Tag Archives: Women’s Rights

The Plight of Mississippi’s Lone Abortion Provider

8 Feb

Since April of last year, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been struggling to stay open. Jackson is the last abortion provider in Mississippi, a state that leads the country in teen birth rates.

In April, Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed in anew law, which states that any doctor performing an abortion in the state is required to have hospital admitting privileges. The clinic has since applied for admitting privileges with seven local hospitals, and been rejected from each and every one. In accordance with state law, healthcare facilities are allowed to refuse medical service on religious grounds.

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http://www.salon.com/2013/02/01/mississippis_last_abortion_clinic_hangs_in_the_balance/

The hospitals reportedly rejected requests by these physicians to receive admitting privileges because their medical practice “is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions” and that admitting them “would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital’s function and business within this community.”

The clinic, which in 2011 served close to 2,000 patients, the majority of which being low-income and teenage women, received a notice stating that the state health department will revoke its operating license. To put that in perspective, Mississippi had a poverty rate of 22.6 in 2011, and many of these low-income women will have to go to a clinic three hours away over the state line, if the Jackson clinic is forced closed. In addition to transportation costs, childcare, and time-off work, women would have to put up money for hotels to adhere to mandatory 72-hour waiting periods in neighboring states as well as find the money for the $450 procedure itself. This would put an undue burden on these women, effectively making it impossible for them to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

According to Michelle Movahed, the staff attorney for the center, “This unconstitutional law has essentially handed over the fate of Mississippi women’s reproductive health care to hospital administrators.”

In 1981 there were 14 abortion clinics in the state of Mississippi, now the only two physicians providing abortions fly into the state to its only remaining clinic. Systematically closing down the state’s abortion care providers isn’t the only way the state has limited a woman’s ability to choose in Mississippi however.  Due to several prohibitive measures that have been passed in recent years, Mississippi now has the lowest abortion rate in the country at 5%, compared to 19% nationally. In Mississippi abortion clinics, unlike other medical offices, are required to adhere to the same building codes as hospitals. Minors in the state need the consent of both parents before receiving an abortion, and abortions are only legal in clinics up to 16 weeks. Additionally, sonograms must be performed and the patient must be given the opportunity to see the image and listen to the fetal heartbeat. Also all women seeking an abortion in the state must receive counseling from a doctor and then wait 24-hours before the procedure.

And as if all of this weren’t enough, Republican Senator Angela Burks Hill recently sponsored Senate Bill 2795, a bill which would attempt to limit the availability of medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol which induce abortions. The bill would make it illegal for a woman to take the pills seven pills after their last menstruation, despite the fact that most doctors currently prescribe it up to nine weeks. To add insult to injury, the bill will also require a woman to return to her doctor’s office to take the misoprostol instead of her previous option of taking it at home. This would result in four required visits for a woman seeking to end a pregnancy via medication, a requirement that may not be financially feasible for all of Mississippi’s women. On February 5th the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee approved the measure, which will go to the full senate for more debate. 

Mississippi’s attack on women and on reproductive rights is truly atrocious. Despite being legal in the United States, these proposed measure are essentially making abortion impossible for the low-income women that live there. These measures also unjustly affect low-income women, who will likely be unable to afford trips out of state. Essentially forcing these women to give birth to unwanted children that they may not have the means to support perpetuates a cycle of poverty that can be almost impossible to escape.

Access to birth control and abortion are two of the greatest tools that women have in their arsenal to achieve the same economic freedom as their male counterparts. When women are unable to control when and where they want to start a family, under what circumstances, they are essentially stripped of their abilities to succeed in a job market where they are in constant competition with men who do not face the same challenges. Abortion rights are a women’s issue, they are also a class issue, and a race issue. It’s about the power to choose. When Mississippi, a state with the highest teen pregnancy rate and one of the highest poverty rates, chooses to deny women this fundamental control over their future economic prospects, they are holding women back and keeping them in a state of oppression.

What happens to Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is important for us all. It is a warning, of what could happen if we don’t fight to protect the rights of women everywhere.

Dat Dog: A Sad Tale of Racism and Sexual Harassment in a Local Business

29 Jan

I love local business. I love food. And while I am a vegetarian, I was always a huge fan of Dat Dog. I was there when it was just a small stand on Freret Street, and I witnessed it morph into the beautiful, quirky restaurant we know today. I was excited to hear about the opening of a second location on Magazine Street. I love hearing stories of small business success, which is why when a woman, “Abby” approached me with a story about her experience working there I almost didn’t want to hear it. Almost.

The revitalization of Freret Street has been met with some resistance. In an effort to bring in new business and bring down crime rates the once primarily black community has become more and more marginalized, losing time old traditions such as its second line. While lowering crime and bringing in business can be great, it is important to do so while still maintaining the culture of the community that was there before rather than trying to whitewash an entire neighborhood.

Dat Dog is a prime example. I have gone there, with many of my rich uptown Tulane friends. In fact, I frequent much of Freret Street with these same groups of people. Considering that it is located in a largely black community it is startling to see how few African Americans are employed at many of these businesses.

This was one of the issues my source, a former employee of Dat Dog, brought up to one of her managers. She asked him why there were no minorities working there, despite the fact that the store is located in a primarily black neighborhood. The response she received to her inquiries?

“We need people who can read and write…”

I guess, at least he was honest…?

This alone unsettled me, but the story gets worse.

My source told me that in April, shortly after Dat Dog moved to its new, larger location they hired a new manager. Lets call him “John”. John quickly became known for making sexual comments and sexual gestures to the majority of the female staff. Finally Abby and one of her fellow employees, “Jane”, had enough, and they complained- to no avail. After their complaints John began targeting his sexual harassment towards Jane specifically. The harassment got progressively worse for Jane, from vaguely creepy comments to him looking her up and down saying, “You look like you wanna go home with someone tonight…“. She complained twice more and was repeatedly told by her superiors simply not talk to him, to avoid him. Although Jane did as she was told he would still harass her. She’d continued to go to her superiors reporting the new offenses, and they would just shake their heads and tell her he was a moron. It was, as Abby states “insane.”

Once again, here is an example of putting the pressure on the victim, of making it their responsibility not to get sexually harassed. This is what patriarchy looks like in everyday life.

A third girl, “Emily”, who had been facing extreme sexual harassment by John eventually approached them. She told them that she had been too afraid to come forward, that she had no idea he was harassing others at work as well. John had invited her to a pool party under the pretense that it was a work party and that everyone from Dat Dog would be attending. Long story short, they weren’t. Emily went to the party to find that it was just she, John, and a few of his male friends. Emily told them that he hit on her repeatedly, that he smacked her ass, and that when she finally called him out on it- telling him that sexual harassment is not O.K.– he simply told her that no one was around to witness it so there was nothing that she could do.

Eventually, around September, John was fired, but according to my source it was basically like chopping off one head and replacing it with two more. In late September, two new men who were just as bad if not worse replaced John. One of the men made a comment to a fellow female employee one night at the end of her shift that he was “thinking about her in ways that would make her husband unhappy.”

Eventually more employees started to complain about the sexual harassment that they were facing at work, but according to my coworker nearly 40 of them either quit or were fired for “lack of morale”.  The woman I spoke with said it took a lot for her to finally quit, but what finally pushed her over the edge was when one of the managers made a mistake on the computer when he was adding up the profits for the day. They came up short and he took it from the employee’s wages. This finally gave her momentum to put in her notice and leave this organization that I once thought of as inspiring.

Sadly, for Abby this wasn’t the end of the story. She was unemployed for months. She couldn’t pay any of her bills or her rent. Abby did originally file for unemployment and after an initial letter stating she would be granted the unemployment, she received a second letter stating that her claim had been contested by a previous employer alleging that she had lied about the circumstances under which she left her job. Abby told me that fighting the claim while being unemployed and having no money would have been nearly impossible. She and her fellow ex-Dat Dog employees thought about suing, they thought about filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but they were so drained from fighting management and not being heard that they decided they just wanted to move on with their lives- something that Abby says she is still trying to do.

This kind of blatant racism, sexism, and harassment is what makes it so difficult for women to succeed and advance in the work place. We are told to get thicker skin, to toughen up, but when your livelihood is at stake, when your wages are being garnished, and no one is listening to what you have to say it can feel more than hopeless. This shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Women shouldn’t be afraid to go to work. They shouldn’t have to choose between working in a hostile environment or face months of unemployment. When people suggest that we live in a “post-racial” era, or that sexism doesn’t exist, they should really take a closer look at the everyday goings on at the businesses they spend their time and money at.

Sadly, the service industry is rampant with racism, and sexism. I don’t think that it needs to be however. As brave as these young women were for voicing their concerns, and leaving this establishment, the power for change lies in the money. It is unlikely that these common practices will ever change solely from the efforts of those who work in the service industry, its takes people on the outside exposing this behavior to make a difference.

Remember, every time you make a purchase you are casting a vote. For me, until I learn that Dat Dog has severely revamped their managing practices I know I wont be casting my vote for them any time soon. I urge you to do the same.

Women on the Front Lines

24 Jan

You’ve probably heard, its big news, but today Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted the military’s ban on women in combat. It showed up on my newsfeed today and I was stunned and moved. Panetta’s decision overrides the 1994 Pentagon rule that restricts women from artillery, armor, infantry and other combat roles. The 1994 ban ignored the fact that 20,000 American women have seen combat in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 800 women were wounded, and 130 killed. None of these women were actually allowed to receive recognition for their service, because you know, they weren’t technically allowed to experience combat- they were just allowed to die in it.

It’s important because these combat positions allow women to obtain career advancing jobs that they have previously been excluded from. Two months ago, four service women filed a federal lawsuit against the Pentagon because of this ban. They argued that despite experiencing combat, they were not recognized for it and were not allowed to fill certain leadership positions because the Defense Department didn’t officially recognize them as having combat experience- despite being shot and wounded during conflict. Pretty fucked up right?

The lifting of the ban came after Panetta received a letter from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey stating that “the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.”

I completely agree. Women are equal to men, if we want to serve and defend our country that should be our choice. In a time when women’s rights are under attack, and our ability to choose is being challenged this ruling offers a ray of hope. If we can choose to fight for our country, maybe some of those idiots out there will start agreeing that we can choose what to do with our own bodies. But then again, maybe that is wishful thinking.

What Matters to Women, Matters to America

23 Jan

Louisiana Women’s Roundtable Presents:

“What Matters to Women, Matters to America”

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A conversation about the public policies that could shape the future of American women.

Please join us for the critical discussion about the role that politics and policy play in the lives of women and families in America. This conversation goes beyond the “war on women” to address the intersections of important policy decisions.

The event is taking place on February 19 from 6-8pm at Cafe Istanbul, New Orleans Healing Center (2372 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117). You should all go!!!

Mediated by Professor Nikki Brown from the University of New Orleans, the panel includes:

* Tania Tetlew, Tulane University, Domestic Violence Clinic

* Marjorie Esman, ACLU of Louisiana

* Karissa Haugeberg, Ph.D., Tulane University Department of History

* (Invited) Paulette Lewis, Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Labor

Louisiana Women’s Roundtable is a strong coalition of local organizations including: Louisiana NOW, American Association of University Women, ACLU-LA, Independent Women’s Organization, Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, League of Women’s Voters-New Orleans, LA Progress, National Council of Jewish Women-Greater New Orleans, and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

Link

Cocktails for Change

9 Jan

Coctails for Change

Tomorrow night. $20. Be there! It’s at Chickie Wah Wah in Midcity. Starts at 5:30.

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