January 15: Supreme Court heard arguments on “buffer zones” around clinics
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether state and local governments can create safety buffer zones around reproductive health clinics to protect patients, doctors and healthcare workers from harassment, intimidation and violence.
Buffer zones currently protect more than 35 percent of clinics in the nation. Three states and dozens of municipalities protect their clinics with buffer zones. According to Feminist Majority Foundation’s Eleanor Smeal, if the Massachusetts buffer zone law is struck down, it will surely embolden violent, anti-abortion extremists.
Many clinics are still not protected by buffer zones and women who try to attempt to enter these clinics regularly experience harassment, threats and intimidation by self appointed “sidewalk couselors” who try to shame them about their decision to have an abortion.
The first lawsuit in the nation on buffer zones was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994. That case, Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, established the constitutionality of an injunction creating a clinic safety buffer zone for a Florida clinic.
Federal anti-abortion legislation makes its way through committee
On Jan. 9, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee held a hearing on HR-7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”The subcommttee, headed by Rep. Trent Franks, (R-AZ)s comprised of 12 male lawmakers is considering sweeping restrictions in abortion laws that would make the proceedure less affordable for women accross the country. HR-7 is not just about Federal spending but would actually reach into people’s private insurance plans by forcing small businesses to pay additional taxes if they offer employees health plans that include abortion. It would also eliminate medical expense deductions for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. NARAL Pro-Choice America points out that it would enable the IRS to make the final decision about what “counts” as rape, incest or life endangerment, in effect conducting an audit on rape victims to make sure they are not committing fraud. Without insurance coverage an abortion can cost between $300 and $10,000, endangering access to anyone who is low-income.
Latest update on this story: The Bill has been “marked up”, ie, is ready to go to the floor..
Guttmacher Report: More Attacks on Reproductive Rights in Past Three Years Than in Entirety of Previous Decade
A study published last week by the Guttmacher Institute reveals that the last three years have seen more legislative attacks on reproductive rights than the entire previous decade.
Since 2011, 205 new restrictions on abortion have cleared state legislatures, while only 189 were enacted from 2001-2010. The most were passed in 2011, with 83, and 2013 came in second with 70. Twenty-seven states are now considered to be hostile to abortion rights, up from just 13 in 2000. These hostile states that limit access and rights to abortion are home to 56 percent of US women.
Almost half of the abortion restrictions enacted since 2011 fall into one of four categories: targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP), limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, 20 week abortion bans, and restrictions for medication abortion. States have also adopted restrictions involving parental notification, waiting periods, counseling and ultrasounds, among other issues. Pro-choice groups have been able to tie some of these measures up in court by filing lawsuits, but the outcomes for many are uncertain. The Supreme Court will soon take up an Oklahoma law that could outlaw all drug-induced abortions. Fortunately, some states, like California, have passed laws expanding abortion access and comprehensive sex education.
California Bill Would Change Reporting Requirements for Rapes on College Campuses
California Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced a state bill this week that would change the rules for reporting rapes on college campuses in an effort to hold universities more accountable. AB 1433 would amend California’s Education Code to require hate crimes and violent crimes, including rape, that are received by a university’s campus law enforcement agency to be immediately reported to the police (the exception being if there is an objection from the victim of a rape)..
Gatto became interested in the subject after Occidental College in CA, failed to report dozens of sexual assault allegations in 2010 and 2011, which he suspects was to improve their image.
And for an overview of this subject, please access Joy of Resistance’ Dec. 4 Pacifica National Program: “Sprouts”, which was entitled Rape & Rape Culture on Campus and the Feminist fight-back”, and which you can find by going to pacificanetwork.org and clicking on the Sprouts box.
Extremist Opposition Groups in Syria imposing human rights violations on women in areas they control
Human Rights Watch is reporting that certain extremist armed opposition groups are imposing strict and discriminatory rules on women and girls in areas under their control–that have no basis in Syrian law.The harsh rules violate women’s and girls’ human rights and limit their ability to carry out essential daily activities.
Refugees interviewed said that the groups Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) have enforced their interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, by requiring women and girls to wear headscarves (hijabs) and full-length robes (abayas), in some areas the niqab, which covers a woman’s face except for her eyes–and that those who do not comply have been threatened with punishment. In some areas, the groups are imposing discriminatory measures prohibiting women and girls, particularly those who do not abide by the dress code, from moving freely in public, working, and attending school–in other areas women are being banned altogether from working outside or even leaving their homes without a male relative. One of the interviewees reported “”We could not go to the market. Freedom was gone for us [women]. It was like we were in jail.”
“Extremist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are undermining the freedoms that Syria’s women and girls enjoyed, which were a longtime strength of Syrian society,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.
Syria does not have a state-mandated religion and its constitution protects freedom of religion.
Expanded Childcare services on the horizon in New York City
And in NYC, with the election of a new Mayor (Bill De Blasio) who has promised to make the expansion of daycare/Pre-K/and After School Programs a top priority of his administration, women may be a step closer to meeting the overwhelming need for these services in NYC. Childcare was an early demand of the Women’s Liberation Movement, as without it, women cannot work or pursue other activities and at the same time raise children. We’ll be airing an interview with Neal Tepel, former organizer with DC 1707, who has been active on this issue for awhile. We’ll also hear, etc.