organization’s San Antonio clinic. Sadler led us around the facilities, as if we were patients, so we could get a sense of the experience, from sitting in the waiting room to recovering in the Aftercare room. WWH San Antonio creates a unique and individualized experience for people obtaining abortions, actively fighting shame and honoring their individual experiences through soothing purple walls and lighting, empowering artwork, rooms named after powerful women, and a comforting atmosphere.

The clinic visit starts with counseling and then a one-on-one consultation with the doctor who would be performing the abortion, to answer any questions and to provide total awareness of the patient’s various options. Family members and escorts are welcome to accompany the patient throughout the process, although the patient is also given confidential time alone with the clinic staff, who are well-trained to identify issues like coercion, domestic abuse, and human trafficking. The patient also watches the Whole Woman’s Health video, which leads the patient through the entire process of getting an abortion “from the moment a patient walks through the door to when she leaves from recovery.” The patient has many opportunities to ask questions, discuss their options, and think through what is best for them.

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Whole Woman’s Health Director of Clinical Services Marva Sadler stands in the operating room at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio. If House Bill 2 were to go into effect, this type of room wouldn’t be able to be used for abortion procedures

Whole Woman’s Health Director of Clinical Services Marva Sadler stands in the operating room at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio. If HB 2 were to go into effect, this type of room wouldn’t be able to be used for abortion procedures

The operating room at the regular, non-ambulatory clinic is a small, intimate space with a lamp and two medical devices, an ultrasound system and a suction machine. The room is comforting and supportive, especially because an escort can act as a hand-holder throughout the process. The doctor’s patient-centered practice contributes to the warm atmosphere, as the patient and doctor have already been acquainted through counseling, and the doctor talks the patient through the procedure, explaining what is happening along the way. At WWH, they call this “verbicaine.” As Sadler described it: “Nine times out of ten, without any sedation, we talk patients through their procedures. We start a totally different conversation about something totally different, and then when they realize that the conversation is over, the procedure is over.”

The procedure is usually over within eight to ten minutes.

At the end, patients enter the Aftercare room: a space lit by lamps with purple blankets and lush reclining chairs. They can have “tranquili-tea”—a WWH-exclusive, specially brewed tea to help with cramping—use heating pads, and talk to staff and their escort(s).

“This is where the emotion happens,” says Sadler. Aftercare is where Whole Woman’s Health staff “really [get] to put their special touch in with patients, and this is where the difference happens. This is where they’re individualizing, and they get to make a difference in a life.”

Whole Woman’s Health erases stigma from the abortion process and transforms it into a wholesome experience centered on the patient’s needs. WWH’s staff are trained to break down the walls of abortion stigma in a safe, comforting and nonjudgmental environment, making sure they’re caring for the patient holistically from the time they walk into the clinic until after the procedure and follow-up appointment.

Unfortunately, restrictions like those in HB 2 have completely compromised WWH’s methods.

HB 2, among other things, requires that all abortion clinics meet the building standards of an ambulatory surgical center (ASC). Should this provision of HB 2 go into effect, only nine clinics would be able to serve all of Texas (see a comparison of the requirements here). After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold HB 2’s provisions, Whole Woman’s Health, along with other Texas abortion providers and led by the Center for Reproductive Rights, took the law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court then granted a stay, blocking that provision of the law from going into effect while the Court decides whether or not to hear the case.

To comply with the state’s new restrictive abortion legislation, WWH constructed an ambulatory surgical center in 2010 that provides a vastly different patient experience. We toured that clinic, which is located across the parking lot from WWH’s regularly licensed abortion clinic, as well.

First entering the ASC clinic’s waiting room, we saw the same purple walls, but throughout the rest of the facility, it was stark white, an official ASC regulation. The atmosphere immediately transitioned into that of a shameful “asylum,” as Sadler put it. Notices and warnings were posted everywhere, where artwork might be if it were allowed. Alarm systems (or, as staff call it, “money hanging on the walls”) are plastered throughout the facility, rarely, if ever, used. There are internal alarm systems, hospital-grade fire alarm systems with sprinklers, a guest monitor, a generator monitor, and an emergency generatorall of which need to be tested and documented every day. These are extra obligations and extra money that are only a requirement of an ASC, adding nothing beneficial to the abortion procedure or to patient health and safety.

A gas line pipes through the wall in Whole Woman’s Health’s ambulatory surgical center. This is among the many pieces of medical equipment required for an ambulatory surgical center, but is never used during an abortion procedure.

A gas line pipes through the wall in Whole Woman’s Health’s ambulatory surgical center. This is among the many pieces of medical equipment required for an ambulatory surgical center, but is never used during an abortion procedure.

The preoperative room has bright, blinding overhead lighting that makes you feel like you’re being interrogated. Many different contraptions and systems are wired across and through the walls, including different gases, chemicals, and canisters.

In the five years that WWH has had this ASC, Sadler says, they haven’t needed to use this equipment once.

In spite of this, the canisters have to be replaced when they get old, the cords to the equipment have to be checked everyday, and IV access has to be maintained, whether the patient wants sedation or not.

Another requirement that jeopardizes the patient’s comfort is that they have to get completely undressed and put on a hospital gown, surgical booties, and a surgical bonnet. Patients aren’t allowed to walk around like they would in a regular clinic, but have to lay on a gurney, wheeled to and from the operating room. When abortion is treated like a dangerous surgery, it takes away the independence and strength of the decision to have one. Obviously, these provisions are necessary for facilities that provide intensive, invasive procedures, but for abortion care, this is absolute overkill and a waste of money, not to mention an uncomfortable experience for the patient. It serves to do nothing but further stigmatize one of the safest procedures available in health care.

The halls of the ASC clinic at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio consisted of other specific requirements that don’t seem to have any real use: a pharmacy with required medication that doctors there have never used and do not need to provide abortions (“When these meds expire, we just throw them away and order more,” says Sadler), crash carts stocked with medication that can be $200 a bottle, male and female locker rooms, two color-coded janitor’s closets, and a blanket warmer. ASC requirements even took away WWH’s special touch of providing purple blankets; the blankets have to be white.

The operating room at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio’s ambulatory surgical center, which meets all of the requirements of House Bill 2, even if they aren’t needed for an abortion procedure.

The operating room at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio’s ambulatory surgical center, which meets all of the requirements of HB 2, even if they aren’t needed for an abortion procedure.

In the ASC clinic, the process is much more intimidating. It was massive, with bright “alien eyes” staring down at us, filled with complex machines, even though abortion care only requires the ultrasound and suction machines. According to Sadler, the patient is strapped down onto the table—nude in a 60-degree facility—arms restricted with straps on both sides of the table that keep her from moving. The only people allowed in the room are the doctor, registered nurses, and surgical techs. Because the patient is not allowed to have an escort in the room, no one is there to hold her hand. As the doctors are maintaining all of the different equipment, that verbal connection and emotional touch found across the street at the non-ASC clinic is lost here.

“[The patient] is absolutely alone because there is no one there to hold her hand throughout the whole thing. It’s horrible,” says Sadler, staring down at the ASC clinic’s emotionless surgical table. “It’s really hard to watch. It’s night and day between this and the [other] clinic.”

Because the doctor can’t reasonably talk the patient through the procedure because of the masks on her face and the loud air pressure system, Sadler says, “there’s no conversation at all. It’s just surgery.” Doctors at Whole Woman’s Health still attempt to stop at the table before performing the surgery to let the patient know that “it’s not some stranger coming in with a mask on her face, taking over,” says Sadler. “Just to remind the patient of who [the doctor] is, and that everything will be OK.”

The recovery room requires patients to lie on cage-like beds, to be hooked up to three-lead monitors, with disturbing beeping and clashing noises, behind a curtain that closes them off from the rest of the room. They are still undressed and not allowed any sort of company. They can’t even drink tea because of ASC requirements mandating such clinics serve only pre-packaged food, so patients are given only Capri Sun and Goldfish, as if they’re children.

Sterile gurneys like these are required to be in an ambulatory surgical center’s recovery room, as opposed to the comfortable recliners and purple blankets of Whole Woman’s Health’s other locations

Sterile gurneys like these are required to be in an ambulatory surgical center’s recovery room, as opposed to the comfortable recliners and purple blankets of Whole Woman’s Health’s other locations.

“A lot of times a woman has put on their strong face, until it’s over, and this is where the emotion happens. There’s no room for emotions in this room,” says Sadler. “Because of the limited staff and lack of escort, there are times when she is left alone, and that’s really hard for us because that’s not who we are.”

In the recovery area, there are still mechanisms like suction machines, oxygen piping, or positive pressure systems that never get used but need to be tested every day. WWH is forced to pay about $5,000 to $7,000 a month for outside companies to test all of its equipment, even though the equipment will never actually be used.

Maintaining extra financial obligations while attempting to maintain WWH’s philosophy of quality care results in professional sacrifices from the staff. Sadler explained, “The money that we were using for staff development and staff wellness, we’re now pushing that in other places. So now we’re having to pick and grab and figure out how to keep up who and what we are, without losing that, but still staying compliant with all of the rest of this ridiculousness. We’ve managed, but I’m telling you we’ve been tired at the end of the day, and it would definitely be great to take a breath.”

The entrance to a men’s locker room at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio’s ambulatory surgical center. ASCs require both women’s and men’s locker rooms on site, another requirement of House Bill 2 that is absolutely not needed in abortion care.

The entrance to a men’s locker room at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio’s ambulatory surgical center. ASC requirements mandate both women’s and men’s locker rooms on site.

Sadler says that patients often ask why their families can’t accompany them into surgery or recovery or why the clinic has to comply with the ridiculous restrictions that the state requires.

“It didn’t used to be this way. Unfortunately for staff, it’s hard to explain something that makes no sense.”

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of HB 2, the state will force all abortionsboth the surgical procedure and medical abortions (with pills)—to be performed only in a clinic that meets ASC standards. This clearly represents the institutionalization of stigma.

When it comes to Whole Woman’s Health, in the non-ASC clinic, the patient is allowed to take ownership of their own body; they’re allowed to be comforted and allowed to walk away with a comfortable experience. In the ASC clinic, the process is intimidating and terrifying. HB 2 makes the abortion process more about compliance with a law intended to shut down abortion clinics than the care and safety of patients. Texans are hoping that the Supreme Court will agree.