Who The Hyde Amendment Really Hurts

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Lately, politicians and policy makers have been continuously discussing the importance of the women’s economic agenda. This is a good thing because even though women earn most of the college and advanced degrees in this country, and are two thirds of their family’s breadwinners, forty-two million women, and the 28 million children who depend on them, are living paycheck to paycheck, one disaster away from economic ruin. Paid sick days, paid parental leave, and raising the minimum wage are among some of the important policy changes being discussed, but not access to reproductive health care, a crucial component to women’s economic success in the U.S.

Today is the 39th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. Every year since 1976, Congress has passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal coverage of abortion for women enrolled in Medicaid. Over 60 percent of women who obtain abortions have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, meaning many of those 42 million women living paycheck to paycheck.

To read more, please go to Huffington Post Politics section

The Pope’s Blind Spot: When Income Inequality & Abortion Intersect

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Last week, Pope Francis descended on our nation’s capital in his first major visit to the United States, and anticipation was high for the man who has already set himself apart as a different kind of pope. Coming from church service in South America, Pope Francis is an academically-trained scientist who picked his papal name to honor St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the poor, and has made headlines around the world by focusing on the plight of low-income people. This commitment to economic justice has been admirable in its boldness and thoughtful in making connections between faith, economic inequality, and issues like immigration policy and even climate change.

Religious scholars call the particular Christian values that Pope Francis and those like him extol liberation theology: “an interpretation of Christian faith out of the experience of the poor … an attempt to read the Bible and key Christian doctrines with the eyes of the poor.” Placing himself firmly in this tradition, when it comes to the complexities that drive economic security around the world, the pope seems to get it. Unfortunately, that compassionate, complex, committed view of economics and wellbeing falls apart when it comes to reproductive health.

To read more please go to American Prospect online.

Legislators must not restrict abortion access for sex-trafficking victims


Today, the U.S. Senate is expected to take up the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. A benign name for a bill with a good cause, the act establishes funding to help survivors of sex trafficking. However, the legislation also unnecessarily contains a provision that restricts abortion.

This provision does nothing to help sex-trafficking victims. As a Virginian and an advocate for women’s rights, I urge Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to stand strong against this attempt to undermine reproductive decision-making.

To read more please go to the: Virginian Pilot online

On Roe v. Wade Anniversary, Why Reproductive Justice Is More Important Than Ever

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On the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal across the U.S., I expect a flurry of media commentary: pro-choice activists celebrating, and in the case of the anti-choicers, vilifying.  As an activist who got into politics because of women’s rights, I am thankful thatRoe V. Wade is the law of the land. But as a young woman of color active in politics, I am ever wary about the rollbacks to women’s reproductive health care access happening across the country, making the fight for reproductive justice even more of an imperative.

According to the most recent research from the Guttmacher Institute, during the 2014 state legislative session, lawmakers introduced 341 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion. By the end of 2014, 15 states had enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. Since 2010, states have adopted 231 new abortion restrictions nationwide. Among these restrictions are targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP laws), an anti-choice strategy that places stringent and unnecessary standards on clinics with the end goal of shutting them down, limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, bans on abortions after 20 weeks, mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds, and limitations on medication abortion.

Read more at EBONY.com

Roe at 42: Stripping away the promise of Roe

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In Congress, on January 22, 2015, there will be a vote to ban abortion procedures for those at 20 weeks or more gestation. And just barely into the New Year, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has quickly introduced four more anti-abortion bills since the start of the 114th Congress.

A newly anti-choice controlled Senate combined with the existing anti-choice controlled House, the motives are clear: strip away access and the rights of women to make decisions about their reproductive health care. It’s a heck of way to start off the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade that guaranteed a women’s legal right to choose an abortion.

Read the full article at The Hill.com

On Hollywood’s Lack of Progress With Women Writers & Directors

Over at Women & Hollywood, Inkoo Kang writers about the new study that came out from Celluloid Ceiling Report which is the most prominent studies on women in the film industry. The results: the progress women in Hollywood behind the camera is making is actually falling behind.

“men directed 93% of the top 250 grossing films of 2014. Female filmmakers made 7% of those films. That’s up one percentage point from last year, but 2 points down from 1998. That means women directors have lost ground in the last 17 years”

As Kang writes “There was no Bigelow effect”. The effect is named for the Kathryn Bigelow, the only female director to receive an Academy Award for Best Director to date.  Also it is noted, women writers, producers and editors don’t fare any better in this report, the percentages are down for them as well. The number of Hollywood executive producers who are women has increased.

With the announcement of the 2015 Academy Awards nominations this morning and the shock that a) this is the first time in 20 years all actor nominees are white and b) no women were nominated for best director (especially when ‘Selma’ was nominated for Best Picture but its director Ava DuVernay’s was not) c) no women were nominated for writing an Original Screenplay or Adapted Screenplay (like author Gillian Flynn who wrote her book’s screenplay for ‘Gone Girl’), this report is rather sobering.

There is a lot more work to be done before women will to be true power players and decision makers in the film industry.





2015 Golden Globes Roundup: A Feminist, Progressive Perspective

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The 2015 Golden Globes was solid start to the movie and tv awards season. There were so many great TV shows and movies up for nomination, particularly this year.

However what made the Golden Globes really great this year was how much more progressive and women centered the awards seemed to be not just for their nominations and wins but the winners speeches. Twitter was ablaze raving last night about the diversity in winners and those speeches. All I got to say is your move 2015 Academy Awards, YOUR MOVE!

There was one disappointing loss for me last night:, ‘Selma’ didn’t get the nod for best director or best motion picture, drama . It did win for Best Original Song, but it lost out both times for direction and motion picture to ‘Boyhood’, I hope to see it do better in the subsequent awards to follow (cough Oscars, SAG).

Outside of the “Selma” loss, Hollywood Foreign Press Association made some solid picks for the 2015 Golden Globes.

However, we cannot critique the feminism and progressive nature of the Golden Globes without commenting on Amy Poehler and Tina Fey who came back again as co-hosts for the awards ceremony.

Like many I agree it’s outstanding to have awesome woman comedians who are also experts at maneuvering feminist and social commentary into their standup jokes. The night had many from Fey and Poehler but some of the best were in the opening segment:

“Amal Alamuddin is human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, an adviser to Kofi Annan on Syria and was appointed to a three-person commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza strip,” Fey said. “So tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”

Just in case you are living under a rock somewhere her husband is: George Clooney The joke received the some of the loudest laughs and applause of the evening.

Other gems from Tina Fey & Amy Poehler:

Steve Carell’s Foxcatcher look took two hours to put on, including his hairstyling and make up. Just for comparison, it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as “human woman”. Fey quipped

‘Boyhood proves that there are still great roles for women over 40, as long as you get hired when you’re under 40,’ Amy quipped.

“In the 1960s, thousands of black people from all over America came together with one common goal: to form Sly and the Family Stone,” said Fey, “But the movie ‘Selma’ is about the American civil rights movement, that totally worked and now everything’s fine.” Fey quipped.

This set up a great evening of wins and acceptance speeches. These are my favorites:

1) Best Supporting Actress, TV Series,: Joanne Froggatt’s “Downton Abbey”

Having never seen Downton Abbey (yes I know, I need to), I had no opinion one way or the other on Joanne Froggat’s win, I’ve certainly heard rave reviews of the show and its performances. So I was startled to find out her main storyline had been playing a rape survivor and I was touched as were many others by her acceptance speech.

“After this storyline aired I received a small number of letters from survivors of rape and one woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she’d written, but she just felt in some way she wanted to be heard,” Froggat said, “And I’d just like to say ‘I heard you’ and I hope saying this so publicly means in some way you feel the world hears you”.

2014 was a particularly hard year I know for those who are active anti-rape advocates and survivors. (I’ve worked and volunteered my time with domestic violence/sexual assault victims).

There was Bill Cosby and 30 women accusing him of rape (and the subsequent defense of Bill Cosby from women). There was the Rolling Stone UVA Rape story to Rolling Stone then throwing said rape survivor that was a cornerstone of their piece under the bus because the entire story was not perfect. There was George Will’s ignorant statement that a victim of sexual assault on college campus receives a “coveted status that confers privileges”. There was the rehashing of campus rape in general and how it’s handled: badly.

So to hear this acceptance speech, and to know a period piece drama like Downton Abbey took it up in what appears to be a very thoughtful way restores some of my faith in humanity on the subject.

2) Amy Adams won Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy at the 2015 Golden Globes for “Big Eyes” in Beverly Hills on Sunday.

“Big Eyes” is about painter Margaret Keane (played by Amy Adams) whose husband passed off her paintings of big eyed and sad waifs as his own.

In her acceptance speech not only did Adams thank her husband for truly being a partner:

“I’m so glad to have a man that stands by me that would never silence my voice” said Adams.

but Adams also thanked the women in the room for having “a lovely and beautiful voice” and being inspiring for her 4 year old daughter .

3) Gina Rodriguez’ won Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for her main role in new television series: “Jane the Virgin”

“This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see itself as heroes,” said the Rodriguez.

As a fellow woman of color, who has appreciated and celebrated more people of color, especially women of color, in film and TV in major lead roles, I cheered

And of course, her touching acceptance speech went viral.

4) Common and John Legend won Best Original Song, Motion Picture: “Glory” in the movie Selma

Common’s acceptance speech, was pure poetry and arguably one of the best of the night.

“The first day I stepped on the set of Selma, I began to think this was bigger than a movie. As I got to know people of the civil rights movement, I realized: I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote; I am the caring white supporter, killed on the front lines of freedom; I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but was instead given a bullet; I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. Selma has awakened my humanity.”

5) Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy: Transparent (Showrunner Soloway’s acceptance speech)

Before tonight I had never heard of this show before, but I will probably be hunting (like I think most everyone else) after the Golden Globes of 2015 for an Amazon Prime account to download this show!

First off, it was a win for a woman showrunner, Jill Soloway, producer and writer of a Transparent.

Second off, it’s a historical win for the transgendered community as it is a TV series is focused on a father who announces he’s transgender to his family and begins the to transition to a woman.

The story is based on Soloway’s own life experience with a transgendered parent. Soloway’s speech itself is also a wonderful tribute to the transgendered community and their struggles.

“I want to thank the trans community. They are our family and they make this possible. This award is dedicated to the memory of Leelah Alcorn, and too many trans people who died too young. And it’s dedicated to you, my trans parent, my “mapa,” if you’re watching at home right now. I want to thank you for coming out because in doing so you made a break for freedom, you told your truth, you taught me how to tell my truth and make this show, and maybe we’ll be able to teach the world something about authenticity and truth and love. To love.”

To catch more commentary on the wonderfully surprising feminist centeredness of you can check out Huff Post Women’s The Most Feminist Moments of the 2015 Golden Globes

Elections Matter: New GOP controlled Congress Introduce the 20 wk Abortion Ban

Earlier this week, cold winds and snow blew in the morning of Tuesday, January 6 in the Washington DC metro area. January 6 was also the same day of the start of the 114th Session of Congress. One of my friends, a feminist activist joked “It’s not foreboding or anything that Winter Has Come the day the new Congress is getting sworn in, right? Right?!” She was in fact referring to the now newly GOP controlled Senate combined with the already GOP controlled House.

The Game of Thrones joke was apropos because first day back, what does the Republican Party find is the most important thing to take up? A New Jobs Bill? A New Infrastructure Bill? Perhaps they’ve taken up something on foreign policy?  NOPE. They introduced legislation that would ban abortion nationally at about 20 weeks. And yes, it is in direct violation of Roe v. Wade.

Currently the House of Representatives has only introduced this measure. Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This legislation did pass the House when it was introduced last year, not surprising as anti-choice GOP members control the House Chamber. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also introduced a companion measure in the Senate but since Senate Democrats (who are overwhelmingly pro-choice) had the majority, they stalled it. Graham has already indicated he will be introducing his own measure in the next few weeks and in a newly controlled GOP Senate, with Senators even more conservative (if that is even possible) than Senator Graham, it will be sure to pass.

Perhaps I’d be less concerned, if I thought that perhaps the GOP leadership in the Senate would err on the side of…. I don’t know…working on things of concern to most American people (jobs, anyone??) especially since Senator McConnell as Leader of the Senate GOP said they would be focusing on jobs, tax reform etc in previous interviews. As the Leader of the Senate, McConnell can control what legislation does or does not get onto the floor of the Senate. However, Senator Mitch McConnell also has urged for the passage of a 20 week ban before and he reiterated his pledge to back it at a recent National Right to Life Conference last year.

Nevermind, the legislation is pointless, at least for three of reasons.

  1. Doctors do agree that fetuses cannot survive outside the womb until about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy
  2. Scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that fetuses cannot feel pain until long at least the third trimester
  3. Women who seek abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is in such a small percentage and often do so because of severe medical complications, such as a grave fetal anomaly or health risk to the mother.

Not to mention a majority of Americans support abortion rights after 20 weeks and before viability once they are made aware of the real-life circumstances women face. Something you’d think would interest legislators who do look at polls to gauge public opinion on changing times.

But, here we are.

Many of the pro-choice organizations who work on legislation have whipped up into action. From NARAL Pro-Choice America’s email the message is clear: “With only 37 strongly pro-choice senators left after the election, we need to get at least four undecided senators to get the 41 votes we need to stop it.”

NARAL’s email points out clearly: elections matter. You couldn’t tell from last cycle because according to pollsters it was the lowest turnout across the entire electorate last year. Midterms aren’t as sexy as the Presidential race, I know. And I know people are frustrated with the broken cycle that is Washington. I mean people who’ve made a living in government I know on BOTH sides of the aisle are really done with the inability to do much legislatively. BUT, elections still do matter.

Case in point: In Virginia, when faced with the possibility of having Ken Cuccinelli as Governor, a man who as Attorney General made it is his mission to force the reluctant Virginia Board of Health to enact TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations, Virginia voters, known to swing a lot further right than center right at times, across the state balked. Weary from Cuccinelli, and an overreaching anti-choice Virginia General Assembly that proposed the wonders of the transvaginal ultrasound, pro-choice Democrat Terry McAuliffe and his slate who were also prochoice Lt. Governor candidate Ralph Northam and Attorney General candidate Mark Herring were swept into statewide office. Now Virginia has a Governor who has gone on record saying no more abortion clinics will be closed.

Forever remaining vigilant on reproductive rights rollbacks seems to be the weight to bear for those who actively work on pro-choice movement issues. But even if you are not a daily activist, but you care about this issue even in the slightest? Don’t forget the importance of voting, because people’s lives depend on it.