10/13/2015 - EEOC Launches Hollywood Gender Discrimination Probe
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has contacted several women directors in Hollywood in an effort to determine whether legal intervention is necessary to disrupt the industry's discriminatory hiring practices.
In a letter sent to some 50 women filmmakers, the EEOC - which is responsible for protecting individuals from employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin through enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - requested interviews with them to "learn more about the gender-related issues" women behind the camera face in both the film and television industries.
In May, following the release of a study by the San Diego State University Center for the Study of Women in Television in Film revealing only 7 percent of 2014's 250 top-grossing movies were helmed by women, the ACLU of Southern California and the national ACLU Women's Rights Project urged state and federal rights agencies to investigate Hollywood's failure to hire equal numbers of women. Additional studies, including a DGA report finding women directed just 16 percent of television episodes between 2014 and 2015, were also cited in their complaint.
"Women directors simply aren't getting a fair opportunity to succeed, because of systemic discrimination," explained ACLU Women's Rights Project senior staff attorney Ariela Migdal. "It's time for our civil rights enforcement agencies to take action to ensure that women have a level playing field."
The EEOC's recent moves mark the agency's first major step in over thirty years to address gender inequality in the film industry. Just two years ago, filmmaker Marie Giese challenged the commission to investigate Hollywood's hiring practices, only to be told it "couldn't take this on in an industrywide approach," suggesting instead individual lawsuits be filed by women against studios within a 12-month period "with smoking-gun evidence." Concerned no women would risk their careers for fear on being blacklisted, Giese took her complaint to the ACLU.
Though it is unclear whether the EEOC's investigation will result in a class action lawsuit against Hollywood's most egregious offenders - under law, the agency cannot confirm or deny the existence of a charge - women filmmakers like Giese remain hopeful.
"This investigation is long overdue," Giese told Deadline Hollywood. "I hope this will be the spearhead to create equality for every woman in our industry, and for every woman in every industry in America."
A new report released by the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Policy Evaluation Project found patients seeking abortions in Texas have experienced an increase in wait times since the passage of HB2, the 2013 Texas omnibus anti-abortion bill that attempts to cut off abortion access by requiring abortion providers in the state to fulfill medically unnecessary ambulatory surgical center requirements and secure hospital admitting privileges.
More than half of 42 clinics providing abortion in Texas have been forced to shut their doors since HB2 passed two years ago, leading Texas women to wait up to 20 days for a first consult at one of the surviving 18 reproductive health clinics operating in the state, the second most populous in the nation. In cities like Dallas, where one of the state's most high-volume clinics was shuttered in June, patients saw wait times rise to 20 days, while in neighboring Fort Worth, the wait list to obtain an abortion grew as long as 23 days since the study began late last year. Austin, Houston and San Antonio also experienced increases, each spiking at 23 days, 13 days and 9 days, respectively.
"Texans are now forced to undertake multiple, unnecessary visits to clinics that are now farther away; they take more days off of work, lose income, have to find childcare, and arrange and pay for transportation for hundreds of miles," saidAmy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health. A woman's ability to get safe medical care should not depend on whether she has the resources necessary to navigate a horrific and complex obstacle course dreamt up by anti-choice lawmakers. This is the real world and these laws have real implications on real women's lives."
Hagstrom Miller is one of the lead plaintiffs represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights in a lawsuit challenging HB2's ambulatory surgical center (ASC) and admitting privileges requirements as unconstitutional. In August 2014, a federal district court blocked both restrictions as unconstitutional. Texas appealed, and the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in in October 2014 that both restrictions could take effect even though the case was still being heard in court, leaving Texas with only 7 clinics providing abortion. The Supreme Court immediately stepped in, temporarily blocking enforcement of the ASC requirement statewide and blocking enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement in McAllen and El Paso until the Fifth Circuit could make a final ruling on the law's constitutionality. More than a dozen clinics reopened as a result of the Supreme Court's decision.
Just this past June, however, the Fifth Circuit issued its final decision on the case, reversing the district court and upholding both requirements. The Supreme Court once again stepped in to temporarily block the decision, maintaining the status quo while the clinics continued their legal challenge.
The Center for Reproductive Rights last month filed a formal request for the Supreme Court to review the case, Whole Woman's Health v. Cole. The Court should rule on this request by the end of the year. Should the Court deny review, more than 75 percent of abortion clinics in Texas would close, cutting off access to safe, legal abortion for millions of Texas women and forcing wait times at remaining clinics to continue to rise.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its leader David Daleidan must turn over all previously unreleased "sting" videos and outtakes of National Abortion Federation (NAF) meetings the group obtained surreptitiously as part of a smear campaign against the abortion provider.
U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ordered CMP to relinquish some 500 hours of undercover footage to NAF per Congressional subpoena, but maintained the bar on the release of "any footage, documents, or communications that have not been specifically requested" by Congress. Daleidan and CMP had previously refused to hand over the footage in an effort to stall the progress of NAF's legal discovery into the group's "evidence" collection methods.
In a statement released Tuesday, NAF president and CEO Vicki Saporta underscored the importance of protecting those members appearing in the videos from harassment and threats of violence from anti-abortion extremists.
"We have never taken the position that Daleidan and the other Defendants in our case should be barred from providing compelled responses to lawful subpoenas," said Saporta. "Our focus has always been and continues to be safety and security of our members. We urge Congress to be mindful of the security risks faced by abortion providers, and the need for confidentiality as they conduct their investigation."
The release of several fraudulent videos by CMP which claim to capture the sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood have been proven false repeatedly, but have nonetheless sparked endless state and federal investigations into the organization, NAF and abortion providers nationwide. To date, zero investigations ahve found evidence of wrongdoing.
In the meantime, NAF hopes the judge's ruling confining the release of materials to those requested specifically by the subpoena will further highlight CMP's potentially illegal activities.
"We do not believe that all the footage CMP stole from our meetings is responsive to this subpoena, and we urge the Committee to require Daleidan to also turn over all documents and emails relevant to the conspiracy and fraud he committed against NAF and our members," said Saporta.
According to a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, male scientists receive twice as much financial support to kickstart their careers in science and medicine as their female counterparts, an early career inequity that could limit professional opportunities for women scientists throughout their working lives.
Conducted by Health Resources in Action (HRiA), analysts studied 219 biomedical researchers who had applied for early-career grant funding at 55 New England hospitals, universities and research facilities between 2012 and 2014. The findings revealed male scientists received a median of $889,000 to jumpstart their careers as faculty researchers, while their female peers received just $350,000. The gap between applicants holding Ph.D.s was even wider. Men received $936,000 to launch their careers compared to the $348,000 granted to women.
As noted by Nancy Hopkins, professor emeritus of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, such a disparity in startup funds can limit women scientists' ability to build labs, conduct analyses, publish findings, and procure grants for future research.
"These are the things that make your career hard or easy," said Hopkins. "[Women] are going to have to work harder to make up for that."
Despite significant contributions in STEM fields, women's representation at the top levels of biomedical research still lags. Today, women comprise only 30 percent of funded researchers nationwide. But HRiA Vice President and author of the study, Dr. Robert Sege, Ph.D. says more examination is necessary to determine whether the gender differences are experienced by all early-career scientists.
"We were startled to see a consistent gap in the amount of support provided to men and women with the same credentials - even from within the same institutions," said Sege. "This first look suggests the need for systematic study of gender differences in institutional support and the relationship between career trajectories."
10/7/2015 - Study Finds US Gender Wage Gap Persists
Data compiled by the US Census Bureau this week once again demonstrates a gender wage gap, showing that American women who work full-time, year-round jobs on average earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. This loss in wages amounts to an average of $10,762 annually for white women, and is significantly greater for women of color.
The data, analyzed by the National Partnership for Women and Families, reveals women with full-time, year-round employment receive far less than their male counterparts, earning roughly $39,621 yearly compared to men whose wages exceed $50,000. The pay disparity is even greater for women of color. Overall, African American women earn just 60 cents on the dollar and Latinas a mere 55 cents.
The need to close the gender wage gap could not be more critical. Not only do women comprise nearly half of the paid work force in the US, but they also head more than 15.2 million households, 4,658,047 of which fall below the poverty line. With the additional $10,762 annually in found wages, women breadwinners would earn enough money for approximately 83 more weeks of food, over a year's worth of rent and an extra 4,635 gallons of gas.
That gap is even starker for women of color. Full-time working African American women earn an average 60 cents for every dollar paid to a white man, and Latinas earn a startling 55 cents. These gaps amount to losses of tens of thousands of dollars for women each year.
"This study confirms that a punishing wage gap persists for women in every corner of the country and the costs for women, their families and our national and state economies are significant," said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. "America's women and families- and our nation- cannot afford to wait any longer for the fair and family friendly measures that would help."
Anti-abortion extremist Troy Newman has been deported from Australia after an appeal to remain in the country failed to convince the High Court.
Newman was scheduled to speak at a 10-day Right To Life Australia event, but was detained in Denver, Colorado after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton cancelled his visa citing as grounds for revocation Newman's prior history of promoting violence against abortion providers and their patients. Ignoring Dutton's order, Newman rerouted his trip using a different airline and was able to touch down in Melbourne on Thursday where he was detained by officials. Newman's attorneys immediately filed an emergency injunction to halt his deportation, but a High Court judge denied the bid and Newman departed Australia Friday morning.
Prior to Newman's visit, several Australian politicians expressed fear of increased harassment and violence against women and women's healthcare providers with his presence in the country, including Australia's Labor MP, Terri Butler, who wrote a letter to Immigration Minister Dutton warning Newman could inspire "threats or the commission of acts of violence" during his stay.
"I am most concerned that Mr. Newman's call for abortionists to be executed could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals," said Terri Butler, Australia's Labor MP, in a statement. "To think he is above the law gives us insight into the sort of person we are dealing with. We don't welcome extremists into our country and we don't welcome extremism."
Despite his claims that he "has never advocated violence," Newman, president of Operation Rescue and Center for Medical Progress board member wrote in a 2000 tome called Their Blood Cries Out, "In addition to our personal guilt in abortion, the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people."
In 2003, Newman defended the actions of death row inmate Paul Jennings Hill, the convicted murderer of Dr. John Britton, an abortion provider slain along with his volunteer escort in 1994. A participant in activities of Newman's organization Operation Rescue, Scott Roeder, was found guilty of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas in 2010.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and the founder of Lean In has launched Women In The Workplace, a study that looks at the state of women in corporate America.
The study, which was released last week, is an ongoing partnership between Lean In and McKinsey & Company. It revealed the challenges that women in the corporate field face within the workplace. The study shows a persistent pay gap, an uneven playing field for female employees, a lack of commitment to gender diversity from corporations, and that women face "greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership."
Given the results of the study, Sandberg argues that at this rate it would take a 100 years to achieve gender equality in the business world if policy and cultural changes are not made.
"When women get stuck, corporate America gets stuck," Sandberg told the Wall Street Journal. Women are less likely to reach leadership positions as they advance in their careers. Sandberg argues that this is because women have less access to mentorship and sponsorship in their careers. Stereotypes and biases that disadvantage women have also contributed to inequalities in the workplace.
This study seeks to encourage women in positions of leadership by getting as many companies as possible to participate. Doing so gives room for comparison amongst companies themselves. It also pushes them to measure their progress towards gender equality. At the time this study was done, a reported 118 companies had participated.
Sandberg remarked that diversity is important for better performance within organizations. She reports that it increases creativity, profits and innovation among other things. However, as the study shows, gender diversity is not a top priority for the leadership of many companies which hurts women's careers in these work environments.
To make gender equality a reality, Sandberg believes corporations need to give this issue the urgency it deserves. The Women in the Workplace study not only provides statistical data on the inequality companies possess but also provides realistic measures companies can undertake to address the issue. For instance, the study suggests that companies develop programs that help employees identify bias and stereotypes that disadvantage women.
Despite the current rate of change in the corporate workplace, Sandberg is optimistic. "We will achieve not just a stronger and more successful workplace, but also increased economic growth and benefits for all our workers and families," said Sandberg, reflecting on the many positive benefits of gender equality in the workplace.
Over the years Sandberg's work on gender equality in the workforce has been very significant. In her capacity as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook Incorporated, Sandberg has pushed for better wages and benefits for contracted employees: a move that would largely benefit women workers.
10/6/2015 - Deal in Trans-Pacific Partnership is Reached
The United States and ten other countries have reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving environmentalists, human rights activists, women's rights activists, doctors, and many others concerned. This deal was struck after years of prolonged and often secretive negotiations, and still needs to secure approval from Congress.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement would regulate and govern trans-Pacific commerce for 11 countries- making up a startling 40 percent of the world's economy. President Obama has been seeking "fast-track" authority from Congress, which would allow Obama to negotiate the trade deal and present it for an up-or-down vote in Congress, barring any amendments. It would also prevent Congress from having significant input into US trading partners. That is a big concern, especially since among the countries included in the TPP is oil-rich Brunei, a country that adopted a vicious new penal code last year that threatens the rights and lives of women, lesbians, and gay men.
"The TPP, if passed, would implement trade rules that make it illegal for governments to create and enforce regulations on everything from environmental standards, to wage and labor laws, to the duration of copyrights," said Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. "A law prohibiting the sale of goods made in sweatshops in Vietnam could be ruled illegal, for example, as a barrier to trade," Goodman continued.
Over 2,000 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, NAACP, People for the American Way, Pride at Work, and the Sierra Club, have opposed legislation to fast track the TPP. These organizations have released a joint letter representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns.
Environmentalists have called the deal that has been struck with the TPP a 'disaster for climate change." "Karthik Ganapathy of environmental group 350.org responded to the White House claim that the deal has potential for environmental conservation. "...[T]he truth is by handing even more power to Big Oil, letting massive corporations throw tantrum lawsuits at governments who dare to scale back emissions, and prolonging our reliance on fracked gas, there's no question that the Transpacific Partnership is an absolute disaster for our climate," Ganapathy said.
10/5/2015 - House Republicans to Launch New Select Committee to Investigate Planned Parenthood as Attacks on Clinics Continue
On Saturday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) announced House Republicans will assemble a new select committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, one of many formed since the release of several deceptively-edited "sting' videos by anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The videos, which CMP claims capture the illegal sale of fetal tissue, have since been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked. Meanwhile, two Planned Parenthood clinics in two different states have been set on fire in apparent arson.
According to Blackburn, the committee's creation is the first part of a three-pronged strategy devised to limit abortion rights in the wake of CMP's fraudulent videos. The committee, to be chaired by Blackburn under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, plans to push the passage of "additional pro-life measures" through Congress and "break the Senate logjam" by crafting a budget reconciliation package with the intent of defunding Planned Parenthood.
House Democrats, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, were swift to condemn the House Republicans' actions, alleging the lawmakers are "trying to make it easier to shut down the government and harder for millions of women to access the lifesaving health care."
"One in five American women has relied on a Planned Parenthood health center in her lifetime," said Pelosi in a statement Saturday. "Hard-working families deserve better than a taxpayer-funded Republican Committee fixated on dismantling women's health."
The introduction of a new investigative committee is the latest in a string of maneuvers by conservative lawmakers wishing to defund Planned Parenthood as attempts in recent weeks to attach the issue to a federal funding bill that must pass in Congress Wednesday or risk government shutdown have failed.
To date, state and federal inquiries into Planned Parenthood have found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, attacks against Planned Parenthood Clinics have been happening across the country. Just last week a Planned Parenthood clinic was set on fire in California in an apparent arson, as a bottle filled with flammable liquid was thrown through a window. The clinic is working to assess damage and re-open as quickly as possible. And last month, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington was also set on fire. Police have determined this case arson, and this clinic sustained significant damage burning for almost three hours before fire fighters were able to quell the blaze.
This weekend Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in historic Seneca Falls, New York.
The National Women's Hall of Fame, which is located in the heart of the US Women's Movement in Seneca Falls, recognized Smeal and nine other women for their achievements. Smeal was introduced in the induction ceremony by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a long-time champion of women's rights. "Ellie has worked non-stop for women's equality," Maloney said, recalling the many issues Maloney and Smeal have worked on together. "Women united shall never be defeated," Maloney concluded.
Smeal's acceptance speech reflected on a lifetime of activism and support from her family. She remembered her mother's indignation when a high school advisor suggested she attend secretarial college. She thanked her brother Edward Cutri for including her, even as a child, in typically "male" activities like baseball or playing the drums. Smeal talked about bringing her children to rallies and protests when they were young. "We didn't go to the zoo," she joked.
Smeal's many accomplishments have positively affected women and men across the country, but she made a call to action for the progress that is still needed for women's equality. Smeal specifically mentioned the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. "We cannot forget the women of Afghanistan and around the world," she said. "They may be threatened, they may be beaten or killed, but they fight every day for their rights."
Smeal also called for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that was just three states shy of being ratified in 1982. "We're running out of time- we have to pass the ERA for the next generation," she said, joining activists attending the induction ceremony as they erupted into chants of "ERA NOW!"
Fellow inductee Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, and Lilly Ledbetter, women's rights activist who spurred the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, both voiced their support for a national ERA.
At a press conference yesterday Smeal and National Organization of Women President Terry O'Neill spoke specifically about the ERA, calling for renewed action. They explained that putting women into the United States Constitution would federally guarantee equal pay and protect women's ability to make healthcare decisions. A national ERA would also give constitutional basis for legislation that would secure women's equality going forward, such as the Violence Against Women Act.
Smeal was one of 10 great women inducted this fall. The women joined 247 past inductees, including Ms. Magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem, and Feminist Majority Foundation board member Dolores Huerta.
Yesterday, just hours before the midnight deadline, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government- and avert a shutdown- through December 11. The Senate passed the CR in a 78-20 vote, while the House vote was 277-151.
The House also voted yesterday on a "correction enrollment" measure meant to "correct" the CR to defund Planned Parenthood. However, the vote is considered to be largely symbolic as the Senate is not expected to act on the measure.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "Tonight's vote highlights the astounding, toxic radicalism of the Republican majority. It exposes the depths of their contempt for women's health and their total indifference to the priorities of hard-working American families. The American people need and deserve better. In the coming weeks, Congress must come together to avert further crisis and negotiate a budget that will responsibly end the sequester and meet the needs of the American people."
Lawmakers now face the challenge of formulating a long-term budget deal that President Obama will sign into law. Obama has vowed to veto any spending measure that does not ease the sequestration spending cuts and caps on appropriations put into place in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Congress granted sequestration relief during negotiations on the last spending bill, but that relief is set to expire in 2016.
In a victory for women's healthcare providers seeking protection from anti-abortion extremism and violence, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a petition to revise its previous ruling that Angel Dillard, an anti-abortion extremist, must stand trial for a threatening letter she sent to a Kansas doctor in 2011.
The decision, announced Tuesday, upholds an earlier ruling in which a three-judge appeals court panel voted 2-1 to overturn a federal judge's 2013 conclusion that Dillard's letter was constitutionally protected free speech. Dillard must now face a jury- not a judge- to determine whether the letter, addressed to Dr. Mila Means, a women's healthcare provider who had been training to offer abortion services in Wichita at the time, constituted a "true threat" of violence.
The Justice Department filed suit against Dillard in 2011, just two years after the murder of Dr. George Tiller by anti-abortion extremists, for violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), a federal law which seeks to protect abortion providers and their patients from harassment and violence. In the letter, Dillard warned Dr. Means that thousands of people across the country were studying her, promising they would learn her "habits and routines." "They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live," wrote Dillard. "You will be checking under your car every day- because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."
At the time she received the letter from Dillard, Dr. Means had been the target of a campaign coordinated by anti-abortion extremist group Operation Rescue (OR) and its leader, Troy Newman, to try and stop her from providing abortions in Wichita. OR first exposed Dr. Means' name to its followers and to the press and then led efforts to end her plans to provide abortions, which included trespassing into her family practice office, organizing protests outside her office, following her employees home, publishing and circulating WANTED-style posters and emails targeting her, demonstrating at her rural home outside of Wichita, and terrorizing a potential landlord for her new clinic. Dr. Tiller was the target of a similar campaign led by Operation Rescue prior to his murder.
According to a survey conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Access Project and released in January 2014, threats of violence against abortion providers have doubled since 2010, with one in four clinics experiencing anti-abortion activity daily and nearly 14 percent reporting "high-levels of severe violence."
"The law is clear: threatening abortion providers with stalking, car bombs and murder is not protected speech under the First Amendment," duVergne Gaines, director of the National Clinic Access Project at the Feminist Majority Foundation, said in a statement in July. "The decision strongly reinforces the integrity of FACE and its use to stop threats and other conduct designed to terrorize and intimidate providers and patients."
United Parcel Service has reached a settlement with former UPS air driver Peggy Young, concluding a nine-year pregnancy discrimination case that reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The parties filed to dismiss the case this morning in a reportedly amicable settlement, the details of which were not released. "We are grateful that this case has finally come to a just conclusion, and we thank UPS and its counsel for their cooperation," said Young's attorney Sharon Fast Gustafson. "Not many victims of discrimination would have had the grit that Peggy Young displayed in sustaining this struggle for nine years."
When Young discovered that she was pregnant, UPS denied her doctor-recommended request for light duty assignment and forced to take unpaid medical leave without health insurance, despite UPS granting similar requests for other employees with disabilities or injuries. Young sued, but the federal district court dismissed her case without a trial, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the ruling against her, finding that UPS's policy of accommodating workers with disabilities or those injured on the job were "pregnancy-blind" and did not amount to impermissible sex discrimination under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts in March 2015, allowing Young's case to finally go to trial. By that time, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had issued new enforcement guidance related to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act clarifying protections for pregnant workers and UPS itself officially changed its pregnant worker policy allowing pregnant workers to be placed on light duty assignments.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), championed by the National Organization for Women and Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, then-president of NOW, was passed in 1978. The law prohibits employers from legally discriminating against pregnant women in hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, career development, or benefits. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act expanded economic opportunities for women, helped women maintain job stability, protected women against lost wages and costs associated with job loss, and contributed to families' overall financial well-being. Yet, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace has persisted, with many pregnant women fired or forced to take unpaid leave.That's why advocates are calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers' Fairness Act (PWFA), which would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.
The root of pregnancy discrimination, however, is sex discrimination. In her book, Equal Means Equal, Jessica Neuwirth, President of the ERA Coalition, traces pregnancy discrimination to the presumption "clearly based on sex" that "a worker is someone who does not become pregnant." The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that pregnancy discrimination is not sex discrimination prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment, something that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was supposed to remedy, but hasn't. Neuwirth argues that this type of persistent discrimination shows the continued urgent need for the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment prohibiting discrimination based on sex.
"An Equal Rights Amendment," she writes, "could change the legal landscape by creating a right to sex equality that is fundamental and substantive. What this might mean in the context of pregnancy is recognition that women and men have equal rights to work and have children at the same time. It would require recognition that women and men have biological differences and that the workplace cannot be structured solely around the biology of men."
Resolutions supporting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.
Amid calls from anti-abortion lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood, the organizations's president Cecile Richards testified today in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The initial purpose of the hearing was to "investigate" Planned Parenthood's use of federal funds in light of unscrupulous and thoroughly debunked claims that the organization profits from fetal tissue donation.
In her testimony, Richards outlined how Planned Parenthood's work providing healthcare to some 2.7 million people each year is being distorted by the anti-abortion group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), who "acted fraudulently and unethically" and perhaps illegally to smear the organization's reputation. Seven states have already investigated the CMP allegations and found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. Patients at only one percent of Planned Parenthood clinics (in only two states) are able to chose to participate in legal fetal tissue donation programs that support critically important medical research.
Despite no evidence that Planned Parenthood misuses federal funds or has engaged in any illegal activity, Congress, in just the past few months, has already taken 14 votes to restrict women's access to reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood serves many regions where there are no other providers. Defunding Planned Parenthood therefore threatens to cut off vital health care for women, many of whom are low-income.
"The federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives allows doctors and clinicians at our health centers to provide birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections," explained Richards who noted that because of- the Hyde Amendment, a discriminatory federal law, Planned Parenthood is unable to provide many low-income women with abortion services except in the limited circumstances allowed by law.
The hearing, which lasted around five hours, was often tense, with some members curtly interrupting Richards's testimony or preventing her from providing information. At one point, in response to Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who presented information prepared by the anti-abortion Americans United for Life, Richards attempted to explain that the information was inaccurate. After repeatedly trying to respond, Richards finally stated, "It doesn't feel like we're trying to get to the truth here."
Planned Parenthood organized a Pink Out Day to coincide with the hearing, delivering two million petitions to the Capitol this afternoon. Thousands of people also participated in over 300 events across the country.
This weekend, on the 20th anniversary of the fourth world conference on women in Beijing, leaders from around the globe met in New York City to discuss concrete and measurable plans for eliminating discrimination against women.
The plans were announced and reviewed by over 80 world leaders over the weekend at the "Global Leaders" Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: A Commitment to Action," summit co-hosted by the UN and China. These commitments are country-specific, and include tangible and realistic steps toward increasing gender parity. For example, Arthur Mutharika the president of Malawi announced plans for gender-responsive budgeting in the national budget, using the HeforShe Campaign as one strategy of implementation. Similarly, Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has promised to maintain its commitments under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The summit also coincided with demonstrations demanding that the 20 some women imprisoned for their feminism various countries, including three in China, be released.
"The highest leaders in the land are taking personal responsibility for their commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women," UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said. "Now the world looks up to them to lead the game-changing actions that secure and sustain implementation. Today we take the first firm steps towards 25 September, 2030."
In March, the Clinton Foundation released the "No Ceilings" report, revealing data measuring women and girls' participation worldwide in the 20 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where the 1995 Declaration and Platform for Action made women and girls a priority. The groundbreaking 14th plank of the platform declared "Women's rights are human rights," laying the groundwork for governments worldwide to implement action plans for the goal of full participation for women and girls. In many ways, the report showed significant increases for women and girls, such as a dramatic lowering of the maternal mortality rate; but it also revealed massive gaps to be filled and progress to be made. For example, women still make up only 22 percent of parliament globally, and 1 in 4 girls in the world was married before her 18th birthday.
Feminist Majority Foundation led the campaign to win FDA approval of mifepristone for early medical abortion from 1989 until victory on September 28, 2000. Today some 40% of all early abortions in the United States are performed simply by women taking medication by mouth with no surgical procedure needed. For millions of women who need to or want to end their pregnancy, it has provided a preferred method and is truly a medical advancement.
But the FMF believed then and still believes that the drug can and should be further researched to achieve additional important medical advancements. In the meantime, it should be widely available to treat life-saving medical and mental health conditions now that disproportionately impact women.
Decades of evidence-based, scientific studies indicate that mifepristone, an anti-hormone drug, could be an important treatment for a variety of gynecologic and obstetric conditions. It has been shown to be effective in easing the delivery of at-term babies and is widely used in European countries for this purpose. Moreover, other scientific research has indicated its potential in treating some types of breast, ovarian and uterine tumors as well as psychiatric conditions such as bi-polar disorder, generalized depression and post-partum depression, but because the FDA (for what is believe to be political, not medical safety reasons) severely restricts access to the drug for even doctors and researchers, such research concerning potential usage has been limited.
Doctors cannot even write prescriptions for mifepristone- they have to enter a special agreement with the manufacturer and purchase it for their clinic or hospital only for early medication abortion. Additionally, unlike most drugs, mifepristone is not even able to be used in an "off-label" manner-- that is to say, used for conditions other than what the drug was originally approved for by the FDA.
Thankfully, because of its anti-cortisol properties, mifepristone was finally approved by the FDA (in a different dosage) in 2012 as an anti-glucocorticoid for treatment of Cushing's Syndrome, a rare, but serious, condition most often affecting people in their 20s to 50s and affecting women three times as often as men. A man and a woman who were treated with mifepristone and cured testified in the 1990's before Congress on how the drug had saved their lives.
Off-label use of medications is common. Look at methotrexate: it's been on the market for more than 60 years, and was developed as a chemotherapy drug. It's still used for chemotherapy in a wide variety of cancers, but is also used to treat skin conditions, bowel disorders and auto-immune conditions. It, too, is used as an abortifacient drug, most often to treat ectopic pregnancies, but because its use as a critical treatment in other life-threatening conditions has been established, it can't be taken away by conservative forces that would like to see any abortifacient restricted or removed from the market
Even though the scientific literature shows that mifepristone could be very helpful for some types of breast cancers, ovarian cancers, uterine fibroids, and other tumors disproportionally impacting women, doctors cannot provide this drug to their patients in an off-label manner- because of the restrictive use the FDA agreed to in order to appease the anti-abortion opponents who threatened its approval. FMF believes that restrictions around accessing mifepristone should be removed so that its full therapeutic value can be thoroughly explored.
FMF understood that even with FDA approval of mifepristone for medical abortion, its severely restricted access would limit its potential to treat patients with life-threatening medical and psychiatric conditions. When no other professional medical organization stepped in to help patients access this novel anti-hormone medication, FMF took the bold step of entering into an arrangement with the Food and Drug Administration to develop a "Mifepristone Compassionate Use program." For over 15 years, our Compassionate Use program has been the only way for doctors to access this drug for their patients with life-threatening conditions who had exhausted all other forms of traditional treatments. FMF also partnered with the Gynecological Oncology Group, the country's foremost gynecologic cancer research group (funded by the National Cancer Institute) in conducting a small study on mifepristone for ovarian cancer.
Today, 15 years after its approval for early abortion, FMF remains the sole provider of mifepristone for compassionate use in the United States. Since the Compassionate Use Program began in 1998, nearly 170 patients have received treatment for their various life-threatening conditions. The continuation of this program is integral to the treatment, livelihood, and lives of these patients with various advanced and terminal conditions. Some patients have depended on mifepristone for nearly 20 years, crediting the drug for saving their lives. They have testified to such before the U.S. Congress.
FMF was a critical force in the fight to get mifepristone approved for medical abortion and remains a vital voice in the cry to lift onerous restrictions around mifepristone's access to doctors, patients and researchers so that its full potential as a novel anti-hormone therapy can finally be explored.
By Dr. Beth Jordan
In a statement released Wednesday by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), president Barbara Blaine blasted Pope Francis for his praise of US bishops' "courage," accusing the pontiff of doing "little if anything" to meaningfully address the Catholic Church's decades-long sex abuse crisis.
Pope Francis, in a homily delivered at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., one of several stops on his first US tour, told the nearly 300 bishops in attendance that he was "conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficulty moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice."
Blaine, who founded SNAP in 1988 as a self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse, wasted no time in challenging the pope's characterization of the Church's disastrous handling of the scandals, noting no clergy have been "defrocked, demoted, disciplined or even publicly denounced" despite the revelation of at least 100,000 victims over the course of 30 years of known abuse.
"What sacrifice?," questioned Blaine. "What bishop takes fewer vacations, drives a smaller car, does his own laundry or has been passed over for promotion because he's shielding predators and endangering kids? None."
Today, the Vatican stood by the pope's comments. "I am not surprised that there are critics that are not happy," said Vatican Press Secretary, Rev. Federico Lombardi. "This is not the first time."
Despite decades of occurrence, clergy sexual abuse only entered the public consciousness thirteen years ago, following an explosive expos by the Boston Globe. According to Blaine, in the years since, Catholic Church officials have taken few steps to protect children from future victimization.
"[Pope Francis'] remarks today confirm what we've long suspected: this pope, like his predecessors, is doing and will do little if anything to bring real reform to this continuing crisis. Those who care about kids must focus on secular authorities, not church figures (however popular they may be).
Senators voted 47-52 yesterday to block a short-term spending bill, falling short of the 60 votes needed to defund Planned Parenthood beginning in October.
Eight Republican senators joined Senate Democrats to vote against moving forward on the spending bill that would have stripped federal funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not announced a plan to avoid shutting down the government come next Wednesday at midnight.
The bill, HR 61, is the latest in a series of anti-abortion measures introduced by Republican lawmakers to eliminate funding to the nation's leading reproductive health care provider following the release of several fraudulent videos by the Center for Medical Progress. Despite no evidence that there is any truth to the videos' claims that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal tissue, Republicans insisted on eliminating funding that enables millions of women, especially low-income women, to access health care.
Given that Planned Parenthood provides quality, affordable reproductive health care to 2.7 million women, men and teens at approximately 700 health centers nationwide, the stakes could not be higher.
Furthermore, Planned Parenthood serves more clients of publicly funded family planning centers than any other provider in the country. 79 percent of Planned Parenthood health care patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Ending Planned Parenthood's services would put women's lives at risk, especially low-income women who would not be able to afford care elsewhere.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday that the anti-abortion group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress must provide documents and respond to questions concerning deceptive videos the group produced to mislead the public about Planned Parenthood.
In July, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) filed a federal lawsuit against CMP, its leader David Daleiden, and CMP board member and Operation Rescue president Troy Newman alleging civil conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and breach of contract. This lawsuit follows the distribution of falsified, misleading videos suggesting NAF members, including Planned Parenthood, illegally sold fetal tissue.
There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood has ever sold fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood clinics in two states (making up only one percent of Planned Parenthood health centers in the country) allow patients to participate in legal fetal tissue donation programs. Fetal tissue donation contributes to groundbreaking medical research.
Federal District Court Judge William Orrick extended a temporary restraining order in August on behalf of NAF, prohibiting Daleiden, Newman, CMP, and Biomax, another defendant involved in the CMP scheme, from releasing any videos, documents, or other confidential information obtained from NAF Annual Meetings. This information included the dates and locations of future meetings. Judge Orrick also ordered defendants to produce discovery, documents and other materials that will aid in resolving the legal dispute between the parties.
Defendants immediately petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, opposing the discovery request, and notified the district court that they would plead the Fifth Amendment, a protection against self-incrimination. The Ninth Circuit briefly suspended the discovery order while it reviewed the anti-abortion group's petition. Its decision yesterday means that the defendants must comply with Judge Orrick's order and produce documents and submit to questioning.
Judge Orrick ruled earlier this month that CMP and Biomax could not plead the Fifth to avoid complying with NAF's requests for discovery. Judge Orrick also ruled that Daleiden and Newman could not use the Fifth Amendment to assert a blanket refusal to answer all questions posed by NAF. Instead, as individuals, they can plead the Fifth only on a question-by-question basis, allowing NAF to challenge each instance and the Court to rule on a question-by-question basis whether Fifth Amendment protections apply.
The temporary restraining order against CMP, Biomax, Daleiden, and Newman remains in effect.
In a joint letter delivered Tuesday, more than 20 national women's groups called on California Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law A.B. 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, a measure requiring unlicensed clinics providing pregnancy-related services to disclose that they are not medical providers.
The law, introduced in April by Assembly members David Chiu and Autumn Burke, would also require reproductive health clinics to provide information about the state's public programs offering access to affordable family planning, prenatal and abortion services. It was passed by the California State Assembly in May this year.
Twenty-three national women's organizations nationwide, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, signed the letter in an effort to curb the proliferation of anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) and address the public health threat posed by their deceptive practices.
"For far too long, anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have used misleading tactics to lure women in their centers where they intentionally misinform women with long-debunked myths about family planning and abortion," wrote the groups. "Regardless of one's opinion on abortion, no woman seeking medical care should be shamed or lied to; let's start holding CPCs accountable in California."
Last week, a new poll conducted by Tulchin Research for NARAL Pro-Choice California found overwhelming support statewide for increased regulation of CPCs with more than half of voters backing the measures proposed in the FACT Act.
"This common sense legislation enjoys overwhelming support," said Amy Everitt, Director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, a co-sponsor of the bill. "We urge the Governor to sign it immediately and stand up for women of California who have been defrauded by CPCs for long enough."
The fight for clear and accurate information for pregnant women has long been a fight for women's rights activists. Last year in response to a campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice America and efforts by the Feminist Majority Foundation to expose fake clinics, Google removed deceptive crisis pregnancy center (CPC) advertisements from search engine results when users seek information about abortion services. Most of the advertisements claimed that the CPCs provided abortions when they did not.
Senate Democrats yesterday blocked a restrictive 20-week abortion ban, which had passed the House in May, in a cloture vote 54 to 42. To pass this ban, Republicans needed a super-majority of 60 votes. Senate leadership had decided that the motion would be a cloture vote, requiring 60 votes to pass.
The vote fell mostly on party lines, with the majority of Republicans voting for it and a majority of Democrats voting against it. There were a few acceptions: Democrats Casey (PA), Manchin (WV), and Donnelly (IN) voted for the bill and Republicans Collins (ME) and Kirk (IL) voted against it.
HR 36, which passed through the House in May, is a restrictive 20-week abortion ban would force rape survivors under 18 years of age seeking abortion care to report the crime to authorities. For survivors over the age of 18, the only option other than reporting the crime to authorities under this restrictive bill is for the woman to seek medical attention or counseling at least 48 hours before their procedure at a location other than where they plan to have their procedure. This requires seeking two separate providers- one for medical attention or counseling and one for an abortion- and is expensive, unrealistic, and overly burdensome. There is no exception to the requirement to report rape or incest for minors.
This bill was originally brought to the House floor in January, but House Republicans were forced to pull the bill just before midnight due to concerns from Republican women about reporting requirements for rape and incest survivors. Although sponsors of the bill claim that these concerns have been addressed, HR 36 still includes immensely onerous steps for women seeking abortion care to go through.
Although the overwhelming majority of voters, both Democrats and Republicans alike, feel that this is the wrong issue for Congress to be spending its time on, Republicans in Congress have made it clear from the beginning of the year that limiting women's access to comprehensive health and reproductive care is a top priority. House Speaker John Boehner referred to this 20-week ban as one of the most important priorities for Congress.
9/23/2015 - PPFA President Agrees to Testify Before House Committee; House Dems Demand CMP Testify, Too
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards has agreed to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is chaired by Reps. John Chaffetz (R-UT).
The House Committee is "investigating" allegations against Planned Parenthood after the release of highly edited and misleading videos from anti-choice group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) claiming the organization profits from fetal tissue donation. The claims have been repeatedly proved to be false, and House Democrats are calling for CMP testify before the House Committee, too.
In a statement issued Monday, Planned Parenthood spokesperson and Vice President Eric Ferrero said Richards expects to be invited to the hearing on Sept. 29 and "if invited, she will accept that invitation."
"We look forward to sharing the facts with this committee," Ferrero continued, "which include that fetal tissue donation for medical research is an important but tiny part of Planned Parenthood's work in just two states, that we've had guidance in place for more than a decade in this area that goes well beyond the legal requirements, and that even doctored and discredited videos show no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood."
Meanwhile, in a letter to Chaffetz, all 18 Oversight Committee Democrats urged Republican members to call David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Process (CMP), to testify as well, alleging the Committee, many of whom belong to the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right faction of the GOP, have engaged in a "biased, one-sided attack" against the women's healthcare provider in the wake of several fraudulent videos released by CMP this summer. Should the Committee refuse House Democrats' request, they have vowed to call Daleiden to testify at a separate hearing that same day.
"We believe it is fundamentally unfair to hold a public hearing to essentially indict Planned Parenthood in the court of public opinion without hearing directly from their accuser, David Daleiden, who deceptively edited secretly-recorded videos in an ultimately unsuccessful three-year crusade to entrap Planned Parenthood," the Democrats wrote.
Though not officially announced, the hearing is expected to be held the day before the House votes on the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government. In recent weeks, House Republicans have threatened to shut the government down unless the government cuts funding to Planned Parenthood.
Mike Perrin, a lawyer and former college football player, was chosen as the new interim athletic director for University of Texas over Chris Plonsky, a woman who has worked in the athletic department of the university for a quarter of a century. The announcement of this decision has many pointing to the lingering gender gaps in athletics at the collegiate level and beyond.
Decades after Title IX was passed in an attempt to address and prevent sex discrimination, statistics show there is a major disparity between male and female head coaches in college athletics. According to NCAA reporting, more than 80 percent of men still make up Division I collegiate head coaches, and of a total 313 Division I athletic directors, only 37 are women. As the New York Times reported:
"It's not that women aren't qualified, or that Texas has something specific against hiring [Plonsky] for its top job. It's just that the sad numbers don't lie."
North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow, one of only three women in the country employed as full-time athletic directors, understands these hurdles and says "if you want to overcome that barrier, here's a strategy: Wipe that question mark right out of their heads."
This is easier said than done, as women at both the collegiate and professional level face massive inequalities. As Meg Linehan of Vice Sports reported, the salaries for professional athletes in the National Women's Soccer League and the National Women's Hockey League are below the poverty line. Similarly, more established women's leagues like the WNBA are paid enormously less than their male counterparts.
The United States' women's soccer team made headlines this summer for both bringing home the FIFA World Cup trophy, but also for lingering disparities in pay coverage between the men's and women's teams. In this summer's world cup tournament alone, the US world champions of the women's World Cup earned collectively $15 million- a stark difference from the $576 million earned collectively by the US men's team, who lost in the first round of the tournament last year.
At the same time, tiny victories are taking place for women in athletics. Jen Welter was hired as a coach for the Arizona Cardinals this summer, becoming the first woman to be an NFL coach. And just this season, Sarah Thomas was named the first female referee official for the NFL. San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon also made history as the first woman to coach an NBA team.
9/21/2015 - Feminist Groups Oppose FratPAC Bill
Feminist groups, student activists, and survivor advocates announced their opposition to the proposed Safe Campus Act of 2015, also known as the "FratPAC bill," at a House subcommittee hearing on "Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault on College Campuses" earlier this month.
The bill, backed by the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FratPAC), is sponsored by Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Pete Sessions (R-TX). The bill would make it more difficult for colleges and universities to address campus sexual assault by requiring survivors to report incidents of sexual assault to a law enforcement agency before a school could investigate sexual assault allegations. Even then, schools could not institute disciplinary proceedings against an alleged attacker until the law enforcement agency completes its investigation, a process that could take several months and sometimes years.
"This measure is designed to drastically reduce the ability of schools to respond to sexual violence allegations at all," said Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) President Eleanor Smeal and FMF Director of Policy & Research Gaylynn Burroughs in a statement submitted to the subcommittee. "Blocking a school from fully addressing sexual violence complaints is . . . not only misguided, it undermines the intent and purpose of Title IX."
Only 12 percent of college student-survivors report to the police, with male survivors reporting at lower rates than women. "If you're looking for a way to not have students report - not only just to the school, but also to law enforcement - make it mandatory," said Lisa Maatz, Vice President for Government Relations at the American Association of University Women who testified at the hearing.
Instead of using an approach that disempowers survivors and prevents schools from protecting the safety and rights of their students, Maatz advocated for adoption of the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act), sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA). Under the SOS Campus Act, "Schools would establish an independent, on-campus advocate to support survivors of sexual assault. Advocates would connect survivors with resources including emergency and follow-up medical and counseling care, how to report to law enforcement if they so choose, and information about legal rights on campus and off."
Students from Stanford University held up signs at the hearing protesting the FratPAC bill, and Know Your IX actively opposed the bill, calling the legislation the "Unsafe Campus Act." School administrators have also largely criticized the bill, including Dr. Penny Rue, Vice President for Campus Life at Wake Forest University, who testified before the subcommittee.
With one in five women students experiencing a rape or attempted rape during her time in college, feminist groups are calling on Congress to strengthen Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Act, both of which are critical tools helping students and schools address sexual assault on campus. Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-funded education program and activities, obligates schools to take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate possible incidents of sexual assault on campus, determine what occurred, and, if necessary, take prompt and effective steps to remedy the situation, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence. Title IX protects all students from sex discrimination, including men and LGBTQ students, and helps to promote a safe and equitable educational environment.
The Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing Title IX. Between FY 2009 and FY 2014, complaints to OCR involving sexual violence on college campuses increased by more than 1000 percent. OCR plays an important role in remediating Title IX violations and encouraging schools to take voluntary steps toward implementing action plans to reduce sexual violence on campus. The flood of complaints and lack of adequate resources, however, have led to delays in OCR investigations. Legislation, such as the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) Campus Sexual Violence Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) would, among other things, give OCR more resources to ensure thorough and timely Title IX investigations.
A federal judge ruled last week that the anti-abortion group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and BioMax, the two defendants in a lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) in response to the release of several fraudulent "sting" videos, cannot invoke the Fifth Amendment in order to avoid NAF's requests for discovery.
In a defeat for CMP and Biomax, Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco, ordered that both organizations must comply with the court's requests for documents and other potential pieces of evidence. No U.S. court has allowed a corporation to plead the Fifth Amendment, a protection against self-incrimination.
"It's telling that the defendants have been very vocal in the media saying that they have nothing to hide, yet in federal court they want to plead the Fifth," said NAF President Vicki Saporta. "We are pleased with the results of today's hearing and are eager to move forward with the discovery process."
Both CMP founder, David Daleiden, and Troy Newman, head of Operation Rescue and one of CMP's founding officers, had previously indicated that they intend to plead the Fifth, as individual defendants. The Court rejected their argument that they should be able to use a blanket Fifth Amendment protection against all questions posed by NAF, but that they could assert Fifth Amendment rights on a question-by-question basis. Judge Orrick made clear, however, that plaintiffs could challenge the assertion of the Fifth Amendment and that the Court would rule on a question-by-question basis whether Fifth Amendment protections applied.
In July, NAF filed a lawsuit against extremist organization CMP and Biomax alleging civil conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and breach of contract, following the wide distribution of falsified videos suggesting NAF members, including Planned Parenthood, illegally sold fetal tissue. There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood has ever sold fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood clinics in two states (making up only one percent of Planned Parenthood health centers in the country) allow patients to participate in legal fetal tissue donation programs.
The decision by Judge Orrick marks another victory for NAF and Planned Parenthood as anti-abortion extremists continue to blur the lines of fact and fiction. Last month, the court granted NAF a temporary restraining order against CMP, Biomax, Daleiden, and Newman