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The Pope, Pregnant Children, and Violence Against Girls and Women

11:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Pope Benedict Pope Benedict XVII find it strange that Pope Benedict XVI chose a week that will culminate in a global strike to protest violence against women to retire. And for health reasons no less. Orange smoke and irony and all that. On Thursday of this week, all over the globe, people will gather and dance for One Billion Rising, a day dedicated to striking against violence against women. As Eve Ensler, the founder of  V-Day which has organized the strike knows better than most, “violence against women is a global, patriarchal epidemic.

Part of that epidemic is compulsory pregnancy. The Pope’s rationale is that his “age means he lacks strength to do job.” You could use the exact words to describe the nine-year old girl the Pope excommunicated for having a life-saving abortion after being raped and impregnated, with twins. It seems to me that her age meant she lacked strength to do the job, too. Actually, the job would have killed her.  These things happen. She and 16 million other pregnant adolescent girls a year, two million of whom are under age 15, strike me as 16 million good #reasonstorise.

As does this girl: last Thursday a friend posted a story on Facebook, ”Dafne, 9-Year-Old Girl, Gives Birth To Baby Girl In Mexico.” Millions read and shared it over the weekend.  The link appeared with this caption: “The girl reportedly delivered a 5.7 pound baby by Caesarian section on January 27. She was 8-years old when she became pregnant.” Picky, picky feminist wordsmithy me thinks the caption should read, “The girl underwent a dangerous Caesarian surgery to delivery a 5.7 pound baby on January 27. She was 8-years old when a 17-year old boy forcibly inseminated her.”  Eight-year olds cannot consent to sex. They also cannot consent to having contraceptives implanted in their arms, but that’s now happened too. Just in case she gets ideas. On the same day, by coincidence, a 12-year old in Argentina gave birth to twins after she “fell pregnant.” Like she tripped by accident.

While nine is very young, girls this age having babies is not as rare as we’d like to think. The United States has more “teen” births than any industrialized nation, including girls as young as 10,  and our rates have been climbing.  However, 95 percent of teen births take place in poorer countries. According to W.H.O., “Half of all adolescent births occur in just seven countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States.” Many girls die because they do not have control over their bodies and their own reproduction.

Last year, after a 10-year old in Columbia gave birth, experts blithely explained that “a C-section delivery for such a young mother is not unusual.” Given global trends (researchers, armed with competing theories, have noted that the average age of the onset of menstruation for girls has been steadily declining for decades) we can reasonably expect to see instances involving younger and younger girls. Little girls, and women who find themselves raped and pregnant often “want to die.” It’s only one reason why raped people shouldn’t be forced to carry pregnancies to term. Guess what else, besides the Papacy, of course, is a “job or life with no retirement age?” Whereas the Pope is retiring to “go back to his priesthood,” girls who are raped, pregnant and give birth or die cannot go back to their childhoods.

This was the conclusion reached by a doctor last year in the case a mentally-disabled girl, 10-years old, in Kansas, who had to have an abortion after becoming pregnant as a result of rape.  Many people, like these at the Landover Baptist Church think, “Ten-year old sluts getting pregnant is no reason for abortion!” That’s pretty much what the Kansas medical review board that revoked the girl’s doctor’s license seemed to believe. Which was a relief for people who want girls to get this message: “Ten year old sluts in Kansas are being given a simple message: GET PREGNANT IN KANSAS AND YOU WILL HAVE A BABY!” I realize that these quotes seem to be from a lunatic fringe, or just any number of misguided priests, but these words are bluntly stated distillations of common victim-blaming ideas and believed by many people.  In Mexico, authorities “don’t know if [the girl] is being entirely truthful.” Mainly because of her age, but interesting choice of words. Is she saying she was raped? Or is she saying she wasn’t? The article linked to doesn’t say which. Turns out she’s saying that the boy was her “boyfriend.” As one commenter speculated, the child “may have even had feelings for” her rapist.  Authorities, in a perverse game of “he said/she said,” acknowledge that they are looking for the missing father, a 17-year old boy, “to acquire his own account of what occurred between the two.” In case he reveals that she was wrong in her assessment and wants to make it clear that he raped her?

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Losing Ground on Women’s Rights: In 2011, Sex Ed, Contraception, Abortion Rights All Under Seige

12:25 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

By almost any measure, issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level received unprecedented attention in 2011. In the 50 states combined, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009. (Note: This analysis refers to reproductive health and rights-related “provisions,” rather than bills or laws, since bills introduced and eventually enacted in the states contain multiple relevant provisions.)

Fully 68 percent of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26 percent of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.

• For summaries of major state-level actions in 2011, click here.
• For a table showing reproductive health and rights-related provisions enacted in 2011,     click here.
• For the status of state law and policy on key reproductive health and rights issues, click here.

Abortion Restrictions Took Many Forms

Bans. The most high-profile state-level abortion debate of 2011 took place in Mississippi, where voters rejected the ballot initiative that would have legally defined a human embryo as a person “from the moment of fertilization,” setting the stage to ban all abortions and, potentially, most hormonal contraceptive methods in the state. Meanwhile, five states (AL, ID, IN, KS and OK) enacted provisions to ban abortion at or beyond 20 weeks’ gestation, based on the spurious assertion that a fetus can feel pain at that point. These five states join Nebraska, which adopted a ban on abortions after 20 weeks in 2010 (see State Policies on Later Abortions). A similar limitation was vetoed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D). Read the rest of this entry →

International Family Planning Saves Lives. So Why Is the GOP Cutting It?

7:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

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Cross-posted with permission from Impact, a magazine produced by Population Services International.

Few examples of U.S. foreign assistance provide benefits as tangible, cost-effective, life-saving and critical for both the United States and aid recipients as do international family planning and reproductive health services. Women and families across the developing world are healthier and stronger – and societies are more stable – as a result of access to basic health services.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, for every $10 million invested in international family planning and reproductive health:

➤ 610,000 women and couples receive contraceptive services and supplies;

➤ 190,000 fewer unintended pregnancies occur;

➤ 83,000 abortions are avoided;

➤ 500 maternal deaths are averted; and

➤ 2,300 fewer children lose their mothers.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, studies indicate that meeting the unmet need for family planning could reduce maternal deaths by approximately 35 percent, reduce abortion in developing countries by 70 percent and reduce infant mortality by 10 to 20 percent. Read the rest of this entry →

Pointing Toward the Future: How Environmental and Women’s Rights Groups Can Work Together to Solve Global Problems

11:28 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Dr. Carmen Barroso and Carl Pope for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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This fall, world population will reach seven billion people at a time of accelerated environmental disruption. This article is part of a series commissioned by RH Reality Check, with Laurie Mazur as guest editor. The series examines the causes and consequences of population and environmental changes from various perspectives, and explores the policies and actions needed to both avoid and mitigate the inevitable impacts of these changes.

Here, RHRC asks two experts, Dr. Carmen Barroso, Director of International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region, and Carl Pope, former Executive Director and current Chairman of the Sierra Club, to explain the connections between environmental and population issues and how the movements can work together.

All of the articles in this series can be found here.

RHRC: When did you start to see the synergy between environmental and population issues?

CARMEN:

I remember when we didn’t see them. In the 1980s, I was living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo developing a sex education program with local women’s organizations.  True to our feminist lineage, we were advocating for women’s right to decide in matters relating to sex and reproduction. Working in the context of Brazil’s left movement, our sex education also included a critique of population control, which was a prevalent symbol of imperialism at the time.

Our concern was both with coercive practices, such as sterilization without consent, and with the notion that population stabilization could somehow be interchangeable with a fair global economy, the “new economic order,” as it was called then.  At that time, there was considerable tension between social justice-oriented feminists and environmentalists who championed population control. Read the rest of this entry →

Conservative Columnist Supports Family Planning as “Pro-Life”

11:08 am 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.

It’s not often that I agree with Michael Gerson, the conservative former speech writer for President George H.W. Bush, advocate for abstinence-only policies in U.S. global AIDS programs, and columnist for the Washington Post. 

Today, however, I am in near-full agreement with him on a piece he published in today’s Post.

Gerson just returned from a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored by CARE during which he and others saw firsthand the struggles of women who live in societies in which they have little control of whether, when and whom they marry, and whether, when and how many children they bear.  In these settings, women bear more children than they want and can afford to raise, infant and child mortality rates are high, and complications of both pregnancy and unsafe abortion are the leading cause of deaths among women ages 15 to 49.  Medical care is largely inaccessible.

Reproductive and sexual health and rights advocates have always argued that ensuring that women have unfettered access to family planning information and counseling and consistent contraceptive supplies is a “pro-life” strategy, because voluntary family planning dramatically improves the quality of life and survival rates of both children and their mothers, and by extension, families and societies.

But the anti-choice movement in the United has moved from opposing abortion per se to opposing all forms of birth control, an agenda it was always suspected to have in the first place.  As such, this movement, led largely by male religious leaders, Congressmen or virulently anti-choice male activists opposes support for family planning services and birth control methods both at home and abroad.

Having a “card-carrying” conservative evangelical columnist support family planning as a “pro-life” intervention not only speaks to reality, it is what I hope to be a welcome first step in pushing back against anti-choice positions that cost far more lives–those of women and children–than they ever “save.”

Visiting the village of Bweremana, Gerson writes:

[T]he correlation between the number of children and the absence of some of their mothers becomes clear. Kanyere Sabasaba, 35, has had 10 children, eight of whom have survived. Her last delivery did not go well. “I delivered the baby without any problem, but I was bleeding much,” she told me. The case was too complex for the local health center, so Kanyere had to pay for her transport to another medical facility. After the surgery, the doctor performed a tubal ligation. “If I give birth again, I could die,” she said. “The last child is the one who could really kill me.”

As Gerson rightly notes, for women in this part of Congo, the complications of childbirth are as dangerous as the militias in the countryside.

One woman I met had given birth to 13 children, only six of whom survived. Women sometimes deliver in the fields while working. Medical help can be a few days’ journey away. Each birth raises the odds of a hemorrhage, infection or rupture. Those odds increase dramatically when births come early in life, or late in life, or in rapid succession. In Congo, almost one in five deaths of women during childbearing years is due to maternal causes.

And, he notes, “While both the pill and condoms are generally available in larger cities such as Goma, access is limited in rural districts. Determining the pace of reproduction is often a male prerogative instead of a shared decision. Sexual violence can be as close for a woman as gathering fuel in the woods.”

These are all absolutely true and I appreciate and admire Gerson for acknowledging these realities.

The women of Bweremana, continues Gerson “are attempting to diffuse and minimize their risk. In a program organized by Heal Africa, about 6,000 contribute the equivalent of 20 cents each Sunday to a common fund. When it is their time to give birth, the fund becomes a loan to pay transportation and hospital fees. The women tend a common vegetable garden to help with income and nutrition. And the group encourages family planning.”

But even this is not enough.  It is estimated that 215 million women worldwide want and need access to basic family planning and supplies but do not currently have it.  These women bear more children than they want or can support.  As a result, they also watch more infants and children die, suffer poor health themselves, and are far less likely to achieve their own educational and economic goals.  That is why investments by nations in their own health care systems, including basic reproductive and sexual health care, and international donors in those same systems, are so critical.

But, as Gerson notes:

The very words “family planning” light up the limbic centers of American politics. From a distance, it seems like a culture war showdown. Close up, in places such as Bweremana, family planning is undeniably pro-life. When births are spaced more than 24 months apart, both mothers and children are dramatically more likely to survive. Family planning results not only in fewer births, but in fewer at-risk births, including those early and late in a woman’s fertility. When contraceptive prevalence is low, about 70 percent of all births involve serious risk. When prevalence is high, the figure is 35 percent.

The United States was once the global leader in funding family planning worldwide.  But U.S. funding of international family planning programs has remained essentially flat for the last 10 years, and is hamstrung by an increasing number of medically-unnecessary and ideologically-driven restrictions that end up reducing, rather than expanding access to this urgently-needed health intervention.

Gerson argues that support for family planning and contraceptive supplies shouldn’t be the ideological lightening rod it has become because:

“[e]ven in the most stringent Catholic teaching, the prevention of conception is not the moral equivalent of ending a life. And conservative Protestants have little standing to object to contraception, given the fact that they make liberal use of it. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, more than 90 percent of American evangelicals believe that hormonal and barrier methods of contraception are morally acceptable for adults. Children are gifts from God, but this does not require the collection of as many gifts as biologically possible.

In fact, more than 80 percent of the U.S. public writ large strongly supports women’s rights to determine the number and spacing of children they have.

So far we strongly agree: It’s a strategy that saves lives, it makes economic sense, and because this is about public health, it should be free from ideology.  If you don’t like contraception, don’t use it. But don’t use religion or ideology to deny it to others, especially when the overwhelming majority of women of all religious persuasions in fact use birth control.

Where I diverge with from Gerson in regard to these issues is on abortion. 

Gerson points to “[s]ome liberal advocates” who think these are intrinsically related.  In regard to self-determination, human rights, and public health, the linkage between a woman’s ability to prevent pregnancy and her ability to safely and legally terminate an unintended and untenable pregnancy are intrinsically linked and women know this. It only becomes ideological when religion and politics intervenes in these basic rights and tries to undermine them.

It is true, as he notes, that “support for contraception does not imply or require support for abortion.”  You can, personally, be a supporter of contraception but decide you would not choose abortion were you to become pregnant, which obviously men can’t.  Where we’ve become lost, however is in politicizing abortion care in much the same way as family planning services and ignoring, for ideological convenience, the same public health and medical evidence on safe abortion services that supports access to family planning.  Safe abortion care makes sense because it saves women’s lives, and ultimately the lives of their current and future children borne through wanted pregnancies.

Notwithstanding religious and ideological beliefs, access to safe abortion is also a well-recognized critical public health intervention.  Moreover, without it, ultimately women can not truly be in charge of their reproductive destinies–and hence can not truly exercise self-determination. Access to safe abortion services is a necessary back up to any unintended and untenable pregnancy, from any cause, including contraceptive failure, interrupted access to contraceptives, and pregnancies resulting from intimate partner violence and rape, rape as a tool of war, stranger rape, or incest.  Access to contraception can dramatically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and hence the need for abortion, but it can never completely eliminate abortion. So the need for access to safe abortion care is a fact-based medical and public health position, not an ideological one. And by suggesting it is an ideological position, we continue to miss the point.

What Gerson doesn’t clarify is that for the purpose of U.S. policy, contraception and abortion are already kept separate.  U.S. international family planning assistance goes solely to family planning information and supplies; it does not support access to safe abortion care.  Under the Helms Amendment, funding for abortion care is only allowable in cases of rape, incest or the health and life of the mother.  In reality, because of politics, U.S. funding is rarely if ever used even for these “allowable” conditions.  The issue of abortion would come into play if we were talking about repealing the Helms Amendment, an effort I wholeheartedly support, but which has nothing to do with current discussions around the scope of U.S. international funding for family planning, unless you are a Congressperson trying to deflect attention from the fact that you don’t want to support family planning and want to ignore the evidence that it saves the lives of women and their children.

So when we talk about ideological fights around family planning, it really comes down to a majority male GOP Congressional leadership that vociferously opposes access to basic services that would enable women to choose the number and spacing of children they want by using basic family planning services.  Abortion is a red herring here, because it is not in the equation.  Gerson himself would have been more forceful if he had clarified that, and he also would have been more honest if in this piece he had reversed his own earlier position supporting the prohibition of integration of family planning into U.S. global AIDS programs, a position adopted by the Bush Administration and, unfortunately, continued by the Obama Administration that dramatically diminishes access to contraceptive supplies to HIV-positive women who desire not to have any more children.

So I agree with Gerson that family planning is pro-life, as all people who are pro-choice and by definition therefore “pro-life” understand those concepts.  I also agree with Gerson that “women in Congo have enough home-grown problems without importing irrelevant, Western controversies.”  And finally, I completely agree that access to contraceptives do not solve every problem and that women in Bweremana want access to voluntary family planning for the same reasons as women elsewhere: to avoid high-risk pregnancies, to deliver healthy children and to better care for the children they have.”  They want the same happy, healthy families we all strive to have.

This is the best understanding of why the pro-choice movement, based as it is on public health and medical evidence is indeed “pro-life,” and why U.S. support for voluntary international family planning services is one of the single most effective investments we can make.  Let’s keep the funding politics separate from abortion right now, while recognizing that on the ground, in the hut, for the woman, these two things are rarely in neat little boxes.

House GOP Renews Misguided Effort to Defund UNFPA, Risking the Lives of Millions of Women

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

 

On the heels of Vice President Biden’s recent trip to China, the GOP leadership of the House of Representatives issued a misguided ultimatum to President Obama: defund UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, or else.

UNFPA is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data to develop policies and programs to reduce poverty, to strengthen reproductive health programs, and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.  In a world where 215 million women want access to family planning services but do not have it, in which women make up the majority of those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS, and in which complications of pregnancy remain the leading cause of deaths among women in many countries, UNFPA is needed more than ever before.

This is not a controversial agenda.  In fact, it is one shown to be supported by the vast majority of Americans. As noted by a Guttmacher Institute Report, 91 percent of Americans believe that “every woman on the planet deserves access to quality maternal and reproductive health care.” Another found 89 percent in favor of “health care services, including access to basic health care and family planning services” as a way to promote economic development and advance the status of women and girls.

But as a result of misguided ideology and politics, and at a time when women’s most fundamental rights are under assault, we have been thrust into a dangerous game of falsehoods versus reality- and the stakes are high. What is the life of one woman worth? When reproductive rights are politicized, the health and safety of every woman hangs in the balance.

Each year, over 150 countries around the world contribute to helping UNFPA carry out the vital tasks it has been assigned by members of the United Nations, including the United States of America. As a global leader, the U.S. should continue to show the way.  U.S. financial support to UNFPA affirms the United States’ long-held commitment to save lives, slow the spread of HIV and encourage gender equality. Yet partisan politics continues to play an leading role in U.S. contributions to UNFPA. Despite systematic attempts in past Administrations to link UNFPA’s promotion of voluntary family planning services to China’s one child policy, no such connection exists. In 2002, both a UK parliamentary delegation as well as an independent blue-ribbon delegation sent to China by the U.S. State Department found no evidence that UNFPA supported China’s coercive birth policies. Indeed, the delegation reported that UNFPA advocated against and was a force for changing those policies. Still, UNFPA received no contribution from the U.S. from 2001 to 2007.

To be clear, UNFPA does not support coercion in family planning, coercive abortions or forced sterilizations anywhere.  The rejection of these practices is a fundamental principle of UNFPA’s mandate from members of the United Nations members, and as part of the mandate of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), the development of which the U.S. played a critical leadership role.

In reality, UNFPA promotes voluntary family planning and opposes all forms of coercion, targets or quotas. Americans support the work of UNFPA and recognize that the ability to make important decisions about childbearing is one of the most basic human rights. Supporting voluntary family planning and reproductive health care programs is a critical step toward improving the status of women and upholding these basic human rights around the world. And, as about one fifth of the world’s population, Chinese men and women have the same right as peoples elsewhere to learn about and gain from the voluntary approach family planning. And this is exactly what Americans want UNFPA to continue doing on the ground.

Claims attempting to link UNFPA with a gender imbalance resulting from son preference in China are equally unfounded. The UN and UNFPA in particular have made strong declarations against gender imbalance. In fact, UNFPA broke the taboo on this issue and became the first international agency to highlight the problem to Chinese authorities. Along with other UN agencies, UNFPA is coordinating an initiative on joint work to tackle the root causes of son preference. UNFPA’s 2008-2013 Strategic Plan calls for issues around sex preference and sex-selection to be included in analyses of efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, in reproductive health-care studies, and in international forums. Today, UNFPA continues to promote gender equality in China and leads efforts to reduce discrimination and violence against women.

UNFPA’s core programs help mothers survive pregnancy and childbirth, and deliver healthy newborns. The programs also encourage and enable couples to determine the number and spacing of their children and reduce the incident of HIV/AIDS. When U.S. funding is withheld, UNFPA’s lifesaving work will unquestionably dwindle, making women the pawns in this dangerous game. We simply cannot allow this to happen in the spirit of ideological demagoguery and ultimatums.

International Human Rights Court Says Governments Must Ensure Timely Access to Maternal Health Services

9:22 am 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.

In 2002, Alyne da Silva Pimentel, a 28-year-old Afro-Brazilian woman, died after being denied basic medical care to address complications in her pregnancy. Her death might be like any one of the other hundreds of thousands of women who die of complications of pregnancy or unsafe abortion each year worldwide, but for one thing: It was taken to court.

Maternal mortality in Brazil is high, especially for a country of its relative wealth and level of development. It is even higher among women who, like Alyne, are of Afro-descent, indigenous, and/or low-income. Alyne died of complications resulting from pregnancy after her local health center mis-diagnosed her symptoms and delayed the emergency care she needed to live.

On November 30, 2007, the Center for Reproductive Rights, with Brazilian partner Advocaci, filed Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil, brought the first ever maternal mortality case before the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Center’s petition argued that Brazil’s government violated Alyne’s rights to life, health, and legal redress, all of which are guaranteed both by Brazil’s constitution and international human rights treaties, including CEDAW. 

“Alyne’s story epitomizes Brazil’s violation of women’s human rights and failure to prevent women from dying of causes that, by the government’s own admission, are avoidable,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, the Center’s Legal Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We filed this case to demand that Brazil make the necessary reforms to its public health system—and save thousands of women’s lives.”

In its brief, the Center asked the Committee to require Brazil to compensate Alyne da Silva Pimentel’s surviving family, including her 9-year-old daughter, and make the reduction of maternal mortality a high priority, including by training providers, establishing and enforcing protocols, and improving care in vulnerable communities.

This week, the case was decided in a historic decision by CEDAW, establishing that governments have a human rights obligation to guarantee that all women in their countries—regardless of income or racial background—have access to timely, non-discriminatory, and appropriate maternal health services.

“Sadly,” said a statement from CRR, “Alyne’s story is one of thousands in Brazil, and all around the world, in which women are denied, and in some cases refused, basic quality medical care to address common pregnancy complications. And the countless lives lost unnecessarily as a result mean that today’s victory can only be regarded as bittersweet.”

Nonetheless, continued the statement, “today marks the beginning of a new era. Governments can no longer disregard the fundamental rights of women like Alyne without strict accountability. And while nothing can reverse Alyne’s fate, today’s decision means that Alyne’s mother and daughter will finally see justice served—and women worldwide will benefit from the ruling issued in her name.”

Ignore That Self-Affixed Halo: Anti-Choicers Know Just What They Are Doing to Incite Violence

11:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Immediately after the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of his church in Wichita, Kansas just over two years ago, anti-choice leaders who had long used stridently violent language to describe Dr. Tiller specifically and abortion care generally, fell all over themselves proclaiming innocence of any connection to the murder.  Among these was Troy Newman, current president of Operation Rescue, who stated:

“We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down… Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

But the fact is that Newman and his cohorts regularly used imagery and language that depicted Dr. Tiller himself as a monster and in many ways indirectly if not directly suggested him as a target for someone willing to commit a violent act. That someone turned out to be Scott Roeder, who had, it turns out, several links to Operation Rescue.

And, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Any doubt of Newman’s own gruesome feelings of glee about Dr. Tiller’s murder can be summed up in a photo showing Newman standing at the site of Dr. Tiller’s assassination giving a thumbs up.

Operation Rescue and other anti-choicers have now turned their sights on Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is providing late abortion care to women in need several times a month in Germantown, Maryland.  During the several hours I spent on three days in Germantown, to help with clinic defense, I saw suggestions of violent action everywhere, courtesy of the anti-choicers marshaled by Operation Rescue and its colleague organizations.

First, for example, there was the truck plastered with photos of what the anti-choicers claim are mangled fetuses.  These photos, whether real or not, are obviously distasteful, and meant to be so. But they are also misleading if not outright fake.  If, for example, a woman is carrying a fetus that has died in utero, and it is removed for her own mental and physical health, it may well look grisly. So would, for example, heart surgery. But the implication without context is that someone is killing near-born babies without reason. Using photos-and science for that matter–that is either created entirely for shock value or so grossly misrepresents reality as to have no relation is a primary strategy of the anti-choice movement.

But also plastered across this truck, amidst the “dead baby” photos were photos of Dr. Tiller and those of Dr. Carhart. Those of Dr. Tiller pronounced him “dead,” and tho

se of Dr. Carhart had large yellow arrows fixed around the perimeter with the word “Abortionist” in large black block letters, pointing to Dr. Carhart.  The message, if not explicit, is nonetheless clear: “One of these men is dead, the other is still working. Whaddya gonna do about it?”

Then there were the sidewalk chalk drawings, pictured here.

These drawings, which were one version of other drawings that appeared on a different day as well, were drawn out by teenagers “called in” by OR to help out with th protest.

Among these on Sunday were the sayings:

  • Would it bother us more if they used guns?
  • What would Jesus do? (with a gun)
  • Would it bother us if they used guns?

A drawing of an exploding gun as at the bottom of this row of chalk drawings.

Again, these images have two purposes. One is to suggest violence is an answer to something that anti-choicers don’t like, namely, women exercising self-determination in their lives by determining whether and when to have children, taking control over their own reproduction and sexual health, and safeguarding their own and their family’s health when a wanted pregnancy goes horribly awry.

The other is to intimidate those who are protecting women seeking care, and doctors who serve them. What would come to your mind if you walked the street toward your doctor’s office and there were exploding guns sketched on the sidewalk leading up to the office door?

Operation Rescue and other anti-choice groups such as those in Germantown use religion and piety to advance a patriarchal agenda cloaked in religious fervor.

But it is violence by any other name.

American Life League’s Questions on Facebook: They’re Not Asking “What Would Jesus Do”

11:27 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

I can’t remember when or why I initially friended the American Life League on Facebook, but here they are, popping up in my newsfeed periodically to tell me about the many and varied ways the premarital sex-having-sluts of America are murdering their young en masse, guided predominantly by the heathen-begloved hand of Planned Parenthood, which gleefully holds secret abortion parties behind closed doors.

Perhaps it’s rude or callous of me to admit that part of the reason I haven’t un-friended the American Life League is because I find their posts somewhat funny. Or quaint? Even comforting? I can’t put my finger on it–all I know is that I used to be a pro-life Republican, myself, and there’s something about the ALL Facebook page that’s a little bit like going back and reading your diary from junior high, even the pages with the awful angsty poetry.

But mainly the reason I can’t un-friend the American Life League is because I don’t want to miss another opportunity to comment on their periodic What Would You Do?-style posts that ask followers what they might do, personally, if horrific things happened to them–horrific things like a doctor who performs abortions living in their neighborhood, or Planned Parenthood having a booth at the county fair. Truly, nightmares abound:

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What Does US Policy Have to Do With Child Brides and Drought in Kenya?

10:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Drought in Africa"

"Drought in Africa" by United Nations Photo on flickr

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.

There’s a saying that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. When it comes to news that Kenyan families, facing serious drought conditions and unable to feed their families, are now selling their young daughters off to buy food, the United States is a part of the problem.

A big part.

Why?

As we reported two weeks back, the GOP and Tea Party majorities in the United States House of Representative are hell-bent on re-imposing the Global Gag Rule on U.S. international family planning assistance in a back and forth on policy that rivals Wimbledon.  And, as we reported in December 2010, House Republicans banded together to kill the International Child Marriage Prevention Act for no apparent reason other than to be ornery and adhere to a baseless ideology. The act would have required the U.S. government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage by promoting the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of women and girls, using existing resources. As in revenue-neutral, one of the terms du-jour.

To top all of this off, Republican Congressmen Chris Smith (NJ), Joe Pitts (PA), and Mike Pence (IN) succeeded during the Bush Administration in forbidding the integration of family planning information and supplies into HIV and AIDS programs, though unprotected sex is the leading cause of HIV transmission and of course the cause of unintended pregnancy. This of course undermined cost savings in addressing the related problems of HIV infection and unintended pregnancy and also denied HIV-positive women in particular the right to decide whether or not to have another child. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was particularly incensed at the idea these women would have such power and so lobbied very hard against integration. Read the rest of this entry →