South Dakota could soon become the eighth state in the country to pass a sex-selective abortion ban. Yet these bills have yet to merit a larger conversation, either within the national reproductive rights and feminist movements or in the news more generally.
Wendy Davis and SB 5's opponents know: The legal right to an abortion means nothing to the person who can’t get to a clinic, the person who can’t speak the language spoken in a clinic, the person who doesn’t have enough money to pay for an abortion, and the person who doesn’t have the required documentation.
Even in New York and the 16 other states that provide Medicaid coverage for abortion, thousands of low-income women fall between the cracks. Many women may be too poor to pay for abortion procedures, but they are uninsured or not poor enough to obtain public health insurance coverage like Medicaid.
Post your own story here! As important for health care advocacy as policy analysis are the stories of real women and their families. Raising Women's Voices and Rewire offer you this space to tell us about your experiences of health care.
Legalizing abortion might decrease crime, Sergio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janiero, stated last week. His claim rests on a contested link between the reasons a woman seeks an abortion and the factors that facilitate criminal behavior.
Last week, President Bush vetoed a proposal that would extend the State Children's Health Insurance Program, demonstrating the administration's cavalier attitude toward the many families who earn above poverty levels but are still unable to cover their children.
Compelling social justice advocacy and activism must take the form of multidimensional organizing and intersectional thinking. Justice NOW in Oakland, California is a brilliant example of this kind of work.
Last week at the United States Social Forum, a group of organizations and activists created a new activist tool, "The Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: A Primer on Reproductive Justice and Social Change."
The International Criminal Court's newest investigation is its first case in which the number of mass rapes outnumbers the number of mass killings, supporting the argument that war is a women's rights issue.
A common tactic used by opponents of reproductive justice is to feign interest in women's health and well-being. An example of anti-woman dogma dressed in health rhetoric is Concerned Women for America.
After significant outrage by women civil servants in India, the Indian government says it will review new appraisal forms requiring female civil servants to offer information about their menstrual cycles.
Last week, the BBC reported that the health ministry of the Indian Government sought information about the details of female employees' menstrual cycles and when they last sought maternity leave. The offending questions are after the jump.
... it is no simple coincidence that 80 percent of the civil conflicts that broke out in the 1970s, '80s and '90s occurred in countries where at least 60 percent of the population was under 30, and that almost 9 of 10 such youthful countries had autocratic rulers or weak democracies.
The PAI study finds one thing that is consistent among strife-ridden nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Congo is that they all have very young populations.
William L. Nash, a retired Army major general who directs the Center for Preventive Action of the Council on Foreign Relations, says: "You've got a lot of young men. You've got a lot of poverty. You've got a lot of bad governance, and often you've got greed with extractive industries. You put all that together, and you've got the makings of trouble."
Over 1000 activists came together to forge a path towards reproductive freedom by learning, strategizing and networking for reproductive rights and social justice. There were more than 60 speakers from organizations and communities all over the U.S. and around the world. The speakers addressed a broad range of social justice issues by relating them to reproductive rights and health. They spoke about issues of economic justice, immigrants rights, health care, racial justice, anti-war activism, youth liberation, LGBTQ rights, civil liberties and freedom from violence.
Not so many years ago, genetic testing and selection seemed like a thing of the future. Gattaca-like scenarios seemed far off. Now, however, those scenarios are more imminent and as reproductive rights activists we've got to sort through the science and politics of it all. Since my post about sex-selection in India, I've been thinking quite a bit about the convolutions of this debate and how to configure a political stance on these issues that incorporates all the things I value. There are debates raging in the blogosphere, in the activist communities and in the world at large about genetic testing and reproductive rights. The New York Times is running a series of articles called "The DNA Age: Choosing to Know" (see sidebar for all articles). The questions are moral and political and because these phenomena happen on the site of women's bodies, the answers are crucial to a vision of reproductive justice. I can't say that I have any clear answers to these but I thought I'd take this opportunity to lay out the debate and offer some thoughts on it.
Last week, as we heard about American women in war, another story about women and war surfaced. An article in the NY Times reported that the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is refusing to acknowledge that Japanese (and other) women were forced into sex-slavery by the military during World War II.
This weekend, after a great stirring of emotions and controversy, the government of Japan reiterated its stance. The women who lived through it, however, are refusing to accept this distortion of history.
In the past week there have been two sets of startling stories about India and reproductive rights in the news.
The first story is based on a government survey finding that 40% of Indian women have not heard of AIDS. India has 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS per UN figures. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the most extensive study on health and nutrition in India, said in its latest report only 57 percent of women have heard of AIDS. In rural areas, where most Indians live, a mere 46% of women were aware of the disease.
The second story reports that GE ultrasound machines in India are being used for sex selection. Under Indian law, doctors who operate ultrasound machines can only use them in the case of an abnormal pregnancy and must fill out forms showing the reason for each procedure. However the only machines that the government can monitor are the 25,770 machines that are registered. The London Daily Main places estimates of the actual number of machines in use at anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000, according to the British Medical Journal. The portable ones that make it to rural areas, if unregistered and unregulated can allow any woman to determine the sex of her child. The fetus can then be terminated at a government hospital, where abortions, like other procedures, are free for those who cannot pay.
Let's kick off 2007 with a little immigration mania, shall we?
Yuki Lin, born on the stroke of midnight this New Year's, became the winner of a random drawing for a national Toys "R" Us sweepstakes. The company had promised a $25,000 U.S. savings bond to the "first American baby born in 2007." However, Yuki lost her prize after the company learned that her mother was an undocumented U.S. resident. Instead, the bond went to a baby in Gainesville, Georgia, described by her mother as "an American all the way."
The question is unambiguously answered by the 14th Amendment, which asserts that a child born on U.S. soil is an American citizen, having equal standing with all other American citizens. Nevertheless, this incident brings to light some pretty deep-seated beliefs about who is legitimately American and who, clearly, is not.
Last week, an article in Time Magazine, written by Nancy Gibbs, addressed the burgeoning business of so-called, "crisis pregnancy centers" or CPC's. If you recall Tyler's post about the L-Word episode that featured such a center, you'll remember what hypocritical hoaxes they conjure and the trickery and deceit they market.
An alarming number of physicians do not feel obligated to tell their patients about certain medical procedures they morally oppose. Often falling into this category are teen birth control and abortion. A recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, led by Dr. Farr Curlin, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago has brought forth new information. The researchers surveyed 1,144 doctors from all around the US and found some truly disturbing facts about medical care in this country. Many doctors who morally oppose certain treatments do not feel obligated to refer people elsewhere for care they do not wish to provide.
In Iowa, Oregon and Milwaukee the sex-education tide's-a-turning. Each of these places is on the path to offering sex education in their schools that is based on truthful information about sex. Well, the statistics don't lie and it's about time that we started paying attention to the grand failure that is abstinence-only sex ed.
Each year many pregnant Chinese women try and cross the border into Hong Kong in order to give birth. Apparently, in the past few years tens of thousands of women have crossed the border from mainland China into Hong Kong to deliver their children. Last year this number reached approximately 12,000. By making the trek into Hong Kong, women from mainland China are able to circumvent the country's one-child policy, and gain automatic residency rights (that come with health and education benefits) for their child in Hong Kong. The numbers of births by Chinese women from the mainland now account for almost a third of Hong Kong births, and are placing a burden on local hospital wards.
In a perfect follow-up to my post from last week about the demographic dividend and population control policies, the Federal Minister for Population Welfare in Pakistan, Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain, has said that national development is linked to the controlled population in the country.
In a response to the "country's high birth rate" the Minister Hussain wants to create awareness about family planning among the "uneducated segments of the society." That is all well and good—education about sexual health and family planning is certainly critical in many nations in South Asia—yet here again we see the burden for national development placed on the backs of poor people. All too often these people are poor women and policy aims to regulate their reproductive lives based on certain beliefs about their fertility, rather than to interrogate any other practices and policies affecting sustainable development.
The effects and politics of the population debate have been flaring up around the world as the stakes, like the distribution of global resources, get higher and higher. So, when we get the chance to demystify the political and economic lingo about demographic changes, I say we should jump at it.
The Population and Development Program at Hampshire College has recently published a paper by Anne Hendrixson, as part of their series DifferenTakes, that aims to shed some light on what seems at first glance to be a very complicated argument about demographic changes. The theory recently propounded in the IMF's September 2006 issue of Finance & Development is called the "demographic dividend."
"There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available...In our struggle for equality we were confronted with the reality that many millions of people were essentially ignorant of our conditions or refused to face unpleasant truths. The hard-core bigot was merely one of our adversaries. The millions who were blind to our plight had to be compelled to face the social evil their indifference permitted to flourish...We knew that there were solutions and that the majority of the nation were ready for them. Yet we also knew that the existence of solutions would not automatically operate to alter conditions. We had to organize, not only arguments, but people in the millions for action. Finally we had to be prepared to accept all the consequences involved in dramatizing our grievances in the unique style we had devised."
- MLK upon accepting the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Margaret Sanger Award. Read the entire speech.
On its 60th anniversary, UNICEF has launched a report asserting that gender equality is critical to child survival and development. "The State of the World's Children 2007" investigates the status of children all around the world. The report found that by bringing an end to gender discrimination we would create the "double dividend" of benefiting both women and children. "The lives of women are inextricably linked to the well-being of children," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "If they are not educated, if they are not healthy, if they are not empowered, the children are the ones who suffer."
In the reproductive justice arena, 2006 has been a year of big wins and a few heartbreaking losses. For better and worse, the year has been a doozy. You know about some of the challenges already, but you also know that hard work pays off, and there were several excellentsuccesses, too.
Since these are the days that many folks are thinking and rethinking their New Year's resolutions, now's the perfect time for some guidance. Coming up with the perfect resolution requires a delicate balance: a combination of something that you really want with something that you can actually accomplish. I thought I'd take the liberty of helping out our incoming Congress by offering a few suggestions they might resolve to achieve this year.
1. We resolve to do something about the fact that more than 40 million Americans don't have health insurance. We will not get bullied by insurance conglomerates and private interests in this matter. People need health care and we can make it happen.
Many, many of the reproductive justice issues that we face today are matters of health care. For example, access to pre- and post-natal care can change the lives of thousands of women and children in the US each year.
Muslim scholars from around the world have called for female circumcision (also called ‘female genital mutilation' or FGM) to be banned. They have unequivocally claimed that Islam offers no justification for the procedure and that those who carry it out should face punishment. At the recent conference on the subject, the religious scholars went so far as to assert that governments should make and enforce legal consequences for those who continue the practice.
A little background: Female circumcision is the removal of all or part of the external female genitalia. With some of the most severe practices, a woman or a girl has all of her genitalia removed and then stitched together leaving openings for intercourse and menstruation. According to Amnesty International, an estimated 135 million girls have undergone the procedure.
Last week, the gathering of Muslim scholars claimed that the practice amounts to violence against women and Islam forbids people from inflicting harm on others. They held that those who circumcise their daughters were doing exactly that.
Last week, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard an appeal of a 2005 federal court ruling that mandated Union Pacific Railroad to cover contraceptives in its health insurance plan.
Planned Parenthood and two female employees of Union Pacific filed a lawsuit that would require the company to provide coverage for FDA-approved prescription contraceptives for female employees, as well as female family members of male employees covered by the company's health plan. Judge Pasco Bowman, who sits on the appeals court panel, says that if the ruling sticks, it could mandate ALL companies to cover birth control in their health-care plans. Let's hope.
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