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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North Dakota Set To Be First State to Pass Radical ‘Personhood’ Amendment

Anti-choice ballot initiatives in Colorado and Tennessee have gained national headlines, but a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have significant consequences for women’s reproductive rights has gotten far less attention.

Anti-choice ballot initiatives in Colorado and Tennessee have gained national headlines, but a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have significant consequences for women’s reproductive rights has gotten far less attention.

Measure 1, if approved by voters, would amendment the state constitution to read that the “inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” North Dakota would join Missouri as the only states with constitutions that define life as beginning at conception—North Dakota would be the first to do so through a constitutional amendment approved by the voters.

Measure 1, known as the “Life Begins at Conception” Amendment, would give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, and would ban abortion, birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and emergency contraception.

It could also eliminate certain medical procedures such as cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization. Women who miscarry may be subject to police investigations to determine if their actions were the cause.

The latest polling shows that 49.9 percent of those surveyed would vote to approve the ballot measure. The poll was conducted by the University of North Dakota (UND) College of Business and Public Administration, and surveyed 505 likely voters in the state. The pool has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Robert Wood, a professor of political science at UND who helped conduct the poll, told the Forum News Service that for the measure to be defeated, all of the 17 percent of undecided voters would have to break against the measure. “By and large, there are not that many undecideds on this particular measure,” he said.

Similar so-called personhood amendments have been on the ballot three times in other states: voters rejected the amendments in Mississippi in 2011 and in Colorado in 2008 and 2010.

Recent polling shows that this year’s Colorado personhood ballot initiative shows that the measure isn’t likely to pass, with only 37 percent of survey respondents in support of the amendment.

The ballot measure is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, which means that state lawmakers voted to place the amendment on the ballot. The state legislature passed SCR 4009 in March 2013. It was passed narrowly in the senate by a 26-21 vote, and then overwhelmingly in the house by a 57-35 vote.

Proponents of the measure made no secret of its true intent. “This amendment is intended to present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck) said during the senate floor debate.

Abortion is already highly regulated in the state, and access is extremely limited. Fargo’s Red River Women’s Clinic is the only clinic that provides abortion care in the state, and it subject to significant regulation.

The state legislature passed multiple laws restricting abortion access during the 2013 legislative session. State lawmakers passed SB 2368, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and HB 1456, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act; both have been blocked by the courts and are being litigated.

Supporters of the measure have raised more than $577,000 in campaign contributions, including $186,000 in contributions from the North Dakota Catholic Conference. Opponents have raised more than $815,000 in campaign contributions, the vast majority coming from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Image: Shutterstock

The post North Dakota Set To Be First State to Pass Radical ‘Personhood’ Amendment appeared first on RH Reality Check.


RH Reality Check's picture

North Dakota Set To Be First State to Pass Radical ‘Personhood’ Amendment

Anti-choice ballot initiatives in Colorado and Tennessee have gained national headlines, but a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have significant consequences for women’s reproductive rights has gotten far less attention.

Anti-choice ballot initiatives in Colorado and Tennessee have gained national headlines, but a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have significant consequences for women’s reproductive rights has gotten far less attention.

Measure 1, if approved by voters, would amendment the state constitution to read that the “inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” North Dakota would join Missouri as the only states with constitutions that define life as beginning at conception—North Dakota would be the first to do so through a constitutional amendment approved by the voters.

Measure 1, known as the “Life Begins at Conception” Amendment, would give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, and would ban abortion, birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and emergency contraception.

It could also eliminate certain medical procedures such as cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization. Women who miscarry may be subject to police investigations to determine if their actions were the cause.

The latest polling shows that 49.9 percent of those surveyed would vote to approve the ballot measure. The poll was conducted by the University of North Dakota (UND) College of Business and Public Administration, and surveyed 505 likely voters in the state. The pool has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Robert Wood, a professor of political science at UND who helped conduct the poll, told the Forum News Service that for the measure to be defeated, all of the 17 percent of undecided voters would have to break against the measure. “By and large, there are not that many undecideds on this particular measure,” he said.

Similar so-called personhood amendments have been on the ballot three times in other states: voters rejected the amendments in Mississippi in 2011 and in Colorado in 2008 and 2010.

Recent polling shows that this year’s Colorado personhood ballot initiative shows that the measure isn’t likely to pass, with only 37 percent of survey respondents in support of the amendment.

The ballot measure is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, which means that state lawmakers voted to place the amendment on the ballot. The state legislature passed SCR 4009 in March 2013. It was passed narrowly in the senate by a 26-21 vote, and then overwhelmingly in the house by a 57-35 vote.

Proponents of the measure made no secret of its true intent. “This amendment is intended to present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck) said during the senate floor debate.

Abortion is already highly regulated in the state, and access is extremely limited. Fargo’s Red River Women’s Clinic is the only clinic that provides abortion care in the state, and it subject to significant regulation.

The state legislature passed multiple laws restricting abortion access during the 2013 legislative session. State lawmakers passed SB 2368, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and HB 1456, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act; both have been blocked by the courts and are being litigated.

Supporters of the measure have raised more than $577,000 in campaign contributions, including $186,000 in contributions from the North Dakota Catholic Conference. Opponents have raised more than $815,000 in campaign contributions, the vast majority coming from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Image: Shutterstock

The post North Dakota Set To Be First State to Pass Radical ‘Personhood’ Amendment appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released an update to its guidelines that included an expansion discussion of sexual health for disabled teens. That's an incredibly important addition—so why are so few media outlets covering it?

On September 29, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a critical update to its guidelines on teen and adolescent sexuality, providing important new information for pediatricians preparing to help their patients access reproductive health services at a critical time in their lives. The media, including numerous progressive sites, quickly zeroed in on one aspect of the update: the advice that long-lasting contraceptive options, including intrauterine devices (IUDs), were the best choice for sexually active teens. What the news seemed less interested in, however, was the discussion on handling sexual health for disabled teens buried halfway through the document.

By acknowledging that disabled teens are sexually active at all, the AAP committed a radical act—but the public appeared largely indifferent. Although the AAP found the subject of disabled sexuality important enough to dedicate an entire section of the guidelines to it, only a handful of pieces, like this one on the disability-specific news site Disability Scoop, addressed that aspect. The AAP isn’t new to this, either: The organization even specifically noted in 2007 that sexuality for disabled teens was “often forgotten.” September’s new guidelines expand on the subject while also reminding pediatricians that this is a continuing issue.

Though the new guidelines in no way guarantee a universal change in doctors’ behavior, they do spell out a number of clear strategies for changing the dismal status quo surrounding teen sexual education and reproductive health care. The recommendations for doctors to provide long-acting birth control to teens is, indeed, a vital aspect of the update, as such methods have historically been provided primarily to adults. Important, too, is the section encouraging pediatricians to keep up with law and policy in their states in terms of patient confidentiality—particularly that of teens. (While this subject received comparatively less attention in the media, it was still noted.)

But the update on disabled sexuality is equally important, and underreporting of the issue underscores a common social problem. The guidelines make it explicitly clear that some disabled teens, just like non-disabled ones, are sexually active: They need appropriate care, including sexual health screenings, advice about birth control, supplies of condoms and contraceptives, and answers to questions about safer sex and relationships. Similarly, the guidelines note, disabled teens may also need birth control for issues like controlling heavy menstruation or acne, making it critical to protect access to those contraceptive methods as well.

Overall, the recommendations in the guidelines stated:

Pediatricians should remember that adolescents with chronic illnesses and disabilities have similar sexual health and contraceptive needs to healthy adolescents while recognizing that medical illness may complicate contraceptive choices.

The AAP also points clinicians to the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, which provides specific information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about interactions between various contraceptives and specific disabilities and medications. Including this resource sends a clear message to clinicians that information on the safety of contraceptives for disabled teens is readily available; therefore, ignorance on the subject is inexcusable.

Disabled children and teens tend to see doctors more frequently than non-disabled ones, providing numerous opportunities for education and intervention. So if care providers follow these guidelines, outcomes could radically improve for disabled teens. Such a move would reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, reduce the incidence of abuse, increase adolescents’ comfort with reporting sexual assault and rape, and empower disabled teens to make their own sexual choices.

But by noting that disabled teens have sex, the AAP wasn’t just providing vital medical guidance. It was also forcing the sexual health community—including sex educators, medical professionals, and the media—to recognize the truth of disabled sexuality. We live in a society where many individuals seem unaware that disabled people have sex, enjoy sexuality, and are at some unique risks in terms of reproductive health. The document serves as a reminder that teens, like many other people, have sex, and that disabled teens are no different. Perhaps the most striking evidence of this is the fact that the section on disability and sexuality was quietly and calmly included in the document, rather than flagged for special attention.

And yet, it fell entirely off the radar. It was almost as though reporters were blinkered during that section of the report, unable to acknowledge that it existed. This was characteristic of the way society interacts with disability issues in general. The public views disability as an object of fear and sometimes active hatred, rather than something that should be engaged; non-disabled individuals are often reluctant to explore the topic of disability at all, let alone interact directly with disabled people.

The media’s decision not to cover the section, in turn, reinforced dangerous social attitudes about sex and disability. Notably, it wasn’t just the mainstream media who ignored the subject: Websites that ostensibly provide more intersectional, holistic coverage of feminist issues also overlooked it, and it wasn’t a topic of discussion on outlets explicitly dedicated to reproductive health and rights topics. In short, anyone who didn’t read the guidelines would have missed it. And propagating the idea that disabled people are not sexual has real consequences.

Doctors, schools, and even disabled teens’ own parents often either deprive them of sexual education or provide them with inadequate information that doesn’t address their specific needs and risk factors. This can lead to confusion among disabled teens as they wrestle with their own sexuality. Subjects of sexual orientation and gender, for example, may be unfamiliar, which can harm LGBQT disabled teens and increase their risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Disabled teens may also not understand the mechanics and prevention of STI prevention and pregnancy; tragically, they may not be able to recognize the signs of pregnancy early enough to make an informed decision about whether to terminate it or proceed with it.

In addition, disabled teens may not learn about healthy relationships or have access to the context necessary for discussions about assault and personal boundaries. This can lead to sexual exploitation. In a particularly disturbing example, an Australian nonverbal rape survivor was challenged during her testimony because her communication book—a booklet with images and words illustrating various concepts, allowing her to convey needs, commentary, and other things without speaking—hadn’t included the words “penis” or “rape.” Police would not allow these terms to be added after the assault, effectively preventing the survivor from describing what had happened; officials’ logic was that doing so might create bias or false testimony.

Desexualization also creates “perfect victims” through disbelief and isolation. Because society as a whole thinks that disabled people do not and cannot have sex, members of the public, law enforcement, policymakers, and even medical professionals have difficulty conceiving of the idea that they might be targets for rape and assault. This leaves disabled people, particularly those in institutional care or under the “care” of abusive individuals, vulnerable to danger. Again, some may not realize that they are being sexually abused, as they lack understanding about what kinds of touch and interactions are appropriate. Others have limited social support, making them prime targets.

The lack of follow-up when people report abuse is also both a result of and a contributor to the problem. As exposed in a PBS and ProPublica documentary, administrators often ignore neglect and abuse in assisted living facilities (which include disabled people as well as older adults), even when residents and family members report it. Law enforcement and coroners, when extreme cases cause death, can also write off such mistreatment. And the same holds true for disabled people living in their communities.

Creating more access to reproductive health services increases safety for disabled people and raises the profile of disabled sexuality overall by making members of the public aware of disability issues. So for disabled teens, having their sexuality acknowledged and addressed by the AAP is a huge step forward. In turn, the AAP guidelines reflect larger, and critical, issues that the reproductive health community needs to acknowledge: In the greater fight for reproductive rights for all, disabled people belong under the banner alongside everyone else.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act appeared first on RH Reality Check.


RH Reality Check's picture

Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released an update to its guidelines that included an expansion discussion of sexual health for disabled teens. That's an incredibly important addition—so why are so few media outlets covering it?

On September 29, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a critical update to its guidelines on teen and adolescent sexuality, providing important new information for pediatricians preparing to help their patients access reproductive health services at a critical time in their lives. The media, including numerous progressive sites, quickly zeroed in on one aspect of the update: the advice that long-lasting contraceptive options, including intrauterine devices (IUDs), were the best choice for sexually active teens. What the news seemed less interested in, however, was the discussion on handling sexual health for disabled teens buried halfway through the document.

By acknowledging that disabled teens are sexually active at all, the AAP committed a radical act—but the public appeared largely indifferent. Although the AAP found the subject of disabled sexuality important enough to dedicate an entire section of the guidelines to it, only a handful of pieces, like this one on the disability-specific news site Disability Scoop, addressed that aspect. The AAP isn’t new to this, either: The organization even specifically noted in 2007 that sexuality for disabled teens was “often forgotten.” September’s new guidelines expand on the subject while also reminding pediatricians that this is a continuing issue.

Though the new guidelines in no way guarantee a universal change in doctors’ behavior, they do spell out a number of clear strategies for changing the dismal status quo surrounding teen sexual education and reproductive health care. The recommendations for doctors to provide long-acting birth control to teens is, indeed, a vital aspect of the update, as such methods have historically been provided primarily to adults. Important, too, is the section encouraging pediatricians to keep up with law and policy in their states in terms of patient confidentiality—particularly that of teens. (While this subject received comparatively less attention in the media, it was still noted.)

But the update on disabled sexuality is equally important, and underreporting of the issue underscores a common social problem. The guidelines make it explicitly clear that some disabled teens, just like non-disabled ones, are sexually active: They need appropriate care, including sexual health screenings, advice about birth control, supplies of condoms and contraceptives, and answers to questions about safer sex and relationships. Similarly, the guidelines note, disabled teens may also need birth control for issues like controlling heavy menstruation or acne, making it critical to protect access to those contraceptive methods as well.

Overall, the recommendations in the guidelines stated:

Pediatricians should remember that adolescents with chronic illnesses and disabilities have similar sexual health and contraceptive needs to healthy adolescents while recognizing that medical illness may complicate contraceptive choices.

The AAP also points clinicians to the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, which provides specific information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about interactions between various contraceptives and specific disabilities and medications. Including this resource sends a clear message to clinicians that information on the safety of contraceptives for disabled teens is readily available; therefore, ignorance on the subject is inexcusable.

Disabled children and teens tend to see doctors more frequently than non-disabled ones, providing numerous opportunities for education and intervention. So if care providers follow these guidelines, outcomes could radically improve for disabled teens. Such a move would reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, reduce the incidence of abuse, increase adolescents’ comfort with reporting sexual assault and rape, and empower disabled teens to make their own sexual choices.

But by noting that disabled teens have sex, the AAP wasn’t just providing vital medical guidance. It was also forcing the sexual health community—including sex educators, medical professionals, and the media—to recognize the truth of disabled sexuality. We live in a society where many individuals seem unaware that disabled people have sex, enjoy sexuality, and are at some unique risks in terms of reproductive health. The document serves as a reminder that teens, like many other people, have sex, and that disabled teens are no different. Perhaps the most striking evidence of this is the fact that the section on disability and sexuality was quietly and calmly included in the document, rather than flagged for special attention.

And yet, it fell entirely off the radar. It was almost as though reporters were blinkered during that section of the report, unable to acknowledge that it existed. This was characteristic of the way society interacts with disability issues in general. The public views disability as an object of fear and sometimes active hatred, rather than something that should be engaged; non-disabled individuals are often reluctant to explore the topic of disability at all, let alone interact directly with disabled people.

The media’s decision not to cover the section, in turn, reinforced dangerous social attitudes about sex and disability. Notably, it wasn’t just the mainstream media who ignored the subject: Websites that ostensibly provide more intersectional, holistic coverage of feminist issues also overlooked it, and it wasn’t a topic of discussion on outlets explicitly dedicated to reproductive health and rights topics. In short, anyone who didn’t read the guidelines would have missed it. And propagating the idea that disabled people are not sexual has real consequences.

Doctors, schools, and even disabled teens’ own parents often either deprive them of sexual education or provide them with inadequate information that doesn’t address their specific needs and risk factors. This can lead to confusion among disabled teens as they wrestle with their own sexuality. Subjects of sexual orientation and gender, for example, may be unfamiliar, which can harm LGBQT disabled teens and increase their risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Disabled teens may also not understand the mechanics and prevention of STI prevention and pregnancy; tragically, they may not be able to recognize the signs of pregnancy early enough to make an informed decision about whether to terminate it or proceed with it.

In addition, disabled teens may not learn about healthy relationships or have access to the context necessary for discussions about assault and personal boundaries. This can lead to sexual exploitation. In a particularly disturbing example, an Australian nonverbal rape survivor was challenged during her testimony because her communication book—a booklet with images and words illustrating various concepts, allowing her to convey needs, commentary, and other things without speaking—hadn’t included the words “penis” or “rape.” Police would not allow these terms to be added after the assault, effectively preventing the survivor from describing what had happened; officials’ logic was that doing so might create bias or false testimony.

Desexualization also creates “perfect victims” through disbelief and isolation. Because society as a whole thinks that disabled people do not and cannot have sex, members of the public, law enforcement, policymakers, and even medical professionals have difficulty conceiving of the idea that they might be targets for rape and assault. This leaves disabled people, particularly those in institutional care or under the “care” of abusive individuals, vulnerable to danger. Again, some may not realize that they are being sexually abused, as they lack understanding about what kinds of touch and interactions are appropriate. Others have limited social support, making them prime targets.

The lack of follow-up when people report abuse is also both a result of and a contributor to the problem. As exposed in a PBS and ProPublica documentary, administrators often ignore neglect and abuse in assisted living facilities (which include disabled people as well as older adults), even when residents and family members report it. Law enforcement and coroners, when extreme cases cause death, can also write off such mistreatment. And the same holds true for disabled people living in their communities.

Creating more access to reproductive health services increases safety for disabled people and raises the profile of disabled sexuality overall by making members of the public aware of disability issues. So for disabled teens, having their sexuality acknowledged and addressed by the AAP is a huge step forward. In turn, the AAP guidelines reflect larger, and critical, issues that the reproductive health community needs to acknowledge: In the greater fight for reproductive rights for all, disabled people belong under the banner alongside everyone else.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Polls: Voters Connect Abortion Access and Economic Opportunities

In one poll of New York and Pennsylvania voters, three-quarters of respondents said that a woman’s ability to control whether to have children is linked to equality and financial stability.

Abortion is often described as a hyper-partisan social issue. More than 40 years after Roe v. Wade, conservative state legislatures continue to push stringent anti-abortion laws aimed at eliminating access to the procedure. Meanwhile, Democrats have played defense in red states and those with fairly evenly split legislatures.

A poll published last week found that in the midst of growing political polarization, New York and Pennsylvania voters continue to support policies that protect access to abortion and believe that abortion should be safe and legal.

The poll, conducted by PerryUndem Research/Communication on behalf of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, measured how registered voters in New York and Pennsylvania feel about the reproductive rights-related legislation proposed in the two states by asking questions like, “Do you think issues around access to safe and legal abortion care has an effect on women’s opportunities for financial stability?” and “What things might prevent women from having the same opportunities in life as men?”

The results are clear cut: Eight in 10 respondents in New York and nearly 70 percent in Pennsylvania said they feel favorably towards Roe v. Wade, and three-quarters said they think legislative agendas should include protections for abortion.

At least 80 percent of voters in each state say that they support women’s legislative agendas overall.

Voters not only feel positively about legislation that protects reproductive health-care access, but also reported seeing a connection between access to abortion and economic well being, according to the poll.

“We initiated this research project with a basic hypothesis in mind,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said during a press call. “That the public and voters’ support for abortion access comes from at least in part an understanding [that] a woman’s ability to control when and whether to have children is directly related to her financial stability, her ability … to plan her future, and her well being.”

Three-quarters of respondents in both New York and Pennsylvania said that a woman’s ability to control whether to have children is linked to equality and financial stability, and many said that having and caring for children is a significant factor preventing women from having the same opportunities as men. The survey also found that voters specifically connected abortion access to equality and financial stability.

Legislation being proposed in the two states—the Women’s Equity Act in New York and the Agenda for Women’s Health in Pennsylvania—address many of the issues raised in the survey, including pay equity, domestic violence, sexual harassment, pregnancy accommodation, and protections for reproductive health-care clinics.

Another poll, also conducted by PerryUndem but this time on behalf of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, confirmed the nationwide support for abortion access.

This poll, which surveyed Latino voters in Texas, found that despite the myths that Latinos disapprove of abortion, a strong majority of survey respondents agree with the statement “a woman has a right to make her own personal decisions about abortion without politicians interfering.”

A third survey released this month found that while many voters say that abortion and contraceptive access are important issues to them, other concerns, like the state of the economy and ISIS, figure centrally for more Americans.

The poll, conducted by Gallup in September, measured the top priority issues for voters by party going into the midterm elections by asking, “How important will each of the following issues be to your vote for Congress this year?”

It found that abortion and contraception access is relatively low on the list of important issues, figuring as the top priority issue for 60 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans. The top voter priorities also differed strongly by party, with 87 percent of Democrats and only 58 percent of Republicans saying equal pay for women was a top priority.

Eighty-five percent of Republicans said fighting Islamic militants was a top priority, while that issue did not make it on the list for Democrats.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Polls: Voters Connect Abortion Access and Economic Opportunities appeared first on RH Reality Check.


RH Reality Check's picture

Polls: Voters Connect Abortion Access and Economic Opportunities

In one poll of New York and Pennsylvania voters, three-quarters of respondents said that a woman’s ability to control whether to have children is linked to equality and financial stability.

Abortion is often described as a hyper-partisan social issue. More than 40 years after Roe v. Wade, conservative state legislatures continue to push stringent anti-abortion laws aimed at eliminating access to the procedure. Meanwhile, Democrats have played defense in red states and those with fairly evenly split legislatures.

A poll published last week found that in the midst of growing political polarization, New York and Pennsylvania voters continue to support policies that protect access to abortion and believe that abortion should be safe and legal.

The poll, conducted by PerryUndem Research/Communication on behalf of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, measured how registered voters in New York and Pennsylvania feel about the reproductive rights-related legislation proposed in the two states by asking questions like, “Do you think issues around access to safe and legal abortion care has an effect on women’s opportunities for financial stability?” and “What things might prevent women from having the same opportunities in life as men?”

The results are clear cut: Eight in 10 respondents in New York and nearly 70 percent in Pennsylvania said they feel favorably towards Roe v. Wade, and three-quarters said they think legislative agendas should include protections for abortion.

At least 80 percent of voters in each state say that they support women’s legislative agendas overall.

Voters not only feel positively about legislation that protects reproductive health-care access, but also reported seeing a connection between access to abortion and economic well being, according to the poll.

“We initiated this research project with a basic hypothesis in mind,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said during a press call. “That the public and voters’ support for abortion access comes from at least in part an understanding [that] a woman’s ability to control when and whether to have children is directly related to her financial stability, her ability … to plan her future, and her well being.”

Three-quarters of respondents in both New York and Pennsylvania said that a woman’s ability to control whether to have children is linked to equality and financial stability, and many said that having and caring for children is a significant factor preventing women from having the same opportunities as men. The survey also found that voters specifically connected abortion access to equality and financial stability.

Legislation being proposed in the two states—the Women’s Equity Act in New York and the Agenda for Women’s Health in Pennsylvania—address many of the issues raised in the survey, including pay equity, domestic violence, sexual harassment, pregnancy accommodation, and protections for reproductive health-care clinics.

Another poll, also conducted by PerryUndem but this time on behalf of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, confirmed the nationwide support for abortion access.

This poll, which surveyed Latino voters in Texas, found that despite the myths that Latinos disapprove of abortion, a strong majority of survey respondents agree with the statement “a woman has a right to make her own personal decisions about abortion without politicians interfering.”

A third survey released this month found that while many voters say that abortion and contraceptive access are important issues to them, other concerns, like the state of the economy and ISIS, figure centrally for more Americans.

The poll, conducted by Gallup in September, measured the top priority issues for voters by party going into the midterm elections by asking, “How important will each of the following issues be to your vote for Congress this year?”

It found that abortion and contraception access is relatively low on the list of important issues, figuring as the top priority issue for 60 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans. The top voter priorities also differed strongly by party, with 87 percent of Democrats and only 58 percent of Republicans saying equal pay for women was a top priority.

Eighty-five percent of Republicans said fighting Islamic militants was a top priority, while that issue did not make it on the list for Democrats.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Polls: Voters Connect Abortion Access and Economic Opportunities appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Immigrant Rights Groups: Obama Administration Runs ‘Deportation Mill’ in New Mexico

Immigrant rights groups sued the federal government on Tuesday to compel the Obama administration to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the use of the expedited removal process against families with children.

Immigrant rights groups sued the federal government on Tuesday to compel the Obama administration to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the use of the expedited removal process against families with children.

The court filing is the latest round in the battle over what immigrant rights groups describe as a “deportation mill” located in rural New Mexico. The fight began in June when the Department of Homeland Security opened a remote, makeshift detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, to detain women and children fleeing violence in Central America.

Immigrants rights groups in August sued on behalf of mothers and children locked up at Artesia, claiming the Obama administration had enacted a new “expedited removal” policy as a way to fast-track deportation and avoid adjudicating asylum claims from the mothers and children.

This most recent court filing seeks to compel the release of documents regarding the use of this expedited removal process against families with children, including those detained at the family detention center in Artesia.

The Obama administration has not publicly released information about the policies and procedures governing its operations at the Artesia facility, despite what the groups describe as potentially life-threatening consequences for the women and children detained there.

They say the release of these policies and procedures is particularly urgent given that the government has opened another family detention center in Karnes, Texas, and has announced plans to open a massive 2,400-bed family detention facility in Dilley, Texas.

“Over the past several months, the Obama administration has overseen a dramatic increase in its practice of locking up mothers and children, with very little public explanation of this change in policies,” Melissa Keaney, staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement. The Law Center is just one of the organizations involved in the litigation.

“Before they open the biggest family detention facility yet, federal officials should explain why they’ve decided to place toddlers and their mothers behind barbed wire and then whisk them back to the dangerous situations they fled,” Keaney said.

Government officials created Artesia to limit successful asylum claims by creating a new, more stringent “expedited removal” system that results in the denial of meritorious asylum claims, according to the allegations in the lawsuits. Immigrant rights groups allege the Obama administration’s expedited removal policies violate long-established constitutional and statutory law by, for example, drastically restricting communication—including communication with attorneys and giving virtually no notice to detainees of important interviews used to determine the outcome of asylum requests.

According to the complaint, mothers have no time to prepare, are rushed through their interviews, are cut off by officials throughout the process, and are forced to answer traumatic questions, including detailing instances of rape, while their children are listening.

“Lawyers representing clients in Artesia report that the processes are anything but fair and fall far short of the government’s obligations to provide due process,” said Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council, following the filing of the FOIA litigation. “Compounding these injustices is DHS’s refusal to provide basic information about the policies and procedures that apply in these cases.”

The groups say that the government’s new policies at Artesia also create a host of procedural obstacles for asylum applicants and hope this FOIA litigation shines light on the detentions in Artesia.

“The American people have a right to know the truth about what is happening at Artesia,” Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “This lawless lack of transparency will cost lives.”

Image: Shutterstock

The post Immigrant Rights Groups: Obama Administration Runs ‘Deportation Mill’ in New Mexico appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Immigrant Rights Groups: Obama Administration Runs ‘Deportation Mill’ in New Mexico

Immigrant rights groups sued the federal government on Tuesday to compel the Obama administration to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the use of the expedited removal process against families with children.

Immigrant rights groups sued the federal government on Tuesday to compel the Obama administration to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the use of the expedited removal process against families with children.

The court filing is the latest round in the battle over what immigrant rights groups describe as a “deportation mill” located in rural New Mexico. The fight began in June when the Department of Homeland Security opened a remote, makeshift detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, to detain women and children fleeing violence in Central America.

Immigrants rights groups in August sued on behalf of mothers and children locked up at Artesia, claiming the Obama administration had enacted a new “expedited removal” policy as a way to fast-track deportation and avoid adjudicating asylum claims from the mothers and children.

This most recent court filing seeks to compel the release of documents regarding the use of this expedited removal process against families with children, including those detained at the family detention center in Artesia.

The Obama administration has not publicly released information about the policies and procedures governing its operations at the Artesia facility, despite what the groups describe as potentially life-threatening consequences for the women and children detained there.

They say the release of these policies and procedures is particularly urgent given that the government has opened another family detention center in Karnes, Texas, and has announced plans to open a massive 2,400-bed family detention facility in Dilley, Texas.

“Over the past several months, the Obama administration has overseen a dramatic increase in its practice of locking up mothers and children, with very little public explanation of this change in policies,” Melissa Keaney, staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement. The Law Center is just one of the organizations involved in the litigation.

“Before they open the biggest family detention facility yet, federal officials should explain why they’ve decided to place toddlers and their mothers behind barbed wire and then whisk them back to the dangerous situations they fled,” Keaney said.

Government officials created Artesia to limit successful asylum claims by creating a new, more stringent “expedited removal” system that results in the denial of meritorious asylum claims, according to the allegations in the lawsuits. Immigrant rights groups allege the Obama administration’s expedited removal policies violate long-established constitutional and statutory law by, for example, drastically restricting communication—including communication with attorneys and giving virtually no notice to detainees of important interviews used to determine the outcome of asylum requests.

According to the complaint, mothers have no time to prepare, are rushed through their interviews, are cut off by officials throughout the process, and are forced to answer traumatic questions, including detailing instances of rape, while their children are listening.

“Lawyers representing clients in Artesia report that the processes are anything but fair and fall far short of the government’s obligations to provide due process,” said Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council, following the filing of the FOIA litigation. “Compounding these injustices is DHS’s refusal to provide basic information about the policies and procedures that apply in these cases.”

The groups say that the government’s new policies at Artesia also create a host of procedural obstacles for asylum applicants and hope this FOIA litigation shines light on the detentions in Artesia.

“The American people have a right to know the truth about what is happening at Artesia,” Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “This lawless lack of transparency will cost lives.”

Image: Shutterstock

The post Immigrant Rights Groups: Obama Administration Runs ‘Deportation Mill’ in New Mexico appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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Groundbreaking Research Aims to Expand Our Knowledge of Abortion Stigma

Despite its ubiquity in our culture, abortion stigma has garnered relatively little scholarly attention. Now, after two years of effort, there's a new issue of the academic journal Women and Health that focuses entirely on abortion stigma.

Abortion stigma—the belief that abortion is socially or morally unacceptable—permeates every level of our culture. Experts note the presence of such stigma in the myths and mischaracterizations of abortion in the media. Researchers find it in the marginalization of the procedure within health-care facilities, as well as in the silence around abortion in communities, families, and friendships. And policymakers reinforce it on a state, national, and global level through restrictive legislation. Even so, compared with other types of widespread societal shaming, such as those surrounding mental illness or HIV, abortion stigma has received relatively little scholarly attention.

This is almost certainly a result of the stigma’s effect on the academic community. “When we began work on abortion stigma in 2008, we found that it was under-researched and under-theorized—and I think that stems from the marginalization of abortion both within funding circles and in the global public health arena,” said Leila Hessini, director of community engagement work and co-leader of the stigma and awareness project at the global nonprofit Ipas. Indeed, many scholars report difficulty in finding resources and funding to study abortion.

In turn, this lack of support means pro-choice activists and organizations don’t know as much as we could about who experiences abortion stigma, how they experience it, and what the consequences are—leaving us ill-prepared to prevent and combat it.

“For years, researchers, advocates, and policymakers have stumbled over stigma in working toward improving women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights,” confirmed Kristen Shellenberg, senior researcher at Ipas.

In an effort to broaden the discussion around abortion stigma and spark further research and critical thinking, scholars from our own Sea Change Program, as well as Ipas and the University of California, San Francisco-affiliated research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), envisioned a special issue of an academic journal entirely focusing on abortion and stigma. After two years of work, the special issue of Women and Health has been published, and all articles are free to access until March 2015.

In one piece, Adrianne Nickerson, Ruth Manski, and Amanda Dennis of the research nonprofit Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered how stigma manifests in the individual attitudes of low-income women in the United States seeking abortion services. The Sea Change Program’s Annik M. Sorhaindo, meanwhile, explored with her co-authors the stigma that men and women in Mexico see and experience in their communities when they try to obtain abortion care.

Two other articles provided new ways of measuring abortion stigma—a crucial area of study, as such measurements will allow activists and advocates to evaluate whether interventions are actually effective at decreasing stigmatizing attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. To this effect, Ipas’ Shellenberg, Leila Hessini, and Brooke A. Levandowski used focus groups of community members in Ghana and Zambia to develop a scale of attitudes toward women who have abortions in those countries. In the United States, Lisa Martin and her colleagues tested an instrument to assess the stigma of abortion among providers.

Building on these objective studies, three commentaries examined stigma’s long-ranging consequences on a national scale and proposed ways to combat it. ANSIRH’s Carole Joffe described the harassment, regulation, and marginalization of abortion providers since Roe v. Wade. Hessini and colleagues refined the definition of abortion stigma and outlined a set of priority questions for later research and programmatic efforts. And the Sea Change Program’s Kate Cockrill explored a world without stigma and called for a collective vision to guide researchers, advocates, and practitioners toward this future.

The organizers of the project hope that the issue of Women and Health both inspires and supports other academics interested in studying abortion stigma. As the co-editors told RH Reality Check, “This special issue was just the beginning. We are trying to spark a movement of individuals and organizations working to understand and mitigate abortion stigma at local, regional, and global levels.”

Rather than identifying stigma only as a barrier to getting an abortion, the co-editors say that the research in the special issue of the journal is a move toward understanding what abortion stigma is, what the consequences are, and what advocates can do about it.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Groundbreaking Research Aims to Expand Our Knowledge of Abortion Stigma appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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