October 6, 2015 — Read the week's best commentary from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Care2 and more.
SEXUALITY EDUCATION: "South Carolina Mom Shows Homophobic Sex Education Isn't a Thing of the Past," Martha Kempner, RH Reality Check: Kempner writes about Marie-Louise Ramsdale, a woman in South Carolina who "is now working with advocates to overturn the decades-old law that requires teachers" in public schools in South Carolina to teach information about homosexuality "that is biased, intolerant, and downright prejudiced." Kempner explains that Ramsdale took action after receiving a letter on the sexuality education curriculum taught at her daughter's school, which, in compliance with state law, does not include sexuality education about homosexual relationships "'except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted infections.'" According to Kempner, "By leaving same-sex couples out of discussions of healthy sexual relationships but including them in the discussion on [STIs], young people are essentially being told that gay people are nothing more than disease vectors: a false and dangerous stereotype that arose during the height of the HIV epidemic." Kempner writes that Ramsdale "has taken her concerns to the State Board of Education" and is "working with the South Carolina Equality Litigation Post-DOMA Task Force," which "is now launching an investigation into what districts across the state are teaching in the hopes of overturning South Carolina's law." She notes that eight other states have similar laws and encourages parents to combat "this continuing campaign of misinformation," writing, "States and localities have made strides when challenged -- the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, for example, changed its Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy after being sued by several students who claimed it fostered an unsafe environment" (Kempner, RH Reality Check, 10/5).
FETAL TISSUE RESEARCH: "Republican Legislators Coming for Universities After Planned Parenthood," Kevin Mathews, Care2: Citing a Politico article, Mathews writes about how "eight states have advanced bills that would either defund labs that conduct research with fetal tissue or ban the practice altogether" since an antiabortion-rights group earlier this summer released misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood. According to Mathews, "It's weird to see fetal tissue legislation reemerge now," given that many "similar laws ... passed decades ago ... were subsequently struck down after challenges in court." Further, he writes, "It'll be a shame if [any proposals do] pass since fetal tissue is on the forefront of all sorts of medical research," including efforts "to find cures and treatments for AIDS, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer, autism, schizophrenia, blindness and various birth defects." He writes, "At this point, the war on science and the war on women are interlocked," adding, "If conservative politicians cannot outlaw abortion directly, they're content to shut down anything they can that's tangentially related to the practice." He concludes, "Unfortunately, we'll all be worse off if laboratories conducting this research are no longer permitted to conduct their experiments" (Mathews, Care2, 10/5).
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Planned Parenthood Clinics Targeted With Vandalism and Arson in the Wake of Released Videos," Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Since the release of ... inflammatory videos" targeting Planned Parenthood, "several Planned Parenthood centers and other clinics that offer abortions have been vandalized across the country, shutting some down for weeks," Zielinski writes. Zielinski lists several reported incidents, including arson at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Southern California, a "[s]uspicious fire" at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington state, a hate crime against an abortion clinic in Louisiana and a "[v]ehicle arson in New Orleans." Zielinski writes, "These incidents haven't occurred in a vacuum," adding, "Lawmakers and reproductive rights activists have been quick to link the recent attacks to the larger national debate swirling around Planned Parenthood's abortion services." Zielinski concludes by citing data from the National Abortion Federation, which found that "there have been more than 200 arsons and bombings of clinics since the mid-1970s," adding "Over the past several years, the level of personal attacks against abortion providers has increased" (Zielinski, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/2).
What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:
~ "Worried About Violence Against Women, Australia Will Deport Anti-Abortion Activist," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "The Institutionalization of Abortion Stigma: What Care at an Ambulatory Surgical Center Can Look Like," Annika Mukherjee, RH Reality Check: "It only takes a visit to one community clinic and one ambulatory surgical center to see how HB 2, Texas' omnibus anti-abortion law, is taking its toll on patient care," Mukherjee writes. Noting that the "situation will only get worse if the Supreme Court lets HB 2 stand," Mukherjee details her experiences "touring two clinics -- one that was constructed before HB 2 and one that was built to comply with the restrictive law." First she shares her visit to Whole Woman's Health clinic in San Antonio, which "erases stigma from the abortion process and transforms it into a wholesome experience centered on the patient's needs." She writes, "WWH's staff are trained to break down the walls of abortion stigma in a safe, comforting and nonjudgmental environment, making sure they're caring for the patient holistically from the time they walk into the clinic until after the procedure and follow-up appointment." In contrast, Mukherjee writes about her visit to another clinic that meets the medically unnecessary and financially burdensome requirements under HB 2's ambulatory surgical center provision. These requirements -- such as requiring patients to wear hospital gowns, barring loved ones and escorts from certain areas, and requiring the procedure to take place in a surgical operating room -- falsely treat abortion "like a dangerous surgery" and "tak[e] away the independence and strength of the [patient's] decision to have" an abortion. Mukherjee writes, "HB 2 makes the abortion process more about compliance with a law intended to shut down abortion clinics than the care and safety of patients. Texans are hoping that the Supreme Court will agree" (Mukherjee, RH Reality Check, 10/2).
What others are saying about abortion restrictions:
~ "Women in Texas May Have To Wait an Extra 20 Days for an Abortion," Molly Redden, Mother Jones.
U.S. SUPREME COURT: "The Supreme Court's Many Opportunities To Stand Up for Reproductive Health This Year," Rachel Easter, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center: Easter writes that the Supreme Court in its upcoming term likely will hear "cases about whether your boss can impose his religious beliefs about birth control on you, and cases about whether your right to abortion will depend on your zip code." In one set of cases, not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception are challenging an accommodation to the federal contraceptive coverage rules that "allows the non-profits to opt out of providing the benefit, but still ensures employees get the birth control coverage without cost-sharing." Citing five such cases pending before the high court, Easter writes, "Eight circuit courts have considered the non-profits' objections, and seven have rejected them, and given the Court's seeming approval of the accommodation" in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby "and how far-reaching a bad decision could be, it would be a shock if the Court decided the other way." Meanwhile, the high court also is weighing whether to consider two cases challenging laws in Mississippi and Texas that do "not ba[n] abortion outright but instead mak[e] it effectively impossible to access abortion in the state." According to Easter, "Mississippi's law [HB 1390] would close the state's only abortion clinic," forcing women there "to travel out of state to access their constitutionally protected right to an abortion," while "the Texas law [HB 2] would shutter all but 10 clinics" and "forc[e] some Texans to travel 550 miles to the nearest clinic in the state." Easter urges the high court to overturn these laws, writing, "The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that the Constitution protects every woman's right to abortion" and "has held that states may not impose an undue burden on a woman's ability to access abortion" (Easter, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center, 10/2).
What others are saying about the U.S. Supreme Court:
~ "Hobby Lobby Déjà Vu at the Supreme Court," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely."
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "54 Women Tell Us Why They Stand With Planned Parenthood," Emma McGowan, Bustle: Discussing her own positive experiences with Planned Parenthood, McGowan highlights "54 ... stories about how Planned Parenthood has helped American women over the years, from providing birth control to abortions to cervical cancer screenings." In one story, a woman shares that Planned Parenthood "provide[s] me with ... annual check-ups/PAP smears, and [they] were the ones to find AND treat high grade cervical dysplasia cells that would likely have turned into cervical cancer within the year." In another story, a woman writes that after her mother "became pregnant at 18 and was fired from her job," Planned Parenthood "provided her prenatal care -- and that's why I'm here today!" Another woman notes that "with Planned Parenthood, I was able to pay for my abortion with my credit card ... learn about the misinformation that had gotten me pregnant in the first place, and g[e]t the affordable birth control that kept me from getting accidentally pregnant ever again," adding, "I do think I owe my life to Planned Parenthood; I certainly would not be able to have the good life that I have now without them" (McGowan, Bustle, 10/5).