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7/10/2015 - Black Communities Overwhelmingly Support Reproductive Rights

A new study has found that the majority of Black men and women believe in a woman's right to choose and want women to have access to abortion care and contraception. These attitudes are broadly shared across age, gender, income, political ideology and religion.

85 percent of those who participated in the study, conducted by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, believe that Black women should be trusted to make their own reproductive choices. 71 percent believe abortion should be available in their communities. 86 percent see contraception as part of a woman's basic health care, ad 94 percent want publicly funded contraception to be made available for low-income people.

"Overwhelmingly, black Americans support a woman's right to determine for herself when she will have children," said Dazon Dixon Diallo, the founder and CEO of reproductive justice nonprofit SisterLove. "We are being faced with an assault against that critical belief that exists in the black community."

African-American women face different health risks than white women, partially due to lack of access to care. Because of this, diseases such as breast and cervical cancers are less likely to be found early, when they are most treatable. Because many clinics that provide abortions also offer screenings for cancers and STDs, African American women are disproportionately affected as new state-level restrictions cause these clinics to shutter.

In Our Own Voice applauded the introduction of the EACH Woman Act on July 8 in their report, a bill that would make insurance coverage for abortion available to all women, especially low-income women. "The EACH Woman Act puts the power back in the hands of Black women, in varying financial and life situations, and gives options that are best suited for their families' needs," said Michelle Batchelor, the National Director for In Our Own Voice in their press release.

7/10/2015 - Women Are Saving Hundreds of Dollars on Contraception Following the ACA's Implementation

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, women have saved dramatically on birth control and emergency contraception.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and published in Health Affairs found that after the ACA mandate went into effect, birth control users have saved an average of $255 every year and IUD users have saved $248. Spending on implant devices has dropped to $91, a 72 percent decrease, and the cost of emergency contraceptives has declined by over 90 percent. Before the ACA, women were spending about 44 percent of their annual health expenditures on birth control, but after the mandate, that number has been reduced to 22 percent. At this rate, consumer spending on the pill alone could drop by almost $1.5 billion annually.

While the study was not able to definitively prove that the law was the cause of these falling expenditures, experts say that the timing and magnitude of the decline suggest that it was. These results are also consistent with smaller studies that have found similar results. "I find this study persuasive and consistent with what other studies are finding," said Alina Salganicoff, the director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "I think we're seeing a clear pattern in the research."

Under the ACA health insurance providers must cover preventive health services, such as birth control, without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. At least one version of all 18 federally approved birth control methods, including IUDs, the patch, pill, shots or injections, vaginal contraceptive rings, and some long-term options such as surgical sterilization or implant, must be available to women.

Costs have been a huge barrier to access to birth control, leading to an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies. About 3.3 million pregnancies each year in the United States are unintended, and, according to the Brookings Institution, poor women in the United States are five times as likely as affluent women to have unintended births.

"We have no doubt that the cost makes a difference," said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Center for Health Research in Washington. "When you have free contraception, it's going to affect pregnancy and abortion as well because money matters."

Despite these positive findings, many women still do not have access to affordable birth control under the ACA. The National Women's Law Center found that many insurance companies have failed to comply with the law. The ACA also does not cover all versions of birth control and many women still have to pay for contraception if their plans predate the ACA.

7/9/2015 - The Kansas AG is Fighting to Uphold an Anti-Abortion Law

Earlier this month, the Kansas Attorney General announced his plans to appeal a Shawnee County Judge's ruling which blocked an anti-choice law in the state.

Lawyers representing Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed the notice asking to overturn the ruling. Schmidt's lawyers did not say why the Attorney General was appealing, but did argue that the abortion procedure was "inhumane." The suit is being filed on behalf of Doctors Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser of Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. Their practice is only one of three providers of abortion in Kansas.

The law in question, SB95, was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee and took effect July 1. It outlaws a "dismemberment" abortion, which essentially bans any dilation and evacuation procedure; this procedure is used in most second-trimester abortions and in about 9 percent of all abortions performed in the state. Kansas was the first state to ban this type of abortion.

District Judge Larry Hendricks ruled the ban unconstitutional, citing that it puts an undue burden on women seeking abortions since the procedure is so common. Hendricks also said that the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights as much as the U.S. Constitution. He put the law on hold until he hears a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which he said is "likely to prevail."

SB95 prohibits patients from finding safe, effective, and medically-proven method of second trimester abortion. The law was originally signed over objections of local, state, and national medical experts and physicians.

"We are confident this court will see the harm this law would inflict upon Kansas women," said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, "and block it before even one woman is denied the care that she and her doctor have decided is best."

7/8/2015 - Successful Family Planning Initiative In Colorado Is At Risk

Colorado's Family Planning Initiative (CFPI), which offers teenagers and poor women free and low-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants and has significantly reduced the state's teen pregnancy and abortion rates, may soon disappear.

The CFPI's private grant is set to run out this year, and Colorado state representatives have eliminated the program's funding by voting down a bill that would have appropriated $5 million toward the initiative. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is continuing to search for private funding but has not yet received a firm commitment.

"It's outrageous that, in this day and age, politicians in Colorado voted to dismantle a critical program that is proven to help young women reduce unintended pregnancy and plan for their futures," Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

The Initiative resulted in a 40 percent drop in the teen pregnancy rate between 2009 and 2013 and a 42 percent drop in the abortion rate. Birth rates among unmarried women under 25 who did not finish high school also dropped by about the same amount. While teen pregnancy rates have been declining around the country, experts say that these dramatic results are most likely due to the program, which was started six years ago and funded by a private grant. About one-fifth of women ages 18-44 in Colorado now use a long-acting method of birth control, compared to 7 percent nationwide.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) has praised the Initiative, saying that "it has helped thousands of young Colorado women continue their education, pursue their professional goals and postpone pregnancy until they are ready to start a family."

CFPI has particularly helped women in the poorest areas of the state. The Initiative gives funding to family planning clinics all over the state, resulting in around 30,000 IUDs and implants being offered to low-income young women at little or no cost. Without insurance, an IUD would cost between $500 and $900, preventing many low-income women from accessing this highly-effective, reversible, long-acting form of contraception.

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which seeks to provide free contraception, may ease some of the burden if Colorado's program were to disappear, the ACA is not as effective. The ACA does not cover all versions of birth control and many women will still have to pay for contraception if their plans predate the ACA.

7/8/2015 - President Assures There Will Be Justice for Farkhunda in Afghanistan Following Outcry by Women's Rights Leaders

Leaders were outraged last week when the Appeals Court of Afghanistan reversed the death penalties issued in the murder case of Farkhunda, who was killed by an angry mob in March.

The Kabul Primary Court sentenced four men to death and eight to 16 years in prison who were charged with the murder of Farkhunda in May. The Appeals Court instead sentenced three of the men to 20 years of imprisonment and another to 10. After the decision, Samira Hamidi and Hasina Safi from Afghan Women's Network, members of Afghanistan's Civil Society Forum, and Parliamentarians Farkhunda Naderi and Gulalai Safi met with President Ashraf Ghani to express their anger over the decision.

Although the Afghan Constitution prohibits the President from interfering in the Court's ruling, Ghani promised the group the case is yet to be finalized and ensured civil society members that any shortcoming of the prosecutor's work will be thoroughly reviewed. The President has also met with Farkhunda's family and promised them justice. According to reports by Afghan media, the deputy spokesman of the President has confirmed that due to some gaps in the investigation, the case will be reviewed once again. The President also called on the people of Afghanistan to exercise patience during this case so that the urge for quick prosecution of the case does not reduce it to Taliban style justice.

27-year-old Farkhunda was brutally killed by an angry mob in front of a famous shrine in the center of Kabul. She challenged the guardian (some news reports referred to him as mullah) of the shrine for giving charms and amulets in return for money to the visitors, most of whom were women. For being challenged by a woman, mullah and guardian shouted and falsely accused her of burning the Quran. The false accusation of the mullah and guardian ignited vicious and fatal attack on Farkhunda by an angry mob of men in front of the shrine.

The shrine attendant, along with 47 other people - including 19 police officers - were arrested in connection to the murder.

7/8/2015 - The EACH Woman Act Expanding Abortion Access Was Just Introduced in Congress

In a long overdue step to ensuring access to health insurance coverage for abortion for low-income women, Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) today introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act, which would make insurance coverage for abortion available to all women.

All Above All, a coalition of over fifty organizations, including The Feminist Majority, joined several members of Congress, including Rosa DeLauro, Lois Frankel, Mike Honda, Brenda Lawrence, and Jerrold Nadler, to make the bills introduction and to condemn federal restrictions that prevent low-income women from being able to access safe abortion care.

"The amount of money a woman has or doesn't have should never prevent her from having an abortion," said Congresswoman Lee.

Since the passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld coverage for abortion services from women insured through the Medicaid program. Approximately 1 in 6 women are enrolled in Medicaid are of reproductive age. To date, only 17 states provide state Medicaid coverage for all or most medically necessary abortions. Medicaid restriction often creates an insurmountable barrier to abortion for women already struggling to make ends meet and disproportionally impacts women of color.

"For too long, low-income women have been denied abortion coverage just because they can't afford it and live in a state without coverage," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal in a press release. "The size of your paycheck and which state you live in should not determine access."

The Act would also prevent federal, state, and local government from restricting insurance coverage of abortion in private health insurance plans, including plans purchased on health insurance exchanges created through the Affordable Care Act. Across the country, legislators have attempted - sometimes successfully - to limit access to abortion by placing restrictions on ACA plans or private insurers, putting women's health at risk, especially low-income women.

In 2012, Iowa lawmakers filed a petition with the state's Department of Human Services in an attempt to end all Medicaid funding for abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. In July of last year, Georgia enacted a law banning coverage of abortion in health insurance plans purchased in the state marketplace and an law that restricted access to abortion for folks on Medicaid in Alaska by defining, on strict terms, when it was "medically necessary" was challenged by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

"Politically motivated attacks on women's access to abortion must end," said Feminist Majority Policy Director Gaylynn Burroughs. "The EACH Woman Act takes a huge step forward by preventing politicians from playing games with women's lives by deciding which services their health insurance can and cannot cover."

7/6/2015 - Affirmative Consent Education May Soon Be the Norm for California High School Students

California legislation aimed at preventing sexual assault and educating high school students on healthy relationships is poised to become law, as it passed the California Assembly Education Committee last week.

Senate Bill 695 passed through the Education Committee unanimously with a bipartisan vote of 6-0. The bill provides new requirements for public high school health classes- which most California high schools require for graduation- that include instruction on affirmative consent and healthy relationships as well as sexual harassment, assault, violence. These new educational requirements are aimed at informing students on these issues before they reach college campuses, where instances of rape and sexual assault are high.

"It's no longer acceptable to say 'boys will be boys' as an excuse for rape or dating violence. We need to broaden our perspective beyond college campuses," said Avni Parikh, co-founder of Students for Sexual Respect, a group aiming to a consent-based culture for young people in sexual relationships.

"The statistics show we are not doing nearly enough. We can and must educate the youth of our state, especially our young men, about affirmative consent and healthy relationships to change behavior toward young women," said Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D- Los Angeles), joint-author of the bill. Joint-author Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), and chair of the California Legislative Women's Caucus, added "If we want to prevent sexual assault, it's important that we start early, before our young people reach adulthood."

Just last fall, California passed an affirmative consent "Yes Means Yes" bill for its colleges and universities, removing all ambiguity from rules about consent- the first law of its kind. It radically changed the standard of proving sexual assault, which previously required victims of sexual assault to demonstrate that they did not consent. Instead, affirmative consent has to be continually given throughout the sexual activity and can be revoked at any time and does not include silence, lack of resistance, or "consent" given while intoxicated. All people involved in the sexual activity must ensure that they have the affirmative consent of others.

7/6/2015 - US Women's Soccer World Cup Win Comes Despite Huge Inequalities

The United States' women's soccer team defeated Japan this weekend in an impressive and fast-paced game at 5-2, with a hat trick (3 goals in one game) by Carli Lloyd in the first twenty minutes of the game. This is the first time such a hat trick has ever been scored in men's and women's World Cup history. The women's team brought home the championship trophy for the first time in 16 years, and despite national and international celebration, disparities in coverage, respect, and pay still linger between women's and men's soccer matches.

The FIFA World Cup tournament was hosted in Canada, and included some of the best athletes in the world competing in a fast-paced, month-long competition. The US women's team in particular was a favorite from the beginning; with a world-class lineup that includes international goal-scoring record holder Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Alex Morgan, and goal keeper Hope Solo, this match has many reminiscing about the US team who last brought home the World Cup trophy in 1999. For the final match, over 53,000 people completely filled the Canadian stadium to watch the US bring win against Japan.

Even so, feminists have been noting the differences between coverage of last year's men's World Cup in Brazil and this year's tournament in Canada. The months of in-depth coverage leading up to the men's World Cup last year dramatically overshadows the limited coverage of the women's cup, which mostly focused on the last two weeks of the tournament.

As Maggie Mertens wrote for the Atlantic, "The gender inequities in sports are just as vast as those faced by women in corporate offices and on movie sets, but for some reason they fail to incite the same level of outrage." There is a massive pay gap between male and female professional athletes. In this tournament alone the US world champions of the women's World Cup will earn 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.

The fight for equality in sports is not a new one. With the historic passing of Title IX of the Education Amendments in 1972, sex discrimination in federally funded education programs was prohibited, opening the doors for women in sports and higher education. In 1972, women were only 15.6 percent of collegiate athletes, but by 2007 women made up as much as 41.7 percent, and that statistic has been climbing.

"When we started the fight for women's athletic equality in the 70s, we were told repeatedly that no one would want to watch women and girls' sports," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, remembers. "We knew that was simply untrue- and the women of the United States soccer team proved that last night. The 2015 FIFA World Cup stadium was filled to capacity to watch these women play."

Indeed, Fox Sports- the primary United States carrier of the FIFA World Cup- had to expand its coverage of the tournament with 30 additional hours of programming, including expanded pre- and post-game coverage, due to unprecedented demand for coverage of this championship match. The increase in programming is promising, although we are far from parity; a new report by researchers from USC and Purdue University found that ESPN's coverage of sports news through program SportsCenter only gave 2% airtime to women in 2014.

A group of more than 40 leading women's soccer players have recently filed a lawsuit against FIFA for gender-based discrimination, specifically citing FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) decisions to have the women's tournament played on artificial turf as opposed to a grass field. Those filing the lawsuit call artificial turf an "inferior surface," and cite the increased risk of injury and significant temperature difference on the field that artificial turf creates. In this World Cup, the artificial turf brought temperatures on the field to up to 120 degrees. Every men's World Cup since 1930 has been played on natural grass, while most women's World Cup matches, as well as the next six scheduled, are slated to be played on artificial turf.

7/2/2015 - President Obama Will Expand Overtime Pay to Millions of Americans

President Obama is proposing a plan this week to broaden overtime pay that is expected to affect millions of Americans in the working class, especially women.

In an Op-Ed written for and published by the Huffington Post, President Obama summarized what he called a successful week for Americans. Indeed, in just over the span of a week, the Supreme Court protected Obamacare, prevented gerrymandering, ensured fair housing, declared marriage equality a fundamental right, and saved Texas abortion clinics.

President Obama hopes to continue the positive trends, and proposes a plan to give a significant amount of Americans an economic boost. The President acknowledges a trending problem in the way many employers avoid giving overtime pay.

Federal regulation currently places a salary cap for those eligible to receive overtime at $23,660, leaving out a large amount of workers, particularly women, who receive no overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. It is a regulation that was instituted 40 years ago, and President Obama feels it no longer reflects the realities of the working middle class. The President's new rule would allow workers who earn up to $50,440 to demand the standard time-and-a-half pay for work past 40 hours.

"As president, my top priority is to strengthen the middle class, expand opportunity and grow the economy," Obama writes. He then asks, "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do exceptionally well? Or will we push for an economy where every American who works hard can contribute to and benefit from our success?"

Women will likely benefit most from this move, as Time magazine writes, "With average income hovering around $35,154, unmarried women previously experience the double whammy of earning less income than their single male counterparts (single men earned an average of $50,625 in 2013), and being unable to earn overtime pay."

Particularly in the retail industry, companies are finding ways to skirt around overtime compensation laws giving employees managerial titles, without pay compensation. Employees with managerial titles are not entitled to ask for overtime compensation, and can therefore work upwards of 80 hour work weeks without any additional pay. The President commented on this phenomenon earlier this year:

"What we've seen is, increasingly, companies skirting basic overtime laws, calling somebody a manager when they're stocking groceries and getting paid $30,000 a year," Obama said. "Those folks are being cheated."

The proposal must undergo a public comment period before going into effect, and is expected to be implemented in 2016.

7/2/2015 - National Portrait Gallery Honors Dolores Huerta

Feminist Majority Foundation board member and lifelong feminist activist Dolores Huerta was honored by the National Portrait Gallery last night as the first Latina person to have a featured exhibition at the museum.

Huerta is an active defender of civil rights, farm workers' rights, women's rights, and immigrant rights, and has been for over five decades. She was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011 for her tireless work. She also founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation for organizing and advancing human rights.

Huerta is often considered unparalleled in her skill in grassroots organizing, and has celebrated many successes. She co-founded with Cesar Chavez the United Farm Workers Union (UFW). Huerta was also instrumental in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and was a principle UFW negotiator with major growers.

Huerta, a leading women's rights advocate, joined the Feminist Majority Foundation board and the board of its sister organization the Feminist Majority, in 1988.She was a leader of the Feminist Majority's Feminization of Power campaign to inspire women to run for public offices.

The National Portrait Gallery exhibition is titled "One Life: Dolores Huerta," and "highlights the significant role of this Latina leader in the California farm workers movement of the 1960s and 70s." It is the first national museum to feature Huerta's many accomplishments.

At the premier event for the exhibition Wednesday, Executive Director of the Latino Museum Estuardo Rodriguez said that he hopes the national and international attention that the National Portrait Gallery receives has will greatly increase visibility for Huerta and her causes.

'Tonight is an example of the stories that should be in our history books," Rodriguez said. He also spoke to Huerta's determined spirit, remarking on her willingness to go to great lengths for what she believes in. "For Dolores Huerta," he said, "nothing is inconvenient if it's for a cause."

Of the exhibition, curator Taina Caragol writes, "Huerta was instrumental in achieving major legal protections and a better standard of living for farm workers, yet she remains largely under-acknowledged in history."

The exhibition, which opens in July 2015 and closes in May 2016, will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 grape strike launched by Huerta and the farm workers movement. The exhibition includes artifacts from Huerta's many protests, portraits of her as an activist, and even her Presidential Medal of Freedom.

7/1/2015 - Women's Rights Activists are Suing the Kenyan Government for Reproductive Rights

A woman in Kenya is suing the Kenyan government for failure to provide safe and legal abortions, which caused her daughter - a 15-year-old rape victim - to suffer a kidney failure after undergoing the procedure illegally.

Currently, there are four petitioners on the case: the mother of the survivor, the Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya, and two other women's rights advocates. The petitioners are calling on the government to provide expanded guidelines on when an abortion can be performed as well as safe abortion training for medical professionals.

Abortion is currently illegal in Kenya, with a narrow exception for women who prove her life or mental well-being are in danger. Due to Kenya's restrictive laws, many women and girls have to seek illegal abortions which are often botched and dangerous.

"The Kenyan government is allowing thousands of women in Kenya to needlessly die or suffer severe complications every year due to unsafe abortion," said Regional director of Africa for the Center of Reproductive Rights, Evelyne Opondo, "and it must be held accountable."

Illegal abortion procedures in Kenya cause 35 percent of maternal deaths. In 2012, one-quarter of women and girls who had an illegal abortion had to hospitalized with serious health complications, including cervical damage, septic shock, and uterine perforation.

Last year, the Kenyan government received international attention on abortion access as well. The government chose to execute a nurse who drove a woman seeking an abortion to another hospital for advanced assessment before performing the abortion. The woman and fetus died in the car, and the nurse was charged with murder on two counts, illustrating that strict anti-abortion laws such as the ones in Kenya threaten the lives and well-being of both women and medical professionals.

6/30/2015 - Community Members, Advocates, and Celebrities Stand in Support with Bree Newsome

On June 27, at about 6:30 AM, Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole at South Carolina's Statehouse and removed the confederate flag. Newsome's removal of the flag with the help of a white man is an act of civil disobedience that demonstrates a transcendence of the boundaries of race and gender, and it is a true testament to the power people have when working together.

"For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites," Newsome said in her first-ever statement after the flag's removal. "And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It's the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country. It's a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders."

Newsome is charged with "defacing a monument," a misdemeanor, and faces imprisonment up to three years and a fine of up to $5,000. James Tyson, who aided Newsome by belaying her, was also charged. In just two days, over 4500 people have raised over $114,000 online for her bail fund. According to a statement from Ignite NC, �some of the funds will go towards covering the bonds of Bree and Jimmy and the rest will go toward legal defense funds for other #BlackLivesMatter direct actions.�

Celebrities are also coming forward to support Newsome, both economically and politically. Famed documentary filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted an offer to "pay her bail money or any legal fees she has." A number of other celebrities have taken to social media accounts to share their support, ranging from hip-hop artists like 2 Chainz, Nas, Questlove, and Big Boi to actress Gabrielle Union. Director Ava DuVernay also took to twitter to share her support:

North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber II compared Newsome to Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks in a statement released after the flag was removed. Barber called Newsome a "committed, trained, non-violent messenger of the truth."

At her core, Newsome is a freedom fighter and an organizer. She's the western field organizer for Ignite NC, a non-profit based in Durham, a co-founder of StAY UP NC, and a People's Power Assembly organizer and an organizer with Tribe CLT, a group of "committed individuals dedicated to community building, education, and revolutionary action." She was one of six protesters arrested while participating in a sit-in at North Carolina's Statehouse to protest the draconian "monster" voter suppression bill passed in 2013. An NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate, she has also released a number of videos, short films, and songs, including "#StayStrong: A Love Song To Freedom Fighters," which she performed at the first-ever Black Lives Matter Youth Assembly.

Newsome's father is a former dean of the School of Divinity at Howard University and former President of Shaw University in Raleigh, the university where the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded. He is currently a trustee of Duke University, and president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

6/30/2015 - Supreme Court Ruling Prevents Gerrymandering in Arizona

In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Ginsburg this morning, the Supreme Court upheld Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, allowing the use of independent state commissions that draw federal congressional districts, taking that power away from the state legislature.

This gives states an opportunity to deal with partisan gerrymandering by giving an independent commission power to draw federal congressional districts.

In 2000, Arizona voters amended their constitution, shifting the responsibility of drawing congressional districts, previously held by the state legislature, to a panel called the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The panel consists of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent. Legislative leaders cannot alter the maps and the governor cannot veto them, though they may comment on the plans drawn up by the commission.

Diminishing the legislature's role in reapportionment is a victory for voters seeking to curb the practice of gerrymandering, the drawing of congressional districts in an effort to manipulate the results of an election. In the Court's opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Majority of the Court referenced a 2005 gerrymandering case, which stated that, "the voters should choose their representative, not the other way around." Chief Justice Roberts joined Justice Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in dissenting.

Today's decision upheld the commission, allowing Arizona voters to transfer powers over federal congressional districting to an independent commission.

California is the only other state to approve a commission that diminishes the legislature's role in a manner similar to Arizona, though 11 other states have commissions that play a role in redistricting.

6/29/2015 - The Supreme Court Just Saved Texas Abortion Clinics

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 today to put a temporary hold on a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that would have closed all but 9 of the state's abortion clinics in Texas.

The order from the Supreme Court comes in response to an emergency request filed by women's health care providers on the behalf of Texas women earlier this month asking the Court to stay House Bill 2, which would have taken effect as law on Wednesday. The law would have required abortion clinics to adhere to strict and costly hospital-like facility requirements. Had it gone into effect, 13 clinics in Texas would have face immediate closure.

"The justices have preserved Texas women's few remaining options for safe and legal abortion care for the moment," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Our Constitution rightly protects women from laws that would create barriers to safe and legal abortion care, but Texas politicians have tried to sneak around the Constitution with sham regulations designed to close clinics' doors."

If the clinics in Texas were to close, an estimated 1.3 million women of reproductive age would live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic. This provision has already forced approximately half of the state's abortion clinics to close their doors over the past two years.

"We're relieved that the high court has, once again, prevented anti-choice politicians from pushing safe and affordable abortion care entirely out of reach for Texas women," said Amy Hagstom-Miller, founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman's Health.

"The 5-4 split- with Justices Kennedy, Bader-Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, voting to keep the clinics open, and Chief Justice Roberts together with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito voting against the clinics- shows just how important elections and judicial appointments are to guarding women's constitutional rights," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

The ruling today means that the Supreme Court will likely determine during its next term whether or not onerous TRAP laws, like the one in Texas, are constitutional.

6/26/2015 - Supreme Court Declares Marriage Equality a Constitutional Right

In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy this morning, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that same-sex couples fundamentally have equal protections under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all 50 states to both license a marriage and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex. The opinion of the Court, delivered by Justice Kennedy, reads that "marriage is fundamental under the Constitution," and applies "with equal force to same-sex couples."

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of live, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," wrote Justice Kennedy. "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves... They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Previously, only 37 states had provisions allowing same-sex marriage. Along with marriage equality, this morning's Supreme Court decision affords same-sex couples many state and federal benefits, including benefits in taxation, inheritance and property rights, hospital access, medical decision-making authority, birth and death certificates, worker's compensation benefits, and more.

"When President Obama took office in 2008, only two states recognized legal marriage for same-sex couples. Now the nation does," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "At last, SCOTUS recognizes that love is love, and that all 50 states must recognize marriage equality."

Republican leaders are digging their heels in and showing their determination to fight against marriage equality and Obamacare, which was upheld by the Supreme Court just yesterday. Already, the majority of Republican presidential candidates have come out against the Supreme Court's decisions on both issues. As GOP Republican National Committee leader Reince Priebus said, "As a Party, we believe in the importance of traditional marriage between a man and a woman."

While feminists and activists everywhere are celebrating, many are also keeping in mind the many areas of discrimination that LGBT communities face. For example, 29 states lack explicit protections for LGB individuals, and 32 states lack explicit protections against discrimination for transgender individuals or based on gender identity. As the Center for American Progress writes, "in 16 states and counting, same-sex couples can legally marry and then be legally fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartments, denied credit, refused hotel rooms, and discriminated against in education all because of their sexual orientation."

6/26/2015 - President Obama Delivers Moving Eulogy in Charleston

The nation is remembering the nine victims of the Emanuel AME Church mass shooting this week, as President Obama gave an unforgettable eulogy for State Senate Reverend Clementa Pinckney.

President Obama knew Reverend Pinckney personally, meeting him during his 2008 election campaign. He recounted Pickney's impressive life, as he became a pastor at age 13, a minister at 18, and was the youngest African American to be elected to a position in the South Carolina House at just 23. The President spoke of Reverend Pickney's kind spirit, calling him a good man and saying he was "full of empathy and fellow feeling."

In his eulogy, President Obama also mentioned the Reverend's uphill battle as a minority in the state senate. "His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up- he stayed true to his convictions." Reverend Pinckney, however, was always protecting those in need, as the President said, "he encouraged progress as a reverend and as a state senator."

President Obama honored Pinckney's memory too by urging action on gun violence, police violence, and the removal of the confederate flag, saying that it represents "more than ancestral pride."

"Maybe then we can realize the way racial bias affects us in ways we might not realize," he said." History must not be a sword to justify injustice, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past."

He ended by singing the first verse of "Amazing Grace," and ended his eulogy with the names of the victims of the Charleston shooting: Sen. Rev. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson.

Some 5,500 people attended the funeral for Rev. Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina, with estimated millions watching a live broadcast. Attendees included President and Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, Speaker John Boehner, SC Governor Nikki Haley, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and many fellow members of Pinckney's church.

6/25/2015 - Supreme Court Decides: Obamacare Lives

In a momentous victory, the US Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and protected access to health insurance for millions of families and individuals.

In its 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court ruled in King v. Burwell that federal financial assistance made available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to purchase health insurance should be available to all eligible individuals, regardless of the state in which they live.

"At last, conservative efforts to kill Obamacare in the courts have decisively failed," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. "It is shameful that Republican leaders are already announcing that they will continue to fight to kill Obamacare and take away health care from millions of low-income people I am confident that this will be a major presidential issue, and that a majority of voters will demand that conservative politicians stop playing games with people's health and lives."

Under the ACA, the federal government provides financial help, in the form of tax credits, to middle- and low-income individuals to purchase health insurance through Health Insurance Marketplaces. Some states created their own marketplaces, but 34 states controlled by Republican governors refused to set up state marketplaces and therefore had to rely on use federally-facilitated marketplaces to allow individuals to buy health insurance. The issue in this case centered on whether these tax credits could be made available to families and individuals in those 34 states.

Failing to provide tax credits in those 34 states would likely have had devastating effects for around 9 million people - including over 3.5 million women, approximately one-third of whom are women of color - who may have no longer been able to afford insurance coverage. These millions would have lost critically needed health insurance, including access to preventive care that contained essential reproductive health benefits.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts explained that "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them." Without tax credits, a key reform of the ACA would have unraveled, leading to a "death spiral" where the cost of insurance rise, the number of people insured would plummet, and insurers would flee the market. With its decision, the Court refused to accept an argument that would essentially overturn the ACA and disrupt the necessary health care reforms initiated and implemented by the Obama Administration.

6/25/2015 - The Supreme Court Fair Housing Ruling is a Civil Rights Victory

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, just upheld the use of disparate impact claims under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which bans housing discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.

This case ruled that a plaintiff does not need to prove intent to discriminate- a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. Instead, the plaintiff can use the tool of disparate impact to show discrimination based on a policy or policies of the defendant.

"A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant's policy or policies causing that disparity," the majority of the Supreme Court said. "A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas."

"Our country remains deeply segregated and we need not only provisions of the Fair Housing Act to be intact, but we need aggressive, and affirmative enforcement of the act by the federal government and by state jurisdictions," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

"Losing this case would have resulted in a serious blow to the Fair Housing Act," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It's troubling that this was only a 5 to 4 decision. Upholding the integrity of the Fair Housing Act is essential if we are ever going to desegregate our neighborhoods."

"The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is incredibly pleased that the United States Supreme Court today has reaffirmed core principles of fairness and equality," the organization said in a statement, "by clearly and unambiguously recognizing both the legality and the importance of the 'disparate impact' protections of the Fair Housing Act in addressing housing discrimination."

6/24/2015 - Marc Benioff Wants Women to Have Equal Pay and Opportunity at Salesforce

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, has laid out a plan to ensure equal pay and equal hiring at the global cloud-based software company.

Women Surge, a new program he's instating, is aimed filling gendered gaps in pay and Salesforce's team, as well as pushing women into other opportunities such as leadership positions and important meetings.

"My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement," Benioff said. "When I'm done there will be no gap." He added that thus far, he's given some of the women in his company raises, but he's not done. "I expect to be giving a lot more," he said.

Benioff was shocked when he examined his own company and found that gender-based wage gaps existed. He is now taking steps that have been called both "radical" and "brilliantly simple" to guarantee that all of his employees are compensated fairly and equally, and he's taking it upon himself to personally ensure the entire 16,000 person work force is paid equally.

Benioff is also interested in the gender makeup of his company. Currently, only 29 percent of Salesforce employees are female, and in leadership roles that percentage shrinks to just 15. "We have to take the goal of 50-50," he said. "There has to be a goal. This should be a metric that every CEO manages." Now, Salesforce is putting quotas on the number of women present for meetings, making sure women are equally considered for promotions, and deliberately including women speakers and leaders in its annual Dreamforce event, a nation-wide tech conference.

A dearth of women in the tech field is not unique to Salesforce. In the tech industry, women are largely outnumbered by their male co-workers. At Google, Apple, and Twitter alike, the percentage of female employees remains around 30.

Democratic women in the Senate have been raising the alarm on unequal pay, pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would greatly lessen the gender pay gap experience by women in the workforce, as well as prevent retaliation against women seeking pay parity. The PFA, introduced in the Senate in 2013, has since been blocked by Republicans in the Senate more than once.

Senator Rosa DeLauro, one of the leaders for this bill, spoke on her frustration in the minimal improvements to lessen the gender pay gap since the Equal Pay Act passed more than 50 years ago. "The gap has barely budged in over a decade," DeLauro said. "It's not an abstract problem, and it hurts people on a daily basis." DeLauro cited specifically a study released in March, which showed that even in the female-dominated profession of nursing, men make significantly more than women.

6/23/2015 - Confederate Flag Debate Intensifies in Wake of Charleston Shooting

Politicians, retailers, and activists are taking part in a push in South Carolina to have the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of the state Capitol. This movement follows the massacre of nine African American people by a 21-year-old white man in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week.

Wal-Mart, Sears, and Amazon,announced today that they will no longer carry Confederate flag merchandise. "South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also joined the support for removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol groups, switching her view on the subject from when she ran for re-election last year. The Confederate flag, which many view as a symbol of racism and white supremacy, was added to the state Capitol in 1962, in response to Civil Rights efforts in the state.

Removing the flag will require a two-thirds vote by the general assembly. Although their legislative session ends this week, Governor Haley announced that she will be using her authority to call them back into an emergency session to vote on the issue.

"My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony," Governor Haley said.

"It's past time to take down the Confederate flag, and it's currently imperative that both parties come together and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and stop all other voter suppression efforts and excessive gerrymandering aimed at suppressing the vote, especially of African Americans, and the vote of Latina/os, young people, and women." said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

Smeal speaks of recent legislative efforts to make voting in South Carolina more difficult for some groups, including stricter voter identification laws, limits on early voting, and elimination of same-day voter registration. Women and people of color are the most affected by voter ID laws. For example North Carolina has strict identification requirements that require particular forms of government-issued photo IDs. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, however, 25 percent of eligible African American voters, and 16 percent of Latina/o voters do not have such identification. The issue is further compounded for women who have recently changed their last names, or whose names do not reflect that of their birth certificate.

The shooting that sparked a heightened debate about the Confederate flag took place last week in one of the oldest African American churches in South Carolina. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, claims that he went to the church specifically to "shoot Black people," and that he was intending to start a "race war." He shot and killed nine African American churchgoers, including its pastor and state Senator Clementa Pinckney (age 41), Cynthia Hurd (age 54), Tywanza Sanders (age 26), Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (age 45), Myra Thompson (age 59), Ethel Lee Lance (age 70), Rev. Daniel Simmons (age 74), Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor (age 49) and Susie Jackson (the eldest at age 87).

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, every flag at the South Carolina Capitol has been flow at half-mast, with the exception of the Confederate flag.

Governor Haley hopes that the flag will be removed from the State Capitol grounds before the Fourth of July, saying "This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state."

6/23/2015 - Senate Narrowly Approves of Vote for Fast Tracking the TPP

The Senate voted this morning to advance consideration of trade promotion authority, also known as "fast track" authority, for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), barely getting the 60 votes necessary to continue the bill.

The cloture vote, which was needed in order to proceed with a vote on fast track authority for the TPP, was narrowly passed at 60-37. All Senate Republicans and 13 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the motion to proceed. Democrats voting in favor of fast track included Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The Senate now only needs a majority, or 50 votes, in order to pass fast track legislation.

The Senate approved fast-tracking the TPP in May as a package deal that included Trade Adjustment Assistance, a bill that provides assistance to workers who will lose their jobs because of the TPP. At the time, Senate Democrats would not agree to approve fast-track without the TAA.

Republican leaders in the House then decided to separate the two provisions, requiring members first vote on the TAA and then on fast-track, but both bills had to pass for fast-track to reach President Obama. House Democrats blocked TAA two weeks ago, a bill they would usually support, in order to stop fast-tracking of the TPP.

In addition, House Republicans have amended the customs bill, part of the larger trade package, to weaken anti-human trafficking measures in the fast track bill. Under an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the US may also be prevented from considering climate change during trade negotiations.

Over 2,000 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, released a joint letter opposing fast tracking the TPP, representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been negotiated in near-secrecy, has been heavily criticized by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Fast-tracking TPP would prevent lawmakers from addressing concerns in the agreement by offering 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 Feminist Majority released a petition asking people to urge their Senators and Representative to vote against Fast Track and oppose the TPP.

6/22/2015 - The Fifth Circuit Has Put Texas Abortion Clinics in Crisis

The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to suspend a ruling upholding harmful anti-abortion provisions from June 9, despite an emergency request filed by women's health care providers asking the Court to "preserve abortion access for all Texas women."

The Texas Appeals Court previously stated that forcing a woman seeking abortion care to leave the state does not pose undue burden. The ruling from earlier this month also reverses a lower court's order blocking Texas' admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, said that the June 9 ruling "put a road full of unnecessary hurdles in front of every woman in Texas who has decided to end her pregnancy." Indeed, an estimated 1.3 million women of reproductive age will now live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic.

"For scores of Texas women, the repercussions of this ruling will be devastating," Miller added.

This provision has already forced approximately half of the state's abortion clinics to close their doors over the past two years. The court claimed that this is not an undue burden on Texas women, despite only seven clinics in Texas currently meeting these standards.

The decision means 13 clinics are facing imminent closure, leaving only 9 in the entire state of Texas.

The women's health care providers will now submit an emergency application to the Supreme Court of the United States, requesting the Supreme Court justices stay the Appeals Court's June 9 ruling. This would allow the clinics to stay open while the providers ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

"As the Fifth Circuit once again turns a blind eye to the devastating consequences of Texas' clinic shutdown law, it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "No woman should be forced to cross state lines or travel hundreds of miles for essential health care."

6/22/2015 - Planned Parenthood Cleared to Apply for License in New Orleans

The Louisiana health department has allowed Planned Parenthood to apply for a license to provide abortion services in New Orleans, backtracking on a previous rule that barred the organization from opening a clinic in the city.

In January, under the administration of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) issued a letter to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast refusing to allow its new state of the art clinic in New Orleans to perform abortions on the legal "excuse" that it did not show a need for a new facility to perform abortions in Louisiana. In 2012, Jindal's administration passed a state law requiring abortion clinics to show that there is need for another clinic before applying for a license. Planned Parenthood challenged this decision, and the Feminist Majority Foundation and New Orleans Abortion Fund released a petition demanding that the DHH rescind the regulations.

In a letter released on Friday, it seems the DHH listened. It revoked the requirement that an outpatient abortion facility provide a "facility need review," clearing the way for Planned Parenthood to open a clinic in Louisiana. The new clinic will be just one of five abortion clinics in the state of Louisiana. The DHH did not provide a reason for the change in regulation.

"Planned Parenthood is now one step closer to providing safe, legal abortion in Louisiana," said Jewel Bush, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, in a statement.

The new health center that Planned Parenthood intends to license will offer a wide array of health care services, including screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases and- if its application to the state for a license is successful- abortion care.

6/19/2015 - TPP "Fast Track" Headed Back to the Senate Again

In what has become a procedural roller-coaster, the House voted 218 to 208 yesterday to pass Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trade Promotion Authority, also known as "fast-track," will now go back to the Senate for a vote on Tuesday to determine whether or not to move forward with the bill.

The Senate approved fast-tracking the TPP in May as a package deal, that included Trade Adjustment Assistance, a bill that provides assistance to workers who will lose their jobs because of the TPP. Senate Democrats would not agree to approve fast-track without the TAA.

Republican leaders in the House decided to separate the two provisions, requiring members first vote on the TAA and then on fast-track, but both bills had to pass for fast-track to reach President Obama. House Democrats blocked TAA on Friday-- a bill they would usually support-- in order to stop fast-tracking of the TPP. It is unclear as to how the Senate will vote on fast-track without the TAA.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who was one of the authors of the original trade package, explained to CNN that the minority of Democrats who supported the TPP have been called out for their support of fast-tracking. Fearing backlash from labor groups if they vote again for the TPA without the worker's rights and assistance that they TAA offers, Senate Democrats may be more hesitant to vote for "fast track" this time around.

In addition, House Republicans have amended the the customs bill, part of the larger trade package, to weaken anti-human trafficking measures in the fast track bill. Under an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the US may also be prevented from considering climate change during trade negotiations.

"We're really nervous about a provision that binds the hands of negotiators and prevents them from doing anything on climate change," said Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesperson for the environmental organization

Over 2,000 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, released a joint letter opposing fast tracking the TPP, representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been negotiated in near-secrecy, has been heavily criticized by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Fast-tracking TPP would prevent lawmakers from addressing concerns in the agreement by offering 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 Feminist Majority released a petition asking people to urge their Senators and Representative to vote against Fast Track and oppose the TPP.

6/18/2015 - Adults Shout Racist Insults at Girl Scouts Protesting Animal Abuse

A group of young Girl Scouts who were protesting animal abuse received threatening racial insults by adults attending a public Cecil County meeting in Maryland last month.

The Girl Scouts had become concerned with animal rights after reading about poor conditions and mistreatment of pets in local shelters. The girls then attended an Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission meeting, bringing homemade signs and speaking up during public comment.

"I felt really bad for the animals because that wasn't a really good home for them," said 10 year old Amayah Spurlock.

After the meeting, adults who reportedly were supporters of the animal shelter in question, began harassing the young girls, many of whom are African American, with comments like "go back to Baltimore, where you belong."

"They were calling us animals and stuff," 13 year old Arianna Spurlock told ABC News.

In a video recording of the verbal altercation, troop leaders can be heard asking the crowd not to make racial comments. "Saying that they belong in Baltimore because they're black, that is wrong. Please don't say that, okay?" one man said.

The Girl Scouts were left shaken and confused by the incident. "As kids we always were taught that if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all," said 11 year old Lily Talley, adding "they shouldn't have done that."

Cecil County executive Tari Moore has since reached out to the troop and apologized to them, denouncing the treatment of the Scouts, and offering to meet with them to discuss what happened.