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Pregnant police officers in New York City will now face one less barrier to career advancement after a new policy announcement by the city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
The change was made in response to a case brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by Legal Momentum on behalf of NYC Officer Akema Thompson who was denied the opportunity to take a promotional examination. The Civil Service test is required for consideration of promotion to Sergeant. Officer Thompson was scheduled to take the exam to be considered for promotion, and when she found out that it was scheduled on the same day as her delivery due date, she requested to re-schedule the exam.
Although exceptions are made for many other reasons such as religious observances, work-related injury, court appearances, or funerals, Thompson, who has been working for the NYPD since 2010, was told by city officials that her request for a makeup test was "not approvable," because pregnancy or childbirth were excluded. Three days before the exam, as Thompson went into labor, she was told that she could not reschedule the exam, but would be allowed extra time and a cushion to sit on.
Thompson, with the help of Legal Momentum, filed a complaint with the EEOC, and the DCAS settle the case paying Thompson $50,000 and allowing her to take a makeup exam in January. The city also agreed to change its policy to allow for rescheduling exams due to pregnancy and giving birth.
"In 2015, there is no excuse for denying pregnant women reasonable accommodations to enable them to work on an equal basis with everyone else," said Carol Robles-Roman, President and CEO of Legal Momentum.
Pregnancy discrimination complaints have dramatically increased over the past decade. In 2014 alone the EEOC received around 3,400 complaints with settlement fees reaching up to $14 million.
Media Resources: Legal Momentum Press Release 8/3/15; NY Times 8/9/15; NYC PBA Press Release 8/3/15; Feminist Majority Blog 10/31/13; EEOC Data FY2011-FY2014;
Sandra Bland's mother filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday claiming that Bland should never have been arrested and blaming Texas officials for her death.
Bland is the 28-year-old African American woman who died in police custody last month. Authorities initially ruled it a suicide, but after pressure from the Bland family and the public, which spread news of the death using the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandraBland, the Waller County, Texas District Attorney announced that the death will be investigated as a homicide. The FBI also joined the Texas Rangers in conducting the investigation.
The wrongful-death lawsuit names state trooper Brian Encinia, the Texas trooper who arrested Bland, as well as the two guards at Waller County Jail. According to the lawsuit, guards at the jail did not check on Bland frequently enough, and failed to act when Bland refused meals. Additionally, the lawsuit accuses Encina of using excessive force during the arrest, which "caused Sandra Bland to suffer injury and death."
"We are looking for Waller County and for individuals involved in this situation to take accountability," said Cannon Lambert, a lawyer for Bland's family, at a news conference in Houston. "This family is frustrated."
"What happened to Sandra Bland is outrageous," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, after the release of dashboard camera footage from Bland's arrest. "She should never have been ordered to leave her car in the first place and never have been arrested. This was a minor traffic violation that the officer escalated because he was challenged by a Black woman who knew her rights. How many more Black and Latino people have to die before we make fundamental change in police recruitment and training, and overhaul a justice system that is permitting police brutality with impunity?"
In the footage that was released, Encinia is heard telling Bland, who had been stopped for a traffic violation, to get out of her vehicle. Tensions seem to escalate when Bland questioned Encinia's authority to order her out of her car. The officer then opened the car door himself and threatened to drag her out. Bland can be heard telling the officer, "Don't touch me. I'm not under arrest."
Soon thereafter, Encinia pointed a taser at Bland and yelled, "I will light you up!"
After Bland exits the car, she is and heard telling the officer, "you slammed my head into the ground, do you even care about that? I can't even hear." Encinia tells her that she is resisting arrest. Bland asked the officer multiple times to tell her why she was being arrested.
A federal judge in California has extended a temporary restraining order against an anti-abortion group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as well as Biomax Procurement Services LLC, CMP leader David Daleiden, and Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue and CMP board member.
The restraining order, issued at the request of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) prohibits these groups and individuals from releasing any videos, documents, or other confidential information obtained from NAF Annual Meetings, including the dates and locations of future meetings.
District Judge William H. Orrick III issued his opinion extending the order on Monday. In his ruling, Judge Orrick wrote:
Critically, the parties do not disagree about NAF's central allegations: defendants assumed false identities, created a fake company, and lied to NAF in order to obtain access to NAF's annual meetings and gain private information about its members.The evidence presented by NAF, including that defendants' recent dissemination of videos of and conversations with NAF affiliates has led to harassment and death threats for the individuals in those videos, is sufficient to show irreparable injury for the purposes of the temporary restraining order.
The restraining order, which was originally issued last Friday, will now be in effect until a hearing scheduled for the end of the month.
"We are grateful to Judge Orrick for extending the temporary restraining order," said President and CEO of NAF Saporta. "Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our members and taking these criminals to task for their illegal activities."
CMP has not filed one tax return as a non-profit, according to the Nation, and its leadership consists of well-known anti-abortion activists. Troy Newman's group, for example, has been engaging in a campaign of terror, harassment, and intimidation against abortion providers, patients, and clinic staff for years, including in Wichita, Kansas where Dr. George Tiller was murdered by extremist Scott Roeder.
In a victory for Texas voters the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling blocking a restrictive Texas voter ID law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
In October 2014, US District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos issued a 143-page order striking down the Texas voter ID law, which was the strictest in the country and required voters to present one of only six state-approved photo IDs before being able to vote. The controversial list included concealed handgun permits, but not student identification cards. The court found that approximately 608,470 registered voters did not have the kind of photo ID required under the law, and that the law disproportionately discriminated against minority voters. According to Judge Ramos, the law was "an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote" and has an "impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose [in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.]"
Despite Ramos' ruling, the Fifth Circuit allowed the discriminatory law to stand for the November 2014 elections while Texas sought an appeal. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court, confusing and disenfranchising many Texas voters.
The 5th Circuit court decision yesterday invalidating the law was praised by Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, saying that "this decision acknowledges the problems Texas African American and Latino voters have experienced as cited by their leaders since the law was first implemented, that it blatantly discriminates against minority voters." Bledsoe also called for the Attorney General not to seek an appeal with the Supreme Court. "There is no need to prolong discriminatory practices that are truly hurting Texans of color," he said.
Since the 2010 elections, 21 states have implemented new laws making it more difficult to vote, and 15 more will have new rules in place for the upcoming presidential election in 2016. Multiple states are facing major lawsuits challenging restrictions on voting. A North Carolina trial determining the validity of several strict voting laws just wrapped up.
Netflix announced yesterday that it will now be offering all employees a year of paid maternity or paternity leave.
The online movie and television show streaming platform says that all employees will continue to receive their regular pay for up to a year after the birth or adoption of a child. This progressive policy also includes that parents can return to work then take additional time off as needed. "Each employee gets to figure out what's best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences," Tawni Cranz, Chief Talent Officer for Netflix, said in a statement.
Netflix joins others in the industry leading the way for more fair and progressive employee policies. Earlier this year, Facebook Incorporated announced that the company will be requiring improved benefits from its contractors, including higher pay and paid leave. Facebook also offers four months of paid leave for all employees with a new child, $4,000 to employees with a new child, and subsidizes day care programs and fertilization or surrogate parenting programs. Twitter offers up to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave to employees, and 10 weeks of paid paternity leave.
Paid family leave is a big concern for working women and families, and last year Thomas Perez, the US Secretary of Labor, called paid family leave one of the most critical issues facing working families. And in January, President Obama announced his intention to sign a Presidential Memorandum that would greatly improve paid sick leave and child care leave for parents with a new child.
Extending greater maternal benefits has been shown to improve the rate at which parents return to work after having a child. In 2007, Google extended its paid maternity leave to 18 weeks and found that the rate at which mothers with a new child left Google permanently was cut almost in half.
8/5/2015 - This Year's Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice is Centered Around Its Intersection with Economic Justice
This week is the 6th annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice, hosted by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. This year's theme of "Fighting for Economic and Reproductive Justice" lies at the intersection of economics and the Latina community.
Latinas in the United States often face a multitude of discrimination in the workplace, including pregnancy discrimination, low wages, and workplace abuse, especially for immigrant Latinas. Latina women's pay falls far behind the national average for women in the United States; while the average US woman is paid 78 cents for every man's dollar, Latinas in the US are paid an average of 56 cents for every white man's dollar. This statistic varies greatly on a state-to-state basis, and in states like California, Texas, and New Jersey that statistic drops to 44 cents to the dollar. Currently, the median wage for a Latina worker in the US is just over $30,000 annually.
"Across the country, Latinas, our families, and our communities are deeply engaged in the struggle for reproductive justice," said the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in a statement. "We're working for health equity including access to affordable reproductive healthcare, bodily autonomy, and the ability to make our own decisions about pregnancy, parenting, and abortion. We're also struggling to support our families, against tremendous barriers."
The National Latina Institute's goals include access to affordable contraception, Medicaid expansion, fair wages, pay equality, and affordable childcare. As part of the week of action, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) hosted a demonstration for higher wages for Latinas in Colorado yesterday, and tomorrow the Institute is hosting a social media campaign and Twitter chat using the hashtag #WOA15.
The week of action reinforces how economic justice and reproductive justice are linked. As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently explained recently, "poor women don't have choice." Their lack of access to reproductive health services often furthers the cycle of poverty.
The Hyde Amendment bans using funding from Medicaid to pay for abortions disproportionately affects poor women's ability to access abortion care. 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. Democratic women in Congress, supported by organizations such as All Above All and the Feminist Majority, introduced last month the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act. This Act would make insurance coverage for abortion available to all women, regardless of income, type of insurance, or zipcode.
Yesterday, Senate Democrats blocked legislation introduced by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) that would have stripped all federal funding from Planned Parenthood.
Senate Bill 1881 would have slashed $528 million in federal funds from Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides sexual and reproductive health care to millions of women and men each year. To advance, the bill required 60 votes in its favor. The final vote was 53-46.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) voted with Senate Republicans to defund, while a single Republican, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), opposed the bill. Senator Lindsay Graham did not vote. The bill was introduced after an anti-reproductive rights group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress released heavily-edited, misleading videos falsely suggesting that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donation.
"We won the battle, but the war isn't over," tweeted Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. "Anti-abortion politicians vowed to do everything in their power to cut patients off from care."
Already some Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), are threatening a government shutdown if Planned Parenthood is not defunded. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he was "absolutely confident that if Republicans try to defund Planned Parenthood in a government spending bill at the end of September, Democrats will unite against it." White House press secretary Josh Earnest has confirmed that President Obama would veto any bill to defund Planned Parenthood.
79 percent of Planned Parenthood health care patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and Planned Parenthood serves more clients of publicly funded family planning centers than any other provider in the country. 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 Kansas anti-abortion extremist will have to stand trial for threats made against a doctor planning to provide abortions, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
In a powerful decision for abortion providers being threatened by extremists, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals found in a 2-1 ruling that a jury - not a judge - should determine whether or not a 2011 letter Angel Dillard sent to Dr. Mila Means constitutes a true threat actionable under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The ruling overturns a lower court's summary decision that Dillard's letter was constitutionally protected free speech.
"This decision sends a critical message to extremists across the country," said Feminist Majority Foundation National Clinic Access Project director duVergne Gaines. "The law is clear: threatening abortion providers with stalking, car bombs and murder is not protected speech under the First Amendment. 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. We applaud the Department of Justice's commitment to prosecute extremists like Dillard and protect abortion providers across the country."
The Department of Justice brought a civil FACE lawsuit against Dillard after she sent a threatening letter to Dr. Means, a family practitioner who was in training to provide abortions in Wichita. "We will not let this abomination continue without doing everything we can to stop it," Dillard wrote. "You will be checking under your car everyday - because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it." At the time the letter was sent, abortion services had not been available in Wichita since May of 2009, when Dr. George Tiller was murdered by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder.
The Appeals court decision corrected the lower court's two key findings when granting summary judgment for Dillard, stating that it did not matter that the threats contained in Dillard's letter were conditional because many "true threats" are conditional and are not protected by the First Amendment. Secondly, the Appeals court stated it did not matter whether or not Dillard intended to carry out the threats contained in her letter; the letter could still be construed by a jury to intentionally threaten and intimidate Dr. Means out of providing safe legal abortions.
Critically, the appeals court also declared that "the context in this case includes Wichita's past history of violence against abortion providers, the culmination of this violence in Dr. Tiller's murder less than two years before Defendant mailed her letter, Defendant's publicized friendship with Dr. Tiller's killer [Scott Roeder], and her reported admiration of his convictions." Dillard had developed a relationship with Roeder while he was awaiting trial for the murder of Dr. Tiller, and visited him several times in jail. She even declared to the Associated Press in a 2009 interview that she admired Roeder for having "followed his convictions."
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 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.
There is a longstanding history of violence against abortion providers by anti-abortion extremists and historically, these kinds of threats have often preceded serious crimes of violence, including murder. The Foundation's 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey shows that since 2010, the distribution of WANTED-style posters, pamphlets and online postings targeting doctors and clinic staff, and featuring provider's photographs, home addresses, and other personal information, has almost doubled from impacting 27% to 52% of clinics. Nearly 1 in 5 abortion providers in the U.S. are the targets of severe violence.
FMF's National Clinic Access Project is the largest of its kind in the U.S., leading efforts nationwide to keep women's health clinics open in the face of violence and intimidation and to bring anti-abortion terrorists to justice. Read more about the history of the NCAP project.
A Senate bill to defund Planned Parenthood is expected to come to a vote today.
Sponsored by Republican Senator Joni Ernst (IA), Senate Bill 1881 would prohibit all Federal funding of Planned Parenthood or "any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics." The Senate will need 60 votes to advance the bill, which is being proposed following the release of highly edited video footage by anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
The CMP's misleading videos claim that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue. Though this claim has been thoroughly proven as false, and the National Abortion Federation has since filed a lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress, Republicans in the Senate are still using these recent events as reason to push anti-abortion legislation.
Planned Parenthood serves almost five million women, men, and young people each year and provides basic health care like contraception, well-woman exams, cancer screenings, abortion care, and comprehensive sex and reproductive health education - and for many of their patients, the shuttering of their clinics means the end of affordable, accessible care.
"When you say, 'Let's defund Planned Parenthood'...what you are saying is that women, primarily in low-income communities, and many women of color, won't have access to a wide range of essential health services," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said on the floor Thursday, "because of an ideological desire to control what choices are made between a woman and her doctor."
Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood health care patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and Planned Parenthood serves more clients of publicly funded family planning centers than any other provider in the country. The Feminist Majority has encouraged their supporters to not only vote no on the bill, but also work to increase funding for women's health care services, and signed on to a letter with the 95 civil and human rights and labor organizations urging every Senator to oppose all efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
Although it is widely believed that the Senate does not have the votes to move this forward, it's just the beginning of what Senate Republicans are showing that they are willing to do in order to push forth an anti-choice agenda. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has said that Republicans should do everything they can, including shutting down the government this fall, to take away funding from Planned Parenthood.
Last week, a Mexican court made a unanimous decision to convict five men of eleven femicides, or gender-driven killing. The men were sentenced to a total of 697 years in prison, the longest-ever given sentence for femicide, and are alsoï¿½to pay 9 million pesos, roughly $550,000, and is being called "megajuicio," or mega-judgement, by the Mexican press.
The abductions and killings took place in Juï¿½rez, a border city in Mexico, beginning in 2008. The women were forced into prostitution and drug dealing until they were no longer considered useful. Then they were murdered.
Judges in the case believe that the women were vulnerable because of their lower socio-economic status. Their poverty made them easy targets, allowing them to be taken advantage of by a local drug cartel that had ties to the sex-trafficking market.
Women's rights groups believe that this case is a milestone, as advocacy groups were able to work alongside Mexican police over the course of the investigation, limiting potential corruption. In past investigations of violence against women in Juarez, authorities have been accused of corruption, planting evidence, and torturing suspects.
"Violence against women in Mexico typically resembles only the tip of an iceberg with more systemic and complex problems lurking below the surface," said Rashida Manjoo, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, reflecting on deep-seated gender-based violence in the country. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of women murdered in Mexico skyrocketed. According to government data, the country averaged 4.4 murders per 100,000 women, which is double the global average. In some parts of the country, the rate is even higher, at 10.1 to 12.8 murders per 100,000 women.
In Mexico, less than ten percent of homicides end in convictions, making this case stand out even further. The National Citizen Femicide Observatory estimates that almost 4,000 women were murdered in Mexico between 2012 and 2013. Only 16 percent of these cases were investigated as femicides.
Approximately 20 other murders are suspected to be linked to the same crime ring. Five other people will be tried in connection to the crime ring.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have voted to repeal its national ban on gay and lesbian adult staff and volunteers this week.
"The resolution will allow chartered organizations to select adult leaders without regard to sexual orientation," a Boy Scouts of America statement read.
Just 15 years ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that the BSA had the right to discriminate against gay volunteers and staff in a 5-4 decision. Tim Curran filed a lawsuit against BSA for such a discrimination claim in the 1980s, which he then lost in a ruling by the California Supreme Court in the 1990s. Curran, now a copy editor and writer for CNN, says he "couldn't be happier" with the decision, although he acknowledges that it comes later than he had hoped.
Robert Gates, current BSA President, said in announcing the removal of this ban that it would never hold up in the rapidly shifting political climate and increasing demands for LGBT rights."For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us," he said in a statement. "Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members."
This win for LGBT rights is limited, however, as troops organized through church groups can still decide if they will allow gay leaders. Because of that exemption, LGBT rights groups will fight on to shift BSA policies.
"Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "Period."
7/29/2015 - An Extreme Abortion Ban is Now Law in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed an extreme 20 week abortion ban into law last week.
The law, which bans abortions performed past 20 weeks, has no exception whatsoever for rape, incest, or fatal fetal anomalies. Such extreme abortion bans have been overturned time after time, as they directly contradict of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, as Roe protects a patient's right to abortion until fetal viability, around 24 weeks.
A handful of anti-choice politicians and organizations maintain that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, a claim that is widely contested by the vast majority of the medical community.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have released a letter urging the legislature and governor to oppose the bill. "This is bad medicine, based on the thoroughly debunked fallacy that a 20-week fetus - which is not viable - can feel pain," the letter reads. "These bills would undoubtedly place us in the unconscionable position of having to watch our patients and their loved ones undergo additional emotional trauma, illness and suffering during what is already a difficult time."
The law represents Walker's rapidly changing political stance. While campaigning for the governorship last year, Walker presented himself as a moderate on abortion and claimed to support legislation that would leave "the final decision to a woman and her doctor." Walker is now a presidential candidate and is increasingly taking more anti-abortion stances.
In addition to Wisconsin, 11 other states currently have an unconstitutional 20-week ban on the books, and three more have been struck down by the courts.
7/29/2015 - Jen Welter Just Made NFL History
Jen Welter was hired as a coach for the Arizona Cardinals this week, becoming the first woman ever to be a National Football League coach. She will coach inside linebackers and intern at the Cardinals' training camp.
Welter has a history of firsts in her career. She was running back in the Texas Revolution of Indoor Football League, making her the first woman to play a non-kicking position in a men’s pro league, and later became a coach for the team - and the Indoor Football League’s first female coach ever. Welter, who played women’s pro football for 14 seasons, has a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology and Ph.D. in Psychology.
She joins a growing list of women breaking barriers in professional men’s sports. Just this season, Sarah Thomas was named the first female referee official for the NFL. And San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon made history as the first woman to coach an NBA team. This season Hammon was put in charge of the team's squad, coaching them so far through a record of 6 consecutive wins and 1 loss.
“I want little girls everywhere to grow up knowing they can do anything, even play football,” Welter told NBC.
An attempt in the Senate to defundÂ Planned Parenthood by Mike Lee (R-UT) was blocked this weekend by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).Â Lee tried to attach the elimination of federal funds for Planned Parenthood to a vote for highway legislation, a move which was rejected by McConnell asÂ out of order.
Republican legislators have redoubled their efforts to block funding for Planned Parenthood since the release of twoÂ heavily edited clandestine videos of different PPFA employees taken without their knowledge. The videos, intended to put the organization in a bad light,Â claimÂ Planned ParenthoodÂ is illegally selling fetal tissue, which it hasÂ consistently denied.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards explained that the organization does not profit from tissue donations, and that all donation programs they participate in follow laws and ethical guidelines,Â in a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos. "We have the highest standards," Richards told him. "The care - and health care and safety - of our patients is our most important priority."
RichardsÂ also remindedÂ the public that the videos in question were produced by the Center for Medical Progress, a group with deep ties to extremist anti-choice organizations like Live Action and Operation Rescue.Â â€œThe folks behind this," she added, "are part of the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement."
7/27/2015 - "After Tiller" Was Nominated For An Emmy
Documentary film After Tiller was nominated for two Emmy Awards: Best Documentary, and Outstanding Coverage of a Current News Story.
The Point of View (POV) documentary follows the aftermath of the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Tiller was one of the last remaining third trimester abortion providers in the country. He was assassinated in the atrium of his church, after facing decades of threats and harassment, surviving a shooting in 1994, and having his clinic bombed in 1986. Dr. Tiller's story represents the lived realities that many abortion providers and clinic staff experience daily at the hands of anti-abortion extremism.
Since Dr. Tiller was murdered, only four doctors remain in the United States openly performing third-trimester abortions. After Tiller follows these four doctors as they confront various obstacles- harassment, state efforts to close or limit abortion clinics, as well as emotional dilemmas from working in such a hostile environment- revealing the inspiration Dr. Tiller was for these doctors, but also the warning that his assassination serves to them of the risks they take through doing the work they do. The film has been called a "deeply humanizing" portrayal of the realities of violence against abortion providers in the face of anti-abortion extremism.
"Reality is complicated," say Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, directors and producers of After Tiller. "Yet when it comes to the abortion issue in America, we are often presented with two very different, black-and-white versions of what is right and what is wrong - no exceptions granted. As a result, the national shouting match over abortion has become increasingly distanced from the real-life situations and decisions faced by those people most intimately involved - the physicians and their patients."
The Feminist Majority Foundation has long supported clinic defense through its National Clinic Access Project, which most recently brought increased security measures to the last remaining abortion clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, in the face of a week of harassment and protest led by anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America. FMF has advocated for safety buffer zones around clinics to ensure that patients, doctors, and healthcare workers can enter these facilities without harassment, intimidation, and violence.
The 67th annual Emmy Awards will take place on September 20th this year.
A federal court upheld this week that North Dakota's strict abortion ban law is unconstitutional, blocking it permanently.
The North Dakota law is one of the strictest in the nation. HB 1456 bans abortion past the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and would have banned abortion before many women even know that they are pregnant.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple in 2013, after which pro-choice groups including the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic - the last remaining abortion provider in North Dakota. A federal district court blocked the law in 2014, noting that "the United States Supreme Court has spoken and has unequivocally said no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability."
"Today's decision reaffirms that the U.S. Constitution protects women from the legislative attacks of politicians who would deny them their right to safely and legally end a pregnancy," said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, ND, said that the clinic is very happy with the decision, but is ready to fight the measure should the state make an appeal to the Supreme Court. "We certainly hoped from the beginning when the bill was first proposed in the Legislature that the final outcome would be that the court would say that the state of North Dakota went too far in trying to ban abortions for the women that we served," Kromenaker said.
Anti-choice North Dakota lawmakers are now demanding that state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem appeal to the Supreme Court. The justices, however, can decline to hear the case, as they did with the blocking of an Arizona state 20-week abortion ban last year.
7/24/2015 - Katherine Spillar Urges Cleveland to Dramatically Increase Hiring of Women Police to Mitigate Police Violence
In a well-received speech at the City Club of Cleveland today, Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation urged Cleveland city officials to dramatically increase the hiring of women police officers as a way to decrease police brutality incidents.
Following a number of high profile police killings in Cleveland of African Americans, and an eight-month investigation by the US Attorney's office of the Northern District of Ohio, the City of Cleveland has now entered into a Consent Decree that requires numerous reforms in how the city oversees and investigates police operations, including training in use of force.
"Among the most important reforms mandated by the consent decree - and the most easily overlooked - are the changes the Cleveland Division of Police must make in its recruitment and hiring practices,
said Spillar. "Why? Because it provides Cleveland an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically increase the percentages of women in the police department. And to racially diversify the ranks of a department that is two-thirds white in a city that is two-thirds non-white."
Spillar explained that racial diversity would ensure communities of color are full partners in a new community-oriented police department, and that gender balancing the department would bring a different kind of police officer to the CDP. "Studies over the past 40 years have shown that women officers are less authoritarian in their approach to policing and less reliant on physical force," Spillar continued. "Most importantly, women officers have proven to be better at defusing potentially violent confrontations - before those encounters turn deadly. This is the very approach to policing that the US Attorney says is tragically missing in Cleveland."
Spillar pointed to two reasons explaining the difference in women's and men's approach to policing.
"First, policemen see policing as use of force to gain compliance. By contrast, women see policing as a public service. Second, some research suggests that male police officers who feel like they must demonstrate their masculinity might be more likely to use force against a subject. We most recently saw this play out on the video-taped arrest of Sandra Bland in Texas. Her death in police custody is still unexplained.
"What's more, women police are better at responding to domestic violence incidents, the largest category of 911 calls to police departments across the country, underscoring the need for more women in the department."
Despite the evidence that increasing women in law enforcement would significantly reduce police violence, the number of women in policing nationwide remains stuck at low levels. Cleveland Division of Police has only 14.4% women in its ranks. According to Spillar, three major causes keep the numbers of women in policing artificially low: misguided recruiting practices, ongoing discriminatory hiring practices across the country, and hostile work places.
To increase the numbers of women in law enforcement Spillar argued police departments must adopt: a community policing philosophy over a warrior model that over-relies on use of force; an unrelenting and genuine commitment from the top of the department and from city leaders to hire more women officers; unbiased testing and hiring procedures; incentives for existing police officers to actively seek out and encourage women to apply; and serious enforcement of sexual harassment policies that keep women from being hazed and threatened out of the department.
"The most fundamental change a police agency can make is in hiring the right people - the right balance of people. And it is the current imbalance - or gender gap - in policing that is contributing to the police excessive force problems in this city and cities across the country.
"Until now, the national conversation has ignored the benefits gender balancing would bring to the effectiveness of police departments and to the people in their communities. With demands for police reform, we have a perfect opportunity to consider a dramatic, gender-based response."
The Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women in Policing has long supported female officers and efforts to diversify police departments by sex, race, and ethnicity across the country. In the midst of a national conversation about police brutality, that work could mean the difference between life and death for those who interact with police.
Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, will speak at the City Club of Cleveland at 12 PM EST tomorrow, July 24, on how adding equal numbers of women to police departments nationwide is critical to reducing incidents of police violence and enhancing the ability of police to improve relations with the communities they serve. A live stream will be available here.
Studies over the past 40 years both in the U.S. and internationally show that women officers are less authoritarian and use force less often than their male counterparts, possess better communication skills, and are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations. As a result, women police are less likely than male officers to become involved in use of excessive force and deadly force. These studies also show, however, that women police officers perform the job of policing equally as well as men and are not reluctant to use force when necessary.
In the wake of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown's shooting death at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri nearly a year ago, a nationwide movementï¿½calling for police accountability and an end to police brutality has mounted across the nation. Brown's death is no outlier; since his August 9, 2014 shooting, countless other people of color, primarily African-Americans, have died in altercations with police. 43-year-old Eric Garner died while being held in a choke-hold by police in Staten Island; 25-year-old Freddie Gray fell into a coma with a severed spine after being transported in a police van and later died; 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot in Cleveland.
Despite a national conversation that can center on male victims of police violence, women and girls, too, suffer frequently from various forms of victimization during encounters with police. Officers like Daniel Holtzclaw using their authority to rape women civilians, and girls at a public pool in Texas were assaulted by police with no cause. 16-year-old Jessie Hernandez was shot in Denver, and 28-year-old Sandra Bland's death in a holding cell began being investigated as a murder this week.
The Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women in Policing has long supported female officers and efforts to diversify police departments across the country. In the midst of a national conversation about police brutality, that work could mean the difference between life and death for those who interact with police.
The Feminist Majority and over 70 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a letter to President Obama yesterday that calls on him to reinterpret the Helms Amendment and meet with the people running women's health programs in Africa on an upcoming trip to the continent.
Currently, the Helms Amendment is wrongly interpreted as an all-out ban on abortion funding. Because of this interpretation, organizations cannot use foreign assistance to fund abortion as a method of family planning - and abortion in the case of rape, life endangerment, and incest is also prohibited. The Obama administration has the power to reinterpret the extremely broad amendment, but has not since he took office.
"Ultimately we want to see the Helms Amendment repealed, but that would take an act of Congress," said Center for Health and Gender Equity President Serra Sippel. "We don't need an act of Congress to implement the Helms Amendment correctly. This is something the President can do now."
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 21.6 million women experience an unsafe abortion worldwide each year. Deaths due to unsafe abortions are close to 13 percent of all maternal deaths.
"Abortions in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment should not be considered abortions 'as a method of family planning' under any reasonable definition," they= coalition stated in their letter to the President. "This issue is urgent because women are dying. Unsafe abortion is a key driver of maternal mortality, and Kenya and Ethiopia are among the 24 USAID priority countries where 70 percent of maternal deaths worldwide occur."
Faith leaders are also on board. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) stated they want "swift executive action" on the Helms Amendment, saying further that it is too strict of an interpretation. They call on Obama to provide compassionate care overseas.
"We are here today to not only say that this interpretation is wrong," Reverend Harry Knox, president of the RCRC, said in a press conference earlier this summer, "it is morally bankrupt."
President Obama will be visiting Kenya and Ethiopia to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, but the coalition urges him to do more. "We request that you meet with the U.S. government's partners who are implementing health and gender-based violence programs on the ground," the letter reads. The coalition wants the President to understand the health needs to Kenyan and Ethiopian women in order to implement a solution.
A plethora of groups have been pushing to change the interpretation of the amendment for years; most recently, Catholics for Choice and the Center for Health and Gender Equity urged the President to do so in order to provide comprehensive care to the Nigerian victims of Boko Haram, and last winter over 20 organizations gathered outside of the White House in solidarity with survivors of rape in war, most of whom lack access to abortion care due to Helms.
7/23/2015 - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Rules LGBT Employees Are Protected from Job Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects the LGBT community from workplace discrimination. In a 3-2 vote, the EEOC determined that the landmark legislation, which prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sex, also forbids sexual orientation discrimination.
"Sexual orientation discrimination is also sex discrimination because it is associational discrimination on the basis of sex," reads the opinion. "That is, an employee alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is claiming that his or her employer took his or her sex into account by treating him or her differently for associating with a person of the same sex."
The decision stems from a complaint filed by Anthony Foxx, an air traffic control agent from Florida, who believed he was passed over for a promotion because of his sexual orientation. After investigation, the EEOC concluded that Foxx had been discriminated against because he was gay.
EEOC's sexual orientation discrimination ruling applies to federal employees claims against the government, as well as private sector employment discrimination. Despite counter rulings by several other circuit courts, last week's decision could prove a major step in outlawing discrimination against LGBT people in general. This ruling follows an EEOC decision made in 2012 that declared discrimination based on gender identity was sex discrimination, which has become widely accepted by federal courts.
Director Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauded the decision. However, Minter noted that the LGBTQ community will not have true equality until Congress enacts legislation prohibit any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
"Comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people are strongly supported by Americans from all walks of life," said Minter. "We'll continue working to ensure our laws at the municipal, state and federal level recognize that LGBT Americans deserve to live free from the fear of discrimination."
This decision is vital in creating a safe workplace environment for LGBT folks. After the Supreme Court ruling this past June that legalized same sex marriage, many assumed that the LGBT community's fight for equality had come to an end. However, in many states people can be denied credit, evicted from their apartments, and refused hotel rooms based on their sexual orientation.
Texas officials today released dashboard camera video footage showing Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia physically threatening Sandra Bland, a 28-year old African-American woman who died in police custody last week.
In the video, Encinia is heard telling Bland, who had been stopped for a traffic violation, to get out of her vehicle. Tensions seem to escalate when Bland questioned Encinia's authority to order her out of her car. The officer then opened the car door himself and threatened to drag her out. Bland can be heard telling the officer, "Don't touch me. I'm not under arrest."
Soon thereafter, Encinia pointed a taser at Bland and yelled, "I will light you up!"
After Bland exits the car, she is and heard telling the officer, "you slammed my head into the ground, do you even care about that? I can't even hear." Encinia tells her that she is resisting arrest. Bland asked the officer multiple times to tell her why she was being arrested.
Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after she was taken in. Authorities initially ruled it a suicide, but after pressure from the Bland family and the public - which spread news of the death using the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandraBland - the Waller County, Texas District Attorney announced that the death will be investigated as a homicide. The FBI has joined the Texas Rangers in conducting the investigation.
Bland's death is the latest in a series of violent incidents against African-American women, sparking a national movement to #SayHerName.
"What happened to Sandra Bland is outrageous," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. "She should never have been ordered to leave her car in the first place and never have been arrested. This was a minor traffic violation that the officer escalated because he was challenged by a Black woman who knew her rights. How many more Black and Latino people have to die before we make fundamental change in police recruitment and training, and overhaul a justice system that is permitting police brutality with impunity?"
Less than 24 hours after Bland's death, 18-year old Kindra Chapman was found dead in a Homewood City, Alabama jail cell one hour after being arrested for allegedly stealing a cell phone. Chapman's death, also called a suicide by authorities, has spurred the hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody.
Two months ago, activists gathered in California to demand justice for Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseux, Shelly Frey, Kayla Moore, and Alberta Spruill, all Black women killed at the hands of police violence. Just weeks after this protest, 15-year-old Dajerria Becton was violently attacked by a police officer in McKinney, Texas at a neighborhood pool party.
At the Netroots Nation 2015 Presidential Town Hall, protestors from the #BlackLivesMatter movement called on Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders to address racial justice and their plans to dismantle systemic racism, while shouting the names of Sandra Bland and other women who died in police custody.
7/21/2015 - Viola Davis and Taraji Henson Make Emmy History
This past weekend, two African American women were nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in the same year for the first time in Emmy history. Viola Davis, who stars in the show How To Get Away With Murder, and Taraji P. Henson, who stars in Empire, were nominated.
It has been rare for African American women to be nominated in this category. Before Kerry Washington was nominated in 2013 for her work in Scandal, the last African American woman nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series was Cicely Tyson in 1995. No African American woman has ever won an Emmy in this category.
These nominations highlight the slow but steady progress television has made in becoming more diverse. Other notable Emmy nominations include Anthony Anderson for his work on the comedy black-ish and Amazon's Transparent, a TV series about a transgender woman transitioning as an adult with the support of her family, which received 11 Emmy nominations and earlier this year won the Golden Globe for best TV comedy. Several other series with LGBTQ characters, actors, and storylines also received nominations.
The diversity of this year's Emmys is contrasts greatly with a lingering lack of diversity in film. Last year at the Oscars, for example, not a single African American, Latino/a, or Asian American actor was nominated.
"Film needs to take a leaf out of the TV book especially with diversity and women starring, directing and producing," said British-born actor David Oyelowo, nominated for his work in the HBO movie "Nightingale" and star of the film Selma. "There is a far more representative view of what it is to be in America from TV [than film]."
Diversity in television still has a ways to go. Some have criticized the fact that Empire only received three nominations whereas shows like Game of Thrones received 24. Jane the Virgin, which has been lauded as "unapologetically Latin" and stars Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez, failed to receive a major nomination. Fresh Off the Boat, a series featuring Asian American lead characters, also did not receive any major nominations.
Organizations have been highlighting these gaps in progress and pushing for more. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) filed a complaint earlier this year asking for federal and state civil rights agencies to investigate the massive gender discrepancies in the hiring of directors at all levels of the film and television industry, and the Feminist Majority Foundation recognized Jenji Cohan and Shonda Rhimes at the 10th annual Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women's Rights Awards this year for their dedication to hiring diverse casts and placing women in lead roles in the shows Orange is the New Black, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and Grey's Anatomy.
7/21/2015 - Wisconsin Workers Just Lost Their Days Off
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed off on a new budget last week that ended the state's law banning seven-day work weeks. Republican State Senators Glenn Grothman and Mark Born have been pushing for the seven-day workweek legislation since last year.
While the previous law stated that workers were required to take a full 24 hours off for every seven-day period, the new provision in the budget allows employees to work the full seven days if they specify in writing that they would like to. Opponents were quick to point out that it is unlikely that decisions to work a full seven days will truly be "voluntary."
According to groups like the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, there is nothing in the law that prevents an employer from stating that the decision to waive the right to a weekend is the mark of a committed employee. In addition, Wisconsin is an "employment at will" state, meaning that any employee can be terminated at any time provided the reason is not discriminatory. Opponents of the new law feel that for this reason, workers will feel pressured to work the full seven days in order to keep their jobs.
"Basically, as long as management does not make a very explicit and clumsy threat, there is almost no end to personal and financial rewards that can be made conditional on waiving that right [to a 7-day work week]," said Gordon Lafer, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute.
Those who hold these concerns have advocated schedules that work as an alternative to the seven-day workweek, stating that taking away the mandatory day off does not help workers manage their lives outside of work.
"Wisconsin should give workers a say in when they work and require employers to compensate workers when they are sent home early, work call in shifts, or have their schedules changed at the last minute," writes Elizabeth Johnston of the National Women's Law Center. "It should not take away their weekend."
This is not the first time Governor Walker has acted against the interest of workers, particularly women. In the past, Walker has refused to raise the minimum wage, which disproportionately affects women, and repealed equal pay legislation.
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron announced a measure last week aimed at making the gender pay gap much more visible. In an effort of transparency, big businesses in the UK will soon be forced to publish the difference in earnings between male and female employees.
"Today I'm announcing a really big move: we will make every single company with 250 employees or more publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings," Cameron wrote in UK newspaper The Times. He hopes that this kind of transparency and emphasis on the gender pay gap will "create the pressure we need for change, and drive women's wages up."
Cameron also wrote of tackling other barriers for women in the workforce, including access to affordable childcare and encouraging girls from a young age to enter into careers where women are under-represented.
The gender pay gap in Britain, although better than that of the United States, is still significant, with the average gender gap for all British employees at 20 percent. For full-time workers in Britain, that gap lessens dramatically, with women making 10 percent less than their male counterparts.
In the United States, on the other hand, women still earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color make even less. Black women earn just 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men, and Latinas earn only 54 cents. The pay gap costs women about $434,000 over the course of their careers - impacting the ability of women to provide for their families and care for their loved ones. The pay gap also cuts into women's Social Security, pensions, and retirement.
Last week, the anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America (OSA) organized its annual national event of increased harassment and protesting outside targeted clinics in Alabama. The Feminist Majority Foundation's Clinic Defense Team spent several weeks on the ground in Alabama before and during the protests, providing assistance to clinics throughout the state.
For years, OSA has used the summer to travel around the nation and protest abortion, often targeting vulnerable clinics in states where abortion providers are already under siege. This week, anti-abortion extremists targeted Montgomery, Alabama's Reproductive Health Services, the only clinic left in the state's capital. OSA historically attracts many out-of-state anti-choice extremists to their demonstrations, but this was the first year OSA invited an advocate of "justifiable homicide" to be a featured speaker during the week of intimidation and harassment.
Matthew Trewhella , the leader of Missionaries to the Preborn, was spoke to an evening OSA rally; Trewhella is a signatory of the Defensive Action petition in support of the use of lethal force to stop abortion. In addition, John Brockhoeft, an Ohio-based advocate of justifiable homicide and convicted felon who served time for arson attacks on clinics in Ohio and conspiring to bomb a clinic in Pensacola, FL, participated in the OSA protests.
"In spite of severe intimidation and harassment by OSA, all of the abortion clinics in Alabama, from Huntsville to Mobile, Birmingham and Montgomery, remained open and all patients were seen," said duVergne Gaines, director of FMF's Clinic Defense Team. "We were pleased to work with courageous clinic staff, hundreds of pro-choice supporters and dedicated law enforcement throughout the state to keep these clinics safe and open to serve the women of Alabama. What's more, OSA's numbers were down this year as compared to last year when they targeted Louisiana, and it appears they are more desperate than ever."
Along with the Feminist Majority Foundation's Clinic Defense Team, feminists and activists from across the Southern states have come together throughout the week to protect clinics in Alabama. Organizations like Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance of the University of Montevallo, and the Feminist Caucus of the University of Alabama showed up in support of Reproductive Health Services and other clinics. Through the FMF Choices Campus Leadership Program's Adopt-a-Clinic campaign, local college students have mobilized to help protect Alabama clinics.
"The students have been instrumental in training, reaching out to community members to build a network, and organizing their campuses," said Edwith Theogene, National Campus Organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation. "We're proud of the student turn-out and the dedication these students are showing to keeping their clinics open and safe."
Besides protesting outside of abortion clinics, OSA disrupted progressive religious events or services to oppose both abortion and LGBT rights during its annual national siege. The protest left many residents of Alabama feeling uneasy and unsafe.
"Everybody is on high alert [during this time]," said Mia Raven, legislative director of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates. "Everybody in the state of Alabama and everybody in surrounding states is on high alert."
Such high alert is often necessary during extremist protests such as OSA. The Feminist Majority Foundation's 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey shows that since 2010, the distribution of Old West-style WANTED posters and pamphlets targeting doctors and clinic staff, and featuring doctors' and staffs' photographs, home addresses, and other personal information, has almost doubled from 27% to 52%. Historically, these kinds of threats to abortion doctors, staff, and clinics have often preceded serious crimes such as violence, arson, bombings, stalking of clinic staff, patients, and doctors, and murder.
"Given this history, the dramatic increase in extremist threats cannot be ignored," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "Clinics like those targeted in Alabama, are a vital part of women's healthcare, providing birth control, STD and cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services in addition to abortion. Without these clinics, there is no choice."