My money’s on Mona. The further away you are when looking at this, the more interesting it gets.
Sorry for the blurry image, but it is to remind us that almost every industrial nation has had universal health care, in some cases for half a century. The U.S. to its shame lags behind; and while the fight is on against Trump’s killer amendment to Obamacare, let’s not forget that Obama, by adopting the Romney Republican plan, set back for decades the goal for single payer universal coverage. What he did was to etch in stone the monopoly over health care to the voracious private health insurance industry. He didn’t even put universal health on the table when developing the legislation, which is nothing more than an enormous gift to the private insurers.
Here I am at my spiritual political home, the campus of U.C. Berkeley. I cut my radical teeth here, and I hope that they haven’t lost their bite. This picture was taken last year in front of Sather Gate. As an undergraduate on the Student Council, I established the Hyde Park Free Speech area, which served as an embryo for the Free Speech Movement two years hence.
Roger’s note: El Salvador has what may be the most repressive abortion laws in the Western world. There are cases of young women jailed for years because of a miscarriage. It is barbaric. And no one is more responsible for such barbarism than the Catholic Church. When I read that abortion is a sin, that there are campaigns to totally eradicate abortion in the struggle for good over evil, it takes me back to the Dark Ages. Such attitudes and laws reflect inhuman religious ideology in the service of patriarchy. It has been said jokingly, but I believe it literally, if men could have babies then abortion would be a sacrament.
The movement to decriminalize abortion in El Salvador described in the article below, if successful, would only eliminate the most Draconian elements of the anti-abortion legislation (abortion in the case of rape, for example); but there still would be a long way to go to reach the ideal of abortion being solely a matter between a woman and her physician.
“Is it the will of a compassionate God to mandate that young girls who have been raped carry to term resulting pregnancies?” asked theologian María Lopez Vigil at a talk organized by advocates.
In 1997, the legislature in El Salvador was considering a vote to criminalize abortion under all circumstances. Morena Herrera, a feminist activist, “was facing the legislature, alone, trying to defend and justify why they should not change the law,” recalled Mariana Moisa, communications director at the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto.
“They were transmitting live, and they shut off her microphone,” Moisa recalled.
The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly went on to ban abortion in all circumstances. In addition to making abortion illegal no matter what, this unjust law has been misapplied in cases of obstetric emergencies or miscarriages—leading to the imprisonment of dozens of women in the country because of pregnancy complications. Now, however, the legislature is considering a bill from Vice President of the Legislative Assembly Lorena Peña that would decriminalize abortion in cases of rape or human trafficking, fetal non-viability, or to preserve the pregnant person’s health or life. It would also legalize abortion when the pregnancy results from rape or statutory rape of a minor, with the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Although it would not necessarily shield women from prosecution when the law is misapplied, it effectively returns the law to its pre-1997 state.
On February 27, the legislature’s Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Points, where the bill is being heard, convened a first-ever public hearing on abortion in response to the unexpected number of requests they received to present testimony. Twelve out of the seventeen organizations and individuals who testified spoke in support of decriminalization, including nationally and internationally recognized professionals in public health and law, representatives from two progressive Protestant churches, and a variety of activists.
Marcela Zamora, a well-known Salvadoran filmmaker, shared her recently published essay, “I Aborted,” a rare public statement in El Salvador. She recounted how more than ten years earlier, while living in a country that allowed abortion, she experienced a pregnancy with complications that threatened her life. Although she was able to obtain an abortion, she questioned what would have happened to her if she had been in El Salvador at that time.
Moisa said she was struck by the contrast with the tenor of the hearing in 1997. “This time, in 2017, they invited us to the legislature, and our voices were heard. They made clear that the discussion would be based on scientific and legal information. Morena was there again, [this time] with a whole panorama of diverse voices who stood up alongside her to express their support for a possible reform,” she remembered.
This change didn’t come out of nowhere. Activists on the ground have been working for two decades to engage allies and elected officials on this issue—and in the last few months, that momentum has ramped up on a number of fronts.
Abortion as a Health Issue
Those speaking out in favor of the bill are, for the most part, concentrating on the exceptions to the ban it enshrines into law.
At a January forum organized by the Alliance for the Life and Health of Women—a coalition in which the Agrupación is a key player—members of the medical profession provided the medical and scientific justifications for the proposed change to the law.
Gynecologist Guillermo Ortiz, currently a senior adviser for Ipas and formerly chief of obstetrics at the Women’s Hospital in El Salvador, said that physicians who support the proposal for reform “are in favor of saving lives. But there are conditions that make [abortion] necessary, and we are talking about those situations so that exceptions can exist within the law.”
As part of that convening of medical experts, seven nationally and internationally recognized OB-GYNs signed off on a memo to the Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Points. The memo, viewed by Rewire, says the society must “generate legal instruments that guarantee protection for [patients’] lives,” in at least the four cases defined in the proposed reform.
The memo cited the Ethics Committee of the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians: “There exists a broad consensus … that abortion is ethically justifiable when it is carried out for medical reasons to protect the life and health” of the pregnant person.
“It is fundamental to remember that the global experience shows that the frequency of abortion does not depend on legislation and that the rates of abortion do not increase with more liberal legislation,” the memo continued. “To the contrary, they can diminish, if at the same time other measures are adopted,” such as information and free access to highly effective contraception.
In a February 21 symposium on health and bioethics organized by the ministry, El Salvador Minister of Health Dr. Violeta Menjivar responded, “As the Ministry of Health, we consider it appropriate that the legislature and society together participate in a reflection and deliberation on the harm the absolute prohibition on abortion causes to the health of Salvadoran women.”
She supported the move to reform the law, noting that the United Nations had made a request in January 2015 that El Salvador repeal its broad criminalization of abortion under all circumstances.
At the February 27 hearing, Sofia Villalta, a nationally recognized gynecologist with more than 40 years of professional experience, testified on the causes of unwanted pregnancies and emphasized the underlying role of the “subordination of women to masculine power.” She cited a study within the Salvadoran society of gynecologists which showed that 80 percent of them want to return to the prior legislation allowing abortion.
The Consequences of Criminalization
At the February 21 forum organized by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Virginia Rodriguez of the National Committee on Bioethics in El Salvador posed the question, “If a woman has rights from conception, at what point does she lose her rights? When do the rights of the fetus in development take priority over her rights to life?”
Rodriguez was referencing a February 15 decision from the El Salvador Supreme Court, when it ruled on a 2007 case involving conflicting laws over when life begins and when the State must protect that life.
Although the Court agreed that the the El Salvador Constitution declares life as beginning at “conception,” it said “it is necessary to weigh each case.” It also stated that the idea of fetal rights does not “claim a duty of absolute and unconditional protection of life in gestation.”
Alberto Romero of the Agrupación Ciudadana and the Movement for Secular Culture wrote in a booklet published by the Salvadoran Foundation for the Study of the Application of Law, FESPAD, that the Court’s decision “permits a resolution of the vacuum that exists in the current legislation, which does not establish legal mechanisms to resolve the collision of rights that takes place between the [fetus] and the woman who is pregnant.”
On the day of the hearing, the nine-member National Committee on Bioethics in El Salvador—which also includes Morena Herrera and Margarita Rivas of the Agrupación—published a paid ad in La Prensa Gráfica, noting the ways in which existing law infringes on the rights of pregnant people and women in general.
The law has also, the committee said, generated legal conflicts whereby physicians’ responsibilities to protect doctor-patient confidentiality conflict with their mandates under the anti-abortion laws. Overall, the ad said, the broad criminalization of abortion violates the rights of pregnant people by treating their constitutional rights as equal to or subordinate to those of the fetus.
“The Alliance knew it was important to address religious concerns in a society as deeply religious as El Salvador, where almost 99 percent of the population professes a belief in God and about 91 percent belong to a religion,” said Romero, who researches secularism and social issues in El Salvador.
“For many people, both legislators and citizens in general, it’s difficult to reconcile [many religions’] mandate against abortion with the rational arguments for permitting it. It’s important to present a variety of interpretations that do not condemn and criminalize abortion,” he said.
Advocates noted that different religions take varied stances on abortion. “The Anglican Church here in El Salvador talks about abortion not being a theological issue, but a pastoral one of accompaniment of women,” said Alejandra Burgos, a member of the Agrupación and a progressive feminist theologian.
Indeed, during the February 27 hearing, Martin Barahona of the Anglican Church in El Salvador explained that “in this case the Anglican bishops consider that the only people who have the right to decide are the women who are pregnant.”
“Even Pope Francis, who maintains that abortion is a sin, mandates priests to have compassion and accompany women,” Burgos pointed out.
“It’s necessary in this society to provide alternatives to people who are living with these contradictions; to show that a religious believer can also support the right [to] interrupt a pregnancy,” she concluded.
In one talk, María Lopez Vigil, a Cuban-Nicaraguan theologian, author, and editor of the progressive Nicaraguan magazine Envio, proposed looking at abortion in a broader perspective, considering the realities of the country.
“Consider the commandment ‘do not kill’ with situational ethics. There is nothing more abortive than poverty,” she said.
In arguing for a compassionate, merciful view of God, she asked the audience of more than 300—many of whom had not attended Alliance events in the past—if it was “the will of a compassionate God that women suffer and die for ‘not having enough faith’ when they experience obstetric emergencies? Is it the will of a compassionate God to mandate that young girls who have been raped carry to term resulting pregnancies?”
She challenged structural injustices and spoke of “abortive societies,” in which countries obligate pregnant girls and adolescents to give birth, but after the birth do nothing to help them support and raise their children. That, she said, is a “structural sin.”
Responses to the campaign for decriminalization are diverse.
After the various hearings and forums, Legislative Representative Juan Valiente of the right-wing ARENA party spoke on a TV talk show supporting debate on the reform, going against his party’s stance.
In addition, he tweeted, “I’m against abortion, but I recognize that there is a collision of rights and it’s important to investigate and debate. I’m not afraid.” And to another constituent opposed to decriminalization, he posted, “I prefer to lose your vote than my conscience.”
Even with these sea changes in some public opinions and attitudes, there is still strong religious opposition.
A group of Catholic churches initiated “40 days of prayer” leading up to Easter Sunday with the goal of “ending abortion in the world and in the country” in a war “between good and bad.” Regarding the Ministry of Health position, prayer campaign leader Karla de Lacayo told La Prensa Gráfica, “it’s a lie” that women’s lives are at risk.
“With [medical] advances now, there is no way the woman is going to die. And, if it’s true, if the child dies in the process, then that’s what God wanted,” de Lacayo said.
In the legislature itself, there remains the fact that supporters of the reform must form coalitions in order to get the majority vote necessary to first pass the measure out of committee, and then win a majority of votes in the full body. Neither the right-wing ARENA party nor the left-leaning FMLN has a numerical majority in the committee or the full legislature.
Supporters hope for a positive resolution in the next few weeks, before the next election cycle gets underway. At that point, they say, chances of any substantive vote on any matter disappear.
As Sara Garcia, coordinator for the Agrupación, told Rewire, “This is a historic moment. International organizations such as the UN are speaking out. More and more social movements are making pronouncements. Professional medical organizations and the universities declare their support.”
“The government can’t keep ignoring the realities of women in this country,” she said.
Roger’s note:10,000 dead, hundreds of thousands sick. What a difference a few kilometers makes. Haiti is closer to Washington D.C. and New York City than the rest of the United States. But they are not White and they are not American. What a difference a color and a nationality makes. Five times as many dead as in the 9/11 attack, and in the hemisphere that the United States laid claim to as long ago as 1823 (Monroe Doctrine).
Maybe in our back yard but not our fault, you say? Look again. From the U.S. led coup against President Aristide to the involvement of the Clintons, the disaster in Haiti has been a made in the U.S. tragedy (see the second article in this post). Bill Clinton named Special Envoy to Haiti in 2009 foreshadows the cholera slaughter; and the Clintons’ dirty hands in U.N. intervention, election fixing, and support of family and friend business interests (at the cost of Haitian workers) — this is U.S. “peacekeeping” in action. As most third world nations have learned, with the United States as a friend, who needs enemies?
By JONATHAN M. KATZ, AUG. 17, 2016, New York Times
Protesters marching to the United Nations base housing Nepalese peacekeepers in Mirebalais, Haiti, on Oct. 29, 2010. Credit Associated Press
For the first time since a cholera epidemic believed to be imported by United Nations peacekeepers began killing thousands of Haitians nearly six years ago, the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the United Nations played a role in the initial outbreak and that a “significant new set of U.N. actions” will be needed to respond to the crisis.
The deputy spokesman for the secretary general, Farhan Haq, said in an email this week that “over the past year, the U.N. has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.” He added that a “new response will be presented publicly within the next two months, once it has been fully elaborated, agreed with the Haitian authorities and discussed with member states.”
The statement comes on the heels of a confidential report sent to Mr. Ban by a longtime United Nations adviser on Aug. 8. Written by Philip Alston, a New York University law professor who serves as one of a few dozen experts, known as special rapporteurs, who advise the organization on human rights issues, the draft language stated plainly that the epidemic “would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations.”
The secretary general’s acknowledgment, by contrast, stopped short of saying that the United Nations specifically caused the epidemic. Nor does it indicate a change in the organization’s legal position that it is absolutely immune from legal actions, including a federal lawsuit brought in the United States on behalf of cholera victims seeking billions in damages stemming from the Haiti crisis.
But it represents a significant shift after more than five years of high-level denial of any involvement or responsibility of the United Nations in the outbreak, which has killed at least 10,000 people and sickened hundreds of thousands. Cholera victims suffer from dehydration caused by severediarrhea or vomiting.
Special rapporteurs’ reports are technically independent guidance, which the United Nations can accept or reject. United Nations officials have until the end of this week to respond to the report, which will then go through revisions, but the statement suggests a new receptivity to its criticism.
In the 19-page report, obtained from an official who had access to it, Mr. Alston took issue with the United Nations’ public handling of the outbreak, which was first documented in mid-October 2010, shortly after people living along the Meille River began dying from the disease.
The first victims lived near a base housing 454 United Nations peacekeepers freshly arrived from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, and waste from the base often leaked into the river. Numerous scientists have since argued that the base was the only plausible source of the outbreak — whose real death toll, one study found, could be much higher than the official numbers state — but United Nations officials have consistently insisted that its origins remain up for debate.
Mr. Alston wrote that the United Nations’ Haiti cholera policy “is morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.” He added, “It is also entirely unnecessary.” The organization’s continuing denial and refusal to make reparations to the victims, he argued, “upholds a double standard according to which the U.N. insists that member states respect human rights, while rejecting any such responsibility for itself.”
He said, “It provides highly combustible fuel for those who claim that U.N. peacekeeping operations trample on the rights of those being protected, and it undermines both the U.N.’s overall credibility and the integrity of the Office of the Secretary-General.”
Mr. Alston went beyond criticizing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to blame the entire United Nations system. “As the magnitude of the disaster became known, key international officials carefully avoided acknowledging that the outbreak had resulted from discharges from the camp,” he noted.
His most severe criticism was reserved for the organization’s Office of Legal Affairs, whose advice, he wrote, “has been permitted to override all of the other considerations that militate so powerfully in favor of seeking a constructive and just solution.” Its interpretations, he said, have “trumped the rule of law.”
Mr. Alston also argued in his report that, as The New York Times has reported, the United Nations’ cholera eradication program has failed. Infection rates have been rising every year in Haiti since 2014, as the organization struggles to raise the $2.27 billion it says is needed to eradicate the disease from member states. No major water or sanitation projects have been completed in Haiti; two pilot wastewater processing plants built there in the wake of the epidemic quickly closed because of a lack of donor funds.
In a separate internal report released days ago after being withheld for nearly a year, United Nations auditors said a quarter of the sites run by the peacekeepers with the organization’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or Minustah, that they had visited were still discharging their waste into public canals as late as 2014, four years after the epidemic began.
“Victims are living in fear because the disease is still out there,” Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer representing cholera victims, told demonstrators in Port-au-Prince last month. He added, “If the Nepalese contingent returns to defecate in the water again, they will get the disease again, only worse.”
In 2011, when families of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims petitioned the United Nations for redress, its Office of Legal Affairs simply declared their claims “not receivable.” (Mr. Alston called that argument “wholly unconvincing in legal terms.”)
Those families and others then sued the United Nations, including Mr. Ban and the former Minustah chief Edmond Mulet, in federal court in New York. (In November, Mr. Ban promoted Mr. Mulet to be his chief of staff.) The United Nations refused to appear in court, claiming diplomatic immunity under its charter, leaving Justice Department lawyers to defend it instead. That case is now pending a decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
The redress demanded by families of the 10,000 people killed and 800,000 affected would reach $40 billion, Mr. Alston wrote — and that figure does not take into account “those certain to die and be infected in the years ahead.”
“Since this is almost five times the total annual budget for peacekeeping worldwide, it is a figure that is understandably seen as prohibitive and unrealistic,” he said. Still, he argued: “The figure of $40 billion should stand as a warning of the consequences that could follow if national courts become convinced that the abdication policy is not just unconscionable but also legally unjustified. The best way to avoid that happening is for the United Nations to offer an appropriate remedy.”
Mr. Alston, who declined to comment for this article, will present the final report at the opening of the General Assembly in September, when presidents, prime ministers and monarchs from nearly every country gather at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Mr. Haq said the secretary general’s office “wanted to take this opportunity to welcome this vital report,” which he added “will be a valuable contribution to the U.N. as we work towards a significant new set of U.N. actions.”
June 3, 2016
Clinton Fuelled a Crisis in Haiti: Why Is Nobody Talking About It?
Hillary Clinton is to blame for Martelly’s disastrous presidency, says Nikolas Barry-Shaw of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Hillary Clinton’s responsibility for creating the ongoing political crisis in Haiti has not received sufficient attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, says Nikolas Barry-Shaw of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
Clinton’s involvement in Haiti began before the 2010 earthquake, and the country soon became the “centerpiece” of State Department policy under her leadership.
In 2009, Clinton worked with Haitian elites and multinationals, such as Hanes and Levi’s, to stop a raise of the minimum wage.
She “played a key role” in the 2011 election of former president Michel Martelly after she “personal intervened” to pressure Rene Preval to end his candidacy, says Barry-Shaw.
While the Sanders campaign has not given much enough attention to Clinton’s record in Haiti, the Trump campaign is picking up the issue (though Barry-Shaw doubts that this is out of concern for Haitian workers).
A Haitian committee recently said there is enough evidence of fraud to nullify the results of the recent US-funded election, including 28,000 untraceable votes.
US organizations have since halted the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Haiti is the biggest of Hillary and the Clinton Foundations latest scandals! It is textbook on how the Clinton Foundation really operates!!!!!
Hillary’s brother owns 50% of Haiti’s goldmine and a former leader owns the other half!
Nothing really has been done for the Haitians! Approximately 30 silly gaily corrugated metal tiny bungalows have been built for the Haitians AND NO RUNNING WATER!
In the meantime, they have built an industrial park for the corporations and a luxury hotel because, “…the workers need a place to stay.”
I believe it was a year ago that a group of Haitians protested outside Bill Clinton’s Harlem office asking, “…where’s our $$$?!!!”
It seems that Haiti has turned into a money pit for the Clinton’s as well as the Bushes, yes, they are in on this as well!
In the meantime, Haiti is worse off than they were before! I understand Monsanto is trying to strong arm them with planting their crops!
George Bush 2 went there after the quake with Bill Clinton and had to shake Haitian hands…he was photographed wiping his hands on the back of Clinton’s shirt afterwards! Shows ya what he thinks of ’em!
Roger’s note: Do we really need scientific studies to tell us that poverty is danger to the health of children? I post this article not to belabor the obvious, but rather to show how otherwise intelligent and accomplished academics and scientists will posit clearly inadequate solutions to enormous problems, while at the same time failing to understand (or wanting to understand?) to root cause of the problem and the solution implied by such. To address the deleterious effects of poverty on children’s brains, Dr. Luby suggests “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children,” and “teaching nurturing skills to parents.” These are solutions that, while of some benefit IF implemented, would not begin to make a dent in the problem. I guess that Dr. Luby believes she has done enough and does not feel responsible for addressing the structural problem of poverty. Fair enough. But if science is to ultimately benefit human society, then as long as it ignores the elephant in the living room (capitalism), its service to human kind is severely truncated. Bottom line: poverty kills, unless we understand and work to eliminate the root cause of poverty, efforts at amelioration have little meaning in the long run.
Low-income children have irregular brain development and lower standardized test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
An alarming 22 percent of U.S. children live in poverty, which can have long-lasting negative consequences on brain development, emotional health and academic achievement. A new study, published July 20 in JAMA Pediatrics, provides even more compelling evidence that growing up in poverty has detrimental effects on the brain.
In an accompanying editorial, child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, writes that “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all.”
In her own research in young children living in poverty, Luby and her colleagues have identified changes in the brain’s architecture that can lead to lifelong problems with depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress.
However, her work also shows that parents who are nurturing can offset some of the negative effects on brain anatomy seen in poor children. The findings suggest that teaching nurturing skills to parents — particularly those who live below the poverty line — may provide a lifetime of benefit for children.
“Our research has shown that the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses experienced by the children,” said Luby, the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Child Psychiatry and director of Washington University’s Early Emotional Development Program.
The study in JAMA Pediatrics, by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that low-income children had irregular brain development and lower standardized test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
“In developmental science and medicine, it is not often that the cause and solution of a public health problem become so clearly elucidated,” Luby wrote in the editorial. “It is even less common that feasible and cost-effective solutions to such problems are discovered and within reach.”
Based on this new research and what already is known about the damaging effects of poverty on brain development in children, as well as the benefits of nurturing during early childhood, “we have a rare roadmap to preserving and supporting our society’s most important legacy, the developing brain,” Luby writes. “This unassailable body of evidence taken as a whole is now actionable for public policy.”
Roger’s note: The “radical” pope drew a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, that is nearly 10% of Ecuador’s population. Following this article on the persecution of women in El Salvador I have posted a critique of the hypocritical plea to end poverty at the same time as defending the Church’s misogynist ideology. My take on the RC Church, this anonymous quote: “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
For Immediate Release
July 6, 2015
Washington DC – Four activists will stand trial on July 7, 2015 at 9:30 am in front of Judge Susan Holmes-Winfield (Case# 2015CMD005708) on the charge of unlawful entry, which carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison. The four were arrested on April 24, 2015 at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit-in to call attention to a group of Salvadoran women currently serving extreme 30-year prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of the Raging Grannies. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.
“The 17,” as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Cristina Quintanilla, sentenced to 30 years after she had a miscarriage, was released in 2014 by a court, which commuted her sentence to three years, amounting to time served. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines earlier this year as one of the 17 to be released. (El Salvador and ‘Las 17’, New York Times).
Mirian, Martiza, Marina, Salvadora, Ena,Teodora, Guadalupe, Mariana, Mirna, Cinthia, Verónica, Alba, Johana, Evelyn, Teresa, and María make up the remainder of The 17. Many are mothers of young children, and all have many more years to serve under their current sentences.
“This is a grave injustice. Where there is injustice, silence is complicity,” said Father Roy Bourgeois. “For that reason, we were at the Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, DC, to express our solidarity with these women.” The group invited the embassy staff to join the call for the release of the 15 women who remain incarcerated.
The extreme abortion laws in El Salvador were passed under the ultra-right wing Arena government in 1997. Embassy staff were concerned about the issues raised and informed protesters that the Supreme Court has the authority to review these cases.
Some of the protesters were part of a recent US Human Rights Delegation to El Salvador that visited five of the women in prison who are serving 30-year sentences for having a miscarriage. They have 22 more years to go before they are released.
Pope Francis this week embarked on a seven-day “homecoming” tour of Latin America in his unstoppable quest to defend the planet and the poor.
The continent—the most unequal region in the world, and the Argentine pontiff’s home turf—will likely provide fertile ground for more of his legendary sermons on poverty and inequality. After addressing a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Monday, Francis is scheduled to attend a meeting of grass-roots political activists and visit one of the continent’s largest prisons, in Bolivia, as well as a slum and a children’s hospital in Paraguay.
While he advocates for South America’s impoverished and disenfranchised, its prisoners, its indigenous peoples and its children, one group is unlikely to feature in Francis’ apparently radical agenda: its women.
Despite his efforts to champion his constituency—the world’s poor, of which the vast majority are women—the pope tends to overlook the feminized nature of poverty and inequality.
Like the rest of the world -and the Vatican – Latin America is built on gender inequality. Important progress has been made in the region over recent decades, and the percentage of its overall population living in poverty had decreased significantly. But the feminization of poverty (an increase in the levels of poverty among women or female-headed households relative to the levels of men or male-headed households) increased from 109 percent in 1994 to almost 117 percent in 2013, according to the United Nations.
Women’s labor participation in the region remains more than a quarter less than that of men, at 52.9 percent, compared with 79.6 percent, as recorded in 2010 statistics. And while the wage gap has shrunk, women still earn a staggering 68 percent less than their male colleagues. South American women are also twice as likely as men to be unpaid workers.
As a public figure who frequently invokes “dignity” in appealing to the hearts and minds of his followers, the Catholic leader would do well to address the results of a recent poll in which Latin Americans were found to be the least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to describe women in their countries as treated with respect and dignity. A median of 35 percent of adults across 22 Latin American countries said their women are treated this way—about half the percentages in any other region of the world.
Of the little research that exists, the statistics on violence against women in Latin America are gruesome. A recent U.N. report published in the Economist found that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. It states that in Colombia, “attacks in which acid is thrown at women’s faces, disfiguring them, nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2012.” Moreover, of the 25 countries in the world that are high or very high in the U.N.’s ranking for femicides (killings of women that seem to be related to their sex), more than half are in the region.
Research shows that when women have access to contraception and are educated to make responsible choices, their income, employment and education levels rise, as do their children’s. As women’s choices expand, they have fewer unassisted labors and backstreet abortions, meaning maternal mortality is reduced, and, depending on the type of contraception used, life-limiting sexually transmitted diseases are contained.
But because the Vatican considers women second-class citizens, it goes without saying that the pope will not mention abortion or contraception during his South American tour.
Figures show that of the 4.4 million abortions performed in Latin America in 2008, 95 percent were unsafe, and about 1 million women are hospitalized annually for treatment of complications from such procedures. In this context, it should be noted that the pope has described the abortion-rights movement as a “culture of death” and has opposed Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s efforts to distribute free contraceptives.
Francis has shown himself capable of influencing policy (he was most recently hailed as instrumental in restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba), but as Jemima Thackray writes in The Telegraph, “the Catholic Church’s growth is coming from non-European countries where the so-called ‘liberal’ issues of sexual equality are considered less important.”
As much as he has advocated “rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world,” Francis has repeatedly embraced the traditional Catholic view that a woman’s role is in the home. Extolling the role of women specifically as mothers by declaring “the presence of women in a domestic setting” as crucial to “the very transmission of the faith,” Francis has said, “I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” Although women may have lives outside the home, Francis has urged us not to “forget the irreplaceable role of the woman in a family.”
Given the pope’s outspoken views, we’ve been hoping he’d get around to addressing gender inequality eventually. But lest we forget, the Vatican is—and always will be—a patriarchal institution based on sexual hierarchy. Asked on two occasions about the possibility of admitting women to the ranks of the clergy, Francis has given a firm no. “That door,” he said in 2013, “is closed.” As Thackray explains, “this is not about having a Western liberal agenda for equality for its own sake, but about acknowledging that in allowing women into positions of influence in the church, this would raise their general status, reducing their vulnerability and poverty. Perhaps,” she continues, “it would also help shake up some of the closed male-dominated systems which have caused some of the other worst abuses by the Catholic Church.”
It would be no violation of doctrine to recognize women as equally and intrinsically valuable, regardless of their familial role or fertility. Until the pope’s vision of equality includes this, it’s incomplete.
A version of this article originally appeared in Truthdig.
Roísín Davis, originally from Northern Ireland, is a journalist with a background in social research and community work. She is an assistant editor at Truthdig. She now lives in Los Angeles.
Roger’s note: this article was published before the traitorous right wing Republican president Obama and the right wing Republican Congress aided by some twenty odd traitorous Democrats gave Obama the authority to fast track the traitorous Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. If you are observant you will have noticed my repetition of the word “traitorous.” However, if you somehow failed to notice this, let me repeat that Obama and the Republican and Democratic Party members of Congress who voted fast track are nothing less than traitors to American women and other working people as well as the environment and what little is left of democratic institutions in the country.
Women protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership during an international day of action in Seattle on Friday, January 31, 2015. “(Photos courtesy of Alex Garland Photography/cc/flickr)
The President is asking for “fast track” authority to let the White House be the sole negotiator on the Trans Pacific Partnership, a giant twelve-nation trade agreement between the U.S. and Pacific Rim nations. Fast track passed the Senate in May, and could come up for a House vote as early as this week.
Trouble is, the provisions are secret, and the Obama administration won’t tell Congress or the people what’s in it. But thanks to a few chapters released by Wikileaks online last year, we already know it’s a disaster for U.S. workers—especially women.
According to the Washington Post, around 600 corporations and a couple of labor unions have seen a draft. A few members of Congress have seen parts of it in a “secure soundproof reading room,” where cellphones and note-taking are not allowed. The majority of congressmembers and the public have not, and those members who have been given that extremely limited access are forbidden to discuss it with the public.
The so-called partnership is an insult to all U.S. workers, with many provisions that will hurt women the most. The Communications Workers of America says it will steal majority-female jobs from low wage workplaces like call centers, as well as higher wage sectors such as human resources. And according to Doctors Without Borders, the agreement may well cut off access to generic drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS—now predominately women and kids.
At the same time supporters in the Senate were beating their chests when they passed fast track for TPP claiming it will create jobs, they also passed a companion measure called the TAA –Trade Adjustment Assistance. And what would that do? Give assistance to U.S. workers displaced by free trade agreements. Huh? Didn’t they say the TPP would create jobs? Yeah, but they forgot to mention those much touted new jobs will be in low wage countries paying pennies per hour.
And then there’s the collateral damage. The TAA will be paid for by benefit cuts in Medicare, a program women depend on more than men do. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cuts will amount to $700 million. So add health care providers to the list of those against this rotten deal.
The final insult? Under rules, businesses incorporated in Trans Pacific Partnership countries would be guaranteed equal treatment with U.S. firms when bidding on government contracts. That means our tax dollars would be underwriting countries like Brunei, which imprisons unmarried women for getting pregnant and allows stoning of gays and lesbians.
If the President and Congress really want to help U.S. workers, why not start with something guaranteed to work quickly right here at home – like a higher minimum wage. But the Trans Pacific Partnership? Throw it overboard.
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Roger’s note: There is nothing “sexy” about free trade agreements. They are generally negotiated in secreted and ignored by the mainstream media. For the TTIP as with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) — note the Orwellian/Goebbels use in both of the misleading word “partnership,” and of course we have “free trade,” which is anything but free — the implications and the consequences are enormous; another giant step toward corporate control of governments, in other words, fascism.
Protesters against the TTIP march in London on December 7, 2014. (Photo: Global Justice Now/flickr/cc)
A freshly-leaked chapter from the highly secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, currently under negotiation between the United States and European Union, reveals that the so-called “free trade” deal poses an even greater threat to environmental and human rights protections—and democracy itself—than previously known, civil society organizations warn.
The revelation comes on the heels of global protests against the mammoth deal over the weekend and coincides with the reconvening of negotiations between the parties on Monday in New York.
The European Commission’s latest proposed chapter (pdf) on “regulatory cooperation” was first leaked to Friends of the Earth and dates to the month of March. It follows previous leaks of the chapter, and experts say the most recent iteration is even worse.
“The Commission proposal introduces a system that puts every new environmental, health, and labor standard at European and member state level at risk. It creates a labyrinth of red tape for regulators, to be paid by the tax payer, that undermines their appetite to adopt legislation in the public interest,” said Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe in a press statement released Monday.
Regulatory cooperation refers to the “harmonization of regulatory frameworks between the E.U. and the U.S. once the TTIP negotiations are done,” ostensibly to ensure such regulations do not pose barriers to trade, the Corporate Europe Observatory explained earlier this month.
However, analysts have repeatedly warned that, euphemisms aside, “cooperation,” in fact, allows corporate power to trample democratic protections, from labor to public health to climate regulations, while encouraging a race to the lowest possible standards.
The newest version of the regulatory cooperation chapter reveals that the European Commission is angling to impose even more barriers to regulations.
The chapter includes a “regulatory exchange” proposal, which will “force laws drafted by democratically-elected politicians through an extensive screening process,” according to an analysis from CIEL.
“Laws will be evaluated on whether or not they are compatible with the economic interests of major companies,” the organization explains. “Responsibility for this screening will lie with the ‘Regulatory cooperation body,’ a permanent, undemocratic, and unaccountable conclave of European and American technocrats.”
David Azoulay, managing attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law, told Common Dreams over the phone from Geneva that this red tape would apply to new and upcoming regulations, as well as existing ones. “What we are looking at here is potentially endless procedures at every step of the regulatory process, including once the legislation has been adopted,” he said.
“We are concerned about this new version, because it would take power away from legislators and regulators and give it to this group of technocrats that is not elected and operates in secrecy,” Azoulay continued. “Secondly, this would burden lawmakers with extremely heavy procedures, create red tape, and force legislators at the local, state, and federal levels to spend large amounts of time answering questions about regulations.”
The regulatory cooperation plan was already widely opposed by civil society groups. Over 170 organizations denounced regulatory cooperation in a statement released in February: “The Commission proposals for regulatory cooperation carry the threat of lowering standards in the long and short term, on both sides of the Atlantic, at the state and member state/European levels. They constrain democratic decision-making by strengthening the influence of big business over regulation.”
The potential implications of this latest proposal are vast, as the TTIP is slated to be the largest such deal in history. Taken together, the U.S. and E.U. together account for nearly half of the world’s GDP. The Obama administration is negotiating the accord alongside two other secret trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement.
Analysts warn that the TTIP alone is poised to dramatically expand corporate power.
“Both the [E.U.] Commission and US authorities will be able to exert undue pressure on governments and politicians under this measure as these powerful players are parachuted into national legislative procedures,” warned Kenneth Haar of Corporate Europe Observatory in a press statement. “The two are also very likely to share the same agenda: upholding the interests of multinationals.”
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To all those that continue to maintain that all this descent into madness for the sake of profits is due to an apathetic population.
The powers that be KNOW this can not pass the smell test with the electorate . They KNOW the vast majority of people would be opposed were the full details known.
Yet they persist in trying to make this into law.
They do so because the monied interests have instructed them to do so. The very fact such negotiations ongoing and done in secret is enough to condemn them and the SYSTEM which has nothing to do with what the 99 percent need and everything to do with the one percents greed.
Roger’s note: this is really good. John Oliver does a great job of in depth investigative journalism, spiced with humor to satisfy a main steam audience. Here he takes on the giant Cancer Factory, Phillip Morris, with a vengeance. Enjoy.
And remember, the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement which is being fast tracked as we speak, will give more clout to corporations to take governments successfully to court to overturn public health, safety, labor protection and environmental protection legislation.