With New York legalizing gay marriage, more and more children will be exposed to same-sex couples (much to the chagrin of conservatives). Here is great video of one little boy's reaction to seeing his first gay couple -- watch how he figures things out:

 

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Kentucky Judge Upholds Louisville Minimum Wage Increase

A Kentucky judge this week upheld a planned minimum wage increase in Louisville and called the corporate argument against increased pay “without merit.”

A Kentucky judge this week upheld a planned minimum wage increase in Louisville and called the corporate argument against increased pay “without merit.”

The Louisville mayor and Metro Council in 2014 reached an agreement to raise the city’s minimum wage to $9 an hour over a three-year period. The city had previously used the state minimum wage level, which is set at $7.25 an hour. This year, three Kentucky companies filed a civil suit to block the increase, saying the city did not have the authority to raise wages above state levels.

The companies argued that the wage increase would force them to forgo hiring new employees and would deter other businesses from relocating to Louisville.

But in a four-page ruling, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman wrote that those arguments are unfounded.

“It is no different than an employer’s duty to withhold occupation taxes for its employees, rates which vary from county to county in Kentucky,” she wrote.

The companies have appealed McDonald-Burkman’s ruling, but the law will take effect while the appeal is decided.

Since 2014, a handful of cities across the United States have passed ordinances raising wages above state levels, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, which have all passed $15 increases.

During the debate over the Los Angeles increase, a study by the Economic Roundtable found that the proposed increase would “put $5.9 billion more into the pockets of 723,000 working people, which will generate $6.4 billion in increased sales.”

“That means that every dollar increase in the minimum wage generates $1.12 in economic stimulus,” wrote Yvonne Yen Liu, one of the group’s researchers, in a blog post explaining the study. “Businesses will hire more in response to the greater demand, creating … new jobs.”

Research also suggests that wage increases are an economic boon on the state level. A 2014 Center for Economic and Policy Research study that reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that “employment growth was higher in states where the minimum wage went up.”

Those findings “provide evidence against theoretical negative employment effects of minimum-wage increases,” according to the center.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (R) issued an executive order in June raising the minimum wage for employees of the state government’s executive branch.

Image: Shutterstock

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Powerless in the Face of White Supremacy and a Gun

While out shopping in Georgia at my favorite bookstore, the same day the Emanuel AME Church reopened its doors after the mass shooting, a white man in camouflage entered the store openly carrying a gun on his hip. This tense moment was too soon.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

While out shopping in Georgia at my favorite bookstore, the same day the Emanuel AME Church reopened its doors after the mass shooting, a white man in camouflage entered the store openly carrying a gun on his hip.

In my home state, we recently allowed licensed individuals to bring their guns into bars, churches, and college campuses, all for the sake of “safety.” Yet, in this moment, at the bookstore, I realized that such gun control laws only ensure certain people feel safe, while others who do not wish to own a gun are left feeling powerless.

This tense moment was still too soon. Too soon after Charleston, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd—and even too soon after Emmett Till. Too soon after cops in Georgia attacked Kenya Harris until she miscarried.

Too soon because I haven’t processed the constant surveillance and prosecution I experience as a dark-skinned Black person navigating a society where I can be tried and executed in the streets without jury.

The gun-toting man had a wide-shouldered build and was probably shorter than me once he took off his combat boots. Looking back, I probably could have taken him on in a fair fight. Lord knows, I’ve fought men bigger than him before.

The bookstore employee, who will go down in history as my favorite bookstore employee ever, immediately said to the man, “Woah, that’s a gun! That makes me uncomfortable.”

Anywhere you stood in the store you could hear his reply: “Well, it shouldn’t be a problem so long as I don’t feel threatened.” The way his voice trailed off as his eyes panned the room froze me temporarily. I tucked myself behind a bookshelf where I could still see and hear what was happening. He also said he has an open carry license—as if that would make us feel safe.

And then to change the subject, as if carrying a gun in a bookstore is no big deal, he shared that he had been scoping out the bookstore for some time, but only just decided to come in. I popped my head over a bookshelf to lock eyes with the bookstore employee. We widened our gaze and raised our eyebrows at each other to non-verbally confirm that this situation was indeed absurd.

But what troubled me most about the situation as it was happening was the realization that our legislative system was working as intended in that moment.

Long before I walked in to buy a copy of Octavia’s Brood, so that I could think about a world where my body is free through activism-driven science fiction, the system set things up with discriminatory gun control laws.

The idea of openly carrying a gun to protect myself has never been a realistic option—only when I’m imagining myself as Storm from X-Men dismantling oppressive systems with Black feminist thunderstorms and a small silver glock just in case. In reality, if the cops saw me with a gun, a bag of Skittles, or even a loosey cigarette, they would probably shoot me and ask questions about my permit later. As a Jamaican-American whose parents had to navigate the country’s unjust immigration system, I’ve almost always known that papers and permits don’t save dark-skinned people.

And so now, Georgia’s open carry policy, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole foundation of America’s justice system works as it was always intended: allowing certain people to feel safe at the expense of others existing in fear. I was without arms and face-to-face with a man who may or may not have wanted to kill me—and a man who had the freedom to make that decision without repercussions.

As he approached me in a corner of the store, my heart raced as I thought about the families of the victims and the nine people who were being put to rest in Charleston. I kept thinking of Tywanza Sanders jumping to defend his aunt Susie Jackson. I wondered if I could drum up that courage. I wondered if Cynthia Hurd was as frozen as I was. I wondered if Ethel Lance felt as caught off-guard. I thanked the employee, a fellow woman of color, repeatedly in my head for maintaining calm in that moment of uncertainty. The man and I stood for a moment side-by-side browsing titles like Does Your Mama Know. It was a split second. Then I darted away to the middle of the store in three wide steps.

After he burrowed his nose into every corner of the bookstore, all he bought were two button pins with probably the most unpolitical messaging on them. I didn’t get to see them, but I know the store carries some very alluring pins of cats. Maybe he got those? At the counter, he showed the employee his Harry Potter tattoo. He made uncomfortable comments about how the tattoo reminds him of seeking truth and justice against liars, loud enough for all of us to hear. He talked about his “no good” ex. He said “open carry” ensures that his son respects him.

“Do you need a bag,” the bookstore employee interrupted, making it clear it was time for him to go.

Once he left, the rest of us still in the store let out a communal, belly-deep sigh. One customer noticed that subconsciously all the books they had collected to purchase were about men and violence. “They take up so much space,” the customer said with regard to the man who just left and the bundle of books in their arms.

Oppression can preoccupy our safe spaces, even in our minds.

My fellow customer’s comment allowed all of us in the store to laugh and begin the process of grasping what had just happened.

I don’t know why he came in armed. I don’t know what his intentions were. I don’t want to know. I want to know a world where I don’t have to be caught up in fear in the first place. I want a world where none of us feel the need to carry a gun. A world where the Confederate flag and a CVS aren’t more important to our political leaders than seven burning churches, the countless dead at the hands of militarized police, and those empowered with the false hubris of white supremacy.

People like me, and hopefully you, are trying to make that world a reality in the here and now. Bree Newsome, for example, took the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina statehouse with her bare hands. Emanuel AME Church reopened its doors when I’m sure domestic terrorists and other right-wing extremist groups were hoping they’d stayed closed. Not only are these activists not giving in to the pressure, but they’re reminding all of us that the world we’re fighting for uses love to overpower violence. Sanders’ 5-year-old niece, just by virtue of surviving the shooting by playing dead, is proof of Audre Lorde’s prophesizing.

No, we were never meant to survive, Lorde, and so whenever we end up doing so, we are being revolutionary, perhaps even futuristic.

Image: Shutterstock

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Affirmative Consent Is Still Confusing to College Students

A new poll of gives insight into what college students consider consent. Most students seem to have heard of the affirmative consent—or “yes means yes”—standard, but it does not seem to be a common practice among  them. In fact, the poll shows that college students are conflicted and possibly confused about what is, and isn’t, consent.

Read more of our articles on consent and sexual assault on U.S. college campuses here.

Most students seem to have heard of the affirmative consent—or “yes means yes”—standard, but it does not seem to be a common practice on campuses nationwide.

In fact, a new poll shows that college students are conflicted and possibly confused about what is and isn’t consent.

Poll respondents were given three scenarios and asked if they felt any of them constituted sexual assault. Ninety-six percent agreed that sexual activity involving a person who was incapacitated or passed out was indeed sexual assault. The answer seemed much less clear to respondents, however, in a scenario in which both people were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In this case, 21 percent said it was sexual assault, 19 percent said it wasn’t, and the majority (59 percent) were unsure. There was also a lot of uncertainty when a couple was said to have had sex without both people giving clear agreement—47 percent said it was sexual assault, 6 percent said it was not, and the other 46 percent were unsure.

The Washington Post partnered with the Kaiser Family Foundation to survey 1,053 undergraduate and graduate students ages 17-to-26 who were at a four-year college in the United States since 2011 and lived on or near campus. The survey was conducted by phone between January and March of this year.

The students were asked whether certain behaviors by one person would constitute consent. The results were mixed.

Fifty-four percent believed that nodding in agreement constituted consent, but 40 percent thought it did not, and 3 percent said it depended on the situation. Forty-seven percent of respondents believed that a person taking off their own clothes showed consent, while 49 percent did not. And 40 percent believed getting a condom showed consent, but 54 percent did not.

The results were clearer for two of the sample behaviors—74 percent of respondents said engaging in foreplay such as kissing and touching did not constitute consent for sex and 77 percent said that not saying no was also not consent for sex.

The question on foreplay was the only one in which there seemed to be a big difference between the answers of men and women. When broken out by gender, 30 percent of men said foreplay constituted consent, compared with 15 percent of women.

As for affirmative consent—a standard adopted by some college campuses across the country—83 percent of students had heard of it and 69 percent felt it was very or at least somewhat realistic. About three in ten students thought it was the best standard for determining whether sexual activity was consensual while 42 percent preferred a “no means no” standard, and 23 percent thought there wasn’t rmuch difference.

Allison Korman, executive director of Culture of Respect, said the debate over how best to convey consent shows that college kids need more education.

“A lot of students are coming to campus without training or education about what healthy and unhealthy communication is …. We have more work to do on educating students on consent and healthy relationships,” she told USA Today. “There is still a lot of gray, which is where these issues get really complicated, but it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Image: Shutterstock

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Sexual Liberation Is for White Women, According to ‘Orange Is the New Black’

The Netflix series has been praised by many as being "revolutionary" in its depictions of womanhood, but the show fails to offer its Black characters sexual liberation that is typically only associated with white characters.

Justine Izah is a high school senior in Muncie, Indiana, and is one of RH Reality Check’s youth voices.

Our society’s patriarchal gaze is rooted in the fulfillment of a man’s needs, whether emotional or physical, and completely overlooks or ignores a woman’s needs. There also is a certain stigmatization on women who opt for just as much attention as men. They’re called “needy” and “bossy,” while men demonstrating the same behavior or wants are described as being focused and in charge. However, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black flips the common narrative and instead focuses on the experiences of women who’ve seemingly rejected the expected traits that make a woman: submissive, quiet, and obedient.

It is ironic that a physical lockup of the women for their crimes allows a liberation of their bodies under other circumstances.

However, as revolutionary as OITNB is at showing the different lived experiences of women of many backgrounds with far less censorship than normal, the depiction of female sexuality is skewed toward whiteness and the Black and Latina characters are given less opportunity for sexual exploration, following in the tradition of the many shows that have come before it. OITNB fails to offer its Black characters the sexual liberation that is typically only associated with white characters. This is problematic because OITNB is perpetuating stereotypes in what is considered a safe environment (a “progressive” show) and these tropes are continuing to spread into the real world, as we’ve seen with two recent magazine covers featuring its characters.

In the first three seasons of the show, the white inmates are given more sexual freedom while still being afforded all terms of fragility associated with white femininity. There’s a contradiction in the fact that fewer sexual encounters among the Black women on the show is considered acceptable by most viewers, while the white inmates do the exact opposite of what is considered “ladylike” and yet are perceived as the “good girls.”

Two of the main white characters, Piper Chapman and Galina “Red” Reznikov, in particular are treated as breakable objects. They are each given a pedestal of privilege of which they do not recognize or deny. Piper is often stuck in a cycle of self-pity and narcissism that allows her to dismiss the feelings of others while still remaining a favorite. And when Red—the redheaded Russian and “mom” to some of the white inmates—is booted from her position as head chef in the prison for smuggling, she eventually weasels her way back into the kitchen by the end of the third season. However, when Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox’s character, a Black trans woman) is physically attacked by way of transphobia, she is sent to solitary confinement while no action is taken to prevent this type of hate crime from occurring again. Unfortunately, the violent intersections of transphobia and racism come together to allow the victim to be punished like a perpetrator. And sadly, to the viewer, it almost comes as no surprise because of the often deadly treatment that transgender women of color face every day.

So far, in 2015, over ten transgender women of color have been brutally murdered. Investigations have been completely botched and victims have been misgendered after death, thus further denying their womanhood. The show has such a large audience and either is missing or denying this opportunity to educate its viewers on these issues by presenting an alternative narrative.

In general, the Black characters are treated as asexual mammies. In U.S. history, the mammy trope arrived during slavery when slave women were forced to take care of white babies while their own children were denied care. It continued well into the 1960s when Black women were maids and nannies for white children but did not have the time or money to raise their own children. Historically, Black women have always been bestowed the responsibility of taking care of other people’s children while simultaneously deemed not good enough to be treated like a human. The portrayal of mammies cannot be ignored because the desexualization of Black women and their apparent undying loyalty to the stabilization of white families sells (e.g. Madea, Big Momma, Aunt Jemima, and so on). The trope even has been used on our current first lady, Michelle Obama. Critics say she should give up her position as “Mom-in-Chief,” and start caring for all Americans. This while critics simultaneously deny her womanhood by calling her a man and “Moochelle.” Writer and television host Melissa Harris-Perry defended the first lady by stating that she “has buried mammy,” and that it is not technically the first lady’s job to take care of other people. The push for a mammy to solve everyone’s issues is still a stereotype that runs rampant. In season three of OITNB, viewers can even observe Taystee recognizing herself as the “mom” of her group.

Non-heterosexual relationships also are more common amongst white inmates in the show. There are many more lesbian relationships between white inmates than within the Black inmate population, and there are none in the Latina population.

There is historical context that comes to play when assigning sexual agency to characters, whether done consciously or not. Throughout history, Black female sexuality has been constantly suppressed in order to uplift white female sexuality as more demure and obedient. Black women and other minorities have been forced to hide their bodies and their hair—out of fear that it will distract the white man—repress their desire for sex, and take care of other people’s children while having their own snatched away. Minority women have had to endure being viewed as sexually insatiable animals on top of the exploitation that comes along with just being a person of color. So, it comes as no surprise when two white characters, Nicky Nichols and Big Boo, have a sex competition. If other races had participated, the competition would have been viewed as animalistic and uncivilized. For these two characters, it was seen as raunchy and as, “girls finally doing what guys do.” It is also no shock that when two Black characters, Taystee Jefferson and Poussey Washington, start to engage in any sexual activity, much less a homosexual relationship, it is ended before it starts. For three seasons, we have seen no sexual activity involving any Black characters that wasn’t placed in a flashback.

For many people within the Black community, the notion of a same-sex relationship between Black women only assures what others already assumed: It cements the idea that Black women possess more masculine qualities, provoking the use of slurs like “dyke” toward Black women in a systemically biased way. So, when observing Taystee’s rejection of Poussey’s advances, it is not surprising as it follows a narrative given throughout our history. Given the context of Black female sexuality, being perceived as gay by others or even by herself denies her Black womanhood.

The tropes cannot be ignored because, unfortunately, they are a reflection of reality. Black female sexuality is continuously suppressed, except for when it is exaggerated for the benefit of others’ sexual fulfillment. However, white female sexuality is allowed to develop because the white lesbian relationships that occur on the show continuously deny the existence of women of color who aren’t heterosexual. The relationships are a symbol of rebellion and fail to reflect that for some, being Latina and gay or Black and pansexual is what’s normal. White female lesbianism is not in the same category as white heterosexuality; however, it is still a common trope because it’s white and especially because the show’s main couple, Piper and Alex Vause, possess feminine qualities and are attractive by society’s standards.

Recently, several of the show’s stars have taken the cover of magazines. In the July issue of Essence magazine, Laverne Cox, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Vicky Jeudy, and Adrienne C. Moore donned the cover in all-orange ensembles. Their co-stars Laura Prepon and Taylor Schilling appeared on the cover of a June Rolling Stone. While both publications give access to the stories of and inspirations for women breaking glass ceilings, in ways that frankly will have greater appeal to their respective audiences, it is difficult not to create a juxtaposition between the two. The Essence cover features the Black women as matronly figures; it isn’t explicitly sexual. However, the two white stars on the Rolling Stones cover are striking a sexy pose. Taken together, the covers exhibit expected expressions of sexuality for these two groups. I am led to believe that white women are allowed to be openly sexual, while Black women must present themselves as respectable to be acknowledged as humans at all.

Essence is a magazine created for Black people—Black women specifically. Yet, in order to even exist in our own spaces, Black women must present ourselves in ways that hope to garner respect from others because of the historical perception of Black women.

Orange Is the New Black constantly pushes the idea that for women, sex matters too. There’s a reoccurring idea that women need to know about their own bodies and there should be no shame in doing so. Sophia Burset even goes as far as to educate the other inmates on the anatomy of their sexual organs with a diagram. The open conversations about female anatomy and sex even educate the audience, as the exploration of one’s female body is often shunned. The show is about women and certainly keeps the storyline focused on their voices.

However, the show and its writers still operate on maintaining many of the racial tropes often found in movies and on television. The writers have further separated people of color and allowed them and queer sexualities to be treated as completely non-intersecting facets. For white women, OITNB may serve as a groundbreaking narrative that they “don’t need men,” and can, “get things done,” but for women of color, it does nothing but perpetuate stereotypes that carry over into how we are treated in real life. Character developments in season three may have allowed viewers to see the women of color on the show as real people and not just Piper’s friends or enemies; however, the show can and should do more to break down stereotypes and reject these white supremacist narratives. Otherwise, the show is really only revolutionary for white women, while women of color remain as background characters to further plotlines.

Image: pepperbobepper via YouTube

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Advocates Seek Pregnancy Prevention Program Funds Nixed by Colorado GOP

Funded privately over the past five years, the initiative provided more than 30,000 people with long-acting reversible contraception and lowered the teen pregnancy rate in Colorado by 40 percent.

With Colorado’s embattled pregnancy-prevention program about to run out of money, women’s health advocates last week staged a bake sale to raise money for the initiative, offering cupcakes decorated with candies shaped like birth control pills.

But the $100 raised at the bake sale didn’t make a dent in the $5 million needed to run the program over the next year.

After being voted down in April by the Republican-controlled state senate, Colorado’s successful pregnancy-prevention program, which relied on intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other forms of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), ran out of funds July 1, despite efforts by state officials to find private funding that might sustain the program.

Funded privately over the past five years, the initiative provided more than 30,000 people with LARCs for little or no cost. It also lowered the teen pregnancy rate in Colorado by 40 percent and the teen abortion rate by 35 percent.

Over five years, while the Colorado Family Planning Initiative was run with private funds, Colorado avoided more than $80 million in Medicaid costs, according to state estimates.

“It is disgraceful that Republican Colorado senators this session voted to leave low-income teenagers and young women without access to contraception that will help them achieve their goals and stay financially independent,” said Cathy Alderman, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado. “Funding for the program expired today—leaving a huge gap for hundreds of thousands of young women in Colorado.”

Colorado will now cut back on “training for health care providers, operational assistance for family planning clinics and financial assistance for IUDs and implants,” according to a Colorado Department of Health and environment news release.

“Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) are the most effective reversible methods of contraception,” said Cristina Aguilar, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Unfortunately, due to cost these methods are out of reach for many low-income women. Every person should be able to work with their health professionals to discuss the best option for their health and the unique circumstances of their life. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative works. As a result, less people in Colorado face the difficult situation of an unintended pregnancy.”

Colorado health officials are continuing to seek private funds for the LARC program.

“We are working closely with our partners who believe in this initiative to find the funding necessary to continue providing contraceptive choices to young women across Colorado,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in a news release. “Making sure Colorado women have access to safe and effective contraception is an investment in their futures and ours.”

Republicans in the Colorado legislature made various arguments against the program, including the incorrect charge that IUDs cause abortions, the equally incorrect view that Obamacare covers the contraception and support offered by the program, and the debunked belief that contraception leads to more sex among teens.

Image: Shutterstock

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Texas’ Omnibus Anti-Abortion Law Is Based on Empirically False Claims, So Why Don’t More Reports Say That?

The anti-choice argument for Texas' omnibus abortion law—that its regulations make abortion safer—is an empirically false claim. Yet media outlets like NPR shy away from providing this basic fact when reporting on the court battles over this law.

When I see mainstream media sources try to grapple with maintaining “balance” in their reporting, I frequently circle back to Stephen Colbert’s now-famous joke at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” It’s especially evident in debates where one side is telling the truth and the other side is full to the brim with shameless liars—debates like the one taking place over Texas’ omnibus abortion law.

The problem with reporting on the law—which would require, among other things, that abortion-providing clinics conform to ambulatory surgical center (ASC) standards—is that those on the anti-choice side are lying through their teeth about the purpose of the regulations. There’s just no nicer way to put it. After 40 years of trying to restrict abortion access directly and not getting as far as they wanted, legislators in that state went at it sideways, passing laws that claim to be about women’s health and safety but are actually about making abortion too expensive and cumbersome to provide. It’s not surprising that people who have an unseemly desire to control the private lives of others might also have low moral standards when it comes to being truthful. What is frustrating, though, is that the mainstream media all too often plays along with this fiction.

Case in point: This recent NPR story about the recent Supreme Court decision to allow Texas clinics to stay open while the law is being litigated. The reporter takes great pains to quote both sides of this debate, which is not, in itself, an issue. Reporting should be objective, and part of being objective is giving everyone a fair chance to make their arguments. The pro-choicers quoted, Whole Woman’s Health clinic CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller and Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup, both argue that the regulations are there to shut down safe facilities.

The representative from Texas Right to Life, meanwhile, claims that the law is about women’s safety. “While we hope that she would not be compelled to choose abortion we hope that her life would of course not be at risk should she choose to do that,” Emily Horne says. “Pro-life does not just mean care for the life of the unborn child, it’s care for the life of the woman undergoing the abortion as well.”

In an ideal world, the reporter would ask her why, if she believes abortion is murder, she would want the murdering process to be safer for the murderer. The fact that anti-choicers are never asked this question is frustrating in the extreme. Surely we are all curious about what the answer is. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s a short segment and the quotes from both sides are equally perfunctory, so OK. (Though seriously, reporters: Follow-up questions! Ask them!)

What is more frustrating is that there is not a whiff of an effort to provide actual real-world facts to give the audience context with what’s going on here. Instead, NPR framed the story like it was two parties making value claims, with no way to measure their statements against evidence.

The problem here is that the debate is not about values. Both sides claim to have the same goal—protecting women’s health—and the fight is over who has a better strategy to get there. That puts this debate into the realm of empiricism. In other words, both sides have a claim that can be tested and measured. The audience deserves to hear the evidence both sides can offer.

Of course, as regular readers of RH Reality Check know, only the pro-choice side actually has a shred of evidence to back up their claim. There are two major facts that anyone needs to know in order to understand this debate: 1) Standard regulations that apply to all medical clinics have long been more than sufficient to make abortion safe, rendering it one of the safest outpatient procedures you can get. 2) Most medical experts believe that these regulations will not do anything but make abortion harder to get. These are objective facts, the most important objective facts in this debate, and they are nowhere to be seen in what is supposed to be a journalistic story about this.

These facts are necessary for the listener to evaluate the competing claims offered by the pro- and anti-choice sides in this. It would take only about 45 seconds to a minute of airtime to share them. Without them, the story is a trifle. All you would know as a listener unfamiliar with the subject is that two sides are saying stuff, but you have no information beyond that.

I combed through months of NPR coverage of this story, and while some pieces did a little better—giving experts an opportunity to note how safe abortion already is—it was always in that “he says, she says” format that presents this all as a matter of opinion. There really should be some indicator that one side has actual facts to offer, while the other side is blowing so much hot air.

Of course, sharing the facts does mean you run the risk of being accused of having “liberal bias.” Whether the fear of that accusation informed the choice to run a nearly fact-free piece on this controversy, I can’t say, but that such an accusation would be lobbed is not in doubt. That is, of course, how conservatives do things these days: Tell a bunch of lies, and if they’re fact-checked, scream bloody murder about how the media is out to get them.

It’s a superficially compelling argument. Journalism is, after all, supposed to be objective. And that can lull some into thinking that the best way to achieve that is to avoid any semblance of putting your thumb on the scale. The irony here is that, by not sharing the real-world evidence behind each claim, NPR is putting their thumb on the scale. Or perhaps the more accurate metaphor is that they’re giving the anti-choice side a handicap. That camp can’t bring evidence to the debate, so in the interest of “fairness,” the bringing of evidence will be banned.

But this is journalism, not kid’s league bowling. Just because the anti-choicers perform better with bumpers in the gutters doesn’t mean they should get them. The people that NPR and other media outlets should be most concerned about, with regard to fairness, are the people in the audience. You know, the ones they’re supposed to be working for? This debate is going to affect the level of health care that people in the audience can access. They deserve to know what the facts underlying this debate are. After all, a listener might actually get the impression that there is a trade-off between abortion access and having safe care. That’s simply not true, and voters have a right to know that.

It was one thing when the debate was framed as one of values, with anti-choicers claiming to be for “life” and pro-choicers arguing in favor of bodily autonomy. Sure, there’s ample reason to suspect anti-choicers are full of it, but without peering directly into their brains and reading their thoughts, you can’t really say for sure. But the debate has shifted to an empirical one—a shift, may I remind you, that anti-choicers prompted with this new strategy. Since they chose to have a debate over facts, then they really can’t complain if their claims are fact-tested. They will—as noted, not the most morally upstanding group of people—but who cares? That’s the way the game should be played, and they don’t deserve special dispensation.

Image: Shutterstock

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A Slew of Anti-Choice Laws Take Effect Today

Restrictions on reproductive rights passed by anti-choice state legislatures this year are set to take effect July 1, even as abortion-related legislative and legal battles rage on.

Restrictions on reproductive rights passed by anti-choice state legislatures this year are set to take effect July 1, even as abortion-related legislative and legal battles rage on.

The courts have recently blocked several anti-choice laws passed by state lawmakers this year, giving reproductive rights advocates in states such as Kansas and Florida temporary reprieve as the laws are litigated.

Tennessee voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that allowed lawmakers to pass legislation restricting reproductive rights and creating regulations for abortion providers. Republican legislators introduced several anti-choice proposals during this year’s legislative session.

Two laws passed by lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature take effect today.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law in May that mandates a 48-hour waiting period before a person can receive abortion care. The law will affect women seeking abortion care at all of the state’s seven abortion clinics. Tennessee is one of 28 states with a forced waiting period, and one of five states with a waiting period of more than 24 hours.

Haslam signed another bill into law in May that imposes new regulations on clinics that provide abortion care. SB 1280 requires facilities or physicians’ offices that perform more than 50 abortions in a calendar year to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers (ASTCs), mandating the conversion of such offices into mini-hospitals. Converting clinics into ASTCs is costly, and the policy is designed to force abortion providers to shut down.

Four Tennessee clinics that provide abortion care are already located in facilities that are licensed ASTCs.

However, two clinics located in Nashville and Bristol likely would have been forced to close if a federal judge last week hadn’t granted them a temporary restraining order. The two clinics argued before the court that they were unable to obtain the required licenses from the state Department of Health.

The lawsuit filed by the two clinics also challenged a 2012 law requiring that physicians providing abortion services obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital and the 48-hour forced waiting period law that took effect July 1. Neither of those laws were affected by the judge’s ruling.

A hearing on whether or not to extend the temporary restraining order will be held on July 9.

Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law in May that created more regulations for abortion clinics. SB 546, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, amends state law to redefine an abortion clinic by excluding health-care providers that prescribe abortion-inducing drugs to fewer than five patients a year.

Abortion is already highly regulated in Indiana, and access is severely limited. As of 2011, 93 percent of Indiana counties had no abortion clinic, and 61 percent of Indiana women lived in these counties, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill into law in April that made his state the first in the nation to criminalize a medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions. SB 95, which would outlaw dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, was scheduled to take effect today. It’s widely considered one of the country’s most radical anti-choice measures.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the law, and last week a state judge blocked the law. In the ruling the judge said that the law likely violated both the United States and Kansas constitutions.

The law was based on copycat legislation drafted by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), and redefined the D and E procedure as “dismemberment” abortion. The graphic and medically inaccurate language in the law describing the D and E procedure is key to NRLC’s strategy of passing similar anti-choice legislation in other states.

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation to ban the D and E procedure in April, and similar legislation was introduced but failed to pass in Missouri, South Dakota, and South Carolina. Anti-choice activists in Arkansas are already planning to push similar legislation during the state’s 2017 legislative session.

Republican lawmakers in Florida passed a law in June that would force a pregnant person to wait a minimum of 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to the physician before having an abortion. The law was set to take effect today, but a Florida state court judge issued a ruling Tuesday that blocked the law.

However, the Florida Attorney General’s filed an immediate appeal with the First District Court of Appeals that prevented the block on the law from taking immediate effect. The ACLU has filed a motion requesting that the block of the law take effect while the case proceeds. A ruling on that motion could be issued any time this week.

Until the ruling is issued, the law will go into effect today.

Image: Shutterstock

The post A Slew of Anti-Choice Laws Take Effect Today appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Girl Scouts Council Returns $100,000 From Anti-Transgender Donor

The Girl Scouts Council of Western Washington returned a sizable grant this week when it was asked by the donor to ensure that no funds would be used to support transgender girls.

The Girl Scouts council of Western Washington returned a sizable grant this week when it was asked by the donor to ensure that no funds would be used to support transgender girls.

Though the national organization supports working with transgender girls, it allows local organizations to make the final decisions on whether to accept donations, and the Western Washington group decided to take a $100,000 stand. The group then looked to replace the donation, ending up with more than double the original amount from those who supported the Girl Scouts’ stance.

The local council, which serves about 25,000 girls in Washington state, received the donation in May. The cash was slated to be used to send 500 girls to camp and fund other activities this summer.

As the media outlets began dedicating coverage to transgender issues—inspired in large part by the story of Caitlyn Jenner—the Girls Scouts’ policy of accepting transgender girls as members became public. The American Family Association, a right-wing group, launched an online petition in May asking the Girl Scouts to limit its membership to “biological” girls.

The national organization released a statement that rejected the anti-transgender call from conservative groups.

“If a girl is recognized by her family, school and community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe,” the group said. “Inclusion of transgender girls is handled at a council level on a case by case basis, with the welfare and best interests of all members as a top priority.”

Though the statement didn’t represent a shift in policy, it did not sit well with the donor, who sent a letter asking for reassurance that the $100,000 would not be used to serve transgender girls. The letter said that if the Girl Scouts council wanted to use the funds for transgender girls, it should return the donation.

“It was one of easiest decisions I’ve had to make. It was a sad decision, but it was a really quick one,” the council’s CEO, Megan Ferland, told BuzzFeed News. “Girl Scouts is for every girl. It always has been and always will be … I could not be put in a position where I would have to turn girls away.”

Ferland and her team were disappointed and did not want to give up on sending 500 girls to camp, so they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Monday hoping to raise $100,000 with no strings attached. They called it the #ForEVERYGirl campaign, and writing on their donation page, “By donating to our #ForEVERYGirl Campaign, you’ll help make sure that EVERY girl has the opportunity to participate in the life-changing opportunities that Girl Scouts provides.”

By Wednesday, the campaign had far exceeded its goal—raising upwards of $250,000 from more than 4,800 donors.

“The response has been so positive, supportive, and overwhelming,” Ferland told BuzzFeed News. “My team and I appreciate it so much, because what it means. So many girls are going to be able to have an amazing experience, and the impact of Girl Scouts is so profound. It is live-changing for so many girls. And that’s what it should be about.”

Image: Girl Scouts of Western WA/YouTube

The post Girl Scouts Council Returns $100,000 From Anti-Transgender Donor appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Fight Continues Over Florida’s Forced Abortion Delay Law

A state court judge blocked a Florida measure on Tuesday that would add at least 24 hours and another trip to the physician for patients seeking abortion care. An appeal by the state means the measure can take effect anyway.

A Florida state court judge on Tuesday blocked an anti-choice mandatory delay measure, but an immediate appeal by the Florida Attorney General’s office means the measure can take effect anyway.

HB 633, passed by Florida GOP lawmakers in June, would force a patient to wait a minimum of 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to the physician before having an abortion. It takes effect July 1.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the measure this month on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, a Gainesville reproductive health-care provider, and Medical Students for Choice, an organization dedicated to making reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.

Leon County Chief Judge Charles A. Francis’ order temporarily blocked the measure while the lawsuit challenging its constitutionality proceeds. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office then filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeals, triggering an automatic stay of Francis’ order. Attorneys for the ACLU then asked Francis to lift that automatic stay, which would allow his ruling to take effect while the case proceeds.

Francis could rule anytime this week.

“We are very pleased that the court saw this law for what it is: an unconstitutional attack on the right of Florida women to make their own choices about their healthcare, including abortion,” Nancy Abudu, ACLU of Florida Legal Director, said in a statement following Francis’ order. “The Florida Constitution’s guarantee of a right to privacy protects women from laws like this that create needless roadblocks between them and their healthcare decisions. We are pleased that no Florida woman is going to be subject to these dangerous and unconstitutional delays before getting the medical care they need as we complete the legal challenge to this destructive law.”

Florida law already requires physicians to provide patients with certain state-mandated information, including the nature and risks of the procedure and the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term, as well as the probable gestational age of the embryo or fetus, as verified by ultrasound.

HB 633, passed by the state’s Republican-held legislature, requires that information be provided in person at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed, a requirement that is both unnecessary and unduly burdensome, according to advocates challenging the mandatory delay measure.

“The court has recognized that this law serves only to demean women and the choices they and their families make about their own medical care,” said Renée Paradis, Senior Staff Attorney for the national ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “This decision ensures that the right to privacy guaranteed to women by the Florida Constitution will be protected and allows women to receive the care they need while the courts hear our legal challenge to this unconstitutional law.”

HB 633 mandates that physicians and health-care facilities that fail to follow the mandatory delay requirements would be subject to disciplinary action, including license revocation, license non-renewal, and monetary fines.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Fight Continues Over Florida’s Forced Abortion Delay Law appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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