U.S. Representatives Share their Personal Abortion Stories at Congressional Hearing

Several United States House Representatives, including Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), spoke at a House Oversight Committee hearing Thursday about their personal decisions to get an abortion.

Rep. Cori Bush testified how she had been raped at 17 years old on a church trip, realized she was pregnant and decided to have an abortion. This is one of the first times she has publicly shared her experience about getting an abortion.

“How could I make this work? How could I, at 18 years old and barely scraping by, support a child of my own? And I would have been on my own,” Rep. Bush said.

Bush described how she was shamed and discriminated against in a counseling session before the procedure as well. She made clear that now, she was no longer ashamed of her decision to get an abortion, and that it had been freeing to know she had options.

“Choosing the have an abortion was the hardest decision I had ever made, but at 18 years old, I knew it was the right decision for me,” she said.

The House Oversight Committee hearing at which Rep. Bush testified aimed to assess the attack on abortion rights brought forth by state legislatures, spearheaded by Texas and the state’s recent six-week abortion ban.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal also testified about her experience getting an abortion. When Rep. Jayapal was a new mother with a sick child, she got pregnant again despite diligently using contraception. She was told that the second pregnancy put her and her fetus’s life at risk, and she chose to get an abortion. Rep. Jayapal has previously spoken out about her abortion experience.

“Two years ago, I decided to tell my story as a member of Congress because I was so deeply concerned about the abortion ban legislation that was coming out from states across the country. Today, I am testifying before you because I want you to know that there are so many different situations that people face making this choice,” she said.

Rep. Barbara Lee told her story of choosing to get an abortion as well. Rep. Lee became pregnant in high school before the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which made abortion legal in the U.S.

She described having to go to Mexico to seeking abortion care, where she risked her life having an unsafe abortion.

“I’m compelled to speak out because of the real risks of the clock being turned back to those days before Roe v. Wade, to the days when I was a teenager and had a back-alley abortion in Mexico,” Rep. Lee said. “A lot of girls and women in my generation didn’t make it—they died from unsafe abortions.”

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion rights at the federal level. However, the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate. House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) opened the hearing by calling on the Senate to pass the WHPA and on Congress to pass the EACH Act, which would expand federal health care coverage to include abortion care.

“To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions or will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” Rep. Bush said. “We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us. So we deserve better. We demand better. We are worthy of better.”

Sources: CNN 9/30/21, New York Times 9/30/21; NPR 9/30/21

Thousands of Protesters March to Demand Abortion Rights Across Latin America

In several Latin American countries, thousands of people marched for the right to safe and legal abortion on Tuesday, marking International Safe Abortion Day.

Large groups of people marched to protest the restrictive and severely punitive abortion laws in many Latin American countries. Protesters held up signs with the slogans, “legal abortion for health and life,” “it’s our right to decide,” and “legal abortion, safe and free.” Marches were held in Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.

El Salvador’s abortion law is one of the strictest in the region. The country completely bans all abortion, even in the case of rape or incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. People can be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison for having an abortion in El Salvador.

800 women marched in Bogota, Colombia, where abortion is banned except for cases of rape, if the fetus has severe birth defects, or if the pregnancy risks the mother’s life.

While many Latin American countries still have extremely restrictive abortion bans, others are taking steps at reform. In Chile, where abortion is also currently illegal unless the fetus has a severe defect, the mother’s life is at risk, or the mother was raped, lawmakers will debate a proposed bill that would expand abortion rights across the country. The bill would decriminalize abortion before 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Earlier this month, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled to decriminalize all abortion in the country, which is an essential step toward making abortion legal in all of Mexico. Last year, Argentina legalized abortion before 14 weeks of pregnancy as well.

“Women are reminding states and societies that we’re full citizens, not second-class,” said Ita Maria Diez, a leader of the march in Bogota, Colombia.

“That we have the right to abort, to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy, to decide about our bodies, about our lives, and about our maternity wards.”

Sources: CNN 9/29/21; Reuters 9/29/21; Aljazeera 9/29/21

Biden Administration Proposes New Rule to Protect DACA

The Biden administration published a rule Tuesday that could help to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in the administration’s latest attempt to protect the program from legal challenges.

The rule would cement DACA, protecting hundreds of thousands of people without documentation who were brought to this country as children from losing their ability to work in the U.S. and from being deported.

The Biden administration’s rule is particularly necessary given the recent legal attacks on DACA and continued hurdles to implementing a pathway to citizenship through Congress. In July, Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal judge in Texas, ruled that DACA was illegal and blocked new applicants to the program, leaving hundreds of thousands of people’s immigration status in limbo. Judge Hanen insisted that the program, implemented in 2012 by President Obama, was an overreach of federal power and could only be maintained through legislation.

Democrats in Congress had initially hoped to include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in the $3.5 trillion budget bill currently in the works, but the Senate parliamentarian recently voted to exclude this immigration measure from the bill.

DACA currently protects 700,000 undocumented people from deportation. It also allows undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children to work in this country. DACA recipients must have entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday and must have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, among other requirements.

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School, told the New York Times that the Biden administration’s rule protecting DACA is “basically an effort to bulletproof the DACA program from litigation challenges,” calling the rule “a temporary safety net for Dreamers if legislation fails.”

The rule outlines the important economic contributions of DACA recipients as well, demonstrating on official record how the Department of Homeland Security values Dreamers.

“The Biden-Harris Administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “This notice of proposed rulemaking is an important step to achieve that goal. However,” he added, “only Congress can provide permanent protection. I support the inclusion of immigration reform in the reconciliation bill and urge Congress to act swiftly to provide Dreamers the legal status they need and deserve.”

Biden’s rule comes as the Department of Homeland Security has deported nearly 4,000 Haitian migrants trying to enter the U.S. from Del Rio Texas on the southern border.

Sources: The Hill 9/28/21; The Federal Register 9/28/21; New York Times 9/27/21; CNN 9/27/21

Switzerland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage in a National Referendum

Swiss voters approved a law that allows same-sex couples to marry in a nationwide referendum Sunday. Switzerland is one of the last countries in Western Europe to give full marriage rights to LGBTQ couples.

Last year, the Swiss government amended marriage laws to extend full marriage rights to LGBTQ couples. However, those who opposed the new amendment forced a referendum to challenge the law and curtail marriage rights.

In the referendum Sunday, 64.1 percent of people voted to approve the law and legalize same-sex marriage in Switzerland, showing overwhelming support for same-sex marriage. All 26 of Switzerland’s cantons, or states, had a majority vote in favor of approving the marriage law.

The amended marriage law, called “Marriage for All” not only allows couples of the same gender to get married but also allows same-sex couples to adopt children and use sperm banks to start their families. Prior to the law, lesbian couples could not use sperm donation to have children.

“With this, all couples in the future will be treated equally before the law: all can enter into a civil marriage, with the same rights and obligations,” wrote Switzerland’s Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter on Twitter.

Justice Minister Keller-Sutter also said that the law would likely not be implemented until July 1 of 2022 due to legislative procedures.

Switzerland is a historically conservative country, only granting women the right to vote in 1971. It is one of the last countries in Western Europe to extend full legal marriage rights to same-sex couples. Italy is now the only country in Western Europe where same-sex marriage is still illegal.

“This is a historic day for us and for Switzerland, this a great step forward, something we have been waiting for for years,” said Laura Russo, co-president of the Geneva Federation of LGBT Associations. “This initiative was begun in 2013; we had to wait eight years for the vote to happen—and here, this is a big ‘Yes.’”

Sources: New York Times 9/26/21; NBC News 9/25/21; NPR 9/26/21

Florida Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Ban Most Abortions, Imitating Texas’s SB 8

On Wednesday, a Florida state representative introduced a bill that would ban most abortions in the state, mimicking the Texas six-week ban that went into effect earlier this month.

Rep. Webster Barnaby (R) introduced HB 167 into the Florida state legislature. Like Texas’s SB 8, the Florida bill would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Also similar to the Texas ban, HB 167 would rely on private citizens to enforce the law, rewarding individuals with $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion.

Because the law would be enforced by private citizens rather than state officials, it is much more difficult for the law to be blocked in court. This strategy of using private citizens to enforce the ban has so far been successful in preventing the Texas law from being struck down. For this reason, Florida is using the same strategy and implementing this “copycat” bill, HB 167.

“We are horrified to see anti-choice politicians in Florida following in Texas’ footsteps, and there’s no question that lawmakers hostile to reproductive freedom in other states will do the same,” said Adrienne Kimmell, Acting President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “The harm of these draconian attacks cannot be overstated and they most acutely impact those who already face the greatest barriers to accessing care.”

While the Texas law allows people to file a lawsuit against someone who “aided and abetted” an abortion a maximum of four years after the abortion was performed, Florida’s bill is even more extreme and allows people to file a lawsuit six years after the procedure occurred. However, the Florida bill does allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest, while the Texas law does not.

Both the Texas law and the Florida bill effectively eliminate all abortion access in their respective states, given that most people do not know they are pregnant at six weeks of pregnancy.

The introduction of Florida’s HB 167 comes the same week as the House of Representative’s vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, a piece of legislation that would protect abortion access nationwide.

Today, the House will vote on the WHPA, which would protect people’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy and solidify the right to an abortion before viability in every state. It would also prevent states from imposing burdensome restrictions, like medically unnecessary waiting periods, for people seeking an abortion pre-viability.

“The need for legislative action to safeguard the legal right to abortion is becoming more urgent with every passing day,” Kimmell continued. “Congress must immediately pass the Women’s Health Protection Act so President Biden can sign it into law and protect the right to abortion care.”

Florida’s HB 167 also comes amid continued legal challenges to Texas’s SB 8. On Thursday, a coalition of abortion providers once again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the Texas abortion ban. The Supreme Court upheld SB 8 earlier this month, denying abortion providers’ previous request for the court to block the law.

“For 23 days, we’ve been forced to deny essential abortion care for the vast majority of patients who come to us,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the organization leading the request for the Supreme Court to intervene in the SB 8 case.

“Most of those we’ve turned away told us they would not be able to make it out of Texas for care. I don’t know what happened to these patients after they left our clinic, but I can’t stop thinking about them. Forcing our staff to tell patients ‘no’ day after day is cruel. This chaos must come to an end, and that is why we are going back to the Supreme Court today.”

Sources: Washington Post 9/23/21; Florida House of Representatives 9/22/21; NARAL Pro-Choice America 9/22/21; CNN 9/23/21; NPR 9/24/21; Planned Parenthood 9/23/21

Thousands of Haitians Deported from Texas While Some are Released into U.S. as Border Crisis Continues

Nearly 14,000 Haitian migrants have come to the U.S. border near Del Rio, Texas in recent days hoping to be admitted to the United States. The Biden administration has already deported over 1,000 people since the weekend, while some Haitians have been released into the U.S. for immigration processing.

Haitian migrants have created an enormous camp under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, hoping to be accepted into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security announced that they would work to clear the encampment within the coming days and would expel migrants immediately from the U.S. While hundreds of migrants have been deported on flights to Port-au-Prince just this week, others, mainly parents with children and pregnant people, have been admitted into Del Rio.

President Biden has used Title 42, a Trump-era immigration policy, to expel Haitians from the U.S.—Mexico border. Title 42 is a public health code that enables the government to expel migrants without conducting typical immigration hearings. The public health order also prevents asylum seekers from asking the U.S. for protection. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the Biden administration could no longer use Title 42 to expel migrant families. That ruling, however, will not go into effect until next month.

Many of the Haitian migrants at the U.S. border did not migrate directly from Haiti. Several came from other countries in South America where they had tried to settle originally but were unable to due to unemployment and challenges brought on by the pandemic. Political unrest, economic downturn, and natural disaster have all forced thousands of Haitians to leave their home country in recent years.

The Biden administration’s use of Title 42, its decision to expel Haitian migrants through mass deportation, and its overall treatment of Haitians at the border has received severe condemnation.

Earlier this week, disturbing images of Border Patrol agents brutalizing Haitians at the U.S. border sparked outrage. The photos and footage show Border Patrol agents on horses aggressively using reins as whips to push people trying to cross the Rio Grande River back. The Homeland Security Department has since launched an investigation into the horse patrols.

“White (and white-presenting) men on horseback with lariats are seen chasing, yelling, and cursing at vulnerable Black asylum seekers who have for weeks and months been fleeing toward what they thought were safety,” wrote several civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Black Alliance for Immigration, the Black Women’s Roundtable, and the National Women’s Law Center, in a letter to President Biden.

“The actions of these Border Patrol officers are disgraceful and show an indifference to the humanity of Black migrants.”

The mass expulsion of Haitian migrants is expected to continue and accelerate this week.

Sources: CNN 9/23/21; Reuters 9/22/21; Washington Post 9/21/21; New York Times 9/22/21;

Texas Governor Signs Bill Restricting Medication Abortion Access

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Friday that will make it more difficult for people to access medication abortion in yet another move to eliminate abortion care in the country’s second-largest state.

The law, SB 4, prohibits medication abortion for people seven or more weeks pregnant. Before the law, people could obtain a medication abortion up until 10 weeks of pregnancy. SB 4 also prevents abortion medication from being delivered by courier or a delivery or mail service, rolling back the telemedicine abortion care options made accessible during the pandemic and preventing people from receiving abortion medication in the mail from out of state.

“Anti-choice politicians in Texas are launching their attacks on abortion access from every angle imaginable,” said Adrienne Kimmell, Acting President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “This law blatantly tramples on Texans’ fundamental freedoms and pushes access to care further out of reach.”

Medication abortion is a highly safe and effective means of terminating an early pregnancy. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration temporarily ended the requirement that medication abortion be dispensed in-person, increasing abortion access for people in rural communities and people with low incomes. Given the general safety of medication abortion, the in-person dispensing restriction is currently under review by the FDA.

Gov. Abbott signed SB 4 into law discreetly, with no signing ceremony or public announcement. He did not issue a press release or post on Twitter about his signing of the bill.

The law will go into effect in December. Those who violate the law could face up to two years in jail and a fine of $10,000.

This added assault on abortion access comes soon after Gov. Abbott signed SB 8, the country’s strictest abortion ban, into law. SB 8 prevents people from obtaining abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and empowers private citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping someone get an abortion for a potential reward of $10,000. The first lawsuits filed under SB 8 were brought this week against a San Antonio OB/GYN, Dr. Alan Braid, who revealed that he had performed an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy in violation of SB 8. The lawsuits against Dr. Braid were brought by two plaintiffs who claim to oppose SB 8 in the hopes of testing the constitutionality of the law.

“Anti-choice politicians have made their intentions abundantly clear,” Kimmell said. “And they will stop at nothing to strip away reproductive freedom.”

Sources: CNN 9/21/21; Forbes 9/20/21; NARAL Pro-Choice America 9/20/21; Independent 9/21/21

Biden Administration Will Raise Refugee Cap to 125,000 for the Upcoming Fiscal Year

The State Department announced Monday that the Biden administration plans to raise the maximum number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. in the upcoming fiscal year to 125,000 people, fulfilling President Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to reverse Donald Trump’s restrictive refugee policies.

Starting October 1, the refugee admission cap for the 2022 fiscal year will be raised to 125,000 people. Under former President Donald Trump, the maximum number of people able to be admitted to the U.S. as refugees was a record-low of just 15,000 people. The Biden administration initially said in April that they would keep the refugee cap to only 15,000. However, after severe backlash from progressives and activists, the administration increased the limit to 62,500 people for the 2021 fiscal year.

The cap of 62,500 has not been met for this fiscal year, as only 7,637 people have been accepted into the U.S. as refugees. Most of the more than 60,000 Afghans set to be resettled in the U.S. in the coming months are not officially considered refugees and do not count toward the limit.

“With the world facing unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs, the United States is committed to leading efforts to provide protection and promote durable solutions to humanitarian crises, to include providing resettlement to the most vulnerable,” said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department.

The total cap of 125,00 people is distributed across several different regions of the world. The administration aims to accept 40,000 people from Africa, 15,000 from East Asia, 10,000 from Europe and Central Asia, 35,000 from Near East and South Asia, 15,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a reserve of 10,000 unallocated spots. Resettlement access will be prioritized for several at-risk populations, including LGBTQI+ refugees, Central Americans, Afghans affiliated with the United States, Uyghurs, Hong Kong refugees, and Burmese Rohingya.

The administration’s announcement comes at a time when over 15,000 Haitians are attempting to enter the U.S. at the southern border. The Haitian migrants are not technically considered refugees. The Biden administration has already expelled hundreds of Haitians seeking asylum from Texas and will continue the mass deportation.

While refugee advocates celebrated the administration’s decision to raise the refugee cap, they also made clear that it would be necessary to hire more processing personnel and invest in more federal resources to actually resettle a total of 125,000 refugees this year.

“Understandably, four years of the Trump administration’s assault on the refugee program coupled with pandemic challenges have hamstrung federal rebuilding efforts,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a refugee resettlement agency.

“But raising the cap without dedicating significant resources, personnel, and policies to streamline the process would be largely symbolic. It is vital that we see more refugee processing officers out in the field conducting necessary interviews.”

Sources: CNN 9/20/21; Washington Post 9/20/21; CBS News 9/20/21; Reuters 9/21/21; New York Times 9/20/21

Texas Doctor Reveals He Violated the State’s Near-Total Abortion Ban

Dr. Alan Braid, a Texas OB/GYN, revealed Saturday that he had performed an abortion on a woman who was past six weeks of pregnancy, violating the Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Dr. Braid said he performed the illegal abortion to both care for his patient and encourage legal challenges to the new Texas law, which effectively bans all abortion in the state.

On September 6, Dr. Braid performed an abortion on a woman who was still in her first trimester of pregnancy but past the state’s restrictive six-week limit. Most people do not know they are pregnant until after six weeks.

“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” Dr. Braid wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences—but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.

Dr. Braid’s clinics, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, are already plaintiffs in one of the federal lawsuits seeking to block the six-week abortion ban, called SB 8. The Department of Justice has also filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas law, arguing the ban violates a person’s constitutional right to an abortion before viability.

The law, which does not allow for exceptions of rape or incest, deputizes private citizens to enforce the six-week ban by offering a $10,000 reward if individuals successfully sue anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion. This method of enforcement was designed to make it especially difficult for abortion rights groups to challenge the law in court.

Dr. Braid wrote that he understood that his decision to perform an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy left him vulnerable to lawsuits under SB 8. The Center for Reproductive Rights has vowed to protect Dr. Braid when those lawsuits come.

“Dr. Braid has courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care.”

Dr. Braid wrote that in just the two and a half weeks since SB 8 has been in effect, the law has ended over 80 percent of the abortion care that his clinics provide. He also noted that the ban has predominantly harmed low-income women.

“I believe abortion is an essential part of health care,” Dr. Braid wrote. “I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

Sources: Washington Post 9/18/21; Washington Post 9/18/21; Feminist Newswire 9/10/21; CNN 9/19/21

Federal Judge Sets Hearing Date to Rule on Justice Department’s Emergency Request to Stop Texas Abortion Ban

A federal district judge in Texas announced Wednesday that a hearing date for October 1 has been set to rule on the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction to block Texas’s abortion ban.

The hearing date comes just after the Department of Justice filed an emergency motion Tuesday asking Judge Robert L. Pitman of the Western District of Texas to issue a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that would prevent enforcement of the Texas six-week abortion ban while it is examined in court.

Judge Pitman will consider the Justice Department’s request for an emergency motion on October 1, meaning that the abortion ban, SB 8, will remain in effect for at least another two weeks. The Justice Department asked Judge Pitman to move the hearing date up to September 20, but he refused to do so on Thursday.

The Texas law effectively bans all abortion in the state. It also deputizes private citizens to enforce the ban by empowering individuals to sue anyone who “aids and abets” a person getting an abortion. A preliminary injunction would prevent people or organizations from filing lawsuits against those who help a person obtain an abortion while the law is litigated. Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to challenge the six-week ban, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

The ban has forced people seeking abortions to continue unwanted pregnancies or travel out of state to receive abortion care, which imposes costly burdens on patients.

“This experience has also been traumatic for our physicians and staff as they must tell patient after patient that they cannot care for them,” said Melaney Linton, president of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, in a statement. “They are essentially being forced to inflict trauma on their patients.”

Sources: CNN 9/16/21; Feminist Newswire 9/15/21; Feminist Newswire 9/10/21; Washington Post 9/15/21

U.S. Gymnasts Testify at Senate Hearing, Revealing How the FBI Mishandled the Larry Nassar Abuse Investigation

Four top U.S. gymnasts, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols, testified at a Senate hearing Wednesday on how the FBI botched the investigation into sexual abuse allegations made against former USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar.

Nassar is currently serving a life sentence for molesting hundreds of women and girls during his time as the official USA Gymnastics doctor. Biles, Raisman, Maroney, and Nichols are survivors of Nassar’s abuse and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to describe how the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee failed to protect them or take their allegations of Nassar’s sexual violence seriously.

“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Simone Biles said at the hearing. “USA Gymnastics and the United States, Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”

“Nassar is where he belongs,” Biles continued. “Those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”

McKayla Maroney, a member of the 2012 USA women’s gymnastics team, described how the FBI completely disregarded her when she came forward in 2015 to tell how she had been sexually abused by Nassar. After describing the trauma Nassar inflicted on her to an FBI agent during a phone interview, the agent was “dead silent.” Maroney said she was “so shocked at the agent’s silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence, he asked, ‘Is that all?’ Those words, in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process, for me to have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me.”

Maroney testified that the FBI waited a year and a half before documenting her report and then falsified her statement. She noted how the agency’s inaction and falsification of her report allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue.

“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report, 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said. “They chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.”

Aly Raisman, who is also an Olympian, testified how the FBI minimized her abuse as well.

“I remember sitting there with the FBI agent and him, trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad,” she said. “And it’s taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter.”

“I don’t think people realize how much it affects us, how much the PTSD, how much the trauma impacts us,” Raisman continued.

Two months ago, the Justice Department released a report detailing how the FBI’s botched investigation into Nassar allowed him to continue working as a doctor for Michigan State University, a gymnastics center, and a high school in Lansing, Michigan, despite the fact that the FBI knew of the allegations against him as a child molester.

Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, apologized to the gymnasts and acknowledged how the agency failed survivors of Nassar’s abuse by mishandling the investigation and minimizing the seriousness of their allegations.

“A message needs to be sent,” Biles said. “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”

Sources: CNN 9/15/21; NPR 9/15/12; The Guardian 9/15/21; New York Times 9/15/21

Justice Department Files Emergency Motion Asking Federal Judge to Block Texas’ Six-Week Abortion Ban

The Department of Justice asked a federal district judge Tuesday to block the enforcement of Texas’ new six-week abortion ban, which effectively eliminates all abortion access in the second-largest state.

The Justice Department filed an emergency motion requesting that Judge Robert L. Pitman of the Western District of Texas implement a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that would block enforcement of the Texas law, SB 8, while it is litigated. A preliminary injunction would prevent people or organizations from filing lawsuits against those who help a person obtain an abortion while the law is examined in court. Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to challenge the six-week ban, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

In the emergency filing, the Justice Department wrote that the Texas abortion ban was designed “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

The abortion ban, which is the strictest in the country, prevents people from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many know that they are pregnant. It offers no exceptions for rape or incest. The Justice Department argued that this pre-viability abortion ban is unconstitutional, given the Supreme Court precedent that guarantees a person’s constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy before viability.

The Justice Department also argued that the law’s method of enforcement, which relies on private citizens, rather than state officials, to sue people suspected of helping someone get an abortion, is designed to make it more difficult for abortion rights groups to challenge the law in court. In the filing, the Justice Department wrote that this enforcement method is “an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge S.B. 8 in federal court. This attempt to shield a plainly unconstitutional law from review cannot stand.”

The Supreme Court upheld the Texas abortion ban in a 5-4 vote two weeks ago, but its decision left open the possibility of future challenges to the law.

The Department of Justice’s filing articulates that a preliminary injunction “is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact.”

Abortion providers applauded the Justice Department’s request, noting how the six-week ban forces Texans to either continue an unwanted pregnancy or seek abortion care out of state, which places severe burdens and expenses on patients.

“Every day that S.B. 8 is in effect, our patients are in jeopardy,” said Melaney Linton, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Sources: New York Times 9/15/21; NPR 9/15/21; Feminist Newswire 9/10/21; Washington Post 9/14/21; Planned Parenthood 9/15/21

Social Justice Takes the Stage: Feminist Recap of the 2021 Met Gala

The 2021 Met Gala took place Monday evening, showcasing several attendees who used their time on the red carpet to advocate for social justice issues.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) was joined by fellow New York Congresswoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in using the Met Gala’s theme of “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” to make political statements through their fashion choices.

Rep. Ocasio Cortez wore a white gown with the slogan “Tax the Rich” plastered on the back in large red letters. The dress was designed by Canadian designer Aurora James.

“It’s really about having a real conversation about fairness and equity in our system,” Rep. Ocasio Cortez said in an interview on the red carpet. “I think that this conversation is particularly relevant as we debate the budget reconciliation bill. We’re talking about providing working families with child care, health care, meeting the climate crisis at the scale that it deserves.”

Rep. Maloney used the moment to honor the women’s suffrage movement in the United States and advocate for the addition of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Her white, gold, and purple dress used the colors of the women’s suffrage movement and featured flowing sashes with words “Equal Rights for Women” written on them. The green skirt of Rep. Maloney’s gown had the letters “ERA” written in bold capital letters, and she also carried a circular bag with the words “ERA YES.”

 Many stars took wore pieces to honor and advocate for LGBT+ issues. Nikkie de Jager, a transgender makeup artist on YouTube, wore a turquoise gown that featured a sash with the phrase “pay it no mind” to honor transgender activist and LGBT+ rights icon Marsha P. Johnson. Megan Rapinoe, a world-renowned American soccer player, wore a red, white, and blue suit while carrying a clutch with the words “In Gay We Trust.” Finally, actor and comedian Dan Levy wore a top that showcased two men kissing, writing on Instagram that the goal was “to celebrate queer love and visibility.”

Celebrities also used the Gala’s theme to speak on the Black experience in America. Writer and director Ava DuVernay wore a black gown with puffed sleeves, writing on Instagram, “my interpretation of the theme is to pay homage to ‘Black Excellence.’ It comes in many forms. From our everyday activities to our special moments. From our survival to our joy to everything in between.” In addition, rapper Saweetie wore a dress showcasing both the Black American heritage flag and the Filipino flag to represent her heritage. “That’s what makes me an American girl,” she said to E! News.

Several stars wore outfits from esteemed Black designers. Some of these attendees included Rep. Ocasio Cortez, Sha’Carri Richardson, Megan Rapinoe, and Keke Palmer, who wore outfits from designers Aurora James, Theophilio, and Sergio Hudson, respectively.

Unfortunately, there was a noticeable lack of Indigenous designers represented on the red carpet, despite this year’s theme being “In America.” However, Indigenous model Quannah Chasinghorse was praised as one of the most well-dressed attendees. She wore a long gold gown with traditional Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry.

Sources: Axios 9/14/21; AP 9/13/21; E! News 9/13/21; Popsugar 9/13/21; Pedestrian 9/14/21; The Guardian 9/13/21

Texas Judge Issues New Injunction Preventing Anti-Choice Group from Enforcing Six-Week Abortion Ban

On Monday, a state judge in Texas issued an injunction blocking Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, from suing Planned Parenthood under Texas’s new six-week abortion ban, SB 8.

Judge Karin Crump of the Travis County district court issued the injunction, which will stay in effect until April of 2022. It replaces a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life that was issued last week and would have expired Thursday.

The injunction prevents Texas Right to Life, as well as anyone associated with the organization, from suing Planned Parenthood abortion providers and clinic staff under the six-week abortion ban. The law is enforced by private citizens who are empowered to sue anyone suspected of helping someone obtain an abortion after six weeks.

Helene Krasnoff, vice president for public policy litigation and law for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, praised the injunction, but said it was not enough to combat the catastrophic effects of SB 8.

“After nearly two weeks with S.B. 8 in effect, the law’s devastating impact is clear. Desperate Texans are being forced to carry pregnancies against their will or flee the state to seek constitutionally protected care, and brave health care providers and staff across the state are working hard to provide care within the law while facing surveillance, harassment, and threats,” she said in a statement.

“This temporary injunction is an important step, but it is not enough relief for our staff and the seven million women of reproductive age in Texas for whom abortion care remains virtually inaccessible,” she continued. “Planned Parenthood and its partners will continue fighting S.B. 8 in court and working to restore Texans’ access to abortion.”

Sources: CNN 9/13/21; Feminist Newswire 9/7/21; Planned Parenthood 9/13/21

Biden Administration Appeals Ruling that Found DACA Illegal

The Biden administration appealed a federal district court ruling on Friday that declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal and blocked new applicants from receiving the program’s benefits.

The appeal challenges a ruling made by Texas federal district Judge Andrew Hanen in July. Judge Hanen ruled that DACA was unlawful because it violated the Administrative Procedures Act, a measure that regulates how federal agencies can create policies. While the decision keeps DACA intact for current program recipients, it blocks new DACA applications from being approved. Over 55,000 new applicants who applied for the DACA program last year but had their application status pending due to a backlog can now no longer be approved for the program.

President Biden vowed after the district court’s ruling in July that he would appeal the decision. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has appealed Judge Hanen’s ruling as well. The case will now be taken to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is known for its conservative rulings.  

“With DACA, the Department of Homeland Security uses the discretion granted by Congress to give DREAMers, who are low priorities for removal, an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. until there is a more permanent solution to their situation,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in a statement. “For this reason, DACA is an important part of the immigration system and should be upheld as lawful.”

The DACA program was created in 2012 by an executive order from President Obama. It currently protects over 600,000 people who were brought to the U.S. as children, who have no concrete pathway to citizenship, from being deported. The program was meant to be a temporary means to allow such immigrants to live and work in the U.S. until Congress could implement permanent legislation to help them obtain citizenship. Congress has yet to pass legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented Dreamers.

“The ongoing failure of the Congress to act to provide permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients necessitates the filing of this appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“There are strong legal grounds for a successful appeal because Judge Hanen failed to account for recent changes in the law governing several critical elements of the case. We look forward to a successful appeal on behalf of our courageous clients, even as we urge Congress to act to prevent the necessity of this appeal.”

Sources: CNN 9/10/21; Feminist Newswire 7/20/21; The Hill 9/10/21; Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund 9/10/21

Department of Justice Sues Texas Over Law that Effectively Bans All Abortion

On Thursday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas to challenge the state’s new law, SB 8, which prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, effectively banning all abortion in the state.

“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement. “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the law is unconstitutional and ultimately aims to permanently prevent enforcement of the ban. The Department of Justice argued that the law violates the Constitution by infringing on an individual’s right to receive abortion care before viability, which is around 24 weeks of gestation.

The Justice Department also argued that the state’s method of enforcing the law, which empowers individuals to sue anyone who aids a person in getting an abortion and essentially deputizes “ordinary citizens to serve as bounty hunters,” is designed to make it more difficult to challenge the law in court and purposely evades judicial review.

Attorney General Garland warned that the Texas ban could become a blueprint for other states to impose similar infringements on constitutional rights, saying “this kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans—whatever their politics or party—should fear.”

The lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Austin but will likely make its way to the Supreme Court. Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the six-week ban in a 5-4 ruling but left the law open to future challenges.

Abortion providers and abortion rights groups have applauded the Department of Justice’s announcement as a necessary measure to ensure Americans’ constitutional right to abortion access.

“This is a needed announcement,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. “Thank you, President Biden and the Department of Justice, for bringing the full might of the federal government to protect Texans from this dangerous and unjust law.”

“Right now patients across Texas are scared, they are confused, and they are being left with nowhere to turn to access safe, legal abortion,” she continued.

“Texans deserve the freedom and power to control their own bodies, their own decisions, and their own lives. Planned Parenthood will never abandon our patients, and we will do everything in our power to restore and protect access to abortion across Texas and the rest of the country. We hope this important next step by the Biden administration will help restore Texans’ access to the health care they need.”

Sources: CNN 9/9/21; Department of Justice 9/9/21; New York Times 9/9/21; Feminist Newswire 9/2/21; Planned Parenthood 9/9/21

Texas Governor Greg Abbott Signs Restrictive Voting Bill into Law

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that will impose new voting restrictions on the people of Texas. The bill was passed by the Texas Legislature last week.

The bill, called SB 1, will disproportionately limit voting access for people of color, people with disabilities, and elderly people in Texas. It bans drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, as well as curtails early voting hours to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The bill also gives more power to partisan poll watchers and limits polling locations.

SB 1 makes it more difficult to vote by mail as well. It imposes stricter ID requirements for mail voting and bans the unsolicited distribution of mail ballot applications, even for people 65 and older who are automatically eligible to cast a mail-in ballot. The bill also restricts the amount of assistance available for voters with disabilities who need help casting their ballots.

“SB 1 deliberately targets people of color, the elderly, and those with disabilities, placing illegal restrictions on the ballot box. There’s no denying that this bill is an attack on democracy in our state and a transparent act of political desperation,” said Brianna Brown, Co-Executive of the Texas Organizing Project, in a statement.

Gov. Abbott’s signing of SB 1 has bolstered calls for increased federal voting protections in the face of state legislatures’ assault on voting rights.

“The passage of SB 1 should be a clarion call for U.S. Senators on the urgent need for federal action protecting the freedom to vote,” said Stacey Abrams, former member of the Georgia House of Representatives and founder of Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization. “With the Texas redistricting process looming, U.S. Senate passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is imperative.”

Abrams called Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature “relentless in their efforts to advance anti-voter legislation and restrict Texans’ freedom to vote by any means possible.”

“As Texas sees one of the worst surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations to date, Abbott and his partisan allies have instead prioritized denying eligible Texans their fundamental freedom to vote,” she continued.

Several lawsuits have already been filed by civil and voting rights organizations in the hopes of preventing SB 1 from taking effect. One lawsuit argued that SB 1 “intended to impose a particular burden on Texas’s Black and Latino communities—exacerbating the marginalization caused by more than a century of discriminatory practices.”

“For democracy to work, it must include all voices. SB 1 is an extremist anti-voter bill that raises even more barriers to voting and specifically targets vulnerable communities, especially voters with disabilities, voters of color, and elderly voters,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, a plaintiff in one of the suits targeting the law.

“SB 1 is a violation of our freedom to vote, and we will continue to fight every attempt to silence Texas voters.”

Sources: CNN 9/7/21; Feminist Newswire 9/7/21; League of Women Voters of Texas 9/3/21; Fair Fight Action 9/8/21; Washington Post 9/7/21

Mexico Supreme Court Rules to Decriminalize Abortion

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of abortion is unconstitutional in a unanimous vote Tuesday. This decision sets a precedent to decriminalize abortion throughout the country, which has the second-largest Catholic population in the world.

At question was a law in the northern state of Coahuila which stated people who had an abortion, or those who helped them obtain the abortion, could go to prison for up to three years. Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled this law unconstitutional.

“Today is a historic day for the rights of all Mexican women,” said Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar. “It is a watershed in the history of the rights of all women, especially the most vulnerable.”

The ruling comes after years of work from abortion rights groups and women’s rights groups across Mexico to decriminalize abortion. Their work has led to the decriminalization of abortion in several Mexican states such as Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Veracruz, as well as the capital city, Mexico City.  

Rebeca Ramos, the executive director of GIRE, a Mexican reproductive justice organization, called the ruling “an enormous step toward legalization in the entire country.”

“We are absolutely ready to present legal challenges to the denial of safe and legal abortion,” she said. 

The ruling does not immediately legalize abortion in Mexico. However, it sets a precedent to legalize abortion in the country and allows people who have been arrested or imprisoned for having had an abortion to sue the state to have their charges dropped.

According to a study conducted by GIRE, Mexico held over 500 criminal trials for people accused of having an abortion between 2007 and 2016.

“Never again will a woman or a person with the capacity to carry a child be criminally prosecuted,” said Justice Luis Maria Aguilar. “Today the threat of imprisonment and stigma that weigh on people who freely decide to terminate their pregnancy are banished.”

Women’s rights movements across Latin America have made important reproductive rights gains in recent years. Last year, Argentina legalized abortion after years of protests and activism from abortion rights advocates in the country. Mexico’s ruling is expected to influence abortion policy in other Latin American countries as well.

“This will not only have an impact in Mexico,” said Melissa Ayala, GIRE’s coordinator for litigation. “It will set the agenda for the entire Latin American region.”

Sources: CNN 9/7/21; New York Times 9/7/21; Washington Post 9/7/21; New York Times 9/7/21

Texas Judge Temporarily Blocks Anti-Choice Group from Suing Planned Parenthood

On Friday, a U.S. district judge in Texas granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a restraining order against Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group in Texas. The group is temporarily blocked from suing Planned Parenthood under Texas’s newly enacted six-week abortion ban, called S.B. 8.

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the District Court for Travis County issued the temporary restraining order, which protects Planned Parenthood from being sued by Texas Right to Life until September 17. In her decision, Judge Guerra Gamble stated that “S.B. 8 creates probable, irreparable, and imminent injury” for Planned Parenthood, and “their physicians, staff, and patients throughout Texas have no adequate remedy at law” if they were to be sued under S.B. 8.

“We are relieved that the Travis County district court has acted quickly to grant this restraining order against Texas Right to Life and anyone working with them as deputized enforcers of this draconian law,” said Helene Krasnoff, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s vice president for public policy litigation and law, in a statement.

The law, which went into effect Wednesday, not only prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, but it also incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone who helps a person get an abortion with a potential $10,000 reward if their case is successful. It effectively eliminates all abortion access in Texas.

Texas Right to Life, the largest anti-choice group in Texas, has already taken steps to enforce SB 8. The organization created an anonymous tip line for individuals to post information about people possibly having abortions after six weeks in Texas. This tip line was removed from its original host site, GoDaddy, on Friday for violating the terms of service.

The temporary restraining order, which was filed by several Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas, prohibits Texas Right to Life, or anyone working for them, from bringing lawsuits against Planned Parenthood or their abortion providers. However, the restraining order does not prevent other groups or individuals from suing Planned Parenthood under the new ban.

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the Texas law in a 5-4 ruling.

“The restraining order offers protection to brave health care providers and staff at Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Texas, who have continued to offer care as best they can within the law while facing surveillance, harassment, and threats from vigilantes eager to stop them,” Krasnoff continued.

“But make no mistake: this is not enough relief for Texas. Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for the millions of Texans affected by S.B. 8., doing everything we can under the law to restore Texans’ federal constitutional right to access abortion.”

Sources: New York Times 9/3/21; Planned Parenthood 9/3/21; Planned Parenthood 9/3/21; Feminist Newswire 9/1/21; CNN 9/3/21; NPR 9/3/21; Feminist Newswire 9/2/21

Half of LGBT Renters Behind on Rent Payments Fear Eviction in Upcoming Months

According to a report released by UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly 50 percent of LGBT renters who are behind on rent fear being evicted from their homes within the next two months. The report’s release comes after the Supreme Court last week blocked the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium.

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal eviction moratorium will likely disproportionately affect LGBT people. Researchers at the Williams Institute found that 19 percent of LGBT people were behind on their rent, and of those renters, 47 percent feared eviction within the next two months. In comparison to the nearly one-fifth of LGBT renters who are behind on payments, the study found that 14 percent of non-LGBT renters are behind on rent.

LGBT people of color are even more likely to face eviction due to the end of the eviction moratorium. 30 percent of LGBT people of color were behind on rent compared to only 10 percent of white LGBT people behind on payments. Over half of those LGBT people of color behind on rent payments feared being evicted from their homes.

Overall, more LGBT people rent than non-LGBT people, with 41 percent of LGBT adults renting compared to 25 percent of non-LGBT adults. LGBT people of color are also more like to rent as well, at 47 percent.

“A key component to a person’s housing stability is whether they own or rent,” said Bianca D.M. Wilson, the lead author of the report and Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the risk that LGBTQ people—and LGBT people of color in particular—will lose their housing as federal eviction protections are set to expire in October.”

Those federal eviction protections, however, were eliminated by the Supreme Court last week, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk of being evicted from their homes.

Young LGBT people are especially at risk without eviction protections. Youth who are evicted and become unhoused are much more likely to be exploited by human traffickers, according to True Colors United, an organization that supports LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.

“For young people, the cascade of negative consequences due to eviction extends well beyond the loss of housing and can impact their lives for years or decades to come,” True Colors United wrote in a press release. “During an ongoing deadly global pandemic and resulting economic downturn, it is incumbent upon the government to protect low-income renters from eviction.”

Sources: UCLA Williams Institute August 2021; Feminist Newswire 8/27/21; NBC News 9/1/21; True Colors United 8/27/21

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