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A Case Study in Awful: The 8 Worst Parts of the Recent Naval Academy Rape Hearing

11:33 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Recently, attorneys defending three former Naval Academy football players against allegations of sexual assault at an off-campus party spent more than 20 hours over five grueling days questioning, taunting, blaming, shaming, and what appears to be re-victimizing a 21-year-old female midshipman.

At one point, the midshipman said she was too exhausted to continue testifying and the commander presiding over the hearing granted her a day off. “This is borderline abusive,” her attorney Susan Burke said upon leaving the Navy Yard that day. Abusive, yes, and sadly all too instructive in how rape culture encourages attorneys, members of the media, and others to turn sexual assault victims into the accused.

The routine process of victim blaming, as illuminated by this Article 32 hearing, serves to silence other sexual assault victims, generate sympathy for rapists, and create doubts that the definition of sexual assault includes anything beyond a stranger jumping out of an alley and raping a sweet, chaste woman wearing modest clothing.

In this case, the midshipman saw social media posts that led her to believe she was raped while drunk. All three defendants admitted sexual contact with the midshipman on the night at the center of the allegations—either to her, or prosecutors. What follows is a look at some of the horrible insinuations, statements, and questions used by defense attorneys to impugn the character of the midshipman, which offer an entry point to talk about and refute rape culture as a whole.

How do you perform oral sex?

Defense attorneys repeatedly asked the midshipman how she performs oral sex. This question is irrelevant, even though one of the defendants has said that he put his penis in her mouth that night. Here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter if a sexual assault victim has had sex, and it doesn’t matter how she (or he) prefers to have sex. People are biologically driven to have sex. Sex is part of normal life. A history or manner of having oral sex, or rough sex, or any specific style of sex, does not mean that you can’t be sexually assaulted orally, or roughly, or in that specific style. There are infinite ways to have sex, minus one: Sex without consent isn’t sex. By definition, it’s rape.

Tell us about your sex life.

Along with repeated queries about how she performs oral sex, the midshipman was asked to describe her sex life in detail. This, like the oral sex question, is also irrelevant and demeaning. Casting the spotlight on a victim’s sexual history in the context of discussing her (or his) rape serves to make others imagine the victim sexually. It serves to degrade her (or him). Sharing your sexuality with others is a personal choice. Being cast in a sexual light can be highly desired, even great, when freely chosen. But painting a sexual picture of someone when they haven’t asked you to serves to shame, silence, and sluttify.

You had sex with him before, right?

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How the Military Discriminates Against Transgender Individuals

10:29 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Mural: Hero Chelsea Manning

“I enlisted in part an attempt to be the man I wasn’t. Chelsea Manning recently gave that same explanation as to why she enlisted.”

When I joined the U.S. Navy back in 1980, I knew I was transgender. I didn’t know the word transgender, but I knew deep down that’s what I was.

Prior to joining the Navy, in 1979, my pentecostal parents considered transgender identities and transgender expressions to be sinful, and made going to “conversion therapy” a condition of living at home. Due to my own internalized transphobia, I thought I was sinful too, so I underwent the therapy, which had the goal of having me become “ex-transgender.”

A goal of both gay and transgender conversion therapy is to embrace societal gender role norms, so in my case embracing masculine norms was the goal. It should come as no surprise then that when I enlisted in the Navy in 1980, it was in part an attempt to be the man I wasn’t.

Chelsea Manning, who enlisted under the name Bradley Manning—and who in August received a 35-year prison sentence for releasing classified government documents to WikiLeaks—recently gave that same explanation as to why she enlisted.

If either of us had admitted to being transgender before we joined the military, we wouldn’t have been allowed to join. This is because Department of Defense Instruction 6130.03, the Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services, states that “[c]urrent or history of psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias” precludes induction.

Department of Defense (DOD) policy also discharges currently serving personnel if they admit to, or are discovered to be, transgender. For enlisted service members, Department of Defense Instruction 1332.14 (the Enlisted Administrative Separations) is the controlling regulation. The Army’s applicable regulation is Army Regulation 40–501, the Standards of Medical Fitness, which states:

A history of, or current manifestations of, personality disorders, disorders of impulse control not elsewhere classified, transvestism, voyeurism, other paraphilias, or factitious disorders, psychosexual conditions, transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex, hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal dysgenesis or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions render an individual administratively unfit [to serve].

This transgender exclusion is backed by case law. The first such case in which such exclusion was discussed is 1981′s Doe v. Alexander. Tarynn M. Witten wrote about the case in a 2007 whitepaper entitled “Gender Identity and the Military – Transgender, Transsexual, and Intersex Identified Individuals in the U.S. Armed Forces,” saying:

[T]he Army defended its policy of denying enlistment to transsexual persons, arguing that transsexual persons presented a medical problem in that their requirements for hormone supplementation might not be available at some location where they could be assigned.

The 2007 DeGroat v. Townsend decision by the U.S. Southern District Court in Ohio, Western Division, echoed the decision in Doe v. Alexander, finding Joanne E. Degroat, a member of the U.S. Armed Forces (USAF) from 1974 to 1989, medically unfit to serve. In the decision, the court stated that “USAF medical staff encouraged and counseled her to dress in female street clothing when off-base and off-duty” as part of the treatment plan for her gender dysphoria. Major DeGroat was seen attending church in female clothing, and then “was notified that she had to show cause for retention on active duty for substandard performance due to a failure to show acceptable qualities of leadership required by an officer of her grade, based on her wearing female clothing on two instances and subjecting herself to public view.” Her separation for service was upheld.

The Leyland v. Orr decision is also on point. Jane Anne Leyland was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserves as being found mentally and physically unfit to serve due to being transsexual and receiving trans-related medical treatment. As Witten wrote in her paper, “Leyland’s fitness for duty recommended discharge on the grounds of psychological unsuitability, the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records affirmed the discharge on grounds of psychological unsuitability and physical unfitness.”

From the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Dr. Donald Novicki, a urology consultant to the Air Force surgeon general, stated that the known and potential long-term effects of a sex change constitute a risk significant enough to restrict the individual’s performance of Air Force duties, especially when remote geographic assignments are involved. Dr. Novicki stated that assigning such a person to such places “would be equivalent to placing an individual with known coronary artery disease in a remote location without readily available coronary care.” He added, “It has been and remains the policy of the Surgeon General that such abnormalities be identified and that such individuals be denied entry or continued active duty for their benefit and for the benefit of the United States Air Force.”

Lastly, in 1988′s United States v. Davis, the appellant was charged under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice after having several Navy psychiatrists diagnose her with what the DSM-V refers to as “gender dysphoria,” and was recommended for continued treatment of the condition. The U.S. Court of Military Appeals ruling on the case stated that expressing gender as one’s target sex while on base in a manner as required by the relevant standard of care “virtually always would be prejudicial to good order and discipline and discrediting to the Armed Forces.”

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Mexico’s Abortion Wars, American-Style

12:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kathryn Joyce 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 was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and originally published in the September 16 issue of The Nation.

Anti-choice activists hand a small child propaganda material in Mexico City.

On May 1, a familiar anti-abortion story line played out on Azteca 13, a popular television channel in Mexico. In the opening scenes of an episode of Lo Que Callamos Las Mujeres (What We Women Keep Silent), a Lifetime-like telenovela series about “real-life” stories, a pretty brunette with a heart-shaped face, Alondra, discovers she is pregnant when overtaken by a sudden bout of morning sickness. Her sister Sofía is concerned, but later that night, when Alondra’s boorish boyfriend comes home and she breaks the news, he asks if it’s his, then tells her to abort.

Alondra complies and, in a series of hazy scenes, visits a clandestine abortion provider. But she’s haunted by what she has done, and is awoken at night by phantom baby cries that send her searching throughout her apartment until she collapses on the living room floor, her white pajama bottoms soaked through with blood. Her illegal abortion was botched, it turns out, and by terminating her pregnancy, a doctor tells her sister, she has forfeited her fertility as well. Some weeks later, Alondra’s boyfriend is accosted on the street by another woman, also pregnant by him, who begs him to acknowledge his future child. Sheepishly, he does, shrugging as he tells Alondra, “I’m going to be a papa,” before walking out the door to be with the other woman—the one who didn’t abort.

The message seems clear enough, but the story doesn’t end there. Two years later, when Alondra meets a good man who wants a family, she pushes the memory of the abortion out of her mind. In a state of manic delusion, she experiences a hysterical pregnancy, her belly swelling with her hopes, until Sofía forces her to see a doctor and Alondra breaks down, confronted with her unresolved grief. As Alondra again lies in a hospital bed, two years wiser and infinitely sadder, the doctor hands her a pamphlet. On its back cover, facing the camera, is the logo of the Instituto para la Rehabilitación de la Mujer y la Familia, or IRMA, a Mexican Catholic ministry that offers counseling for women suffering “post-abortion syndrome”—the medically unrecognized claim that terminating a pregnancy leads to serious psychological trauma.

The May episode of Lo Que Callamos was one of several instances in which IRMA was invited to suggest a “true-life” story line for the show, broadcasting to millions of viewers its message that abortion causes devastating harm to women and their families. One episode alone had generated some 200 calls and 400 emails to IRMA in a single day, said María del Carmen Alva López, IRMA’s president and founder, when I met her last October.

“They take a real story from us, a real history, and then at the end the lady goes to IRMA and receives help,” explained Alva, a cheerful 42-year-old with beauty-pageant poise. In a lush Mexico City suburb full of gated houses, Alva sat me down on a pleather loveseat in IRMA’s small, stucco-walled counseling room. The bookshelves outside were lined with copies of Alva’s book, Y después del aborto, ¿que? (And After the Abortion, What?), and in her hands she held a thick binder containing the results of a survey of 135 clients. Of these 135 “post-abortive” women, said Alva, her smile dimming and her eyes heavy with sympathy, IRMA estimates that 70 percent have clinical depression and 10 percent have attempted suicide. Results like these, she says, prove that post-abortion syndrome is real.

That these numbers are gathered from a self-selecting group of women who have sought out IRMA’s services doesn’t dampen Alva’s conviction that all Mexican women need to hear how abortion can hurt them. They especially need to hear it now, Alva believes. It’s been six years since first-trimester abortions were decriminalized in Mexico’s Distrito Federal, home to Mexico City, and more and more Mexican women are gradually learning about their limited right to choose—although abortion rights advocates fear this message hasn’t yet made its way to provincial, working-class women.

In this atmosphere, the claims about post-abortion syndrome and other supposed risks advanced by groups like IRMA are having real effects. According to Dr. Raffaela Schiavon, director of the Mexican chapter of the international abortion rights group Ipas and a former OB-GYN who served in Mexico’s Ministry of Health, a 2012 study suggests that Mexican women decide whether or not to have an abortion based not on their religion, politics, or socioeconomic status, but rather on their fears that an abortion will hurt or kill them. The main difference for women, said Schiavon, is whether or not they’ve received information that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, depression, or suicide—exactly the information IRMA is helping to spread around the nation.

“They’ve gotten out the message that abortion is unsafe and dangerous,” Schiavon said. Ironically, she added, “That is the case when it’s illegal.”

When Mexico City’s law changed in 2007, allowing elective abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it was a substantial victory for reproductive rights advocates in a country, and a region, where the Catholic Church dominates daily life. Across Latin America, access to legal abortion is a rarity, and in 2007, all eyes turned to Mexico City to see how the experiment would play out—and whether it could be replicated. To date, only Uruguay has followed Mexico City in liberalizing its abortion law, and this June, the world watched as El Salvador denied a lifesaving abortion to a woman known as Beatriz for five months before finally allowing a c-section delivery for the nonviable fetus.

After decriminalization, however, a fierce backlash unfurled across Mexico. In the first three years, half of the country’s 31 provinces passed new constitutional amendments enshrining abortion bans—two of which were just upheld by Mexico’s Supreme Court this May. As a result of the amendments passed after 2007 in 18 Mexican states, women in the provinces are increasingly being prosecuted for “attempted abortion,” often reported by hospital staff when they seek help after self-abortions, unsupervised use of the medical abortion drug misoprostol, or unsafe back-alley terminations.

Regina Tames, a lawyer and executive director of the reproductive rights advocacy group GIRE (Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida), worked with several of the dozens of women being prosecuted for attempted abortion in 2012. If convicted, some of these women could face up to six years in jail, while others would be sentenced to fines or community service. Many were already condemned in their communities after newspapers printed their pictures and identified them as criminals and baby killers.

In Mexico’s so-called Rosary Belt, a band of ultraconservative states like Jalisco and Guanajuato in the center of the nation, anti-abortion advocates and other traditionalists are embracing U.S.-style culture war tactics and rhetoric. Conservative Mexican Catholics have mobilized across the provinces to Catholicize public school education, block public health announcements for condoms, and even destroy public school books that contain comprehensive sex ed. Some anti-abortion activists have marched under a powerful old symbol: the flag of the 1920s Cristero War, which pitted devout Catholics against a secularizing government that persecuted religious expression. The bloody conflict resulted in atrocities on both sides, including priests being executed among their flocks—some since canonized as martyrs of the faith—and a 2012 film about the war has resonated with conservatives in both Mexico and the United States. (U.S. Catholic commentator George Weigel recently went so far as to compare the contraception mandate in Obamacare to the legacy of the persecuted Cristeros.) Waving the flag now helps cast the terms of Mexico’s current abortion debate as a new clash in an ongoing war over religious freedom. Some abortion rights advocates say there’s a sense that today’s Mexican right “has the Cristero spirit again.”

Next to the harsh penalties of criminalization and the simmering threat of culture war, groups like IRMA and its peers seem to offer a softer, gentler approach to the anti-abortion cause. When I spoke with María del Carmen Alva López, she was preparing to meet with the ministry’s partners at Vifac, a nearby maternity home that houses women who have been convinced not to abort. Both IRMA and Vifac count themselves as part of a network of anti-abortion groups in Mexico, along with a proliferating number of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) that are adopting the same ostensibly women-centered focus that has marked the modern U.S. anti-abortion movement.

On a sunny day in October, a 29-year-old Mexican-American woman named Katia walked into a CPC in the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Anzures, explaining that she thought she might be pregnant. After Katia entered and gave her name, she was taken to a back room by a Catholic volunteer, who asked her why she didn’t want her baby. If she was pregnant, the volunteer suggested, she should marry her boyfriend or, barring that, accept the center’s offer of a place to stay where her parents wouldn’t have to know. The CPC staffers told Katia that they would perform an ultrasound to show her the fetus, but first she was legally obligated to watch a video: a four-part movie starting with the miracle of life and proceeding to a graphic abortion, interspersed with testimony from women who had variously given birth to their babies and were happy, or who had chosen abortion and were devastated. When a CPC staffer who claimed to be a nurse finally performed the ultrasound, she puzzled at length over the image on the screen before suggesting that Katia was probably seven-and-a-half weeks pregnant. When she left, they handed her a lollipop.

Katia’s experience would be nothing out of the ordinary in heartland America, where CPCs have been a fixture since the 1960s. What’s new is that this model has been exported to Mexico, where anti-abortion groups have established more than 40 CPCs in recent years.

Frequently posing as medical facilities, and often located right next door to actual abortion clinics, CPCs function by attracting women with free pregnancy tests and implied offers of abortion services, only to ambush them with graphic videos, intensive anti-abortion coercion, and strategic misinformation. (Some in the United States have even been sanctioned for fraud.) Now, thanks to the expanding reach of American evangelical and Catholic anti-abortion activists, CPCs are becoming important players in the abortion debates overseas, in countries as varied as Ethiopia, Israel, Serbia, and South Africa. Mexico is just one of the 47 nations where Heartbeat International, an anti-abortion network based in Ohio, now has partner centers. Heartbeat International, which represents more than 1,000 similar centers in the United States and 1,800 groups worldwide, has partnered with a Spanish-language website to track and promote Mexican CPCs as well. In fact, it was Heartbeat International’s website that had listed the Mexico City CPC that Katia—who was actually my translator—visited.

In Mexico, the history of CPCs (in Spanish, centros de ayuda para mujeres, or CAMs) begins with Jorge Serrano Limón, founder of the early Mexican anti-abortion group National Pro-Life Committee, or ProVida. In 1989, Serrano Limón traveled to New Orleans for a conference put on by Human Life International (HLI), an American group whose ultraconservative Catholic founder, the late Father Paul Marx, charged that Jews control the abortion “industry.” In Louisiana, Serrano Limón (who has his own unsavory connections with a Nazi-sympathizing Mexican historian) met HLI staff and CPC founders who inspired him to set up his own center in Mexico, fighting abortion before it was even legal.

Serrano Limón fell into disgrace in the mid-2000s, as ProVida became the focus of an embarrassing embezzlement scandal known as “Tanga-Gate” (Thong-Gate)—in which government funds meant to buy ultrasound equipment were instead spent on unauthorized purchases, including women’s clothing and thong underwear. Pro-choice activists gleefully took the opportunity to protest Serrano Limón’s appearances by waving cheap thongs at him in public. But HLI continued to sponsor Mexican and Latin American CAMs.

Greg Berger, a U.S.-born documentary filmmaker living in Mexico, made a film about Mexico’s CAMs in 2008, El Derecho de Decidir en Paz (The Right to Choose in Peace). Implicit in the centers’ rise was a tactical shift: from Mexico’s version of noisy clinic protests—amplified sessions of praying the rosary directed at entering patients—to appearing instead to offer women help in making an informed choice. “I think they found that it was much better to pretend that they were providing information about abortions,” Berger says, “a much better technique than the fetus-in-a-jar model.”

After Tanga-Gate, ProVida seemed to take another lesson from the United States, where women have risen to leadership positions in the anti-abortion movement, when it named a female president, Rocío Gálvez, whose promotion was announced while she was pregnant. “She was [presented as] a pregnant woman who was proud to bring life,” recalled Eugenia López Uribe, a radical young activist who is executive coordinator of the sexual rights group Balance, which works on both reproductive and LGBT rights.

This shift not only mirrored the U.S. anti-abortion movement’s trajectory but also marked a moment when U.S. partners began exerting more influence. At Gálvez’s inauguration celebration in an expensive Mexico City hotel, recalls López Uribe, the featured speakers were all from the United States, and the organizers even screened an anti-abortion video clearly made in the States and featuring an African-American baby.

Since Serrano Limón’s first CPC, Mexican CAMs have grown to several dozen and today claim to have served some 60,000 women and prevented 51,000 abortions. Mostly, the CAMs approach women as they’re heading into clinics or hospitals. Ever since Mexico City’s decriminalization in 2007, CAMs have been setting up small booths on the walkways into clinics, amid stands vending candy and food for hospital visitors. With a banner overhead offering information about abortion, the stands intentionally appear as an official part of the hospital’s intake procedure. If women stop, CAM staffers try to transport them to their remote centers, luring them to a van with the promise of a safer, cleaner, and faster abortion clinic nearby.

For women in a city where abortion is newly legal—an island of access in a country devoid of it—the CAMs’ message is disorienting. The advertisements for these “crisis centers,” including posters along Mexico City streets, make the same ambiguous offer that can be seen in New York City subway cars: “If you’re pregnant, we can help.”

“The message [of decriminalization] has not arrived to the most vulnerable, poorest, least-educated women,” says Ipas’s Raffaela Schiavon, who suspects that most working-class migrant women, often serving as domestics for Mexico City’s elite, aren’t aware of their rights and are therefore the most likely to be taken in.

Women who go with the CAM volunteers are likely to experience the same protocol that has been extensively documented in the United States. They are shown graphic videos about how aborted fetuses cry for their mothers. They are given a letter to read “from a fetus,” forgiving its mother for aborting. They are invited to stay with the CAM’s partner maternity home.

“They have all these choices,” says López Uribe: “‘What are you scared of? That your family will find out? Perfect—we’ll send a letter that you were accepted to a school, and we will take you to the [maternity] house and nobody will ever know.’” In her OB-GYN practice, Schiavon says she sometimes encountered new mothers who came to the hospital from provincial maternity homes, where they’d been cloistered away from family and friends and hadn’t felt free to leave.

But even for women who know to avoid the CAM booths, their very presence undermines the culture of safe access that advocates are trying to foster in Mexico City. “We’re trying to build an environment of rights—that we have this law and that you can exercise your rights,” López Uribe says. “When you have to tell [patients], ‘If you see this stand, don’t go to it, go straight; don’t pay attention to the people praying,’ it makes them feel like they’re doing something wrong.”

It’s no coincidence that the Spanish-language pamphlets that the CAMs hand out bear the exact same pictures of mangled fetuses as the anti-abortion protest signs on the Washington Mall. On the back of one gory leaflet collected by López Uribe’s group Balance, a black-and-white tract with images of dismembered second-trimester fetuses under the caption “human trash,” there is listed, in small type, the name and address of its publisher—in Cincinnati, Ohio. And when Mexican women show up at a CAM, it’s often an American movie they see: a subtitled version of the gruesome anti-abortion classic The Silent Scream.

To Mexico’s pro-choice community, the ties between the Mexican and U.S. anti-abortion movements are so blatant as to be self-evident. There is funding flowing from North to South, but probably more important is the wholesale migration of the U.S. anti-abortion model. “Serrano Limón went and took courses in the United States, networked, and got ready,” explained Sofía Román Montes, coordinator at the pro-choice group Equidad de Género. “He used tactics from the U.S.: The Silent Scream, the screaming at women, the vans with ultrasounds. That was all from the United States. Nothing is made here.”

Well, there might be one part of the Mexican CAMs that is indigenous, a sort of local twist. Though my translator Katia emerged from her visit to the CAM with the suggestion that she was nearly two months pregnant, the ultrasound reading was false: Katia was not pregnant. According to Mexican reproductive rights groups, such false diagnoses by CAMs are routine, with widespread reports of women being shown ultrasound images of fetuses far more advanced than they could possibly be carrying—for example, a woman early in her first trimester being shown images from a late-second-term pregnancy—as well as numerous instances of women who were not pregnant being shown an ultrasound of their “baby.”

Abortion rights advocates believe that the CAMs are showing prerecorded videos instead of actual ultrasounds. When a non-pregnant student working with Balance went to a clinic, she was shown an ultrasound image of a 13-week-old fetus. And Equidad de Género’s Román Montes seconded the experience: every time she’s sent employees into CAMs undercover, she says, “all of our workers come out pregnant, too.”

* * *

Like the CAMs, María Del Carmen Alva López’s group IRMA was similarly inspired by the U.S. anti-abortion movement. Twenty-five years ago, Alva conducted her college thesis work on U.S. anti-abortion movement leaders, interviewing many at Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s official post-abortion ministry, which has chapters in more than 110 U.S. dioceses. Alva dreamed of setting up her own group in Mexico. After a colleague in Monterrey offered to translate Project Rachel’s materials for her, she started her own organization and assembled a team of counselors.

Today, IRMA offers individual counseling and special Bible-study weekend retreats for women who have had abortions, modeling their therapy on a support group manual written and sold by Rachel’s Vineyard—another U.S. organization that takes its name from the biblical Rachel, who mourns her dead children, this one founded by the New York-based anti-abortion group Priests for Life. On Rachel’s Vineyard’s website, IRMA is listed as the group’s Mexican partner.

Last year, an official of Human Life International spoke of visiting “as many key players as possible” to help coordinate the fight against Mexico’s “culture of death.” HLI also sponsored the creation of a large-scale, online anti-abortion resource site in Latin America. The Knights of Columbus send money. And on it goes.

Reproductive rights advocates say that with this support, the anti-abortion movement in Mexico has built a strong advocacy network to rival that of feminist NGOs, growing beyond the initial activism of the Catholic Church and ProVida to a coalition of hundreds, with new groups sprouting up “like mushrooms.” One “pro-family” leader in Mexico, Red Familia, aligns hundreds of partner organizations on a shared traditionalist platform. Red Familia is itself part of a larger network, the American-based global conservative coalition called the World Congress of Families. The WCF is an interfaith right-wing group that condemns the international expansion of abortion and LGBT rights as a form of U.S. cultural imperialism, forcing decadent liberal social mores on allegedly orthodox, traditional nations.

It seems like a laughable accusation, given conservatives’ own abundant overseas networking, but it’s a familiar argument to filmmaker Berger, who was inspired to make his 2008 film on CAMs by the frustrating popularity of the charge that abortion rights are a form of “Yankee imperialism” aimed at limiting Latino birth rates. There’s a reason why the story has appeal: The shameful history of abusive population control measures enacted on the developing world, often by U.S. groups or with U.S. money, give potency to the claim that abortion rights are a form of contemporary eugenics being forced by Americans onto a life-loving Catholic people. But what Berger found instead was that the reverse was true. While Mexico’s Catholicism may be indisputable, the recipe for its “pro-vida” movement was the true U.S. export: its leaders trained and supported in the United States, its activism model a mirror image of the U.S. one.

Mexican women, on the other hand, have needed and obtained abortions since long before colonialism. “The desire for a woman to end her pregnancy when she doesn’t want to carry to term isn’t an import from the U.S.,” said Berger. “That’s something that women go through every day and is a personal experience—not somehow imported from abroad.”

Nor is Mexico’s Catholic heritage everything that the “pro-vida” activists claim. In an attempt to counter IRMA’s widely broadcast message, the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice-Mexico has begun airing a short, regular animation series, Catolicadas, on a TV news program, advancing the idea that being a good Catholic can include supporting reproductive rights.

For some Mexican pro-choice advocates, that heritage—and the different tradition of Catholicism they practice—is already the backbone of their activism. A woman I’ll call Ramona, an abortion provider working illegally in the state of Morelos, says it was precisely growing up Catholic in Morelos—a cradle of Mexico’s liberation theology movement in the 1970s and ’80s—that made her pro-choice. She can recall the moment when a Catholic teacher in her radical church asked the class whether they thought it was acceptable for a woman to have an abortion. The students were told to answer by moving to one side of the room or the other, and Ramona found herself alone on her side.

Though abortion rights were anathema to Catholic doctrine, Ramona said, everything else the church had taught her about the fight for justice convinced her that it was right for a woman to be able to choose, and that other Catholics might come to see that. “Jesus, for me, was another person fighting for justice. It’s why it’s easy for me to be where I am. It was a chance to say the struggle is here in the world, not in heaven.”

For more from this issue of The Nation, click here.

Image worldfocusonline / YouTube

Anti-Choicers Can’t Get Around It: Their Arguments Have No Standing

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Birth Control Pills

Arguments against mandated access to birth control have no legal (or ethical) standing.

As part of the struggle to prevent women from using the health-care benefits they earn, six state attorneys general—who clearly need something better to do with their time—launched a suit to give employers the right to deny employees coverage of birth control as part of their health policies. Now, those attorneys general are giving up the lawsuit, for now at least, in no small part because a federal judge earlier ruled they have no standing to sue. What other people do with their own insurance coverage does not, it turns out, cause any actual damage to strangers, making it really hard for these conservative attorneys to argue that they have standing. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress explains:

“Standing” is the requirement that a plaintiff show that they have actually been injured by a law before they are allowed to sue to challenge it in federal court. No one, not even a state attorney general acting on behalf of his or her state, is allowed to bring a case to federal court simply because they do not like the law, or because they are able to offer some speculative reason why the law might somehow injure them at some point in the future.

This problem that these attorneys general were facing is a fundamental problem for the anti-choice movement generally: All their beliefs go back to the conviction that what other people, even perfect strangers, are doing in bed somehow affects them and so needs to be stopped by any means necessary. (Sadly, as family planning clinics and abortion clinics can tell you, this sometimes means that criminal and even violent behavior is often a part of the arsenal that anti-choicers use in attacking other people for having sex without their permission.) The problem with this belief is self-evident. What other people are doing with their bodies does not actually affect anti-choicers, and so their standing—not just legally, but morally—is always hard to impossible to establish. Thus, the never-ending parade of bad faith arguments and outright lies that come from anti-choicers.

With their support of abortion bans, there’s at least a mild plausibility to their claim to be concerned over fetal life, though of course it crumbles the second you start looking more deeply at the evidence, particularly when it comes to the fact that anti-choicers consistently resist every realistic policy known to reduce the abortion rate because those policies don’t actually satisfy their real desire to punish women for having sex. Beyond that, though, they lose the ability to come up with arguments that don’t nakedly expose their belief that they are the proper owners of your body.

The contraception mandate battle is a perfect example of this. Unable to come right out and say that they don’t want it to be too easy for women to have non-procreative sex, anti-choicers have instead latched onto this “religious freedom for employers” argument. Unfortunately, the argument doesn’t work without the assumption that your employer has some ownership over his employee’s private life, including her own religious beliefs. The argument rests on the assumption that because your employer has a right to control your compensation after he’s released it to you, that even though the insurance plan actually belongs to you and not your employer—because you earned it, alongside your paycheck—he has a right to dictate how you use it. It really is no different than trying to control how you spend your paycheck, but anti-choicers hope the public, confused by the heavily bureaucratic insurance system, won’t see that. But if you spend even a few moments thinking about it, it becomes clear that the objection to the contraception mandate is rooted in the belief that your employer has a right to try to impose his religious views on you in the bedroom.

Another favored tactic is to focus excessively on young women under the age of 18, exaggerating how much control parents have over the bodies of teenage girls and appointing themselves substitute parents in order to gain control. But inevitably, these kinds of arguments always end up giving them the control over adult women they quietly believe they are entitled to. Laws requiring Plan B to be put behind the pharmacy counter were justified as ways to keep teenagers from defying their parents’ supposed right to force them to ovulate, but the result was that adult women also had incredibly restricted access.

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Beyond Stop and Frisk: Communities Organize for Deeper Reforms

12:12 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

On August 22, the New York City Council voted to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act, which is composed of two bills seeking to create more levels of accountability within the New York Police Department (NYPD) and prevent discriminatory practices, such as stop-and-frisk activity, from occurring.

The Community Safety Act was passed one week after Judge Shira A. Scheindlin declared, in Floyd v. The City of New York, that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment. While we should be pleased a court ruled against the department’s stop-and-frisk policy—which is said to have violated the constitutional rights of many thousands of people, almost all of them Black and Latinowith the vast majority of them not found to have violated any crime—the ruling did not go far enough to ensure people in New York are protected from being unduly harassed and violated.

But the Community Safety Act actually gives some teeth to Judge Scheindlin’s decision, and speaks to the need for community organizing to drive policy and ensure its enforcement.

In her decision, Judge Scheindlin ruled on behalf of the plaintiffs represented in the stop-and-frisk case, arguing:

[F]irst, plaintiffs showed that senior officials in the City and at the NYPD were deliberately indifferent to officers conducting unconstitutional stops and frisks; and second, plaintiffs showed that practices resulting in unconstitutional stops and frisks were sufficiently widespread that they had the force of law.

In order to be able to use the stop-and-frisk tactic in ways that are lawful, Judge Scheindlin ordered the city to bring on a federal monitor to oversee reforms, change the way stops are documented, and institute a year-long pilot program through which officers must wear cameras to record their interactions.

While many in the press declared the judge’s decision an end to stop and frisk, her decision stopped short of a full-on repeal. As long as the NYPD doesn’t use race as a blanket reason for stops, the tactic can move forward.

Judge Scheindlin’s decision means that “if you have objectionable facts that add up to reasonable suspicion, the cop has the right to stop you and ask,” said Andrea Ritchie, co-director of Streetwise and Safe and a core member of the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) coalition. “The judge ruled that that’s fine. But the way the NYPD does it, being Black equals reasonable suspicion.”

The plaintiffs in Floyd v. New York were able to successfully demonstrate that the NYPD would not stop whites even if they were in exactly the same circumstances for which Blacks and Latinos were being frisked. “[Police officers] often just check off things like furtive movement, or the neighborhood you’re in as the reason,” said Ritchie.

So not only does the judge’s decision not really end the practice of stop and frisk, and does not call for a reduction in the number of stops, it only speaks specifically to racial profiling. However, we know that other kinds of profiling—based on gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and other characteristics—are often used by police.

Understanding the need for comprehensive police reform and greater accountability is what drove the formation of CPR, which includes dozens of community-based organizations and national advocacy groups. The coalition came together two years ago and began to push for the Community Safety Act.

As Bloomberg is appealing the Floyd decision, the Community Safety Act goes above and beyond the limitations of that ruling. It will create an enforceable ban against intentional racial discriminations and any law enforcement action that has disparate impact, as well as profiling on the basis of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, and housing status. The act also supports the creation of an independent inspector general and gives a way for individuals to get some level of accountability if they are victims of these discriminatory patterns.

Many LGBTQ and HIV advocates have also been advocating for a state bill that would bar police from using the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution, a practice that still disproportionately targets Blacks and Latinos. I personally have had to advocate on behalf of people—mostly transgender women and queer youth of color—who were arrested for prostitution while actually performing HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention outreach work, for which they were employed.

Monifah Bandele, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and CPR, also feels that the NYPD needs more enforceable restrictions beyond the stop-and-frisk ruling. “Law will not change the culture of how the NYPD functions, so we will be involved in all the ways the police functions that the Floyd [decision] does not cover,” she said.

As Bandele notes, the issues within the NYPD go far beyond what happens on the streets. In July, a woman named Kyam Livingston died in Brooklyn central booking, after, according to other arrestees, she pleaded for medical attention for hours. These kinds of abuses aren’t new. MXGM and many other organizations in the coalition have been involved in organizing against abuses by the NYPD, dating back to the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999.

“New York City set the standard for policing nationally and internationally—helping train police officers,” said Bandele. “So what happens in New York has national and global implications.”

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Improving Abortion Access, Bringing Health Care Home

12:11 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Renee Bracey Sherman 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 piece is part of the Echoing Ida project, cross-posted with permission from Strong Families.

Toni Atkins

Toni Atkins of San Diego is part of a movement to increase abortion access.

Each time I take a road trip down California’s magnificent highways, I can’t help but think of the dozens of people who have stayed in my home while in the Bay Area for an abortion. I pass the road signs indicating the off-ramps for Modesto, Los Banos, and Humboldt thinking fondly of the friends I made, but sad about how far they had to travel for their abortions.

For over a year, I have served as a Practical Support Volunteer for ACCESS Women’s Health Justice; I house, prepare dinners for, and give rides to people staying in the Bay Area for an abortion procedure. They come by bus, train, and sometimes car, traveling for four-to-five hours at a time, because access to abortion procedures near their hometown is lacking. They come because they didn’t realize they were pregnant until it was past the gestational limit and the clinic nearest to them couldn’t perform the abortion. They come because the time they took to thoughtfully consider all their pregnancy options meant their procedure would cost more.

They come because the clinic closest to them shares an abortion provider with several other clinics and it could be a while before they can get an appointment. They come because while they were working and saving money to pay for an abortion, they crossed a gestational threshold and now must find more money for a more expensive procedure. They scrimp and save to take off more time from work to travel for what was a one-day, but is now a two-day procedure; get someone to cover a work shift; ask someone to watch their children; and, if they’re able to, find a supportive friend or partner to join them as they travel across the state to a city they’ve never been to … all for health care.

When my friends stay in my home, we sit on the couch and talk over dinner. We talk about how far they’ve traveled, their lives back home, their beautiful children, and what the next couple of days might look like. They often ask me why they couldn’t have an abortion in their own towns, where their support people could accompany them and hold their hands, where they would be able to go home the same day and tuck their children in at night after the procedure. Until now, I didn’t have an answer for them. But now that answer is waiting for a vote and a signature. The answer is California’s Early Access to Abortion Bill.

Earlier this year, assembly member Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced AB 154, a bill that would increase the number of abortion providers, by allowing trained certified nurse midwives (CNM), nurse practitioners (NP), and physician assistants (PA) to provide early abortion care. This means that more people, especially in rural areas, will be able to have access to comprehensive abortion care earlier in their pregnancies, which would help reduce the rate of complications, bring down the cost for the procedure, and allow a patient to get the care they need closer to home. Many people don’t know that almost half of the counties in California don’t have an accessible abortion provider, and 22 percent of counties don’t have a provider at all. This creates an additional hardship on those in rural areas who have to travel further for their procedures.

Recently, the University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health conducted a multi-yearlong study in which they trained and evaluated CNMs, NPs, and PAs as they performed first trimester abortions alongside the doctors performing the same procedure—the outcomes were the same. With 92 percent of abortions in the United States occurring within the first trimester, the bill would reduce barriers and increase access for the majority of people seeking abortion care. AB 154 is legislation that supports the needs of our communities.

In the United States, 6 in 10 people having an abortion are already parenting a child, while 3 in 10 have two or more children. In the evening, I often hear clients making phone calls, putting their children to bed, telling them how much they love them. “Don’t worry,” they say, “I’ll be home to put you to bed tomorrow.” Wouldn’t it be nice if they could get the care that they need and be home in time to kiss their children goodnight? Instead of having to leave their families and travel five hours for a simple medical procedure, imagine if care were provided in their own hometown. I was fortunate—my abortion provider was a 15-minute ride from my house. I felt safe knowing that I wasn’t far from my home and I would be able to rest in my bed with my family nearby soon after the procedure.

The Early Access to Abortion bill is model legislation that will put patients and families first and contribute to healthy communities.

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The Battle Over ‘I Love Boobies’

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Annamarya Scaccia 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 Love Boobies

Is this helping or hurting “the breast cancer conversation?”

Last Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania from enforcing a ban on “I Love Boobies! Save a Breast!” bracelets, the trendy bands that promote the Keep a Breast Foundation’s national breast cancer outreach and awareness campaign. But while a federal court may have found the bracelets protected under the First Amendment, the court of public opinion still takes issue with “I Love Boobies” and similar campaigns, with many people finding them toxic to the overall breast cancer conversation.

In its 9-5 decision, the federal court rejected the school district’s claim that the popular slogan is lecherous and disruptive, ruling that it provides commentary on a prevalent social issue. Particularly, Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in his 74-page opinion for B.H. and K.M. v. Easton Area School District:

Schools cannot avoid teaching our citizens-in-training how to appropriately navigate the “marketplace of ideas.” Just because letting in one idea might invite even more difficult judgment calls about other ideas cannot justify suppressing speech of genuine social value.

“It’s a tremendous ruling supportive of student free speech,” Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and lead counsel in the case, told RH Reality Check. “What this ruling does is recognize that teenagers talk about important things, whether it’s political issues [or] social issues. That’s the type of speech we most want to protect.”

The August 7 judgment puts to bed years of litigation that began in November 2010, when the ACLU-PA filed a lawsuit challenging the Easton Area School District’s “I Love Boobies!” bracelet ban, claiming it infringed on students’ First Amendment right to free speech. The original suit was lodged on behalf of Easton Area Middle School students Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, who were suspended in October 2010 for declining to adhere to the ban, which was imposed over a month after students started wearing the wristbands without incident. In rationalizing the interdict, the middle school asserted some students were made uneasy by human sexuality topics, others were “prompted” to make sexual innuendos, and some staff found them offensive, the lawsuit claims.

While, in 2011, a federal judge granted ACLU-PA’s request for an emergency injunction on the ban, the Easton Area School District appealed the enjoinment, arguing the message behind the Keep a Breast Foundation’s catchphrase could be misconstrued as “lewd” and potentially hinder school activities. To prove such, the district invoked both the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Bethel School District v. Fraser, which upholds that schools can restrict student speech if it is “vulgar, lewd, profane or plainly offensive” (meaning it offers no fundamental social or political value to a broader conversation), and 1969′s Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which states students have a constitutional right to free speech, but said speech can be regulated if a school proves it “materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline” in school operations. In its Monday decision, however, the Third Circuit found that the Easton Area School District could not prove either of its claims under these two edicts since the message is meant to stir constructive dialogue.

This is not the first time that “I Love Boobies” and similarly chest-centric breast cancer awareness campaigns, like the “Save the Ta-Tas” bumper stickers, have been subject to school bans. Moffat County School District in Colorado barred students from wearing Keep a Breast’s popular wristband in 2011, but rescinded the ban that year after pressure from the ACLU of Colorado. Sauk Prairie Middle School in Wisconsin also banned the same bracelets, and a federal court judge ruled in 2012 that it could continue to impose that ban. Wearing “I Love Boobies!” gear has also been prohibited at Laramie Junior High School in Wyoming (the ban was reversed), and at an Elmira, Oregon, high school, reports the Huffington Post. Similarly, two years ago, cheerleaders at an Arizona high school were banned from wearing t-shirts brandishing the slogan, “Feel for lumps, save your bumps,” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“[The August 7 decision] is a really important rule for schools to follow. When they see a message that a student is conveying a message, is talking about something that is a social or political issue, they can’t go looking for a way to eventually sanitize that,” Roper told RH Reality Check. “This means that schools have to really confront the fact that kids are gonna talk about controversial issues. They need to make sure there’s room for that conversation to happen.”

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How Having an Abortion in Texas Strengthened My Fight for Reproductive Rights

12:32 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Texas Capitol Protest

Getting an abortion in Texas was an eye-opening experience for this pro-choice writer.

When I decided to come to Austin for a summer internship with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, I knew I was signing up for an interesting few months. Although I had been working in the field of reproductive rights throughout high school and college, I was raised in Oregon—the only state in our nation that has yet to pass abortion restrictions in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. And I attend college in New York, a state where there are no abortion restrictions prior to the 24th week of pregnancy. Before June, I had never been to Texas, let alone to the South.

I had read about the shaky state of reproductive rights in Texas, but I did not anticipate that I would be fighting tooth and nail with anti-choice legislators attempting to hastily and unfairly pass some of the most extreme and draconian abortion bills in the country during a special session, with the two-thirds rule conveniently suspended. I did not anticipate having to beg privileged legislators through my public testimony not to violate my privacy in their attempts to “help” me by doing what they think is best for me. (These legislators ultimately cut off my microphone and walked out on my testimony mid-sentence.)

And at 20 years old, entirely alone in a new city, I certainly did not anticipate having an abortion myself.

I found out I was pregnant on the first day of my internship. Contrary to common rhetoric, my choice to terminate my pregnancy was not the most difficult decision I have ever made, although don’t mistake this for carelessness. I had thought through this scenario before and was sure of my choice before I ever needed to be. Nevertheless, the process of having an abortion was, indeed, quite difficult—Texas law made sure of that. I knew Texas’ abortion restrictions: a 24-hour waiting period, a medically unnecessary sonogram, and a slew of propagandized literature lacking medical evidence. With the follow-up exam, that’s three visits to the clinic. These were all things I would have avoided in Oregon or New York, but doable for me, only because I had some money and my family’s support.

As I entered the clinic parking lot, I was greeted by a few protesters—all white, male, with Bibles in hand—attempting to shame and scare me in a moment when I most valued my privacy. I recall sitting in the NARAL office on the day before my procedure—the day after I’d sat through hours of heated public testimony on SB 5—when our office received a call from the very clinic where I had my appointment, alerting us to the aggressive presence of anti-choice protesters and the desperate need for clinic escorts. I had to excuse myself and went into the parking lot, where I sat behind a car and cried. I was terrified. I had previously thought about what it would be like to have an abortion, and I knew that, for me, it would be difficult. But, naturally, I had expected it would happen in Oregon or New York and, thus, be difficult because of whatever personal reasons, not because I would have to run the gauntlet of aggressive protesters.

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Why It’s So Hard to Sue Wal-Mart for Gender Discrimination

12:44 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.

Women protesting Walmart policies

Everyday low wages & sexism

It can take years for the effects of even the big Supreme Court decisions to really take hold. Consider the case of Wal-Mart v. Dukes two years ago, a decision that revoked class-action certification from what would have been one of the largest gender bias lawsuits of its kind. At the time, more than 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers claimed the retailer unlawfully discriminated against them when it came to their pay and promotions, because of a corporate culture that enabled stereotyping of female workers. The Supreme Court rejected these claims, holding that the women didn’t have enough in common to justify hearing their claims against Wal-Mart together as one case.

Disappointed but undeterred, the women pressed on, determined to bring their claims even if they were narrower. But last week the plaintiffs suffered another setback as a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a claim by 150,000 of the 1.5 million original plaintiffs on the grounds that while the new proposed class of plaintiffs is definitely smaller than the original class rejected by the Supreme Court, there still isn’t enough proof the women suffered similar treatment to justify hearing their claims all at once. Instead of seeking to press their claims on a nationwide class of workers at Wal-Mart’s 3,400 stores, as the original complaint against the retail giant did, the female workers had asserted that they represented about 150,000 employees in what is called the “California region” of the company—an area made up of three Wal-Mart geographic zones and 250 stores. This new class of plaintiffs sought to represent any female workers who had been on the company payroll between December 26, 1998, and December 31, 2002, and who were subject to pay scales based on hourly rates and on salary levels, and were eligible for promotion to management trainee or area manager.

But this smaller, regional approach was not enough to convince the federal courts to allow the claims to proceed. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer, a Clinton appointee and brother of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, concluded:

[T]hough they have cut down the raw number of proposed class members significantly, Plaintiffs continue to challenge four different kinds of decisions across hundreds of decision makers, inviting failures of proof at multiple points in each region.

This new, smaller class “continues to suffer from the problems that foreclosed certification of the nationwide class.” Though the workers “insist that they have presented an entirely different case from the one the Supreme Court rejected, in fact it is essentially a scaled-down version of the same case with new labels on old arguments.”

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Immigrant Women Should Not Have to Wait Years to Access Health Care

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Stethoscope

Immigrant women face long wait times for medical care.

Most people hate waiting. We complain about lines or being put on hold. Right now, some politicians are looking to make immigrant women and their families wait to gain access to health care—a truly cruel thing on which to make someone wait. A provision included in an immigration reform bill could keep immigrant women from accessing essential health services for up to 15 years.

Specifically, the immigration reform bill that passed through the Senate includes language that bars an immigrant woman who is working to obtain citizenship from utilizing means-tested federal benefits like Medicaid for a minimum of ten years. She will also face a five-year delay under the current law if she does not naturalize as soon as possible, after the initial ten-year period.

The five-year waiting period was imposed on permanent, legal residents as an inclusion to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for benefits like Medicaid. Given that the goal of the Medicaid program is to reduce financial barriers to essential health care for low-income families, this limitation affects those who already face tremendous obstacles to quality health-care services and do not have the ability to pay for care out-of-pocket.

Current policies will also make immigrant women ineligible for premium tax credits and subsidies to facilitate participation in the state health insurance marketplaces that are being established under the ACA. This places private health insurance plans out of reach for many families. All this means that an immigrant woman may have to wait up to 15 years—or more—before she can access affordable health coverage options.

Delayed access to preventive care like mammograms and Pap tests could be the difference between life and death for all women, including immigrant women. Lack of routine testing could mean that an undetected, untreated sexually transmitted infection could cause infertility. Holding back access to health services could have a dramatic effect on the health of individual women, their families, and their communities.

This kind of punitive, restrictive policy-making on the backs of women is all too familiar to many reproductive health advocates. Whether it is legislation that literally imposes a waiting period to delay a woman who is seeking abortion care or barring public hospitals from making agreements with abortion clinics to accept their patients in emergencies, we are used to seeing political games played with women’s health.

Hundreds of laws have been introduced in recent years with the goal of making it harder to get an abortion or closing clinics to shut off availability of care. With fewer providers, women are often forced to travel long distances to seek care; a recent Guttmacher Institute report estimates that in 2008, 16 percent of women traveled 25 to 49 miles, 11 percent traveled 50 to 100 miles, and 6 percent traveled more than 100 miles. This presents a particularly burdensome hardship for low-income women who may not have a car or be able to take time off from their job to travel. These restrictions also make abortion care more expensive by adding the cost of travel or child care or putting up so many extra hurdles that a woman is pushed later into pregnancy, when a procedure may be more complicated and costly.

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