United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

Human Rights in Afghanistan: 15 August 2021 to 15 June 2022

Following the withdrawal of foreign troops and the establishment of the Taliban as the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, there has been a sharp reduction in civilian casualties. Without ongoing hostilities between the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the Taliban, civilian casualties have decreased by 77%. Despite this, civilian casualties still occur in large numbers in Afghanistan. These casualties have mostly been attributed to ISIL-KP, the Afghan branch of ISIS, and unexploded ordinances. 

Although civilian casualties have been reduced, Afghanistan still faces an economic, financial, and humanitarian crisis. Currently, 59% of the Afghan population needs humanitarian assistance (up from 47% at the start of 2021). Additionally, there have been persistent allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and other ill-treatment carried out by the de facto authorities. The Taliban constantly target former government officials and military, media workers, civil society, and suspected affiliates of ISIL-KP or the National Resistance Front. In the ten months of Taliban control, there have been hundreds of extrajudicial killings. Bodies (often dismembered and/or beheaded) have been found in caves, on the side of the road, or even hanging from trees. In many cases, these individuals were detained and tortured prior to their murder. In other instances, they were simply shot on the street or in their homes. United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also recorded cases of physical punishments, such as public lashings and floggings, of individuals accused of Zina (sex outside of marriage) or violating religious and moral codes. In some situations, these individuals have also been subjected to extrajudicial killings.

Beyond this arbitrary violence and ill-treatment of citizens, the Taliban have also worked to systematically reduce human rights in Afghanistan, particularly the rights of women and girls. There have been targeted killings of journalists, media workers, and human rights defenders, as well as limitations and restrictions on what media outlets can publish. This has severely reduced freedom of opinion and expression and has led to journalists self-censoring their content. These limitations on freedom of expression can also be seen in the Taliban’s handling of protests and peaceful assembly. Protests against Taliban policies are regularly restricted and UNAMA has reported several cases of the de facto security forces using violence, including pepper spray and electric devices, to disperse protesters and prevent media coverage. The Taliban have also searched homes and arbitrarily arrested and detained activists, to reduce dissent.

Over this ten-month period, the Taliban have slowly moved to restrict women’s movement and enforce oppressive dress. Women’s participation in the workforce has been severely restricted and girls’ secondary education has been suspended. Additionally, college admission for women has been significantly reduced. The de facto government regularly releases edicts restricting women’s ability to move outside the home without a mahram, or close male relative, and enforcing strict adherence to modest dress in public spaces. These laws are designed so that male relatives are responsible for enforcement and can be punished or jailed for a woman’s refusal to comply. In one instance, a woman traveling with her male coworker was stopped at a checkpoint. When the de facto security forces discovered the two were not related they were arrested and murdered. 

In general, violence against women and girls has been prevalent in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s rise to power. However, none of UNAMA’s 87 reported cases of murder, rape, forced marriage, assault and battery, and honor killings have been processed through the formal justice system. It is likely that these cases reported to UNAMA are only a small fraction of the actual amount of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan since most incidents go unreported.

President Biden Signs Executive Order to Protect Traveling for Abortion Care

With continuous restrictions and bans on abortion across the country, the need to travel for abortion care has risen astronomically. Additionally, certain states have tried to further restrict access to reproductive healthcare by hindering cross-state traveling for abortions in any way they can. To combat these restrictions, President Biden has signed an Executive Order tasking officials to protect the ability to travel across states for abortion care in different ways. He signed this at the first meeting of the Biden-Harris Administration’s new Reproductive Rights Task Force, composed of representatives from departments and offices across the white house and led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. The Executive order is the second one issued by President Biden since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and specifically aids the ability to travel to obtain abortion care and how health officials can help women in these situations.

            The first part of the order helps ensure that women and pregnant people are able to travel across states to get abortions by instructing that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “consider” ways to help women who travel for abortion care and consider” utilizing Medicaid funding for care. The order also directs the HHS to ensure healthcare workers abide by federal anti-discrimination laws to ensure women do not have delayed medical care. It also directs the department to help health officials navigate legal obligations and restrictions with regard to abortion care. President Biden also included that the HHS should “study” the abortion crisis across the country and collect data, as well as assess the viability and accuracy of previously collected data, to further understand and assess what is needed and what can be done for reproductive healthcare.

Department of Justice Sues Idaho over Abortion Restrictions

The Biden administration filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the state of Idaho for restricting abortion access for patients who need lifesaving medical treatment. This is the first Justice Department challenge since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer.

The suit challenges Idaho Code § 18-622 (§ 18-622), which imposes a near-total ban on abortion and is set to go into effect on August 25. This code would make it almost impossible for patients who need an abortion in an emergency medical situation, including ectopic pregnancy,  to receive potentially lifesaving treatment.

Federal prosecutors believe Idaho’s law would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law that requires anyone coming to a medical facility for urgent health care needs to be treated.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated, “We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law. And we will closely scrutinize state abortion laws to ensure that they comply with federal law.” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reiterated a point upon which the Biden Administration has been clear: “Patients have the right to stabilizing hospital emergency room care no matter where they live.”

Sexual Harrasment Laws In Limbo After Trump-admin Changes

With women representing 60 percent of college students, Title IX has shifted focus toward sexual harrasment and assault. In a 2019 survey from the Association of American Universities, one in four cis female undergraduates said they were sexually harassed. The ratio was more than one in five for TGQN (trans, grenderqueer, noncomforming) students and one in twenty for cis men. The recent National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) report noted that, “Some lower courts have even held that schools cannot be held liable for their deliberately indifferent responses to a student’s report of sexual harrasment  or assult unless the student is sexually harrassed or assaulted again after their report to their school, effectively creating a ‘one free rape rule.’” 

Students seldom report their experiences, due in part because of fear that they will not be disbelieved or punished. The reporting process became less accessible after changes made by the Trump administration. 

Case investigations, which previously had to be completed within six months, can now remain open indefinitely. They can be waived entirely “if the harassment described in the complaint is not severe and pervasive,” the NCWGE reported. Schools can address complaints through mediation rather than formal punishment, including sport suspensions. It also requires live hearings with cross-examinations by advisors, which may discourage students who want to remain anonymous from reporting. Students who experience sexual assalt are disproportionately likely to drop out of college, emphasizing the need for prevention and reporting resources.

The NCWGE recommends Title IX expand to ensure that student survivors do not experience more severe punishment than perpetrators. It also suggests that schools that violate anti-sexual assault laws be subject to increased civil penalties. 

On June 23, the Department of Education announced a proposal to reverse restrictions made by the previous administration. The plan would expand Title IX protections for sexual harrasment, improve the reporting process, and increase transparency between students and their schools’ nondiscrimination policies. 

Tragic and Cruel: Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade today in a 5-4 decision.

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal and Feminist Majority Executive Director Katherine Spillar released the following statement:

“Today’s Supreme Court tragic and cruel decision to overturn Roe v Wade is catastrophic and endangers the lives and futures of millions of women and girls, especially poor women and women of color. This is the first time in the history of the Supreme Court and this country that a fundamental constitutional right has been taken away. The Court is out of touch with the more than two-thirds of American people who support comprehensive reproductive health and rights.

“With the Supreme Court’s decision, the war against women will intensify. Over the last four decades, every time the anti-abortion forces have won a battle, the extremists in their ranks have been emboldened, and violence against abortion providers has increased. We are once again in a state of emergency. Even in the run-up to the decision, reproductive health providers have experienced a dramatic increase in violence and threats of violence at their facilities, including bomb threats, death threats, invasions and stalking. We will work with the Biden administration, allied organizations and clinics to counter and reduce anti-abortion extremist violence.

“We agree with President Biden, this is not over. The right of women and people to make their own decisions including about abortion, contraception, and the right of privacy including same-sex marriage, will be on the ballot this November. We call upon Congress to pass immediately the Women’s Health Protection Act to restore protections for abortion nationwide.”

Equal Rights Amendment Going Strong At 50 Years

The Equal Rights Amendment, which was 50 years ago approved by the Senate and sent to the states for ratification, received strong support today from leading Constitutional scholars. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, released today opinion letters from Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School, Carl M. Loeb, University Professor Emeritus and Russ Feingold, President of the American Constitution Society.

Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal, who was in the Gallery of the Senate when it approved the Equal Rights Amendment on March 22, 1972 and has worked for its passage ever since, said on this 50th Anniversary: “There are only two very difficult requirements for ratification of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 1) It must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the House and the Senate and then 2) ratified by three-fourths (or now 38) states legislatures. Take it from me who has worked on ratification of the ERA for over 50 years, this is really difficult. Don’t make it impossible.”

Read our full press release.

Texas Supreme Court Ends Federal Court Challenge to State’s Abortion Ban

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that abortion providers can’t sue state officials to block Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion at roughly six-weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. The unanimous decision closed the narrow pathway to challenge the law left open by the U.S. Supreme Court last December after the Court dismissed most of the providers’ lawsuit against Texas. The law, which went in effect on September 1 last year, will stay in effect for the foreseeable future.

“We are in a moment of crisis not only for reproductive rights but for our justice system and the rule of law,” says Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “With this ruling, the sliver of this case that we were left with is gone. An unconstitutional ban on abortion after six weeks continues unchecked in the state of Texas. The courts have allowed Texas to nullify a constitutional right.”

The issue before the Texas Supreme Court was whether state medical licensing officials could enforce S.B. 8. The Court ruled these officials have no enforcement authority “either directly or indirectly” so they can’t be sued.

“This case is effectively over,” says Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued the case. “With today’s ruling, Texas abortion providers will continue to be threatened with an onslaught of lawsuits if they were to violate Texas’s blatantly unconstitutional six-week ban. And that will continue to chill the provision of abortion care throughout the state.”

The Texas law authorizes private individuals to enforce the law by suing health care providers who perform prohibited abortions or anyone who “aids and abets” another person to obtain one. The law rewards successful plaintiffs “at least $10,000” plus attorney fees and blocks defendants who win cases from getting legal fees. By barring state officials from enforcing the law, Texas lawmakers sought to bypass constitutional abortion rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, which only applies to state action not private action.

The U.S. Supreme Court has twice refused to block the law while courts reviewed the case. Then in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson last December, a 5-4 majority of the Court ruled abortion providers could not bring suit against state judges and clerks or the state Attorney General to block the law. The Court allowed only a narrow portion of the case to proceed against the Texas Medical Board and other licensing authorities. In a separate lawsuit, the Court dismissed a challenge filed by the U.S. Department of Justice to block the law.

At the time, Justice Sotomayor wrote a searing dissent to the Supreme Court’s. “The Court should have put an end to this madness months ago, before S. B. 8 first went into effect. I dissent from the Court’s dangerous departure from its precedents, which establish that federal courts can and should issue relief when a State enacts a law that chills the exercise of a constitutional right and aims to evade judicial review. By foreclosing suit against state-court officials and the state attorney general, the Court effectively invites other States to refine S. B. 8’s model for nullifying federal rights. The Court thus betrays not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government.”

In the month after the law went into effect on September 1, the number of abortions at Texas clinics dropped by over half from the previous September—from 4,511 to 2,164. The average one-way driving distance for Texans to reach an abortion clinic went from 17 miles to 247 miles—a 14-fold increase. Clinics in neighboring states reported overwhelming numbers of patients coming from Texas. Others ordered abortion pills online.

At a press conference about the Texas Supreme Court decision, former Texas Representative Wendy Davis explained the impact of the law on people in Texas.

“We know that there’s been a tremendously disproportionate impact on people who are financially challenged, which tends to include more people of color than anyone else,” says Rep. Davis. “We know that it’s had a disproportionate impact on people who already have children. In Texas, more than 60 percent of people who seek abortion have at least one child. The inability to access childcare, to leave work, to travel to another state—all of those impediments have meant that people who are least able to afford having another child are those who are being forced to do so.”

At least 10 states are now considering bills copying Texas S.B. 8. In Oklahoma—where many Texans have sought abortion health care over the last six months—lawmakers on Thursday passed a Texas-style ban on abortion.

“The situation is becoming increasingly dire, and now neighboring states—where we have been sending patients—are about to pass similar bans,” says Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “Where will Texans go then? The more states that pass these bans, the harder it will be for anyone in this region to get abortion care.”

Rep. Davis expressed fear about the future of abortion rights as the Supreme Court is poised to rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization currently pending before the Court. The case involving a Mississippi abortion ban is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

“If you listen to the U.S. Supreme Court hearing a couple of months ago on this issue, it became really clear, really quickly, that a majority of these justices are poised to overturn Roe entirely. I think it will happen. And I think it will happen in June,” says Rep. Davis. “What will the consequences of that look like? We already know because we have been living that world essentially in Texas for the last six months.”

ERA Coalition and 77 Organizations urge the A.G. to withdraw Trump administration anti-ERA memo

Yesterday (October 28th), Christopher Schroeder was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) by a vote of 56-41. Previously, he served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy under the Obama Administration. Under the Trump Administration, the head of the OLC had sent a memo to the National Archivist telling him not to certify and publish the ERA as the 28th amendment using a controversial legal opinion.

Federal law directs the National Archivists of the U.S. to certify and publish amendments that have met the requirements laid out in Article V of the Constitution in what is a purely administrative duty normally done automatically. The ERA has met all requirements within Article V of the Constitution and thus the National Archivist should have automatically certified and published the amendment when Virginia, the 38th state, ratified the ERA.

In Response to Schroeder’s confirmation, the ERA Coalition immediately released a joint letter to the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, urging the immediate removal of the Trump Administration memo sent by the previous head of the OLC. The letter was co-signed by 77 state and national organizations and their leaders, including the Feminist Majority, in support of this call to action. Click here to view the letter sent out by the ERA Coalition: https://www.eracoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ERA-Coalition-Letter-to-AG-Garland.pdf

Supreme Court Denies Washington Pharmacists’ Religious Freedom Appeal

In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal in Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman, a case brought by Washington state pharmacists who argued for a right to deny services on grounds of religious objections.

A 2007 regulation adopted in the state bound pharmacies to fill lawful prescriptions, with the caveat that individual pharmacists with religious objections could refer patients to another pharmacist who works within the same store.

The challenge of the regulation was filed by the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, who attempted to show a unique circumstance in Washington state by claiming that most pharmacists work alone and their inability to refer patients would place pharmacists in a position of violating their religious beliefs.

Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, with written opinions by Justice Alito and Justice Thomas. In his 15-page dissent, Alito called the courts’ decision an “ominous sign” writing, “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

Many others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, praised the court’s rejection. “When a woman walks into a pharmacy, she should not fear being turned away because of the religious beliefs of the owner or the person behind the counter,” stated ACLU’s legal director, Louise Melling.

The court’s rejection upholds the July 2015 ruling in the case by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which supported the state regulation requiring pharmacies to deliver all prescribed drugs in an efficient and timely manner.

Feminist Majority Honored Congresswomen and a Leading Women’s Health Advocate

The Feminist Majority Foundation and its 42 co-sponsors honored Congresswomen Louise Slaughter with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Barbara Lee and Donna Edwards with Fearless Trailblazer Awards, and Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and Founder of Whole Women’s Health with its Courage Award at the 2015 Women Money Power Summit.

The awards were presented before a packed ballroom at the National Press Club. The Summit is co-sponsored by 42 leading women’s rights organizations including National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, American Association of University Women, National Education Association, National Congress of Black Women, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York made history as the first woman on the powerful House Rules Committee and now as its ranking member. Congresswoman Slaughter a strong voice and fighter for reproductive and justice in Congress and Chair of the Prochoice House Caucus, reminded participants about the days of back-alley abortions. She emphasized that we must never go back to that time. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro paid tribute to Slaughter calling her one of the “great Titans in Congress.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee courageously fought against the Stupak-Pitts anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Ac and recently introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) to finally end the Hyde Amendment. She believes that there is “no option but to fight for women’s healthcare, for women’s rights, and the elimination of racism and sexism.” She encouraged the audience to advocate for what you want. Congresswoman Lee quoted her idol, Shirley Chisholm that “if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”

Congresswoman Donna Edwards served as the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, an organization she co-founded. She also led the campaign to pass the Violence Against Women Act and the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. Congresswoman Edwards asked audience to be strong supporters of women. She raised an important point that “it takes women supporting women, making sure people know not only what we want, but what we demand.” Congresswoman Edwards said that “being fearless is about every single one of us standing up and making a difference.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller is the lead plaintiff in the legal challenge against the Texas TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) law that would reduce the number of clinics from 41 to 10 in the state, denying millions of women access to legal abortion. Advocates are waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will hear Whole Woman’s Health constitutional challenge to the Texas TRAP law. Miller spoke of the importance of women’s health clinics to millions of women not only in the major population centers but also in the rural areas of the country.

The Summit featured sessions on maximizing the women’s vote, the rule of gender in election and advancing the feminist agenda. Featured speakers at the sessions included Avis Jones-Deweever, President and CEO of Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, Kelly Dittmar a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, Barry Lynn, Executive Director at the American United for Separation of Church and State, E. Faye Williams, President and CEO of National Congress of Black Women, Terry O’Neil, President of National Organization for Women, Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations at the American Association of University Women, Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity.

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Join NCGWE and the FMF in Celebrating #TitleIXat43!

feature image via Wikimedia.

Celebrate the 43rd Anniversary of Title IX at a briefing on  Monday, July 27 from 3:30PM – 5PM at the Hill-Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562! The briefing will cover what Title IX has already helped us accomplish and where we’re going next.

Title IX: Congressional Support for Gender Equity in Education

Opening Remarks: Senator Barbara Mikulski (invited)

The History of Congressional Support for Title IX: Lisa Maatz, Chair, NCWGE and Director of Government Relations, American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Improving Title IX’s Implementation:

  • Full Implementation: The Big Picture Sue Klein, Education Equity Director, Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Gender Equity in the ESEA/Every Child Achieves Act? Erin Prangley, Assoc. Director for Government Relations, AAUW

Gender Equity in Education Legislation: Moderator, Neena Chaudhry, Senior Counsel and Director of Equal Opportunities in Athletics, National Women’s Law Center

  • Sex Disaggregated Data to Identify and Remedy Sex Discrimination: Nancy Hogshead Makar, CEO, Champion Women
  • Title IX’s Role in Stopping Sexual Harassment and Assault: Lisalyn Jacobs, Vice President for Government Relations, Legal Momentum

Moderated Q&A (Remaining Time) — the role of Title IX Coordinators: Connie Cordovilla, American Federation of Teachers

RSVP and questions to Sue Klein, [email protected]  703-522-2214. (RSVP desired, but not Required.) There will be light refreshments and handouts!

Black Girls and Women No Longer Invisible in Police Violence Cases

McKinney TX police officer Eric Casebolt’s violent attack on Dajerria Becton, a 15-year-old African American girl at a neighborhood pool party, which was captured on video, went immediately viral over the weekend.

There is little data on police violence toward African American women and girls, which, according to the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) “There is a paucity of data in cases of police violence against Black women, which perpetuates the myth that they are not impacted by this problem.” Yet we know that 12 African American women were reported killed by police in 2014, and this is only what is currently known. There has been no systematic collection of these data.

AAPF, under the leadership of its Director and Founder Kimberle Crenshaw, a well-recognized UCLA and Columbia University Professor who developed the theory of intersectionality, has created a Black Women Police Violence Database, to which it is inviting the public to add their stories. Crenshaw and the AAPF released a report last month called “#SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.” The report highlights stories of Black women who have been killed by police, and studies forms of police brutality, such as sexual assault, that are often disproportionately experienced by women.

By Tuesday, after of the publicity caused by the video, which was viewed more than 6 million times over the weekend, Casebolt resigned. The McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley called Casebolt’s behavior “indefensible” and “out of control.” In a statement, Conley said, “Our policies, our training, our practice do not support his actions.” No decision has been made if Casebolt will be prosecuted.

“Ex-officer Casebolt must face legal action for his violent, reckless action against Becton. Until more police officers are held accountable this out of control, violent behavior disproportionately against African American women and girls – as well as boys and men – will continue,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

“So far the public debate about police violence has centered on body cameras and training. But a central element has been neglected: police department recruiting and representation of people of color and women both on police forces and in police command positions.”

Of the 170 sworn officers in McKinney’s police department, 141 or 83 percent were white and 88 percent were male, according to 2013 data (the most recent that could be located). Only 16 officers or 9 percent were identified as white females. McKinney’s police department has only 1 African American woman. Four officers, or 2 percent of the force, were Latinas; 9 or 5 percent were African American males; and 16 or 9 percent were Latinos. Meanwhile the population of McKinney is 26.5 percent black, 17 percent Latina/o, and 44.6 percent white.

“The underrepresentation of women and people of color is a serious problem in one police department after another in our nation,” said Smeal, adding “For decades, the FMF National Center for Women and Policing has reported that the underrepresentation of women in policing and the lack of community policing is contributing to police brutality. Our nation must not only change the culture, but also the makeup of its police forces by gender, race, and ethnicity.”

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This Seattle High School Just Changed the Face of Birth Control Access for Students

A public high school in Seattle will now be offering services for its students to provide long-lasting birth control, such as IUDs or hormonal implants, at the school-based health center.

In 2009 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices as the most effective method of reducing unintended pregnancies for teens. The organization explained that these long-term and reversible methods are often most effective for young people as they eliminate “adherence and user-dependence from the effectiveness equation.” The ACOG also warned of the potential barriers to this care, such as the cost, especially for young people.

The Chief Sealth International seems to have figured out a way to make these options affordable for its students. Placement of these long-acting reversible contraceptives requires is often expensive and requires an extra visit to a clinic. Services are available at in-school health clinics in Washington, however, through a program called Take Charge, a Washington State Medicaid program that specifically targets minors seeking comprehensive contraceptive services.

For young people in Washington state who are seeking affordable birth control, but do not want their parents to know or otherwise do not have access to insurance, this is an affordable, attainable, and confidential alternative.

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Appeals Court Rules Abortion Ban Past 12 Weeks Unconstitutional

The eight circuit Court of Appeals just ruled an Arkansas abortion ban at 12 weeks of pregnancy as unconstitutional, permanently blocking this extreme abortion ban.

SB 134, which state legislators attempted to pass as a regulation, would ban all abortions past 12 weeks with very few exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or medical emergencies. The court ruled yesterday that this ban violated precedents set by the Supreme Court which uphold the right of women to choose to have an abortion before fetal viability. In the appeals court case, Dr. Janet Cathey, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist stated that viability is “generally not possible until at least 24 weeks.”

SB 134 was vetoed in 2013 by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, only to have his veto overridden by both houses in the state legislature. It was then struck down in federal court last year by US District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who also deemed the ban unconstitutional, stating that “it impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability.”

Today’s ruling affirms that safely and legally ending a pregnancy remains a protected constitutional right in this country,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Northup added, “Women should not have to run to court in state after state, year after tear to protect their constitutional rights from these politically motivated attacks.”

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#SayHerName Protests Take Place in California and Across the Nation

Dozens of topless protesters stopped traffic in San Francisco last week on the National Day of Action for Black Women and Girls to protest the lack of national attention for black women killed by police brutality. The protesters blocked a popular intersection in San Francisco, California, with signs and body paint with messages like this one: “For the murdered, missing, silenced, abused, exploited, unseen.” Similar protests have happened in other cities across the nation. Chinyere Tutashinda, founding member of the BlackOut Collective and a member of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, explained the significance of protesting topless. “We also understand that we live in a country that commodifies black women and black bodies but ignores the death of black women and black girls.” Kimberle Crenshaw, director and founder of the African American Policy Forum, co-authored a report that was also released last week to coincide with the #SayHerName social movement called “#SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.” The report highlights stories of Black women who have been killed by police, and studies forms of police brutality, such as sexual assault, that are often disproportionately experienced by women. Crenshaw, who is a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University, explained that as a nation we have been focusing on the experience of Black men interacting with the police, but “what we know less about is how Black women experience police brutality.” Crenshaw praised the national dialogue surrounding highly publicized deaths of Black men over the past year, but says that there is more to be done to expand. “When [women] are killed,” says Crenshaw, “they’re not part of the conversation.” Crenshaw added in a press release “Although Black women are routinely killed, raped and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality. Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives and police demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.” Hundreds of protesters also gathered in New York City last week, including the family members of Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseux, Shelly Frey, Kayla Moore, and Alberta Spruill, all of whom are Black women killed by police violence.

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Hillary Clinton Calls for Criminal Justice Reform and an End to Mass Incarceration

Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote address at the 18th Annual Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum today, addressing directly criminal justice reforms she would like to see to prevent another “incarceration generation.”

“It’s time the end the era of mass incarceration,” Clinton declared to much applause, citing statistics about the disproportionately higher rate of incarceration that black men in America face. Clinton called for massive reform for criminal justice, including creating or expanding probation and drug diversion programs designed to keep low-level offenders out of prison, drug treatment alternatives, and pursuing alternative options for mental health support.

“Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions,” Clinton said, calling for an end of budget cuts for mental health facilities and hospitals providing mental health services, as well as comprehensive treatment for mental health patients.

Clinton also directly addressed the uprisings happening in Baltimore following the mysterious death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody last week. “My heart breaks for these young men and their families,” she said, naming other unarmed black men who have been killed by police over the past year. She noted that the patterns of police brutality against black men in America “have become unmistakable, and undeniable.”

Clinton also quoted an article in USA Today, which wrote that between two Baltimore neighborhoods separated by only 6 miles, there is a 20-year difference in the average life expectancy. “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America,” Clinton said. “These challenges are all woven together, and they all must be tackled together.”

An annual event, the Dinkins Leadership Forum held at Columbia University addresses “many of the challenging issues including education, the environment, labor, tourism, immigration and fiscal crises that successful and urban ecosystems must contend with.” Other speakers included David Dinkins, who served as mayor of New York City in the 1990s, and was the first and only African American mayor of the city so far.

You can read a full transcript of her speech here.

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Feminists Are Cheering on Hillary’s Presidential Bid

Hillary Clinton’s unique social media entrance to the 2016 presidential race dominated news Sunday and was received well by many – especially feminists.

Emily’s List, the National Organization for Women, and the Women’s Media Center were just a few of those who joined in the flurry of support for Clinton’s candidacy announcement yesterday through a video in which Clinton declared that “everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

“Gender matters in the United States today,” President of the National Organization for Women Terry O’Neill wrote yesterday. O’Neill welcomed Clinton’s candidacy, and said that her campaign “is a powerful message to girls that they can aspire to the highest office, and an equally powerful message to boys that women can be leaders on an equal footing with men.”

Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock endorsed Clinton as a “lifelong champion for women and families and the most qualified candidate to be president.” Emily’s List cited Clinton’s longtime commitment to women and families, mentioning her first job after law school with the Children’s Defense Fund.

The Women’s Media Center asked if the 2016 Hillary race would have the same sexist media coverage as her 2008 race. Indeed, Clinton’s campaign in 2008 was filled with comments on her age, looks, weight, and many other aspects of her life that were not raised for male candidates. The WMC, however, believes that women in roles of leadership and in the public eye are “crucial for continued progress.”

“From the days that she was the first chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession in 1987, to her days as First Lady when she declared at the United Nation’s 4th World Conference on Women that women’s rights are human rights, to her days as Secretary of State when she appointed the first Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Hillary Clinton has made women’s issues a priority,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “It’s no wonder women are excited about not only the possibility of the first woman president, but also that this candidate is a woman who has given high priority to women’s issues from the very beginning of her career.”

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Afghan Woman Beaten to Death After Complaining to Mullah

Updated 4/6/2015 A 27-year-old woman who was falsely accused of burning a copy of the Koran outside of a riverside mosque in a very poor part of Kabul, Afghanistan was brutally beaten and burned alive in March.

Shocking videos quickly spread on social media showing crowds of men surrounded by hundreds of onlookers assaulting the 27-year-old Farkhunda with bricks and sticks and repeatedly kicking her. The woman’s body was then thrown onto the banks of the Kabul River and was burned. Farkhunda’s parents told the police that their daughter was mentally ill and that she had not committed the act intentionally.

It was later revealed Farkhunda, was a religion student who confronted the mullah of the mosque with charging poor people for writing tahwiz, or verses from the Koran to bring an individual good luck and keep the person safe. She reportedly complained to him that her tahwiz did not bring her good luck. The mullah allegedly initiated the attack on Farkhunda.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior confirmed from his official Twitter account that four suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack, and a report from Tolo News claims that the police have detained 9 men accused of killing and burning woman in Kabul. Kabul’s head of criminal investigation said that the officers fired into the air to try to dispel the crowd, but that they reacted too late. Human rights groups, however, have raised concerns about whether enough was done to stop the mob.

Afghanistan’s President Ghani denounced the actions of these men in a statement, saying that “no one has the right to take it upon themselves to act as judge and court, nor to commit violence against anyone for any reason.” He ordered an inquiry into the attack to be conducted by the interior ministry together with the Ulama Council – which oversees religious issues – and the leadership of the mosque.

“I would certainly hope the government would be trying to arrest and prosecute everyone who was involved and doing an internal investigation into whether the police response was appropriate,” said Heather Barr, a senior researcher for women’s rights in Asia for Human Rights Watch.

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Marriage Equality Has Officially Come to Alabama

On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to stop a federal court ruling that requires Alabama state officials to recognize same-sex marriage rights, and, despite some objections, the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The order issued by the Supreme Court says it turned down an application to stay the decisions by the lower court in order to wait for justices to figure out among themselves whether the Constitution allows same-sex marriage. This action came only hours after Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered the state’s probate judges to not give any marriage licences to same-sex couples. Last month, District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade moved last month to call Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. About 81 percent of Alabama voters in 2006 supported an amendment to the Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. Despite Moore’s order, Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some of which had been waiting in line for hours. One couple, Dee and Laura Bush, have been together for seven years and have five kids together. “It is great that we were able to be part of history,” Dee Bush told the Associated Press. She and Laura received their license, then walked over to a park where a minister was performing wedding ceremonies. Alabama is now the 37th state to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court announced it would tackle the issue of same-sex marriage on a federal level. The Court will begin hearing arguments in late April, with a decision expected before the term’s end, which is in June.

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Michigan Lawmakers Want to Create Even More Extraneous Requirements for Abortion Providers

Lawmakers in Michigan have introduced this month yet another reporting requirement for physicians performing an abortion, with the specific aim of increasing the number of reported complications from abortion.

State Bill No. 27 is an amendment to a current abortion reporting law requiring physicians to report instances of infection, perforation, and other physical complications from abortions provided in the state. SB 27 would add “allergic response” and “anesthesia-related complications” to the list of complications that physicians performing an abortion must report to the state.

Anti-choice group Right to Life of Michigan claims the bill is necessary, citing the 2014 reported rate of complication as “unrealistically low” at 0.008 percent. Significant research has shown that very few women face medical complications resulting from an abortion.

Amber Truehart, a family planning fellow at the University of Chicago, says that adding allergic reactions and anesthesia complications will not increase the rate of complication by much as all. She says that politicians are unaware that it will increase the rate of complication, as allergic reactions and anesthesia complications are “very rare and very minor,” and this proposed bill “just speaks to the fact that [politicians] don’t understand the procedure.”

Other concerns about the bill include patient confidentiality. The existing bill states that the patient’s name or other “common identifiers” are not to be included in the report; however other personal information about the patient, such as age, race, marital status, town of residence, number of children, and more must be included.

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Roe Overturned