Thank You Seth Meyers

Late Night talk show host Seth Meyers provides much needed levity in the wake of what amounts to a modern day witch hunt mounted by the Party of Extreme Crazy:

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards did a fabulous job in the face of not only badgering questions, but stupid and condescending grandstanding. The hearing follows the US House’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and is the first of many scheduled to look into the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood orchestrated through a fraudulent biomedical shell company led by extremist David Daleiden. Of course, the House isn’t anxious to look into the Dalieden’s fraud, only Planned Parenthood in order to dismantle it. Luckily, Cecile Richards is a tough cookie and on the side of right.

Planned Parenthood is the most trusted provider of medical services in the country! They earned their stellar reputation over decades of compassionate service. Read more about this fight over at PennsylvaniaNOW.org, and please stand up for Planned Parenthood!!

Because Ferguson: Long Reads

MB2I haven’t had a lot of time for blog writing lately (since I became president of Pennsylvania National Organization for Women), but wanted to share some of the media that’s affected me most profoundly over the past weeks, since Mike Brown was senselessly shot dead by a Ferguson, MO police officer for no reason other than “walking while black.” An ongoing effort to keep these issues in the public eye is gathering momentum in Ferguson. Connect with it via #BlackLifeMatters.

Gary Younge, TheGuardian.com “Like Michael Brown in Ferguson, To Be Poor and Black Renders You Collateral”:

We know that the military policing of black communities has been escalating for almost two generations.

In 1972 there were just a few hundred paramilitary drug raids per year in the US,” writes Michelle Alexander, in the New Jim Crow. “By the early 80’s there were three thousand annual Swat deployments, by 1996 there were thirty thousand, and by 2001 there were forty thousand.”

“You already know enough,” wrote Sven Lindqvist in Exterminate All the Brutes. “So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions.”

The inevitable conclusion is that for all the symbolic ways in which America looks different racially when it comes to matters of substance, it acts the same.

Hannah Giorgis, The Frisky “Why We Cannot Have Reproductive Justice Without Fighting Police Brutality”:

I do not hear this aspect of Black parenting — this wholly rational fear that babies will be snatched from our arms and this world before their own limbs are fully grown — addressed by white advocates in gender equality and reproductive justice. Is it not an assault on Black people’s reproductive rights to brutally and systematically deny us the opportunity to raise children who will grow to adulthood, who can experience the world with childlike wonder? Is it not an assault on Black people’s reproductive rights to tell us we give birth to future criminals and not innocent children, to murder one of us every 28 hours and leave a family in mourning?

Statement issued by National Domestic Workers Alliance:

What’s happening in Ferguson reminds us all that racial justice is a core issue for all who care about women’s equality and believe in justice. We must all re-commit to working towards the day when there are no more Black families grieving the loss of their children to police violence. We stand with Ferguson and all American families who dream of living in a nation where no one dies because of the color of their skin.

We stand with families in Ferguson, MO to demand that justice be achieved for Michael Brown. Specifically we demand:

  1. New leadership for the local police department, that can ensure respect and dignity for all members of the Ferguson community;

  2. That the Governor of Missouri appoint a Special Prosecutor who will ensure that there is an aggressive process to hold the officer and the department accountable for the death of Mike Brown; and

  3. That the officer responsible for the murder of Michael Brown be held accountable for his actions.

Janee Woods, Quartz “12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson”:

Let’s talk about an active role for white people in the fight against racism because racism burdens all of us and is destroying our communities.

And finally, Jon Stewart’s rant on The Daily Show:

Peace Is A Feminist Issue

In any military conflict, no matter how righteous to how many, it is the civilians – women, children, and men – in the war zone, in drastically larger numbers than soldiers, who bear the brunt of the violence. They lose their businesses, their homes, their families and their lives.

On top of that, in times of uncertainty and financial stress, women experience higher incidence of domestic violence. Women lose access to healthcare and birth control, therefore their own reproductive autonomy. And the connection between rape and sexualized violence during wartime, genocide, and “ethnic cleansing,” has been well documented by groups such as WomenUnderSiegeProject.org. Women lose their social status, are isolated from participation in political solutions, and live under greater threat in public areas.

Peace is a feminist issue, and feminism is human rights for women.

Citizens Walk for Campaign Finance Reform in New Hampshire

photo by Bruce Skarin

Organized by Lawrence Lessig and his group, Rootstrikers, the New Hampshire Rebellion Walk gathered citizens from across the state to participate in a 185 mile walk – in January –  to raise awareness of the issue of money in government, and support for asking 2016 a simple question: what will they do to end the system of corruption in Washington? More walks are planned for July.

Inspired by Doris Haddock’s 1999 DC to LA walk urging campaign finance reform, the New Hampshire Rebellion walk continues the work of recruiting citizens to the movement to end the system of corruption that has a stranglehold on the US government.

The organizers of the walk seek to clarify the difference between criminal corruption (bribes, illegal activity, etc) and the systemic corruption, which is legal, that plagues our system, and which skews the way citizens are represented in government in the direction of money. They explain on their site:

Members of Congress spend anywhere between 30% and 70% of their time raising money to fund their campaigns or the campaigns of their colleagues. Yet they raise that money from the tiniest fraction of Americans. No more than 0.05% of Americans — about 150,000 people — are significant funders of congressional campaigns. Our campaign funding system thus makes our Congress dependent upon this tiny and unrepresentative slice of America.

Money, argues Lessig, a legal scholar and Harvard professor, was never meant to be so divorced from votes. As explained on the site:

The Framers of our Constitution had a different idea. They wanted a Republic with a Congress, as Madison put it, “dependent on the people alone.” When we talk about corruption in our current system for funding campaigns, we are talking about a corruption of the system that the Framers designed – our Republic. We want to build a movement to end that system of corruption.

With a system of small-donor campaign financing in place, US democracy would begin immediately to work again in service of the people.

Shirley Chisholm: First Black Presidential Candidate

Shirley Chisholm was a pioneering political leader who, in 1972, directly challenged the view that only white men could run for President of the United States. Not only was she the first African-American Presidential candidate, she was also the first woman Presidential candidate. What made her such a stand out was her refusal to just automatically parrot the Democratic Party line, and the fact that, despite deep opposition to her candidacy, she ran anyway.

Now the US Postal Service has added a Shirley Chisholm commemorative stamp to its Black Heritage series, an honor Chisholm richly deserves. Chisholm was a trailblazer, an inspiration to all who believed in 1972 and still believe to this day in a country that can work for everyone, that genuinely reflects the ideals of equality and justice for all.

Hilarious Song: “Restricting Abortions is Not a Jobs Bill!”

Just yesterday, the US House passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill, not for the first time either. It will (hopefully) find no traction in the Senate and President Obama has already said he would veto it. The bill is labeled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions,” which is really an on-purpose misnomer, because thanks to the Hyde Amendment, taxpayers have not funded abortion care for over thirty years!

Frustrated?? You’re not alone! Check out Lauren Mayer’s creative response to the GOP’s “War on Women” called “Restricting Abortions is Not a Jobs Bill!”-

President Obama’s Plan to Confront Sexual Assault on Campus

In his weekly address this past week, President Obama outlined the steps his administration is taking to stop sexual assault, starting with reducing the high incidence of sexual assault on college campuses.

“Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And it’s about all of us – the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons.” The President created a Task Force to confront the problem of sexual assault on campus and everywhere, including in the armed forces- as he said, “real men do not hurt women” and “every girl and boy has the right to feel protected.”

Protecting Abortion Rights As the Basis for All Reproductive Rights

Today marks the 41st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark US decision that gave women the right to abortion. The ability to decide for herself if and when she will become a parent is the basis for a woman’s freedom and is rightly nobody’s decision but her own. I’ve written about abortion many times before (here and here, for starters), and it boils down to this:

      • Abortion is essential healthcare for women;
      • Pregnancies don’t always go as planned;
      • The ability to determine if and when she will have children and how large her family will be is a woman’s most fundamental right and;
      • All the rest of a woman’s freedoms rest upon that first freedom.

 

Despite the critical importance of the right to abortion to women’s rights in general, state legislatures continue apace to enact even more abortion restrictions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more state abortion restrictions were passed between 2011 and 2013 than were passed in the previous decade.

Over the course of the year, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. Half of these new provisions, 70 in 22 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services.

Last summer, a law banning abortion after 20 weeks – blatantly unconstitutional – was passed by the US House of Representatives, a body that clearly does not take representing the rights and concerns of women, half their constituency, seriously. Certainly Congressmembers should be aware of what is and is not constitutional. This country elected a Tea Party majority to the US House whose top priority has been oppressing women (as well as obstructing the Affordable Care Act and threatening the US economy. Otherwise, a whole lot of nothing). The lesson to draw, ladies, is we can’t afford to miss elections! That’s not to say there aren’t wonderful pro-women, justice-loving lawmakers out there, there are, but they are few and far between.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to review a 20-week ban passed in Arizona instead upholding the finding from the 9th circuit the year previous ruling such bans unconstitutional. Laws that ban abortion after 20 weeks treat women as incubators for humans, and not humans themselves. Inherent in these laws is the view that women are and should be treated as second class citizens. As Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, wrote this fall:

One Florida federal district court has already (and wrongly) ruled that if states may outlaw abortion at some point during pregnancy and force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, then surely the state can also force a woman to undergo major medical procedures to deliver the child she “affirmatively desires to have.”

The basic logic is, if the law removes the choice and responsibility of childbirth from the woman, then women should have to do whatever the law decides is right for her not only concerning abortion, but concerning all aspects of maternity. There are terrifying consequences, as Paltrow outlines:

…post-20-week abortion bans have far-reaching implications for women who experience stillbirths. Increasingly, prosecutors are arguing that if states may force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term, then states should also be able to punish her when she fails to do so. In Mississippi, a teenager who experienced a stillbirth after 20 weeks of pregnancy was charged with a crime called “depraved heart homicide.”

Women have been fighting for their rights as citizens and humans for hundreds of years, if not more. We will, of course, continue that fight. But no matter where you personally stand on the issue of abortion, you must recognize that abridging a woman’s right to choose abortion should she want to end her pregnancy has far-reaching consequences to the rights of woman.

Today Philadelphia was too snow-bound for an outdoor visibility event, but I will close with this quote from last year’s event:

There’s only one conclusion I can draw from all this oppression and outrage: they hate our freedom. Too bad for them, because we will never go back. That is the chant heard today across the country at countless pro-Roe events: We won’t go back! We won’t go back to women having ten or fifteen children whether they want them or not. We won’t go back to back-room abortions. We won’t go back to sitting down and shutting up.

Luckily for women, we feminists know that we don’t have to sit around and wait to be given our rights. As citizens in a participatory democracy, we can demand them. And we will demand them, and keep demanding them until we get them. Women are here, we’ve been here since forever, and we’re staying. Get used to it.