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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New Research on How to Support Abortion Storytellers

This week, we released Saying Abortion Aloud, a report and set of recommendations for those sharing their personal abortion stories publicly and the advocates who support them.

Sharing stories has long been a method of communication and culture change for social justice movements. It allows our movements’ oppressed and vulnerable to speak their truth, often when they have no capital or power. It can be difficult to do, in particular when the story they’re sharing is one deeply entrenched in stigma, and is often met with hate, harassment, and isolation. All too often, people become fed up with the narratives told about them, and the weight of keeping that secret is far heavier and outweighs that of speaking out. Sharing an abortion story publicly is no different.

In our recent research of people who share their abortion stories publicly, this was one of the main reasons many chose to speak out: to change the narrative, fight for their political power, and make their voices heard. But all too often, the storytellers were nervous to speak out publicly. They found themselves asking questions like: Who will have my back? How can I get the support I need from organizations in the movement? What can advocates do to ensure that I have a safe and supported experience?

This week, we released Saying Abortion Aloud, a report and set of recommendations for those sharing their personal abortion stories publicly and the advocates who support them. The recommendations are based on both qualitative and quantitative data from 39 survey respondents and 13 in-depth interviews—eight with experienced public abortion storytellers and five with storytellers and advocates in the HIV, LGBT, sexual assault, and teen pregnancy and parenting fields.

We limited the survey to public abortion storytellers, which we defined as “sharing in an outlet or event that is accessible to the general public for attendance and comment. This includes public workshops or events, articles and videos in the media, political office visits and testimony, and public education campaigns about abortion experiences.” The reason we focused on public abortion story-sharing is because it’s a type of sharing where the storyteller isn’t always in control where the story goes, who hears it, or how it gets used. It can be used against them at work or in certain communities, so there’s a big risk in sharing.

We sent out an open call on social media and listservs for people to fill out the survey, and the results were amazing. We were pleasantly surprised that 33 percent of our respondents were from the South, often an underrepresented area in abortion story discussions; another 21 percent were from the Midwest. We even had three people respond from outside the United States. Of our 39 respondents, 22 (56 percent) identified as white, four as Black, six as Latina, one as Middle Eastern, one as Asian, and four as mixed race; one declined to answer. While we know this isn’t representative of those who have abortions, or even those who share their stories publicly, this is the first survey we know of that collected data about public abortion storytellers. We also know that there’s an inherent privilege in being able to be public about abortion, thus our lack of racial diversity was somewhat expected. A total of 38 survey respondents identified as cisgender women, while one person identified as non-binary.

We also asked about respondents’ experiences with sharing their abortion stories publicly, working with organizations, responses from family and friends, support and self-care, and harassment. These findings were critical in shaping our recommendations in Saying Abortion Aloud.

Our survey respondents experienced both positive and negative feedback after sharing. Surprisingly, the positive had more of an impact on them than the negative. Almost 70 percent noted that when they received positive responses, it helped them feel better about their story-sharing experience. They reported feeling good about positive anonymous responses, in particular from those who had also had abortions, as well as family and friends.

The respondents also noted they were worried about negative reactions from family and friends, and harassment—both on- and offline. This became crucial when deciding whether to share again, because they weren’t sure if they would have support from the organization with which they were sharing. One respondent noted, “Organizations want me to speak up [about my abortion], but they don’t have any mechanisms for protecting people who do speak up.”

Over 40 percent of respondents said that they received little or no support from the organization with which they partnered; a few respondents said they didn’t know they could ask for it. One respondent noted that she felt nervous to admit she didn’t know how to do what the organization was asking of her, and she was afraid to ask because she didn’t want anyone to laugh at her. To deal with harassment, anxiety and self-doubt about sharing, and community reactions, respondents noted that they employed coping mechanisms like finding friendly support, talking to a counselor or therapist, and meditation or prayer. Even though respondents faced challenges when sharing their stories, 92 percent said they would continue talking about their abortions in public.

Almost 60 percent of respondents said that they were not sure of the kind of support they would want from an organization, but did note that media training, support in writing their story, support groups, and ongoing engagement would be a great start. To help facilitate this conversation between storytellers and organizations interested in working with abortion storytellers, we developed a set of recommendations based on our findings.

Storytellers must know that they can ask organizations for help writing their testimony, as well as for more information on how an event will be run and who their main point of contact is. This ensures that the process is clear and transparent. Storytellers can also ask organizations for media support, and that includes fielding media requests, monitoring anti-choice sites for vitriol, and helping in reporting harassment. This helps to reduce challenges when sharing an abortion story.

Based on our findings, storytellers believe that everyone should know that their story is simply that: theirs. They are in control of how, when, and where it’s told. We also heard from storytellers that they would like some sort of compensation for the work they do for an organization. Storytellers should not be paying out of pocket to support the organization’s mission, if they don’t want to. Organizations should offer an honorarium, or travel stipend, to cover the storyteller’s time. Storytelling is work and it should be valued as such. Additionally, just because a storyteller shared their story once, doesn’t mean they have to share again. They can take breaks and say no at any point.

When we asked storytellers what support they wanted from organizations, they said that they wanted their full stories to be honored. Abortion stories can be complex—storytellers must be allowed to share as much or as little of their story as they like. Stories should not be manipulated for mission-sake. They also noted that they wanted organizations to recognize the intersectionality of their identities and how they all impact their abortion experience. Identities might include, but are not limited to: their race, ethnicity, or nationality; their sexuality, gender identity or expression; their religion; their class background, family, citizenship status, mental illness, disabilities, intimate partner violence, sexual assault or abuse, substance use; and their other pregnancy experiences. If a storyteller wants to talk about these identities as part of their story, they should not be censored. It’s part of who they are.

When preparing storytellers, advocates should offer to help storytellers hone their stories, speak in front of audiences or the media, or even assist in composing a tweet about the speak-out. Storytellers also wanted organizations to help them manage their privacy. Advocates should also ask what types of support the storyteller would like: security at events, monitoring their name on the Internet, using a pseudonym, handling media, or reporting incidents to authorities. Storytellers must know they are not alone, and that we have their backs. After sharing, storytellers often want additional information on ways to get involved. Advocates should continue engagement to harness their power for social change; storytellers are true assets to our community.

Abortion storytellers are crucial to culture change. Their work isn’t easy, yet it creates beautiful change. We believe that they deserve to have their stories honored and their work protected. We asked them what they needed—and they have spoken. It is our hope that the Saying Abortion Aloud data and set of recommendations will help facilitate the beginning of an ongoing conversation between advocates and storytellers.

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Ohio’s Extremist Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban Headed to House Floor

HB 248, which represents at least the second time Ohio has tried to pass a heartbeat ban, was pushed hastily to a vote in the House Health and Aging Committee.

An Ohio legislative committee on Thursday passed a bill that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. HB 248 was approved by the the House Health and Aging Committee with an 11-6 vote, and will now move to the house floor.

So-called heartbeat bans, which restrict abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, are some of the most extreme anti-abortion policies in the country. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant and several months before a fetus is considered viable—the cut-off set by Roe v. Wade in protecting access to abortion. So heartbeat bans essentially make the vast majority of abortions illegal.

Legal precedent for a similar ban shows that Ohio’s far-reaching abortion regulation—pushed by the most radical elements of the state’s GOP—likely won’t pass constitutional muster.

HB 248, which represents at least the second time Ohio has tried to pass a heartbeat ban, was pushed hastily to a vote in the house committee. The bill was added at the very last minute to the committee’s Thursday calendar and was scheduled for a quick vote. Republican state leaders also altered the committee members to make the committee more friendly to the extremist bill, replacing moderate Republicans expected to vote against HB 248 with those in favor of the legislation.

Ohio in 2011 became the first state to try and pass a fetal heartbeat ban when it introduced HB 125, but the bills have since gained popularity in state legislatures. Bills like HB 125 have been introduced in Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Even some anti-choice activists oppose heartbeat bans, which they consider extreme versions of the more popular 20-week abortion bans. The only state to successfully enact such a ban is North Dakota, but a federal judge in April permanently struck down the law, calling it “invalid and unconstitutional.”

Image: Shutterstock

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For Immigrants After Obama’s Executive Order, Mix of Joy, Sorrow, Determination

Juan Carlos Ramos gives an emotional speech to fellow immigrants and advocates about continuing the fight to protect his parents from deportation.

Read more of our coverage about the Obama administration and immigration reform here.

Dozens of immigrants and activists gathered at the Washington, D.C., offices of United We Dream on Thursday to hear what President Obama would say to the nation about their families and their community.

They already had some sense of what they would hear; the details of the plan had been released to advocates ahead of time.

They knew that Obama’s new executive order will give nearly five million immigrants a three-year reprieve from the daily fear of being deported and torn from their families.

They knew that those five million people would be able to apply for work permits and even get driver’s licenses, although they still wouldn’t qualify for the affordable health-care access that would lift more of them out of poverty and help their mothers care for their families.

They also knew that only some of their mothers, sisters, neighbors, and friends would be safe.

They had already made some emotional phone calls to people they knew: Good news, the president is going to announce something today that will change your life. Or, too often, I’m so sorry. We hoped for better, but your father won’t qualify after all.

Most of the newly protected immigrants, about four million, are the parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders.

Another 270,000 are so-called DREAMers who came to this country as children. The president will expand his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to people who are now over 30 and who came to the country between 2007 and 2010, but the cutoff age for having first crossed the border is still 16.

Those technical changes mean everything for Juan Carlos Ramos. He crossed the border with his brother in 2008, too late to qualify for DACA when it first came out in 2012.

He still volunteered to help sign people up as soon as he heard that the program existed, six days after his high school graduation. His activism meant constant painful small talk about whether he had applied for the program himself yet, but he was determined to help others achieve what he couldn’t.

Ramos, who was 15 when he came to the United States, now can finally sign up for the program himself. But his brother can’t; he was already 16 on the day they crossed the border.

Their parents can’t get relief either. Advocates had pushed hard for the parents of DREAMers to be included in the president’s action, but they didn’t make the cut.

The speech itself was more powerful and empathetic than some had expected. There was the usual boilerplate about people who break the laws needing to pay their taxes and get to the back of the line—a frustrating line of argument for many taxpaying undocumented immigrants who have had years-long bureaucratic headaches trying to apply for citizenship.

But Obama also made a strong moral case for doing what he can to help immigrants as long as Congress won’t. He appealed to scripture in saying, “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once too.” He challenged America to be a nation that values families, not one that “accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms.” He called for deporting “felons, not families; criminals, not children.”

It was a deeply affecting speech, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez told RH Reality Check. The part that really touched him, he said, was “when the president acknowledged that we exist. When the president acknowledged that we contribute. When the president said that our families should not be ripped apart, that we deserve dignity, that we deserve to stay in this country.”

After the speech concluded, the United We Dream watch party attendees put their arms around each other’s shoulders and erupted into a familiar chant from their days protesting in the streets or holding sit-ins in congressional offices.

I am! Somebody! And I deserve! Full equality! Right here! Right now!

But more of the aftermath was near-silence, punctuated by sniffles around the room as people wept, comforted each other, and listened to people tell their stories.

They talked about the fears they could now be free of, the fears they were still burdened by, the dreams they may never realize or the dreams they could finally pursue.

Ramos collapsed into tears talking about his parents, and the room filled with supportive snaps while he tried to regain his composure and a friend came up to comfort him.

“They have always been there for me,” he said finally. “And I know that I will continue fighting for them and for my brother, whoever needs it, no matter who we have to talk to, if I have to stay up late doing whatever work we need to do, but we’re going to do it.”

He also dreams of becoming an architect one day and building his parents’ house, he told RH Reality Check.

Beatriz Perez, a mother of four, told the crowd in Spanish how much she celebrated in 2012 when her two undocumented children qualified for deportation relief under DACA.

Now she has even more reason to celebrate; her other children are citizens, so now she can come out of the shadows.

“Thank God that it affects me, because I’ve been here for 21 years without being able to get a driver’s license or being able to walk down the street without being afraid,” she said.

It didn’t dawn on Elena Calderon at first that the new order meant her undocumented father was safe. She’s a DACA recipient and the youngest of five, and she actually forgot that her older brother had managed to become a citizen.

One of Calderon’s earliest memories is of her father carrying her across the border as a 3-year-old because she was too small to run, of crouching to hide from the border patrol while her mother held rosary beads and prayed.

Her father was the only member of her immediate family not to qualify for protection through legal status or DACA; now, finally, all his risk and sacrifice would mean something for him too.

Still, Calderon can’t stop thinking about the families who aren’t as fortunate as hers. “You want to celebrate, but at the same time you can’t stop thinking about everyone else who is being left out,” she said.

Emotions were both high and profoundly mixed in the room for this reason. Everyone had worked hard, everyone had struggled, everyone had seen the harms that the country’s broken immigration system had visited on their community. Only some of them would benefit personally.

But those who grieved for themselves or their families refused to let that grief overtake the joy of those who would finally be protected. They couldn’t. They had worked too hard, for the entire community and not just for themselves, and they knew there was still plenty of fight ahead.

Ray Jose, a 24-year-old undocumented immigrant and DACA recipient from the Philippines, has spent a lot of time away from his family over the last year or two because of his work with United We Dream. He told RH Reality Check that the executive order is a bittersweet victory for him since his parents still won’t qualify.

But the whole reason Jose’s family came to the United States, he said, was to help him and his sister pursue their dreams. He thought his dream would come through a college education, but campus activism with other undocumented youth set him on an unexpected path.

“My dad told me, ‘God has plans.’ And although he’s not included in this one right now, that he’s proud of me. He’s happy that I’m doing this work, because it’s what I’m meant to do,” Jose said.

Image: Dante Atkins

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Abortion Speak-Outs Can Combat Our Own Stigma Too

Thursday's live-streamed "one in three" speak-out made me realize that even as a staunch reproductive rights advocate, a clinic escort, and a feminist, I still have to battle my own internalized abortion stigma.

On Thursday, I spent six hours listening to individuals talk about their abortions via the 1 in 3 Campaign’s abortion speak-out. During the event, more than 100 people spoke about their experiences of obtaining an abortion, and the impact those decisions had on their lives. By hosting the first-ever live-streamed abortion speak-out, the campaign organizers had hoped to reach as wide of an audience as possible, and to disrupt the public shaming that, too often, surrounds the pursuit of what should be viewed as a standard medical procedure. For me, though, the speak-out had an additional consequence: It made me realize that even as a staunch reproductive rights advocate, a clinic escort, and a feminist, I still have to battle my own internalized abortion stigma.

Before last spring, I had never been to an abortion speak-out. In the past, when I’d had the opportunity to attend them at conferences or other events, I’d create excuses: I needed to save my energy, I had other plans, or I was just tired. Plus, I reasoned, there was no reason to go to an abortion speak-out, because I’d never had an abortion. I’d had few scares from late periods in college, but I knew that I would have an abortion without question if I turned out to be pregnant. Even in my late teens, I knew I didn’t want kids.

Finally, at last April’s Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference, I spoke with another attendee about why she was going to attend the abortion speak-out the first evening. She told me that as a volunteer at an abortion fund, she thought it was important to understand what the people who called the hotline were experiencing. Though I agreed to go with her, I still felt strange about it. My past pregnancy scares, while extremely frightening, were obviously not the same thing as actually having an abortion. I feared that I might be invading someone else’s safe space. Even worse, I was secretly afraid that, as I sat and listened, I would start judging people—that all the abortion stigma I’ve been fighting to resist throughout my adulthood would somehow bloom to the surface. What if I found myself thinking, She’s had how many abortions? Or, Why didn’t they use birth control? Seriously, how can you get accidentally pregnant twice? Why aren’t they being more careful?           

What I realized that night in the auditorium at CLPP was reaffirmed during Thursday’s speak-out: Those lingering questions—the examples of abortion stigma that so often contaminate our ability to relate to each other—are exactly why I, and everyone else who has not had an abortion, should be listening to people tell their abortion stories.

“The conversation around abortion is not nuanced,” said Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health Executive Director Yamani Hernandez during the speak-out. We’re told abortions are either “good” (white, college-educated, wealthy married woman who desperately wants a baby, only to find out that her pregnancy is rife with horrible fetal anomalies that will make the life of the child untenable) or “bad” (someone didn’t use birth control, or it failed and they just don’t want to be pregnant, or basically any other situation that doesn’t involve the situation I described above). Speak-outs make it clear that just like the decision to get an abortion, the circumstances behind obtaining one—faulty birth control methods, forgetting contraception, rape, reproductive coercion, bad relationships, non-ideal parenting situations, or just plain accidents—are neither an indicator of or a reflection on someone’s morality.

Therefore, although it is vitally important for women to have the opportunities to take control of their own first-person narratives around abortion, and for others to hear those stories, abortion speak-outs can also be about recognizing the common pressures put on all of us about our reproductive rights decisions and about our bodily autonomy, period. Of her abortion, artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez said, “It taught me I hadn’t developed the tools to really assess who I was sleeping with or how to negotiate what I wanted, and I didn’t have the lens to make those decisions.” Abortion stigma relies on shame. But for those of us who identify as women, there is also often shame around saying no to anything at all, as Rodriguez pointed out—about keeping space for oneself and making one’s own choices.

These moments when we recognize familiar elements of coercion or fear in each other’s stories is when stigma-busting happens. We know that society can exert these pressures on us in a variety of ways. Yet abortion stigma has jammed our listening frequencies.

Abortion speak-outs challenge us to stay in our seats, even when it’s hard, when we’re feeling disturbed or conflicted. Having a speak-out online, by the way, is genius: You can hide out in the privacy of your own home, or put in your headphones in the coffee shop with no one being the wiser. Or you can choose to watch it with friends, family, or your whole dorm, like students at Harvard and the University of Minnesota did on Thursday.

For some people, abortion storytelling can make us nervous, because we may have to confront the prejudices that we may still have despite our best intentions. But it’s highly necessary to have them—so we can remember how impossibly hard it can be to inhabit a body that others are intent on controlling, and so we can use the ensuing fury to advocate for everyone’s right to control themselves.

Image: Shutterstock

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House GOP Sues Obama, Could Make Health Care Pricier For Low-Income Americans

The lawsuit claims the administration abused its authority in delaying the implementation of a key portion of the Affordable Care Act.

The morning after President Obama announced he was taking executive action to reform immigration policy after years of Congressional inaction, House Republicans made good on months of threats and lawyer-shopping and sued the president, arguing he abused his office’s executive authority in taking some unilateral actions related to health insurance reform.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., names the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Treasury departments as defendants and accuses the administration of overstepping its constitutional authority concerning two important aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

First, House Republicans accuse the Obama administration in their complaint of unlawfully postponing until 2016 a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties.

The second focus of the lawsuit is a provision in health insurance reform law known as cost-sharing reductions, which are designed to alleviate out-of-pocket medical costs for people with lower incomes. That provision authorizes the Obama administration to pay health insurance companies to reduce the cost of deductibles and co-pays for people whose incomes range from the poverty threshold to 2.5 times that threshold. That works out to $11,670 to $29,175 in annual income for an individual.

The payments to health insurance companies are unlawful because no funds for the subsidies have been appropriated by Congress, according to the Republicans’ complaint.

Should House Republicans succeed in their challenge to the cost-sharing reductions, low-income Americans would not directly lose access to health care, because the Affordable Care Act still requires insurance companies to provide coverage.

But without the subsidy, insurers would likely raise costs elsewhere, making that coverage more expensive for low-income families. This is similar to the right-wing legal strategy at work in the lawsuit currently before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging subsidies on the federal insurance exchanges.

The Constitution does not directly authorize the kind of lawsuit filed by House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. Instead, a lawsuit must be approved via the legislative process, which House Republicans did in July.

According to the complaint, the legal authority for the lawsuit comes from that July 30th vote by the House of Representatives authorizing Boehner to do sue the administration.

The House vote in July only authorized the Speaker to sue the administration over alleged abuses of executive authority related to the Affordable Care Act, but according to reports, Boehner’s office said an additional vote for legal action related to Obama’s executive action on immigration is under consideration.

“Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and rewrite federal law on his own without a vote of Congress,” Boehner said in a statement. “If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed the lawsuit as more political theater from the House GOP.

“The fact is, this lawsuit is a bald-faced attempt to achieve what Republicans have been unable to achieve through the political process,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The legislative branch cannot sue simply because they disagree with the way a law passed by a different Congress has been implemented.”

“While the American people want Congress to get serious about creating good-paying jobs and strengthening the middle class, House Republicans are paying $500-an-hour in taxpayer money to sue the President of the United States,” Pelosi said.

Republicans first threatened to sue the administration over its implementation of the ACA last summer but had difficulty finding lawyers to take their case. Two law firms withdrew from the case, and it wasn’t until this week that Republicans were able to secure representation by Georgetown Law Professor and political pundit Jonathan Turley.

The administration has at least 60 days to file a response to the lawsuit.

Image: Shutterstock

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Fourteen Months and One Lawsuit Later, Cincinnati’s Last Abortion Clinic Will Stay Open

Cincinnati’s last abortion clinic will remain open for now after state health inspectors granted an exemption to an anti-choice state law that requires all abortion clinics to have a transfer agreement with local hospitals, but also bans public hospitals from entering into those agreements with providers.

Cincinnati’s last abortion clinic will remain open for now after state health inspectors granted an exemption to an anti-choice state law that requires all abortion clinics to have a transfer agreement with local hospitals, but also bans public hospitals from entering into those agreements with providers.

The Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center, operated by Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio (PPSWO), had a long-standing transfer agreement with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (UCMC). But after lawmakers enacted the public hospital transfer ban, UCMC rescinded that agreement.

PPSWO spent the next 14 months trying to secure a transfer agreement with area private hospitals and pursued a “variance” from the state requirement. (Under Ohio law, the director of the state health department has the authority to accept a clinic’s emergency plan for caring for patients in the event of an abortion-related complication in lieu of a private transfer agreement with a hospital, called granting a variance.)

Efforts to secure a private transfer agreement failed as area hospitals, many of them Catholic institutions with a stated opposition to cooperating in the delivery of abortion services, either rejected or ignored its requests.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Board of Health, the agency in charge of implementing the regulations, also ignored PPSWO’s request for a variance. Then in October, the Ohio Department of Health cited PPSWO for its lack of compliance and threatened to revoke the clinic’s license.

Facing threatened closure, attorneys representing the clinic sued to block enforcement of the law, arguing it unconstitutionally targets abortion clinics for closure. The law has closed one clinic in the state, in Sharonville, when it was unable to secure a private transfer agreement and its request for a variance was denied.

PPSWO’s closure would have made Cincinnati, with a population of more than two million people, the largest metro area without a single abortion clinic.

On Thursday, Richard Hodges, director of the Ohio Department of Health, granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a variance. Instead of a transfer agreement with a private hospital, Planned Parenthood has agreements in place with four area doctors who have agreed to accept and care for patients at local hospitals in the event of an emergency.

“This ruling will ensure that women in Southwest Ohio continue to have access to safe and legal abortion,” said Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio.

Attorneys for the clinic will dismiss its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the public hospital transfer ban since its clinic license is no longer at risk.

“It is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood had to wait over 14 months and then file suit before receiving this decision but it is good to have this problem behind us,” attorney Al Gerhardstein said in a statement following the decision.

Under Ohio law, Hodges’ decision to grant the variance could be revoked at any time and for any reason.

Image: Shutterstock

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This Week in Sex: Chicago Parents Worried About Sex Ed, New Research on First-Date Sex

This week, a presentation in Chicago had parents worried about what their kids might learn in sex ed class, and research shows that women with more male friends have more sex with their committed partners than their peers.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Sex Ed Presentation Worries Chicago Parents

The contents of a meeting last week for parents of fifth- and sixth-grade students at Andrew Jackson Language Academy made headlines when a slide presentation suggested that the students would learn more than might be required about female condoms and lube. One slide, entitled “Feel-Good Reasons to Use FCs,” noted that female condoms could prolong sex and help both partners “feel the heat.” It also explained that female condoms could be used for safe anal sex as well.

Though parents at the elite charter school support sex education, some told local media that they thought this went too far. Rachel Giglotti told a Chicago NBC station, “It definitely gets to an inappropriate level, things I wouldn’t even discuss in my own personal life. Sex with a condom, sex without a condom, sex with lube—things that no sixth grader should ever be exposed to.” The slides also detailed other contraceptive methods and provided information about sex toys.

The school is part of the Chicago Public School system, which in 2013 adopted a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum starting in kindergarten. The meeting was held to explain what students would be learning. But, it turns out this presentation was never intended for students or their parents. District spokesperson Bill McCaffrey said in a statement, “The objectionable material presented at Andrew Jackson Language Academy this week is not and never was part of the student sexual education curriculum. It was mistakenly downloaded and included in the parent presentation, and we agree with parents it is not appropriate for elementary school students.”

Women With More Male Friends Have More Sex—But Why?

New research shows that women with more male friends have more sex, but that’s not because they’re sleeping with their buddies.

The study, published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, finds that heterosexual women with more male friends have more sex with their committed partners than those in monogamous relationships who have fewer male friends. The researchers suggest that this has to do with the evolutionary concept of sperm competition. A man who thinks he has competition for his partner’s affection will try all that much harder to inseminate her. Though jealousy plays a role, the researchers believe it stems from men’s subconscious drive to produce the most offspring.

They tested this theory by recruiting 393 men in committed, heterosexual relationships. Researchers asked the men how many times they’d had sex with their partner in the past week. They then asked each man to rate his partner’s physical and sexual attractiveness and list how many male friends and co-workers she had. The researchers found that those women who had more interactions with other men had more sex.

The researchers attributed this finding to sperm competition and said it was exactly what they had expected. Todd K. Shackelford, chair of the psychology department at Oakland University and a co-author of the study, told the Huffington Post:

The reason we specifically predicted this is because there’s a huge amount of nonhuman literature showing that male animals, for example mice or rats, become very interested in having sex with their partner when they see their partner interacting with other males. They don’t even have to see them having sex with other males. It’s just the presence.

Of course, Shackelford admits that in the case of complicated humans, there could be other things going on as well. For example a man who is worried that his partner might leave him because she has other options might initiate sex with her more often in an attempt to keep her satisfied. Moreover, this study did not ask which partner initiated the sex, and if the female partner was the one to get it going, it can’t be attributed to sperm competition.

Sex on the First Date: Not That Common

A new survey by the website DatingAdvice.com finds that despite all of our talk of hook-up cultures and the end of courting rituals, the majority of Americans have never had sex on the first date.

According the survey of 1,080 people—which, to be clear, is not a peer-reviewed study, and may not be nationally representative—two in three Americans have not gone all the way on the first night. That’s right, 54 percent of men and 77 percent of women say they’ve never had first-date sex. In the survey, 67 percent of heterosexual individuals said they have never had first-date sex, compared to 39 percent of those respondents who identify as homosexual.

Though we most associate hook-up cultures with young people of college age, it’s interesting to note that 78 percent of people between the age of 18 and 24 had said they’d never had first-date sex, which is pretty similar to those in the 65-and-over age group (75 percent). All other age groups hovered around the 60 percent mark, which means that whatever their age, most people may be waiting at least for a second run at dinner and a movie.

Image: Talk sex via Shutterstock

The post This Week in Sex: Chicago Parents Worried About Sex Ed, New Research on First-Date Sex appeared first on RH Reality Check.


Gary L Francione's picture

“Philosophy Bites” Audio Interview on Abolition Published

The 2012 audio interview I did on Philosophy Bites at the University of London has been published by Oxford University Press in Philosophy Bites Again.

ScreenHunter_652 Nov. 21 07.05

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If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

The post “Philosophy Bites” Audio Interview on Abolition Published appeared first on Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.

Related posts:

  1. My Interview On Philosophy Bites
  2. Interview on Brian Oxman Show
  3. Video of Rutgers Conference: “Animal Ethics: Abolition, Regulation, or Citizenship?”
  4. CNN Interview on The Andre Robinson/King Case
  5. Interview on Veganism/Abolition in The Vegan

RH Reality Check's picture

The Austin Police Department Needs an Attitude Adjustment, Stat

The Austin police chief's response to two officers that cracked rape jokes—implying that "their heart[s] were in the right place"—is just the latest demonstration of a department culture that appears to be uninterested in addressing the needs of the city's most marginalized citizens.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo’s Twitter page features a banner photo of the uniformed chief grinning next to a patrol vehicle decked out for breast cancer awareness. It’s a nice little picture, one that sends a PR message about a police chief who apparently—judging by his proximity to a pink vehicle, at least—cares about women. But the way Acevedo handled a recent incident involving his own officers mocking rape survivors, combined with a past history of being investigated for sexually harassing a co-worker, seems to indicate otherwise.

The background: In October, an Austin lawyer obtained a dashboard camera recording that shows two officers, Mark Lyttle and Michael Castillo, making derisive remarks about people who report their rapes. The tape was made in May.

“Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t unrape you,” Lyttle, an 11-year Austin Police Department veteran, was recorded as saying.

Then, Castillo, who has worked for the APD for three years, laughed on tape, agreed with him—”Hahahahaha, yeah, exactly!”—and belatedly wondered if they remembered to turn off their dash-cam.

This week, a month after the video went public, Chief Acevedo announced that he would suspend Lyttle and Castillo without pay for five and three days, respectively. What’s more, he promised to send them to “sensitivity training.”

During the announcement, Acevedo tried to downplay his officers’ behavior, suggesting that their “heart[s] might be in the right place,” and that their remarks “may be a coping mechanism.”

With responses like these, is it any wonder that survivors of rape and sexual assault aren’t exactly clamoring to file police reports?

Now, I understand gallows humor, and I understand the need for coping mechanisms. Sometimes humans have to laugh to keep from crying. That is about feeling powerless to stop awful, inevitable thing, and coping with that powerlessness by throwing laughter at it. That is not what happened here.

These cops, and cops in general, are not powerless to do anything about rape. In fact, they’re in a unique position to do much, much more than many members of the public to address the problem of rape and to combat rape culture writ large. They can do this by believing assault survivors, taking their stories seriously, and conducting thorough investigations of accused rapists.

Instead, these two officers’ “jokes”—which also included laughing about blowing a “rape whistle” at a female passerby—are, at their core, not about feeling powerless to help a rape survivor. They’re about these individuals’ own disinclination to take rape seriously, and their evident belief that “unraping” someone is the only possible way to address assault.

This attitude isn’t a “joke” at any time. But it’s especially egregious when it’s held by two law enforcement officials who could be called upon to respond to a sexual assault on any given day—well, except for the whole five days that Lyttle will be off work, or the three that Castillo won’t be out on patrol.

These measly suspensions are a shallow half-measure that, at best, addresses a particularly public incident of willful police incompetence and sets the department—and Austin—up for more incidents like this in the future. Acevedo himself called the incident “embarrassing.” But according to media reports, Acevedo’s own attitude toward women has a less than stellar history. Ten years ago, Acevedo was investigated in California for sexually harassing a fellow California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer, with whom he’d had an alleged relationship in the 1990s.

As reported in the LA Times, the CHP officer in question said that Acevedo passed around nude Polaroid photos taken of her during their relationship, showing them to “high-ranking” CHP officials and storing them in his patrol vehicle. The officer said she hadn’t even known that Acevedo had been allegedly showing the photos to their co-workers until CHP internal affairs investigators approached her about them.

The LA Times piece quoted the officer as saying in the claim that she felt her “reputation has been irreparably tarnished,” and that her “career as a CHP officer is essentially over.”

The officer was granted a state disability claim as a result of “stress injury” from the sexual harassment investigation. At the time of the investigation, Acevedo cast the harassment claims as a smear campaign intended to derail his attempts to become CHP commissioner.

Now, he is the highest-ranking police official in Austin, Texas, presiding over a department that has repeatedly been shown to employ aggressive officers who disproportionately use lethal force against Austinites of color, particularly Black Austinites.

Even so, Acevedo has shown a real desire to raise the police department’s public profile over the last seven years since his installation as Austin’s top cop. He’s active on Twitter, where he lists his official APD email address in his profile. He makes frequent public appearances, and he has been lauded for occasionally going out on patrol instead of sitting behind a desk. But for a police chief who seems interested in smoothing out the public image of his department, Acevedo also has a real tendency to put his foot in his mouth. Earlier this year, Acevedo defended four cops who were caught on video aggressively detaining a jogger for jaywalking by effectively saying that it could have been worse, because at least they didn’t rape her.

And when I tweeted at Acevedo earlier this month to ask him about his handling of the cops from the dash camera video, he actually thanked me for not interrupting his day making appearances at the local Formula One track with pesky questions about police officers and rape jokes.

None of this—Acevedo’s preoccupation with fluffy public relations appearances, the California sexual harassment investigation, the “at least they didn’t rape her” attitude, the running tradition of APD police brutality, or the paltry suspensions for Lyttle and Castillo—leads me to believe that Acevedo is invested in changing a department culture that appears to be uninterested in addressing the needs of the Austin public, and the city’s most marginalized and potentially vulnerable citizens.

And with the most recent incidents with Lyttle and Castillo in mind, it would be encouraging to hear Acevedo instead talk about implementing long-term department-wide training as a move toward changing the institutional norms that allowed them to believe they could get away with this kind of thinking in the first place.

Perhaps such training could involve local activists and educators who work against sexual assault. And Chief Acevedo himself should absolutely be in attendance. In the front row. Whether or not any news cameras show up.

Image: Shutterstock

The post The Austin Police Department Needs an Attitude Adjustment, Stat appeared first on RH Reality Check.


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