Police Raid Former Florida Data Scientist’s Home

On Monday, Rebekah Jones’ home was raided by Florida law enforcement agents. She was fired in May from the state health department, after she helped create the Florida state COVID-19 dashboard, because she refused requests to manipulate data regarding Florida’s readiness to ease COVID restrictions.

Additionally, Jones accused Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration of downplaying the pandemic and skewing state COVID data. State officials claimed that the reason for her termination was different – namely, that she was disobedient and didn’t consult with experts. Her house was raided because authorities are investigated whether she accessed a government messaging system without approval to message her former colleagues – a claim she denies.

Jones’ main concern is that her colleagues will get in trouble due to the raid. She said on Monday night, “On my phone is every communication I’ve ever had with someone who works at the state, who has come to me in confidence and told me things that could get them fired or in trouble like this…And I just want to say to all those people right now, if he doesn’t know already, DeSantis will know soon enough that you’ve been talking to me. So be careful.” The search warrant obtained for Monday was very broad, and thus, allowed officers to recover “any and all computer equipment that stores or transmits data”.

Jones also tweeted, “At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech…They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.” She also posted a video and claims that the agents pointed guns at her and her children. Since being fired, she has created her own COVID-19 dashboard (Florida COVID Action), and is involved in the Covid Monitor project, which focuses on COVID in schools.

Sources: CNN 12/8/20, NPR 12/8/20

Army Reprimands Senior Officials After Murder and Assault at Fort Hood

CW: murder, sexual misconduct

Yesterday, the Army announced that 14 senior officers will receive punishment following the investigation of the death of Vanessa Guillén. This is one of the largest disciplinary actions ever taken by the service to date.

These 14 officers will be relieved or suspended from their positions, after a probe was initiated in response to Guillén’s death and whether she was sexually harassed. She disappeared on April 22, and her remains were finally found on June 30. She had been bludgeoned to death, and her murderer killed himself on July 1. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that her death “shocked our conscious and brought attention to deeper problems…The initial investigation into Vanessa’s death, coupled with high numbers of crimes and deaths at Fort Hood, has revealed a series of missteps and multiple failures in our system and within our leadership”.

The probe review found that senior personnel are not paying enough attention to the troops’ welfare, particular in regard to searches for missing soldiers, sexual assault, and sexual harassment cases. The report had nine findings and 70 recommendations in total, all of which McCarthy has accepted. Additionally, Major Gen. Scott Efflandt was removed from his position as the Fort’s senior commander in September and has since been relieved.

The Guillén family attorney, Natalie Khawam, stated that “If you’re going to tell me that the Army is messed up or Fort Hood is messed up or something is wrong, tell me what you’re doing to fix it…When somebody speaks up and they get punished for speaking up, that’s un-American. It was widespread at Fort Hood. Things aren’t complete, they’re not finalized. We’re not finished. We are just starting.”

Sources: CNN 7/10/20, CNN 12/8/20, NPR 12/8/20

Biden’s Choices for CDC Director and HHS Secretary Promote Diversity & Equity

President-elect Joe Biden has announced two more appointments for his future White House team – Rochelle Walenksy as the next director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Xavier Becerra as the next secretary of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS). Both appointees have backgrounds in protecting healthcare access and equity.

Rochelle Walenksy leads the infectious-diseases department at Massachusetts General Hospital and is a professor at Harvard Medical School. Much of her research and work have been centered on HIV/AIDS, equity, and access to treatment. After her appointment was announced, she posted the following message on Twitter: “I began my medical career at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I’ve spent my life ever since working to research, treat, and combat infectious diseases. I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC. We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.”

As for Xavier Becerra, he will be the first Latino to lead HHS and has led fights against efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during his time as attorney general of California. He has confronted healthcare costs, and is a champion of reproductive rights, particularly in the legal sphere. In response to this appointment, Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) said in a statement, “This pandemic has brought a glaring light to the health inequities in our country…Having an individual who not only has outstanding qualifications, but also understands the needs of minority communities is imperative as our country moves forward in its fight against the pandemic”.

In addition to these appointments, Biden selected Jeff Zients to be the White House coordinator of the coronavirus response, Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as the head of a new task force whose goal is to reduce disparities in response, care, and treatment for COVID-19.

Sources: Washington Post 12/8/20, Los Angeles Times 12/6/20, NPR 12/7/20

Court Rules Texas and Louisiana Can Cut Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that both Texas and Louisiana can stop providing funding to Planned Parenthood clinics, a clear move against abortion rights that will disproportionately impact low-income people and people of color.

This move by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans also impacts Mississippi, which is under 5th circuit jurisdiction. Six of Trump’s nominees now sit on this court, four of which participated in this case. This decision reverses an earlier ruling, in which a panel blocked Texas from enforcing a funding ban such as this one.

This loss of funding will impact not only people seeking abortion care, but also cancer screenings, contraception, and other general healthcare services. Melaney A. Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, in a joint statement with other Planned Parenthood presidents from across the state, said that “Today’s decision from the 5th Circuit is yet another devastating blow in Texas’ long history of preventing people from accessing life-saving and essential health care at Planned Parenthood…we must do everything we can to expand people’s access to essential health care, not restrict it.”

Texas has historically made attempts to limit and ban abortion, including this year when Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning abortion, using COVID-19 to justify the political move. In Louisiana, Amendment 1 was just passed, which “explicitly states that the state constitution offers no protections for a right to an abortion or funding for abortions”. This particular case regarding Medicaid funding will most likely go to the Supreme Court, where Amy Coney Barrett locks in a conservative, anti-abortion majority on the court.

Sources: CBS News 11/23/20, AP News 11/23/20, Feminist Newswire 4/23/20, Feminist Newswire 11/10/20, Feminist Newswire 10/27/20

Idaho One of Many States to Pass Trigger Law to Ban Abortion if Roe v. Wade Gets Overturned

In March of this year, Idaho governor Brad Little signed a law that deemed abortion a crime in Idaho if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. This months-old decision has become increasingly relevant, as Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court has made the possibility of overturning Roe more of a reality.

This legislation gives almost no exceptions for rape, incest, and/or the life of the pregnant person – exceptions for rape and incest only apply if the crime has been reported to the police or child protective services. The criminality of this bill applies to whomever performs the abortion, which means that abortion care providers could have their medical licenses suspended or revoked.

Mistie Tolman, Idaho state director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement following the vote, “Right now, we are dealing with a pandemic of global proportions with COVID-19, but our Legislature continues its destructive and discriminatory path by only focusing on controlling people’s bodies and lives…Idaho lawmakers should not be wasting taxpayer dollars on laws that don’t have anything to do with protecting people. Idahoans deserve better, and Idahoans deserve lawmakers who are focused on making their lives better by expanding access to health care, not restricting it.”

If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, Idaho is one of ten states that have trigger laws in place, that would immediately go into law. Nine states currently have abortion bans, and nine states have bans and laws that are currently blocked but would be enacted with the overturning of Roe. As a whole, if Roe were overturned, abortion legislation would be in the hands of each individual state, with at least half the states pledges to enact bans against the medical procedure.

Sources: Feminist Newswire 10/27/20, The Spokesman 3/27/20, Idaho State Journal 3/13/20, Feminist Newswire 10/29/20

Court Ruling in England Prevents Trans Children From Seeking Hormone Therapy

A high court in England has ruled that children under the age of 16 who are seeking gender confirmation treatment are “unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs”.

This 19-page court ruling was made in an action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, which is responsible forthe Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), the largest service of this kind for English children. The ruling also stated that children under 18 may need their doctors to consult the courts for medical intervention authorization, another barrier to accessing gender-affirming care.

This action was brought forward by Keira Bell, a 23-year-old woman who began taking puberty blockers at 16, then later de-transitioned, and an unnamed mother of a 15-year-old autistic girl who is on the waiting list for gender-affirming treatment. Bell argued that the Tavistock clinic should have challenged her more over her decision to take puberty blockers. The unnamed mother, known as Mrs. A, fears that her child will “get it wrong”.

The president of the Queen’s bench division stated in this ruling that a child under the age of 16 may only consent to the use of puberty-blocking medication “where he or she is competent to understand the nature of the treatment”, which includes understanding “the immediate and long-term consequences of the treatment, the limited evidence available as to its efficacy or purpose, the fact that the vast majority of patients proceed to the use of cross-sex hormones, and its potential life-changing consequences for a child”. Therefore, the court ruled that children aged 13, 14, or 15 are not competent to weigh these consequences, assess the risks, and give full consent.

A spokesperson from NHS appreciated the “clarity” of this ruling and stated: “The Tavistock have immediately suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under 16s, which in future will only be permitted where a court specifically authorizes it. Dr Hilary Cass is conducting a wider review on the future of gender identity services.” The trust also stated that it was “disappointed by today’s judgment and we understand that the outcome is likely to cause anxiety for patients and their families…Our first duty is to our patients, particularly those currently receiving hormone blocking treatment, and we are working with our partners, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, to provide support for patients concerned about the impact on their care.”

Lui Asquith, legal director of Mermaids, an advocacy group supporting trans children, said that “puberty blockers have been saving lives for many transgender young people for a significant period of time… not all trans young people require medical intervention, but those who do should be able to access it, without discrimination.”

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a global organization of doctors specialized in treating trans people, reported that puberty blockers can prevent the mental health impacts of gender dysphoria in puberty.

Sources: The Guardian 12/1/20, BBC 12/1/20

Biden Plans to Repeal Mexico City Policy, a Win for Abortion Rights

President-elect Joe Biden has committed to rescinding the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule”, a policy that “currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts — including for malaria and HIV/AIDS — in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services”.

This move is a victory for reproductive rights and works to counteract some of the anti-abortion policies that President Trump passed in the last four years. In addition to reinstating the Mexico City Policy, Trump also weakened a mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance that includes contraception coverage and established the “domestic gag rule”, which prevents healthcare providers that receive federal family planning funds (under Title X) from referring or providing abortion care. In regard to this issue, Serra Sippel, the president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, stated that “it’s important we don’t underestimate the harm that has been done.” Due to these policies, many global and domestic reproductive health organizations have had to choose between significant U.S. funding and being able to provide comprehensive healthcare.

These policies can be undone by executive action and orders, which allows Joe Biden to do so as soon as he enters office. His women’s media director for the campaign, Mariel Sáez, wrote that “President-elect Biden believes that health care is a right that should not be determined by one’s zip code or income”. Biden is also anticipated to repeal the Helms Amendment, which bans U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion care, in addition to restoring funding to the United Nations Population Fund. On a similar note, Zara Ahmed, associate director of federal issues at the Guttmacher Institute, said that “The Mexico City policy, the global gag rule, is the tip of the iceberg”. Legislation to repeal the gag rule permanently (the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act) entered Congress in 2019 and could garner enough support to be passed under the Biden administration — thus cementing the right to an abortion and reproductive healthcare in legislation that cannot change every four to eight years.

Sources: The Biden Agenda for Women, Vox 11/16/20, The Guardian 11/10/20, Reuters 11/7/20

Massachusetts Legislature to Pass Budget Amendments to Expand Abortion Access

Advocates in the state of Massachusetts are currently working to get budget amendments based on the ROE Act passed, otherwise known as “An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access” (S.1209). This bill aims to cement abortion rights in Massachusetts state law, in a time where reproductive rights are under question and attack. At this point, both the House and the Senate passed budget amendments, which included many, but not all, components of the ROE Act.

Last Monday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka said in a joint statement last Monday night: “We are very concerned that Massachusetts’ women’s reproductive rights are under threat at the national level. We are therefore committed to debate measures in the House and Senate this session that would remove barriers to women’s reproductive health options and protect the concepts enshrined in Roe v. Wade”. Other states, including New Jersey, are making similar legislative moves to protect reproductive rights, due to a fear of Roe v. Wade being rolled back now that Justice Amy Coney Barrett has joined the Supreme Court and created a solid conservative, anti-abortion majority within the Court.

According to NARAL Massachusetts, the ROE Act “would reform our state’s abortion laws, ensuring that anyone, regardless of age, income, or insurance, can access safe, legal abortion”. This includes codifying the right to abortion in state law, ending the judicial bypass system, allowing abortions after 24 weeks in cases of lethal fetal diagnoses, updating inaccurate abortion definitions, removing the 24-hour waiting period, and creating safety net coverage for those without health insurance.

The Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts echoed this sentiment, and states that “The ROE Act protects young people…No young person should have to navigate the court system to seek basic reproductive health care…The ROE Act builds protections for young people by ensuring they can seek support from health care providers without unnecessary delays.”

Moreover, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of MA, along with NARAL MA and ACLU of Massachusetts, known collectively as the ROE Act Coalition, said in a statement last month — “Massachusetts lawmakers have the responsibility to make sure our state is a place where everyone is able to receive the abortion care they need — without judgment, medically unnecessary barriers, or political interference. The legislature cannot wait any longer to pass the ROE Act”.

Sources: MA Legislature, Boston Herald 11/2/20, Feminist Newswire 10/6/20, Feminist Newswire 10/27/20, NARAL Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts

LSU Staff & Administration Mishandle Sexual Assault

CW: sexual assault, rape

A USA Today investigation that was released yesterday indicates that Louisiana State University has mishandled numerous sexual assault complaints against students, many of which are athletes.

A large number of these sexual misconduct complaints have been about the football team’s running back, Derrius Guice. A member of the diving team told her coach and an athletic department administrator that Guice raped her friend who had passed out from alcohol at a party in spring 2016. During summer 2016, a student told two athletics administrators that Guice took an unsolicited partial nude photo of her and shared it with at least one person. Another rape allegation against Guice was received in Spring 2017, by another female athlete. In all of these instances, LSU mishandled the cases in such a way that allowed Guice to continue playing football and avoid formal sanctions.

This theme of ignoring complaints, not protecting survivors, and allowing perpetrators to continue inflicting harm does not end at Derrius Guice. Drake Davis, a wide receiver on the football time, physically abused his girlfriend for months while at least seven LSU officials were aware of the situation. Overall, at least nine football players have been reported for sexual misconduct and dating violence in the last four years at LSU.

Additionally, in three separate cases that found each perpetrator responsible, all three male students (each were non-athletes) were allowed to stay on campus and received “deferred suspensions” rather than concrete suspension or expulsion. Another case with a fraternity member found him guilty of assaulting two women but would not move him out of shared classes with one of the survivors and ignored a complaint from a third student. One of the students USA TODAY talked to said that “I just think that honestly they don’t care…The whole system is on the side of the accused.”

These are explicit examples of instances in which officials should have taken steps to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable, due to both LSU policy and Title IX protocols, even with changes made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to weaken protections for survivors. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated LSU’s Title IX procedures in August 2015, but the case was dropped three years later. Clearly, sexual assault is still an issue on this campus, one that exists both in and out of athletics.

Media Resources: USA Today 11/16/20, Feminist Newswire 5/8/20

Anti-Trans Bills Across the Country Threaten the Rights of Trans People

On November 12, Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, began a Twitter thread to track anti-trans bills across the country. He tweeted, “legislatures are starting early and are extra cruel this year despite the pandemic. The judiciary is even more hostile so we need to stop these from passing. I will keep updating as more bills come.”

In Alabama, HB1 would prevent minors from undergoing medical changes that “intend to alter the appearance of the minor child’s gender or delay puberty” and requires “disclosure of certain information concerning students to parents by schools”

In Texas, HB68 would not allow the “following acts by a medical professional or mental health professional for the purpose of attempting to change or affirm a child’s perception of the child’s sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the child’s biological sex as determined by the child ’s sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles” or “performing a surgery that sterilizes the child, including castration, vasectomy, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, metoidioplasty, orchiectomy, penectomy, phalloplasty, and vaginoplasty”.

In Tennessee, HB3 aims to ban all young trans people from participating in sports, which could also have implications for intersex children as well. The bill states, “it is unfortunate for some girls that those dreams, goals, and opportunities for participation, recruitment, and scholarships can be directly and negatively affected by new school policies permitting boys who are male in every biological respect to compete in girls’ athletic competitions if they claim a female gender identity” and “A student’s gender for purposes of participation in a public middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event must be determined by the student’s sex at the time of the student’s birth, as indicated on the student’s original birth certificate”.

According to the ACLU, 17 states have bills barring trans youth from sports. 10 states have bills barring access to healthcare, and 16 states have other anti-trans bills. Many of these bills overlap in the same state – Idaho, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee have all three bill types in their state legislature. This prominence of anti-trans legislation puts trans people at risk during a tense political time and worsening global pandemic.

Sources: Twitter 11/12/20, Alabama State Legislature 7/17/20, Texas Capitol, Tennessee Capitol, ACLU

Supreme Court Hearings on Affordable Care Act Endanger Women’s Health

The Supreme Court has been hearing oral arguments regarding the legality of the Affordable Care Act this week, which puts about 32 million people’s (a majority of whom are women) healthcare coverage at risk.

The Affordable Care Act, in addition to providing millions of people with insurance coverage through Medicare and Medicaid, bans sex discrimination in health insurance pricing and benefits, prevents co-pays or deductibles on preventative healthcare (which includes birth control), eliminates discrimination based on preexisting conditions, and bans insurers from dropping coverage because of prenatal and maternity care.

Yesterday, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh made it clear that “Congress’s decision in 2017 to zero-out the penalty for not buying health insurance did not indicate a desire to kill the entire law”. Still, this is the third time the Affordable Care Act has been challenged in the Supreme Court, and the Court’s new composition – namely, the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett – has supporters of Obamacare worried about its future.

President-elect Joe Biden also spoke on this issue, stating that the Trump administration’s push to invalidate the Affordable Care Act is “simply cruel and needlessly divisive” and would leave 20 million Americans’ healthcare coverage “ripped away in the middle of the nation’s worst pandemic in a century.” He stated, “Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s at stake: The consequences of the Trump administration’s argument are not academic or an abstraction. For many Americans, they are a matter of life and death, in a literal sense…This isn’t hyperbole. It’s real – as real as it gets”. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris echoed this sentiment and stated that this case is “a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the people”.

An attempt to remove the Affordable Care Act is a direct attempt to remove comprehensive reproductive and maternal healthcare from millions of women and people who menstruate.

Sources: Feminist Majority; Washington Post 11/10/20; Feminist Newswire 10/27/20; CNN 11/10/20

Amendment 1 Passes, Further Restricting Abortion Access in LA

Last week, Louisiana voters passed Proposed Amendment 1, which explicitly states that the state constitution offers no protections for a right to an abortion or funding for abortions.

Voters passed the constitutional amendment 62 percent to 38 percent. If Roe were to be overturned, which is a rising concern due to the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, this amendment would prevent state courts from declaring abortion restrictions unconstitutional. Due to this passing of the amendment, Louisiana now joins Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia as another state that does not protect abortion rights or allow public funds to be used for abortions.

This is not the first attempt in Louisiana to severely curb abortion access. This summer, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana TRAP law that would have required abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. There are currently 89 laws in Louisiana that comprise legal hurdles for anyone seeking an abortion in the state.

Michelle Erenberg, executive director of Lift Louisiana, said that Tuesday’s “result is deeply disappointing, but this feeling of sadness is temporary…Anyone or any organization in Louisiana who fights for reproductive freedom knows that these are hard battles to win, but we keep fighting because women – not just those of means but all women and all people who can become pregnant – deserve the basic right of bodily autonomy and high quality reproductive healthcare, which includes abortion”.

Steffani Bangel, executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, another organization who tried to defeat the amendment, echoed this sentiment, saying “By adding this language to our Constitution means we’ll have less right to sue for abortion rights”. In a state that currently has only 3 abortion clinics, restrictions such as these cause disproportionate harm and difficulty for low income women and women of color.

Sources: Feminist Newswire 10/27/20; Feminist Newswire 10/29/20; Feminist Newswire 6/29/20; CNN 11/4/20; The Advocate 10/31/20; Lift Louisiana

Feminists Win in Historic Races Across the Country

On Tuesday, feminists across the country were elected to office, including many historic firsts. In Missouri, Cori Bush became the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress. Bush won by a 79 to 19 percent margin in Missouri’s first congressional district. She is a nurse, pastor, community organizer, protest leader, and progressive politician – she began organizing with Black Lives Matter after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014.

In Delaware, Sarah McBride became the first transgender state senator. McBride is also the first out LGBTQ politician in Delaware’s state legislature. She tweeted, “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too…Delaware continues to face the Covid crisis, it’s time to get to work to invest in the policies that will make a difference for working families.”

In New Mexico, Teresa Leger Fernandez won her election to the third congressional district. Her victory ensured that all three congressional districts in New Mexico are represented by women of color.

In Georgia, Nikema Williams won an immense victory – 83.9 to 16.1 percent – and now holds the seat of the late John Lewis. Williams tweeted, “This seat does not belong to me, it belongs to the people…I’m ready to fight #OutLoudAndOnPurpose for the people of #GA5! Now let’s get in some #GoodTrouble y’all!”

In California, Sara Jacobs in San Diego is the youngest person – 31 years of age – to be elected to Congress from the state of California.

In North Carolina, two open seats were just filled by women – Deborah Ross in the second congressional district, and Kathy Manning in the sixth congressional district.

In Illinois, Marie Newman defeated the nearly 30-year incumbent to represent the third congressional district.

And, in New York, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones won their congressional seats and will become the first gay Black members of Congress. Feminists are winning up and down the ballot this week!

Sources: CNN 11/4/20, CNN 11/4/20, Albuquerque Journal 11/3/20, CBS News 11/4/20, Essence 11/4/20, San Diego Union-Tribune 11/4/20, Business Insider 11/3/20, The Hill 11/3/20, Patch 11/3/20; New York Times 11/4/20

Colorado Voters Defeat Proposition 115, Maintaining Support for Abortion Access

As of this morning, 59.1 percent of Colorado voters voted “no” on Proposition 115, a proposition that would restrict abortions after a fetus reaches 22 weeks gestational age except when “immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman”.

This proposition did not include exceptions for rape or incest, would impose $5,000 fines on anyone who performs an abortion procedure, and would suspend the medical license of any physician who violates this measure. The proposition designated 22-weeks, as this marker is the earliest point in the pregnancy during which a fetus could survive outside the womb with medical intervention.

Proposition 115 would have forced health providers to wait until the pregnant person was dying to perform the abortion. Additionally, nearly 99 percent of abortions happen before the 22-week mark. Nonetheless, this decision allows Colorado to remain as one of only seven states without gestational limits on abortions, which maintains its status as a state that pregnant people from stricter states can travel to for abortion care. This also allows pregnant people from within the state, particularly those who are low-income and of color, to receive care close to home.

This decision is increasingly important, as the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett puts Roe v. Wade at risk, which would put abortion rights into the hands of individual states.

Sources: New York Times 11/4/20, Vox 11/3/20, CBS Denver 11/3/30, Feminist Newswire 10/27/20, Feminist Newswire 10/29/20

Record Numbers of Young People and Women Voting This Year

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s general election is unlike any other. Over 100 million Americans already voted in the weeks leading up to Election Day, both in person and by mail. Of those who have already voted, we see both a large gender gap emerging, as well as a historic number of young people voting.

It seems that women led the way in early voting, especially in swing states. In Pennsylvania, women accounted for 57 percent of early voting and absentee ballots. In Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin, women were 56 percent of early voters, and in Florida and Texas, they accounted for 55 percent.

According to last week’s poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, 63% of 18 to 29-year-olds said they would “definitely” vote in the election, the highest proportion in the last 20 years, and 16 percent higher than in 2016. More than 6 million people under the age of 30 have already voted as of last Thursday, as compared to 2 million in 2016.  

The significance of these numbers is particularly prevalent in Texas, a state historically known for its low rates of voter participation. In 2018, Texas under 30 voted at a much higher rate than ever before, and this year, turnout among young Texans may set records once again. As of last week, over 800,000 voters under 30 had already voted in the state. Two-thirds of them did not vote in 2016. 

In Florida, more than 500,000 young voters cast their ballot ahead of Election Day—hundreds of thousands more than had done so in 2016. Despite significant legal hurdles, voter suppression, and a dangerous global pandemic, young people are voting at unprecedented rates.

Sources: NPR 10/29/20, 19th News 11/1/20; Harvard University 10/26/20; Texas Observer 11/2/20, Feminist Newswire 10/20/20, Time 8/20/20

State Abortion Policies in a World Without Roe

On Monday evening, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed and sworn into the Supreme Court of the United States. This confirmation will have potentially severe impacts on healthcare, immigration, and abortion rights.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion rights would be in the hands of individual states. Some states have already enacted bans that “prohibit abortion under all or nearly all circumstances”. Other states have “trigger laws”, which would automatically take effect if and when Roe is overturned. Many states have amended their constitution to declare no protection or public funds for abortion rights, and/or a commitment to banning abortion to whatever extent is allowed by the United States Constitution. Lastly, some states have moved to protect abortion rights and codify Roe v. Wade in state law.

According to Guttmacher Institute, 21 states have laws that could restrict the legal status of abortion. 9 states have “pre-Roe” abortion bans, 10 have “trigger laws”, 9 have unconstitutional post-Roe laws that are currently blocked but would be enacted it Roe was overturned, and 7 states have laws showing intent to restrict abortion rights as much as the U.S. Constitution will allow. Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia all have constitutional amendments explicitly stating that they do not protect abortion rights or allow public funds to be used for abortions.

On the other hand, 13 states and D.C. have laws protecting the right to abortion. Oregon, Vermont, and D.C. have legalized the right to abortion during the pregnancy without interference from the state. The other 11 states allow abortion before viability or in cases where the pregnant person’s life or health is in danger.

The upcoming months in the Supreme Court will determine how these varying laws will impact those seeking abortions, and whether we will have to fight for national protection of abortion yet again.

Sources: Feminist Newswire 10/27/20, Guttmacher 10/15/20, Feminist Newswire 10/6/20

Protests Occur in Philadelphia & DC Over the Police Murders of Walter Wallace and Karon Hylton

On Monday, Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by police in West Philadelphia. Last Friday, Karon Hylton, a 20-year-old Black man, was killed in a moped crash while being chased by police. These murders come in the context of many others killed – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake. A total of 874 people have been killed by police this year, 28% of those being Black. Black people comprise 13% of the population.

Walter Wallace had bipolar disorder, for which his family had called for an ambulance, not a police response. The Wallace family’s attorney, Shaka Johnson, said “When you come to a scene where somebody is in a mental crisis, and the only tool you have to deal with it is a gun … where are the proper tools for the job?” Wallace’s family has asked for protestors to keep demonstrations peaceful. Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., echoed this sentiment, stating “All this violence and looting. I don’t want to leave a bad scar on my son and my family with this looting and chaos stuff…I want my son’s name and everybody to stop this. Give my son a chance…Everybody to have respect for our family, to pray for us. Cut it out. The looting is a mindset and it won’t bring my son back. And it won’t, it will escalate things to get worse instead of better.”. At least 91 people were arrested late Monday and early Tuesday, and the Pennsylvania National Guard was mobilized.

In D.C., police are saying that Karon Hylton crashed into a car during the chase, whereas Hylton’s family and friends say that he was hit by the police. Tuesday night, protestors gathered at the 4th District in D.C., demanding that body camera footage be released and that officers that were at the scene are held accountable. Hylton’s death left his girlfriend and 3-month-old daughter alone and distraught. His girlfriend, Amaala Jones-Bey, said “I don’t have… words for this,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, because it really is like leave you stuck, lost confused on how it’s happening… I had a whole family plan, not today, not tomorrow, but I was going to get my family, and Karon was working towards that.”

Sources: Feminist Newswire 6/10/20, Feminist Newswire 5/15/20, Feminist Newswire 8/24/20, Mapping Police Violence 10/19/20, NBC Philadelphia 10/28/20, CNN 10/28/20, Wall Street Journal 10/28/20, CBS 10/28/20

Barrett’s Appointment to Supreme Court Breaks Norms and Generates Outrage

Yesterday, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed and sworn into the Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed by a 52-48 vote with all Democratic senators voting no for the first time in 151 years.

This confirmation occurs in the context of an ongoing pandemic and an election that is now only one week away. In fact, more than 60 million Americans have already voted, thus reinforcing the controversy around the Senate pushing Barrett’s nomination through in the midst of an election.

Barrett will immediately start her work as a Supreme Court justice.  There are numerous election cases pending and potentially extremely important cases may occur regarding the presidential election.  Moreover, the Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will occur in early November in addition to cases involving Trump immigration policies, same-sex couples’ rights, and the census.

In the past, Barrett has criticized Chief Justice Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act, and once signed onto an ad condemning Roe v. Wade. These are issues involving access to health care are especially critically important now, during the coronavirus pandemic and have could have tragic outcomes for millions of people – some 125 million people with pre-existing conditions. The ACA requires all health insurance programs to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and some 23 million people are currently insured thanks to the ACA.

Barrett’s opinions on women’s rights issues are starkly contrasted with those of her predecessor, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who fought throughout her career to protect and expand gender equality and civil rights.

Senator Maria Cantwell gave a floor speech defending both abortion rights and survivor rights. She opened with, “Mr. President, I come to the floor to defend a woman’s right to choose. I am beyond frustrated that this debate is even happening tonight. According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are over 433,000 victims of rape and sexual assault on average each year in the United States of America. They have found that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And so when someone wants to chip away at the rights of American women to have access to health care, my state is going to take it personally”.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately called upon Democratic legislators to expand the Supreme Court, an idea that has gained traction as the court has become increasingly conservative.

“They stole another Supreme Court seat just eight days before the end of the election, after tens of millions of Americans had already cast their ballots, and just 15 days before the Supreme Court will hear a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act,” wrote Senator Elizabeth Warren in an email to supporters on Monday night.

 Senator Chuck Schumer stated: “You may win this vote, and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court…But you will never, never get your credibility back.”

“The decision to rush the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation through to completion just eight days before a presidential election and while millions of people are voting reveals the gross hypocrisy of many GOP senators who denied even a hearing or vote for President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland early 2016 on the grounds that the voters had a right to be heard.  Today they don’t want to listen to voters they simply want to stack the SCOTUS with right–wing justices.  It is an outrage and it has made the stakes of this presidential and U.S. senate election even higher,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Sources: CNN 10/27/20, Feminist Newswire 9/21/20, Senator Maria Cantwell 10/25/20, Feminist Newswire 9/28/20, The New York Times 10/22/20, CBS News 10/27/20

Poland Court Rules a Near-Total Ban on Abortion

Yesterday, the highest court in Poland, the constitutional tribunal, ruled that obtaining abortions for fetal abnormalities violates the Polish Constitution, thus tightening abortion restrictions in one of the strictest countries on abortion in Europe.

The tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that abortions for severe fetal impairment allow “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity.” The Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, and therefore, Przylebska added that abortion based on the fetus’ health equates to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination”.

This ruling comes in the context of a country that already has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, and a populist government that has been pursuing moves like this for months. Moreover, 98% of abortions in Poland are conducted due to fetal defects. Now, abortions are only legal for cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. Therefore, many pregnant people will have to carry a child that they know will not or may not survive childbirth.

Women’s and human rights activists everywhere are speaking out against the ruling, and protests are occurring across Poland. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called Thursday a “sad day for women’s rights” and tweeted that “Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates Human Rights…Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”

Agnieszka Kubal, a sociology and human rights scholar at University College London, stated “There is an effective ban on abortion in Poland now…This has to be read in the context of the wider right-wing discourse on abortion in Poland, that women cannot be trusted with the right to choose.” This lack of trust ultimately causes thousands of Polish women to travel abroad or seek abortions illegally, putting them in increased danger and risk.

Protests this week in Warsaw were met with pepper spray and police violence. In Łódź, a “funeral for women’s rights” was planned for Friday evening, while protesters planned to protest in Warsaw again. A Facebook protest event organized in the city of Gdańsk this weekend stated that “In a few days, hell for women will begin in this country” and participants were encouraged to block major traffic intersections.

Sources: The New York Times 10/22/20, CNN 10/22/20, The Guardian 10/23/20

Thousands of Women March in Washington D.C. to Protest Amy Coney Barrett’s Nomination

Last Saturday, thousands of Women’s March demonstrators marched the streets of Washington D.C. to protest Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

This march was organized by the Women’s March and required masks or face coverings and social distancing. Several events were also held virtually. Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, stated on Saturday that “the first Women’s March in 2017 was historic…Now four years later…with 17 days to go (until the election), we’re going to finish what we started”. Those who spoke at the demonstration also urged protestors to call their Congress members and urge them to suspend the Supreme Court confirmation process. In addition, many demonstrators held tributes to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were witnessed at the march, as a way to honor her passing.

When referring to Justice Ginsburg, Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center called her the “architect of our foundational rights” in the U.S. She also commented on Judge Barrett, saying that the confirmation hearings left Goss Graves “without a doubt” that Barrett would “undermine our rights” and “…undermine our access to reproductive health care, to abortion from voting rights to climate change. She refused to even answer basic questions”.

Other gatherings occurred in other U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago, San Diego, Cleveland, and New York City. The marches focused not just on the Supreme Court, but also the election, reproductive rights, and abortion access. A protestor from Maryland, Allison Barnabe, addressed her fear of Roe being overturned, and stated, “The fact that I am living in a country now where I am concerned, and I’ve never had to be, is a very scary thought”.

After the marches, of which over 429 occurred both virtually and socially distanced, the Women’s March organization released this statement: “Today, we showed the nation what the power of everyday women looks like. From Palmer, AK to Bemidji, MN to Wilmington, NC, to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.—when we come together, take to the streets, and turn out to vote, women are the most powerful political force in America.”

Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 9/28/20, USA Today 10/17/20, Feminist Newswire 9/21/20, The Hill 10/17/20, NPR 10/17/20

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