Tag Archives: North Dakota

Undue Burden: Abortion in Texas on the 43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

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January 22, 2016, Austin, TX, USA

Although I didn’t plan to be at the Texas Capitol on the 43rd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade to hear comedian Lizz Winstead, Senator Kirk Watson, activist Amy Hagstrom Miller and others impassioned about Reproductive Justice speak, the stars aligned to bring me there. Wearing orange, armed with signs I made to protest in that same building back in 2013–La Lucha Sigue Y’all!–with a friend and clinic-worker by my side, I listened, as the wind whistled, and carried our whoops and hollering across the rolling lawns of the Capitol grounds.

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Fate has seemed time and again to draw me into abortion. Many, many people who support the right to choose clarify that they are pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. I cannot claim the same. Abortion, its cloaked and infamous history, everything about it, calls to me, in the depths of my soul, as a human right I cannot stop fighting for. After leaving my local abortion provider’s office last January to focus on domestic violence full-time, last summer I began to feel the void again. Maybe it was memories from the Capitol, maybe the heat got to me, but I was finally recovered enough from the massive burnout I suffered after the devastation of HB2, to pour myself into abortion again.

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Now I serve as one of two Outreach & Volunteer coordinators for The Bridge Collective, the only practical support network in Central Texas for people seeking abortion care. We as a collective, and through our network of volunteers, provide accommodation and transportation to people traveling within 100 miles of Austin (roughly a two-hour drive each way) to terminate a pregnancy. To give you an idea of what that means, check out the maps below. The orange markers are all of the abortion clinics we don’t serve, the purple ones are clinics we do, and the red markers are towns within 100 miles of Austin.

Texas Zoomed Out

TBC Travel Area

Covering the vast swaths of land between tiny Texas towns that dot the landscape, you’ve got a lot of time to think. And while for our clients that time may be spent confirming their decision, or contemplating all of the other responsibilities and stressors in their lives, for the drivers, inequality is always on our minds.

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But that’s true for a lot of Texans, in a lot of battles, over abortion, voting rights, segregation, police brutality, healthcare or lack thereof, classism, shelters for domestic violence survivors and the homeless, etc. etc. etc.

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Abortion has always been an issue that sparks a fire in me. I’ve written numerous times about bodily autonomy and the policing of bodies and abortion, but I’m glad that the political discourse around abortion, at least in my circles, has finally started to be intersectional (almost) all the time. The argument that “if men could get pregnant” may finally be shifting to “if cismen could get pregnant” because men can and are getting pregnant. No longer are White Feminists talking only about a woman’s right to choose, although that is still the dominant rhetoric. It’s heartening to hear frank, public discussions of WHO is affected by these ridiculous, restrictive laws, and how those of us with white or class or able privilege can help people suffering from racism, classism, ableism and transphobia.  So while many pro-choice arguments still look like this:

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I’m grateful that many of the memes and much of the discourse has shifted to be more wholly inclusive of all people who can become pregnant, like this: 1848_1679204842323100_2455440285072812659_n

It seems like more and more people, pro-choice people, are finally starting to show up for ACCESS to abortion, because Roe v. Wade means nothing to people who can’t afford, or get to, their appointments. Because we all know the wealthy will always find a way to terminate a pregnancy that is unwanted.

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But even if someone does have the funds, and the transportation to terminate a pregnancy, that doesn’t guarantee there is a clinic near them that will have an available appointment soon, or even before they pass the 12-week mark, or their state’s legal limit for termination. Nor do money and transportation promise that the patient has the “proper identification” or the right to take time off work (at least twice in Texas) or childcare or wouldn’t face a barrage of racist and insulting questions about their gender or immigration status. No wonder so many people in Texas and elsewhere are illegally purchasing abortifacients online, or self-inducing terminations.

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And while we may have to deal with media-supported abortion shaming and the clinic violence that is a consequence, and some ridiculous gubernatorial shenanigans and blatant sexism in our legislature, at least, unlike North Carolina, we don’t have to send the forced ultrasounds patients get to lawmakers. The documentary Trapped shows what it’s like from an abortion provider’s POV. We’re not the only one’s failing… yay? There have been some bright spots nationally in abortion laws though, like Louisiana & North Dakota, and some upcoming elections could prove to be critical as well.

Back at the Texas Capitol though, on January 22, 2016, our activists were just kicking off the Texas Truth Tour, to get to DC before March 2nd, in time for the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case challenging the ominous omnibus HB2 bill that has been so devastating to abortion care in Texas. For more on how the SCOTUS ruling will impact the nation, check out this piece from Colorlines.

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You can help Texans get to the Supreme Court by texting ‘Fight Back’ to 97779 and follow their journey using #FightBackTX #StopTheSham and #WWHvHellerstadt, and other conversations around abortion rights and access with #DrawTheLine #WeWontGoBack #ShoutYourAbortion #7in10forRoe #RepealHyde #RepealHelmes #1in3Speaks #ReclaimRoe and #reprojustice. For more from the Draw The Line campaign hear these actors speaking out. Also, check out the incredible amicus briefs filed for the Supreme Court’s consideration, and Obama’s take on all of it.

Do people really need to be reminded what life was like before Roe? Apparently so. We’ll only have to look to El Salvador in the near future to see what a healthcare crisis of that magnitude looks like.

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Giving Back for Native American Heritage Month

Paint It RedMost people in the United States automatically equate November with Pilgrims & “Indians” and Thanksgiving, and while the tide of cognizant adults is turning, there are still millions of people in the USA who do not acknowledge our country’s horrific, genocidal, colonial history. I’ve written about Native American women’s activism in the States before, but today I want to bring your attention to Native American Heritage Month, and a few things you can do to help improve the lives of Native Americans still reeling from centuries of slaughter, forced migration, forced assimilation, and modern political policies like forced sterilization that deepen the mistrust indigenous folks have against white colonizers. While we all might not be able to give back the land our ancestors stole, there are a number of other things we can do to support our Original American neighbors. Today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the kickoff of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

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While the sentimentality of a holiday to show gratitude for what we have is nice, we can’t deny the roots of Thanksgiving, which is why many Native American families and activists see the holiday as anything but something to be thankful for. The most important thing you as an individual can do to combat the mistruths we’re taught in school is to educate yourself and others as to the realities facing Native communities on a daily basis. It’s also important to be honest with children of all colors and races about the origins of our country and our holidays. One way to show your support for indigenous communities is to wear red on Friday, November 27th, and use the hashtags #NativeLivesMatter and #IdleNoMore on social media.

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Native children, as they have under the Bureau of Indian Affairs for decades, also face incredible obstacles in achieving an education. Suicide rates amongst Native youth are astronomical, but all young people of color are much less hopeful to live to age 35 than their white peers. With South Dakota frequently taking Native American children from their families to place them in foster care (because the state earns money for every child under state care) the Lakota People’s Law Project is demanding that President Obama take action. You can sign their petition here.

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Another petition you should sign is this one to stop the flooding of Winnemem Wintu’s last sacred location. While Obama has been lauded by many as a leader on environmental issues for not allowing the Keystone XL pipeline project to be built, there’s always room for improvement, and a delegation of more than 45 indigenous leaders from across the continent are making their way to Paris for the UN Climate Talks. Environmental issues are a major factor impacting the health, sovereignty and survivability of many Native American tribes. The President is also the target of demonstrations this weekend to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement (AIM) activist charged with the murders of two FBI agents and the fierce AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash.

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Unfortunately, despite an incredible history of strong, warrior women and equality for all sexes/genders in many Native cultures throughout the continent, murders of Native American and First Nations women are still rampant and sex trafficking regularly occurs with impunity. Follow the controversy with #MMIW which stands for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Native American women also deal with domestic violence and sexual assault at astounding rates. No better example of “the personal is political” exists than that of environmental degradation of fracking in North Dakota and its impact on the levels of violence against women and girls in the area. But Native women definitely aren’t giving up; they’re fighting back by creating safe spaces like Tewa Women United, the Four Directions Clinic on the infamous Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the first-ever Native American birthing center, planned to open in New Mexico within three years. With only 14 Native American certified midwives throughout the entirety of the US, you can see why such a project is necessary–donate to it here.

Tweet TruthI owe my initial understanding and appreciation of other cultures to an elementary school classmate’s family. They are Me-wuk, and in my small public school in Northern California, took every opportunity they could to educate our class and our school. Native dancers came and performed for us and we took field trips to learn about them. Officially replacing the derogatory name “Digger Indians” placed on them by the invading gold miners, Miwok became the tribe’s official name in 1924. Although I have written before about how language shapes our realities, and I talk a lot about the importance of naming, labels and respecting identities, many readers may not know that I have a degree in Linguistics. I’ve studied 7 languages, including two indigenous languages, Nahuatl–the language of the Aztecs, and Miwok. Studying indigenous languages is a revolutionary act, especially because of the abhorrent relationship between Native Americans and their languages that white colonizers perpetuate to this day.

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Studying a new language can give us a totally new understanding, by making us view the world through a different lens. In the course where I studied Miwok, other students were studying other languages, and I learned that many Indigenous languages group nouns based on shape–round, flat, long, etc. It’s also important to consider that many Native cultures understand their actions as affecting Seven Generations, and thus feel personally and politically obligated to take both their ancestors’ accomplishments and their offsprings’ futures into account. One way to ensure that Native Americans in our communities are not “in the past tense” is to do whatever we can to keep their unique languages from dying.

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Marie Wilcox (right), the last fluent speaker of Wukchumni

National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project shows that two areas of the United States are currently suffering from high to severe threat levels for the extinction of unique Indigenous languages, although even languages like Lakota with 6,000 speakers are still not safe. The Pacific Northwest is home to 54 Native languages, but many of them are on the verge of dying out completely. A Canadian project working to combat this is First Voices, which maps and archives Indigenous languages with soundbites and written dictionaries. Further down the coast the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival work with UC Berkeley to document languages, and also created an incredible Master Apprentice Program for individuals to learn directly from speakers of Native languages. The other area of the United States where Indigenous languages are threatened with extinction is the Oklahoma-Southwest region, home to 43 different languages, including Euchee, a language isolate, meaning it doesn’t belong to any language family. Euchee only has five remaining speakers–to donate to the Euchee Language Project consider a recurring gift to Cultural Survival.

 

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I know I’ve included a lot of plugs for donations in this post, but really it’s the least you could do. The Dolores Project homeless shelter could use your help as well. If giving money is totally not an option at this point though, supporting Indigenous artists in all media is a good place to start. You can play the unique Never Alone, the first Alaska Native videogame, buy fashions from these Native designers instead of appropriating their themes from big box stores, listen to these seven rising Native American musicians, learn from this intrepid mapmaker and his incredible work, and support Matika Wilbur’s photography with Project 562. If you’re in Santa Fe in mid-August, be sure to check out the Indigenous Fine Arts Market. There are also tons of Native American authors you can read and learn from. Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach was really poignant for me. If you’d rather watch your storytelling, here is a list of 84 films by and about women of color, and if you’re branching further south, 4 documentaries about indigenous Mexicans. Now go forth, and dismantle colonialism!

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Photographer Matika Wilbur (c) Tulalip News


The Republican War on Women

The War on Women being waged in the United States is culminating in the likely closure of the only abortion clinic in the nation’s poorest state, Mississippi. Measures specifically introduced by the state’s legislature to shut down its last remaining abortion provider have been successful so far, with a new law passed requiring abortion providers to have privileges at local hospitals. While the office’s three doctors have all applied for hospital privileges, as of yet they do not have them. It is unknown what will happen to the clinic after the new law takes effect. In Virginia similar measures are being protested that would make it extremely difficult for abortion providers to remain open. This piece explores the painful reality these abortion restrictions inflict on women, an important voice in the conversation when women are not even “sources” for women’s rights issues. It’s high time women were not ashamed to say that they’ve had abortions, and while men’s opinions on everything from menstruation to menopause seem to hold more weight, we in the pro-choice movement would like to hear from more pro-choice men.

The legislative tactics used by Mississippi and Virginia to effectively make abortion illegal, or at least unobtainable, are nothing new. Across the country a terrifying 1,100 pieces of anti-women legislation have been proposed since 2011! You really should check that link out. Add to this the very real violence faced by clinic workers on a daily basis, like death threats, arson and bombings, and it’s no wonder abortion is becoming impossible to obtain safely and legally in the wealthiest country in the world. Republicans are even trying to sneak language about life beginning at conception into completely unrelated bills, like this one extending FEMA’s national flood insurance plan. But disaster-stricken Americans are not the only ones the GOP is alienating. Not only should women have no control over their own sexual and reproductive health, argue elected Republican officials, their work is worth less than men’s. Extending the war on women to their ability to feed themselves, Republican Senators refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

From the absurdity of women being excluded from a panel discussing birth control (and the attacks women who wanted to speak endured) to the extremely anti-choice Michigan legislature banning two female representatives for “inappropriate language” i.e.. vagina and vasectomy, during debates about anti-choice legislation, legislators and laws in the US are becoming more and more misogynistic. Beautifully, thousands of protesters took to the… steps with a performance of the timeless Vagina Monologues to demand that freedom of speech extend to female legislators discussing body politics. If you want to send your own message to Michigan legislators sign this petition asking Facebook to allow users to change their middle name to Vagina, then change yours. You might also mention that the double standard– Medicare covers Viagra and penile implants, yet Republicans think birth control should be an out-of-pocket expense– is unacceptable. Thankfully, while the majority of the anti-woman rhetoric in the US is coming from the Christian Rightwing, it’s good to see other religious figures supporting women’s bodily autonomy.

As you can see from the graphic at the top Michigan isn’t the only state waging war on women’s reproductive freedoms. In Ohio alone a staggering 16 pieces of anti-choice legislation were introduced since 2010. North Carolina Republicans are trying to defund Planned Parenthood, again. Texas Republicans are promoting proven-ineffective abstinence-only sexual education courses. Kansas Republicans have introduced a host of Christian-based anti-woman legislation and a doctor there may permanently lose her medical license for refusing to force a ten-year-old to give birth. South Dakota has proposed a 72 hour waiting period between ultrasound and abortion for women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. And in Arizona now it is perfectly legal for doctors to lie to their patients if they think the information they give will influence them to have an abortion. Also in Hell Arizona, “reasonably suspicious” women and men are being asked for Papers, please, despite a mixed Supreme Court ruling on the legality of SB 1070. This article takes on an excellent exploration of what this means for immigrant women, and what the situation of immigrant women means for equality for all people in the US. Check out the pictures supplied by Planned Parenthood at the end of the post for other evidence of the war on women.

And then there’s the Violence Against Women Act…. The Senate passed a beautiful, sparkling reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that extended protections to undocumented women, Native American women and lesbians. The House promptly stripped those additions, leaving millions of women in traditionally under-served populations even more vulnerable, all the while claiming that women would use these new provisions to scam the system with false accusations. The President has vowed to veto the House version if it crosses his desk. LGBT lobbies and Native American women’s lobbies are still pushing for passage of the Senate version at Capitol Hill and even Christian websites think Congress should pass the Senate version! At least New York understands.

With a staggering 1 in 3 Native American women raped in her lifetime one would hope Republicans could at least show compassion in the wake of such terrible violence. But no. A sickening story of a Tampa rape victim who was arrested on charges of outstanding warrants after she reported her rape has outraged women across the country. The worst is yet to come. After being booked, a guard where she was being held confiscated the second pill of her emergency contraception because it went against her beliefs. A federal court has ruled that the victim will be allowed to sue the guard for violating her right to privacy. In other news of the State violating individuals human rights, this (potentially triggering) piece explores the unnecessary police practice of forced catheterization in Utah. Even liberal San Francisco is being accused of victim blaming people who come to the police as victims of rape and domestic violence.

Rape in the US military is a hot-button issue too, yet House Republicans showed little compassion when blocking abortion access for soldiers who have been raped. The award-winning documentary The Invisible War explores the issue of rape that is poisoning the US military. One service member interviewed explained victims’ options as “suicide, AWOL, or deal with it.” The film explores why many rape victims don’t report the incident: for 25% of women who didn’t report the rape to their commander, their commander was their rapist. The documentary’s website, in addition to the trailer and information on the movement, offers ways to take action and help demand accountability and justice for service members who have been raped.

Pillamina on the campaign trail!

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I want to give you the good news. In addition to the beauty of an estimated 3-5,000 people filling Michigan’s capital steps to respect the word vagina, across the blogosphere people are overcoming the shame of using the word vagina. Like the personal story of abortion linked in the beginning of this post, it is extremely important women are speaking out so that their voices are heard. Public performances, like The Vagina Monologues, have long been an effective tactic in the strategic nonviolent activists’ arsenal, and with Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanting to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, a giant pack of birth control pills, Pillamina, is now following him along the campaign trail. If that doesn’t make you smile, how about this: since 1990 abortion rates have decreased 18% for women in their 20s due to increased contraception access. Also, many big city mayors (a lot of whom are men) have added their names in support of women’s reproductive rights. Rock on Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hartford and New York!

And not all news from individual states is bad. The Governor of New Hampshire vetoed a “partial birth” abortion ban since a similar ban (for a procedure which doesn’t actually exist) is already in place at the federal level. Also in New England Connecticut has included abortion as an essential health benefit in the state’s insurance plan. And even quiet Midwesterners in North Dakota are fighting back against this war on women, deciding they don’t want to expand religious liberty to discriminate against anyone. At the federal level Congress actually did something right, by failing to pass a ban on “sex-selective abortions,” a problem which deserves national attention in India and China but is almost non-existent in the US.

Though the comments on this video are repulsive, the White House 1 is 2 Many campaign to encourage men to speak up if they witness violence against women is a good reminder that bystanders have power too. As we saw with the contentious issue of undocumented women being covered by VAWA, immigrant women are the often-forgotten victims of violence against women. Thankfully the newly opened Tahirih Justice Center in Baltimore is a haven for immigrant victims of domestic violence throughout New England. If you want to get involved and fight back against the misogynistic legislative attacks, including the VAWA embarrassment, check out A is For, a group seeking to reclaim the scarlet letter A. Or join the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in their Week of Action for Reproductive Justice because you, like Mary Gonzalez, the openly lesbian Latina doctoral student recently elected to the Texas House, are poderosa.

Finally, the best news of all. In addition to this long, well-cited list of Obama’s accomplishments as President he can now definitively add “bringing American healthcare into the 21st Century: The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare!!! This landmark decision ensures that women and men will be treated equally by insurance companies, and preventative services like birth control (with no co-pay), mammograms, and pap smear cancer screenings, will all be covered by insurance! If you’re so inclined you can write a letter of thanks to the five Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of universal health care. Thank you for reading, be well, and as always, if you have ideas, suggestions or comments as to how we can fight back against the patriarchy, please share them below.

In Peace~

 


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