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Six Supreme Court Cases to Watch This Term

12:08 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo 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 US Supreme Court

These Supreme Court cases could affect women’s rights in the near future.

The United States Supreme Court term begins in October, and while the entire docket has not yet been set, already it’s shaping up to be a historic term, with decisions on abortion protests, legislative prayer, and affirmative action, just to name a few. Here are the key cases we’re keeping an eye on as the term starts up.

1. Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice

The Supreme Court looks poised to re-enter the abortion debate, and it could do so as early as this year if it takes up Cline, the first of the recent wave of state-level restrictions to reach the high court.

Cline involves a challenge to an Oklahoma statute that requires abortion-inducing drugs, including RU-486, to be administered strictly according to the specific Food and Drug Administration labeling despite the fact that new research and best practices make that labeling out of date. Such “off-label” use of drugs is both legal and widespread in the United States as science, standards of care, and clinical practice often supercede the original FDA label on a given drug. In the case of cancer drugs, for example, the American Cancer Society notes that “New uses for [many] drugs may have been found and there’s often medical evidence from research studies to support the new use [even though] the makers of the drugs have not put them through the formal, lengthy, and often costly process required by the FDA to officially approve the drug for new uses.” Off-label use of RU-486 is based on the most recent scientific findings that suggest lower dosages of the drug and higher rates of effectiveness when administered in conjunction with a follow-up drug (Misoprostol). According to trial court findings, the alternative protocols are safer for women and more effective. But, according to the state and defenders of the law, there is great uncertainty about these off-label uses and their safety.

When the issue reached the supreme court of Oklahoma, the court held in a very brief opinion that the Oklahoma statute was facially invalid under Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Casey, a plurality of justices held that a state may legitimately regulate abortions from the moment of gestation as long as that regulation does not impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Later, in Gonzales v. Carhart, a majority of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, interpreted Casey to allow state restrictions on specific abortion procedures when the government “reasonably concludes” that there is medical uncertainty about the safety of the procedure and an alternative procedure is available.

Cline, then, could present an important test on the limits of Casey and whether, under Gonzales, the Court will permit states to ban medical abortions. But it’s not entirely clear the Court will actually take up Cline. At the lower court proceedings, the challengers argued that the Oklahoma statute bars the use of RU-486’s follow-up drug (Misoprostol) as well as the use of Methotrexate to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. If so, the statute then bars both any drug-induced abortion and eliminates the preferred method for ending an ectopic pregnancy. Attorneys defending the restriction deny the law has those effects, and do not argue that if it did such restrictions would be constitutional. With this open question of state law—whether the statute prohibits the preferred treatment for ectopic pregnancies—the Supreme Court told the Oklahoma Supreme Court those disputed questions of state law.

So a lot depends on how the Oklahoma Supreme Court proceeds. Should the Oklahoma Supreme Court hold that the Oklahoma statute is unconstitutional because it prohibits the use of Misoprostol and Methotrexate, this case could be over without the Supreme Court weighing in. But if the Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidates the law insofar as it prohibits alternative methods for administering RU-486, the Supreme Court will almost certainly take a look.

2. Town of Greece v. Galloway

The Roberts Court is set to weigh in on the issue of when, and how, government prayer practices can exist without violating the Establishment Clause’s ban on the intermingling of church and state. In Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld Nebraska’s practice of opening each legislative session with a prayer, based largely on an unbroken tradition of that practice dating back to the framing of the Constitution. In Marsh, the Court adopted two apparent limits to a legislative prayer practice: The government may not select prayer-givers based on a discriminatory motive, and prayer opportunities may not be exploited to proselytize in favor of one religion or disparage another.

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At ‘Realize the Dream’ March, Women Speak at Last

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

 

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

At a rally marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Myrlie Evers-Williams finally completed a mission assigned to her by tragedy a half-century ago. Then, little more than a month after her husband, Medgar Evers, president of the NAACP’s Mississippi chapter, was slain in his driveway as his children watched, the young widow was the only woman scheduled to speak at the podium from which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would deliver his best-remembered line: “I have a dream.”

But Myrlie Evers, as she was known then, missed her turn at the microphone, stuck in traffic on her way from the airport. (Daisy Bates, who strategized the integration of Little Rock High School, was drafted to Evers’ slot, and spoke all of 142 words.)

At Saturday’s commemoration, Evers-Williams not only had her turn, but also had some female company. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the crowd, which numbered in the tens of thousands, as did Sybrina Fulton, who gave a tribute to her slain son, Trayvon Martin; National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill; and Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Rev. Bernice King, president of the King Center and daughter of the late civil rights leader, offered a closing prayer. Other women, too, were given turns at the mic at the event, titled ”Realize the Dream,” and keynoted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.

“Stand your ground,” Evers-Williams said, invoking the name of the notorious laws on the books in 16 states that allow the use of a lethal weapon against anyone the weapon-holder feels threatened by. “We can think of standing your ground in the negative,” she continued, “but I ask you today to flip that coin and give ‘stand your ground’ a positive ring for all who stand for justice and equality, and stand firm on the ground that we have already made, and be sure that nothing is going to be taken away from us.”

Among the gains won through protests and pressure of civil rights activists was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the heart of which was struck down in June by the Supreme Court.

Marching Toward Inclusion

When, after the rally, the time came to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, men and women marched together, unlike the original march 50 years ago, in which men and women marched along separate routes.

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#IntersectionalityIsForTwitter: How to Be a True Ally

12:31 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Cross-posted with permission from Amplify Your Voice, a project of Advocates for Youth.

Mean Twitter Bird

Feminist conflicts on Twitter highlight ways to be (or not be) an ally.

By now much of the advocacy community has heard of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen, and #FuckCisPeople, started by @karnythia, @JamilahLemieux, and @Stuxnetsource, respectively. Intersectionality (the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities) has run rampant on Twitter, and I’ve been having a blast voicing my grievances, listening to other’s grievances, and fighting trolls with every bit of strength embedded in my keyboard. But not everyone has been having a great time with these hashtags, and I am here to help with a few tips:

One: Check your privilege at the door.

I don’t know what kind of privilege you’re packing, but it’s weighing you down. Set it down for a minute and consider the fact that you are not the only person out there being oppressed. In fact, you may indeed be unconsciously benefiting from an unjust system. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person—it just means that you live in a society that prizes certain groups over others and you were unlucky enough to be born into one. If you think you have it bad, just think of the people who weren’t born into the privileged group.

Two: Keep in mind that your movement can be flawed…

…without you being an evil master-overlord. Calling out the flaws in our movements is the only way we are going to get better. Movements are constantly demanding that society stop silencing the voices of their oppressed people. It is fair to say, then, that silencing people who are oppressed within those movements is the worst kind of hypocritical.

Three: Remember that unity does not equal silence.

The hashtags are only divisive if you don’t plan on addressing the grievances stated within them. If the movement intends to continue as it is and ignore the pleas stated for all of the Twitterverse to see, then yes it is divisive. But the only way we are ever going to be truly unified is if we listen to each other’s complaints and work to fix them.

Four: Be aware that anger is an emotion…

…and that oppressed peoples, as human beings, are entitled to emotions. You have no way and no right to monitor and/or control these emotions. These emotions are not irrational. These emotions are not silly. The best way to deal with these emotions is not to pretend they don’t exist and/or brush them off as unwarranted whining.

Five: Know that there is one condition to being an ally…

…and it isn’t that the oppressed groups appease you at every turn. It isn’t that they be wary of your feelings. It isn’t that they don’t air the movements’ dirty laundry. It isn’t that they do what is best for the movement even if the movement isn’t doing what’s best for them. The only true condition for someone to become an ally is for the ally to support the oppressed group because it is the right thing to do. You help them the best you can, not the way you think is best.

And if you are really having a problem with the hashtags, I present you this hypothetical situation:

Every day my friend and I walk down the street together. We are very close, but every once in a while my friend falls to the ground and scrapes her knee.

This friend and I have braved bullies together. We have faced down mean girls and jocks alike. We are more than friends, we are best friends. We love each other.

And every day she falls. Sometimes she trips. Most times someone pushes her to the ground as I watch. And sometimes I even push her myself.

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Adoption Imperialism: A Q&A With ‘The Child Catchers’ Author Kathryn Joyce

11:55 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Cover: The Child Catchers

The Child Catchers chronicles the hypocrisy of anti-abortion & right-wing Christian activists.

Kathryn Joyce’s new look at the adoption industry, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, contains within its pages true horror stories. Perhaps most shockingly, the book details what appears to be the long-term abuse of a group of Liberian orphans “adopted” into a life of virtual slavery in Tennessee — starved, hit, manipulated, and isolated by “parents” practicing an extreme brand of back-to-the-land Christianity.

But Joyce, through intensive reporting around the world, also tells the stories of “orphans” who have actual families, even mothers, back home and who were adopted under false auspices, as well women in the United States who are manipulated into relinquishing children for adoption by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

Throughout the book, these dynamics of exploitation are recreated on a macro scale as the increasing drive for Westerners, often people of faith, to adopt orphans keeps feeding into, and off of, a global system of poverty, corruption, and mistreatment of women and children. Joyce’s work touches on bigger social issues, like the intersection of capitalism with reproduction, the role of religion in shaping policy, and the way conventional — and even inspirational — narratives of care and charity intersect with old paradigms of oppression and power.

Joyce recently spoke to RH Reality Check about how the movement she chronicles relates to abortion politics and the treatment of biological families of adoptees at home and abroad.

RH Reality Check: Ideologically speaking, how did the concept of adoption as a positive alternative to abortion end up morphing from “Don’t have an abortion, adopt!” rhetoric into this massive movement to actually facilitate adoption on a broad scale?

Kathryn Joyce: Adoption and abortion have long been linked. For years, it’s been presented as a neat, common-ground solution to the abortion debate — something that politicians on the right and left can agree on. For liberal politicians, it offered a way to moderate support for abortion. For conservatives, it was presented as a solution for women who didn’t want to parent, or who couldn’t. It was also framed as an answer to the pro-choice challenge: Who is going to care for all these babies you want women to have?

RHRC: You also address how the post-Roe landscape demographically affected the practice of adoption.

KJ: The real push to increase adoptions came in the last few decades, after the rate of domestic infant relinquishment for adoption dropped, going from around 20 percent of never-married white women in 1972 to closer to 1 percent today. The rates were historically lower for women of color, who were less likely to be pressured to relinquish in pre-Roe days because there was more adoption “demand” for white infants. Today, I think domestic relinquishment rates for Black women are statistically zero. So as demand outstripped “supply,” a lot of organizations became invested in increasing the number of women relinquishing.

RHRC: The capitalist angle strikes me, almost like the “market” for adoption mimics 19th century European imperialism, going to new territories to find “supply” through exploitation.

KJ: Yes, I think you see that overseas as well as here in the United States — the sort of “country-hopping” that happens in inter-country adoption, as adoption booms and busts move from nation to nation, but also in the experiences of U.S. mothers, about whom some organizations wrote multiple reports, trying to figure out how they could encourage more adoptions.

RHRC: Given your contact with people on both sides of the equation, do you think the choice to carry to term and then relinquish is never going to be as common as adoptive parents want it to be, which tips the power relationship?

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A New Direction for Restaurant Workers? Zingerman’s and the “Thriveable Wage”

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Waiter

An update on the ongoing wage crisis for restaurant workers in the United States.

The wage crisis among restaurant workers has gained attention in recent weeks, reminding the public that federal minimum wage for restaurant workers is currently $2.13 per hour even while the federal minimum wage for most other sectors is $7.25 per hour. According to Saru Jayaraman, Director of the Food and Labor Research Center, low wages for restaurant workers is the biggest legacy of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who served as head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States, worked hard during Cain’s tenure to keep the cost of labor low in its sector. Jayaraman also points out that women constitute at least half of people in the restaurant sector.

In light of the industry’s powerful lobbying to keep wages low, it is rare to find restaurants — or corporations generally — driven by a desire to improve their employees’ overall living wage and wellness, rather than how the market can make them richer. Enter Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (Zingerman’s), made up of 18 partners and several different enterprises including a restaurant called Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Based in Michigan, Zingerman’s partners are known for having built their enterprises based on how they can “enhance the lives of as many people as [they] possibly can.”

In practice this means offering all their employees — part time and full time — health and dental benefits, and paid time off. After they work at Zingerman’s for a year, employees are eligible for 401(k)s.

Tabitha Mason, who built her career in the restaurant industry, is the manager of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. “Early in my career at a different restaurant, I probably made $20,000 per year. That was a more traditional restaurant, where servers were viewed as disposable,” Mason told RH Reality Check. “And previous restaurants I worked at would try hard to restrict who could receive benefits — like it was an exclusive club.”

While Zingerman’s Roadhouse pays its staff just a smidge over the federal restaurant workers’ minimum wage, their staff earn $21 per hour. Management monitors tips to ensure this, according to Mason.

And last year, Zingerman’s partners began cultivating a new dimension of their focus on employee-centered business:  the concept of a “thriveable wage.” We’ve heard of the minimum wage, described above, which offers a floor for what a worker can legally earn in a given sector. And we’ve heard of a “living wage,” which ensures a worker can earn what is necessary to survive.

Moving to a “thriveable wage” is part of Zingerman’s deeper commitment to their worker and an understanding that, as an employer, they’re part of a larger ecosystem of workers, their families, and their communities, not just partners and shareholders. At a retreat last year, Zingerman’s partners began toying with the concept of a thriveable wage, drafting a vision statement that includes the following:

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Widely-Supported California Bill to End Shackling of Pregnant Women in Prison Faces Possible Veto

8:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Shackles photo: publik15 on flickr

Shackles photo: publik15 on flickr

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

This article is cross-posted with permission from Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice.

Over the past two years, I have worked alongside an amazing group of women to pass a common-sense bill for California moms. Assembly Bill 568 (Skinner) would limit the use of shackles on incarcerated pregnant women to the least restrictive restraints possible.

Translation: It would end the use of belly chains, leg irons, ankle restraints and other barbaric shackling devices that are used on pregnant women in jails and prisons across our state. Yes, shackles reminiscent of slavery are still being used on pregnant women as far long as 8 ½ months.

Medical professionals agree that it’s time for a change. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) was so moved by this issue that they became co-sponsors of the bill. ACOG opposes the use of any restraints on pregnant women because it increases the risk of falling and leaving the pregnant woman, whose balance is already compromised, unable to break those falls. Read the rest of this entry →

The Hyde Amendment at 35: How One Law Continues to Divide a Movement

8:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Photobucket

Rep. Henry Hyde

This article is cross-posted from the National Network of Abortion Funds.

The Hyde Amendment turns 35 this month. This provision, prohibiting federal Medicaid coverage of abortion in almost all circumstances, was the beginning of the anti-abortion movement’s post-Roe, all-out effort to ban abortion. It was a gateway bill, opening the door to the flood of restrictions that today constrict a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion, forcing women to “choose” between paying for other basic necessities and having an abortion, and, in too many cases, making abortion impossible. It became the precedent for all other denials of abortion funding, and reinforces our discriminatory, two-tier health care system in which people without financial resources cannot get the care they need.

The persistence of the Hyde Amendment also created a series of disastrous roadblocks to inclusive reproductive health coverage in other legislation. For example, Congress banned abortion coverage in “The Affordable Care Act” in 2010. Compounding this specific policy loss was the profound ideological loss of normalizing the exclusion of abortion from health insurance. During the battle over health care reform, President Obama reassured those who feared that there might be an end run around Hyde by saying, “I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.”

As we mark this anniversary with our continued activism, I draw several political lessons to inform our advocacy going forward.

Understand the fight we are in:  The agenda is anti-woman, especially poor women

Paradoxically, the debate over abortion is not primarily about abortion itself. Rather, as Dr. George Tiller so eloquently put it, “This battle is about the self-determination of women over the direction and course of their lives. Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams. Abortion is a matter of survival.”

Over time the anti-abortion movement has gotten more sophisticated in its approach, arguing in recent years it opposes abortion because of the harm it does to women’s health. False claims that abortion is linked to breast cancer and causes women to suffer from post-abortion syndrome are intended to show that the anti-abortion movement cares as much about women as it does about fetuses. However, the theme of contempt and distrust for women, so clearly articulated during the original debate on the Hyde Amendment, recurs.  A recent attempt by Republicans to restrict government funding of abortion to cases of “forced” rape echoes the earlier debate where opponents claimed that “any woman who wants an abortion under Medicaid could go in and say” she has been raped, in order to get Medicaid to pay for her abortion.

Fight for what you really want

At the time the Hyde Amendment was passed, just three years after Roe v. Wade, its sponsors never thought they would succeed. The original Hyde Amendment proposal was unabashedly extreme, with no exceptions whatsoever, not even to save a woman’s life. Its sponsors were completely transparent about their goals. In 1976, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) said:

“I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody from having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.”

In 1977, Rep. Hyde and other House members held out for six months, orchestrating 25 roll call votes and delaying passage of a $60 million appropriations bill, before finally accepting a few exceptions in order to get the Amendment passed. But they kept pushing for what they really wanted until they successfully eliminated all but the exception for life endangerment in 1981. Up until 1993, Congress refused Medicaid funding to women who had been raped; only women whose lives were endangered by their pregnancy had any hope of receiving financial support for an abortion through Medicaid.

This tenacity became a signature characteristic of the anti-abortion movement: the ban on so-called “partial birth abortion,” the many state-level challenges to Roe itself, and egg-as-person amendments are just a few examples of this approach. The anti-abortion movement never takes no for an answer. By drawing lines in the sand and refusing to compromise, they have successfully restricted access to abortion, mobilized their base and made significant inroads into mainstream attitudes about abortion.

Do not allow the opposition to exploit divisions

By attacking abortion access, rather than legality, the Hyde Amendment divided the abortion rights movement along lines of race and class. It provided the possibility of being “pro-choice” without supporting real access, thereby trading away the needs of low-income women and women of color. When asked why women of color were not more visible in the pro-choice movement, longtime activist and former clinic director Brenda Joyner reframed the question to ask:

“[W]here is the primarily white middle-class movement in our struggles for freedom? Where was a white middle-class movement when the Hyde Amendment took away Medicaid funding of abortions for poor women?”

These divisions have continually arisen. Sometimes, as with the Hyde Amendment, women of different economic classes are pitted against each other. And sometimes, as in the argument over whether to support a health reform bill without abortion coverage, women are in the position of having their basic needs pitted against each other – trading reproductive health care for other health coverage. Here, too, President Obama actively contributed to this conflict, saying, “My main focus is making sure that people have options of high quality care at the lowest possible price” – as if abortion isn’t part of “high-quality care” for women.

As we look towards the future, it is my hope that we will resist the fragmentation that has weakened all of our struggles for social justice. The work of the abortion Funds reminds us daily that, as Audre Lorde told us, “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives.” Overturning the Hyde Amendment is just one part of our goal of achieving reproductive justice for all women. It is important that we pursue a bold vision, especially in challenging times. We need this vision to mobilize our movement because, as we have seen, the arc of history does not bend towards justice all by itself – it takes all of our hands.

Rough Summer in the City: Recent Rape Cases and the NYC Rape Shield Law

12:16 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

This week, the public humiliation of Nafissatou Diallo that has been the “DSK Rape Case” has come to a close, as all charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn have been dropped. This motion marks the end to a case that has amounted to little more than a character assassination of a rape complainant who has endured a litany of shame-driven media accusations, including but by no means limited to the Post’s declaration that she “wasn’t just a girl working a hotel – she was a working girl.” This unsubstantiated claim of her sex worker status, in addition to problematic framings of her race, immigrant status and background, has been used in the media to reinforce the idea that she is not a credible witness and therefore unworthy of having her rape charges validated in a court of law.

It’s been a rough summer for rape cases going through the DA’s office in New York City, with no lack of victim-blaming happening all around. It’s been mere months since two NYC police officers were acquitted of raping a women in her East Village apartment after a call for their assistance at the same location. Since the victim was drunk, though, it wasn’t difficult to see how she would become the one on trial. In fact, there was enough victim-blaming to acquit two men who were caught entering the woman’s apartment on outside surveillance tapes not once, not twice, but three times. Enough victim-blaming to acquit a man who admitted to lying in bed with the victim while she was wearing only a bra and passed out drunk. Enough victim-blaming to have one of the officers, Officer Moreno, publicly declare post-acquittal that the results of the case “were a lesson and a win.” A lesson and a win, indeed.

How rape cases can play out in our criminal justice system, as seen this summer in NYC alone, is a lesson to every person that is socially vulnerable to the effects of a rape culture, and that’s a whole lot of people. If you have been raped, it does matter how you got there. It matters what your race is, what your immigration status is and how you’ve made a living. It matters a lot. For some rape victims, just being able to report the crime without shaming scrutiny is not a possibility. In the case of sex workers, for instance, sometimes the mere admission that they are sex workers leads to open refusal to document a rape. As one member of the Sex Workers Outreach Project explained:

I was taken very seriously until it came out that I was involved in sex work, that this man was going to get me work, and that I showed him my body. At that point, the cops started acting as though I had been dishonest for not revealing this sooner and started basically interrogating me. It was incredibly upsetting. One of the police officers actually said to me, “What makes it okay Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but not Thursday?” I was not arrested, but I feared arrest, having heard of cops doing that. I was relieved just to leave the precinct, and needless to say nothing came of my complaint. And I was reminded of the treatment I had received when I discovered that he was later arrested in California as a sex offender. Presumably he raped someone with a little more social cachet.

Sadly, it is not just the acts of a few that affect how the system treats rape complainants. There are also policies in place that directly affect how a sex worker is treated in the eyes of the court in regard to sexual assault cases. For instance, in the New York City Rape Shield Law, a criminal procedure code that provides that “evidence of a victim’s sexual conduct shall not be admissible” in a rape case, there is a noted exception to the code. New York is one state that permits the victim’s status as a convicted prostitute to be admitted into evidence if the conviction occurred within three years of the sexual offense. In the past, this practice has been defended on the grounds that such information speaks to the credibility of the rape complainant “as a witness” and somehow suggests that the complainant, being a sex worker, may have consented. In many ways, this practice being upheld represents how prostitution (and indeed, sex work in general) is still considered an immoral act and treated in the eyes of the law as representative of a person’s defective character.

In the aftermath of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn dismissal and the recent acquittal of two police officers accused of rape, both cases which had a great deal to do with vilifying the complainant rather than the defendant, we must recognize that the rights of rape victims are tied up directly with how we frame rape victims in general, both in the media and in public policy. We must also be cognizant of the notion that there is a hierarchy of victimhood and that issues of race, class and status go into making up that hierarchy. Laws like NYC’s Rape Shield Law uphold the notion that our courts are the arbiters of sexual morality. Likewise, a court system whose decisions are in any way shaped by a rape victim being a sex worker (whether a valid claim or not) cannot be held to treat any complainant with a reasonable level of dignity. All in all, it’s a real wonder how any of us could withstand the scrutiny of such a system of judgment.

The Triumph Over Racist Billboards in Oakland: We Did It Together

8:26 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eveline Shen for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On behalf of all of us who have worked on the campaign to remove the racist, anti-choice billboards in Oakland, I want to say thank you for all you did. So many of you emailed CBS Outdoor and spread the word about the action that we were able to generate thousands of emails to CBS Outdoor insisting on the removal of the billboards. At the height of the action, over 500 emails an hour were going into their local and national offices.

When the billboards were removed early Monday morning, all of us were relieved, and held our heads high as we walked our own streets. It is critical for us to name and claim Oakland as a place where each woman’s right to access the reproductive health care she needs is preserved, no matter her race, income, or immigration status. We are honored that several elected officials have joined their voices with ours. Congresswoman Barbara Lee reacted with a powerful statement condemning the billboards, and Mayor Jean Quan worked closely with us to ensure CBS Outdoor knew we had the full support of her administration.

Our coalition accomplished so much in a few weeks…from reaching out to thousands of supporters, to talking with local and national media, publishing our own OpEds and blog posts, and engaging elected officials. And in the final days of the billboards’ presence on our streets, we took a camera and a microphone and headed out to hear from Black women themselves what the billboards meant to them. These powerful videos were the result.

The racist billboards are part of a nationwide effort to wedge communities of color, and divide us from each other. Oakland reacted powerfully, with a unified voice to say, “Not here!”

But as we look around the country, we see a different picture.

Continue reading….