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Africa's population will reach four billion by 2100, according to a report released by UNICEF early this week. As the population grows, more investment in maternal health and family planning resources will be needed to ensure women's reproductive health.
The authors of the report, titled Generation 2030 Africa, predict 1.8 billion births will occur in Africa over the next 35 years. By 2050, children born in Africa will make up 40 percent of children under 18 worldwide, and the number of women of reproductive age will double in the next 35 years.
Although fertility rates have fallen in Africa, an average of 5.2 children are still born to each African woman, far outpacing the rates for other regions. This high rate may be partially attributed to lack of access to family planning resources. In Cameroon, close to two-thirds of women have an unmet need for contraception. They cite several reasons for not using contraception, including the lack of adequately trained health care providers, frequent unavailability of contraceptive supplies, and limited choice of methods. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Democratic Health Survey found that only 9.8 percent of Nigerian women use family planning, while 16.1 percent have an unmet need for family planning services. Additionally, Africa has a high child mortality rate, with one out of every 11 African child dying by age five.
"We want to see African leaders... make the correct and right investments in children that are needed to build a skilled, dynamic African labor force that's productive and can grow, and can add value to the economy," said lead author David Anthony in an interview with NPR.
At the recent 2014 US-Africa White House Leaders Summit, President Obama and other speakers also emphasized the need to address the status of women and girls across the African continent. In addition to public and private commitments of up to $33 billion for trade and investment, the United States called on leaders of the African continent to make a considerable investment in advancing the status of women and girls, which would potentially help reduce the maternal mortality and population growth rate.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $92 million project to improve the higher education system in Afghanistan last week.
The University Support and Workforce Development Project (USWDP) represents a five-year plan between USAID and the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) and Ministry of Economy to improve Afghanistan's educational programs according to international standards. The USWDP will encompass faculty and student training sessions, curriculum changes, management changes at MoHE, and efforts to improve access to higher education in the region.
This represents a milestone in improving the higher education system in Afghanistan, Minister of Higher Education Obaidullah Obaid said in the press release announcing the partnership.
Since the fall of the Taliban, women and girls in Afghanistan have seen unprecedented access to educational opportunities thanks to the work of activists in Afghanistan and abroad and the support of the US government. "Thirteen years back - during the dark era of the Taliban - it was merely a dream for Shora Qadiri and other girls to go to school," Feminist Majority Foundation Global Issues Associate Fatema Syed wrote on the FMF blog in May. "But now, after the collapse of the Taliban regime and with the help of the international community, Afghan girls are once again attending school, at the primary secondary, and university levels, and they are proving that if given opportunities, they can thrive."
USAID has already contributed $1.1 billion to the improvement of Afghanistan's education. In July, the agency announced "Promote," a five-year program seeking to educate, promote, and train women between 18 and 30 in the region. Previously, the agency launched a program aimed at increasing literacy for Afghan women and girls called Afghanistan Reads that established community libraries and opened up literacy classes for 840 women.
Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights joined a federal lawsuit challenging a Louisiana TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law set to take effect September 1.
The suit, filed on behalf of health care workers in Baton Rouge, seeks an injunction against Louisiana HB 388, which requires abortion providers in the state to obtain local hospital admitting privileges. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed HB 388 into law in June. In the written complaint, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the law makes an impossible demand since hospitals will not be able to respond to providers about admitting privileges before the law takes effect.
"Although all of Clinic Plaintiff's physicians who do not have admitting privileges have applied for such privileges at a local hospital, there is not enough time for the hospitals to consider and decide the submitted applications before the Act takes effect," the complaint reads. "The process of applying for privileges and receiving a decision from a hospital on such an application can and generally does take months."
HB 388 will effectively close any clinics located in rural areas or other neighborhoods without a hospital located within 30 mile, and also instated a 24-hour waiting period on surgical abortions. The law was modeled after a similar law in Texas which has decimated clinic access across the state.
Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, reiterated widely shared frustration about the function of the law in a statement released Friday. "Leading national medical associations oppose admitting privileges requirements and federal courts nationwide have blocked them, recognizing them as the underhanded attempts to ban abortion that they really are," Northrup said. "Louisiana is the latest state to advance the unconstitutional objective of denying women safe, legal abortion care under the phony pretext of protecting their health."
Attorneys for Hope Medical Group for Women, Causeway Medical Clinic, and Bossier City Medical Suite are named as plaintiffs in the suit. If the law goes forward, the Center for Reproductive Rights said three of the five clinics in the state would be forced to stop providing abortion services or close altogether.
Two Catholic universities in California will no longer be allowed to exclude abortion coverage from their health insurance plans, according to a decision from the state;s Department of Managed Health Care.
The state of California had previously decided to allow the insurance companies for Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara universities to deny abortion coverage, except in cases where it was needed to save a woman's life or health. On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown's Department of Managed Health Care reversed the decision, citing a 1975 state law requiring group health plans to cover all basic services, and sent letters to the insurance companies to inform them of the change.
"Abortion is a basic health care service," said the department's director, Michelle Rouillard, in the letter. "The California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally."
The universities employ around 1,000 people each. Faculty groups at both universities protested the exclusion of abortion coverage.
Other religious colleges have tried to cut abortion and contraceptive coverage as well by challenging the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires health insurance providers to cover preventive health services including all FDA-approved contraceptives, such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs without charging co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance. In July, a majority of the US Supreme Court granted a temporary emergency injunction to Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois, ruling that the school does not have to comply with the ACA contraceptive coverage benefit.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Advocates for Youth (Advocates), Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), and Planned Parenthood Generation (PPGen), a project of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, are joining forces for an exciting new national civil engagement campaign - the 2014 Youth ShowOUT!
In 2014, young voters will do more than just turn out - they will ShowOUT! Youth leaders are educating their peers, registering voters, participating in voter pledge drives, volunteering, and more. Young people are at the helm of lasting change in our country. They are taking charge and becoming part of the political process.
"The Feminist Majority Foundation is proud to join Youth ShowOUT," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "Young women have much at stake in this election - access to abortion, birth control and comprehensive health insurance, pay equity, ending violence against women, comprehensive immigration reform, and equal rights. Our organizers on college campuses throughout the country will help to ensure that student votes are not suppressed and that young women and people of color, who have been traditionally targeted for suppression, are heard at the ballot box."
"No person in our country should face barriers in accessing health care, exercising their right to vote, marrying the person they love, or pursuing other fundamental rights," said Kelley Robinson, Assistant Director of Youth Organizing, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Planned Parenthood Generation is a movement of young people across identities and issues that advocates for their generation to change the world. We must work together and strive to develop strong leaders with the spirit and determination to move our country forward and show that we are a nation committed to fighting for and preserving equality for all."
"Young people are an essential component of the rising electorate. Every day, nearly 12,000 young people turn 18 years old and become eligible to vote," said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth. "At Advocates for Youth, we know firsthand the power of young people is undeniable. There are tens of thousands of youth activists and leaders who are actively reshaping their communities and changing what politics looks like in this country. We have a responsibility to work alongside these young people as they lead us to new solutions and lasting change."
More information is available at YouthShowOut.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Taylor Kuether, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-522-2214
The Moral Mondays movement, which consists of weekly protests in North Carolina against the state legislature's far-right policies, has announced a Moral Week of Action from August 22 to 28 that will take place in 11 additional states. Now, faith, labor, and social justice activists in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin will be holding protests of their own.
Moral Mondays protests have been taking place in Raleigh for almost 70 consecutive weeks. At the helm of the movement is Reverend William Barber, who preaches in advocacy of progressive ideas and has called for "a moral fusion movement" to push back against policies that harm vulnerable or otherwise underprivileged communities, often in the name of religion. The Moral Mondays movements protest issues ranging from union-busting to infringement on reproductive rights to cuts in social spending.
During the Moral Week of Action, protests will take place every day outside the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh. Each day, those protest center on a different issue. Today was "Youth Moral Monday," and on August 26, the activists will focus on women's rights to commemorate Women's Equality Day. On Thursday, August 28, voting rights will take the stage to coincide with the 51st anniversary of the March on Washington. Other participating states are holding daily rallies, and some are also hosting larger one-day events throughout the week.
Events are available via livestream. HKonJ People's Assembly Coalition has more information about the Moral Week of Action and the events around the country.
The Greater Cincinnati, Ohio area will lose one of its abortion providers today when the Lebanon Road Surgery Center closes its doors. The clinic closure is another loss for Ohio women whose access to comprehensive reproductive care has been limited by a 2013 TRAP law.
The Lebanon Road Surgery Center in Sharonville, Ohio once provided 2,000 abortions a year. When it is forced to shut down today, it will leave just two clinics in southwest Ohio and a total of nine clinics in the entire state.
Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) signed into law new state rules prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from having patient transfer agreements with abortion clinics, while at the same time upholding an existing Ohio law that requires clinics to have patient transfer agreements. The Lebanon Road Surgery Center had operated through a variance to the rule, but its variance was denied in 2012 and the state ordered the clinic's closure. The Sharonville center had until this week to file an appeal. Dorothea Langsam, an attorney and spokesperson for the clinic, said the cost of litigation became too much.
The two remaining clinics in southwest Ohio are also in jeopardy. Both clinics applied to the Ohio Department of Health more than a year ago for the same variance that was denied Lebanon Road. The clinics are still awaiting a decision.
Under Kasich's Administration, there have been four clinic closures, more than any other governor in the last 14 years, according to the Dayton Daily News. Kasich has also cut $2 million in family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and redirected those funds to misleading crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).
"Gov. (John) Kasich ran and won by promising jobs," Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said. "Once he got elected, he didn't talk about jobs. He talked about controlling a woman's uterus."
The US Supreme Court granted a request Wednesday to stay a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturning Virginia's marriage equality ban. The appeals court decision - finding the ban unconstitutional - would have allowed same-sex couples to start getting married this week in Virginia.
"Loving couples and families should not have to endure yet another standstill before their commitment to one another is recognized here in Virginia," said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia.
The Supreme Court's decision means that Virginia is also not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state.
Lambda Legal, which filed one of the lawsuits that led to the Fourth Circuit decision, vowed to "do everything in our power to make sure this issue is decided as quickly as possible" by the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued a similar stay on same-sex marriages in Utah last January.
Same-sex couples currently have the right to marry in 19 states and in Washington, D.C., and there are lawsuits on the matter pending in all remaining states. Virginia's attorney general, Mark R. Herring, refuses to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban and is pushing to have the Supreme Court review the case.
In a news conference in Richmond, Virginia, when the Fourth Circuit decision was announced, Herring said, Sometimes battles have been fought in the legislature, sometimes in the courtroom, sometimes even in the streets, but inevitably no effort to restrict the rights or limit the opportunities of our fellow Americans has ever succeeded in the long term.
The Fourth Circuit includes North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
According to a recent study, men who request flexible work schedules are advantaged over women who make the same requests.
In the study by Dr. Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in South Carolina, a sample of 646 people between the ages of 18 and 65 living in the United States were asked to read a transcript of a fabricated conversation between an employee and human resources person. During the conversation, the employee either requested flexible work hours or to work from home a few days per week or did not make a request. Participants were then asked how likely they would be to grant the request and to evaluate the employees on their likeability, commitment, dependability, and dedication.
What Dr. Munsch found was a "fatherhood bonus" for men who requested flexible work schedules in order to fulfill child care obligations.
About 70 percent of the participants who read a transcript with a male employee said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to approve his request when it was for child care reasons, compared to only 56.7 percent of those who read the same transcript with a female employee. About 24 percent found the man to be "extremely likeable" compared to only three percent who found the woman "extremely likeable." Interestingly, only 2.7 percent found the man to be "not at all" or "not very committed," while 15.5 percent found the woman to be "not at all" or "not very committed."
"These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work," explained Dr. Munsch. "Today, we think of women's responsibilities as including paid labor and domestic obligations, but we still regard breadwinning as men's primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks."
Whereas men are rewarded at work for trying to help out at home, women continue to be penalized. The reason? Entrenched gender stereotypes. People continue to believe that men will meet their obligations at work - because they are men. In other words, according to Dr. Munsch, "We think, What a great guy."
"For a mother, we think there's no way she can work at home effectively. This goes back to our expectation that motherhood is intensive and that being a mother should be a woman's number one priority, Munsch told the Washington Post. So if she's working flexibly at home, we expect that she'll be putting puzzles together with her kids or taking them to the park. We think, How could she possibly get her work done? But with a man, we think he'll just plop his kids in front of the TV and get the job done.
Dr. Munsch's study suggests that flexible work schedules - on their own - are not enough to counter gender inequality in the workplace. Without oversight into how these policies are implemented, they may serve to promote gender inequity.
A joint study by three major women's health advocacy groups calls attention to the overwhelming disparity in health outcomes for women of color in the United States. The results of the study are now under the consideration of the United Nations.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) released the report last week during the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's (CERD Committee) review of the United States in Geneva, Switzerland. The study found that African-American women are four times as likely to die in childbirth as their white counterparts. The data reflect that the problem is particularly astute in the US south. Citing the World Health Organization, the groups said the maternal mortality in the United States actually increased in the period between 1990 and 2013, doubling the mortality rate in Saudi Arabia, and tripling the United Kingdom.
Women without US citizenship were also three times less likely to have private or public health insurance, resulting in minimal to no access to comprehensive reproductive health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) preserved a 1996 restriction requiring non-citizens to wait five years before enrolling in Medicaid, with many still barred after obtaining lawful status. The study reported that even private exchanges are off-limits to undocumented persons under the ACA. The organizations detailed how racial discrimination at the level of policy and implementation undermine women of color and migrant women's fundamental human right to health.
The groups applauded the passage of the ACA and the domestic movement to expand Medicaid as steps in the right direction, but noted the strong political resistance even to these policy efforts.
"For too long, these women, their families, and their communities have been shut out of this country's health care system," said Angela Hooton, the state policy and advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "A woman's race or immigration status should never determine whether she will survive childbirth or access critical cancer treatments," Hooton continued. "The United Nations must hold the US government accountable for these grave injustices."
The UN CERD Committee is an independent body of experts that monitors participating countries' implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In 2008, the committee "expressed concern about persistent disparities in sexual and reproductive health" and called on the US to "increase efforts to expand health insurance coverage, facilitate access to maternal health care and family planning, and improve sexuality education and information."
A bill that criminalizes HIV transmission has been signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Provisions of the law include possible imprisonment of HIV-positive individuals, a ten-year prison sentence and fine for the "intentional transmission of HIV," a five-year prison sentence for "attempted transmission of HIV," and compulsory testing in some situations. The law also allows courts to order the release a person's HIV status without that person's consent. The signing comes not long after the Ugandan Constitutional Court struck down the country's Anti-Homosexuality Act, a law that many believed would steer LGBT people away from getting necessary health services.
The new law was denounced earlier this year by the United States - the biggest funder of Ugandan HIV/AIDS programs. After the Ugandan Parliament voted in favor of the legislation, but before Museveni signed the bill into law, US Global AIDS coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx called on Uganda to reject criminalization of HIV transmission.
Over the past 30 years, we have witnessed time and again how stigma, discrimination, and fear - and the misguided policies that stem from them - further fuel the epidemic by deterring those most in need from accessing lifesaving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services," said Dr. Birx. "I join with the many health practitioners, HIV/AIDS and human rights activists, multilateral institutions, and individuals everywhere - in Uganda and around the world - in calling for the people and the Government of Uganda to reject this regressive bill.
The stigma against those with HIV/AIDS is not limited to Uganda. HIV transmission is criminalized in many US states, too, where there have been 200 prosecutions against people on charges related to HIV transmission. And too often, HIV transmission is not fully understood. This ignorance was apparent in Texas, for example, where a man with HIV was sentenced to 35 years for spitting at a police officer - even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that contact with saliva, tears or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV."
The Center for HIV Law and Policy says, "Many people with HIV internalize and accept this judgment and the perception of those with HIV as toxic, highly infectious, or dangerous to be around. This has serious adverse ramifications for those individuals, as well as on the broader effort to combat HIV."
The current outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 1200 people in West Africa, with Liberia having the largest increase in deaths according to the latest reportable data. Although the death toll from the virus itself is astounding, many people - including pregnant mothers - are also dying as hospitals and clinics shut their doors.
Liberia was already a country with one of the highest rates of maternal death worldwide, but the Ebola outbreak has intensified the maternal health crisis. According to reports, some health care practitioners are turning away patients for fear of spreading the virus or contracting it themselves. The interruption of health care delivery can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. One clinic in the capital of Monrovia used to see 10 to 15 births per week; now, it only sees one or two per week - and someï¿½pregnant women leave the clinic before they even give birth because of fear of contracting Ebola from others.
That's why some of the clinics are closed - fear, fear, fear," Lucy Barh, the president of Liberia Midwifery Association, told Buzzfeed. "There's no protective equipment, and the lives of those health care workers are threatened.
The Ebola outbreak in Liberia is the largest outbreak of the virus to date. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 400 people have died of Ebola in Liberia alone - including dozens of health care workers. WHO has called the outbreak an "international health emergency," but Doctors Without Borders says the international effort to help control the spread of Ebola is "dangerously inadequate."
"The World Health Organization, the international community in general, and nongovernmental organisations must rapidly scale-up their response and send in more teams," Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement. "It is urgent that management and coordination are improved, but also that strategies are implemented to reach all affected areas and to help improve general access to healthcare in areas where the system has collapsed."
The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials during ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri caught the attention of the world this week, with UN officials and US Attorney General Eric Holder speaking out in defense of demonstrators there. The statements come as local prosecutors begin presenting evidence to a grand jury on whether criminal charges should be filed in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
A spokesman for the United Nations told reporters on Monday that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was calling on the United States to protect the rights of demonstrators in Ferguson. "The Secretary-General calls on the authorities to ensure that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected," said spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "He calls on all to exercise restraint, for law enforcement officials to abide by US and international standards in dealing with demonstrators."
The conflict between law enforcement and protesters also did not go unnoticed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. "I condemn the excessive force by the police and call for the right of protest to be respected," she said in Geneva on Tuesday.
Holder, who is traveling to Ferguson today to be briefed on the DOJ civil rights investigation into the case, stressed in an op-ed for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the DOJ "will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told." Holder also reiterated the commitment of the DOJ to learning "exactly what happened."
"This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson," he wrote. "Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent." The DOJ has sent approximately 40 FBI agents to Ferguson and has assigned a number of prosecutors to lead the investigation, with the assistance of the United States Attorney in St. Louis.
In his address to the public on Monday, President Barack Obama also indicated that experts from the DOJ Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services would travel to Ferguson to work with law enforcement in an attempt to reduce tensions between the community and police. When asked if he'd considered making his own trip to Ferguson, the President acknowledged there were historically legitimate reasons at the root of the unrest, but shared his concern about "prejudging" the investigation. "The DOJ works for me. And when they're conducting an investigation, I've got to make sure that I don't look like I'm putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other."
The following is a statement by our Founder and President, Eleanor Smeal, on the events in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Feminist Majority Foundation calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct a thorough, unbiased investigation into the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.
The killing of Michael Brown and the blundered, militarized response by law enforcement to the call for justice is a tragic reminder that in many African American communities across the nation, the police themselves can be a threat.
Given the distrust of the police by the local African American community, the close ties between the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and the police, and the fact that McCulloch has had no less than 5 close relatives who have worked on the local police force, the Feminist Majority Foundation calls on Governor Jay Nixon to reconsider his decision on appointing a special prosecutor to handle the criminal investigation.
Over the past 10 days, the African American community in Ferguson has demanded answers. They've demanded justice. There is still no arrest. One man is dead and his shooter free. People want to know why. But until recently, the protesters in Ferguson, the vast majority of whom are peaceful, have been met with tear gas, armored vehicles, rubber and wooden bullets, and rifles.
Ferguson, Missouri at night has looked like a battlefield with militarized police and national guard troops, and guns pointed at protesters. It is not surprising that this show of excessive force has failed to build trust in law enforcement and has failed to de-escalate tensions in the community. In this environment, the Governor must appoint someone independent to perform the investigation into this tragic shooting.
The Feminist Majority Foundation also supports the call from African American civil rights leaders, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, for implementation of a long-term, comprehensive police reform agenda that includes, among other things, the demilitarization of state and local law enforcement and the promotion of community policing. We also demand that the police incident report be released.
Police should reflect the communities that they serve. Increasing the number of African Americans in policing will go a long way in improving police response in communities of color. The sheer numbers tell the story in Ferguson. Although, African Americans represent 67.4 percent of the population in Ferguson, Missouri, they made up 92.7 percent of arrests in 2013 alone.
Research conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women and Policing also shows that increasing the number of women in policing reduces police brutality and the excessive use of force.
Make no mistake. Ferguson is not an isolated case. It represents a horrific pattern of discriminatory policing and excessive use of force against African Americans in this country. As feminists, as advocates for racial justice and non-violence, we cannot rest until all people - no matter who they are - can enjoy the right to life, liberty, and justice.
Afghanistan celebrates 95 years of independence today.
President Hamid Karzai, along with the two presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, attended a special ceremony at the Ministry of Defense to commemorate the recognition of Afghanistan as an independent nation by the British Empire. US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement in honor of the celebrationon behalf of President Obama and the United States reiterating our continued partnership with Afghanistan as well as US support for a democratic transition of presidential power.
"With millions of Afghans across your great nation braving violence and intimidation to cast their ballots, it is critical that all parties honor those voters' aspiration for a democratic, peaceful transfer of power that unifies the country," wrote Secretary Kerry. "We will continue to strongly support the democratic process and the agreement reached between the two candidates concerning the formation of a national unity government."
Noting the contributions of ordinary Afghan men and women to the peace and continued redevelopment of the country, Kerry pledged an ongoing relationship between the US and Afghanistan. "As Afghans stand up, we will stand with you," said Kerry, "and the American people look forward to many more years of friendship and partnership with the inspiring people of Afghanistan."
Final election results for the Afghan presidential race have not yet been released. The first-round of elections took place in April. Because none of the presidential candidates won at least 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election was held between the top two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Following disputes about the election process, Secretary Kerry visited Afghanistan to meet with both candidates and current president Karzai. The negotiations produced an agreement to audit all of the runoff election votes before determining the winner of the presidential race and to create a national unity government to share political power.
Both Abdullah and Ghani have indicated that they will sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, which specifies that the US will continue to provide assistance to strengthen the security and stability of Afghanistan and will work with Afghanistan to continue coordinating counter-terrorism efforts. The candidates also signed a petition for women's rights, which calls for women's empowerment with the goals of equality in education and leadership and an end to violence against women.
Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, shared her hurt over the killing of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown and offered words of encouragement in a heartbreaking letter to the Brown family published by Time magazine.
"I hate that you and your family must join this exclusive yet growing group of parents," Sybrina Fulton wrote. "I wish I had a word of automatic comfort but I don't. I wish I could say that it will be alright on a certain or specific day, but I can't. I wish that all of the pain that I have endured could possibly ease some of yours but it won't."
Fulton continued, however, that neither the death of Michael nor Trayvon would be in vain. "The galvanizations of our communities must be continued beyond the tragedies," she wrote. "While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy. If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no longer be ignored. We will bond, continue our fights for justice, and make them remember our children in an appropriate light."
Last week, Fulton joined Ron Davis, the father of slain teen Jordan Davis, in Geneva, Switzerland, where the parents testified before the United Nations Committee responsible for the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Trayvon Martin was 17-years-old when he was gunned down by George Zimmerman. Jordan Davis was also 17-years-old when his life was taken by Michael Dunn at a Florida gas station. Both teens were unarmed. Zimmerman was acquitted. A mistrial was declared on Dunn's first-degree murder charge. Fulton and Davis testified about the role race-based privilege played in the sentencing of their sons' killers. The US government's CERD Review took place last Wednesday and Thursday, just as reports of media arrests in Ferguson were breaking news.
After a full week of standoffs between law enforcement and demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed two lawsuits against the local police department.
Thursday, the ACLU of Missouri sued St. Louis County and county police in order to obtain initial reports about the deadly shooting that took the life of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The County's police department rejected an earlier open records request for the documents on Wednesday. The second suit, filed Friday morning, sought to keep St. Louis County, the town of Ferguson, and Highway Patrol Superintendent Ronald Replogle from barring media coverage. The ACLU filed the federal suit along with plaintiff Mustafa Hussein, a journalist with the Argus Media Group.
In a letter addressed to Ferguson Chief of Police, Thomas Jackson, the ACLU of Missouri took issue with the Department's "direct attack on protected expressive activity." The organization quoted excerpts of the Supreme Court's recent decision in McCullen v. Coakley in addressing the St. Louis Police Department's suppression of media coverage in Ferguson. "We acknowledge that limiting protests to daylight hours and demanding a 'respectful manner' might make your job easier," a statement to the Chief of Police stated, "'[b]ut that is not enough to satisfy the First Amendment. ...[T]he prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency."
Friday, the ACLU of Missouri successfully reached an agreement over media coverage with the three parties in a Missouri U.S. District Court. The agreement holds that "media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgement" unless there is a justified threat of danger or physical interference.
Following two days under mandatory curfew, Governor Jay Nixon is calling on the Missouri National Guard to "help restore peace and order" according to a news release issued by the Governor's office this morning. "Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from the outside community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk," Gov. Nixon said in a brief statement. "I join the people of Ferguson, and all Missourians, in strongly condemning this criminal activity that included firing upon law enforcement officers, shooting a civilian, throwing Molotov cocktails, looting, and a coordinated attempt to block roads and overrun the Unified Command Center."
The Governor's Executive Order came just as the public learned the details of a preliminary autopsy conducted by former New York City medical examiner, Dr. Michael Baden. This morning, Dr. Baden shared that the unarmed teenager was shot at least six times by Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown. The U.S. Department of Justice announced it also intends to conduct an autopsy.
Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama to address the ongoing situation in Ferguson.
Last week, Oregon state officials voted to ensure the state's low-income transgender residents have access to transition-related care.
The Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) has not reviewed its treatment of transgender care since the late 1990s. The 13-member board reviewed the material and decided to add gender dysphoria - defined as a condition in which "people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with" - to the state's list of conditions that require government-funded treatments. As of 2015, low-income transgender residents of Oregon will have access to gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy if they want it.
Removing transgender exclusions in healthcare coverage saves lives and money," said Danielle Askini, Basic Rights Oregon's policy director. "All major health provider associations agree: It is time to end health coverage discrimination based on gender identity.
This change follows a ruling earlier this summer by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Departmental Appeals Board that stated transgender people cannot be automatically denied coverage for transition-related health care. Oregon estimates the new rules will be utilized by about 175 people per year, and will cost the state less than $150,000 in that period. Individuals will need to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria in order to qualify for coverage.
According to The Oregonian, 935,000 people are currently enrolled in Oregon's Medicaid program. In 2013, some services for transgender people were added to the Oregon Health Plan, including therapy and medical visits.
8/18/2014 - Suicidal Rape Victim Denied Abortion in Ireland
A suicidal young woman who became pregnant as a result of rape was refused an abortion in Ireland.
The woman, now 18, was raped as a minor. When she discovered she was pregnant at eight weeks, she became suicidal and immediately tried to obtain an abortion under a clause in the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. She could not bypass the law by going to England or another European country to obtain an abortion - like thousands of Irish women do each year - because she is not an Irish citizen.
In this case, two psychiatrists determined the young woman was suicidal and should have access to the procedure, but the obstetrician on the panel declared that the fetus was viable and should be delivered. After the panel's examination, the woman had to wait 17 full weeks to hear back about the outcome. She believes the government purposely delayed her case until the fetus was viable. When her request for an abortion was ultimately rejected, she started a hunger and water strike in protest but stopped when authorities threatened to put her on forced hydration. She then agreed to have a premature caesarean section at 25 weeks. The baby is expected to go into state care.
This case "illustrates quite clearly that women are treated as little more than incubators under Irish law," Sarah McCarthy, a spokesperson for Galway Pro-Choice, told The Guardian.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act legalized abortions in cases only where there is a risk to the life of the mother, including thoughts of suicide. It was approved in July 2013 by Parliament after the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who died from an infection because she was not allowed to have an abortion, and the ensuing uproar over her death. It recently went into effect in January. Under the law, a panel of three doctors must examine each case and agree unanimously to allow a woman to have the procedure. While the Act is thought to be a step forward, Ireland's laws around abortion are still severely restrictive. Abortions are not allowed in any cases besides life endangerment, including cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or if the fetus is not expected to survive outside of the womb.
After close to two decades, a Peruvian woman raped by a doctor while she was seeking care at a local hospital will finally receive justice. The Peruvian government has at last complied with a settlement agreement reached by the parties after human rights groups filed a petition on the woman's behalf with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The woman, known as M.M., visited Carlos Monge Medrano Juliaca Public Hospital in 1996. She had been in a car accident a few months before, and at the time of the visit she complained she was suffering headaches and body pain. Instead of being treated or examined for her symptoms, the doctor drugged and raped her in the examination room. M.M. filed a criminal report after the incident, but hospital staff and police mistreated the case, and the judicial system dismissed it for lack of evidence in 1997.
Several human-rights groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Center for Justice and International Law, Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights, and DEMUS (Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer), filed a petition in 1998 on behalf of M.M. to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
No woman should fear that she will be raped by a doctor entrusted to provide her with critical medical care, and no woman who suffers such deplorable treatment should have to wait this long for justice to be served, said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. We commend the Peruvian government for accepting its responsibility for this young woman's suffering and taking action to prevent this situation from being repeated.
The March 2000 settlement requires the Peruvian government to provide financial reparations to the woman and to revoke the medical license of the rapist. The settlement also requires the State to admit it violated human rights under international law and to improve access to justice in cases of sexual violence. Last March, as a part of the settlement, Peru adopted a resolution that requires judges to be trained on gender and justice issue - but the resolution has yet to be implemented.
In an overwhelming display of solidarity and outpouring of grief, hundreds of students, activists, parents, allies, and members of the press gathered at the center of Malcolm X Park in Washington, DC as part of the National Moment of Silence (NMOS) for Michael Brown and all victims of police brutality that took place across the country last night.
NMOS14 was coordinated by online and community activist Feminista Jones in collaboration with individual community leaders following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Last night's gathering in the nation's capital was organized by a small group of young activist leaders, including former Feminist Majority Foundation intern and current Spelman College Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance member Yemisi Miller-Tonnet.
"What side are we on, my people? What side are we on?" Jonathan Lykes, another leader of last night's event, shouted to the crowd. The masses shouted back, "We're on the freedom side!"
More than 2,300 people committed to attend the DC event alone. Seas of demonstrators wearing red ribbons and arm bands packed onto the main platform of the park, located just blocks from historic U Street. The location lent symbolic significance to the gathering. The U street corridor was one of the many predominantly African-American communities impacted by the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the riots of 1968 that followed his assassination.
Miller-Tonnet called the names and details surrounding other deadly examples of police brutality. The leaders asked the crowd to call out the names of victims they personally knew, leading students from Howard University to begin chanting for Mya Aaten-White, a 2012 alum shot in the head amidst protests in Ferguson. Police told local news outlets the injuries were the result of a drive-by shooting, but students participating in NMOS14 told the Feminist Newswire the shooting was carried out by police, as supported by eyewitness accounts.
NMOS14 leaders reiterated that this was not "a day of rage," but of mourning, prompting one man to shout out, "They're killing our babies!" during the moment of silence, which took place in over 100 communities - including in New York City, Boston, and St. Louis - simultaneously at 7:20 PM EST.
As the event concluded, an impromptu march began down U Street. Local police immediately blocked off side streets to allow the crowd to proceed peacefully. Demonstrators chanted "Hands up! Don't shoot!" as they marched through Shaw, and finally Chinatown in downtown Washington, D.C. Drivers honked their horns in support as the procession passed, and people in nearby residences took to their sidewalks, either holding their arms high in surrender as in images from Ferguson demonstrations, or raising fists in solidarity with the Ferguson community.
"This is just the first step," leaders of the rally told the crowd.
Meanwhile, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)is calling for a closer look at police conduct in Ferguson. McCaskill was in Ferguson on Thursday meeting with community leaders on the ground. "We need to demilitarize this situation - this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution," Sen. McCaskill said. "I obviously respect law enforcement's work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right."
Governor Jay Nixon, after receiving heavy criticism, also toured the area on Thursday. Nixon announced that the Missouri Highway Patrol would be taking over the responsibilities of the St Louis County Police in Ferguson. The decision was met with hostility by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch who commented, "To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful."
Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley is seeking to replace McCulloch with a special prosecutor to handle the case against the officer - identified as Darren Wilson - who shot Brown. A spokeswoman for Dooley explained, "The county executive believes Bob McCulloch is biased and shouldn't handle this case."
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas recently released a video exposing anti-abortion extremists' use of alarming intimidation tactics in Texas.
The video contains audio recording of a training, entitled "Keeping Abortion Facilities Closed," hosted by anti-abortion groups at the Texas State Capitol on August 4. In it, an anti-abortion extremist can be heard telling a crowd to record and catalog the physical description of cars and license plate numbers of doctors and patients at the clinic in order to "track people." Another speaker cites statistics on women being turned away or intimidated into leaving the clinic before receiving care. Speakers also talk about lining sidewalks outside of clinics with the hope of preventing patients from entering.
The training coincided with the first day of trial in Whole Women's Health v. Lakey, a federal challenge to two provisions - the admitting privileges and the ambulatory surgical center requirements - of Texas' omnibus anti-abortion bill, HB2.
"The same groups that lobbied Texas lawmakers to pass HB2, a law that has nothing to do with the health and safety of women, are those outside abortion clinics, harassing and intimidating patients, blocking them from accessing the care they need, and threatening abortion providers," said NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby. "With fewer clinics for these stalking protestors to target, the dangerous impact of their intimidation tactics will be exacerbated. Texas women are now not only forced to travel hundreds of miles to even access a safe and legal Texas clinic, but once they reach a clinic they must also confront the very real threat posed by these anti-abortion activists. The anti-abortion harassment tactics outlined in this disturbing training lead women to seek dangerous alternatives.
Access to abortion in Texas has been significantly reduced since HB2, with nearly half of all abortion providers in the state forced to stop providing services, according to a study released last month by the Texas Evaluation Project. Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women's Health, reports that she has been forced to close three of five clinics in the wake of HB2 and that the absence of abortion providers has already led some Texas women to resort to dangerous self-induced or illegal abortions.
The intersection between clinic violence, including harassment and intimidation of abortion providers, and lack of access to comprehensive reproductive health care was described in detail last week by Federal US District Court Judge Myron Thompson in a 172-page opinion finding unconstitutional an Alabama TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion provider) law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is asking the full US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reverse a panel decision that upheld a preliminary injunction of Mississippi's TRAP law, allowing the state's only abortion clinic to remain open.
Just weeks ago, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction barring implementation of HB 1390, Mississippi's 2012 TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law that requires doctors to gain admitting privileges from an area hospital. Because HB 1390 would have effectively shut down the Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO), the last abortion clinic in the state, the Court ruled that the law placed an "undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right" of an individual to choose an abortion.
"Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state." the Fifth Circuit panel said. "Such a proposal would not only place an undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right, but would also disregard a state's obligation under the principle of federalism - applicable to all fifty states - to accept the burden of the non-delegable duty of protecting the established federal constitutional rights of its own citizens."
The state of Mississippi, however, argues that this rationale is misplaced in the context of abortion. Hood is formally asking the entire Fifth Circuit Court - which handles cases in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas - to reverse the panel's decision and allow the state to enforce HB 1390, arguing that the court's decision contradicts a ruling issued by a different panel of Fifth Circuit judges in Texas. There, a three-judge panel upheld hospital admitting privileges, noting that despite the fact that the law made abortion inaccessible to some women in the state, abortion services were not completely cut off in Texas because of the admitting privileges requirement. The opposite, however, would be true in Mississippi under HB 1390.
Mississippi filed its request on Wednesday, just as a federal district court heard closing arguments in a second challenge to Texas's admitting privileges requirement.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several women farmworkers alleging that a Colorado potato warehouse violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by allowing managers to sexually harass female employees.
In a press release issued last week, the EEOC said managers at MountainKing Potatoes - which also does business as Smokin' Spuds, Inc. and Farming Technology, Inc - subjected women farmworkers to "inappropriate sexual touching, comments, gestures and propositions." Some workers were reassigned or fired after complaining about the sexual harassment. According to the EEOC, one employee was disciplined for arriving to work late to avoid her abuser. The company took no action to stop the harassment.
According to Law360, production supervisor Samuel Valdez personally "directed sexually inappropriate behavior toward women" at the Colorado warehouse location. "Valdez had a habit of licking his finger and putting it in the ears of at least two of the female plaintiffs," reports the news site. "Valdez also allegedly sexually propositioned some of the women, touched female employees' buttocks while they clocked in for work, forced [one of the plaintiffs] to sit on his lap in a dark office and made inappropriately sexual remarks."
"Farm workers, whether in remote and underserved areas, or isolated in a warehouse, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace, and it is essential for their employers to stop the kind of conduct we charged in this civil action," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Colorado.
The EEOC stressed that farmworkers should feel empowered to report sexual harassment and discrimination to the agency, noting that the EEOC has Spanish-speaking investigators and will accept reports by mail.
According to the 2010 National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), which surveyed crop workers, about 72 percent of farmworkers in 2007-2009 reported that they were born outside of the United States, with 68 percent reporting they were born in Mexico. The proportion of undocumented workers has, on average, represented at least 50 percent of the crop worker labor force since 2001. At least 24 percent of this population is female, with 3 percent representing minors.
In 2012, Human Rights Watch released a 95-page report chronicling the incidence of sexual violence and harassment of immigrant farmworkers. The organization found that most farmworkers interviewed had either experienced or knew someone who had been the victim of rape, groping, exhibitionism, or some other form of sexual harassment or abuse.
Incorporating NAWS' demographic data, the HRW determined that one of the most common barriers to reporting was "fear of deportation" and growing skepticism about increased cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer on Saturday has sparked days of protests in and around the St. Louis suburb and has called national attention to continued and persistent police violence in African-American communities. Less focus, however, has been placed on how this police violence is directly linked to African-American women's struggle for reproductive justice.
Michael Brown's death brought immediate reaction from residents in Ferguson, where African-Americans make up 65 percent of the population. Protesters marched peacefully to the Ferguson police department on Sunday morning, but by Sunday night, with tensions high, riots broke out. SWAT teams and police in riot gear descended. Police were captured on video by CNN saying, "Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!" The Ferguson police department, with 53 commissioned officers, has only five non-white officers, of which three are black. The department has only three women officers.
Protests in Ferguson have been ongoing since Sunday, with protesters holding their arms in the air, chanting "Hands up! Don't Shoot!" Police have reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets on some protesters. Cell phone video has now been circulated showing police slamming a six-month pregnant woman to the ground.
"Speechless," Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst at RH Reality Check, tweeted in response to the images. "I'm going to say it again: police brutality - especially against pregnant women - is a #reprojustice issue."
Gandy told the Feminist Newswire she was astonished by the silence from larger national reproductive rights organizations in response to the recent police-involved fatalities. Gandy said she wanted to encourage the entire feminist movement to recognize the situation in Ferguson as inextricably tied to the broader fight for reproductive rights, a fight that includes the right of mothers to parent and bear children.
"Step up and say, 'It's not cool to throw this pregnant woman on the ground,'" Gandy said. "I'm really trying to force reproductive rights folks to broaden their scope." Gandy said she observed many people on social media expressing panic about Brown's death. "They're saying things like, 'As soon as I get pregnant, I'm leaving the country' or 'I don't want to make them a target,'" she said.
"Black women are raising children and fearing that their children are going to be gunned down in the street. That affects their ability to parent freely," continued Gandy. "That's a real hardship for a lot of people. You have to sit down and tell your nine-year old this is how you have to interact with the police. That's stressful."
In a longer piece for RH Reality Check ahead of the Ferguson police-involved shooting, Emma Akpan underscored the same message as she described criticism of women of color who embraced organizing around the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. "We cannot tell women of color what issues are important to them," Akpan wrote. "Implying that the grief of losing Trayvon Martin is not a women's issue erases the experience of Black mothers across the United States. Facing stark realities, Black mothers have to raise their sons with mistrust of the police and constantly remind them how to avoid violence and arrest."
On Monday, the FBI launched a formal civil rights investigation into Michael Brown's shooting. In a statement, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the shooting deserved a "fulsome review." He added, "In addition to the local investigation already underway, FBI agents from the St. Louis field office, working together with attorneys from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and US Attorneys' Office, have opened a concurrent, federal inquiry." President Obama issued a short statement yesterday calling Brown's death "heartbreaking."