Category Archives: feminism

“We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Women (and men) like me have been outraged for quite some time about the ridiculous, antiquated views on women’s roles espoused by conservatives. Feminist activists are not unfamiliar with that feeling of “wait, he/she/they said/did what?!?!” when it comes to proposed legislation and even just speeches made by those with conservative views. We are constantly bombarded by the feeling that the fight against women’s rights is gaining strength. It seems the tide has turned and people with moderate and liberal values but who aren’t likely to become involved in activism are finally catching on to the fact that conservatives will not stop until women are barefoot, pregnant and chained to an oven. They are getting outraged too. Even some Republican women are considering jumping ship from the party because their leaders just won’t stop focusing on women’s bodies.

Want proof of the backlash? Well first I’d like to remind you of the Planned Parenthood vs. Susan G. Komen debacle where the general public made clear that they want Planned Parenthood to stay funded. Then we have the Rush Limbaugh backlash. At last count he had lost over 50 advertisers due to pressure from the general public threatening a boycott of companies that continue to support him. According to this article the stations that air his show are actually losing money and they postulate it’s only a matter of time before he loses his spot as a golden boy of the Republican Party.

The New York Times also reported on a seemingly growing trend in which moderate Republican women are jumping ship and considering voting for President Obama due to the Republican candidates’ inability to focus on anything other than women’s bodies. They want to see them talk about a real plan to fix the economy, not espousing support for things like the abhorrent Blunt amendment.

There is also a massive online movement to coordinate a March against the War on Women in all 50 States as well as D.C. Check out their website here. They have a Facebook page to assist in the organizing as well. As I write this there is an active protest at the Texas State Capitol demanding Governor Perry reconsider turning down federal funding that would go to support health care providers for low-income and uninsured women. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg so if you have examples, share them in the comments.

 I’m not the only person to notice the increased activism in the world of women’s rights. Barbara Hannah Grufferman wrote an article about this over at the Huffington Post and included a list of ways to get involved. The most important (in my opinion) is to share what you are doing with your friends and family. Let them know you are angry and why, get them involved too.

In honor of all the women (and men) who are getting involved I’d like to share this video with you. Watch it, it’s funny and has appropriate imagery for the topic: a woman with her male allies fighting against an oppressive male figure.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwz2AKsm3FY

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Rush’s Sponsors Stand up for Women

               Ever since the birth control mandate debate has erupted, I have been wondering if those opposed to it really understand how health insurance works. You see they keep complaining about how Catholics (while others may also be opposed it seems to be Catholic leaders who are most vocal in their opposition) who are morally opposed to birth control shouldn’t have to pay for other people to use birth control. Except that isn’t how this works, even if you are an employer you are not paying for birth control. While it is true that some employers pay a higher percentage of their employees health insurance premium, in nearly all circumstances the employee also pays part, if not most, of their premium. This buys them an insurance plan. Period. The only thing the premium pays for is an insurance plan. What that plan covers is paid for by the insurance company, what it doesn’t is paid for out of pocket by the plan recipients. No One is paying for anyone else’s birth control.

                Even big names in conservative media don’t seem to grasp that. Cue Rush Limbaugh, who entered the fray with a bang last week by attacking a Georgetown law student who testified in a panel on the birth control mandate. Her testimony included the story of a fellow student who was taking birth control pills for a health related matter but who couldn’t afford her prescription because the school refuse to cover birth control under their health care plan. Rush then called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” who wants American taxpayers to pay her to have sex because he is under the impression that taxpayers are somehow involved in paying for other people’s private health insurance plans. He even went so far as to say that if taxpayers are going to pay her to have sex, then they should be able to watch it and she should post videos of herself and her partner being intimate on youtube. Classy, right?

                Except, that isn’t how insurance plans work and taxpayers are not paying for other people’s private health plans, they pay for their own plans. While it’s true that taxpayer money does fund contraception through programs like Title X and Medicaid, this is nothing new. The debate has focused on private insurance plans. So not only is Rush wholly wrong in the argument he is making, he does it while being beyond rude, misogynistic and offensive to anyone who has used contraception and particularly to Sandra Fluke, whom he could not gather enough respect for to get her name correct.

                His offensive remarks last week brought out the ire of women and men throughout the country who have been calling on his sponsors to pull their advertising dollars. So far, 7 of them have listened and pulled their ads from his program; including online storage company Carbonite, who pulled funding after Rush issued a farce of an apology.  Hopefully this will garner enough attention to get the attention of other conservatives who keep trying to frame the debate in terms of slut shaming instead of in terms of health care, but considering both Romney and Santorum (the two current Republican primary front runners) have issued statements criticizing only the language Rush used and not the sentiment behind the language, I won’t be holding my breath.

Two Small Victories

               As much as state and federal level law makers seem to be hating on women lately, it seems the legal system still has out backs. Two preliminary steps were made moving society in the right direction; one by the court system in Oklahoma and one by the F.B.I.

                This week the F.B.I. convened a subcommittee meeting of it’s Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board to discuss the possibility of updating the current definition of rape, a first since 1929. The committee unanimously voted to support the change. In case you don’t remember the current definition is “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” This definition leaves out a broad range of victims and is exclusive to women. The recommended definition approved is “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

                Up next the new definition will go to the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other working groups to get feedback before going to the full Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board for a final recommendation. The board will meet in December. Once that is formalized it will go to the head of the F.B.I Robert Mueller for final approval. Many police departments from around the country have already expressed the need to the definition to be updated so hopefully this change will go smoothly.

                The second good thing is that the law in Oklahoma that would have banned medication abortions as of November 1st has been temporarily blocked by Judge Dan Owens. The defense claimed that 8 women have died from the off label use of mifepristone and misoprostol, the two drugs used to induce an abortion. The lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights pointed out that these deaths had been investigated by both the Centers for Disease Control and FDA and neither organization found a causal relationship between the medications and the deaths. The law blocking their use is meritless and has only one purpose: to prevent women from access abortion. Judge Owens seems to recognize that.

                So yay for moving in the right direction. Hopefully if this trend continues, those silly Republicans will realize that most Americans support abortion rights and equal protection for rape victims and stop trying to move backwards.

What’s up With Montana?

 Anti-abortion activists in Montana are once again trying to drum up support for an amendment to the state constitution that will label fetuses as people, guaranteeing a fetus the full rights of citizenship from the moment of conception. The Montana Secretary of State approved a signature gathering effort, which would add the amendment to the states November ballot, allowing the residents to vote on the proposed amendment. As previously mentioned on this blog, if the amendment passed it would outlaw ALL abortions as well as some very common forms of birth control.

The Montana Pro-Life Coalition is spearheading the effort, but is unlikely to succeed. Similar attempts were made in both 2009 and 2010 and neither got past the signature collecting phase. They will need to gather almost 49,000 signatures to get the amendment added to the ballot. Last year they were only able to get 36,376, more than 10,000 less than needed.  

They also face opposition within the “pro-life” community. Montana Right to Life, Montana Catholic Conference, and the Family Foundation all oppose the amendment on the grounds that such an amendment would be overturned in a court battle and would then strengthen Roe vs. Wade– the Supreme Court decision that currently protects abortion access.

A personhood amendment would not only violate Roe vs. Wade, it would fly in the face of Griswold vs. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court declared that states cannot pass laws that interfere with access to birth control. So there is no legitimate way for such an amendment to remain active, even if it were to somehow get the support needed.

The Montana congress has also tried to get a personhood amendment passed through legislative means. A bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate but hasn’t made it to the people for a vote.

Though Montana has an anti-choice congress it still managed to receive an A- from NARAL Pro-Choice’s state rating system. This is because although there are gestational bans, restrictions to teen women’s access to abortion, biased counseling and waiting period requirements and an conscious exemption to deny birth control etc; they still require contraception to be covered by all insurance plans that cover prescriptions, provide abortion access to low income women and protection against clinic violence. The Montana state constitution also (currently) provides a higher level of protection for a woman’s right to choose than the U.S. Constitution.

Need Emergency Contraception?

Maybe the condom broke and he forgot to tell you. Or maybe you and your partner just forgot to use one, or you missed a dose of your birth control pill. Whatever your reason, it seems that today you need to get your hands on emergency contraception (EC).  So which option is best for you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type.

Levonorgestrel based EC’s have had FDA approval the longest and are usually going to be the easiest to get your hands on. If you are 17 or older they are available over-the-counter, without a prescription at most local pharmacies. If you are younger than that, a prescription can be given by your doctor or at a local family planning clinic. The most well known of this type are PlanB, PlanB One Step, and Next Choice; for the highest levels of effectiveness all 3 are recommended for as soon after unprotected sex as possible. Effectiveness decreases as time goes on and should be used within 72 hours of intercourse.

Last fall, the FDA approved a second type of EC called Ella. Ella’s main ingredient is Ulipristal Acetate. It is currently only available by prescription, but will generally also be available at a local pharmacy or family planning clinic. Ella is effective for up to 120 hours, or five days after unprotected sex and unlike PlanB etc, its effectiveness stays level until that point.

Both types of EC act in a similar manner; they delay ovulation. This is important to preventing pregnancy because sperm can live inside the body for up to 5 days, so if an egg is released during that time there may still be sperm able to fertilize the egg. EC’s also change the consistency of a women’s cervical mucus which makes it harder for sperm to actually get to the egg once ovulation occurs.

EC’s may also change the lining of the uterus, which in theory could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. Although no studies have shown this to be a real occurrence, many anti-abortion rights advocates consider EC’s to be abortifacients as opposed to emergency birth control because of it. The first reason this is in accurate is that according to the overall medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy doesn’t begin until implantation is complete. The second reason is that because EC’s are effective at delaying ovulation to prevent pregnancy it is virtually impossible to tell if they would actually prevent implantation. Just because something is true theoretically doesn’t mean it has any real-life implications

Some things you need to be aware of: pharmacists may choose to not fill a prescription for EC and though technically they are allowed to do this because of conscientious clauses, it can still make obtaining EC more difficult. Also, EC’s should not be used in place of hormonal birth control. It can only be used once during a menstrual cycle meaning once you have taken it, you can still get pregnant until you have your next period. If you need something more long term then that, there are other forms of birth control that may work for you including the pill, IUD’s or even the patch.

Louisiana’s “Pro-Information” Bill

On July 6th Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the “Pro-Information” bill into law and gave a speech about it in front of a Baptist Church. During the speech he made a statement comparing women seeking abortions to criminals that sparked controversy among pro-choice advocates.

 The “Pro-Information” bill (HB 586) was introduced by Rep. Frank Hoffman and stipulates that abortion providers must hang signs that inform women of their rights when it comes to pregnancy. Specifically that they cannot be forced to have an abortion, that there are organizations that can help them carry to term as well as provide for a child once born, that the father of the child is responsible for child support even if he offered to pay for the abortion, and that the law permits adoptive parents to pay for medical coverage during the pregnancy and birth. The signs must also provide a link to a website for more information and resources. The stated purpose of the sign is to ensure that women deciding to have abortions know all of their options in case it changes their mind. Apparently Louisiana lawmakers think women are incapable of making decisions about what is best for their lives without being force fed on a conservative agenda.

The part that really got people talking was a statement Gov. Jindal made about informing women of their rights:

                “We already make sure criminals know their rights. Before police arrest someone they inform them of all their rights under the law, so it’s only common sense that we would do the same for women before they get an abortion…”

 Pro-choice activists are concerned this may have been an intentional analogy intended to imply women seeking abortions are equivalent to criminals and that he himself feels they should legally be considered criminals. Defenders of the bill think this concern is based on a misconstrued interpretation of what Gov. Jindal said and that the statement was merely intended to show that women deserve to know their options.

I doubt the statement was intentionally meant to be offensive. Gov. Jindel likely uses speech writers, as do most politicians; he probably read the speech and didn’t think twice about the comparison. Even if he wrote it himself, he probably just took the first comparison he thought of and ran with it. It is that lack of concern that is the problem. Had this bill been pro-information for Veteran’s Rights, it is unlikely anyone would have considered comparing Veterans right to knowledge with a criminal’s right. It would have been deemed, at a minimum, unseemly. Maybe even all out rude. The group being equated wasn’t veterans though, it was women seeking abortions, and that seems to make it ok to put them in the same category as criminals. At least as far as Gov. Jindal and his speech writers are concerned.

Whether the comparison was intentional or not, it speaks volumes about how little Gov. Jindel thinks of the women of the state; that they do not even warrant the time to find a less sensitive analogy.

Kansas

Federal Judge Carlos Murguia found that the temporary licensing regulations being imposed on abortion clinics in Kansas are likely impeding their rights to due process and granted a preliminary injunction to keep the regulations from being enforced until a full trial can be heard. Meanwhile conservative legislators are already working on a new set of permanent regulations that are likely to be just as stringent as those that Judge Murguia blocked.

The primary focus of these new licensing regulations was that they would force two of the state’s three abortion providers to shut down. Now that the injunction has been granted and all of the clinics can remain open (at least for now) the focus is shifting towards other repercussions these regulations would have should the court end up ruling in favor of the regulations. One issue in particular is getting the most attention and that is the regulation which states that “all records shall be available at the facility for inspection” by state officials.

I can’t see how this regulation could possibly be enforceable considering that Kansas has existing laws regarding Doctor-Patient Privilege which guarantee patient privacy unless waived BY the patient.  The only time state officials can require a doctor to release records without patient consent is if the patient has HIV/AIDS. So basically unless they want to require that doctors break the law they either can’t enforce this regulation should the court end up ruling in favor of the requirements or the state government will have to pass a second bill to alter the existing civil statutes to allow an exemption. Of course that exemption would likely be challenged and overturned if it singled out abortion providers. They could mandate the same requirements for all medical providers, but I don’t think many Kansans will stand for that violation of privacy, no matter how ardently anti-choice they are.

The pre-existing privacy statutes were clearly not a concern to legislators during the initial creation of the temporary regulations and are unlikely to be a concern during the preparation of the permanent regulations they are hoping to have in place by October. It seems that abortion providers in the state on Kansas will not be left in peace by the conservative government anytime in the foreseeable future, but at least the regulations being passed are so extreme and blatantly biased that they are unlikely to withstand scrutiny by the states Supreme Court.

Check out what Rachel Maddow and her interview with two of the doctors being impacted by all this! To skip to information about the privacy rules and the actual interview go to 5 minutes 30 seconds.