Long Early Voting Lines Point to Inefficiency and Voter Suppression

In numerous states, early voting has been accompanied by extremely long voting lines, which indicates both a lack of preparedness for early in-person voting and voter suppression leading up to the election.

In Columbus, Ohio, the early voting line reached a quarter of a mile long, and in Cuyahoga County, voters had to wait for several hours. This is due to a state law that limits the number of in-person early voting sites to one per county. This means that, in Franklin County, populated by more than 1.3 million people, there are 97 times fewer polling places per capita than Vinton County, populated by 13,500 people.

In Georgia, many technical issues and long lines interrupted the first week of voting, particularly in the Atlanta area. The State Farm Arena, the state’s largest early voting site, encountered technical issues. In regard to the lines, one voter who waited in line for over 5 hours to vote stated, “I think people are just really ready to vote, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes — we will stand in line to vote… We’re voting like our lives depend on it.” Another voter, who is Black, echoed this sentiment, stating, “they’ve been fighting for decades. If I’ve got to wait six or seven hours, that’s my duty to do that. I’ll do it happily”. In Cobb County, voters had to wait for six hours or more. Voters began lining up in the early dawn, and these lines persisted late into the evening. While voters seemed to be enthusiastic to cast their ballots despite long lines, being forced to wait hours to vote is mostly due to shrinking numbers of polling sites. In Georgia, despite growth in the number of registered voters, the number of polling locations has decreased by 10 percent. Similar trends have been observed in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, and long lines have also been recorded in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Last week, the National Election Defense Coalition stated in a tweet, “the long lines are happening not by accident but design…Voters must stand up to defend our system of government.”

Sources: The Guardian 10/15/20, NPR 10/12/20, The Guardian 10/12/20, Al Jazeera 10/17/20

Judge Strikes Down Tennessee Abortion Law Requiring 48-Hour Waiting Period

On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down a 2015 law in Tennessee requiring pregnant people to wait 48 hours after a clinic visit to have an abortion procedure done. The judge, Bernard A. Friedman, found that this law “placed an undue burden on women, particularly low-income women, by requiring them to travel to a health center twice for the procedure…These burdens are especially difficult, if not impossible, for low-income women to overcome, and the evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of women seeking abortions in Tennessee are low income”.

Judge Friedman also said that the 48-hour waiting period was “gratuitously demeaning to women who have decided to have an abortion” and that “defendants’ suggestion that women are overly emotional and must be required to cool off or calm down before having a medical procedure they have decided they want to have, and that they are constitutionally entitled to have, is highly insulting and paternalistic — and all the more so given that no such waiting periods apply to men”.

This ruling was the first ruling made by a federal court that struck down an abortion waiting period since a Supreme Court decision in 1992. This decision upheld a 24-hour waiting period in Pennsylvania, which set a precedent for federal courts reviewing similar laws and rulings. The Tennessee law, in effect for about five years now, required pregnant people seeking an abortion to receive information and counseling in person, then to wait at least 48 hours after that appointment for the actual procedure, the only exception being a medical emergency.

Ashley Coffield, President of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, stated that this ruling was “a win for patients”. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging similar waiting period laws in various states, including Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The senior counsel of the Center, Autumn Katz, said that she hopes that this decision “serves as a wake-up call to lawmakers trying to interfere with patients’ personal medical decisions”.

Media Resources: New York Times 10/14/20, Forbes 10/14/20, Reuters 10/14/20

Los Angeles County Agrees to Pay $14 Million to Settle Immigration Suit

Yesterday, Los Angeles County voted to pay out $14 million to settle a class action suit that claimed that the Sheriff’s Department illegally held more than 18,500 people in jail beyond their release dates.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to settle, so the only thing left is a judge’s approval. This lawsuit was filed in 2012 and alleged that over the span of four years, the Sheriff’s Department consistently held people for as long as months beyond their release dates and did not allow them to post bail because of pending immigration investigations from ICE. A federal judge ruled in 2018 that this holding of people violated their 4th amendment rights. The Department stopped honoring detainer requests in 2014.

Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU attorney who represented the plaintiffs, stated that this settlement “should send a very strong message to law enforcement agencies around the country who continue to blindly comply with ICE’s requests that are patently unlawful”. Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Lindsay Battles, emphasized this case’s significance because it establishes that the Sheriff’s Department  “callously denied immigrants constitutional protections that universally apply to all other jail detainees — including the right to post bail and the right to be released from custody under the same terms as any other arrestee or jail detainee.”

The ACLU has said that each plaintiff will receive anywhere from $250 to $25,000, depending on how long they were held, and that the remaining funds will go to legal aid programs in L.A. County. The lawsuit was originally filed by British filmmaker Duncan Roy, who spent almost three months in L.A. County jail with no chance to post bail after he was arrested in 2011. The Sheriff’s Department’s practices have changed drastically since this lawsuit was filed.

Media Resources: U.S. News 10/13/20, Los Angeles Times 10/13/20

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearings for SCOTUS Nominee Amy Coney Barrett

Yesterday, confirmation hearings began in the Senate for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Many of the speeches and declarations made were regarding the 2020 elections, particularly Trump’s backing of a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and the rushing of this hearing during a pandemic that has impacted many on Capitol Hill. The hearing is also occurring while many Americans are voting, as early voting began a few weeks ago, and that many members of the committee are up for reelection.

Judge Barrett’s opening remarks aimed to be uncontroversial, and focused on gratitude, her resume, and a vow to rule cases based on law, not personal preference. She stated, “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people…The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.” She thanked her family and mentors, and paid tribute to Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her former boss Antonin Scalia. When discussing RBG’s legacy, she said, “When I was 21 years old and just beginning my career,” Judge Barrett added, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat in this seat. She told the committee, ‘What has become of me could only happen in America.’ I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place.”

While many liberal Senators focused questioning on the issue of healthcare, some conservative Senators emphasized the attacks on Barrett’s faith and juxtaposed this hearing with Justice Kavanaugh’s in 2018. Liberal senators specifically used personal stories to make their message clear and focus on “the real-life effects of a Justice Barrett’s decisions”.

Senator Kamala Harris made an urgent and specific plea to the Senate to postpone the Supreme Court confirmation until after the election. Harris attended the hearing virtually, and stated that “this hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside of a closed-door room for hours, while our nation is facing a deadly airborne virus…This committee has ignored common sense requests to keep people safe, including not requiring testing for all members despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee…The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless and places facility workers, janitorial staff and congressional aides, and Capitol Police at risk,” and “Not to mention, while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the Senate should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families.” Senator Dianne Feinstein made a related plea, stating “We are now just 22 days from the election, Mr. Chairman. Voting is underway in 40 states.”

Today and tomorrow, senators will each get 30 minutes to question Judge Barrett, with the two political parties alternating turns, and then will get another 20 minutes for round two. There is a total of 22 senators on the panel.

Sources: Feminist Newswire 9/28/20, New York Times 10/12/20, Feminist Newswire 9/21/20, CNN 10/12/20, Harper’s Bazaar 10/13/20, Feminist Newswire 10/8/20

The Ex-Police Officer Responsible for George Floyd’s Death Gets Released on Bail

Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, facing charges of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd on May 25, was released from jail on bail yesterday. He was released after posting a $1 million bond, and soon after, protestors in Minneapolis took to the streets.

Hundreds of protestors were present at both E 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, near the scene of Floyd’s arrest and assault in Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct. They were ordered to leave the area around 10:30pm, several demonstrators were arrested, and the governor called on the National Guard at the request of city leaders.

Chauvin has been in custody since May and was being held at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights, a maximum-security prison. He left this facility at 9:40am on Wednesday, was transferred to Hennepin County Jail to post bail, and left the jail at 11:22am. He posted a non-cash bond with conditions from Allegheny Casualty, a bond insurance company in California. His release is conditional on numerous points: he must stay in Minnesota until his trial in March (his next court date is March 8), surrender any guns he owns, not take any law enforcement job, and avoid all contact with the Floyd family. The video depicting him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes was not his first incident – Chauvin has had seven prior incidents of neck or head and upper body restraint on people he has arrested, four of which prosecutors claim went too far.

Since Floyd’s death at the hands of Chauvin, we have witnessed protests across the globe, concrete changes to local policing policies, and a greater awareness of issues surrounding race and racism in our country. In regard to justice for Floyd specifically, all four officers involved have since been fired, and Chauvin will face at least 12 years in prison if he is convicted of unintentional 2nd-degree murder. He and his estranged wife are also facing multiple counts of tax evasion for supposedly lying about their income amounts.

Media Resources: NPR 10/7/20, CNN 10/7/20, CBS Minnesota WCCO 10/7/20, New York Times 10/7/20, Feminist Newswire 6/10/20

Senate in Recess Because of Coronavirus Cases

As of Monday, the Senate is in recess for two weeks due to many members of Trump’s staff, as well as three senators, testing positive for coronavirus. This is the first time since May that Mitch McConnell has adjourned the Senate because of coronavirus, and will potentially impact both the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and the passage of the stimulus bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to convene next Monday, October 12, to begin the nomination process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. McConnell stated on Monday, “We are full steam ahead with a fair through and timely confirmation process” and “The members have some of them done their interviews in previous hearings remotely. This sort of underscores the need to do that. I think every precaution needs to be taken because we don’t anticipate any Democratic support at all … and therefore everybody needs to be in an all hands-on deck mindset”. Democrats are arguing that the hearings should be further delayed, as this move prioritizes judicial moves rather than public health. Senator Tim Kaine spoke on the floor on Monday and asked for the Senate break to be extended through Election Day, which McConnell swiftly rejected. His goal is for the Judiciary vote to occur on October 16, and for the floor vote to occur on October 26 – less than 10 days before Election Day.

In regard to the stimulus bill, Senate GOP leaders are claiming that agreement on a bill is not consequential for Republican incumbents in swing states. The last bill proposed by McConnell was rejected by Schumer and Pelosi, and it is unclear if a compromise will be reached in time.

All three senators who tested positive —Thom Tillis, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson — are part of the GOP’s 53-person majority in the Senate. Three more GOP senators — Ben Sasse, James Lankford, and Ted Cruz — have tested negative but are self-isolating after being exposed to their positive colleagues.

Media Resources: The Hill 10/5/20, The Intercept 10/6/20, Politico 10/1/20

New Jersey Moves to Codify Roe v. Wade into State Law

With the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Trump’s swift move to nominate Amy Coney Barrett as her replacement, reproductive rights are on the line, with many anti-abortion advocates hoping Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned. Last Friday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy unveiled the state’s Reproductive Freedom Act, which is “proactive legislation that will help protect and expand New Jerseyans’ ability to receive reproductive health care, such as birth control, and pregnancy-related care, including abortion”. The Act has three main points: all New Jerseyans have the right to choose and determine their own reproductive health decisions, financial barriers will not hinder or obstruct these decisions, and “medically-unnecessary restrictions” will be removed to enhance access to care.

Governor Murphy said, “As access to health care and the right to choose are under attack at the federal level, we will support, defend, and protect reproductive rights here in New Jersey,” and “the Reproductive Freedom Act will remove barriers to reproductive health, as well as expand access to contraception while reaffirming choice. Together, we stand unwavering in our commitment to work towards reproductive freedom for all New Jerseyans.” Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, VP of Public Affairs at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, echoed this sentiment, and said that the ultimate goal is to protect access to abortion for both New Jerseyans and people traveling from other states that may have more barriers to access.

In regard to the issue of Roe v. Wade being overturned, Gov. Murphy stated, “I hope to God that doesn’t happen, but we don’t want to take a chance that it could happen”. The Reproductive Freedom Act lessens that chance, and would “remove some restrictions on abortion that advocates say are medically unnecessary; require most private health insurers to cover abortion; and allow a wider range of health care providers, including physician assistants, certified midwives and other advanced-practice nurses, to administer abortions.” If this Act gets passed, New Jersey will join other states like Illinois and New York, who have passed state laws to protect abortion rights from Supreme Court precedent and changes.

Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 9/21/20, Feminist Newswire 9/28/20, New Jersey State Website 10/2/20, NPR 10/2/20, The Hill 10/2/20

Death Count in ICE Facilities Is the Highest It Has Been in the Last 15 Years

According to data released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 21 people died in ICE custody in the fiscal year 2020, which ended on Wednesday. This is the highest death toll since 2005, and is more than double the amount of deaths that occurred in the fiscal year 2019. More than a third of these people had tested positive for COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, there have been over 6,100 confirmed COVID cases among detainees.

ICE maintains that deaths in its custody occur at a “small fraction of the national average for detained populations” and that the health, safety and welfare of detainees is taken seriously. Immigrant rights advocates would disagree. Silky Shah, the executive director of Detention Watch Network, asserted “We’re seeing the pandemic is playing a role – but also the conditions of detention, and what it does both to your mental health and the really poor medical care that exists inside…As we’re looking at this death toll going up, what it tells us is…it’s a system that shouldn’t exist. People should be with their loved ones, with their families, being able to social distance and quarantine at home going through their immigration proceedings…They shouldn’t be locked up.”

Fewer people are being detained by ICE on average, with detention facility populations decreasing from 50,165 (last year) to 19,791 as of September 25. Still, this news comes only two and a half weeks after the story broke regarding forced hysterectomies in an ICE facility in Georgia. And last week, a congressional investigation found that immigrants in ICE custody died after inadequate medical care and mistreatment.

The facility with the most deaths this year is in Lumpkin, Georgia, one of America’s largest immigrant detention centers. Another advocate, Amilcar Valencia, was not shocked by the large death toll, and stated, “it raises lots of alarms when three people have died…Just from the public health perspective, the detention center is putting at risk a lot of people just by having people detained there – all the population inside, all the workers, everyone in the county is at higher risk because we have this detention center in South Georgia”.

Media Resources: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CNN 9/30/20, Feminist Newswire 9/15/20, CNN 9/24/20

Federal Judge Blocks Increase in Citizenship & Immigration Application Fees

Yesterday, a San Francisco federal judge temporarily blocked an increase in the cost of citizenship and other immigration application fees, an upsurge initiated by the Trump administration. These increases were scheduled to go into effect on Friday, October 2nd, and would raise the citizenship application cost from $640 to $1,160– an 81% increase. The proposal also included a $50 fee for filing an asylum application and would remove many of the fee waivers for low-income applicants.

The judge who blocked this issuance, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, ruled that these changes cannot proceed while the lawsuit is moving through the courts. He said, “If it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose populations to further danger”. These increased fees would impact businesses, newly naturalized citizens, and international students. Moreover, premium processing of cases would take longer – 15 business days, rather than the current policy of 15 calendar days.

Judge White determined that the standard in this case was met to grant a motion for preliminary injunction, based on four main reasons: “Plaintiffs must show that (1) they are likely to succeed on the merits, (2) they are likely to ‘suffer irreparable harm’ without relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in their favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest.” He also wrote, “Unlike the FCC in Consumer Electronics, it is not immediately evident that DHS has been gathering data over the years about the impact of price increases on applications for immigration benefits. In addition, these statements appear to ignore information presented during the notice and comment period that contradict DHS’ beliefs about price elasticity of demand” and “In large part, DHS responded to such concerns by reference to the arguments about price elasticity of demand and its belief that the change is necessary to fully recover costs of adjudication. For the reasons discussed above, that explanation is not supported by adequate data.” This ruling impedes the Trump administration’s goals to limit and control naturalization, and immigration as a whole.

Sources: Wall Street Journal 9/29/20, Forbes 9/30/20

Mexican Women Protest for Legalized Abortion

Yesterday, on International Safe Abortion Day, hundreds of women in Mexico City clashed with the police during protests demanding nationwide legalized abortion in Mexico. The protestors donned green bandanas, the symbol of the Latin American pro-choice movement, and threw Molotov cocktails and bottles at police lines. Much of the police force was comprised of female officers. The officers’ response was to spray the protestors with tear gas and pepper spray.

The city reported that conservative, anti-abortion groups have created their own protest encampment in the city’s main plaza, the area where protesters want to be.

Abortion is only legal in Mexico City and the southern state Oaxaca (only since last year) during the first 12 weeks. The rest of the country (with a population of 128 million people) bans abortion except for specific, limited cases like rape. Mexican feminist groups have been taking increasingly hardened stances on issues such as these, especially as violence against women grows – an average of ten women are murdered every day in the country.

Media Resources: Reuters 9/28/20, VOA News 9/29/20, MSN 9/28/20; AP News 9/28/20

Grand Jury Fails to Charge Officers Responsible for Breonna Taylor’s Murder

On September 23, a decision was made by a grand jury concerning the murder of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman from Louisville, KY who was killed in her home in March of this year. Out of the three officers present at her murder, only one – Brett Hankison – was charged. Hankison was charged not with murder, but with “wanton endangerment” for firing his gun into Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment. Within Kentucky jurisdiction, wanton endangerment is defined as “an extreme indifference to the value of human life” and is given about a five-year sentence for each count. Hankison received three counts.

The shot that killed Taylor was fired by Myles Cosgrove, who has received no charge. The third officer, Jonathan Mattingly, also received no charge. Mattingly, in an email sent Tuesday morning, claims he believes all three officers were acting “legal[ly], moral[ly], and ethical[ly] that night” – the night that Taylor lost her life. Both Cosgrove and Mattingly still hold their positions on the police force, and Hankison was dismissed because he fired into Taylor’s apartment without a line of sight.

Taylor was killed on March 13. On June 11, “Breonna’s Law” was passed, which outlaws “no-knock” warrants and required body cameras to be on before and after each search. Hankison was officially fired on June 23. On September 15, the city of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family. Nonetheless, this story is juxtaposed with George Floyd, where officers were charged and fired in a swifter fashion. Despite numerous high-profile celebrities and activists drawing attention to Taylor’s case, there has been no justice for Breonna Taylor and her family because the officers were not held accountable for her murder.

Sources: BBC 9/23/20, The New York Times 9/24/20, ABC News 9/23/20

The Pandemic & Its Detriment to the Female Workforce

“Women have never experienced an unemployment rate in the double digits since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting data by gender in 1948 – until now.” Women’s unemployment was almost 3 points higher than men’s in April, and has not experienced the same amount of recovery as men’s in subsequent months. This is due to a confluence of factors, one being the disproportionate amount of women, particularly women of color, in industries that were hit hardest by the pandemic. A National Women’s Law Center analysis showed that prior to the pandemic, women held 77% of jobs in the education and health industries and have accounted for 83% of jobs lost in these industries. A similar pattern has been observed in the retail industry as well.

In addition to this phenomenon, women are bearing the majority of childcare and family-related labor, which creates another barrier to reentering or staying in the workforce. Specifically, the Census Bureau reported that women are three times more likely to not be working due to COVID-19 related childcare needs. This may be due to cultural and social norms that relegate women to the default caregiver role, which is only worsening with many schools not reopening. As the pandemic has drastically changed both home and work life, women have been forced to carry a disproportionate share of the burden– they are not only more likely to lose a job, but also more likely to be responsible for childcare.

This issue has long term implications and manifests in numerous forms, depending on family situation, economic class, geographic location, and other factors. Betsey Stevenson, an economics professor at University of Michigan, warns against the lasting effects of this current dilemma, and states, “We could have an entire generation of women who are hurt…They may spend a significant amount of time out of the work force, or their careers could just peter out in terms of promotions”. The longer women are out of the workforce, the harder it is for them to return. These hardships and disparities come at a time when women were finally comprising more than half of the labor force, despite simultaneously bearing the majority of domestic work. This double burden has reared its ugly head during the pandemic and will ultimately take many years, and strong public policy, to mend.

Sources: Washington Post 5/9/20, CNBC 7/8/20, Marketplace 8/21/20, New York Times 6/3/20

Celebrating Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Enormous Contribution to Women’s Rights

The impact Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left on the contours of American society are unmatched, unprecedented, and too numerous to count. Below are a few examples of her impact, both in and out of the courtroom.

  1. ACLU Women’s Rights Project: in 1972, Justice Ginsburg founded the Women’s Rights Project in the ACLU. One of its earliest successes was the litigation of Reed v. Reed, which “challeng[ed] the automatic preference of men over women as administrators of estates”. The court ruled in favor of the plantiff, whose brief was written by Justice Ginsburg herself. This was the first time that sex discrimination was viewed as a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and set a major precedent for future legal rulings.
  2. Supreme Court Nomination: Justice Ginsburg’s nomination to the court was a victory for women and people everywhere. She was nominated in 1993 and served 27 years. She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and was a champion for gender equity and civil rights and liberties throughout her career.
  3. Virginia Military Institute: in 1996, Justice Ginsburg wrote the Supreme Court’s 7-1 opinion ruling that the Institute could no longer remain an all-male institution. She wrote, “Reliance on overbroad generalizations…estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description”.
  4. Lilly Ledbetter Dissent: Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyear (2007) concerning back pay for those who experience employment discrimination was so compelling and directed at Congress that it spurred the creation of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill passed by Obama in 2009.  This law overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in that case, which severely restricted the time period for filing complaints of employment discrimination concerning compensation.
  5. Professorship at Columbia University School of Law: after graduating tied for first in her class, Justice Ginsburg returned a little over a decade later, as the first female professor with tenure at Columbia. She also taught at Rutgers Law School.

Justice Ginsburg’s life’s work majorly contributed to progress in civil rights and liberties and gender equity. The country mourns her loss while celebrating her legacy as a champion for the feminist movement.

Sources: ACLU, The New Yorker 9/18/20, NPR 9/18/20; EEOC 2009

Texas Clinics See a Rise in Later Abortions After a Temporary State Ban Expires

Many clinics in Texas have observed an increase in later-term abortions, following a temporary ban on the procedures lasting from March 22 until April 22.

On March 22, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning most abortions, citing coronavirus and hospital capacity as reasons for this ban. The order stated that “all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities shall postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary”.

The attorney general, Ken Paxton, made this ban explicit by stating “This prohibition applies throughout the State and to all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary, including routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures that are not immediately medically necessary such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

After a month of uncertainty and legal debate, clinics in Texas were allowed to resume administering abortions on April 22. Almost immediately, these clinics saw an influx of patients, particularly those seeking later abortions. For example, the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas observed a 57 percent increase in second-trimester abortions in the month following April 22, as compared to the month leading up to March 22. Additionally, the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston saw a 28 percent in abortions for 10-week or later pregnancies.

This 10-week marker is important, as it serves as the limit for receiving medication abortions in Texas. Medication abortions are very effective and provide some people with more privacy and a less invasive feeling. Soraya Dadras heard this sentiment from her patients at Whole Woman’s Health in Austin and said that “The idea of having an in-clinic procedure was more daunting for them than having a medication abortion in the safety of their home with their partner”.

The month-long ban made this option inaccessible for many people, a fact echoed by Dr. Bhavik Kumar from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast: “At the first visit, folks had expressed wanting to do a medication abortion, but then so many people weren’t able to come back for several weeks, which put them out of the window when they would have been able to access that care,” and “We were ready, capable and able to do what we needed to do to take care of our patients, but we legally weren’t able to do that”.

A 21-year-old Houston resident named Paige experienced the repercussions of this ban firsthand. Not only was she worried about the cost of abortion, but also had to travel outside the state to receive an abortion at the time. She said, “I felt like I was being punished in some way for getting pregnant…I felt like I was on an emotional and physical roller coaster.” Once she returned to Texas, after receiving an abortion in Albuquerque, she finally felt relieved. “I was back in the comfort of my own space, where I knew COVID couldn’t get me, and I was finally able to lay down and breathe, because I didn’t feel like I was breathing through any of it”.

 Sources: NBC News 8/12/20; Feminist Newswire 3/26/20; Texas Attorney General 3/23/20; Planned Parenthood

Study Measuring the Attractiveness of Women with Endometriosis Finally Removed

A peer-reviewed study rating the attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis, released seven years ago, has finally been finally retracted from the medical journal Fertility and Sterility.


The study, titled “Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case-control study”, concluded that “Women with rectovaginal endometriosis were judged to be more attractive than those in the two control groups. Moreover, they had a leaner silhouette, larger breasts, and an earlier coitarche (age of first sexual intercourse).” Not only is this problematic, but it also brings up ethical concerns – namely, the participants of the study did not give their consent to be rated on their attractiveness, nor were they aware that this rating was occurring.


Despite all of this, the study has continued to be defended by many of its authors and the journal itself. The official article withdrawal request states that “We [the entire group of investigators] conducted the study in good faith and according to correct methodology. We believe that our findings have been partly misinterpreted, but at the same time realize that the article may have caused distress to some people.”


Rectovaginal endometriosis is a severe form of endometriosis, a “condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus, most commonly in the pelvic cavity…It can grow on organs (ovaries, uterus, bowel, and pelvic sidewall), causing inflammation and pain.” 10 percent of women who are of childbearing age are affected by endometriosis worldwide, which is more than the percentage of adults affected by diabetes globally.


In addition to being painful and debilitating, endometriosis is linked to infertility – 30-40 percent of women with endometriosis may not be able to have children, and 50 percent of infertile women are impacted by endometriosis. Moreover, there is no cure, and it takes an average of 7.5 years to be diagnosed. This means, on average, endometriosis patients experience 7.5 years of undiagnosed and incurable pain, a loss in work productivity, and additional healthcare costs.


Additionally, only white women were selected to participate in this study, thus excluding women of color who also experience endometriosis. Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an American gynecologist, condemned this study by statingWhile I am not an endometriosis researcher, as I only treat women with pelvic pain, I see many women every single day with endometriosis and I have yet to identify a severe-endometriosis phenotype. But, then again, I don’t ever consider my patients’ attractiveness, just, you know, their medical and social history, their physical findings, and response to treatments…If the goal were to look at BMI, or some other validated measurement of body habitus, the title of the article and main outcome measure wouldn’t be attractiveness.”


She concluded “Objectifying women has no place in medicine. It is even more horrifying that such a publication comes from a department on OB/GYN.” This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Kate Young, a public health researcher who said “That paper is a really good example of what happens when we do research about women but not for them. And that’s partly a reflection of the patriarchal society that we live in and also the way we’ve structured research and research funding…We really need better systems in place that come from the bottom up. We need research to be influenced by the people who it is for.”

Sources: The Guardian 8/5/20, Fertility and Sterility 1/1/13, The Guardian 9/27/15, Dr. Jen Gunter 10/20/12

Women Experiencing COVID Symptoms Are Disbelieved & Disregarded by Medical System

The story of one woman, Ailsa Court of Portland, Oregon, illuminates an issue that has existed far before the COVID-19 pandemic – disbelieving women’s pain.

Court’s symptoms began in early March, and she is still experiencing “shortness of breath, achiness in her lungs, and a strange tingling in her calves”. Throughout her struggle, numerous doctors discounted her testimonies and downplayed the severity of her symptoms. Her primary care doctor believed she was “stressed because of the economy”, and an urgent care physician rolled his eyes when she explained her symptoms – memory loss, a severe migraine, chest tightness, and leg numbness.

The one word Court has been using to describe this disbelief is “gaslighting”, otherwise known as the “psychological tactic of making a person second-guess whether something they know to be true is real”. Sadly, Court is not alone in her pain and struggle, as many other female coronavirus survivors are fighting both residual symptoms and doctors that won’t take them seriously.

This phenomenon highlights an issue that has permeated much of medical history – the belief in the “hysterical female”. Hysteria was described by ancient Egyptians and Greeks and was first scientifically taught by Jean-Martin Charcot in 1880 – one of whose pupils happened to be none other than Sigmund Freud. Moreover, female hysteria wasn’t dropped by the American Psychiatric Association until the 1950s, and “hysterical neurosis” wasn’t removed from the DSM until 1980.

This history plays a dangerous part in present-day medicine – women in pain are more likely than men to receive sedatives instead of pain medication, women have to wait longer in emergency departments to be seen, and women are nearly three times more likely to die after a heart attack due to inadequate care.

These disparities are compounded for women of color. Black patients are 40% less likely to receive pain medication, and 34% less likely to receive opioids than white patients. A study found that almost half of medical students maintained the belief that Black people have thicker skin than white people.

Adrienne Crenshaw, a Black woman from Houston, Texas, was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, despite her asserting that her symptoms align with a heart attack, not anxiety. Alisa Valdés of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was told that her severe symptoms were the result of a “mental issue”. She believes that her doctors have been “minimizing me as a woman, minimizing me as a Latina”.

Clearly, these cases demonstrate the biases against women that exist in healthcare and must be addressed, given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the severity of its consequences.

Planned Parenthood To Remove Margaret Sanger’s Name from Manhattan Health Center

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY) announced yesterday that it plans to remove Margaret Sanger’s name from the Manhattan Health Center as a “public commitment to reckon with its founder’s harmful connections to the eugenics movement.” This removal is accompanied by a commitment to also rename an honorary street sign that marks the Margaret Sanger Square.

Karen Seltzer, the Board Chair at PPGNY, stated that “the removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color”, and that “Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy. There is overwhelming evidence for Sanger’s deep belief in eugenic ideology, which runs completely counter to our values at PPGNY. Removing her name is an important step through representing who we are as an organization and who we serve.”

Planned Parenthood has previously addressed Sanger’s connection to eugenics, and has an 8-page document titled “Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger”. This document aims to delineate fact from fiction regarding Sanger’s stances and to acknowledge both her successes and harms. In regard to the latter, Sanger favored beliefs about hospitalization, sterilization, and preventing the immigration of disabled, “feebleminded”, etc. groups of people. She also endorsed the 1927 Buck v. Bell Supreme Court decision, which ruled that “compulsory sterilization of the ‘unfit’ was allowable under the Constitution”.

This move to further acknowledge Sanger’s legacy and her part in systemic racism is part of PPGNY’s Reviving Radical Initiative, a three-year initiative that centers communities of color through historical reckoning and building accountable relationships with these marginalized communities. Dr. Lynn Roberts, the Commissioner of Reviving Radical, echoed that “I am heartened by the decision by PPGNY to rename its Manhattan Health Center. While this comes at a time when the entire nation is reckoning with its sordid past and present realities of racial injustice, I am even more encouraged that this symbolic gesture is also accompanied by a deeper commitment to take even bolder steps toward institutional transformation.”

Dr. Roberts ended the statement by expressing, “may this organization’s realization of these mandates serve as a guide to other organizations embarking on becoming anti-racist organizations not only in name, but in practice.”


Sources: Planned Parenthood of Greater New York 7/21/20, Planned Parenthood 10/1/16, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York

Young, College-Educated, Democratic Women: You are Most Likely A Feminist

A new Pew Research study, conducted during March and April, confirms that age, education level, and political affiliation can indicate whether or not someone identities as a feminist.

Overall, 61% of women said that “feminist” describes them “very” or “somewhat well”. Across different age groups, the 18-29 cohort was most likely to identify as a feminist, whereas the 50-64 cohort was least likely to. In fact, a majority of women across generational and educational lines use the term to describe themselves.

Regarding education, having a bachelor’s degree or higher predicted higher feminist self-identification. Additionally, women who are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic party are 33% more likely to identify as feminists than their Republican/Republican-leaning counterparts at 75% vs 42%.

A related Pew Research study, also conducted during March and April, reveals that most Americans say gender equality is important, regardless of whether they identify as feminists or not. More specifically, 79% of adults believe “it is very important for women to have equal rights with men”. Within that category, 69% of non-feminists and 89% of feminists support the aforementioned statement. This indicates that a belief in gender equality goes beyond feminist identification. Many scholars contend that feminist values and principles – namely gender equality and empowerment – are increasingly accepted by society, regardless of the label “feminist”.

With this increased support for gender equality, comes another statistic – 28% of men believe the women’s gains in society have come at the expense of men. When looking at Republican/Republican-leaning men, this proportion increases to 38%. Similar to the first survey, education level and political affiliation indicate differences in these beliefs regarding gender equality. Nonetheless, 65% of all adults believe that the United States has made progress in gender equality and equal rights in the last 10 years.

It must be noted that all of these statistics and surveys exist within the context of the fact that 98% of Americans believe that gender equality is “very” or “somewhat important”. Women are slightly less optimistic than men about gender equality in America at 86% vs 93%, but still, it appears that more progress, and more feminism, are on the horizon.

Sources: Pew Research Center 7/6/20, Pew Research Center 7/14/20, Pew Research Center 7/7/20, Pew Research Center 4/30/20

Millions of Dollars of Federal COVID-19 Aid Goes to U.S. Anti-Abortion Groups

Numerous Christian anti-abortion groups received millions of dollars in forgivable loans from the federal coronavirus aid program the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Fortunately, money from this program also went to pro-choice, reproductive rights groups. Notably, Planned Parenthood received $80 million in PPP loans.

This allocation of taxpayer-backed dollars comes in the context of a pandemic that has limited reproductive rights and abortion access everywhere, as many states have used coronavirus as an excuse to restrict access to these services – see Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.

One of the Christian rightwing groups that received funding is the American Family Organization, an anti-abortion, homophobic conservative organization, which has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, the American Center for Law & Justice, an anti-abortion group led by Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, has also received funding.

Moreover, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the agency in charge of the PPP, has attempted to take back loans from Planned Parenthood following Republican criticism. The same attempts have not been made with the Christian anti-abortion groups. Frederick Clarkson, an expert on America’s religious right, stated that this incongruity “is absolutely a double standard” and “an egregious violation of ethical norms.” He also emphasized the unprecedented nature of this funding, saying “What we’re seeing with this is a lightyear leap into direct government financing of major Christian right political entities on a scale we’ve never seen before”.

In May, the SBA sent a letter to a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Delaware, explaining that they are “a local affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America,” and therefore “ineligible for a PPP loan under the applicable affiliation rules and size standards, consistent with Congressional intent.”

In response to the SBA’s actions, Jacqueline Ayers, VP of Government Relations & Public Policy at Planned Parenthood, stated “This is a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care. It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations’ eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of COVID-19”.

Sources: Feminist Newswire 3/24/20, Feminist Newswire 4/27/20, Feminist Newswire 4/22/20, Feminist Newswire 4/3/20, Feminist Newswire 4/1/20, The Wall Street Journal 5/22/20, The Guardian 7/8/20, CBS News 5/22/20, Planned Parenthood 5/20/20

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Requiring Parental Consent for Abortions

Yesterday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that requires minors to have parental consent before having an abortion. This bill goes into effect today and could significantly obstruct abortion access in the state.

The law states that a physician must “obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian before performing or inducing a termination of the pregnancy of a minor”, with the exception of a medical emergency. A minor could also petition for a judicial waiver, which requires a judge to evaluate the child’s age, intelligence, emotional development and stability, credibility, responsibility, and assessment of short- and long-term risks. Previous to this bill, minors were required to notify their parent or guardian at least 48 hours before the abortion.

Throughout his election year, DeSantis touted this legislation as one of his goals. DeSantis did not make a statement concerning the bill; rather, Senate President Bill Galvano (R) voiced his praise of the bill. He argued that “the serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts,” and “the parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision.”

Meanwhile, opponents of this bill assert that it will “endanger teens who could be subject to retribution or abuse if their parents find out they are pregnant or considering an abortion”. In a statement, Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said that “This law will put already at-risk young people in even greater danger at the worst possible time”. Galvano, in his statement, said that for “those who are in a situation of abuse or where parental consent is not in the child’s best interest, the bill provides a judicial waiver process that still involves the intervention of an adult.” Planned Parenthood indicated that research on this process reveals “little to no information” from court clerks, and that the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on court access will make matters worse.

Fraim also stated, “What’s worse, it could open the door to a reinterpretation of our constitutional right to privacy and the right to a safe and legal abortion in Florida.” Moreover, a similar law was struck down in 1989 by the Florida Supreme Court, but now, the court is composed of a solid conservative majority.

Sources: Florida Senate 6/30/20; Health News Florida 7/1/20; Sun Sentinel 6/30/20; Tampa Bay Times 6/30/20


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