News Religion

This Weekend Thousands Fought Back Against The War On Women

Robin Marty

Thousands of women hit the streets to remind the GOP to mind their own uteruses.

The war on women may seem like an endless battle, but this weekend thousands of women joined together to make it clear that we are ready to fight back. Across the country, women gathered to march and protest the political football that has become women’s health and rights within both national and local legislatures.

In Kansas, where reproductive rights have become so restricted the state government practically uses a rubber stamp to approve anti-women bills, 400 people gathered in Topeka in the “We Are Women” rally. 

“Today’s rally was part of a national movement that has had enough of the war on women,” rally organizer Kari Ann Rinker says.

While there was a similar rally in every state, organizers say their cause is of particular urgency in Kansas right now given the current wave of conservatism that is dominating state government here.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Not only do we have a governor who sees fit to sign every piece of anti-choice legislation that crosses his desk, the atrocity is the failure to care for the living, breathing children and families that reside here in Kansas,” Rinker says.

And although most of the action was in Topeka, the small town of Pittsburg, Kansas, hosted a march of their own.

Ross compared the women’s march to an earlier event in Crawford County history. Back in December of 1921 an “Amazon Army” of miners’ wives, sweethearts, daughters and sisters marched through the coalfields for three days in support of striking miners against injustice and unfair labor laws.

“It’s time again for the women of southeast Kansas to unite and make our voices heard,” Ross said. “We want politicians to know that they have our attention and we vote.”

Mississippi, which is likely to become the first state to lose any access to legal, safe abortion if courts do not step in to overturn new local laws, may not have seen as many marchers as Kansas, but they were just as passionate. Calling themselves “WAR” (Women Are Representing), roughly 100 protesters marched on the state capitol, demanding that the legislature stop pushing bills that the voters have made clear they do not want.

“It feels like no one is listening because I thought we, I was pretty sure we voted in November against personhood which meant we really do need to have not an abortion free Mississippi but a Mississippi where there’s access to abortive care,” said Lauri Roberts, spokesperson for Mississippi Women Are Representing.

Wisconsin’s rallies were focused not just on women’s economic and reproductive freedom, but on Governor Scott Walker’s recall election as well, as many adovcates see him as the key reason that the state has begun limiting women’s rights and opportunities. As Jessica Mason Pieklo writes from the 100-person strong Madison rally,

I attended the rally in Madison, Wisconsin where the event had an additional air of urgency with the recall elections in the state fast approaching. Speakers railed against Gov. Scott Walker (R)’s repeal of equal pay laws, relentless assault on reproductive choice and family planning and, of course, his campaign against worker rights. But those attending the rally wanted it to be clear that they were out not just to be against Gov. Walker’s policies, but for policies that place Wisconsin women and families first.

Tennessee also saw one of its rallies turn overtly political as a local Republican state senate candidate attempted to tell about his support for women’s freedoms — except when it comes to reproductive rights.

Men and women gave testimony as to why they were present, while others in the crowd held signs reflecting their positions. The sign of South Knoxvillian Corinne Rovetti read, “Defeat the Tennessee Taliban,” with the names of Republican Sens. Becky Duncan Massey, Stacey Campfield, Doug Overbey and Mae Beavers and Reps. Matthew Hill and Harry Brooks listed. The sign also said, “Keep your religion off of my religion and rights.”

Gloria Johnson, chair of the Knox County Democratic Party and also a candidate for the 13th House District, told the crowd more women need to step up to run for government.

Afterward, [Republican candidate Garry] Loe was encouraged by some also to speak. As he stepped forward, there were shouts of “we’re not going back.”

Loe said he wholeheartedly supports women on the issues of housing, education and jobs. Someone shouted, “How about Planned Parenthood?” He did not respond but said later that he is an anti-abortion advocate. Johnson said she is an abortion rights advocate.

In Houston, one of many Texas rallies, over 1500 marchers sought to speak out against the states most recent attempts to restrict women’s reproductive rights — the mandatory ultrasound law and the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and limit a woman’s right to health care and contraception, both enthusiastically signed into law by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

“We fought this fight 40 years ago,” said Susan Haney, one of the organizers of the Texas rally. “Our daughters and granddaughters should not have to fight it again.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, urged people in the crowd to make their frustration known in the upcoming primary election, the November election and beyond.

“Do we have a movement here or do we have a moment?” Doggett asked.

It was a movement, not a moment, in Richmand, Virginia, where 300 protesters reminded lawmakers that they were neither forgiving nor forgetting the legislature’s decision to force women seeking pregnancy terminations to undergo mandatory vaginal ultrasounds.

Some protesters carried professionally printed signs that carried messages such as “Stop the War on Virginia Women.” Others waved more colorful, homemade posters: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and “Va. Gov. McDonnell. The Vaginal Probe Guy.”

“Women are powerful — despite the way we are treated and what we are told,” said Victoria Bragunier, president of the Richmond chapter of the National Organization of Women.

The New York City rally actually marched down Broadway during their event, and brought celebrities into the action.

They chanted “Not the church, not the state, women must control their fate.”

Protester Brenda Reiss says she’s taking part because of efforts in several states to restrict access to abortion and contraception. She says women “will not be shoved back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.”

Protesters included actress Martha Plimpton, star of Fox TV’s “Raising Hope.”

Plimpton tweeted that it was “a beautiful day for yelling at the government.”

And in Minnesota, where 300 people marched on the capitol despite the rain and cold, local politicians and activists demanded women’s rights while the legislature was in session. 

“We organized this march in Minnesota because we have had enough,” said Laura Nevitt, event organizer and President of the DFL (Democratic Farmer-Laborer) Feminist Caucus. “When 31 male US Senators think its ok to vote against the Violence Against Women Act, its not ok. When thousands of pieces of legislation are getting introduced across this country that directly attack women and their rights, freedoms and equality – its time to unite, to mobilize and say ‘ENOUGH!”

“Enough” is right.  Across the country, women are showing will not be silent any longer.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.