August 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
This is a guest post by Dr. Jim Kenley, the former Commissioner of Health in Virginia from 1976 — 1986. Thanks to Dr. Kenley and also to Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.
A few weeks ago, a disturbing situation arose in Kansas that brought the state perilously close to banning abortion within its borders. The legislature, with the governor’s support, enacted a new licensing and regulatory law that resulted in the creation of “emergency” regulations giving abortion providers just a few days to comply with impossible and medically unnecessary requirements.
These regulations, which demanded precise sizes for janitorial closets, no-variance room temperatures, and other ridiculous requirements, were purportedly established to protect the health and safety of women, but in truth had one and only one purpose: to shut down the three existing abortion facilities in the state.
Fortunately, a federal judge temporarily enjoined the new regulations, and all three clinics in Kansas are still able to provide services, at least for now.
The situation in Kansas should serve as a warning to Virginians. Our General Assembly passed its own regulatory law this spring motivated by the same anti-choice agenda that spurred the foolishness in Kansas. And now Governor Robert McDonnell is forcing the Board of Health to adopt new regulations in an unprovoked “emergency” process that bypasses the normal public notice and comment periods for changes in state regulations, and reduces opportunities for input from the trained professionals at the state agencies who know the most about the issues at hand.
As a retired doctor and former health commissioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am deeply concerned about these developments, because I fear that we, like Kansas, are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s health in a way that could have devastating effects.
Although I never performed an abortion, when I was a young physician in Cincinnati and Atlanta in the 1950s, I helped women who needed emergency medical care following either self-performed or “back alley” abortions. Later, in practice, one memorable case was a mature, educated mother of two whose spouse had recently survived a brain hemorrhage. Pregnant some 20 years before the Supreme Court legalized abortions and with nowhere to turn, she desperately tried to self-abort with a hat pin.
In the middle of the night, I was called to her house where I found her in excruciating pain suffering from severe chills and a fever of 105 degrees. After telling me what she had done, I rushed her to the hospital where she received emergency medical treatment that thankfully saved her life.
In September, the Virginia Board of Health will propose emergency regulations to require abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards of care, even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available in this country and is already heavily controlled by state and federal regulations.
To be certain, supporters of these new regulations will claim that elevating abortion providers to mini-hospitals by forcing them to make costly architectural upgrades will somehow protect women’s health and safety. Women definitely deserve the highest standard of medical care especially when it comes to reproductive healthcare. But women in Virginia are already receiving abortion care at the highest standard, and medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations will only serve to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services and further marginalize young, low-income, uninsured and minority women by decreasing their health care options.
Early abortion care is already difficult to access in the Commonwealth, with 86% of Virginia’s counties lacking any abortion providers at all. The new regulations could make abortions both harder to get and more expensive, possibly taking us back to something akin to that time I recall with such great dismay, when every abortion was a health risk.
That’s why I hope my fellow medical professionals with the Board of Health will not bow to political pressure or rhetoric from special interest groups. Women in Virginia are already receiving outstanding abortion care, so there is no need for medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations that will not only reduce access to abortion for all women, but especially for existing marginalized women.
There are additional consequences of fewer providers and more expensive abortion services as a result of overregulation. Virginia abortion providers also offer an array of reproductive healthcare services to women as well as men, including life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment and pre and post-natal care. These critical health services could be reduced or eliminated altogether.
As the former Commissioner of Health under four governors, I urge the members of the Virginia Department of Health and the Board of Health to adhere to their charge — to protect the public health and safety of the people of the Commonwealth by adopting only those regulations that are medically appropriate, and based in science.
If they do, they will show us that on important matters involving constitutional rights and health care, Virginia can rise above politics. We can be better than Kansas.
February 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
(Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault.)
If you’ve been spending any time on the feminist Internet lately, you’ve likely read about HR3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Besides codifying the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits almost all federal funding for abortion and vastly limits the access of low-income women to this procedure, the bill would all but remove the current exceptions for rape and incest. Even more problematically, it does so by redefining the only “acceptable” rape as “forcible” rape, something which would effectively bar the majority of rape survivors from receiving help aborting their rapist’s child.
When we talk about the “pro-rape lobby,” this is what we mean. It’s not enough for women who have been raped by a partner, acquaintance, or even stranger in a way that doesn’t comply with this laughably limited definition of rape (while, say, unconscious, drugged, or held down by someone much stronger) to be told that they should have fought back harder, should have watched their drink better, shouldn’t have gone out at all or let their guard down around their closest friends. It’s now going to be enshrined in law. I didn’t think there could be anything more outright evil than denying medical procedures to survivors of sexual assault, but this is almost it: They’re effectively telling people that they do provide funds for survivors, but you weren’t raped.
There are a lot of other reasons why this bill is terrible, many of which have been laid out over at Tiger Beatdown, where Sady is running her wonderful #DearJohn campaign. So what do we do about it now?
Really, in a liberal democracy, there are about four things we can do. The first, obviously, is vote. The nearest election might not be near enough, however, and since this is a blog for young feminists, many of us can’t vote, or at least can’t vote yet. So what do we do? The other three things.
The second is to contact your elected officials. If you’re in the US, find your representative and write them. Call them. Do both. Don’t threaten — we’re better than that. Just explain why the bill hurts women and rape survivors, and why the issue matters to you. Even if you can’t vote yet, let them know that you will be in the closest election.
The third is to make yourself heard. Minority groups like the Tea Party can dominate the national discussion through violent rhetoric and hate — but we can amplify our own voices as well. Follow this guide to joining the #DearJohn campaign — it’s a first step to aggregating the opinions of all the people against HR3. Find your local newspaper and write a letter to the editor — a real, physical letter. If you have access to readers through a blog, post on it. Most importantly, talk to the people you know about the resolution. You don’t have to start an argument or take on a group of people you know are vehemently anti-choice (unless you want to), but make sure that even the pro-choice people you know are aware of the implications of the resolution and why they should be against it.
The last is to consider donating some money to a pro-choice campaign or access fund. Even if we win on this, there are still many women who desperately want abortions — but can’t get the money for them. Try searching for your state’s abortion access fund — many, including DC and New York, have them. Donate to Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Even if you can’t give much, every little bit can help someone in need.
October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
Trigger Warning for slogans promoting rape and assault.
Members of the Yale Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity have come under fire after members chanted slogans such as “No means Yes” and “Yes means Anal” in a video that went viral. While Yale is keeping quiet about what disciplinary actions the institution may take, the Yale Chapter of DKE is banned from doing any more pledge activities.
I am glad that the Yale DKE has been disciplined by the governing body of the fraternity, but I’m still annoyed that this shit happened in the first place. What I do worry about are the many students who are involved in Greek life, who are smart, judicious, and care about community, who aren’t heard of because “Fraternities/Sororities Gone Bad” stories are all we hear in the media.
I have friends who are involved in fraternities an sororities that defy the stereotypes we have about Greek life. My friend Max is in a fraternity, doesn’t wear popped-collar pink polo shirts, doesn’t treat women like disposable blow-up dolls, and is very active in community events, when he’s not working for the local radio station as a sports reporter. My friends in Kappa Alpha Theta and Chi Omega sororities perform annual blood drives, hold fundraisers benefiting charities that help survivors of domestic violence, and can be seen in T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans, rather than anything from the infamous Pi Phi rush dress code.
I think it’s wrong to say “Oh, you’re in a fraternity/sorority? Okay, you’re so not feminist”. I think it’s wrong when Greek organizations permit disgusting behavior, like vandalism, classism in the form of demanding that all pledges wear Tory Burch flats, or perpetuation of rape culture. I think the hubbub around this case is a good opportunity for Greek organizations to come forward, condemn this behavior, and do things that promote them in a positive way, such as partnering with organizations like the Great American Condom Campaign, Men Can Stop Rape, Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and so on and so forth.
People do look up to Greek organizations, so if they set a good example about safer sex, what consent really means, promoting equal rights, etc, others just might follow suit.
As a side note, once Yale resolves this current controversy with the fraternity, I’d like them to continue on a more pressing issue: Actually providing scholarships to their graduate students. Come on Yale, you have more money than God. It’s wouldn’t’ kill you to spend some of it on your students.
October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
by KATIE E.
Via The Vancouver Sun.
I’m not going to lie and say that this is a huge step in the right direction. It may help some get jobs, but it does little to help the huge population of homeless people who simply can’t work due to disability, kyriarchal discrimination, trying to care for children or other family members, etc.
It will not directly provide food or shelter, and as Cara of The Curvature put so eloquently the other day, “the corollary to this belief is that people with homes deserve to have them — and those without homes must have done something to make them undeserving of such a basic right as housing.” People should have a roof over their head because that’s a basic human right, not because they have a job or are searching for one.
However, I’m sure many homeless people who are capable of working and can’t find a job due to classist requirements will appreciate this. I don’t live under a rock-classism is classism, and it will still happen-but an I.D. is something many businesses require, and this small step will make a difference for at least a few homeless people who wouldn’t have received the opportunity otherwise.
We actively shame homeless people everyday for not having jobs, but we make it nearly impossible on those that are capable and willing to work to do so. I applaud the Alberta government for taking this step, and I hope they will take bigger measures soon.
The article also mentions that this is part of a ten year plan to end homelessness. I would be extremely curious to hear opinions on the plan overall, especially from any people from Alberta who’ve experienced poverty and/or classism.
September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment
by KATIE E.
Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.
Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans, non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?
None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.
You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?
Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.
The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.