Sunday, October 23, 2016
New York Times (Oct. 18, 2016): A Complex Case Tests New York State’s Expanded Definition of Parenthood, by Sharon Otterman:
New York has had an expanded definition of parenthood since August. The new test is whether a couple intended to have and raise a child together. It was meant "to provide equality for same-sex parents and the opportunity for their children to have the love and support of two committed parents.” Now the new test is being applied in a difficult case involving a lesbian couple's break-up and the boy whom one of the women legally adopted.
Circe Hamilton applied to adopt a boy from Ethiopia in 2009. Her partner Kelly Gunn intended to adopt the boy as a second parent. Before the adoption was finalized in 2011, however, the couple broke up but remained friends. Hamilton, overwhelmed by the challenges of motherhood, called upon Gunn to help her with childcare, shelter and even employment. Now that Hamilton wants Gunn out of her and her son's lives, Gunn is arguing that the adoption would never have happened without the couple's mutual efforts. Hamilton, however, is arguing that she intended to parent alone.
The judge in the case must decide whether the involvement of Gunn in the boy's life amounts to parentage or just the benevolence of a trusted friend. Several questions are guiding the proceedings, now before the Supreme Court in New York County: "How formalized was the relationship between Ms. Gunn and [the boy]? What did he think Ms. Gunn’s role was? Did Ms. Gunn assume the duties of a parent? What would be the impact on[the boy] if their relationship ended?"
The case is particularly fraught because now Hamilton wants to move to London with the boy. For now, the court has ordered the boy's passport confiscated so that Hamilton does not abscond with him.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Huffington Post (Oct. 21, 2016): To Protect People Fleeing Mosul, Undo Iraq’s Anti-Shelter Policy, by Lisa Davis:
The battle for Mosul will result in a humanitarian crisis, but the need for shelter will go tragically unmet in Iraq. A major cause of the problem is the inexplicable policy of the Iraqi government that forbids local women's organizations from providing shelter to displaced persons. "Those who defy this policy," writes Davis, "by running safe houses for women escaping violence or shelters for families displaced by war, operate under government harassment and police raids."
Local groups in Iraq are well positioned to provide the aid and shelter that international groups, lacking information, connections and other important resources, cannot. The problem is not so much an explicit ban in Iraqi law but a misinterpretation of it. Many local officials believe only the government can run shelters. There is a also a deep-seated bias against shelters as places where groups of "immoral women" reside without male oversight. It is feared that opening shelters will encourage women to abandon their families.
Facing reality, some local officials have been forced to enter into agreements with local organizations to provide shelter. But more needs to be done. Advocacy groups are calling for the government to permit private shelters to operate without fear of reprisals.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
New York Times (Oct. 13, 2016): The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood, by Pamela Druckerman,
A study from the American Journal of Sociology finds that "Americans with children are 12 percent less happy than non-parents." The happiness gap between parents and non-parents in the United States is the largest among 22 rich countries surveyed. What accounts for the gap? The study's authors suggest that the main source of unhappiness stems from the lack of family friendly work policies - paid vacation and sick leave - and the high cost of child care.
Childcare offerings around the world vary, but in Europe and Canada, they are generally more generous than in the United States. France offers day care billed on a sliding scale and free pre-school starting at 3. It also provides subsidized after school and summer school activities. England provides paid parental l leave and 15 hours a week of free preschool. Druckerman describes the experience of Finnish journalist Anu Partanen, who moved to New York and soon after had a panic-attack when trying to manage work and child care.
“While Nordic citizens often don’t realize how good they have it, Americans seem not to realize how terribly they are being treated,” she writes in her book “The Nordic Theory of Everything.” Ms. Partanen points out that many Europeans pay only slightly higher income taxes than Americans do, while Swedes and Britons pay less, and all get far more in return. She concluded: “Maybe I wasn’t racked by anxiety because I came from a foreign country. Maybe I was racked by anxiety because I was becoming an American.”
Thursday, October 13, 2016
CNN (Oct. 12, 2016): Dad-in-chief signs law bringing diaper-changing stations to more men's rooms, by Hailey Middlebrow:
President Obama recently signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act which requires diaper-changing stations in male and female restrooms in public federal buildings. Providing diaper-changing stations will avoid forcing parents to change diapers under unsanitary conditions on restroom floors or counters. The bill was sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline from Rhode Island.
"Federal buildings belong to the American people, and they should be welcoming and accommodating to all. Government needs to do more to ensure that public buildings are family-friendly," Cicilline's website said.
Within two years, all federal buildings will be required to have at least one changing station that is accessible to both men and women.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
The Nation (Oct. 11, 2016): The Latest Anti-Abortion Trend? Mandate Funerals for Fetuses, by Rebecca Grant:
In addition to laws restricting the donation of fetal tissue for medical research and experimentation, states are introducing provisions that would require that fetal tissue be cremated or buried rather than being treating like other medical waste. Burial or cremation requirements were passed in Indiana and Louisiana but have been preliminarily enjoined. Texas also tried to impose a similar requirement through its Department of Health Services. As a result of a flurry of comments expressing concern about the rules, the Department has asked for additional input on the rules.
Mandating interment means that women accessing abortion would be forced to state in writing how they want the tissue disposed of. The fetus would then receive a burial-transit permit and be transferred to a funeral home, where a funeral director would oversee its final disposition. These absurd requirements load additional administrative and logistical burdens on clinics.
Indeed the laws appear to be passed to make a statement about the value of fetal life without consideration that they "contain impossible medical instructions and grotesque contractions." For instance, the laws would include tissue resulting from both abortions and miscarriages and apply to women who miscarry or abort at home. Further the the funeral industry is not set up for fetal tissue. Cremation facilities, caskets and burial plots not set up for remains this small. Cremation or burial requires a death certificate which raises privacy concerns. The average fee for the services of a funeral establishment is $2,000.
[Dr. Tanya Marsh, a professor at Wake Forest Law School] said that laws regarding human remains are typically scattered throughout state codes in five different places. When lawmakers create laws dealing with remains that originate from committees focusing on health and abortion, it’s no surprise that the result is often an ill-conceived mess. “I don’t think [the legislators] thought through all this and recognized what they were doing,” Marsh said. “Politics and dealing with reality are two different things. The original political idea may have been to make life more difficult for the abortion clinics, but the way the laws are written has broader implications.”
Monday, October 10, 2016
Texas Tribunal (Oct. 8, 2016): Texas May Owe Abortion Providers' Lawyers $4.5 Million, by Alexa Ura:
On Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a request for $4.5 million in attorney's fees and expenses incurred in successfully challenging Texas' House Bill 2, which required that all Texas abortion facilities meet ambulatory surgical center requirements and that all doctors performing abortions have admitted privileges at hospitals within 30 miles. The provisions would have resulted in the closure of 75% of the state's abortion providers.
Defending of the unconstitutional law has already cost taxpayers $1 million.The state’s legal costs in the case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, totaled $768,722. The state incurred an additional $311,355 in legal costs defending an earlier challenge to the admitting privilege provision.
While the ruling was a major victory for Texas abortion providers, they’re still grappling with the trail of shuttered clinics left in wake of House Bill 2. At the time of the ruling, only 19 abortion clinics — of the more than 40 that were open before HB 2 passed — remained open.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
The Root (Sept. 30, 2016): The Black Maternal Mortality Rate In The US Is An International Crisis, by Dr. Joia Crear Perry:
The United States is the only developed country in the world where maternal mortality is on the rise. Black women in the South are acutely at risk. Black women in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white women. Despite clear evidence of this inequity, policymakers and, as a consequence, the government have not made this an urgent public health and human rights issue.
High maternal mortality rates are linked to "underlying social determinants of health inequities in housing, political participation, education, food, environmental conditions and economic security." State governments can play an important role in prevention by ensuring that their residents have basic health care services and that women have the information, facilities, services and resources to support healthy pregnancies.
To address high maternal mortality rates in the U.S., the Black Mamas Matter campaign has adopted the UN technical-guidance document on maternal mortality.
U.N. Human Rights Council resolutions on maternal mortality and the related technical guidance shift the discourse on maternal mortality from a solely public health or personal-responsibility problem to one of women’s rights. The U.S. is an example of how investment in biotechnology and not people leads to the improvements of things and not human beings, especially women.
A human rights framework encourages governments to look at how government policies have a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on different populations and encourages putting people who are most affected at the table to develop policies.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
The Guardian (October 5, 2016): Poland's abortion ban proposal near collapse after mass protests, by Christian Davies:
The outpouring of opposition to Poland's proposed abortion ban on Monday appears to have made an impact. According to The Guardian's Christian Davies:
A controversial proposal to ban abortion in Poland appears to have collapsed after senior politicians from the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) backed away from it after a parliamentary committee urged MPs to vote it down following mass protests.
The justice and human rights committee, which reviews proposed legislation, recommended that parliament reject the bill following a wave of protests earlier in the week that appear to have caught the rightwing government off guard.
In a humiliating climbdown, PiS members who had referred the legislation to the committee less than two weeks ago threw it out.
The protest appears to have galvanized opposition to the ban "with recent polls suggesting not only near-overwhelming opposition to the proposed ban, but increasing support for the liberalisation of existing laws." Poll also indicate that support of the government has dropped to its lowest levels since last year's elections.
Atlantic (Oct. 3, 2016): Democrats Are Pushing to Use Tax Dollars for Abortions, by Emma Green:
Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. This means that women who rely on Medicaid and other government health programs do not have medical coverage for abortions.
Fundamentally, Hyde is about poor women; it only affects those who use Medicaid as their health insurance. Because poor women in the United States are disproportionately women of color, Hyde largely affects women in these groups.
Hyde “has always been understood as a compromise,” said Khiara Bridges, a professor of law at Boston University. “It allows pro-choice folks to be happy because women—‘women’ being read as ‘wealthier women’—to have access to purchasing these services in the market.” At the same time, “anti-choice folks are happy because nobody has to pay for it.”
This year there is renewed political interest and support for ending Hyde's prohibition on federal funding for abortions. Repeal of Hyde is part of the 2016 Democratic presidential platform. Reproductive justice activists are spearheading a campaign using the tagline Be Bold. End Hyde. And last summer, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the EACH Woman Act, which would effectively repeal the Hyde Amendment. The Act has substantial support, but not enough to pass unless additional supporters are elected to the House and Senate in November.
Even if the prospect of repealing Hyde is unlikely, pro-choice scholars see it as a victory that legislators and advocates are talking about it at all. “I’m actually surprised, to be completely honest with you, about the recent attention that’s been paid to the Hyde Amendment,” said Bridges. “Part of the reason why Hyde has not been as visible … as a subject of political debate is because there hasn’t been any organizing around it. … Those organizations that fight for reproductive rights tend to be led by women with privilege, who aren’t impacted by Medicaid restrictions.”
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
BBC (Oct. 3, 2016): Black Monday: Polish Women Strike Against Abortion Ban,
Yesterday, thousands of Polish women went on strike to challenge a proposed law that would ban and criminalize all abortions. Poland already has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, only permitting abortions when a woman's life is in danger, when the pregnancy is a result of rape or when the fetus has a serious and irreversible condition. Women marched in the streets wearing black to mourn the loss of their reproductive rights.
In addition to protests in Warsaw, Polish women also marched in Gdansk, Lodz, Wroclaw and Krakow. Demonstrations of solidarity took place in other European cities including Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Belfast, London and Paris.
The proposed law would criminalize women for having abortions and doctors who perform them. Women could face criminal sentences of up to five years. In addition to prohibiting the termination of pregnancies when they endanger women's health or result from rape, the law poses the danger of investigation and criminal prosecution of women who suffer miscarriages. The law also would impose risks on doctors that may make them unwilling to perform prenatal tests or perform procedures necessary for women's health and lives.
Recent polls say that only 11% of Poles favor the proposed legislation. Currently, there are 1,000-2,000 legal terminations a year, but illegal abortions in Poland are estimated to be 10,000-150,000 a year.
Monday, October 3, 2016
In honor of International Safe Abortion Day, Resurj, a global alliance of feminists under 40 working for sexual and reproductive justice in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, has issued a special edition of its monthly roundup:
In this special edition, RESURJ members, allies and friends in the different regions are sharing their reflections on the state of abortion in their countries. In several countries in Africa, we read about the colonial roots of the restrictive abortion laws, which are still being applied today, and ongoing battles of feminists and activists to introduce even minor amendments to these outdated texts. This is also true in some countries in Asia, a problem that is compounded by a conservative socio-cultural context, lack of quality health care services and inequality in accessing these services. Also, in countries of the Pacific Islands and Latin America, despite the existence of laws permitting abortion on a limited number of grounds, abortion services remain inaccessible to many women, especially young and low income women, and often times very burdensome. Advocacy efforts in Latin American countries to liberalize these laws are also met at times with resistance from the growing conservative forces in the various countries.
Friday, September 30, 2016
HoustonPress (Sept. 19, 2016): Texas's Conservatism on Reproductive Rights May Make Fighting Zika Harder, by Carter Sherman:
As Houston braces for an outbreak of Zika (the city's mosquito season will extend well into October), activists are taking note of the likelihood that Texas's ultra-conservative stance on reproductive rights will make it harder for the state to fight the virus. The Population Institute, an international non-profit that aims to expand access to family planning resources, has reported that "Texas's especially dire track record on the issue makes the state 'particularly vulnerable." The state received an F-, the lowest possible grade, in the Institute's 2015 Report on Reproductive Health and Rights.
Despite the recent victory in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the fact that many abortion clinics in Texas remain closed means that "some women who contract Zika may have no choice but to carry a pregnancy to term." And with the number of people traveling to Texas from other regions of the world, Zika will remain a year-round concern.
Genevieve Cato of the Lilith Fund expressed her consternation: “I personally have found it almost maddening that we are seeing this potentially devastating possibility of a Zika outbreak at the same time that the state is doubling down on its willful inaction on expanding access to reproductive healthcare.”
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Advocate (Sept. 19, 2016): An LGBTQ Organization Puts Its Weight Behind Ending an Insidious, Antiwoman Law, by Candace Bond-Theriault:
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, the law that withholds coverage for abortion from women enrolled in Medicaid (with exceptions for rape, incest and physical endangerment). The law makes true reproductive choice available only to those with the financial means to pay for their care. This year, United for Abortion Coverage Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 1) will include the National LGBTQ Task Force, which has announced its commitment to fighting anti-choice measures like the Hyde Amendment through its All* Above All initiative.
The inspiration for All* Above All is the "intentional cross-movement collaboration" that can flourish when groups that may appear to have disparate agendas recognize that the people working against them are the same whether they discriminate against LGBTQ people or actively work to deny access to reproductive health care. In addition, women who have abortions face stigma in the same way LGBTQ people do. "The reality remains that LGBTQ people’s access to health care is limited by many intertwined factors, including poverty and racism."
All* Above All is lobbying Congress to pass the Each Woman Act to end bans on abortion coverage.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Bustle (Sept. 14, 2016): This Feminist Rabbi Is Dismantling the Abortion vs. Religion Debate, by Cate Carrejo:
Jewish values emphasize equality and dignity for all people above all. For Rabbi Lori Koffman this means taking care of everyone's health, economic security and well being. Reproductive justice is a major part of this value system.
Koffman is the chair of the National Council of Jewish Women's Reproductive Justice Initiative, which is aligned with a national coalition of access-to-abortion groups. While many see a contradiction between reproductive justice and religious values, Koffman sees them as inextricably intertwined.
"The decision whether and when to have a family is one of the holiest decisions anyone will ever make," Koffman says. "It really should be up to the woman and her partner if she has one or their partner if they have one and their own religious faith, any religious advisors if they have them, and really nobody else."
Koffman feels strongly that no one's religious values should be allowed to shut down someone else's opposing religious values. The basis of her commitment to reproductive justice, then, lies in the freedom to choose: "I can exercise my religious belief, because I can then choose to have an abortion or not. Someone who sees the world differently from a religious standpoint, then they can make the choice not to have an abortion because their religious values don't support abortion."
Koffman will continue speaking out for a reproductive justice that includes a multiplicity of reproductive health choices.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
IrishCentral (Sept. 19, 2016): Former Irish President McAleese Calls on Pope to End Contraception Ban, by James O'Shea:
A "Scholars Statement" that includes the signature of former president of Ireland Mary McAleese (1997-2011) calls on Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to bring its ban on contraception to an end. The statement cites the "[t]he damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself" as a compelling reason to end the ban but more importantly notes that the ban has no basis in divine law.
McAleese's participation in the statement stems in part from her upbringing. She has eight siblings and at least 60 cousins, all 69 produced by her mother and her mother's siblings. Growing up, McAleese and her siblings were dissuaded by her parents from having such a large family. Her parents, she concludes, and all Catholics who have blindly followed the 1969 encyclical to be fruitful and multiply, have been "infantilized and robbed" by the church.
Today, the vast majority of Catholics worldwide ignore the contraception ban.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Reacting to how restrictive abortion laws block low-income women's access to reproductive health care and force them across state borders, Kaiya Lyons's article in the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Journal on Gender, Race, and Justice develops the theory that Congress's power to regulate commerce vests it with the authority to invalidate such laws. The abstract follows.
The Supreme Court has consistently held that the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and without undue burden should be preserved. However, the ability of a woman to exercise that right today is as intimately connected to her economic privilege and geographic location as it was in the days preceding the Court's landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. As a result of the great deference assigned to state legislatures by Roe and its progeny, increasingly restrictive abortion laws have been enacted across the country that obstruct low income women's access to reproductive health care.
This article seeks to outline how the "seismic shift" in reproductive rights law since the 2010 midterm election forced women to travel into other states to receive abortions, and thus created the very interstate market that would allow Congress to invalidate such laws under the Commerce Clause. While unlikely in the current political climate, such a legislative effort could effectively circumvent the ability of the Supreme Court to further narrow its abortion jurisprudence. This article argues that federal action is necessary to protect the rights of low income and economically vulnerable women for whom abortion is a vital piece of comprehensive reproductive health care.
Friday, September 23, 2016
New York Times (Sept. 19, 2016): Want a Zika Test? It's Not Easy, by Roni Caryn Rabin:
Getting a Zika test is harder than you thought, even for people who have recently traveled to areas where Zika is a big problem and who are planning to have children. People are discovering that you cannot simply show up at a public health department and be tested on demand.
The difficulty stems from a Centers for Disease Control directive establishing strict guidelines for Zika testing. The guidelines give priority to pregnant women with possible exposure to Zika and to people with Zika-like symptoms. This leaves out people who have possibly been exposed to Zika and are trying to conceive. The guidance for this population is that they engage in protected sexual intercourse for at least eight weeks after their fear exposure. The World Health Organization recommends six months of protected sexual intercourse before trying to conceive. These recommendations are meant to prevent an onslaught of requests for Zika testing that would swamp local public health authorities. They also help define when insurers will cover Zika testing.
Testing for Zika is a complex process that may require three tests for a conclusive result. There is no test for detecting the infection in semen, however.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Associated Press (Sept. 16, 2016): Oklahoma's First New Abortion Clinic in 40 Years Opens Doors, by Sean Murphy:
In a state where Republicans have passed some of the most draconian restrictions on abortion, six physicians are now providing abortion care and other services at a new clinic opened on Oklahoma City's south side. Oklahoma City had been the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion provider. The new clinic will perform somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 abortions in its first year, a number that is expected to climb to 3,000 annually.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Since 2013, the Urban Resource Institute’s program URIPALS (People and Animals Living Safely) has helped families with pets escape domestic violence and enter shelter together. Now the Institute has published a white paper exploring the connection between domestic violence and pet abuse. Excerpts from the report follow:
The connection between domestic violence and pet abuse is very real, and in many cases, pet ownership becomes a barrier to safety because of the survivor’s unwillingness to leave their pet behind. The choice in many cases is forced because there are few programs that allow survivors of domestic violence to bring their pets with them when entering a shelter. This reality points to a great need both in New York City and nationally for more services for domestic violence survivors who are pet owners. It is vital for domestic violence service providers, animal advocates, funders and government partners to work together to support the growth of programs like URIPALS in order to ensure that people are able to leave an abusive environment with their entire family—pets included.
Leveraging findings from URIPALS, the white paper reveals:
- Insights from pet owners and survivors of domestic violence
- Recommendations for building a co-sheltering model, where people and pets are able to live together in shelter
- Current barriers to safety for pet owners seeking shelter
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
City Limits (Sept. 13, 2016): Reproductive Rights and Today's Primary Ballot, by Joan Malin:
Malin writes, "New York is a place where everyone is welcome and where we believe that everyone deserves access to the resources to achieve their dreams." In the area of abortion liberty, New York has been in the vanguard. Abortion was legal here before Roe v. Wade, the state provides Medicaid coverage for abortion services and requires health insurance coverage for birth control. But the current Senate majority is hostile to reproductive rights and has stymied forward progress. It has blocked the Women's Equality Act for three years in a row and has not been a friend to measures that would have eliminated barriers to birth control and would have barred employment discrimination on the basis of an employee's reproductive health decisions.
The good news is that Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Gustavo Rivera have won in their primary contests against challengers who vowed to roll back reproductive rights in New York State. Businessman S.J. Jung does not support a woman's right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. Fernando Cabrera champions "anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers that mislead women about their reproductive health care options." Both Jung and Cabrera have gone out of their way to express their disapproval of equal rights for same-sex couples and gay individuals.
New York has a rich history of championing reproductive rights, even if no progress has been made in recent years. With Democratic candidates for Senate like Stavisky and Rivera, come November voters will have a golden opportunity to show their support for reproductive liberty.