Monday, June 10, 2013

Missisippi Loves Kids, Kinda

Lawdamercy, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant loves the little children! That's why he signed the Child Protection Act, to safeguard our most precious resource. From the text of MS HB 151:
When an abortion is performed on a minor who is less than fourteen (14) years of age at the time of the abortion procedure, * * *shall preserve fetal tissue extracted during the abortion shall be collected in accordance with rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this section if it would be reasonable to suspect that the pregnancy being terminated is the result of a sex crime against a minor.
So now the state of Mississippi will be collecting the products of abortion and performing a paternity test on them without regard for the privacy rights of the child undergoing the abortion?

But wait, there's more.
(ii)  When a minor who is under sixteen (16) years of age gives birth to an infant, umbilical cord blood shall be collected, if possible, in accordance with rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this section if it would be reasonable to suspect that the minor's pregnancy resulted from a sex crime against a minor. 
(iii)  It shall be reasonable to suspect that a sex crime against a minor has occurred if the mother of an infant was less than sixteen (16) years of age at the time of conception and at least one (1) of the following conditions also applies: 
1.  The mother of the infant will not identify the father of the infant;  
2.  The mother of the infant lists the father of the infant as unknown; 
3.  The person the mother identifies as the father of the infant disputes his fatherhood; 
4.  The person the mother identifies as the father of the infant is twenty-one (21) years of age or older; or 
5.  The person the mother identifies as the father is deceased.
Now, I know you're thinking that these laws trample over a young woman's constitutional right to privacy and choice. Or maybe you're thinking that this law just stigmatizes pregnant teenagers and makes them even less likely to seek out medical care. But you only have to look at the state of Mississippi as a whole to know that Governor Bryant just wants to protect kids.

Mississippi is so concerned about establishing paternity that they come in dead last nationally on child support enforcement actions, with an estimated $1.1 billion in unpaid support.

This state loves babies so much that it's tied with Alabama for the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

Governor Bryant knows why his state consistently ranks in the top 5 nationally for teenage pregnancy rates. No, not because of abstinence-only sex ed, it's because, "teenagers don't care enough" to use birth control.

And, if a crime has been committed, you know Mississippi will get their crack team of forensic scientists right on it. It's not like they have hundreds of rape kits from reported crimes just sitting there unanalyzed.
As a result of a combination of the reorganization and the willingness of existing MCL [Mississippi Crime Lab] staff to work extensive overtime for a concentrated period during the latter part of FY 2000, the case backlog was reduced by approximately 42%. When all of the positions created via the reorganization are filled, the MCL will be able to further reduce the case backlog, focus on further improving services and response time and position the laboratory to achieve national accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD).
Can't you feel the love? Love needs no standards or accreditation.

Really, what can you expect from a state which will make a women pay for her own rape kit if she decides not to prosecute?

After a whole lotta googling, I'm not sure I can find a Mississippi charity that doesn't take an anti-choice position. I get queasy about giving to a charity that takes a faith-based approach to anything other than feeding the poor. So I'll give today to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is fighting to keep the state's only remaining abortion provider open.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Texas Legislative Session: Coulda Been Worse!

Shut the front door! Texas Republican legislators did bring the crazy, they couldn't seem to get it out of committee. As reported in the San Antonio Express-News, at least 24 anti-choice bills and several more affecting contraception were filed but failed to pass this session. Highlights include:
  • HB 2364: banning abortions after 20 weeks based on the medically unsubstantiated claim of fetal pain;
  • SB 537: mandating that clinics providing abortion care adhere to the standards of general, outpatient surgery centers;
  • SB 1198: forcing abortion providers to gaining admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice, the OG of TRAP bills; and
  • HB 649: AKA "The Hobby Lobby Bill", indemnifying private businesses for any penalties incurred for flouting contraceptive health insurance requirement under the Affordable Care Act.
None of these made it onto Governor Hair's desk for signature, thank goodness! AND, the Texas Legislature got it together to restore funding for women's healthcare. Granted, the workaround involved the Democrats conceding that Planned Parenthood remains ineligible for state funding, and the federal government disbursing Title X funds through non-state entities. But, there's no denying this is a victory for the thousands of Texans who raised holy hell over the sonogram/waiting period/crisis pregnancy/wholesale defunding of women's healthcare clusterf*ck that was the 2012 session.

So, today's $5 is for the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, which works hard to ensure that Texas women have access to complete medical care.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Plan B Lawsuit: Grassroots Activism

Here's an inspiring article from the Miami Herald about the nine plaintiffs who are suing to force the FDA to permit over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception. Today's $5 is for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing them.

Carolina Crazyfight

It's getting real in the Carolinas this week, with a serious crazy-off between North and South.

South Carolina looked to make a big splash by re-electing creepy Mark Sanford to Congress. The heavily Republican First District chose a man currently charged with violating a court order to stay out of his ex-wife's house over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Bush. But will he celebrate his victory by hiking the Appalachian Trail?

North Carolina will see that challenge and raise you two houses of state legislators just a-rarin' to draft some crazy laws.
  • The NC House passed a bill forbidding doctors to perform gender-selective abortions. Because nothing promotes a healthy doctor-patient relationship like the threat of a $100,000 penalty for failing to correctly guess patient intent.
  • The Senate did its part by mandating that children be taught the science fact that having an abortion increases the likelihood of premature birth later in life. Spoiler alert: not true.
  • The House is still deliberating a law, which would prevent a doctor from treating sexually transmitted infections, dispensing contraception or even performing a pregnancy test on a teenager without her parent's consent:
No physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina shall perform an abortion upon an unemancipated minor or provide medical health services for an unemancipated minor for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of (i) venereal diseases and other diseases reportable under G.S. 130A‑135, (ii) abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, (iii) emotional disturbance, or (iv) pregnancy unless the physician or agent thereof or another physician or agent thereof first obtains the written consent of the minor and the written consent, acknowledged in accordance with Chapter 10B of the General Statutes, of:
(1)        A parent with custody of the minor; or
(2)        The legal guardian or legal custodian of the minor . . .
Game, set, match! North Carolina, FTW!

Sure, they included a judicial bypass provision. Because a scared kid totally has the time and skills to navigate the legal system when she needs to be tested for STIs and feels she can't tell her parents.

This last provision got me thinking about what legal rights kids have to access reproductive health services under the law. Title X mandates confidential access in federally funded programming. But in private healthcare, state law governs. And state law is getting more and more restrictive. Take a look at these charts from the Guttmacher Institute's website.

The first shows a state-by-state breakdown of laws governing minors' access to abortion and contraception in 2005.

Parental Involvement in Minors' Access to Abortion and Contraceptive Services
Dist. of ColumbiaMCMC
New HampshirePELMC
New JerseyPELMC
New MexicoPEMC
New YorkNLMC
North CarolinaPCMC
North DakotaPC‡NL
Rhode IslandPCNL
South CarolinaPCLMC
South DakotaPNLMC
West VirginiaPN†LMC
Notes: MC=Minor explicitly allowed to consent; LMC=Minor explicitly allowed to consent in limited circumstances (such as if married, a parent, pregnant or older than a specified age); PN=Parental notice required; PC= Parental consent required; NL=No explicit law or policy; PE=Law permanently enjoined.

*Minor may obtain an abortion upon meeting specified counseling requirements. †Allows specified health professionals to waive parental involvement if judge is unavailable. ‡Requires the involvement of both parents. §State funds may not be used to provide minors with confidential contraceptive services. For more detail, see Guttmacher Institute, Parental involvement in minors' abortions, State Policies in Brief, October 2005, and Guttmacher Institute, Minors' access to contraceptive services, State Policies in Brief, October 2005, available at .

And, here's a similar Guttmacher chart from this year. (Forgive the screenshot.)

Depressing. Today's $5 is for the Guttmacher Institute. Thanks for the (gloomy) data.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sex (Ed) Positive

I love the Interwebs - where Crazytown is never more than a click away!

Try to imagine the shitfit you would throw if your child's public school allowed this woman to come scream at your kid for an hour about the perils of sex.

Her name is Pam Stenzel, and she earns $4,000 - $6,000 per appearance to tell kids there's "No such thing as sex without a price." And when you're trying to scare the shit out of kids, why stop at "I could look any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you're going to be promiscuous." Wouldn't it be more effective to just LIE? Here are some whoppers from a speech given this month at a high school in West Virginia.
As part of the Welfare Reform Act, we are now requiring in all fifty states the Social Security Numbers of both parents on every birth certificate of every child born in this nation.

Girls, infertility, the inability to have children of your own biologically has risen over 500% among women in ten years.

Our university campuses are one big giant disease!

In the 1950s we had five sexually transmitted diseases we knew about and were treating. Five! You could count them all on one hand.

You get one of these diseases, and you've got it for life! Which is a lovely thing, boys, when you're getting ready to get married. Found this girl you love, I mean this is it. She's the one you want to marry. All those other girls were just messing around. Pull out that diamond, look her in the eyes... and say, "Marry me. By the way, I've got genital warts. You'll get it, too, and we'll both be treated for the rest of our lives. In fact, you'll probably get a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death. But marry me."
Wanna listen to the whole thing?

Take a deep breath and think of Katelyn Campbell the George Washington High School student body vice president who refused to attend the assembly, calling it slut shaming. School Principal George Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Katelyn will be enrolled this fall, to tell them about her "bad character."

The College's response, via Twitter.
Thank Heaven for that! But, back in West Virginia, telling public school kids that premarital sex will devalue them, scar them emotionally, leave them infertile and cause marital infidelity remains totally kosher.

Telling them that sex is normal and enjoyable . . . Aww, hell no!

Let's start by saying that these images were not produced by Planned Parenthood, much less used as part of the organization's sex ed curriculum. As Wonkette points out, these cartoons are from a book for kids called It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris and Michael Emberly. Which makes it all the weirder that an organization called Twelve Generations of First Cousin Marriage American Life League is using these images as part of a campaign against Planned Parenthood.

This week, ALL presented this ad to the Washington Post and New York Times, both of which deemed it too graphic to run. Then ALL claimed that Planned Parenthood was using federal funding to distribute these images to public school kids. Please, World Net Daily, enlighten us as only you can.
Judie Brown, president and co-founder of ALL, agrees that the images are shocking, but says that the images come directly from Planned Parenthood materials funded by American taxpayers and aimed at those taxpayers’ own children. 
“Parents tax dollars are being used to turn their own children into Planned Parenthood’s future sex customers,” says Brown. “Their abortion business is based on exploiting young minds and filling those minds with all manner of sex instruction. 
“It is a grisly trail, but it leads from sex instruction to contraception to abortion when contraception fails,” she says. “That is the Planned Parenthood recipe, and the media likes it.”
It's not the blatant lying that surprises me, really. Or even the gross violation of copyright law. No, what shocks me is that these people actually buy their own PR. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity may be carnival barkers, laughing all the way to the bank. But I think these crazy abstinence activists truly believe this stuff  - which they are perfectly entitled to do.

As a taxpayer and a parent, though, I have a major problem with educators lying to kids or shaming them into thinking sex is dirty, or only one version of it is okay. Particularly the girls - because it's always the girls who bear the brunt of all the shame and embarrassment. I'd rather have my kid learn about sex from a cartoon of a penis in a sport coat than listen to someone tell her that the only good sex is between married people.

So, I know it always comes back to Planned Parenthood, but I gotta give it up to them again today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Criminal Condom Possession in NY?

Pop Quiz: Use of condoms by sex workers is:
                  A) Good for society because it stops the spread of STDs, or
                  B) Bad for society because it encourages prostitution.

Okay, pencils down. If you said B, then you are probably a New York City prosecutor. If you said A, then you are any other sane person. Thanks to Jezebel for pointing out that NYC cops are taking advantage of the City's controversial "stop and frisk" laws to order suspected prostitutes to empty their pockets. Possession of condoms is then used as evidence of criminal prostitution in court.

Am I the only one who finds this weirdly familiar to the arguments against vaccinating kids against HPV? Opponents of the Gardasil vaccine want to discourage teens from having sex by making the behavior even riskier. NY prosecutors want to discourage prostitution, so they criminalize efforts to make it safer. And society at large pays the cost of treating cases of cervical cancer, drug-resistant gonorrhea, and HIV which could have been avoided.

Even odder, the practice is in direct opposition to the NYC Department of Health's efforts to stop the spread of STDs by distributing 35 million condoms last year.

Ready for one more WTF? Brooklyn Democratic Senator Velmanette Montgomery has introduced a bill every year since 1999 to prohibit using condoms as evidence of prostitution, and it hasn't passed yet. With recent involvement of Human Rights Watch, this could be the year.

But, seriously! This is ridiculous.

Today's $5 is for the Urban Justice Center, who advocates for sex workers and other vulnerable populations in New York City.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Clutch the Pearls! Good News in Mississippi.

A federal judge ruled this week that Mississippi could not enforce a law designed specifically to shut down Jackson Women's Health Organization, the one abortion care provider in the whole state. The law required clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Ostensibly a safety regulation, Mississippi's Governor Phil Bryant admitted to a group of pastors, "My goal of course is to shut it down." As Bryant and the legislators knew, clinic doctors are denied privileges at all local hospitals because they performed elective abortions. Not for nothing they call these TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws.

Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, a George W. Bush appointee, found that regulating the clinic out of existence constituted an undue burden on Mississippi women's right to choose. It takes impressive chutzpah to argue, as Mississippi did, that these women could simply travel 200 miles to a neighboring state. Particularly when the neighbors have 24 hour waiting periods. Did I mention that Bryant thinks that Democrats' "one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb?"

Before I start swearing again, let's remember that we actually won this battle. So, today's $5 is for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is participating in this case.