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Four Activists to Stand Trial on July 7, 2015 for Protest inside the Salvadoran Embassy, in Solidarity with 17 Salvadoran Women who are Unjustly Imprisoned in El Salvador for Miscarriages July 9, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Health, Latin America, Religion, Women.
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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

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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.

The Radical Pope’s Reactionary Vision for Women

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.

There’s a Reason Gay Marriage Is Winning, While Abortion Rights Are Losing April 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT, Women.
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Roger’s note: god forbid anyone should promote a rivalry between different groups of the oppressed; that is tantamount to divide and conquer, the oldest political trick in the books, one that predated Machiavelli by centuries.  Nevertheless, as this article points out, there is a complexity about the different dimensions of struggles for justice.  Homophobia, racism and sexism are pernicious; and, as the saying goes, no one is free until we are all free.  Nevertheless, homophobia, racism and sexism seem to have taken root to different degrees in North American society.  An example that has interested me relates to Vietnam War opposition; that is, the difference in attitude towards celebrity opponents Jane Fonda and Muhammad Ali.  The latter has risen to iconic hero status, whereas Hanoi Jane remains a pariah to many.  Does this mean that misogyny is deeper than racism in our society?  I don’t think that is exactly true, although to some extent it seems that the liberation of fifty percent of the population   poses more of a threat than any particular race.  This is a raw observation on my part, not to be taken too seriously I hope; and this article goes into a more rigorous analysis in the treatment of gay and women’s rights.

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Are these two “culture wars” issues really that similar?

 

The media present marriage equality and reproductive rights as ‘culture war’ issues, as if they somehow went together,” writes Pollitt. “But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think.” (Image credit: Getty)

Why are reproductive rights losing while gay rights are winning? Indiana’s attempt to enshrine opposition to gay marriage under the guise of religious freedom provoked an immediate nationwide backlash. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has allowed religious employers to refuse insurance coverage for birth control—not abortion, birth control—to female employees; new laws are forcing abortion clinics to close; and absurd, even medically dangerous restrictions are heaping up in state after state. Except when the media highlight a particularly crazy claim by a Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, where’s the national outrage? Most Americans are pro-choice, more or less; only a small minority want to see abortion banned. When you consider, moreover, that one in three women will have had at least one abortion by the time she reaches menopause, and most of those women had parents, partners, friends—someone—who helped them obtain it, the sluggish response to the onslaught of restrictive laws must include many people who have themselves benefited from safe and legal abortion.

The media present marriage equality and reproductive rights as “culture war” issues, as if they somehow went together. But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think. Some distinctions:

§ Marriage equality is about love, romance, commitment, settling down, starting a family. People love love! But marriage equality is also about tying love to family values, expanding a conservative institution that has already lost most of its coercive social power and become optional for millions. (Marriage equality thus follows Pollitt’s law: Outsiders get access when something becomes less valued, which is why women can be art historians and African-Americans win poetry prizes.) Far from posing a threat to marriage, as religious opponents claim, permitting gays to marry gives the institution a much-needed update, even as it presents LGBT people as no threat to the status quo: Instead of promiscuous child molesters and lonely gym teachers, gays and lesbians are your neighbors who buy Pottery Barn furniture and like to barbecue.

Reproductive rights, by contrast, is about sex—sexual freedom, the opposite of marriage—in all its messy, feckless glory. It replaces the image of women as chaste, self-sacrificing mothers dependent on men with that of women as independent, sexual, and maybe not so self-sacrificing. It doesn’t matter that contraception is indispensable to modern life, that abortion antedates the sexual revolution by thousands of years, that plenty of women who have abortions are married, or that most (60 percent) who have abortions are already mothers. Birth control and abortion allow women—and, to a lesser extent, men—to have sex without punishment, a.k.a. responsibility. And our puritanical culture replies: You should pay for that pleasure, you slut.

§ Same-sex marriage is something men want. Lesbian couples account for the majority of same-sex marriages, but even the vernacular “gay marriage” types it as a male concern. That makes it of interest to everyone, because everything male is of general interest. Though many of the groundbreaking activists and lawyers who have fought for same-sex marriage are lesbians, gay men have a great deal of social and economic power, and they have used it, brilliantly, to mainstream the cause.

Reproductive rights are inescapably about women. Pervasive misogyny means not only that those rights are stigmatized—along with the women who exercise them—but that men don’t see them as all that important, while women have limited social power to promote them. And that power is easily endangered by too close an identification with all but the most anodyne version of feminism. There are no female CEOs pouring millions into reproductive rights or threatening to relocate their businesses when a state guts access to abortion. And with few exceptions, A-list celebs steer clear.

§ Marriage equality has cross-class appeal: Anyone can have an LGBT child, and parents across the political spectrum naturally want their kids to have the same opportunities other children have. Any woman might find herself needing an abortion, too, but she may not realize that. Improvements in birth control mean that prosperous, educated women with private doctors can control their fertility pretty well—certainly better than women who rely on public clinics—and if they need an abortion, they can get one. It’s low-income women who suffer the most from abortion restrictions—and since when have their issues been at the top of the middle and upper classes’ to-do list?

§ Marriage equality costs society nothing and takes no power away from anyone. No one has been able to argue persuasively that your gay marriage hurts my straight marriage. But reproductive rights come with a price tag: Government funding is inevitably involved. (“If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it,” said one New Hampshire lawmaker as he tried to cut funding for contraception.) Also, contraception and abortion give power to women and take it from others: parents, employers, clergy, and men.

§In marriage equality, there is no loser. But many, including some who call themselves pro-choice, feel that abortion creates a loser: the embryo or fetus. You have to value women a lot to side with the pregnant woman, with all her inevitable complexities and flaws, over the pure potentiality of the future baby.

§ Marriage equality is a wonderful thing, an important civil right that brings dignity to a previously excluded group. Over time, it may subtly affect the gender conventions of straight marriage, but it won’t fundamentally alter our social and economic arrangements. Reproductive rights, though, are inescapably connected to the larger project of feminism, which has already destabilized every area of life, from the bedroom to the boardroom. What might women demand, what might they accomplish, how might they choose to live, if every woman had children only when and if she wanted them? “Culture war” doesn’t begin to describe it.

The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion April 6, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
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Roger’s note: some years ago I attended an event designed to discuss the issue of choice with young people who were born after the Roe v. Wade decision.  A retired physician, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, spoke of his “conversion” to pro life while at the same time not abandoning his faith.  As a young Resident at LA County Hospital he worked on a ward with hundreds of beds for women with septic infections, 99% a result of botched back alley abortions.  That ward disappeared entirely once therapeutic abortion was decriminalized.  He said that from time to time nowadays he is called in to consult on a rare case of septic infection because today’s medical students and physicians almost never see them.  That will soon change in Texas and elsewhere in the United States.  Thanks to the misogynist Catholic Church hierarchy and the right to death bigots and their scumbag allies in state governments.

In 1969, when abortion was completely illegal in Texas except to save a woman’s life, Karen Hulsey became pregnant.

She was 20 years old and living in Dallas at the time, and the diaphragm she was using for birth control had failed her. Her boyfriend, she discovered, was married, and refused to help raise or pay for a child.

“It was just at a time in my life where I knew I couldn’t take care of a child, and he wanted no responsibility,” Hulsey recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Instead, the man offered to pay for her to travel to Mexico, where he knew of a clandestine abortion provider. She wrestled with the decision and was three months pregnant by the time she agreed to go.

“I was not only very afraid of the ramifications with God, but very ashamed and embarrassed,” said Hulsey, who was raised Catholic. “I struggled with the decision for a long time.”

Hulsey left Dallas at midnight on a chartered plane, with no idea where she was going, and landed in a field south of the border in the middle of the night. A woman Hulsey had never met before was waiting for her when she stepped off the aircraft.

“I was scared to death,” Hulsey said. “Of course, he did not go with me — I went alone,” she said of her boyfriend at the time. “That was the stipulation.”

From there, things only got worse.

“A car came and picked us up and took us to what was considered a clinic in a little bitty building with dirt floors,” Hulsey recalled. “Even at that age, I knew this was not a good thing. I had worked as a nurse’s aide at that point in my life, and I knew about sterilization and everything else, so this just mounted my anxiety and fears.”

Hulsey said the doctor put her feet in stirrups and performed a “very rough,” painful gynecological exam. He then sedated her for the abortion procedure.

When Hulsey began to wake up, she realized that the doctor was raping her.

“I was of course very drowsy, and the doctor was on top of me having sex with me,” she recalled. “I had just barely opened my eyes, and he was all involved in what he was doing, and I immediately closed my eyes, because I knew if I acted like I knew what was going on I’d probably get killed, never to be seen or heard of again.”

After the man finished assaulting her, Hulsey said she cautiously opened her eyes.

“I went ahead after a little bit of time and acted like I was coming out from under the anesthetic, and he told me I’d had a little boy,” Hulsey said, choking back tears. “I was given a Kotex and taken back to Texas with no further care.”

Hulsey discovered upon returning to Texas that she had not completely expelled the placenta — a possible complication of surgical abortion. She was rushed to the emergency room, hemorrhaging from the botched procedure.

Years down the road, when she was ready to have children, she had three miscarriages due to the damage the illegal abortion provider had caused to her cervix. She underwent surgery to make it possible for her to hold a baby inside her body, and even then, her daughter was born two months premature and weighed less than three pounds.

“I thought that I had sinned and was being punished for having gone to Mexico and done that, and that’s why I had a baby that was so sick,” said Hulsey. “I think that’s baloney now, and that’s why I’m willing to talk about it.”

Four years after Hulsey’s ordeal, Texas became the original battleground state in the fight for legal and safe abortion. The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade arose out of a challenge to the Texas law that criminalized the procedure except to save a woman’s life. Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade defended the abortion ban against a 21-year-old pregnant woman using the pseudonym “Jane Roe.” Roe had tried to obtain an illegal abortion near Dallas, where she lived at at the time, but found that authorities had already raided and shut down the clandestine providers nearby.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that states must make abortion legal at least until the fetus is viable, around 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, estimates that before Roe, as many as 1.2 million women a year in the U.S. resorted to primitive, self-induced abortions or sought out illegal, amateur providers. Thousands of women ended up in hospitals each year with severe complications related to illegal abortions, and in 1965 alone, nearly 200 women died from those procedures.

The proliferation of well-trained, regulated, legal abortion doctors in the last 40 years has led to “dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death,” according to the National Abortion Federation.

Now, however, Texas and other states are reversing course. State lawmakers enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the previous decade, a trend that appears likely to continue in 2014. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly 300 anti-abortion bills are currently pending in state legislatures.

The new restrictions have had a significant impact on women’s access to abortion. A Huffington Post survey last year found that since 2010, at least 54 abortion providers across 27 states had either closed or stopped performing the procedure. Sixteen more shut their doors after Texas lawmakers passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country last summer. A federal appeals court upheld two of the new restrictions in a ruling last week.

As a result, researchers and women’s health advocates say, women today are resorting to many of the same dangerous methods they relied on in the pre-Roe era: seeking out illegal abortion providers, as Karen Hulsey did, or attempting risky self-abortion procedures.

In 2014, four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, pregnant women once again find themselves crossing the border to Mexico and haunting back-alleys in search of medical care.

 

Pedestrians walk past discount pharmacies in Nogales, Mexico, June 17, 2006. Today, women from the U.S. cross the border to Mexico to purchase misoprostol, a drug that can induce abortions. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The situation is particularly dire in Texas. In 2011, the state had 44 abortion clinics, but more than half of them have since shuttered due to new anti-abortion laws. In September, when a state law requiring all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers goes into effect, reproductive rights advocates expect 14 more clinics will have to close, leaving only six facilities to serve the nearly 75,000 women who seek abortions in Texas each year.

The poorest area of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border, has no remaining abortion clinics. Women who live there have to drive roughly 240 miles to San Antonio for the nearest clinic, but many of them are Mexican immigrants with restrictions on their work visas that prevent them from traveling that far.

In addition, the state has slashed funding for family planning, forcing 76 clinics that offer birth control and other reproductive health services but do not perform abortions to shut down.

“It’s a horrible natural experiment that is taking place in Texas, where we are going to see what happens in 2014 when U.S. women don’t have access to legal, safe abortion,” said Dan Grossman, vice president of research for Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit.

Anti-abortion advocates say the idea of back-alley abortions returning is just a scare tactic their opponents use to try to keep abortion legal.

“That is a statement that’s been purported by those who are anti-life, but in actuality, we haven’t seen any evidence of that taking place here,” said Melissa Conway, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life.

But Grossman, who is part of a research team that is currently studying the effects of the new abortion laws and family planning cuts in Texas, said he is already witnessing the consequences of the new restrictions.

“It seems like [women] are becoming more desperate to find an option,” he said. “We’ve heard reports of women taking herbs or other substances, or intentionally getting punched in the stomach or beaten up — the same kinds of things they did before abortion was legal.”

Ironically, in the years following Roe v. Wade, Texas had been a beacon of hope for Mexican women seeking abortions, since the procedure is illegal in most of Mexico.

“Texas has always been a place where people in Mexico came to get safe abortions,” said Lindsay Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, which helps women in need pay for abortions in Texas. Now, she said, “traffic’s going to start going the other way.”

Indeed, the lack of abortion access in Texas is already pushing pregnant women back across the border. At Mexican pharmacies, they can purchase misoprostol, a drug with the labeled use of preventing gastric ulcers — but which can also induce abortions.

In the U.S., misoprostol is available only by prescription from a licensed abortion provider. The drug, first manufactured by Pfizer under the name Cytotec, is prescribed in combination with another medication, mifepristone (labeled RU-486), for abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. The FDA has approved this combination of drugs for medically induced abortions in the first trimester, which account for almost a quarter of all non-hospital abortions in the U.S. each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The medications are extremely safe and more than 90 percent effective when taken together.

American women are learning that if they don’t have access to an abortion provider, they can obtain misoprostol illegally and take a high dose of it on its own to end a pregnancy. The drug is 75 to 85 percent effective in completing an abortion when taken properly up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, according to Ibis Reproductive Health, but it is relatively complicated to self-administer. A woman has to put 12 pills under her tongue in specific time-intervals, and she needs to have access to follow-up care in case she has complications or the pills don’t work.

“I’ve seen women who have used 50 pills all at one time,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Women’s Health, a network of abortion clinics in Texas. “They put them in every orifice of their body, because they had no idea how to use it. That’s the scary part — using any means necessary to self-induce.”

Taking misoprostol under the wrong circumstances and without medical supervision, doctors and women’s health advocates warn, can lead to life-threatening complications. A woman who takes the pill with an ectopic pregnancy, for instance, risks heavy internal bleeding due to rupturing of the fallopian tube. If a pregnancy does not pass completely, meanwhile, women run the risk of infection, fever and sepsis.

“Those are the major complications we’re going to be seeing in these communities without clinics,” Miller warned. Hemorrhaging and infection, if not properly treated, can lead to death.

Still, misoprostol is generally considered a safer and more palatable alternative to more primitive methods of self-abortions, and demand is quickly increasing among women living in areas where abortion is illegal or impossible to access. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and founder of Women on Web, a digital community of abortion rights supporters, has published instructions on her website teaching women to take misoprostol properly on their own. She told HuffPost that her team regularly receives calls from women all over the U.S. seeking information about where to find the drug.

“In the United States there are import restrictions on abortion medications, so we just need to help women get access to them,” she said in a phone interview. “Sometimes that means we refer them over the border to Mexico.”

The trip across the border is often risky for women because of heavy drug cartel activity on the highways. And Mexican pharmacies have capitalized on the growing demand for misoprostol by marking up the cost to $200 or $300 per box.

Women in the U.S. can also obtain the pills illegally at flea markets in South Texas, or for about $100 a box over the internet, but Gomperts said the black market is awash in dubious drugs masquerading as misoprostol.

“There are a lot of fake websites out there, and there are a lot of people who take advantage of women’s desperate need,” she said.

Women who try to obtain the pills illegally, either online or on the black market, also run the risk of getting arrested. What’s more, women in the Rio Grande Valley who have obtained the pills are too afraid to share their stories, even anonymously, because they don’t want the police to crack down on the places that sell them.

“When the media first covered the flea market, it got raided by police and people got arrested,” Miller said. “When people start to cover this stuff, then the women can’t even get black market abortions. The culture in [South Texas] is one of extreme fear and caution — the women are so afraid of being put in jail.”

Women outside of Texas face the same obstacles. Jennifer Whalen, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania mother, was charged with a felony in December after she ordered a package of misoprostol and mifeprestone online from an overseas pharmacy for her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Abortion is difficult to access in Pennsylvania due to severe restrictions on clinics there, and the closest clinic to Whalen’s town was across state lines in New York.

Whalen was charged with one count of medical consultation and judgment after her daughter had to go to the emergency room to be treated for an incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection.

“We know that prohibition and criminalization will never stop women from having abortions,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Illegal, self-abortions are a form of civil disobedience. Women will violate unjust laws and bear the health risks and the legal consequences, without causing harm to the people or institutions that make their decisions criminal.”

In addition to pushing women across the border into Mexico in search of misoprostol or other abortion solutions, the dwindling number of clinics in Texas and elsewhere has also revived the concept of “miscarriage management” — an idea that similarly harkens back to pre-Roe days, when doctors would quietly tell women to figure out a way to induce their own miscarriages so that they could legally intervene to treat the bleeding.

The New Republic reported that one of the last remaining abortion providers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Lester Minto, resorted to the idea of “miscarriage management” when a law went into effect in November that prohibited him from providing abortions. Minto offered treatment to women who had already started their own miscarriages for $400, lab work and ultrasound included. The visit would last two to three hours at most.

“Nothing here is back alley,” Minto told the magazine. “We do follow-ups with everybody. We still treat them just like we always did.”

But even Minto’s practice is now closed, leaving women few options for follow-up care when they try to self-abort in the Rio Grande Valley. The treatment Minto was providing would cost $2,000 to $3,000 in a hospital, require a general anesthetic and take up an entire day, Miller told HuffPost, which is out of reach for many poor and uninsured women.

With so many doors closed to them, back-alley remedies may soon be all that are left for many women.

“The situation politicians have put women in right now is untenable,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Making abortion out of reach only pushes women into the shadows.”

Karen Hulsey is particularly concerned about the situation facing women today. For five years in the 1990s, she worked as a physician’s assistant at an abortion clinic in Brownwood, Texas. There, she helped treat Mexican immigrants who had had traumatizing experiences similar to what she herself went through in 1969.

“I saw the effects of abortions on girls in Mexico who were raped, and the results of those abortions, as far as the shape of their vagina and their cervix,” she said. “It was just abhorrent, the scarring from the methods that were being used. I would not be surprised if the same thing were going on today.”

Hulsey, now 65, retired in 2000 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors said she developed after her abortion and rape in Mexico. Although she has two children now, she said she has had trouble holding down a healthy romantic relationship because of what she went through.

Now that Texas lawmakers are spending so much time trying to limit access to abortion, she said, she is reminded of her trauma constantly.

“There are very few weeks that I don’t think about the severity of what I went through, especially with it being so up front in the news right now,” she said. “Every time anything like that comes up, I think, ‘Oh you people just don’t have any idea what you’re doing. No clue what you’d be sending girls back to.'”

Reproductive rights advocates rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Henry Wade’s position at the time of the suit as Texas attorney general; he was district attorney for Dallas County.

Pope Francis Takes Aim At Ideologically Obsessed Christians, Says They Have Illness (VIDEO) October 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: There is definitely something strange going on in the universe when I find the Pope’s remarks relevant (although I will not forget that as Bishop he at best kept quiet during the era of atrocities under the military dictatorship in Argentina). What he says about the church and ideology also applies to the world of Marxism, where the continent of thought created by Marx’s brilliant mind and his political activity has been ossified into a materialist and economic ideology by many who call themselves Marxist rather than a living and dynamic philosophy of human liberation that needs to be re-worked out for each generation.

 

Based on past statements, Pope Francis’ remarks were aimed mostly at the Christian Right.

While Pope Francis did not specifically mention Christian right-wing ideology during the Mass, his past remarks suggest he was talking about that ideology most of all.

In September, Pope Francis attacked “savage capitalism” and took up the plight of the unemployed against a system that worships money. Earlier that month, the Pope also criticized conservative Catholics for focusing so much on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. And in July, Pope Francis put the brakes on hating gay people, saying that we shouldn’t judge or marginalize them.

Clearly, Pope Francis isn’t fond of the extreme ideals of the Christian Right. He supports helping the poor. He believes in economic fairness. He denounces hatred of gay people. He thinks the war against abortion and birth control has gone too far. Considering all of these things, it’s pretty obvious that Pope Francis was mostly talking to right-wing Christians on Thursday. Their ideological fanaticism has damaged religion. They have abandoned the true teachings of Jesus to pursue an extremist agenda. And Pope Francis just called them out for it. Cue right-wing rage in 3, 2, 1…

 

“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

The Politics of Abortion in Latin America July 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Latin America, Women.
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Cora Fernandez Anderson

by Cora Fernandez Anderson, Five College Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Reproductive Politics

July 17, 2013 – 2:01 pm, http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/07/17/the-politics-of-abortion-in-latin-america/

 

Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk.Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk. (Apartments in Nicaragua via Shutterstock)

In light of the recent case of Beatriz, a 22-year-old Salvadoran woman and mother of a toddler, who, while suffering from lupus and kidney failure and carrying an anencephalic fetus, was denied the right to an abortion, it is relevant to discuss the restrictive abortion laws in Latin America and some of the reasons behind them.

Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region. Legal abortion upon request during the first trimester is only available in Cuba (as of 1965), Mexico City (as of 2007), and Uruguay (as of 2012). In the rest of the continent, abortion is criminalized in most circumstances, with few exceptions, the most common of which are when the life or health of the woman is at risk, rape, incest and/or fetus malformations. However, even in these cases the legal and practical hurdles a woman has to face to have an abortion are such that many times these exceptions are not available, or by the time they are authorized it is too late. The consequences of such criminalization are well known: high maternal mortality and morbidity rates due to unsafe back alley abortions that affect poor and young women disproportionately.

The current laws ruling abortion in the region have been inherited from colonial powers. They are a legacy of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. While European women have already gotten rid of these laws many decades ago, Latin American women still have to deal with them. Why is this so?

As both scholars and activists know by now, women’s rights, like other human rights, are only respected if a movement organizes around them and puts pressure on the state to change unfair laws and policies. While feminist movements swept Europe and North America during the 1960s and 70s, Latin American countries were busy fighting dictatorships and civil wars. It is not that women did not organize, but rather they did so to oppose the brutal regimes and to address the needs of poor populations hit by the recurrent economic crises. Reproductive rights just had to wait. When democracy finally arrived in the region—in the 1980s in South American and the 1990s in Central America—feminist movements gradually began to push for reproductive rights. For example, the September 28th Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion was launched in 1990 in the context of the Fifth Latin American and Caribbean Feminist meeting held in San Bernardo, Argentina. Since then, most countries in the region have seen mobilizations and protests around this date. However, by the time the movements began to focus on reproductive rights, the global context had changed and the conservative right had also set up a strong opposition to any change to the status quo.

The strongholds of the opposition to decriminalization lie in two places: first, the Catholic Church, and second, the ascendance of the religious right in the United States. The Catholic Church has historically been a strong political actor in Latin America, ever since its large role in the conquest and colonization of the continent by the Spanish and Portuguese crowns in the 16th and 17th centuries. The church’s influence among both political and economic elites is still a reality in the whole region with only a variation of degree among the different countries. However, the church’s strong opposition to abortion has not been constant. While the church has always condemned abortion, it used to be considered a misdemeanor and not a murder of an innocent human life, as in the current discourse. In addition, it was not until the late 1800s that the church considered that life started at conception. Until 1869, a fetus was thought to receive its soul from 40 to 80 days after conception, abortion being a sin only after the ensoulment had taken place.

Even in the beginning of the 20th century, when many Latin American countries passed their current legislation that allowed legal abortion under certain circumstances, the Catholic Church did not pose a strong opposition to these reforms. As Mala Htun explains in her research on South American abortion laws, at the time abortion reforms were passed by a nucleus of male politicians, doctors, and jurists. In addition, these reforms legalized abortion only in very limited circumstances and required the authorization of a doctor and/or a judge, and therefore represented no real threat to the dominant discourse of abortion being morally wrong. The church only began organizing against abortion decriminalization when feminist movements came together to claim the autonomy of women’s bodies threatening this consensus.

When John Paul II became Pope in 1978, moral issues such as abortion were given a priority in the church’s mission as never before. Having lived through the Soviet conquest of his home country, Poland, and experienced the repression of Catholicism and the legalization of abortion there, the Pope felt very strongly about these issues. Once many of the European Catholic countries achieved the legalization of abortion in the 1970s and 80s, Latin America, being the largest Catholic region in the world, became the battleground in which abortion policy would be fought and decided.

Together with this shift within the Catholic Church, a second stronghold of the opposition has come from the United States. Long past the days of Roe v. Wade, since the 1980s the increasing influence of the religious right within the Republican Party has implied that U.S. reproductive rights policies have been increasingly anti-abortion when this party was in office. How has this affected Latin America? Both directly, by banning federal funding for international NGOs involved with providing, advising, or even advocating for abortion decriminalization (known as the Mexico City Policy or the Global Gag Rule), and also indirectly, through the legitimacy and strength given to anti-abortion discourses, particularly during the George W. Bush administration.

Latin American politicians have not been indifferent to these trends and have thus sought the support of the Catholic Church and/or U.S. Republicans and anti-abortion groups to strengthen their chances of winning office. Unfortunately, in this context the future of Beatriz and many other poor and young women in the region remains politically uncertain.

If Babies Had Guns They Wouldn’t Be Aborted. April 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence, Health, Right Wing, Women.
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by Abby Zimet

babies_guns_bhnxtueceae8nsc
Once again – why does this week’s news all sound like it comes from The Onion? – this is real. The above is the new campaign bumper sticker for one Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas). He recently threatened to impeach Obama for daring to consider gun control measures, invited gun owners feeling “unwanted” and “persecuted” to move to Texas, and argues that “the right to life is the great civil rights struggle of our age – no little boy or little girl should be subjected to violence because the government has declared them less than human,” which he says is Just Like slavery. We can’t think of much in the way of response, except that Costa Rica is looking better and better.

Stop the covert attempt to criminalize abortion September 20, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health, Women.
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I just signed on to this urgent campaign to defend women’s reproductive
rights in Canada. This is an important issue and I hope you’ll join me:

http://www.leadnow.ca/defend-our-reproductive-rights

In
just 48 hours, our MPs will debate a Conservative motion that the Canadian
Medical Association, representing 70,000 doctors, is calling a backdoor attempt
to criminalize abortion.

In 1988, the Supreme Court of
Canada ruled that the abortion provision of the Criminal Code was
unconstitutional.
But this week, Parliament will be debating a motion
that would threaten our reproductive rights – and the rights of our friends,
daughters, mothers, sisters, and partners.

Prime Minister Harper has
chosen to allow this motion to go forward to a free vote in Parliament, so every
MP must decide whether or not they will stand up for the rights that women and
our allies have been fighting to protect for decades.

We need a
huge public outcry to show our MPs that Canadians will not tolerate this attack
on women’s rights. Please click here to send an urgent message to your MP to
defeat Motion-312 now – then forward this to
everyone.

http://www.leadnow.ca/defend-our-reproductive-rights

Thank
you,

Roger Hollander

In Arizona, Life Somehow Begins Two Weeks Before Conception. Don’t Ask. April 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Arizona, Health, Women.
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04.13.12 – 1:08 PM, www.commondreams.org

by Abby Zimet

Proving definitively that Arizona is the worst place in the country to be a woman, or even a biped, Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law three extreme anti-abortion measures including a so-called “egg drop” bill that effectively bans abortion after 18 weeks, except in cases of medical emergency, by redefining pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception. Also under the richly named Women’s Health and Safety Act, schools and the state must promote adoption and birth as the best outcome for an unwanted pregnancy, in part by displaying images of fetuses. And clinics must have signs warning against abortion “coercion” – all this, in the name of  “protecting women from the serious health and safety risks of abortion.” We’re speechless.

GOP Wants To Be Sure Women/Idiot Children Understand What Rape Is and Get Permission Slips For Pretty Much Everything March 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org

The surreally awful news in the war on lady parts just keeps coming. An Idaho legislator wants women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and “counselling;” if she was raped, her doctor should make sure she was really raped and not just a participant in “normal relations in a marriage.” Alaska’s State Rep. Alan Dick (really) wants women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound and a written permission slip from the guy who, you know. Arizona wants to make it nigh on impossible to get an abortion, but if you make it through all the legislative hurdles you should have to watch an abortion. Then again, the author of the Arizona bill requiring women to prove to their bosses they are using birth control pills for non-slutty reasons, or get fired, is rewriting the bill because apparently, bewilderingly, some people got upset. Funny: Why don’t we feel better?

 

Pro-Choice ‘Doonesbury’ Too Much for Many US Papers March 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Health, Media, Women.
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Roger’s note: this article contains a wonderful interview with Garry Trudeau, a most worthwhile read.  I loved his phrase: “comedy malpractice.”
Published on Monday, March 12, 2012 by Common Dreams

  – Common Dreams staff

Fans of Garry Trudeau’s ‘Doonesbury’ may have to adjust their reading habits this week as many US newspapers have decided to move the popular comic strip from its place on the comics page to the editorial section. Some papers, in fact, have decide to drop the strip entirely after they saw that this week’s arch would be grappling with a rash of new state laws across the country that will require  women seeking abortions to submit to state-run ultrasounds and other invasive procedures.

The Los Angeles Times is one of the papers that has decided to run the series, but will move it from the comic pages, where it normally appears, to their Op-Ed page. Explaining the decision, Sue Horton, the Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, said, “We carry both op-eds and cartoons about controversial subjects, and this is a controversial subject.”

And The Guardian in the UK, which also runs the strip, reported today:

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau has defended his cartoon strip about abortion, which several US newspapers are refusing to run, saying he felt compelled to respond to the way Republicans across America are undermining women’s healthcare rights.

The strip, published on Monday and scheduled to run all week, has been rejected by several papers, while others said they were switching it from the comic section to the editorial page.

In an email exchange with the Guardian, Trudeau expressed dismay over the papers’ decision but was unrepentant, describing as “appalling” and “insane” Republican state moves on women’s healthcare.

About 1,400 newspapers, including the Guardian, take the Doonesbury cartoon. The Guardian newspaper is running the cartoon as normal on Monday.

The strip deals specifically with a law introduced in Texas and other states requiring a woman who wants to have an abortion to have an ultrasound scan, or sonogram, which will show an image of the foetus and other details, in an attempt to make her reconsider.

It portrays a woman who turns up at an abortion clinic in Texas and is told to take a seat in “the shaming room”. A state legislator asks if she has been at the clinic before and, when she says she had been to get contraceptives, he replies: “Do your parents know you’re a slut?”

Later, she says she does not want an intrusive vaginal examination but is told by a nurse: “The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10-inch shaming wand.” The nurse adds: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

The Kansas City Star is among the papers not running the cartoon in its normal slot. “We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family-friendly comic page,” an editor told Associated Press. The Star will use a replacement strip offered by the organisation that syndicates Doonesbury, Universal Uclick, and move the abortion one to its editorial pages.

The cartoonist was not surprised about the controversary surrounding the new series, and defended it in several interviews by saying that the new spate of laws was shocking, deplorable, and rife with comic opportunity. “To ignore it,” Trudeau told The Washington Post, “would have been comedy malpractice.” Trudeau’s complete interview with the Posts follows:

Q: In 1985, you decided to pull a week of abortion-related strips satirizing the film “The Silent Scream,” which purported to show the reactions of a fetus. So what’s different now? What spurred you to create an abortion narrative in the current political climate?

A: In my 42 years with UPS, the “Silent Scream” week was the only series that the syndicate ever strongly objected to. [Syndicate president Lee Salem] felt that it would be deeply harmful to the feature and that we would lose clients permanently. They had supported me through so much for so long, I felt obliged to go with their call.

Such was not the case this week. There was no dispute over contents, just some discussion over whether to prepare a substitute week for editors who requested one [which we did].

I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.

Q: After four decades, you’re an expert at knowing the hot-button satiric words and phrases — such as, in the case [this] week, terms such as “10-inch shaming wand.” Can you speak to how you approached writing these strips?

A: Oddly, for such a sensitive topic, I found it easy to write. The story is very straightforward — it’s not high-concept like [the satiric] Little Timmy in “Silent Scream” — and the only creative problem I had to work through was the physician’s perspective. I settled on resigned outrage.

Texas’s HB-15 [bill] isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.

Q: Going back through the history of the strip, I’m surprised not to see a previous abortion strip in “Doonesbury’s” dossier. Have you tackled abortion before?

A: No. Roe v. Wade was decided while I was still in school. Planned Parenthood was embraced by both parties. Contraception was on its way to being used by 99 percent of American women. I thought reproductive rights was a settled issue. Who knew we had turned into a nation of sluts?

Q: Over the past 40 years, “Doonesbury” helped change the comics game for many newspapers and comics creators themselves. Do you think newspaper editors have “loosened up” over time regarding comics? Or have they grown more reluctant or skittish — or, even worse, dispassionate?

A: It’s a mix, but in general I spend much less time playing defense, presumably because of the ubiquity of topical satire these days. “South Park” and “The Daily Show” have stretched the envelope so much, most editors no longer see “Doonesbury” as the rolling provocation they once did.

Plus, I think I get a bit of a pass simply because I’ve been around so long. After all this time, editors know pretty much what they’re going to get with the strip.

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