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Four Things You Probably Don’t Know About Title IX

9:04 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

IU women's basketball

Annmarie Keller of the Indiana University Northwest women's basketball team

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 6th, is National Girls & Women in Sports Day, which has people singing the praises of Title IX from soccer fields, softball diamonds, tracks, pools and countless other sporting venues — and for good reason! Title IX is an enormously important law for female athletes — no other law has done more to expand opportunities for women and girls in athletics. While there is still work to be done, the progress we have made thanks to Title IX is tremendous.

But what many people don’t know is that the benefits and protections of Title IX aren’t limited to athletics. Here are four other ways Title IX is there for young women (and men, too):

1. Equal opportunities in career and technical programs in traditionally male-dominated fields

Title IX requires that girls and boys be given equal opportunities in career and technical education programs, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields. Getting more women in these fields may be the key to closing the gender wage gap, since predominantly female occupations pay lower wages than predominantly male ones. Women still face barriers and a lack of encouragement in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (often referred to as STEM), but Title IX has broadened opportunities for a number of women and girls.

Shree Bose, a student at Harvard University, took science and math courses from a young age, finding her calling and her passion in science. As a result of winning the 2011 Google Science Fair for her important breakthrough for chemotherapy resistance treatment, she was invited to speak at conferences, attend an Ivy League university, and even meet the president! We need more girls like Shree, and Title IX is working to ensure that all girls who have an interest in STEM fields or classes are able to pursue them.

2. Protection for pregnant & parenting students

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I Was Raped: Figuring Out What Happened and Why It Felt Wrong (*TRIGGER WARNING*)

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Five years ago, I was raped. I have never written or spoken those exact words before now; though I have shared the content of this story with those I’m close to, I have always stopped short of actually applying such a label to the experience. This kind of denial is not uncommon, as rape culture functions to normalize sexual violence, turning harassment, assault, and rape into such ordinary occurrences, we learn to see them as simply an inevitable part of every day life rather than recognizing them as the atrocities they are. And in fact, it’s that very hesitancy to identify myself as a victim of rape that has taught me what living in a rape culture truly means.

The circumstances of my rape seem to have been, unfortunately, common ones. I have, in the years since, read or heard slight variations of my story countless times from other women. The man was a close friend, trusted by me and adored by scores of volunteers at the organization where we’d met. He was in his early thirties, a little shy, a little awkward, and most known for his deadpan wit. I harbored a crush on him for many months, but I was in a monogamous relationship at the time and never acted on those feelings. We went out one day for a few beers together, something we did many times. I drank an amount that was normally tolerable for me, but for whatever reason, that day, it was not. Back at his apartment, I threw up. He — perhaps slightly tipsy, but in full possession of his faculties — comforted me. And a short time later, we were having sex.

I realize that for many people, questions of drinking and sex and consent can be a thorny thing. I don’t wish to engage in a lengthy discussion or debate here about whether it is ever possible for one to consent while intoxicated, or how we are to consider circumstances in which both parties are equally impaired. I do believe that there are, sometimes, situations in which one partner does not realize the degree to which the other is intoxicated. But I think it should be uncontroversial to say that if one is drunk enough to become physically ill, there is no possible way she can be considered capable of meaningful consent. In my case, I was never even asked for any kind of consent, anyhow, never asked if I was certain I wanted to be doing this, if I was feeling okay, if I was clear-headed enough to make this decision.

It seems to me, now, so cut and dry. If I heard this story about anyone else, even then, I would have zero hesitation in applying the label “rape.” But at the time, and for a long time afterword, I was unable to view my own rape for what it actually was.

Initially, I certainly did feel a strong sense of discomfort with what had taken place. It was surreal to think about how much mental presence I had lacked, as though I wasn’t fully inhabiting my body when it occurred. It felt as though I had been an object in the truest sense of the word, like my body had been used while I was not completely there. I knew that I had, at least to some degree, participated sexually. But it hadn’t felt like participation in anything other than a disembodied, robotic sense. The entire encounter felt like a thing that was happening to me, with all sense of my own agency removed from the picture — a sensation that remains haunting to recall. And yet, as I now realize is incredibly common for rape victims, I also felt ashamed. It is sickening to me, now, to recall that I was actually embarrassed that my legs and underarms hadn’t been freshly shaven, that I was self-conscious of what I could only assume was very sub-par sexual performance on my part. That I actually sent him a message the next day apologizing for being such a mess, thanking him for taking care of me when I was sick. Ironically, I was humiliated that he had seen me so weak and vulnerable.

I was unable to see him as any kind of predator. I thought too highly of him, cared about him too much. On some level, I recognized his behavior as wrong; I thought that as my friend, he should have at least tried to check in and make sure I was okay with what was happening. But I made excuses for him. I knew that I had been flirtatious with him, that he was probably aware of the feelings I had for him. I was in my mid-twenties, not a naïve teenager, and yet I believed that he would not have had sex with me unless he had feelings for me as well. Uncomfortable as the circumstances were, I still clung to some misguided notion that he cared too much about me to simply use me in that way.

Weeks later, when I confessed to him that I had feelings for him, he responded by ending our friendship. And though that certainly solidified my sense of being used and objectified, I was still unable, even internally, to name what had happened as “rape.” We continued volunteering together; I continued to witness how loved and admired he was by everyone around us. Whenever I heard someone gushing over how wonderful he was, I thought to myself: you have no idea. But I also knew that there was no possible way anyone would ever believe me even if I did want to come forward with the truth. They would believe what I still half-believed myself: that I had practically thrown myself at him, that perhaps, at worst, he’d had poor judgment in a moment of weakness.

Though my own definition of rape has never been one that necessitates physical struggle or force, when I actually thought about the idea of being raped, it felt like something I had no right to claim. No matter what my intellectual position was, deep down I still envisioned rape as a blatantly violent act, one which involved resistance and pain, one that felt terrifying in the moment. In spite of my utter lack of consent, I felt that it wasn’t really rape because I was not sufficiently traumatized, because I did not say no or put up any kind of fight, because he was someone I knew and was comfortable with and might very well have consented to have sex with while sober, not a stranger or someone I found frightening or revolting. And while I would never dream of applying any of those qualifications to challenge the legitimacy of someone else’s experience of rape, I spent years using them to delegitimize my own. This, to me, is perhaps the most frightening, pervasive, and powerful way in which rape culture functions: sexual violence is normalized to such an extent that we can become unable to identify it for what it really is even when we are victims.

I was, and remain, traumatized by my experience. But what upsets me the most, five years later, is not my memory of the actual events. What I find most disturbing, most difficult to confront, is my own denial, my own internalization of the social norms that allow for such acts to be commonplace. When I hear or read or write about yet another instance of victim-blaming or rape-denying, I cannot help but think about my own experience. And I cannot help but think about not only all of the survivors of sexual violence who never come forward, but also all of those who are unwilling or unable to even properly name what has happened to them, even privately in their own thoughts. It is terrifying to me that we can be so accustomed to these misogynist terms of engagement, we learn not to even recognize the violations enacted on our own bodies. And when I consider how I — a grown woman, a self-identified feminist who was not unaware the patriarchal structures we live with — still managed to deny the validity of my own experience, I can only begin to imagine how many other women have been unable to fully recognize similar acts of rape for what they actually are.

We are still taught, here in the 21st century, that rapists are lurking, predatory strangers. That they are men who, at the very least, give off a vibe of creepiness, or who openly display sexist behaviors. We are taught that they are not nice guys. We are taught to mistrust women’s stories of rape, particularly when the rapist does not fit our profile. We are taught to believe that there is more to the story, that the woman was somehow at fault, that she did something to encourage him, that she was asking for it. And when we are victims, we must then continue to live in a culture that dismisses our experiences, that encourages our objectification, that says over and over, in a multitude of ways: what happened to you was not rape. What happened to you was normal. What happened to you was your own fault. What happened to you is not something you have a right to be so upset about. It’s no wonder that some of us, if not a majority of us, ultimately turn those judgments inward. As Adrienne Rich wrote, “Where language and naming are power, silence is oppression, is violence.” And this is oppression working at its most efficient: it takes little effort to silence us when we are trained to silence ourselves. When we are denied the ability to even name our experiences, we are stripped of all ability to engage in dialogue about those experiences, and therefore also deprived of any means to collectively organize around–and fight back against–the injustices we’ve suffered. 

I am sharing this story now not because I believe it is unique, but on the contrary, because I believe it is all too common. I am continuously overwhelmed by the question of how we are to go about combating rape culture, to begin changing such deeply ingrained social norms. But it seems to me that the first step, at least, is to speak out, to tell our stories, to tell the truth, to challenge the narrative we’re fed about who is and who is not a rapist, and who is and who is not a “legitimate” victim of rape. Reading and hearing the stories of other women with similar experiences played a huge role in my own ability to finally face the reality that what happened to me was, in fact, rape. I can only hope that coming forward with my own story might play some small role in helping other women to do the same.

In Peru, an Epidemic of Rape and Double Jeopardy for Rape Victims Seeking Abortion

12:23 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Mapa del Perú (map of Peru)

Map of Peru

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

Peru, while famous for its modern culinary delights and ancient civilizations, also has a far less flattering distinction: it has more reported cases of rape and sexual violence than any other country in South America. Eight in ten of these victims are minors.

Researchers estimate that 35,000 pregnancies occur every year in Peru as a result of rape. Women and girls in this situation are faced with two options: seek an illegal abortion and risk going to jail or carry the pregnancy to term and suffer the psychological and physical trauma that go along with giving birth to your rapist’s child. Women who can prove that a pregnancy is the result of rape receive a “reduced” sentence of three months in jail (the standard prison sentence for illegal abortions in Peru is two years). Perversely, this reduced sentence does not apply to married women who are raped by their husbands, even though marital rape is a crime under Peruvian law. Doctors who perform abortions in cases of rape face up to six years in prison.

A coalition of women’s rights groups have launched a campaign to challenge this cruel violation of human rights. The campaign, Dejala Decidir (“Let her decide”), seeks to introduce a new law that decriminalizes abortion in cases of rape (currently, abortion is only permitted when the woman’s life or health is at risk). The groups, led by partners of the International Women’s Health CoalitionPROMSEX, Demus, Catholics for the Right to Decide-Peru, Manuela Ramos, CLADEM-Peru, and Flora Tristán — need to collect 60,000 valid signatures to petition Congress to consider the bill.

This is no small challenge. The requirement for valid signatures means that people must be willing to provide their government ID numbers to verify their identities. This may be intimidating to many people in a country where the Catholic Church exerts a great deal of influence in the government and within communities. Consider also that many people in rural and indigenous communities — especially poor women who are disproportionately impacted by the abortion ban — do not have government IDs. Even if the campaign succeeds in obtaining 60,000 valid signatures, there is no guarantee that Congress members will risk controversy or the ire of the Catholic Church and support a change in the law.

The groups see the Dejala Decidir campaign as an opportunity to build a powerful and active movement on two important but neglected issues: abortion and rape. Every signature represents at least one more person informed about the harsh realities faced by rape victims in Peru, and mobilized to change the current abortion law.

George Liendo, Director of PROMSEX, says the time is ripe for a national dialogue. “It’s not always easy to build a coalition in Peru, but there is real energy for this campaign. People across the country want to put this on the political agenda.”

Peru is not the only country in the region rethinking its draconian approach to abortion. In October 2012, the Uruguayan congress voted to decriminalize abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Activists in Peru have until October 2013 to collect enough signatures to ask their own Congress to act. In the meantime, we can expect a rich and lively dialogue on rape and abortion. It’s about time.

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Raped by My Stepfather: A Survivor of Illegal Abortion On Why Safe, Legal Abortion is Essential

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Rape is RAPE

(Photo: mmtzjr69out/flickr)


Written by Dawn Hill 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 is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here.

This week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said:  ”I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

Legitimate Rape? A Rape Victim and Counselor Reflects on Rape Culture Myths

11:08 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kim Shults 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 caricature of Todd Akin

Todd Akin isn't the only one who believe myths about rape (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr)

“The events as you’ve described them, Kim, constitute a felony rape. If you do not make a statement, we will still proceed with prosecution and regard you as a hostile witness.”

I was 20 years old, on a semester leave from college. Those were the words of the police officer to me, in a hospital room, after I recounted what had happened to me a couple of days earlier.

It was my first interaction with the police, other than Officer Friendly visiting my elementary school class, or one of the officers my parents had befriended when they started a Neighborhood Watch program in the community where I was raised. Surely I could trust the police, I thought, to understand what had happened and to help me.

Although this was more than 20 years ago, I remember the moment vividly, because it was the acknowledgment, the naming, of something I had been struggling ferociously to reject: I was raped.

I desperately wanted it to be something else, like a misunderstanding between me and this man I’d been dating for a week or so. I felt locked in a life-or-death battle to deny this heinous violation, because it threatened to undo me–my sense of personal safety and well being, my mental health, my personhood.

In the years since, I’ve had lots of therapy, including group therapy with fellow survivors of sexual assault and abuse. I’ve volunteered at two rape crisis centers. One involved a speakers’ panel, visiting college classes, rehab facilities, police training sessions, even a group of men incarcerated for violent crimes including rape. At the other center, I served as hotline counselor and in-hospital victims’ advocate. Most of the other volunteers had stories of their own survival, and saw their volunteer efforts as a way to give back, to create and foster the same kind of community that enabled us to find our own voices and our sanity, to reclaim our selves and reassemble the pieces of our lives.

I rarely think about the assault and its aftermath anymore. The counseling, both giving and receiving, not to mention the tremendous education I got from the centers where I volunteered, helped make triggering a rare event for me. The experience became just one painful part of my life, rather than its central, agonizing, defining core. Occasionally (about every two years in the District of Columbia) I am called for jury duty. As part of voir dire, I have to tell the judge and attorneys that I have been the victim of a crime. When pressed for details, I recall them with startling clarity. My account is invariably met with compassion, followed by a quick dismissal.

Despite the officer’s words to me in that hospital room, the justice system and all those I encountered as I navigated my way through it seemed hell bent on proving that what I had experienced was not, in the words of Senate candidate Akin of Missouri, “legitimate rape.”

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“New Life” Trumps “Existing Life” in the Modern Republican Party

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Carole Joffe 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 believe that if you have to choose between new life and existing life, you should choose new life. The person who has had an opportunity to live at least has been given that gift by God and should make way for new life on earth.”

These are the words of the late Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the conservative Heritage Foundation and a driving force behind the creation of the movement we know today as the Religious Right. As the above quote implies, Weyrich had no patience for those in anti-choice circles who advocated for an abortion exception when the life of the pregnant woman was threatened.

This sentiment, voiced by Weyrich in 1984, has never entirely disappeared from some sectors of the anti-choice movement, though for quite some time, it was not a position widely spoken of. This is hardly surprising given that a huge majority of Americans support access to abortion in life-threatening situations.

However, the Republican Party’s official platform is one place where the absolute ban on any exceptions, including one to save a woman’s life, is retained.


Continue reading….

How Governments and Individuals — Meaning Each of Us — Deny the Persistence of Racism and Abuse

11:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

When you work on human rights issues, you notice a certain pattern in government denial of abuse. First line of defense: it didn’t happen. Or if it happened, they did it to themselves. Or if they didn’t, we certainly had nothing to do with it. Or if we did, we didn’t mean to. It doesn’t matter if the issue is torture, forced evictions, or garden-variety employment discrimination. The response from those in charge is often, if not always, the same.

Though this pattern is annoying, to say the least, I have lately become acutely aware of a much more depressing trend: the denial of abuse among those of us who should know better. Of course, we don’t call it denial. We call it “realism.” But the mechanism is the same.

1. “It didn’t happen.”

For decades, commentators and a large proportion of the US public have posited that racism no longer exists. Despite the fact that skin color and ethnicity matters with regard to just about any social indicator you care to look at — health, education, employment, housing, law enforcement — most white people believe the system we live in is racially just.

The writer Touré has described this situation as a “fog of racism:” a situation so subtle, it is blurred. “With this form of racism,” he says, “there is no smoking gun. There is no one calling you a nigger to your face. There’s no sign saying you can’t enter this building. … But … it’s there.”  

This is not much different from the many people who are genuinely puzzled at the need for continued attention to women’s issues in the United States now that “the genders are equal.” I hear this argument almost daily, despite ample evidence to the contrary, including the continued pay gap and the vicious attack on reproductive rights for women and not men.   

2. “They did it to themselves.”

Blaming the victim is par for the course in rape cases, a context in which it (rightfully) is denounced by women’s groups as sexist, discriminatory, and just plain wrong. But it is also common for individuals who identify sexual or racial discrimination to be called silly, overly sensitive, or even vindictive. 

When I firmly told off a male colleague at a former employer for caressing my waist, a female colleague immediately and loudly concluded that I “must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.” 

And I can’t count the times I have been told that “black people are racist too,” as a manner to excuse racial discrimination. In sociology and social psychology, this phenomenon is called internalized oppression, that is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. More commonly, it is expressed as a desire to maintain the dignity of the group: we may suffer, but we don’t complain or sulk. 

3. “We had nothing to do with it.”

Most people don’t like to think of themselves or the people they know as bigots. This is natural and reasonable. It is hard to remain sane if you believe your actions are consistently insensitive or morally wrong. This, however, is not the same as noticing and addressing injustice — especially injustice that we, ourselves, are benefitting from. 

For example, I cannot in good conscience say that I have nothing to do with racism (or sexism, or hetero-centrism, or…) when I know that I benefit daily from a system that overwhelmingly recognizes my humanity and rights because of my Northern passport, fair skin, perceived heterosexuality, motherhood, and Judeo-Christian background (I could go on). Unlike my Peruvian ex-husband, I don’t have to think about what I wear when I travel in order to avoid additional hassles at airport security. And unlike those of my female friends who are non-gender-conforming and childless, I don’t have to defend my worth as a woman.  

4. “We didn’t mean to.”

When all other justifications have failed, the usual fall-back for governments who violate human rights is lack of intent: we may indeed have tortured a couple of prisoners, but it was unknowingly done and therefore, it is implied, of limited importance. 

This excuse is hardly ever used as a denial strategy for continued and entrenched racial, sexual, and other discrimination in the United States. And not because we recognize our responsibility in the stereotypes we perpetuate. But rather because we don’t. In fact, as shown above, we routinely deny the very existence of discrimination.

I am not advocating a collective guilt complex, or, worse, some sort of warped paternalistic pity-fest in which those of privileged background pound our chests in earnest distress and bemoan the supposedly pathetic lives of those considered beneath us. I am, however, advocating a reckoning that allows us to confront those stereotypes that result in the abuse of human rights. Even, and especially, when this means that some of us must give up our special privileges.

And here’s why: I know I am benefiting from many of the stereotypes that prevail in the country I have chosen to live in. I also know I am complicit in the resulting discrimination to the extent that I don’t challenge it.

Argentina’s Supreme Court Permits Abortion in All Cases of Rape, But Access To Care Remains a Challenge

8:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Alia Al-Khatib 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 March 13, 2012, the Supreme Court in Argentina issued a decision in the case F., A. L. s/Medida autosatisfactiva, which clarified a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in all cases of rape.  This is particularly significant in a country where, according to an official estimate from the Health Ministry in Argentina, between 486,000 and 522,000 illegal abortions are performed annually. While this is an enormous achievement towards women’s access to safe and legal abortion in Argentina, ensuring that rape survivors are able to access abortion in practice represents an even greater challenge.

The decision emerged from a March 2010 case in the province of Chubut involving a 15-year-old girl, A. G., who was raped by her stepfather and became pregnant. With the support of her mother, A. G. sought an abortion by first requesting approval from the Criminal Court judge in the province. Due to an unclear understanding of the Penal Code in the lower courts of the province, she had to obtain authorization ultimately from the Superior Justice Court in Chubut, a process that lasted two months. A. G. was able to obtain an abortion, though only after a long period of delay and a great deal of unnecessary stress. Even when the pregnancy had already been terminated, the case proceeded to the Federal Supreme Court in order to seek clarification concerning the permissibility of abortion in certain circumstances.

According to Article 86 of the Argentine Penal Code, abortion is not punishable on two grounds: first, if the health or life of the mother is at risk and abortion is the only way to relieve this risk; second, if the pregnancy results from a rape or if the woman is mentally incapable of providing consent.  In this case, the Supreme Court considered the second clause. The Court determined that, in all cases of rape and not only in situations in which the woman is mentally incapable, a woman has not provided consent. For this reason, the Court provided an interpretation of the Penal Code that decriminalizes abortion in all cases of rape and that allows a rape survivor to obtain an abortion without the need for judicial proceedings. Furthermore, the Court made it clear that it is illegal to obstruct a rape survivor from exercising her right to abortion.

The Supreme Court’s decision is consistent with developments in international human rights law and standards. In one such case from July 2006, L. M. R. v. Argentina, L. M. R., a young woman with a mental age of between eight and ten years, became pregnant after being raped by her uncle. Though Article 86 of the Penal Code clearly permits abortion in this scenario, the public hospital initiated judicial proceedings to determine whether or not L. M. R. could terminate the pregnancy because staff members at the hospital disagreed as to whether she had grounds to do so. A juvenile court judge denied the abortion.

Following a series of appeals, the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires determined that L. M. R. could terminate the pregnancy based on the second clause of Article 86 of the Penal Code. Even after the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires issued this decision, the local hospital refused to perform the abortion and defended their position by claiming that the pregnancy was too advanced, though at the time L. M. R. was just under 20 weeks. With the help of local advocates, she ultimately obtained an illegal abortion in a private clinic. In March 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights determined that denying L. M. R. an abortion violated her right to equality and non-discrimination embodied in the Covenant and that forcing her to continue with the pregnancy constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

The cases of L. M. R. and F., A. L. illustrate that, although the law provides for the right to abort in certain circumstances, women face many obstacles from anti-abortion legislators and judges, and even health providers who are meant to provide these services. Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of F., A. L., the governor of Salta, a province in northern Argentina, announced that he would not comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. Similarly, the Health Minister in Santa Rosa, the capital of La Pampa province, stated that public hospitals would not abide by the decision. Though not surprising, the refusal of these provincial leaders to comply with the federal case is futile and only serves to delay the implementation of protocol for non-punishable abortion in rape cases. Furthermore, the Archbishop of Santa Fe denounced the decision in an interview with a national newspaper, La Nación, and stated that there never exists a justification for abortion, a statement that carries a great deal of weight in a country, like others in Latin America, that remains heavily influenced by the Catholic Church.

Such reactions to this particular case remind pro-choice advocates that this decision is only the first step in ensuring that rape survivors can access abortion and that there is even more work ahead for women to gain access to safe, voluntary, and legal abortion in Argentina. Moving forward, local advocates plan to urge provinces to implement protocols in hospitals so that the law is clear to health providers and to women seeking abortions.

STOKING FIRE: Ultra-Conservative Doctrine May Be the Reason for Unreported Sexual Crimes in the Military

10:29 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


Written by Eleanor J. Bader 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 cliché tells us that war is hell, but for female enlistees, the war on the domestic front—within their units–trumps that of the battlefield. In fact, a recent Veteran’s Administration survey revealed statistics that should have turned the military on its warmongering head: 30 percent of female vets told the interviewers that they had been assaulted by a male colleague and/or supervisor. Worse, 14 percent reported having been gang raped and 20 percent reported having been raped more than once.

Shockingly, these figures may be low since under-reporting of sexual crimes is known to be endemic.

Part of the blame for the reluctance to report rests with an unsympathetic military chaplaincy, one of the few places soldiers, sailors, reservists, national guardians, and marines can turn for counseling. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 percent of today’s 3000 military chaplains were trained at the ultraconservative Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell and Elmer Towns in 1971, the school bills itself as the world’s largest seminary, something it attributes to its “conservative doctrinal position, its sound grounding in Bible teachings, and its reflection of core Christian essentials.” The school’s website clears up any definitional murkiness: “Liberty is committed to changing the entire world for Jesus Christ, first changing the world with its students, then equipping them to change the world around them.”

While most of its students are undoubtedly attracted to this mission, others attend Liberty because tuition is low: $1900 a term for residential students and $2200 for distance learners. During the 2011-2012 year, nearly 9000 students from 46 countries registered for online classes; of them, more than 1000 hope to complete the 72-credit program and become military chaplains. A severe shortage of armed forces clerics—an article posted on Times in February 2011 blames the deficiency on the military’s rigid age and physical requirements and on the reluctance of pastors/rabbis/imams to exchange the comforts of home for combat—will likely make this dream come true for many of them.

That this bodes badly for women and the LGBTQ community is a given. Read the rest of this entry →

Kansas NOW’s Kari Ann Rinker Schools Kansas State Reps on Jobs, Abortion and “Rape is Like a Flat Tire” Comments

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Kansas NOW’s state director and special to RH Reality Check Kari Ann Rinker testifies before a committee of Kansas state representatives.  She asks exactly how the legislature’s obsession with restricting women’s rights will lead to more jobs, and reminds Rep. Pete DeGraaf that you can’t “prepare for rape” like you would a spare tire.


Also read Rinker’s piece today on predictions for Kansas in 2012.