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“Mississippi Goddamn.” Nina Simone Said It. Last Night, I Thought It.

1:10 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rebecca Sive for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

Nina Simone said “Mississippi Goddam.” I thought it. Last night. And then my faith in the American people, especially in the Mississippi people, was redeemed.

My friend Jodi Jacobson, editor of RH Reality Check, pointed out this morning that while the “egg-as-person” amendment, Initiative 26, was roundly defeated by Mississippi voters yesterday, Initiative 27, the “voter ID” amendment, passed.  (Loretta Ross has eloquently and passionately written about both initiatives here and here.)

Initiative 27 is also insidious; according to Jodi, it “…will disenfranchise minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.”

I recently gave a speech in which I told the story of asking my mother why she wasn’t going to Mississippi to register voters. This was in 1964, at a time when my mother –and father — were dragging my sister and me around as they relentlessly canvassed, leafleted, drove people to the polls, and otherwise made sure that local (Democratic) voters exercised the franchise. So, suffice to say, this daughter of an immigrant mother doesn’t take this matter of the right to vote lightly.

Yet, while my mother has never made it to Mississippi (in significant part because of its history of denying voting rights), I have – willingly and many times.In fact, I love Mississippi. I go every chance I get. Am I crazy? Nope, not in this respect, anyway.

I love, love, love Mississippi for its music. I first heard the (Mississippi) blues as a teenager growing up in New York. That song was Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” played every day to open Jack Spector’s WMCA radio show. Later, my love affair with Mississippi was sealed when, as a college student, I heard Albert King’s “Born under a Bad Sign” and Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” (ironically, a story of leaving “bad” Mississippi for “good” Chicago). Read the rest of this entry →

Defeating Personhood: A Critical But Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice

2:19 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Lady Justice (Photo: vaxzine, flickr)

Lady Justice (Photo: vaxzine, flickr)

Written by Loretta Ross for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

The headlines all say it – “Personhood defeated in Mississippi!” This was a tremendous victory for the pro-choice movement that started campaigning on the ground only September 8, years after proponents of the “Yes on 26” ballot initiative flooded the state with a superbly orchestrated campaign that included well-financed organizing and petition drives. As of this writing, 55 percent of the voters rejected this dangerous, precedent-setting initiative that would have declared a fertilized egg a “person” and outlawed most contraception, in vitro fertilization, and would have criminalized abortion – even in cases of rape and incest. These dangerous, unintended consequences even persuaded conservative voters to defeat the initiative, splitting the traditionally unified anti-abortion base.

Mississippi was a peoples’ victory, a triumph in which people of all backgrounds, races, professions and religions came together. Congratulations are definitely in order for the tireless activists in the state, and for those professional campaigners who came from out-of-state to direct the No on 26 campaign, led by Mississippians for Healthy Families. The grassroots efforts of many courageous Mississippi activists demonstrated that over-reaching zealots who do not care about women’s lives could be rebuffed even in the reddest, most religious, conservative state in the South. The professional campaign strategists were right – targeting their efforts at conservatives and independents by magnifying the anti-government sentiments in the state that are a holdover from the Civil Rights movement and the more recent stoking by the Tea Party. Read the rest of this entry →

Mississippi Egg-As-Person Amendment Defeated 57 to 43 Percent; Voter ID Law Appears to Have Passed

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

In a decisive and resounding victory in one of the most conservative states in the country, Mississippi voters defeated–by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent as of this writing–the dangerous Initiative 26, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person with full human rights.  Had it passed, Initiative 26 would have outlawed all forms of abortion and many forms of birth control. The law would have made illegal many forms of fertility treatment and would potentially have criminalized miscarriage.  It would also have endangered pregnant women by making their rights to health, to health care and to bodily integrity subservient to blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses no matter how dire the woman’s condition might be or what her situation. 

See all our coverage of this issue here.

At the same time, however, the outcome of 26 is bittersweet, given that as of this writing Mississippi voters also appear to have passed Initiative 27, a voter ID law that will disenfranchise many of the minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.

The Personhood Ballot in Mississippi: “Sluts,” “Good Girls,” and the Increasingly Blurry Line Dividing Them

11:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

MS State Capitol - what will the law be after the vote today? (Photo: Ken Lund, flickr)

MS State Capitol - what will the law be after the vote today? (Photo: Ken Lund, flickr)

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here.

The personhood amendment being voted on in Mississippi this week is important for two major reasons. The first has received lots of coverage here at RH Reality Check and some liberal news sources: because it’s about criminalizing all women of reproductive age, and could do things like ban birth control and open criminal investigations on miscarriages.

The other reason that we should all be paying attention to Mississippi is the results of the election will be an excellent measure of how far right the Christian right has gone when it comes to sex.

The right has always approached the question of reproductive rights as an elaborate game of “Who’s the Slut?” Sure, they like to blather on about “life” and “personal responsibility,” but that’s because coming straight out and saying that they’d like to craft a law where good girls have rights but bad girls don’t isn’t politically popular. Too obvious: you have to wrap that agenda in sentimental talk about the sanctity of life, and hope no one notices that you have no regard for the sanctity of life if people are dying in wars or from lack of health insurance. But if you look past their rhetoric to the actual rules they try to make regarding who gets to have rights under what circumstances, it’s clear they’re trying to sort women into “sluts” and “non-slut” categories. The traditional exception for rape victims under abortion restrictions is the most commonly cited example, of course. I’d add that most conservatives—outside of those who make anti-choice activism their main priority—tend to support the use of contraception. In their minds, contraception is something that could be used by good girls. Married women with children use contraception, after all. But when it comes to abortion, most people imagine a young woman having sex outside of marriage with a man who isn’t going to marry her, which puts her in the “slut” category and means she should lose her reproductive rights. Read the rest of this entry →

Did I Kill My Baby Boy? And If I Had Been in MIssissippi, Would I Be Facing Prison?

12:51 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lorraine Berry for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage on Mississippi Initiative 26 here.

In 1996, I suffered a second-trimester spontaneous abortion, (miscarriage). It ranks as one of the worst experiences of my life, losing a fetus that was hoped for, longed for, and for whom a future had been imagined.

Next week, Mississippi votes on a “personhood” amendment that would define personhood as occurring when the egg is fertilized (not implanted, prior to this, fertilization).

If I had been experiencing the pains and bleeding that I knew signaled the end of my pregnancy, would I have gone to that hospital emergency room? If I hadn’t gone, and had passed that fetus alone, would I have known that I had not entirely expelled the contents of my uterus and was now vulnerable to a deadly infection? Would I have died from fear of being prosecuted for losing my baby?

Friday morning. June 7, 1996, I was attending a conference at a university. I ate some breakfast, and went downstairs. I was having pain in my back and in my groin. I felt the familiar tingle of fear go up my backbone. My hands began to shake. I went into the bathroom, and I felt something pass out of me. I looked at it in the toilet. An unrecognizable blob of something that looked like something an old man would hock out of his lungs floated in the water.  But there was no blood. Still, I knew something was wrong.

I approached the student union information booth. A bored, young woman stood behind the desk, and calmly, I told her I thought I might be having a miscarriage and I thought I needed some help. Her compassion shown through immediately: She called 911. And she escorted me over to a couch, made me lie down.

First, the firefighters arrived. They seemed weighed down in their heavy rubber boots, their fireproof pants with the suspenders that crossed over navy blue shirts. One of them asked me how I felt. When I told him what had happened, that something I thought “the size of a golf ball” had come out of me, he said, “A golf ball?” And then he said, “I don’t think that’s a miscarriage. I think, given how far along you are, it would have been bigger.” I suddenly felt embarrassed, like I had brought everyone out for nothing. I was relieved, yes, because maybe it meant that this thing wasn’t happening to me, but the casual dismissal of my experience left me as flustered as someone caught in a lie.

Two EMTs showed up. I explained to them that I thought I might be having a miscarriage. Explained what I was feeling. I was scared, and I’m sure my fear showed in everything about me. They loaded me onto a gurney, put me in the back of an ambulance, and drove me to the university hospital. I chatted with the EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance. He monitored my blood pressure, my heart rate. He and I talked about why I was in Chapel Hill. It could have been a conversation in a grocery store line, the kind of chat provoked by the need to kill time while you wait for the cashier to get a price check on frozen pizza.

I was examined by a nurse, and then the ER doctor. He checked me for bleeding, and there was none. But, in the time it took for the OB-GYN resident to come to the ER, there was bleeding. Crimson spots. Crimson, like death. I called the nurse back into the room, convinced that all was at an end. “It’s not too much blood, honey,” she said, and she tut-tutted over me as if I was one of her grandchildren who had come to her with a skinned knee.

The doctor came back into the room. He passed the ultrasound wand over my stomach. My baby was in there. “See?” He pointed him out. “Everything looks fine. It’s just a little spotting.”

But the baby’s heartbeat was almost 190. And some voice inside me told me that wasn’t right. But the doctor was reassuring. “I think you’re going to be just fine,” he said. “I think you have about a 90 percent chance of carrying this baby to term. I’m going to release you. Go back to the dorm room. Put your feet up. You’ll be fine.”

I left the hospital. The conference staff had sent a car over to get me, and I happily reassured the worried staffer that I was fine. False alarm. Sorry to have gotten everybody so concerned.

He dropped me at the entrance to the central conference area. I remember I was wearing a pale pink dress. It was loose, and I had purchased it just the week before to serve as a maternity dress that I could wear for the conference. At one pm, an acquaintance of mine was giving a paper in a panel. The room was crowded, and I managed to nab a chair right near the door.

The room filled. There were people sitting on the floor. It was crowded, and I looked around, was thrilled to recognize another rockstar professor whose books had changed my whole way of looking at things. I was thinking about some way that I might be able to talk to her after the session, but I brought my mind back to the panel, which was just about to be introduced. I settled onto the hard wooden chair and then something happened. Something let go inside of me, and I felt a flood into my underpants.

I just jumped up, said, “Oh my God,” and ran from the room. I heard someone sigh behind me, as if I had greatly inconvenienced them, and once again, I felt embarrassed. The women’s restroom was next door. I went in there. It was empty, the tile white, the mirrors everywhere. I went into a stall. I pulled down my underpants and sat down. I hurt. My back hurt. My pelvis hurt. And something passed through me. Something big, like a softball. I heard the plop as it hit the water in the bowl.

I didn’t want to look. I couldn’t look. If I looked, my life was going to end. I stopped thinking. I flushed the toilet without looking behind me. I pulled up my pants. Calm overtook me; Eirene, or perhaps it was Morpheus, laid their hands on me, and I became a sleepwalker. But I was a sleepwalker in the midst of a troubling dream; still, the blank was winning.

I washed my hands. I could feel fluid pouring down onto my legs. I didn’t want to look. I knew that my dress was going to be covered soon. I didn’t want to look. I grabbed my briefcase and walked down a long staircase, into the conference organizers’ room. I walked up to the first person I saw behind a table. “Excuse me,” I said. “I seem to be hemorrhaging. I think I need some help.”

I had to repeat myself. I don’t think she believed me the first time. Someone helped me over to a couch. I lay down. I began to cry. Now that I was not alone, I could allow myself a moment to fall apart. Even still, they were not the great wails of the banshee; my sobs were quiet, reserved, controlled. Tears dripped into my hair, as my uterus emptied out onto my legs. Someone stroked my hair, shushed me. I told them I thought I was bleeding all over the couch. “Do you want me to look?” she said. I nodded. She looked. “It doesn’t look like blood,” she said.

The EMTs arrived. It was the same EMTs from the morning. “Oh God,” I cried to the young one. “I think I lost my baby.”

“Where were you?” he asked.

“In the bathroom. Oh God, I think I flushed my baby down the toilet.” I began to sob. How could someone flush her baby down a toilet? My stomach scrambled; it reminded me of the clatter of a dog’s paws on a wooden floor when the dog is panicked. Panic fought with the need for distance, and the wave of anxiety passed.

He started an IV. I was out of it, alone in a world of pain where my pelvis ached and my brain was actively closing off anything that looked like knowledge of loss. His partner came over, whispered something in his ear.

Again, they loaded me on the gurney. This time, the lights were flashing. I was in shock. I needed attention. We arrived at the ER. The same nurse. She came to me, and I remember saying to her “The baby’s gone.” And she stroked my hair, gave me a hug. I looked up, and the same ER doctor from just a few hours ago was there, too.

Someone from the conference, I never knew her name, had ridden with me in the ambulance. She kept holding my hand. I needed someone to call my husband. He was at work in Syracuse. He needed to know what I had done. I had killed my baby. I knew that. Even as I was transferred from the gurney to an ER cot, that thought imprinted itself on my brain. I had killed my baby. And now I had to pay a price.  Someone in the ER called him. They told me that he had said he would be on the next flight he could get out on. I held onto the hand of a woman I didn’t know.

No one had confirmed that I had lost the baby at this point. I was being treated, but no one had yet told me that the baby was gone. I had somehow convinced myself in the ambulance that the baby was still there, inside of me. At the same time that I was beating myself up for killing my baby, I still thought that perhaps, as it had been earlier in the day, this was simply a false alarm. A second heartbeat still throbbed within me.

The ER doctor came in. “We have the fetus.” he said.

“I don’t understand,” I said. It turned out that the second EMT had retrieved the fetus from the toilet. I had not flushed it down. Even now, my mind cannot go where this image leads.

I remember when I was a child, our dog had puppies. When the first puppy came, the dog was so startled that she ran away from what had dropped out of her body. I had had the same reaction. Pure instinct. To move away from it. To not see it.

The ER doctor told me I was going to be okay. “My wife lost our baby six weeks ago,” he said. “I know this is hard, but you’ll get through this. I promise.”

A second OB-GYN resident came in. The first one, the one who had promised me my baby would live, obviously didn’t want to face me. It was okay. I forgave him. He had tried to make me feel better. It was a lesson in being a doctor. Don’t promise the things you have no control over. I even said that to the new doctor who was examining me. “Tell him this wasn’t his fault,” I said, or something similar. I absolved him of blame. I knew who had really killed her baby.

“I need to do an ultrasound,” he said. “I’m going to turn the machine away from you, so you don’t see the screen. I know you saw a baby there this morning. I don’t want you to see the empty uterus.”

I was so grateful. Such a kindness. I don’t think I could have borne looking where just a few hours ago, a fetus had lived. As it turned out, there was a mess in there. I needed an emergency D&C. I was given an anesthetic, and something to calm me. But as the doctor placed the speculum inside of me, I began to shake, grow cold. “I’m scared,” I said. The nurse squeezed my hand, and more medicine was added to the drip. I zoned out. I was there but not there. I felt the instruments. I knew what was happening. But I was somewhere else. Something inside of me shut off. Completely.

Without the follow-up care I received at the hospital, I would have died of a massive infection. If I thought that what I had done might be perceived as a crime, would I have gone to the hospital when the pain began? When the fever started? Or would I die, as so many millions of women have died, for lack of concern about women in this world.

Jesus. I want to weep.

Race, Class, and Rights in Mississippi: How A Reproductive Justice Campaign Can Save the Pill and Save the Vote

9:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Loretta Ross for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The 2011 Mississippi ballot Initiative 26 on Personhood and Initiative 27 on Voter ID exclusions may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. In Mississippi, we are witnessing the intersection of race and gender politics in a campaign in which African American voters are probably the most critical constituents when they go to the polls on November 8. It’s a case study on Roe v. Wade intersecting with the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

For the Reproductive Justice movement, this is an example of theory meeting practice in which we have an opportunity to link our human rights struggles in a statewide campaign. The best spokespeople are readily talking about both ballot initiatives consistently by bringing together women, families, race, and poverty. By co-joining race (Voter ID-27) with gender (Personhood-26), we have an excellent opportunity to experience an example of intersectionality in practice in an electoral campaign in which black women may be the very voters we need to move the needle against our opponents’ long-term manipulation of the African American electorate.

We have to strengthen the common ground between the Reproductive Justice and Pro-Choice movements based on linking human rights issues together. Reproductive Justice is our best opportunity to join middle-class women with poor women so that we can win for all women. Read the rest of this entry →

Resurrected CO “Egg-as-a-Person” Initiative Could Make Ballot

6:42 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Wendy Norris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

A ballot measure seeking to give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs may rise again after supporters’ hopes were dashed last month. And if not by sheer volume of petition signatures, they’ll sue the state to advance the cause.

Anti-choice activists with Personhood Colorado turned in 46,671 petition signatures Thursday in a last gasp attempt to place the controversial initiative on the Nov. ballot.

However, questions are being raised about the validity of the current effort.

Gualberto Garcia Jones, co-sponsor of the measure, said at a street-side press conference before submitting the most recent petitions to the Colorado Secretary of State that volunteers collected more than two signatures per minute over the entire 15 day period allowed to make up the Feb. petition shortfall. If accurate, it would be an astounding effort that would have required 24-hour circulation drives to reach that level of critical mass.

The superhuman campaign was launched shortly after the Colorado Secretary of State invalidated 15,700 names on the original petition rolls as ineligible voters. State election officials will now review the second round of names. A decision on the validity of the petitions is expected in about 10 days.

The latest round of yet-to-be verified petitions tripled what the group needed to collect and could be added to the 64,000-odd signatures approved last month. If the new petitions pass muster, the personhood amendment will comfortably surpass the required benchmark of 76,047 valid voter signatures and will be placed on the ballot, short any legal challenges.

Opponents of the measure describe it as a unabashed attempt to ban abortion with far reaching consequences for fertility care, embryonic stem cell research and some forms of implantation-inhibiting contraception.

Likewise, legal experts scoff at "personhood" as a strategy for dismantling Roe v Wade protections. Abortion opponents point to the 14th Amendment as a weakness in the court’s decision — though constitutional scholars describe that as a substantial misreading of the precedents supporting the landmark Supreme Court case that unequivocally stated a fetus is not a living person until birth.

The group’s first-in-the-nation attempt in 2008 to codify zygote rights was smacked down by Colorado voters by a 73-27 landslide. The revised constitutional amendment involves only minor tweaking of the previously failed language — substituting the phrase "at the beginning of biological development" for the more politically charged term "conception."

Leslie Durgin, senior vice president for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said, "We defeated the same initiative in 2008 by a ratio of 3-to-1 and we’re prepared to defeat this amendment again."

One of the still unanswered questions is whether the latest petitions were properly prepared for submission following a July 1, 2009 rule change that requires notaries to verify the identity of the petition circulators by citing a state-issued identification card instead of personally vouching for them.

Personhood USA is threatening to sue the Secretary of State for failing to inform the group of the revised certification process.

Keith Mason, co-founder of the tax-exempt organization, said, "Thousands of valid voter signatures were discounted due to new notary requirements that notaries were not aware of." Mason said the notary handbook doesn’t mention the well-publicized 2009 law that was enacted after repeated allegations of fraud by petition circulators for misleading voters about the intent of another proposed ballot measure to rescind affirmative action.

However, the law is prominently linked at the state elections Web site under "Information for Petition Entities, Circulators and Proponents." And Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge told Denver ABC television affiliate that the new rules have been printed on page 8 of the petition training guides for the last 18 months.

Mason would not confirm how many of the newly collected signatures may be subject to disqualification over the notary flap.