Monday, April 8, 2019
YES! Magazine (Apr. 2, 2019): For Black Women, Reproductive Justice Is About More Than High-Risk Pregnancies, by A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez:
Recently, journalists, medical professionals, and advocates have been emphasizing the discrepancy in medical care between White women and women of color. The maternal mortality rate is already abysmally low in the United States; this rate is even worse for Black women. These reports have largely focused on the medical risks of pregnancy and childbirth for women of color, but there is another, lesser-reported area of reproduction that also disproportionately burdens women of color: infertility.
"While infertility affects roughly 12 percent of the population, Black women are twice as likely to experience challenges achieving or sustaining a pregnancy—and less likely to seek assistance." Infertility can also severely harm the mental health of someone wishing to get pregnant.
Options to prevail against infertility often include the use of assisted reproductive technologies, including surrogacy.
Surrogacy has been met with controversy from many angles over the years. Those against the practice express concerns of stigma, exacerbated classism, commodification of women's bodies, and exploitation. "Some countries, including Mexico, have banned commercial surrogacy under the guise of protecting low-income women and children from exploitation."
Advocates, however, argue that surrogacy is a viable option for many people to pursue their dreams of parenthood they otherwise have trouble achieving.
Black women in particular are less likely to pursue surrogacy, among other reproductive technology, and are less likely to be surrogates as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2016, gestational carriers resulted in 13,380 deliveries and the birth of 18,400 infants. Although the current figures are unknown, surrogacy is helping to counter infertility struggles.
Still, the number of Black surrogates and Black intended parents remain low.
This could possibly be because of the stigma from slavery that historically frames enslaved Black women as surrogates for their White female owners. But is most likely because of the high costs normally associated with surrogacy (about $100,000, which includes medical and health care expenses for the carrier and agency or finder fees)—although some may turn to family or friends where there is no compensation—called altruistic surrogacy.
Surrogacy can occur in two ways: the traditional way in which the surrogate is impregnated by either the intended father's sperm or that of a donor, while using her own eggs; or, gestational surrogacy in which the surrogate is impregnated using the eggs of either the intended mother or an egg donor. In the former, the surrogate is genetically related to the child and the in the latter, she is not. Gestational surrogacy requires a few additional interventions, like IVF, and is generally more expensive.
Many intending parents prefer gestational surrogacy, though, in order to lessen the likelihood that the surrogate will develop an emotional connection and assert a biological claim of custody over the resulting child. "This is an intended parent’s worst fear."
"Juli Fraga, a psychologist who specializes in women’s health, including pregnancy-related depression...suggests that it is especially important for all members of the surrogacy contract to be open to seeking mental health services."
In re Baby M is one of more famous cases illustrating potential legal battles that may arise over surrogacy. In this case, intended parents William and Elizabeth Stern fought for custody after their surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead, invalidated their contract and attempted to claim custody over "Baby M." The court ultimately held that the surrogacy contract was entirely unenforceable, likening it to the "sale of a child." The court also held that William Stern, the child's biological father, retain custody according to the best interests of the child, but that Whitehead, the surrogate and also the child's biological mother, also retain visitation rights with the child.
Similar cases have continued to arise between surrogates and intended parents. Baby M influenced a shift in the legal protections and parameters for surrogacy, though. "It’s now suggested that intended parents prioritize entering contracts in states that support protective surrogacy legislation. But only 17 states and the District of Columbia have laws governing the conditions of surrogacy."
It is important to ensure that Black women are receiving the same medical care and equitable access to reproductive services, including reproductive technology and protections in cases of surrogacy (either as the intending parent or the surrogate), as White women. Equally as important is removing the stigma around infertility and opening conversations to all women about their reproductive options.
In once recent case, GloZell Green, a Black woman and YouTube star, was told by a fertility specialist that she'd waited too long to have children at age 39. Green began searching for the best way to enter motherhood and ultimately had a baby girl through gestational surrogacy. Green shared her surrogacy journey with her millions of subscribers, hoping to break the stigma and open conversations. She highlights that "above all else, she doesn’t want Black women to be embarrassed about infertility."
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Moms throughout country under investigation while Utah's 'free-range parenting' law said to be first in the nation
The Washington Post (Mar.28, 2018): Utah's 'free-range parenting' law said to be first in the nation, by Meagan Flynn:
Lenore Skenazy reinvigorated debates about best parenting practices when she decided to let her 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone (with a map, MetroCard, and cash) to instill in him independence in 2008. After the court of public opinion contested whether she was a terrible or great parent, Skenazy wrote a book on her philosophies and coined the term "free-range parenting."
The idea was to let her child engage in "various activities without stifling supervision." Unforunately, many parents who subscribe consciously or not to Skenazy's "free-range" style have encountered the scary side-effects of leaving their children without supervision: interference from child services or the police.
A mother in Chicago allowed her 8-year-old to walk their dog around the block. After the girl arrived safely home, the police stopped at their home upon receiving an anonymous tip about a child walking alone. The investigations that ensue in these scenarios are looking for child neglect. And even if the parents under investigation are cleared by officials (whether child services or the police), they have to endure "invasive and stressful" investigations that can not only be humiliating but are often considered a waste of time and resources. "Experts say that the problem stems from vague laws that often ensnare well-meaning parents who are trying to give their children freedom or responsibility."
A sociology professor at the Univesity of Illinois at Chicago, Barbara Risman, also notes that the expectation that mothers keep "a constant eye on their children" doesn't often extend to fathers:
This shaming mechanism underlies the cultural logic that women should spend all their time making sure their children are never alone. The opposite is true of dads. No one presumes fathers have a moral responsibility to take care of (their children). When they do, they get praise and positive reinforcement.
Child abuse and neglect laws can be vague, defining neglect, for example, as leaving a child under 14 "without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor." Those charged with investigating a report of neglect generally find it important to thoroughly explore every allegation.
Society is pushing back, though, against what it considers unreasonable surveillance of reasonable parenting. The free-range parenting concept has now translated into law in Utah. State Senator Lincoln Fillmore (R) sponsored the measure, which exempts a range of activities children of a "sufficient age" can do without supervision from the definition of child neglect. These activities include walking, running, or biking to and from school or recreational facilities as well as playing outside or staying inside at home unattended. While the bill was in committee earlier this year, Fillmore told Fox 13:
As a society, we’ve kind of erred, as our pendulum has swung for children’s safety, a little bit too much to the side of helicopter parenting, right? We want kids to be able to learn how to navigate the world so when they’re adults they’re fully prepared to handle things on their own.
Skenazy, too, has remained involved in the conversation. Arkansas attempted to pass a similar bill last year. It failed in committee from fears of child abduction. Skenazy wrote: “Why give kids freedom — why give parents freedom — when you can take it away so easily and say you’re championing safety in the process?”
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
The Washington Post (Jul. 17, 2018): Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says, by Ariana Eunjung Cha:
New court cases cases are grappling with the decision of what to do with frozen embryos created during a marriage that later dissolves. In many cases that Cha reports on, the couples chose to create and freeze several embryos in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and treatment schedule that threatened later fertility.
When these same couples faced divorce, there were bitter divides over what should be done with the embryos: one party wanted to maintain "ownership" of the embryos for a future chance at children while the other wanted the embryos destroyed, fearing unwanted future financial or relationship obligations.
With the number of frozen embryos in the United States soaring into the millions, disputes over who owns them are also on the rise. Judges have often — but not always — ruled in favor of the person who does not want the embryos used, sometimes ordering them destroyed, following the theory that no one should be forced to become a parent.
In Arizona, though, a "first-in-the-nation law" went into effect on July 1 that states "custody of disputed embryos must be given to the party who intends to help them 'develop to birth.'"
The legislation represents for some lawmakers the idea that frozen embryos have their own right to life, and many imagine that the implications could eventually include a delineation of when life begins and a claim to a separate set of embryonic rights of their own as human beings (rather than the discussion being centered on who "owns" the embryos).
Some groups, like the anti-abortion Thomas More Society, advocate for that embryos to be considered "children" in the legal sense, asking judges to make decisions on disputes based on the best interest of the "child."
Debates to extend personhood to unborn embryos and fetuses abound in anti-abortion work. Abortion rights advocates are concerned that these discussions could further disintegrate the right to abortion in the United States. "If a days-old embryo in a freezer has a right to life, why not a days-old embryo in utero?"
While judges have historically ordered disputed embryos destroyed based on the wishes of the party who does not want a child, an Arizona judge chose to balance one party's "probable inability to have a child without the embryos" against the other party's "desire to not be a father" a different way.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronee Korbin Steiner held that Ruby Torres, who wanted the embryos in order to have biological children one day, had no right to them. The judge did not order them destroyed, though, and instead ordered that they go up for donation.
Torres appealed the decision and expects a new ruling any day.
The new Arizona law that states embryos shall be given to the party who intends to develop them to birth was written in response to this case to "help" people in Torres' situation. It also attempts to recognize the rights of those who do not want the embryos used by providing that those parties would not be liable for child support in the future.
Both the judicial decisions and the legislation continue to prove extremely controversial:
The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group that has successfully pushed antiabortion legislation in the state, supported the measure, saying the bill would “lead to more consistent rulings.”
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which represents doctors, nurses and other professionals who work on fertility issues, opposed the measure, arguing that it would have a profound impact on reproductive medicine.
Medical professionals foresee profound complications to stem-cell research in particular, which relies on embryos donated to science. Such research is believed essential in developing treatments for many diseases and conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The treatment and storage of embryos as a result of the new legislation will likely make embryonic stem cells much more scarce.
In a friend-of-the-court brief in Torres' pending appellate case, the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys urged judges in the Arizona Court of Appeals to balance the interest of each former spouse. They argue that the parties claims are not equal and that "the constitutional protection against compulsory parenthood is [generally] greater than any procreative interest in pre-embryos."
Time will tell both if the appellate judges affirm Judge Steiner's controversial ruling (likely leading to further appeals) while we also wait for the inevitable challenges to Arizona's new embryo law.
July 18, 2018 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Medical News, Parenthood, Politics, Public Opinion, Scholarship and Research, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 18, 2018
New York Times (Jun. 17, 2018): Leading Republicans Join Democrats in Pushing Trump to Halt Family Separations, by Peter Baker:
On Sunday, leading figures of both parties demanded that President Trump halt his administration’s practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the border, as the issue further polarized the already divisive immigration debate in Washington.
Republican lawmakers, the former first lady Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper and a onetime adviser to Mr. Trump joined Democrats in condemning family separations that have removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents in just six weeks. The administration argued that it was just enforcing the law, a false assertion that Mr. Trump has made repeatedly.
Even Melania Trump weighed in, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together.” Mrs. Trump “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with a heart,” the first lady’s office said in a statement.
The issue took on special resonance on Father’s Day as Democratic lawmakers visited detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey to protest the separations and the House prepared to take up immigration legislation this week. Pictures of children warehoused without their parents in facilities, including a converted Walmart store, have inflamed passions and put the administration on defense.
By laying responsibility for the situation on “both sides,” Mrs. Trump effectively echoed her husband’s assertion that it was the result of a law written by Democrats. In fact, the administration announced a “zero tolerance” approach this spring, leading to the separations.
Laura Bush, the last Republican first lady, spoke out forcefully against the practice on Sunday in a rare foray into domestic politics, comparing it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “I live in a border state,” she wrote in a guest column in The Washington Post. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, deplored separations on Sunday, except in cases where there is evidence of abuse or another good reason. “What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that, if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “That is traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country.”
Contrary to the president’s public statements, no law requires families to be separated at the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” announcement this spring that the government will prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals set up a situation in which children are removed when their parents are taken into federal custody.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, rejected responsibility for the separations in a series of tweets on Sunday. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” she wrote. “Period.”
But there have been reports of people arriving at the ports of entry asking for asylum and being taken into custody, and some of the designated ports are not accepting asylum claims. In those cases, migrants sometimes cross wherever they can and, because it is not an official border station, are detained even though they are making a claim of asylum. Many would-be asylum applicants do not know where official ports of entry are.
Democrats are trying to focus attention on the separation policy as an example of what they call Mr. Trump’s extremist approach to immigration. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has collected 43 Democratic sponsors for legislation to limit family separations.
Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland led a group of Democratic lawmakers to a detention facility in Brownsville, Tex., on Sunday but were not allowed to talk with children held there. Seven House Democrats visited a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J. and said they were blocked for nearly two hours before being allowed to see parents separated from their children.
Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as White House communications director last year, said separating children from their families is not “the Christian way” or “the American way,” and made clear he thinks Mr. Trump can end it on his own. “The President can reverse it and I hope he does,” he wrote on Twitter.
The conservative editorial page of The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, agreed on Sunday. “It’s not just that this looks terrible in the eyes of the world,” it wrote. “It is terrible.”
Mr. Trump has said in recent days that Democrats should agree to his panoply of immigration measures, including full financing for a border wall and revamping the system of legal entry to the country, in effect making clear that any legislation addressing family separation must also include his priorities.
A top adviser to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that the president was not using the family separation as leverage to force Democrats to come to the table on other policy disputes, rebutting an unnamed White House official quoted by The Washington Post.
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.
Monday, September 5, 2016
Fast Company (August 15, 2016): Patagonia's CEO Explains How To Make On-Site Child Care Pay For Itself, by Rose Marcario:
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario explains that many businesspeople ask how companies can afford the plethora of family centered benefits similar to those offered to Patagonia employees: "company-paid health care and sick time for all employees; paid maternity and paternity leave; access to on-site child care for employees at our headquarters in Ventura, California, and at our Reno, Nevada, distribution center; and financial support to those who need it, among other benefits." Marcario writes that while paid leave should be favored because it is the ethically responsible thing to do, it is also an effective business model, with an-in depth look at the tax benefits, employee retention, and employee engagement fostered by Patagonia's policies. This is something Patagonia has done since its inception, and current leadership maintains a staunch commitment to these values:
For 33 years, Patagonia has provided on-site child care—a mandate from our founders, who believed it was a moral imperative. Even in times of economic struggle the program was never cut, because they believed in providing a supportive work environment for working families. Taking care of our tribe is part of our culture and our commitment to helping our own people live the way they want. It’s true, there are financial costs to offering onsite child care, and they can be expensive if you offer high-quality programs or subsidize your employees’ tuition when onsite care is not available.
But the benefits—financial and otherwise—pay for themselves every year. As a CEO, it’s not even a question in my mind. Business leaders (and their chief financial officers) should take note.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
New York Magazine (August 12, 2016): New York City Buildings Are Now Required to Have Lactation Rooms, by Laura June
A bill requiring some New York City-run buildings to have rooms allocated specifically for lactation as of July 2017 was passed unanimously by the City Council and signed by Mayor de Blasio. There will be no restroom facilities in the rooms, but they will be equipped with electrical outlets for pumps. New York job center buildings, medical centers, and borough offices owned by the City are just some of the buildings protected by the new law.
Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, "This bill is about fairness, access, and health — no new mother should be unable to breast-feed because she can’t find a private space." He added that the "bill takes our city one step toward being a place where all women feel comfortable breast-feeding whenever they need to, wherever they need to.”
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The Atlantic (August 3, 2016): It's Time to Make 'Women's Work' Everyone's Work, by The Atlantic
In such a simple yet powerful video interview, Anne Marie-Slaughter contends that the women's movement is missing an "emphasis on caregiving policies." Slaughter asks why we have failed to recognize that traditional women's work is just as important as traditional men's work. She argues that cultivating the idea that breadwinning and caregiving are equally as important in a successful household is key in achieving true equality.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Los Angeles Times (June 16, 2106): Good riddance to a repugnant California cap on family aid, by Times Editorial Board:
As part of a budget deal struck by California legislators, California will end the "maximum family grant" rule, a cap on family aid designed to discourage poor women from having babies while on welfare. Although typically the amount of aid welfare recipients receive is based upon the number of children in a family, the maximum family grant rule prohibited any increase to aid based upon a birth that occurred to a family that was already receiving benefits.
It was a repugnant policy and, furthermore, it didn’t seem to work. Studies have found little evidence of a link between caps in benefits and reproduction. What we do know, however, is that the maximum family grant rule punished poor kids for the choices of their parents.
Twenty-two states adopted family caps in the 1990s. California is the seventh state to repeal the cap. According to ThinkProgress, 12 states give families no extra money for additional children while enrolled in welfare. Two other states give a flat amount of money no matter the number of children in the family, and tow states reduced benefits for additional children. Check out ThinkProgress for a map and listing of states that still have maximum family caps.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
SCOTUS Blog (Mar. 7, 2016): Court Restores Woman’s Right to Be a Mother, by Lyle Denniston:
In a victory for LGBTQ advocates, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on Monday, restoring a mother’s legal parenting rights to the children she had adopted with her same-sex partner, the children’s birthmother. The case, V.L. v. E.L., originated in Alabama, where plaintiff E.L. appealed a visitation order granted to V.L. to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. The Alabama Supreme Court nullified the visitation order, refusing to recognize the adoption decree granted in Georgia.
The Court’s unsigned (“per curiam”) decision in the Alabama adoption case was based entirely on the provision in the Constitution’s Article IV declaring that “full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state,” and on the Court’s prior interpretations of that clause. If a state court has jurisdiction under its own laws to issue a decision, Monday’s opinion said, then that decision is entitled to respect in the courts of every other state.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Daily Illini (Feb. 29, 2016): Illinois Representatives Drop Bill after National Outcry
Two Republican lawmakers in Illinois have withdrawn a proposed law that would have denied public assistance and birth certificates to the children of unwed mothers who do not name the fathers of their children. The penalty would not apply to children whose biological fathers were identified conclusively through DNA evidence or who had a family member agree to support the child. The bill included an exception for artificial insemination as long as the mother waived her right to public assistance for the child. The bill did not, however, include an exception for rape and incest.
The lawmakers withdrew the bill after a national outcry was triggered by editorials criticizing the bill and published on Salon, Chicagoist and Jezebel.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
CNN (Feb. 26, 2016) Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their baby?, by Carina Storrs:
Prospective parents may have preferences on whether they have a boy or girl. In vitro fertilization (IVF) opens up new possibilities for parents to choose the sex of their baby as well as controversies about whether sex selection is appropriate. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine initially took the position that use of IVF for sex selection should "not be encouraged" but recently eased its stance.
Determination of the sex of an embryo prior to implantation requires genetic screening, which provides prospective parents with genetic information about the embryo, including its sex. Some clinicians argue that manipulating the embryo to conduct the screening creates an unnecessary risk , but there is no current evidence that it is unsafe. There is also concern that the use of IVF for sex selection could divert resources away from medically necessary IVF.
Perhaps the greatest concern about sex selection is that it could cause or reinforce gender bias. In the United States, there is no evidence that parental choice would lead to a gender imbalance, and it appears more likely that sex selection is used as a form of "family balancing." For instance where parents of boys may decide they would like their next child to be a girl. However, even this "gender neutral" form of sex selection may reinforce bias and attitudes about the link between gender differences and biological sex. Canada and the United Kingdom have banned the use of IVF for sex selection except if it is used to avoid the risk of sex-linked genetic diseases.
Monday, February 8, 2016
New York Times (Feb. 4, 2016): Pentagon to Offer Plan to Store Eggs and Sperm to Retain Young Troops, by Michael S. Schmidt:
In an effort to retain troops on active duty by making the military more family friendly, the Pentagon wants to reassure those who fear injury to their reproductive organs or who want to pursue a military career before having children. Given the expense (an estimate is that the program will cost the Pentagon $150 million per year), almost no employers offer egg and sperm freezing to their employees. Legal and ethical questions related to this service have yet to be resolved.
The Pentagon has recently improved the lives of service members in various ways related to having children, including longer maternity leaves, improved child care and the creation of lactation rooms at military facilities. The initiatives are meant to address the greater emphasis that millenials place on work-life balance than did previous generations.
Friday, December 4, 2015
The Poverty of Privacy Rights, by Khiara M. Bridges, Professor of Law, Boston University
For the past year, I have been writing a book, titled The Poverty of Privacy Rights. The punch line of the book is poor mothers do not have privacy rights.
Most people who have examined poor mothers’ experiences with the state agree that they do not enjoy any privacy in any real sense of the word. The state is all around them. It is in their homes, it is in their decision making processes around whether or not to bear a child, it is monitoring them as they parent their children, it is collecting the most intimate information from them, etc. It is everywhere. In light of the fact that the state is all around poor mothers – and in light of the fact that poor mothers can not keep the state out of their lives in the way that wealthier mothers can – most scholars have argued that poor mothers have privacy rights, but their rights are weak, meaningless, or constantly violated. The book that I am writing seeks to shift the discourse. It disputes that poor mothers have privacy rights that are weak or meaningless or constantly violated. Instead, it argues that poor mothers do not have privacy rights at all.
The book proposes that poor mothers have been “informally disenfranchised” of their privacy rights. The concept of informal disenfranchisement refers to the process by which a group that has been formally bestowed with a right is stripped of that very right by techniques that the Court holds to be consistent with the Constitution. The best precedent for informal disenfranchisement is black people’s experience with voting rights. While the Fifteenth Amendment formally enfranchised black men, white supremacists in the South employed methods—poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements, and white primaries—that made it impossible for black men to actually vote in the South for a century after their formal enfranchisement. Moreover, the Court held that each of these techniques of racial exclusion from the polls was constitutional. This is informal disenfranchisement: the status of formally bearing a right, yet being unable to exercise that right because laws that the Court have found to be constitutional make it impossible to do so. As such, my book proposes that poor mothers have been informally disenfranchised of privacy rights.
Now, those who are committed to the belief that everyone enjoys the same rights in the U.S.—even poor mothers—might argue that the government’s interest in protecting poor mothers’ children and children-to-be from abuse and neglect overrides their rights. So, they suggest that the reason why it appears that the government can act as it would act if poor mothers’ privacy rights did not exist at all is because the government interest in protecting children invariably justifies overriding these mothers’ privacy rights.
But, we have to ask: why does the state presume that poor mothers are at risk of abusing or neglecting their children? Now, one might respond: a mother’s poverty yields the possibility that she will be unable to meet the material needs of her child. One might respond: all that the state is doing is ensuring that the indigent woman is able to meet the material needs of her child. But, the Court has authorized states to ask questions that go beyond an inquiry into whether a woman will be able to provide food, clothing, and shelter for her child. The Court has authorized states to enter poor women’s homes just to make sure that they are not lying about their eligibility for public assistance benefits. The Court has authorized states to coerce women to avoid motherhood via family caps on public benefits. The Court has authorized states to coerce women into motherhood via prohibitions on the spending of Medicaid funds on abortion. The state’s surveillance goes beyond ensuring that poor mothers are able to meet the basic needs of their child. Instead, it amounts to a blanket surveillance of poor mothers.
It is worth noting, early and often, that wealthier women engage in the same behaviors in which poor women engage. Wealthier women cohabit with men to whom they are not married. Wealthier women smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol while pregnant. They, too, have histories of sexual and domestic violence. They, too, have unplanned pregnancies. They, too, find themselves pregnant after being in relatively short relationships with the fathers of their babies. Yet, no state has erected an extravagant bureaucratic tool with which it can take an accounting of every non-poor pregnant woman. And the point of my new book is to argue that, if a state did erect this extravagant bureaucratic tool with which it can take an accounting of non-poor pregnant women, it would be struck down as a violation of their privacy rights.
Now, the fact that no state has attempted to erect this bureaucratic tool is telling. It suggests that the state is not really interested in protecting children from abuse and neglect. Instead, it is only interested in protecting some children from abuse and neglect. That is, the state assumes that only some children need to be protected from their mothers. And those children are the ones that are born to poor women. Now, why does the state make this assumption about poor women? It cannot be because poor women engage in problematic behaviors and have problematic histories; wealthier women do, too. It has to be because of something else. My new book argues that that “something else” is poor women’s poverty and the fact that we largely believe that most poverty in this country is a consequence of individual, bad character. We have informally disenfranchised poor mothers of privacy rights because we, as a society, do not trust individuals with bad characters – poor women, presumptively – to competently parent their children.
Monday, September 8, 2014
The Huffington Post: Mom Ann Whalen Sentenced To Prison For Giving Daughter Abortion Pills, by David DeKok:
A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for obtaining so-called abortion pills online and providing them to her teenage daughter to end her pregnancy.
Jennifer Ann Whalen, 39, of Washingtonville, a single mother who works as a nursing home aide, pleaded guilty in August to obtaining the miscarriage-inducing pills from an online site in Europe for her daughter, 16, who did not want to have the child. . . .
Whalen told authorities there was no local clinic available to perform an abortion and her daughter did not have health insurance to cover a hospital abortion, the Press Enterprise newspaper of Bloomsburg reported. . . .
Philadelphia Magazine (opinion column): Pennsylvania Woman Going to Jail Over Abortion Pills, by Sandy Hingston:
What the GOP could learn from Colorado’s free birth control program — if they’d just open their eyes and take their fingers out of their ears.
In cheery news from the western part of our great state, a 36-year-old mom has been sentenced to a year to 18 months in prison for providing her 16-year-old daughter with abortion pills she obtained illegally from Europe in an attempt to end the daughter’s unwanted pregnancy. The mom, who’s single, works as a nursing aide, and told the court there was no local abortion clinic available to her daughter (thanks, Governor Corbett), who had no health insurance (thanks again, Governor Corbett) to pay for an in-hospital abortion. The daughter ended up in the hospital anyway after the abortion pills induced severe cramping and bleeding.
What a happy little tale.
If batshit Republicans are serious about lowering the number of abortions, you know what they should do? They should give up the slow, costly process of legislating abortion clinics out of existence and simply make birth control free for the asking for all the women in America. . . .
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Department of Educ. Office for Civil Rights Urges Greater Support for Pregnant and Parenting Students
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights: Dear Colleague Letter:
We as a nation need to do more to help the hundreds of thousands of young people who become mothers and fathers each year graduate from high school ready for college and successful careers. According to studies cited in the attached pamphlet, Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 26 percent of young men and young women combined who had dropped out of public high schools — and one-third of young women — said that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision to leave school. And, only 51 percent of young women who had a child before age 20 earned their high school diploma by age 22. The educational prospects are worse at the higher-education level. Only 2 percent of young women who had a child before age 18 earned a college degree by age 30. This low education attainment means that young parents are more likely than their peers to be unemployed or underemployed, and the ones who do find jobs will, on average, earn significantly less than their peers.
To help improve the high school and college graduation rates of young parents, we must support pregnant and parenting students so that they can stay in school and complete their education, and thereby build better lives for themselves and their children. . . .
Sunday, June 16, 2013
The New York Times - Well blog: A Different Kind of Fatherhood, by David Tuller:
I came out long before gay men yearned for weddings, much less baby showers. In 1979, when I was 22, New York offered young men like me many freedoms, including the freedom to not have to propagate. Like many other gay men — and like many straight men — I had not been close to my own father. I could not imagine wiping runny noses, attending parent-teacher conferences or playing Candy Land.
In my 30s I moved to San Francisco and, to my surprise, found myself contemplating parenthood. . . .
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The Guardian: The War on Women, by Heather Long:
2012 was a tough year for American females as various aspects of female health and reproduction repeatedly took center stage. Politicians and pundits, mainly Republican, made degrading and factually incorrect remarks about rape and contraception. But Democrats also left their mark with an ill-timed snipe at stay-at-home mom Ann Romney, reinvigorating the "mommy wars".
Here are the key moments in the 2012 War on Women . . . .
March 5, 2013 in 2012 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Contraception, Fetal Rights, In the Media, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Parenthood, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Sexuality, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Feminist Majority Foundation: Family Medical Leave Act Turns 20:
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which grants job-protected sick leave to those who are recovering or taking care of someone recovering from an illness or those who have had a new child. . . .
Friday, February 1, 2013
Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Center for Reproductive Rights:
Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) invite submissions for the eighth annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights.
The 1st place winning submission will have a presumption of publishability and will receive expedited review by New York University School of Law’s Review of Law and Social Change. Winning authors will also receive cash prizes: $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place), or $250 (3rd place).
This year’s theme: “Economic (In)Justice of Reproductive Regulation”
LSRJ & CRR seek student scholarship exploring the economic justice implications of laws and regulations that affect reproductive health and rights in the U.S. Papers may explore a range of issues, such as: tensions between affirmative state obligations and individual rights; consequences of health insurance regulation and the needs of individuals seeking preventative and/or “elective” reproductive care (e.g. should reproductive technologies and contraception be covered, and if so, how?); the impact of state support for specific practices (e.g. breastfeeding, vaccinations, birthing options) on the ability of women and families to make decisions about their care; and the role of the state in health care regulation and funding (e.g. how will Medicaid expansion affect reproductive health access? Who is most benefitted and/or who is left out of the Affordable Care Act?). These ideas are examples of topics that would fit the theme; however, many more issues could be fruitfully explored through the lens of economic justice.
Papers should have a domestic focus, but may draw on international and comparative materials. Authors are asked to apply a reproductive justice lens and/or human rights framework to their analyses of the issues. We encourage writing that amplifies lesser heard voices, applies an intersectional approach to legal thinking, suggests innovative solutions, and/or takes into account the practical realities and the lived experiences of the people affected.
Papers must be at least 20 pages in length (not including footnotes), double-spaced in 12-point font with footnotes in 10-point font, conforming to Bluebook citation format. Only original scholarship by current law students or 2012 graduates will be accepted. Papers being considered for publication elsewhere are ineligible for the first place prize but will be considered for second and third place. Papers already contracted for publication as of March 2013 will not be accepted. Winners will be selected by an outside panel of legal and academic judges.