Archives for category: reproductive justice
Hundreds of protesters in Madison, WI's capitol rotunda

Photo credit: NY Times

During the last few days, I have been riveted as the people of Wisconsin have been showing up in the thousands to protest Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal:

Behind closed doors, Scott Walker, the Republican who has been governor for about six weeks, calmly described his intent to forge ahead with the plans that had set off the uprising: He wants to require public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, effectively cutting the take-home pay of many by around 7 percent.

He also wants to weaken most public-sector unions by sharply curtailing their collective bargaining rights, limiting talks to the subject of basic wages.

By taking away union workers’ collective bargaining rights, Walker is directly targeting the dignity of workers not only in Wisconsin, but the entire nation. Walker is also proposing to remove the ability to cut the budget of Medicaid – an essential health care program for low-income people – from the Legislature, putting the decision to slash the program’s budget in the hands of the governor’s Department of Health and Human Services. This measure could lead to deep cuts in the health care of some of the most vulnerable people in the state. As state budget crises need to be resolved, conservative governors from states across the country are watching to see if Walker can pull this off.

Governor Walker’s proposal has implications for all people in Wisconsin, but the hardest hit would be the most vulnerable. Labor is a reproductive justice issue: ability to negotiate for adequate wages and quality health care is essential for women and our families. Moreover, putting Medicaid in the hands of the governor essentially leaves one person deciding on the health low-income people, and this is unacceptable. At a time in which people are struggling more than ever due to an economic downturn, the last thing we should do is make it easier to cut safety-net programs.

But the people of Wisconsin are rising up to the challenge. Massive protests have hit the Capitol in Madison, with people occupying the building starting yesterday; huge numbers of teachers called in sick on Tuesday in protest, forcing schools to close; Wisconsin’s football team (and Super Bowl champions!), the Green Bay Packers, put out a statement in support of public sector workers; and today, the Democratic caucus of the Senate refused to show up for the vote – leaving Wisconsin so that the state police had no jurisdiction over them – delaying a vote on the measure, and giving the people more time to organize, due to a lack of quorum.

The energy is palpable, and as a former resident of the state I am both inspired by and proud of the people of Wisconsin this week. If you would like to support the efforts of some of the finest organizers I know, I encourage you to send a check to the Student Labor Action Coalition, who is taking part in the sit-ins and needs to raise funds for legal defense:

SLAC

c/o Eric Hoyt

140 W. Gilman St.

Madison, WI 53703

¡Si se puede!

When HR3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, started getting attention, I was initially pretty excited. But over and over when I read about it, I was dismayed to find media focusing on one piece – a sentence about redefining rape, saying that an abortion could be federally funded only if a woman had survived a “forcible rape.” Let me get this out there right away: this language is revolting, sexist, and absolutely, bottom-line unacceptable. There are many others who have written very articulately about why this is, and I don’t think I need to go into it; it is disgusting and unacceptable, period. People were angry, and rightfully so; they protested the language. What made me upset about focusing on this language is that it mostly ignored the fact that it was just a shitty sentence in a steaming pile of shit of a bill. Yes, redefining rape is egregious and wrong, but isn’t also denying low-income women basic health care?

The media’s focus on this particular language made me upset because this entire media frenzy regarding the redefining of rape is indicative of classism and racism. It ignored the fact that, even without this re-definition, getting an abortion covered by Medicaid for a pregnancy that was the result of rape – any sort of rape – is currently nearly impossible; it ignores the fact that not allowing federal funding for abortion essentially strips low-income women of their right to an easy, legal, basic health procedure. Yes, redefining rape is beyond atrocious, but when we focus on this language are we really seeing the whole picture?  While people of all backgrounds can be and are victims of sexual violence, only poor women – disproportionately women of color – will ever be denied Medicaid coverage of their abortion; it’s not a coincidence which got media attention.

Since the media blitz on HR3, the language that would have redefined rape was removed, but to what effect? We are left with a bill that will continue to deny women basic coverage, expanding prohibitions currently for low-income women into the tax code, and a Congress that can now say that they have compromised to make this a reasonable bill. Some say that HR3 is “just” codifying the status quo; others say that it is far more that “just” the status quo. But let’s be clear: the status quo is not ok. Creating a differential system of access to abortion for low-income women was as wack in 1976 as it is now, and referring to “just” the status quo ignores a very major problem.

My goal here is not to point fingers; I understand the outrage around the “forcible rape” language. But it’s hard to watch an entirely fucked up bill get so much attention without calling out the obvious: that our politicians are so deluded, so unaware about the realities of women in this country, that they are focusing their efforts to get the economy back on track on denying women control over their own reproductive lives. It’s hard to watch a bill about public funding for abortion get so much press only to hear so few voices reminding us that denying public funding for abortion is fucked up, creates a differential system of access for low-income women, and disproportionately affects women of color.

In 1977, Rosie Jimenez – a college student on Medicaid – was the first person who died because of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion the year before. Even though abortion had become legal in 1973, because Medicaid did not cover it and she could not afford the full cost of the procedure, she went to an unlicensed provider. When we talk about the status quo, we have to remember Rosie, and the hundreds of thousands of women who have since been denied access to the procedure because of Hyde ever since. History is important, y’all; let’s not forget what this is all about. The status quo is NOT OK.

Red umbrella (symbol of sex workers' rights) with text underneath saying "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"

Today is the 7th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and there are events around the country and the world to recognize this day.  If you are in New York City, join the Sex Workers Project and co-sponsoring organizations at a free event to hear some awesome speakers and participate in a community speak-out:

Friday, December 17 · 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 West 36th Street, Second Floor Sanctuary

New York, NY

The first-ever International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was in 2003, as a response to serial killer Gary Ridgway, who claimed to have killed prostitutes because he thought no one would notice:

“I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”

It’s important to remember, though, that violence against sex workers is not only perpetuated by violent clients, but also by the state through through the criminalization of sex work. Criminalization disproportionately affects women of color, immigrants, and gender non-conforming people, and is a reproductive justice issue.

I personally want to take this day to send my love to my dear friends and loved ones who are or have been sex workers – I appreciate you.  Big ups to the hos!

White doctor draws blood from a black man in the Tuskeegee syphillis experiment. A black woman and a black man watch in the background.

Taken during the Tuskeegee syphillis study. Photo credit: Wikipedia

This morning the United States apologized for a little experiment they did from 1946-1948: infecting Guatemalan prison inmates with syphilis to test out then-brand-new antibiotic penicillin.

In the experiment, aimed at testing the then-new drug penicillin, inmates were infected by prostitutes and later treated with the antibiotic.

OOPS! SORRY GUYS!  We didn’t mean it!  Thankfully these little unsavory bits are in our past! Wait, wait a minute.  Let’s look at this story from TODAY:

The NYC Department of Homeless Services, curious to see how effectively it services the homeless, is being berated for conducting a study that left 200 families banned at random from city assistance. In lieu of gentler polling, a total of 400 families on the brink of homelessness were split into two categories: An experimental group, who were allowed to continue their use of the service, and a control group, who were banned from receiving aid for two years and told to fend for themselves.

By the way, in New York City, even though 53% of the city is black or Latino, 93% of homeless persons are black or Latino. Whose bodies are expendable?

Oh, I’m sure everyone will be cool if y’all apologize in 50 years.  Geez, sorry guys, we keep fucking it up!

via Gothamist

A woman at a rally holds a sign that says "Support Higher Education"

Photo credit: Think Progress

The buzz around the DREAM Act right now is heating up.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced last week that he would offer DREAM as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill, and that it would come to a vote soon.  The DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, would allow undocumented youth who came to the United States before the age of 16 a path to U.S. citizenship through through completion of either two years of education or military service.  A key part of this is that this bill would give young people a conditional permanent residency for a few years while they complete these requirements, and during this time they would be eligible for federal financial aid to complete school, which is currently a huge barrier for most undocumented youth who want to continue with school:  if you’re not a legal permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, unless you’ve got the money to pay tuition, you’re out of luck.  And this what immigrant youth advocating for the DREAM Act have been fighting for – just a chance to be able to make it in the country most of them feel is their home. Read the rest of this entry »