You are browsing the archive for human rights.

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specific Food and Drug Administration labeling despite the fact that new research and best practices make that labeling out of date.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.

Read the rest of this entry →

Julian Assange Says Being Anti-Choice Represents ‘Non-Violence.’ Non-Violent for Whom?

11:12 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Drawing of Julian Assange

Assange claims his anti-abortion views are “nonviolent.”

During a recent online Q&A session with Campus Reform, Julian Assange, founder of the government secret-leaking group WikiLeaks, admitted he’s a “big admirer” of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for what he called “their very principled positions.” Specifically, he praised them and their libertarian Republican brethren for, among other things, their fervent opposition to abortion rights, characterizing their position on abortion as a reflection of their commitment to non-violence.

In response to a question about his thoughts on Rand Paul, Assange heralded him as the “only hope” for U.S. electoral politics. He lauded both men for their commitment to “non-violence,” highlighting the various ways in which he sees that commitment reflected in their political stances. “So, non-violence, well, don’t go and invade a foreign country,” said Assange. “Non-violence, don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. army. Non-violence, don’t extort taxes from people to the federal government. Similarly, other aspects of non-violence in relation to abortion that they hold.”

According to Assange, opposition to abortion is grounded in a commitment to non-violence. But non-violent for whom?

According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 6,461 reported incidents of violence against abortion providers since 1977, including eight murders and 17 attempted murders. Abortion providers and clinics have faced numerous bombings, cases of arson, butyric acid attacks, death threats, kidnappings, and more, all from opponents of abortion rights. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed while at church with his family. His convicted killer, Scott Roeder, is heralded as a “hero” in some anti-choice circles.

In 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States, illegal abortion accounted for 17 percent of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth. And today, around the globe—mostly in the developing world—at least 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year (roughly 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide) and many times that number suffer serious and sometimes lifelong health consequences.

It is impossible to quantify how many people in the United States avoid accessing safe and legal abortion care because of fear of harassment and intimidation, but with 5,165 abortion clinics reporting some form of disruption or harassment in 2011 alone, it’s safe to assume that it plays at least a small role; people often avoid accessing the basic reproductive health care to which they have a constitutional right because of virulent hostility from abortion opponents.

What’s that about anti-abortion views being non-violent again?

In a political climate so openly hostile and threatening to abortion rights, one in which states have enacted 43 abortion restrictions in the first six months of 2013 alone, where 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas will be forced to close because of an omnibus anti-abortion bill, where serious legal threats to Roe v. Wade abound every day, women’s lives are literally at risk.

So why are men like Assange essentially telling women to get over the abortion issue and praise Ron and Rand Paul anyway? It’s simple: privilege.

While these white, cisgender men may be able to pick and choose which political positions they like from the Pauls, marginalized groups do not have that luxury. They are essentially asking women and people of color to praise politicians who disdain and combat their very existence. This is not petty partisanship; it is a fundamental lack of respect for who we are as people. A simple look at their political records proves this.

Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Read the rest of this entry →

#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.

Read the rest of this entry →

Is Marriage Equality Almost Here? Six Possible Outcomes of the DOMA and Prop 8 Cases

11:11 am 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 Defense of Marriage Act

A Rainbow flag

There are several different possible outcomes of upcoming Supreme Court decisions.

In 2007 Edie Windsor married Thea Spyer after already being together for 40 years. When Spyer died, in 2009, their home state of New York recognized marriage equality, but because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, the federal government did not. As a result, Windsor was faced with paying more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes because Spyer had left her estate to Windsor. Had the federal government recognized their marriage and given it the same status as opposite-sex married couples in the state, Windsor would not have to pay any estate taxes.

But it didn’t, and Windsor sued, arguing DOMA violates Equal Protection protections and seeking a refund in her estate tax bill. In October 2012 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled DOMA was unconstitutional. In that decision, the court for the first time held that when government passes laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals those laws will be presumed unconstitutional and that the must have a compelling reason to justify that discrimination.

The Supreme Court now has to answer those two questions: Is Section 3 of DOMA (the part of the law that defines marriage) constitutional, and do gay and lesbian individuals qualify as a protected class for purposes constitutional protections? There are three ways the Court could answer those questions.

1. DOMA Is Unconstitutional

Equality advocates are hoping for a ruling from the Supreme Court that would broadly declare DOMA unconstitutional. Should the Supreme Court strike DOMA in its entirety, then same-sex couples who receive marriage licenses in the 12 states and District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriages will enjoy the benefits of more than 1,000 federal laws, benefits, programs, and protections that currently favor opposite-sex marriages. A ruling declaring DOMA unconstitutional would likely have no impact on marriage equality bans though.

If the Court does rule DOMA unconstitutional, it could do so via several different analytical tracts. First, the Supreme Court could issue a sweeping ruling under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Historically the courts have applied the equal protection clause to protect against the government unfairly infringing on the rights of specific groups and to ensure that certain fundamental rights such as marriage receive heightened legal protection. Advocates have argued that DOMA violates the 14th Amendment both because it targets a specific group of people for unequal treatment and because it affects the fundamental right to marriage.

If the Supreme Court relies on the 14th Amendment to strike DOMA and rule that LGBTQ individuals make up a class that should receive heightened protections because their history of being discriminated against, then the ruling could reach beyond invalidating DOMA and would mean that any law — state or federal — that treats gay or lesbian individuals differently based on their status as gay or lesbian would likely be struck down. That kind of broad ruling is not very likely though, especially given the conservative majority on the Court. But that doesn’t mean hope is lost. The Court doesn’t have to decide the issue of gay and lesbian people as a protected class to strike down DOMA. The Court could rule that because DOMA does not serve legitimate governmental interests it is unconstitutional. Typically, evidence of animosity toward a particular group and the desire to impose a set of morals on the public are not considered by the courts legitimate reasons for the government to pass a law. If ever a law fit that example, it’s DOMA.

There is one other way the Court could find DOMA unconstitutional, and that is through some variation of a “states’ rights” or federalism argument. During oral arguments Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed very concerned with whether or not the federal government had any role in defining marriage to begin with. According to this reasoning, Congress never had the authority to pass DOMA in the first place since it is an attempt to regulate what is traditionally considered within the power and regulation of the states.

The states’ rights theory is not likely to get a majority of votes, but it could be a way for the conservatives on the court to strike DOMA without advancing LGTBQ equality beyond the issue of marriage like a broad 14th Amendment ruling would. But such a decision would be a short-term win, as conservatives have argued federalism concerns invalidate the majority of the social safety net programs. Should the Roberts Court give conservatives broad legal reasoning to support that theory then we can expect to see a host of new legal challenges to everything from Social Security benefits to Medicare and Title X programs.

2. DOMA Is Constitutional

As hard as it is to imagine, the Court could find Section 3 of DOMA constitutional. Should that happen, then those legally married same-sex couples in the 12 states and Washington, D.C., that recognize marriage equality will continue to face systematic discrimination and be denied equal protection under the law as well as access to federal benefits related to more than 1,000 federal laws and programs.

3. SCOTUS Punts on the Merits of the Case Read the rest of this entry →

In Memory of Dr. Tiller, on the Fourth Anniversary of His Death

2:05 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

A vigil held in honor of Dr. Tiller, Minneapolis 2009

I am a family doctor and I was a proud colleague of Dr. George Tiller’s. It is difficult to believe four years have passed since his murder.

George’s skills allowed him to help women further along in their pregnancies than I could. There were many times I sent patients to him, and I was so grateful to have him there to take care of women in his gentle and respectful way. George always lived as he believed, like many of us abortion providers try to do. He believed that no woman should ever be forced to continue a pregnancy, and he did all he could to help women in need of abortions. He dedicated his life, until the end, to this belief and this work.

He was such a committed individual. I was speaking with him about a patient the same afternoon, in 1993, when he was shot the first time. Despite his injuries to both arms, George was of course back at the office the next day. This experience led me to the magical thinking that even being shot at his church couldn’t stop Dr. Tiller.

To those of us left behind, we have to honor Dr. Tiller by working to make sure that abortion access is expanded, not curtailed. We can respect his legacy by working to ensure public funding for abortion through Medicaid and reversing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment. We can defend clinics that are fighting to stay open, in the face of bills seeking to set arbitrary regulations that have nothing to do with patient safety or quality health care. We can expose the true purpose of these laws: to shut down excellent medical facilities and force women to travel great distances to find other providers.

We can also stand firm in protecting women’s access to abortion after 20 weeks. There will always be women who don’t realize they are as pregnant as they are. I, a Harvard-trained physician, missed my own unintended pregnancy—denial is a beautiful thing—until I was in my 22nd week. There will always be women who discover that they are carrying a very sick fetus, women whose life circumstances change so drastically they can no longer undertake being a mother, women who just need our help.

We can support women by removing the shame and stigma that the anti-choice movement has associated with seeking an abortion and instead treat these women and their partners and families with great love. This is what George did each day in his clinic. This would honor his life.

We must carry on for these women, and for George. This is the remembrance he deserves—and, frankly, he would expect of us.

Read the rest of this entry →

Salvadoran Supreme Court Denies Beatriz Her Right to Life

10:20 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.

See all our coverage of Beatriz here.

Petition His Holiness Pope Francis for Beatriz’s life here.

Update: The Washington Post notes that Beatriz will be given access to Cesarian-section birth. -MyFDL Editor

 photo repudiamos_zps15653e22.jpg

In a stunning decision made worse by the length of time it took to be handed down, the Supreme Court of El Salvador gave a young woman a death sentence on Wednesday by denying “permission” for an abortion needed to save her life.

Beatriz (a pseudonym) is now 24 weeks into an extremely high-risk pregnancy, complicated by a severe form of lupus, an autoimmune disease, hypertension, and renal (kidney) failure. Moreover, her pregnancy is not viable. The fetus she is carrying is anencephalic — it does not and will never have a fully formed brain — and can not survive more than a few hours after childbirth, if it survives at all. More than ten weeks ago, in the first trimester of pregnancy, Beatriz’s doctors determined she herself could not survive this pregnancy and strongly recommended to authorities that she be allowed to have an abortion to save her life. The minister of health concurred. According to the New York Times:

In a letter addressed to the Supreme Court last month, Health Minister María Isabel Rodríguez described Beatriz’s situation as “grave maternal illness with a high probability of deterioration or maternal death.” Given the fatal prognosis of the fetus, “it is necessary to undertake a medical-legal approach urgently,” Ms. Rodríguez wrote.

This was no routine medical recommendation: Abortion is banned in El Salvador without exception, and both physicians providing and women receiving abortions can be imprisoned for many years. It is thus not often that physicians, much less the minister of health, are willing to put themselves at risk even when a woman’s life is in danger. And in part as a result of these realities, maternal mortality in El Salvador remains very high.

Beatriz could have had an abortion before the end of her first trimester, and we likely would never have heard of her. But the country’s attorney general asserted he would indeed prosecute the case if the doctors performed an abortion, and so a cruel and confusing international circus began.

First, advocates both domestically and internationally put pressure on President Mauricio Funes who failed to act out of fear of retribution from the Catholic Church and the far right in El Salvador. Many of the advocates working on Beatriz’s case postulated that Funes would simply wait things out until she died as a result of kidney failure or the stress on her body of labor and delivery. Then both the government and the Church could simply claim she had died of “natural causes.”

Next, advocates took the case to international bodies, which quickly called on the government of El Salvador to provide Beatriz with the health care she needs. Both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) weighed in; the Office of the High Commissioner called the situation “cruel, inhuman, and degrading.” The IACHR gave the government 72 hours to comply with its findings. But the President again did nothing. Meanwhile, Catholic bishops in the country joined by members of the political right started to ratchet up the opposition to providing Beatriz with life-saving health care, further underscoring how little her life means to them.

Read the rest of this entry →

In El Salvador, a Country Awaits the Supreme Court Decision on Beatriz’s Life

9:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kathy Bougher 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 Wednesday, May 15 the Supreme Court of El Salvador will hear testimony from Beatriz, the 22-year-old woman who has petitioned the court to allow her to have a life-saving abortion, a procedure prohibited under all circumstances in El Salvador and punishable by lengthy prison terms. She is pregnant with an anencephalic fetus; it is missing most of its brain and will not survive outside the womb. In addition, Beatriz, the mother of a toddler, suffers from lupus, hypertension, and renal insufficiency. Her doctors at the Maternity Hospital, where she has been for almost a month, advised her that an abortion was necessary to save her life.

“I want to live,” has been Beatriz’s consistent response to her doctors as well as to those who oppose her request.

The court has summoned Beatriz, her lawyers, and her doctors to testify, according to Morena Herrera, president of the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapeutico, Etico and Eugenico (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion) in a phone call with RH Reality Check. The state prosecutor and the Institute for Legal Medicine will also provide testimony. Both oppose her petition for an abortion. Sí a la Vida, a right-to-life group, requested permission to participate, but was denied. Herrera reports that her group learned recently that the director of the Institute for Legal Medicine is married to a member of the board of directors of Sí a la Vida. Although the Supreme Court has the demonstrated capacity to respond to petitions from Salvadoran citizens on other matters within as little as 24 hours, it has stalled for weeks in this matter. At this point it is unknown whether the court will issue a final decision on May 15.

Beatriz’s mother, Delmy, spoke Tuesday at a press conference organized by Herrera and the Citizen Group, saying, “It is now that my daughter needs support and help, not when her health gets even worse…. My daughter wants to live. I don’t want my daughter to die…. Her life is in your hands.” She has written a letter to the court that will be presented on Wednesday.

Beatriz’s petition has ignited controversy and debate on many fronts within El Salvador and around the world. Amnesty International, the United Nations, governments of several countries, and the Interamerican Human Rights Commission strongly support Beatriz. The Catholic Church and so-called right-to-life groups oppose her request.

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes spoke publicly on the issue for the first time on Monday when, as Herrera explained in her phone call to this writer, feminists confronted him as he inaugurated a new bridge in the town of Suchitoto with banners asking “Mauricio Funes, if Beatriz were your daughter, what would you do?” Funes, the first president from the leftist FMLN party, finally said, “Beatriz has the right to make decisions about her life.” On behalf of the government, he entrusted the case to Dr. María Isabel Rodriguez, minister of health, who has supported Beatriz’s position from the beginning.

At the end of last week the minister reiterated her position that a therapeutic abortion was the “viable, just solution, without a doubt.” The Institute of Legal Medicine conducted its own studies and declared that Beatriz was not in imminent danger and could continue her pregnancy. The Minister called those comments, “uneducated and vulgar.”

Rodriguez reiterated that Beatriz’s life is in danger. She also discredited the report from the Institute for Legal Medicine that was presented to the court: “It is not true that she is not in danger. The lupus that this young woman has is not curable and can’t be changed overnight. We know this disease is systemic, which means that it attacks all the organs, and we can’t know at what moment we’re going to have complications with her.”

As Herrera explained, in a country where until recently even abortion rights supporters were cautious about using the word abortion out loud, student groups at the University of El Salvador have petitioned the school administration to suspend classes tomorrow so that they can attend the massive demonstration planned in support of Beatriz outside the Supreme Court building. Youth groups have participated in the frequent rallies supporting Beatriz.

The Citizen Group and other feminist organizations have maintained a constant presence with rallies, press conferences, and news releases. On Sunday they demonstrated in front of the cathedral with a banner that read “Letting Beatriz Die Offends God.” Sí a la Vida has also been active in Catholic churches, voicing its opposition to Beatriz’s petition and claiming that feminists are using Beatriz to further their agenda. At the same time, Funes states that the government is taking care not to exploit the case for political ends.

Radio de Todas, a feminist radio station in El Salvador, will broadcast the proceedings on Wednesday morning online in Spanish beginning at 8:30 a.m. Central Standard Time.

In El Salvador, Yet Another Woman’s Life Subordinated to Non-Viable Fetus

1:36 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Women in El Salvador sort coffee beans.

The women of El Salvador are denied life-saving access to abortion.

Beatriz wants to live. A 22-year-old Salvadoran from a poor, rural community, Beatriz (a pseudonym to protect privacy) suffers from chronic and severe medical conditions. She is the mother of an infant. And she is roughly 18 weeks pregnant with an anencephalic fetus, a fetus without a brain. Doctors at the Maternity Hospital determined that the pregnancy is life-threatening, and Beatriz requested that Salvadoran medical personnel perform an abortion, but a 1998 law in El Salvador prohibits all abortions, without exception.

The Salvadoran feminist organization Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugénesico (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion), which has been working to decriminalize abortion in the country since 2009, petitioned the Salvadoran Supreme Court on April 15 to intervene and to direct medical personnel to provide without fear of criminal prosecution the procedures Beatriz needs to save her life. Under current law, both Beatriz and any medical personnel involved in an abortion would face criminal charges and prison time. The court responded with a temporary directive that medical personnel provide the care necessary to guarantee her life and health while they make a decision regarding the petition for an abortion. Medical personnel were also directed to present to the court within five days a report on the condition of the mother and the fetus to inform their deliberations.

Within the past few days Amnesty International has initiated a petition asking for life-saving medical care, including an abortion; the United Nations has spoken; and the Salvadoran Minister of Health, Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez, has requested that the Supreme Court approve the request. Dr. Rodriguez emphasized that Beatriz’s kidney function continues to deteriorate as the pregnancy advances, and that the public health system is ready to perform an abortion. The Salvadoran Attorney General for Human Rights also supports the request.

At a press conference the Agrupación convened in San Salvador on April 18, Esther Major, an Amnesty International representative in El Salvador, characterized the way Beatriz is being treated as “nothing less than cruel and inhuman.”

“While we are talking, while the Court is thinking and the government is delaying, Beatriz is suffering. … The Salvadoran government has clear obligations, international as well as domestic, to protect Beatriz’s life, and to assure that Beatriz can access vital treatment as soon as possible.”

Legal reforms in 1998 in El Salvador, promulgated by conservative religious forces, outlawed  abortion without exception. Previously it was permitted if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, the mother’s life was in danger, or the fetus was not viable. In addition, a constitutional amendment was added declaring that life begins at conception, which means that prosecutors can charge women who seek abortions with aggravated homicide, punishable by 30 to 50 years in prison, rather than the lesser crime of abortion, which carries a term of two to eight years.

Threats of prosecution and prison terms are not to be taken lightly under the 1998 law. The Agrupación has mounted legal and educational campaigns to secure the release of six women from prison. Since no comprehensive data exist in the country, the Agrupación is conducting its own research, which reveals that currently at least 24 women are serving prison terms of up to 40 years for abortion or aggravated homicide related to abortion charges.

Read the rest of this entry →

Why Zerlina Maxwell Is Almost Right About Teaching Men Not to Rape

11:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Last week, Democratic strategist, writer, and rape survivor Zerlina Maxwell went on The Sean Hannity Show and argued that men and boys should be trained not to rape. Maxwell was viciously attacked by conservatives following her appearance. But if there’s any problem with Maxwell’s argument, it’s not that it went too far — it’s that it could have gone even further.

Zerlina Maxwell, screenshot

“I don’t think we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there for prevention,” Maxwell said on Hannity’s show. “You’re talking about it as if there’s some faceless, nameless criminal, when a lot of times it’s someone that you know and trust.”

“Women need to know that these situations arise,” responded Hannity, apparently unaware that women know all too well that rape is a constantly looming threat. It affects our decisions on a daily basis: when and where to jog, when to walk with our keys in between our knuckles, and when to hop out of a cab a block from home if the driver gives us the creeps.

Maxwell was on the show to address the newest twist in the ever-misinformed public conversation about rape. The subject was the role of firearms in rape prevention on college campuses — a hot topic since the Colorado state legislature has been wrestling with HB 1226, a proposed bill that would ban concealed weapons on campus. (The sponsor spiked the bill after the hubbub surrounding Maxwell’s appearance.)

Maxwell argued that, while problematic on a several levels, the argument that women can prevent rape by packing heat is primarily a failure because it is not rooted in the reality of campus rape.

“I want women to be able to protect themselves, yes, but I want women to not be in this situation,” said Maxwell.

“Knowing there are evil people, I want women protected, and they’ve got to protect themselves,” responded Hannity.

Maxwell doubled down: “Tell men not to rape.”

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze called her argument “bizarre.” But it’s disingenuous to suggest that women must choose between being armed or being raped. Saying that a woman should be able to pack heat for self-protection is one thing. But self-defense is not the same thing as rape prevention — and carrying a gun certainly doesn’t guarantee defense against rape.

“If firearms are the answer, then the military would be the safest place for women,” said Maxwell. “And it’s not.”

For her audacity, Maxwell received a torrent of abusive tweets. These Twitter users said she should be gang-raped and that her throat should be slit. They called her a “nigger.” Many others simply insisted on perpetuating a false, twisted representation of her argument: Zerlina Maxwell believes women should be raped instead of using a gun on a rapist.

So it’s come to this: We now must add carrying a gun to our victim-blaming checklist. “She wasn’t carrying a pistol; she must’ve wanted it.”

As if that list wasn’t already long enough.

Maxwell is right, of course. The only problem with her argument is that it didn’t go far enough. For men and boys to be taught not to rape, they have to first learn what rape is.

College women are more likely to be raped than their unenrolled counterparts, and the vast majority of college rapists are trusted acquaintances of the victim, not a man in a ski mask hiding in the bushes wielding a knife or a gun.

Read the rest of this entry →