Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos qualify as “children”

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that embryos outside of the womb qualify as human beings in a ruling that further thwarts reproductive freedom in the state. In the 131 page opinion Alabama judges quoted the Bible and listened to complicated theoretical legal arguments before ultimately coming to the 7-2 decision. 

The case comes after two Alabama couples pursuing IVF sued the Alabama Mobile Infirmary Medical Centre after a patient was able to break into the hospital’s cryogenic facility and subsequently dropped two embryos. The embryos at this stage have been chosen as suitable for possible transfer into the uterus. Even though they have passed this hurdle, they are still 50% likely to fail when transferred. 

The two plaintiffs filed their complaints under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The judges used this act as the legal basis for their decision, citing that the “Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies on its face to all unborn children, without limitation.” This landmark ruling not only is a clear product of a pro-life agenda strengthened by religious propaganda but also serves as a reminder of the strict grip that Alabama lawmakers want to have over reproductive health in the state. 

CNN reported, as of Thursday, February 22nd, a second fertility clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, has “halted” part of its IVF program due to legal concerns as it evaluates the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision. The process of egg retrieval is still available to patients, but “egg fertilization and embryo development” has been paused. In these stages, the viability of eggs and embryos is considered and is necessary if these future eggs and embryos are to be transferred. This pause in the process inevitably places limits on the window of pregnancy but also continues to raise severe concerns about whether IVF is a valuable option for families in Alabama. 

This ruling further tightens abortion regulations and it will also serve as a barrier to the people of Alabama who wish to go through the IVF process. Hospitals view the ruling as a huge risk, making it almost impossible to run an IVF clinic without the constant fear of causing a “death.” One thing is clear – the state of Alabama has offered women yet another haunting warning, they can and will take control of their reproductive rights as they see fit.

Abortion Emerges as Decisive Factor in New York’s 3rd Congressional District Special Election

In the recent special election held on February 13th for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, the victory of Democrat Tom Suozzi over Republican Mazi Pilips underscored the significance of abortion as a pivotal issue this election season. Suozzi’s triumph, with 53.9% of the vote against Pilips’ 46.1%, reflected a strategic campaign focus on reproductive rights and women’s health.

Suozzi’s Embrace of Abortion Rights

Throughout his campaign, Suozzi strategically centered his platform on defending reproductive rights. His website prominently featured a “10 Point Plan,” highlighting his commitment to safeguarding abortion access and countering what he termed “extreme attacks on reproductive freedom.” Suozzi’s unequivocal support for abortion rights earned him endorsements from prominent organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. He emphasized the urgency of codifying Roe v. Wade into law and condemned recent attempts to curtail abortion rights in various states.

Moreover, Suozzi’s social media campaign extensively criticized his opponent’s stance on abortion, highlighting her perceived ambiguity on the issue. Clips from televised debates, particularly those focusing on abortion, were widely circulated, emphasizing the clear divergence between the candidates on this critical issue.

Gender Dynamics and Voting Trends

Analyses of voting trends revealed a significant gender gap, with women constituting a substantial portion of Suozzi’s support base. A poll conducted by the Siena College Research Institute indicated that a majority of women favored Suozzi. This gender disparity, with 51% of women supporting Suozzi compared to 44% of men, proved the salience of reproductive rights as a decisive factor in the election outcome. On the issue of abortion, 58% of women said they thought Suozzi would be the better candidate to address the issue, and 52% of males said the same.

Media Oversight and Issue Prioritization

Despite the evident influence of abortion on the election, mainstream media coverage largely overlooked its significance. Reports from major news outlets such as ABC News and CNN highlighted other issues like immigration, crime, and the Israel-Palestine conflict, sidelining the central role of reproductive rights in shaping voter preferences. This oversight raised questions about their portrayal of key campaign issues.

Contrary to media narratives emphasizing immigration as a crucial issue, the data revealed a different picture. While Pilips held a lead over Suozzi specifically on immigration policy, her defeat showed the limited electoral impact of this issue. The data suggested that abortion rights, not immigration, played a defining role in Suozzi’s victory, challenging prevailing media interpretations of the election’s key concerns.

The special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District offers valuable insights into the evolving landscape of American politics, particularly regarding the prominence of abortion rights as a mobilizing issue. Suozzi’s strategic emphasis on reproductive rights resonated with voters, particularly women, and played a role in securing his victory. 

A Win For All in Virginia

On February 13th, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass House Bill 994, a bill that bans child marriage in all its forms. Virginia was one of the first states to ban child marriage in 2016, but there has always been a loophole allowing emancipated children between 16-18 years old to get married. This has historically raised concern for many organizations who saw it as an opportunity for children to be exploited and coerced. This exploitation disproportionately affects girls who find themselves being forced into marriage with men whose age gap with them constitutes as illegal. 

Before 2016 there was no minimum age requirement to get married in Virginia, just certain criteria that had to be met for a judge to approve the marriage. Usually, this was because a young girl was pregnant, some aged 12 and 13. Almost 4,500 minors were married between 2004 and 2013 – about 90% of those minors were girls who married adult men.

Today’s vote has resulted in a win for everyone. The bill passed with bipartisan support, 55 to 42. Children, in particular girls, will now be protected from being exploited. Virginia NOW led the fight for this victory. They introduced the “End Child Marriage Now” bill into the Virginia legislature and are to thank for the facts and testimonies that helped the Virginia lawmakers reach the decision to protect their children. The organization celebrated after the vote posting on Twitter, “child marriage survivors are elated and there is some combination of crying and shaking going on among us all! Onward to the Senate.”

The Kids Are Not Alright: Mental Health and Youth Voter Turnout Rates

When considering the mental well-being of teenagers and young adults, it’s common for some to dismiss their challenges as mere products of excessive social media use or typical high school stress. However, this overlooks the unique political and social climate of the times we are living in, especially concerning youth voter turnout. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 6 U.S. youth experience a mental health disorder each year. In order to delve deeper into this issue in a political context, a recent study conducted by Common Sense examined the correlation between the mental health of America’s youth and the issues they, along with their parents, prioritize as voters.

The findings were unequivocal. Today’s youth are grappling with anxieties about their future to such an extent that it significantly impacts their mental well-being, a departure from historical trends among children and young adults. Particularly noteworthy in the data is the sentiment surrounding the economy for young individuals. A staggering four out of five voters (81%) expressed apprehension about the economic prospects for the next generation, with nearly half (46%) expressing deep concern. This marks a significant shift wherein the economic outlook of America has become so bleak that voters are now worried about the future of a generation yet to embark on their professional journey.

This economic data highlights a broader concern for young individuals: it suggests a lack of opportunities for them compared to older generations. Notably, 33% of young adults aged 19 to 24 harbor a pessimistic belief that they will fare worse than their parents—a sentiment less prevalent in earlier generations. 

Consequently, rather than gravitating toward candidates who inspire hope, the survey underscores that the majority of young people have become disillusioned with their elected leaders. In a political climate that is so unpredictable and with elections being decided by a very small number of votes, these types of problems become very severe. Only 23% of eligible young Americans cast a ballot in the 2022 midterm elections, which was one of the highest youth turnout rates in a midterm election since the voting age was lowered to 18 – but still concerningly low.  

Today’s youth have endured significant challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, tumultuous elections, a worsening climate crisis, and conflicts in regions like Ukraine and the Middle East. The study showed that 60% of young people believe that politicians and elected officials are not reflecting the needs, desires, and experiences of younger people in this country. It’s imperative for politicians to instill hope to combat this cynicism and follow through on their promises to restore trust with their constituents as November quickly approaches.

Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment Provides Win for Abortion Access

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released an opinion on abortion rights following a long legal battle in Allegheny Reproductive Health Center et al. v. PA Department of Human Services et al. The case, litigated by the Women’s Law Project under the leadership of Susan Frietsche, centered around the state statute that bans Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program from covering abortion services.  

The majority opinion, some 219 pages, details arguments why the Medicaid coverage ban for abortion violates the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment as well as the equal protection provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The ERA was approved by voters in Pennsylvania in 1971 and this case proves how a state ERA can play an influential role in the fight for reproductive justice. The majority opinion clearly outlines how the Medicaid coverage ban is discriminatory on the basis of sex. 

Frietsche, the co-executive director of the Women’s Law Project, argued the case before the Supreme Court. She stated in response to the decision, “we are still determining the next steps, but we are confident the Medicaid abortion ban will be consigned to the scrapheap of history very soon.” The Women’s Law Project has been fighting for this victory since the 1970s. 

“The federal ERA, which has been ratified by the necessary 38 states, would also aid in protecting reproductive healthcare access for the women of the United States,” says Eleanor Smeal, former President of PA NOW and current President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “This is a major victory for Pennsylvania women and shows the potential for securing reproductive healthcare access in states that have added ERAs to their constitutions.”

Barbie discovers the patriarchy Pt. 2

The 2024 Oscar nominations were released on Tuesday after a long build up of speculation of which movies would take the top spots. “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” have been pitted against each other since their release, breaking box office records and earning rave reviews, and were expected to win big. 

Apart from being released on the same day, the two movies have very little in common. Notably, Christopher Nolan’s three hour blockbuster doesn’t include a hit Nicki Minaj song like Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” However, their statistics were watched closely and the two became a well known pair with “Barbenheimer” trending throughout the summer of 2023. 

Regardless of their creative differences, one is very clear. The “Oppenheimer” team is majority male, while the “Barbie” team is majority female. “Oppenheimer” received thirteen nominations, including the highly sought after Best Director and Best Actor, while “Barbie” received eight nominations, with none in those two categories.

When Margot Robbie, who played the title character of a film that has been nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, is not nominated for an Oscar, but her male co-star is, it becomes extraordinarily clear that there is a problem. When Greta Gerwig who wrote and directed the film only receives a nomination for Adapted Screenplay, but not for Best Director, the problem becomes even more painfully obvious. Gerwig even set a new record for the highest-grossing female-directed film at the domestic box office, but that is clearly not enough to earn a top nomination. 

Ryan Gosling, who played Ken, released a statement in response to the snub: “There is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no “Barbie” movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film. No recognition would be possible for anyone on the film without their talent, grit and genius. To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement.” 

The Oscars have long received harsh criticism for their lack of diversity and, although some very welcome changes have been made over the years, there are still fundamental issues within the list of nominees year after year. In the award show’s 94-year history, only two women have ever been named Best Director. 

The irony of the nomination saga is excruciating. With “Barbie” acting as a social commentary on misogyny, this snub was simply too on the nose for fans. The plot of “Barbie” is quite simple: Barbie discovers the patriarchy. Life imitates art.

Florida bans DEI from State College System

On January 17th, 2024, the Florida State Board of Education passed a ruling that will strictly limit public funding towards DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives in the Florida College System. This ruling comes with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ long campaign against “WOKE” policies in Florida.  The bill details how education should be “free from undue political influence” and therefore DEI values should not be allowed in Florida community or state colleges. The Board of Education believes that individuals should not be categorized based on race or sex. Rather, higher education should be based solely on academic progress and integrity. 

Background

DeSantis has been Governor of Florida since early 2019 and subsequently has introduced severe education reform in his state, both in K-12 and higher education. He has targeted reproductive health instruction, limiting it by teaching reproductive roles as binary and unchanging. Alongside this he has restricted LGBTQ+ rights by passing bills that entirely diminish the possibility for gender and sexuality expression within the public school system.

DEI in higher education has come a long way, becoming more robust over time. Beginning in the 1970s with the introduction of Title IX, gender-based discrimination became illegal in institutions that received federal funding. Since the 70s DEI has progressed to becoming not only an initiative that supports equality in education but also one that celebrates and promotes diversity. 

Without the structure of DEI on campuses in Florida there are already beginning to be results that directly impact the future of gender related subjects. Before the anti-DEI legislation was passed just this month, there had already been some massive changes to some of the top colleges in Florida. In January, 2023, DeSantis personally appointed individuals to the board of trustees of the “New College” in Florida. These board members took action to terminate the Gender Studies department of the University. Many of the faculty of the department had already quit in protest to the appointments of the board. Later in the year the board finalized the termination of the department and the course is no longer available to 2024 enrollees.

>

Support eh ERA banner