January 15, 2013 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from RH Reality Check, Feministe and more.
CONSTRAINTS ON PREGNANT WOMEN: "New Study Shows Anti-Choice Policies Leading to Widespead Arrests and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women," Lynn Paltrow/Jeanne Flavin, RH Reality Check: A new study "makes clear that post-Roe anti-choice and 'pro-life' measures are being used to do more than limit access to abortion; they are providing the basis for arresting women, locking them up, and forcing them to submit to medical interventions, including surgery," write study authors Paltrow, of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and Flavin, a Fordham University sociology professor. Nearly all of "the arrests and other actions would not have happened but for the fact that the woman was pregnant at the time of the alleged violation of law," they add. Further, in nearly every case, "the person who initiated the action had no direct legal authority for doing so," they state. Paltrow and Fordham explain that while no state has explicitly exempted pregnant women from constitutional protections or made them legally liable for the outcomes of their pregnancies, states have passed many "personhood" and feticide measures recognizing eggs, embryos and fetuses as legally separate entities from the pregnant woman, and these measures have been used as the basis for punitive actions against pregnant women. They conclude, "[W]e call upon legislative authorities and others to affirm the personhood of pregnant women, ensuring that upon becoming pregnant and through all stages of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, women retain their civil and human rights" (Paltrow/Flavin, RH Reality Check, 1/14).
SEX WORKERS: "A Good Year for Red Umbrellas: Advances in Sex Workers Rights in 2012," Cheryl Overs, RH Reality Check: "For sex worker rights activists 2012 was a great year," the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights' Overs writes in a post highlighting the year's progress, such as the Global Commission on HIV and the Law's recommendation that countries "repeal laws against sex work" and the participation of sex workers in alternative sessions during the 2012 International AIDS Conference. The year also marked the launch of the Red Umbrella Fund, which will give sex workers power to decide how funds are allocated in the movement. Overs adds that although "[o]ppression and violence continues," 2012 "ended on a bright note with an activists meeting in Sydney to discuss decriminalization of sex work." She concludes, "That takes us into 2013 with confidence that the sex workers rights movement will continue to build on its successes and lessons and be 'part of the solution'" (Overs, RH Reality Check, 1/14).
113TH CONGRESS: "New Congress Resolutions for 2013," Caperton, Feminste: The 112th Congress was the "least productive Congress on record," failing to reach a consensus on several bills, including the Violence Against Women Act, Caperton notes. She offers a list of steps lawmakers can take to make the 113th Congress more productive, such as "stop talking about things [they] know nothing about," including rape and "basic human reproduction." She also recommends that lawmakers "go into every debate understanding how much of [their] constituency doesn't look like [them]" (Caperton, Feminste, 1/12).
What others are saying about the 113th Congress:
~ "The 3 Worst Anti-Woman Bills Already Introduced by Congress This Year," Jessica Pieklo, Care2.
EXECUTIVE NOMINATIONS: "Would Hagel Stay The Course for Women in the Military?" Natalie Jennings, Washington Post's "She the People": "[A]mid the important questions about [former Sen. Chuck] Hagel's record and past statements ... is a close examination of how he would advance the gains made in recent years toward equality for women in the military," Jennings writes of the secretary of defense nominee, noting, "As a senator, Hagel several times voted against allowing servicewomen to get abortions in military hospitals." Although "[p]ro-choice groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL ... believe he would fall in line with President Obama's pro-choice stance," Anu Bhagwati of the Service Women's Action Network is calling for Hagel to clarify his stance on women's issues during his confirmation hearing. Bhagwati wants assurance that Hagel would continue recently launched steps to provide some abortion coverage for servicewomen, among other gains (Jennings, "She the People," Washington Post, 1/12).
What others are saying about executive nominations:
~ "Did President Obama Get the Wrong Binders?" Jessica Pieklo, Care2.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Asking For It," Jessica Valenti, The Nation: "Rape is a standard result of a culture mired in misogyny, but for whatever reason -- denial, self-preservation, sexism -- Americans bend over backwards to make excuses for male violence," Valenti writes, adding that this "refusal to place responsibility with the perpetrator means we need to place it somewhere else -- most often, with the victim." The "pervasiveness" of victim-blaming in the U.S. "serves as a stark reminder of women's second class status -- where we're not actual people, just catalysts for men's actions," Valenti writes, citing several instances of sexual assault and discrimination that allow "the culture to put the blame for men's bad (and criminal) behavior on women's shoulders." She concludes, "There's a lot of work to be done to dismantle rape culture -- but a simple first step is to stop focusing on making the world more comfortable for men, and instead make it safer for women" (Valenti, The Nation, 1/11).
What others are saying about violence against women:
~ "The White Ribbon Campaign: Men Working To End Violence Against Women," Rachel Walden, Our Bodies, Our Blog.
~ "Delhi is Different From Steubenville," Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Feministing.
~ "One Simple Thing You Can Do To Make Stalking Awareness Month Count," Chloe Angyal, Feministing.
~ "Global Sex Trafficking & the Guy Next Door," Lauren Hersh, Huffington Post blogs.
~ "Phil Gingrey Perpetuates the 'Women Cry Rape' Myth," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check.
~ "God, the Bible, and Rape," Wil Gafney, Huffington Post blogs.
~ "The Party of Rape," William Saletan, Slate.
~ "What Bystanders Can Do To Stop Rape," Maia Szalavitz, Time's "Healthland."
~ "To Stop Rape Culture, Ring the Bell," E.J. Graff, American Prospect.
~ "To Stop Rape, Fix the Police Force First," Sobhi Mohanty, American Prospect.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH POLICY IN VIRGINIA: "Virginia Legislators Move to Offense To Win Back Reproductive Rights," Robin Marty, RH Reality Check: In response to "mandatory forced ultrasounds and TRAP bills meant to shut down most of the clinics in the state," Virginia lawmakers who support women's reproductive choice this year "are putting out an aggressive message: We will fight to get those bad laws off the books," Marty writes. "The preemptive strike is logical," she writes, adding, "By taking an aggressive stance, pro-choice legislators can not only bring the battle onto more favorable ground, but hopefully with the support of enough constituents force their opponents into rolling back their own past restrictive laws" (Marty, RH Reality Check, 1/13).
What others are saying about reproductive health policy in Virginia:
~ "Virginia GOP Allegedly Tried To Shush Democrats About Abortion Legislation," Anna Breslaw, Jezebel.
FUTURE OF ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Planned Parenthood Gives Up the 'Pro-Choice' Label: What does It Mean for the Movement?" Tracy Weitz, RH Reality Check: Reflecting on Planned Parenthood's recent decision to "let go of the 'pro-choice' label," Weitz, of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, explains that the idea is not a "radical departure" for most people in the movement. She lists several "past critiques" of the term pro-choice, including that "[w]omen don't always have a true 'choice'" and that it "is a singular binary term" that suggests a woman's decision to not have an abortion is not also valued. Weitz argues that the terms "privacy" and "personal" also are too narrow, concluding, "The future demands that we do more than simply shift away from polarizing language and instead begin to transform our culture, institutions, and policies so that all people can make the sexual and reproductive decisions they want to achieve the lives they deserve" (Weitz, RH Reality Check, 1/13).
What others are saying about the future of the abortion-rights movement:
~ "An Open Letter to All Abortion Activists From a Young Activist," Carly Manes, RH Reality Check.
~ "Planned Parenthood Wants to Abandon the 'Pro-choice' Label," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership