Written by Lauren Rankin for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

During a recent online Q&A session with Campus Reform, Julian Assange, founder of the government secret-leaking group WikiLeaks, admitted he's a “big admirer” of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for what he called “their very principled positions.” Specifically, he praised them and their libertarian Republican brethren for, among other things, their fervent opposition to abortion rights, characterizing their position on abortion as a reflection of their commitment to non-violence.

In response to a question about his thoughts on Rand Paul, Assange heralded him as the “only hope” for U.S. electoral politics. He lauded both men for their commitment to “non-violence,” highlighting the various ways in which he sees that commitment reflected in their political stances. “So, non-violence, well, don’t go and invade a foreign country," said Assange. "Non-violence, don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. army. Non-violence, don’t extort taxes from people to the federal government. Similarly, other aspects of non-violence in relation to abortion that they hold.”

According to Assange, opposition to abortion is grounded in a commitment to non-violence. But non-violent for whom?

According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 6,461 reported incidents of violence against abortion providers since 1977, including eight murders and 17 attempted murders. Abortion providers and clinics have faced numerous bombings, cases of arson, butyric acid attacks, death threats, kidnappings, and more, all from opponents of abortion rights. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed while at church with his family. His convicted killer, Scott Roeder, is heralded as a “hero” in some anti-choice circles.

In 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States, illegal abortion accounted for 17 percent of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth. And today, around the globe—mostly in the developing world—at least 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year (roughly 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide) and many times that number suffer serious and sometimes lifelong health consequences.

It is impossible to quantify how many people in the United States avoid accessing safe and legal abortion care because of fear of harassment and intimidation, but with 5,165 abortion clinics reporting some form of disruption or harassment in 2011 alone, it’s safe to assume that it plays at least a small role; people often avoid accessing the basic reproductive health care to which they have a constitutional right because of virulent hostility from abortion opponents.

What’s that about anti-abortion views being non-violent again?

In a political climate so openly hostile and threatening to abortion rights, one in which states have enacted 43 abortion restrictions in the first six months of 2013 alone, where 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas will be forced to close because of an omnibus anti-abortion bill, where serious legal threats to Roe v. Wade abound every day, women’s lives are literally at risk.

So why are men like Assange essentially telling women to get over the abortion issue and praise Ron and Rand Paul anyway? It's simple: privilege.

While these white, cisgender men may be able to pick and choose which political positions they like from the Pauls, marginalized groups do not have that luxury. They are essentially asking women and people of color to praise politicians who disdain and combat their very existence. This is not petty partisanship; it is a fundamental lack of respect for who we are as people. A simple look at their political records proves this.

 

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At a rally marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Myrlie Evers-Williams finally completed a mission assigned to her by tragedy a half-century ago. Then, little more than a month after her husband, Medgar Evers, president of the NAACP's Mississippi chapter, was slain in his driveway as his children watched, the young widow was the only woman scheduled to speak at the podium from which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would deliver his best-remembered line: "I have a dream."

But Myrlie Evers, as she was known then, missed her turn at the microphone, stuck in traffic on her way from the airport. (Daisy Bates, who strategized the integration of Little Rock High School, was drafted to Evers' slot, and spoke all of 142 words.)

At Saturday's commemoration, Evers-Williams not only had her turn, but also had some female company. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the crowd, which numbered in the tens of thousands, as did Sybrina Fulton, who gave a tribute to her slain son, Trayvon Martin; National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill; and Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Rev. Bernice King, president of the King Center and daughter of the late civil rights leader, offered a closing prayer. Other women, too, were given turns at the mic at the event, titled "Realize the Dream," and keynoted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.

"Stand your ground," Evers-Williams said, invoking the name of the notorious laws on the books in 16 states that allow the use of a lethal weapon against anyone the weapon-holder feels threatened by. "We can think of standing your ground in the negative," she continued, "but I ask you today to flip that coin and give 'stand your ground' a positive ring for all who stand for justice and equality, and stand firm on the ground that we have already made, and be sure that nothing is going to be taken away from us."

Among the gains won through protests and pressure of civil rights activists was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the heart of which was struck down in June by the Supreme Court.

Marching Toward Inclusion

When, after the rally, the time came to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, men and women marched together, unlike the original march 50 years ago, in which men and women marched along separate routes.

Jo Ann Watson, a Detroit city council member, came to the 1963 march with her grandparents when she was 12 years old, she told RH Reality Check. It was important for her to return not only as an African American, she said, but also as a woman. Watson, who served as the director of the Detroit YWCA and went on to serve in the organization's national headquarters as assistant executive director and head of the Y's Office of Racial Justice, claims as her mentor the late Dorothy I. Height, the longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women, who also held two of the YWCA posts Watson went on to fill.

"[S]he often talked to me with tears gleaming in her eyes," Watson said. "She said no women were allowed to speak [at the 1963 march]."

Watson said Height had helped to plan that original march, but was deprived of a turn at the podium. Aside from the singer Mahalia Jackson, who performed that day, Height was the only woman seated on the platform next to the podium.

I found Watson seated on a bench in the shade along a footpath, taking a breather. Dressed elegantly in a black skirt and top and a fashionable chunky necklace, she held a red sign emblazoned with the slogan "End Racism. Heal America. Tax Wall Street."

Her clothing honored the memory of the Sunday-best she and all her fellow marchers wore in 1963. The sign was a reminder that the 1963 march was as much about jobs as it was about rights.

 

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Written by Kenyon Farrow for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On Saturday, August 24, tens of thousands of people will descend on the nation’s capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the actual anniversary of which is August 28.

There have been some grumblings that the anniversary events will not duly encompass contemporary racial justice issues, and need to do more than re-live the famous images of the past. I am often frustrated with the way racial justice issues for Black people can only be characterized as racist if they somehow reference past symbols of racial violence: legal "lynchings," the “new Jim Crow," and Paula Deen's antebellum-themed summer soiree. The threats to cutting food stamps, the rollback on abortion access (which disproportionately affects poor women), the battles for low-wage workers and teachers, and the various fights over racial profiling in New York City, New Orleans, and Sanford, Florida, are all contemporary issues facing Black people in the United States, and each need their own mass mobilizations here and now.

But what’s past is prologue. Many of the gains made as a result of the Civil Rights Movement are being rolled back, and some of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions are great examples of this, demonstrating just how much a constant presence the nation's racist past remains.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court ruled section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Arguing in its decision that “things have changed in the South,” the Court nullified the formula initially created by the act to determine what jurisdictions needed federal “preclearance” before amending “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.”

Critical race legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw told Washington, D.C.'s Afro-American newspaper that the decision was akin to “building a dam to keep the lowlands from flooding and for 40 years the lowlands don’t flood and then deciding that you don’t need the dam anymore.”

But the Court didn't stop at gutting voting rights. The Supreme Court also ruled in two cases making it more difficult for employees to sue on the grounds of racial discrimination. In Vance v. Ball State University, the Court ruling narrowed the definition of “supervisor” held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Essentially, the Court decided that supervisors can only be held liable in a discrimination case if they have power over the hiring, firing, changing of work responsibilities, promoting, or demoting of an employee.

In a second case, University of Texas Southern Medical Center v. Vassar, the Court decided employees must prove that they’ve been denied a promotion or raise only because of discrimination—which gives employers more room to claim a host of other reasons why someone didn’t get a promotion or raise.

Much of the coverage of the Supreme Court decisions this summer focused on those regarding same-sex marriage. Many people were thrilled that the Court declined to rule on the Proposition 8 case (which essentially made a lower appeals court decision in favor of same-sex marriage in California valid), and struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which made same-sex marriages recognized by the federal government in the states that currently allow such unions. But this ruling is not without racial implications. As American University law professor Nancy Polikoff noted in a statement about the ruling, "[T]he demographics of who marries now is highly skewed by race and class. There is every reason to assume those demographics will hold for lesbians and gay men as well. So we will have same-sex couples who don’t marry, just as we have different-sex couples who don’t marry."

It is important to note, as Polikoff hinted, that African Americans as a U.S. racial group are the least likely to be married. And even if Black gay and lesbians want to get married, the areas with the highest proportion of Black same-sex couples are in Southern states that have constitutional bans on such unions.

 

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Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On August 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that local police do not have the power to enforce deportation orders without explicit instruction from federal authorities. In the decision, Judge James A. Wynn wrote that "absent express direction or authorization by federal officials, state and local law enforcement officers may not detain or arrest an individual solely based on known or suspected civil violations of federal immigration law." The ruling helps clarify the Supreme Court's vague decision in Arizona v. United States last year about local discretion in enforcing immigration orders.

The civil rights ramifications of the Fourth Circuit's ruling are clear. Less obvious are the economic consequences for immigrant families who fall within the Fourth Circuit's jurisdiction, and whose livelihoods can now less capriciously be upended by local police.

As the Center for American Progress pointed out in a 2012 report:

The economic fallout of a deportation is perhaps the most significant of the long term consequences of immigration enforcement. ... Prior to a detention or deportation, [many immigrant] families constitute a class of low-wage workers. With a detention or deportation, families slip easily into poverty. For families experiencing a detention or deportation, household income drops drastically from one day to the next, which is a shock for families already getting by on low wages.

The plaintiff in the Fourth Circuit case is Roxana Santos, a Salvadoran dishwasher at a Maryland food co-op. In the fall of 2008, Santos was approached by local police while she was on her lunch break at work. For 15 minutes the officers questioned her, looked at her Salvadoran identification, and then ran a background check, which revealed her outstanding deportation warrant per the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Santos was then jailed for the next 36 days, during which time she was separated from her 1-year-old son.

Her experience is not rare. "People in the community were sharing with us that they were being stopped and harassed," said Enid Gonzalez, senior manager of Legal Services at Casa de Maryland, an immigrant rights and legal services organization based in Baltimore that aided Santos. The systemic seizures are believed to be at the behest of Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County, Maryland, who, according to immigrant rights advocates, has been zealously enforcing deportation orders without federal direction.

While the Fourth Circuit's decision does not explicitly mention Santos' family or economic status, the implications are clear: She was an immigrant woman dishwasher sitting on a curb eating a sandwich when two armed officers approached, questioned, arrested, and jailed her.

 

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Written by Briana Dixon for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from Amplify Your Voice, a project of Advocates for Youth.

By now much of the advocacy community has heard of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen, and #F*ckCisPeople, started by @karnythia, @JamilahLemieux, and @Stuxnetsource, respectively. Intersectionality (the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities) has run rampant on Twitter, and I've been having a blast voicing my grievances, listening to other's grievances, and fighting trolls with every bit of strength embedded in my keyboard. But not everyone has been having a great time with these hashtags, and I am here to help with a few tips:

One: Check your privilege at the door.

I don't know what kind of privilege you're packing, but it's weighing you down. Set it down for a minute and consider the fact that you are not the only person out there being oppressed. In fact, you may indeed be unconsciously benefiting from an unjust system. That doesn't mean you're a bad person—it just means that you live in a society that prizes certain groups over others and you were unlucky enough to be born into one. If you think you have it bad, just think of the people who weren't born into the privileged group.

Two: Keep in mind that your movement can be flawed...

...without you being an evil master-overlord. Calling out the flaws in our movements is the only way we are going to get better. Movements are constantly demanding that society stop silencing the voices of their oppressed people. It is fair to say, then, that silencing people who are oppressed within those movements is the worst kind of hypocritical.

Three: Remember that unity does not equal silence.

The hashtags are only divisive if you don't plan on addressing the grievances stated within them. If the movement intends to continue as it is and ignore the pleas stated for all of the Twitterverse to see, then yes it is divisive. But the only way we are ever going to be truly unified is if we listen to each other's complaints and work to fix them.

Four: Be aware that anger is an emotion...

...and that oppressed peoples, as human beings, are entitled to emotions. You have no way and no right to monitor and/or control these emotions. These emotions are not irrational. These emotions are not silly. The best way to deal with these emotions is not to pretend they don't exist and/or brush them off as unwarranted whining.

Five: Know that there is one condition to being an ally...

...and it isn't that the oppressed groups appease you at every turn. It isn't that they be wary of your feelings. It isn't that they don't air the movements' dirty laundry. It isn't that they do what is best for the movement even if the movement isn't doing what's best for them. The only true condition for someone to become an ally is for the ally to support the oppressed group because it is the right thing to do. You help them the best you can, not the way you think is best.

 

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Written by Renee Bracey Sherman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This piece is part of the Echoing Ida project, cross-posted with permission from Strong Families.

Each time I take a road trip down California's magnificent highways, I can't help but think of the dozens of people who have stayed in my home while in the Bay Area for an abortion. I pass the road signs indicating the off-ramps for Modesto, Los Banos, and Humboldt thinking fondly of the friends I made, but sad about how far they had to travel for their abortions.

For over a year, I have served as a Practical Support Volunteer for ACCESS Women's Health Justice; I house, prepare dinners for, and give rides to people staying in the Bay Area for an abortion procedure. They come by bus, train, and sometimes car, traveling for four-to-five hours at a time, because access to abortion procedures near their hometown is lacking. They come because they didn't realize they were pregnant until it was past the gestational limit and the clinic nearest to them couldn't perform the abortion. They come because the time they took to thoughtfully consider all their pregnancy options meant their procedure would cost more.

They come because the clinic closest to them shares an abortion provider with several other clinics and it could be a while before they can get an appointment. They come because while they were working and saving money to pay for an abortion, they crossed a gestational threshold and now must find more money for a more expensive procedure. They scrimp and save to take off more time from work to travel for what was a one-day, but is now a two-day procedure; get someone to cover a work shift; ask someone to watch their children; and, if they're able to, find a supportive friend or partner to join them as they travel across the state to a city they've never been to ... all for health care.

When my friends stay in my home, we sit on the couch and talk over dinner. We talk about how far they've traveled, their lives back home, their beautiful children, and what the next couple of days might look like. They often ask me why they couldn't have an abortion in their own towns, where their support people could accompany them and hold their hands, where they would be able to go home the same day and tuck their children in at night after the procedure. Until now, I didn't have an answer for them. But now that answer is waiting for a vote and a signature. The answer is California's Early Access to Abortion Bill.

 

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Written by Annamarya Scaccia for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Last Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania from enforcing a ban on "I Love Boobies! Save a Breast!" bracelets, the trendy bands that promote the Keep a Breast Foundation's national breast cancer outreach and awareness campaign. But while a federal court may have found the bracelets protected under the First Amendment, the court of public opinion still takes issue with "I Love Boobies" and similar campaigns, with many people finding them toxic to the overall breast cancer conversation.

In its 9-5 decision, the federal court rejected the school district's claim that the popular slogan is lecherous and disruptive, ruling that it provides commentary on a prevalent social issue. Particularly, Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in his 74-page opinion for B.H. and K.M. v. Easton Area School District:

Schools cannot avoid teaching our citizens-in-training how to appropriately navigate the "marketplace of ideas." Just because letting in one idea might invite even more difficult judgment calls about other ideas cannot justify suppressing speech of genuine social value.

"It's a tremendous ruling supportive of student free speech," Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and lead counsel in the case, told RH Reality Check. "What this ruling does is recognize that teenagers talk about important things, whether it's political issues [or] social issues. That's the type of speech we most want to protect."

The August 7 judgment puts to bed years of litigation that began in November 2010, when the ACLU-PA filed a lawsuit challenging the Easton Area School District's "I Love Boobies!" bracelet ban, claiming it infringed on students' First Amendment right to free speech. The original suit was lodged on behalf of Easton Area Middle School students Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, who were suspended in October 2010 for declining to adhere to the ban, which was imposed over a month after students started wearing the wristbands without incident. In rationalizing the interdict, the middle school asserted some students were made uneasy by human sexuality topics, others were "prompted" to make sexual innuendos, and some staff found them offensive, the lawsuit claims.

While, in 2011, a federal judge granted ACLU-PA's request for an emergency injunction on the ban, the Easton Area School District appealed the enjoinment, arguing the message behind the Keep a Breast Foundation's catchphrase could be misconstrued as "lewd" and potentially hinder school activities. To prove such, the district invoked both the Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Bethel School District v. Fraser, which upholds that schools can restrict student speech if it is "vulgar, lewd, profane or plainly offensive" (meaning it offers no fundamental social or political value to a broader conversation), and 1969's Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which states students have a constitutional right to free speech, but said speech can be regulated if a school proves it "materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline" in school operations. In its Monday decision, however, the Third Circuit found that the Easton Area School District could not prove either of its claims under these two edicts since the message is meant to stir constructive dialogue.

This is not the first time that "I Love Boobies" and similarly chest-centric breast cancer awareness campaigns, like the "Save the Ta-Tas" bumper stickers, have been subject to school bans. Moffat County School District in Colorado barred students from wearing Keep a Breast's popular wristband in 2011, but rescinded the ban that year after pressure from the ACLU of Colorado. Sauk Prairie Middle School in Wisconsin also banned the same bracelets, and a federal court judge ruled in 2012 that it could continue to impose that ban. Wearing "I Love Boobies!" gear has also been prohibited at Laramie Junior High School in Wyoming (the ban was reversed), and at an Elmira, Oregon, high school, reports the Huffington Post. Similarly, two years ago, cheerleaders at an Arizona high school were banned from wearing t-shirts brandishing the slogan, "Feel for lumps, save your bumps," in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"[The August 7 decision] is a really important rule for schools to follow. When they see a message that a student is conveying a message, is talking about something that is a social or political issue, they can't go looking for a way to eventually sanitize that," Roper told RH Reality Check. "This means that schools have to really confront the fact that kids are gonna talk about controversial issues. They need to make sure there's room for that conversation to happen."

But not everyone thinks "I Love Boobies!" is a message worth promoting. Last year, Jessica S. Holmes, a public voices fellow with the Op-Ed Project, opined at the Huffington Post that these "pink ribbon culture" movements present breast cancer as "a 'sexy' disease"—one that should be publicly represented by "young, intact, firm ta-tas in order to save them." Holmes continued, "Cancerous breasts threaten idealized femininity and the eroticization of the female body, and these 'awareness' campaigns are no different from the over-sexualized and fetishized imagery in mainstream culture, which reduces a woman's value to her body parts."

 

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Written by Emily Rooke-Ley for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

When I decided to come to Austin for a summer internship with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, I knew I was signing up for an interesting few months. Although I had been working in the field of reproductive rights throughout high school and college, I was raised in Oregon—the only state in our nation that has yet to pass abortion restrictions in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. And I attend college in New York, a state where there are no abortion restrictions prior to the 24th week of pregnancy. Before June, I had never been to Texas, let alone to the South.

I had read about the shaky state of reproductive rights in Texas, but I did not anticipate that I would be fighting tooth and nail with anti-choice legislators attempting to hastily and unfairly pass some of the most extreme and draconian abortion bills in the country during a special session, with the two-thirds rule conveniently suspended. I did not anticipate having to beg privileged legislators through my public testimony not to violate my privacy in their attempts to “help” me by doing what they think is best for me. (These legislators ultimately cut off my microphone and walked out on my testimony mid-sentence.)

And at 20 years old, entirely alone in a new city, I certainly did not anticipate having an abortion myself.

I found out I was pregnant on the first day of my internship. Contrary to common rhetoric, my choice to terminate my pregnancy was not the most difficult decision I have ever made, although don’t mistake this for carelessness. I had thought through this scenario before and was sure of my choice before I ever needed to be. Nevertheless, the process of having an abortion was, indeed, quite difficult—Texas law made sure of that. I knew Texas’ abortion restrictions: a 24-hour waiting period, a medically unnecessary sonogram, and a slew of propagandized literature lacking medical evidence. With the follow-up exam, that’s three visits to the clinic. These were all things I would have avoided in Oregon or New York, but doable for me, only because I had some money and my family’s support.

As I entered the clinic parking lot, I was greeted by a few protesters—all white, male, with Bibles in hand—attempting to shame and scare me in a moment when I most valued my privacy. I recall sitting in the NARAL office on the day before my procedure—the day after I’d sat through hours of heated public testimony on SB 5—when our office received a call from the very clinic where I had my appointment, alerting us to the aggressive presence of anti-choice protesters and the desperate need for clinic escorts. I had to excuse myself and went into the parking lot, where I sat behind a car and cried. I was terrified. I had previously thought about what it would be like to have an abortion, and I knew that, for me, it would be difficult. But, naturally, I had expected it would happen in Oregon or New York and, thus, be difficult because of whatever personal reasons, not because I would have to run the gauntlet of aggressive protesters.

Lying on the reclining chair in the clinic office as the sonographer prepared me for my ultrasound, cold jelly on my belly, I felt tears silently running down my face. I kept thinking to myself, I am the victim of a political game. My body is the victim of a political game. There was absolutely no medical reason for this ultrasound. It was lawful intimidation. I chuckled through tears when the doctor told me, as per Texas law, that an abortion could increase my risk of breast cancer and/or infertility. I knew this was anti-choice politics at play—but what about the other scared young women who came in and didn’t know this? What a terrifying thing to hear. I couldn’t imagine that fear being added to the already difficult situation. As the sonographer rubbed the transducer over my slimy belly, I prayed that she would see the image; if she did not, Texas law would require that I be penetrated, against my will, with a transvaginal ultrasound—which is also medically unnecessary. I was horrified at this prospect, but committed nonetheless to terminating this pregnancy no matter what. Thanks to the excellent care of my doctor and the clinic staff, I was able to do so safely.

 

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Written by Sarah Erdreich for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I was recently reminded of the old pro-choice slogan, “Every Child a Wanted Child." Along with my personal favorite slogan, “Pro-Child, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice,” this decades-old mantra succinctly sums up a powerful pro-choice argument: that supporting reproductive rights is also supporting families, children, and choice.

Yet in large part, the mainstream pro-choice movement seems to have moved away from this focus on the family in favor of concentrating on the arenas of courtrooms and state houses. While the urgency of fighting increasingly severe challenges to abortion care is hard to understate, this shift in attention, messaging, and resources means that the anti-choice movement has been able to make the idea of family, specifically unborn children, central to its emotional power and success. As a result, the pro-choice movement has been left open to charges that it is anti-child and anti-family.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Look at the name of the best-known pro-choice organization—Planned Parenthood. In these words is embedded the very idea of healthy families and children: the idea that people can and should plan their families. Being deliberate and thoughtful about when to have children ensures that every parent is as prepared as possible for the responsibility of raising a child. This is a message that any compassionate person would respond to.

Talking about family planning also places abortion care firmly on a larger continuum, along with contraception, access to good prenatal care, and the right of any woman to have a child. This also allows abortion to be correctly discussed as one part of the larger issue of reproductive rights and justice, rather than as an exotic medical procedure deserving of judgment and stigma.

The majority of women who have abortions are mothers. Millions of women and men have been able to plan their families through access to contraception. There are hundreds of thousands of women like myself, whose own experiences with pregnancy and parenting have made them more pro-choice than they were before they had children.

Our stories and experiences stand as a visceral rebuttal to the anti-choice movement’s desired narrative, which is that every pregnancy should be continued and no one should have a choice after a certain, arbitrary point in gestation.

 

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Written by Annamarya Scaccia for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

"I obviously went through it, but to put [it] into words is harder."

The voice on the other end of the line is unsteady.

Joshua, a 21-year-old Swarthmore College student, is calling from his home in California—three time zones and 2,800 miles away from the prestigious campus 30 minutes outside Philadelphia. He's back on the West Coast for the summer, tackling unfinished coursework after leaving school a few weeks early.

But, on this late July evening, he's recalling the night last fall when he was raped, and the details of how Swarthmore mishandled his case. (Joshua is a pseudonym; he spoke to RH Reality Check on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Swarthmore's administration.)

Joshua's story is one of 13 testimonies accompanying the May 22 federal complaint filed with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) alleging Swarthmore violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—which prohibits schools receiving federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex, a mandate extended to sexual harassment and sexual violence—by creating a "hostile environment" and discouraging students from reporting or pursuing disciplinary action against sexual misconduct. The same day, students from the University of Southern California, the University of California, Berkeley, and Dartmouth College lodged similar complaints.

In September 2012, after a big fraternity party on campus, Joshua was brutally and violently raped in the bedroom of an apartment rented by a friend of his assailant—a member of one of Swarthmore's fraternities who, sometime just before the attack, went on a rant about which male students were "'faggots' or 'faggoty' and if they were 'so faggy,' they needed to get slapped," Joshua recounted.

He was then harassed by his offender through an online forum called (Like) Like a Little, which was created to gossip with and about Swarthmore students. Joshua considers the harassment an intimidation tactic intended to silence him. Under multiple pseudonyms, his rapist called him a "faggot," "the admission's mistake," and "a pathological liar," but his true identity was discovered after Swarthmore's Department of Public Safety launched an investigation following a report filed by Joshua. Although the office found evidence of sexual harassment, Joshua said the rapist was at the time not penalized. "That's ... what caused me to really crack, because I watched him get away with something again," he told RH Reality Check.

After having a long discussion with a fellow student, a graduating senior, who revealed the same offender raped him three times during his college years, Joshua reported the September assault to Department of Public Safety Director Michael Hill and Associate Director Joanna Gallagher, who was also Title IX deputy coordinator at the time.

"I felt angry to hear that somebody else also experienced the same thing and even more graphic, and repeated," Joshua told RH Reality Check. "It was just a crazy amount of power that [he] exhibited over people on campus, and he has the ability to keep people quiet, so I just decided to break the silence finally."

The Department of Public Safety, which oversees campus security and handles campus emergencies, launched an investigation. It also opened a case with the College Judiciary Committee (CJC), the judicial body that tries "major infractions of College regulations." The CJC has the authority to impose punitive sanctions, including fines, community service, suspension, and expulsion.

The handling of his case, Joshua said, was "sub-par," with red flags at every turn. For instance, he said the case was delayed so the defendant could submit more witnesses, but Joshua was told he wasn't allowed to do the same. (Joshua also finds it suspicious that the defendant was allowed to use a school administrator as his trial support person; that is permitted under CJC procedure.)

Joshua then had to relive what happened "over and over again" during the four-and-a-half-hour trial. Swarthmore's dean of students, Liz Braun, who served as convener, repeatedly questioned his state of intoxication the night of the assault, per alleged observations from a defendant's witness, and the panel worked to determine how sexuality played a role in a male student's rape—"how a gay person can rape another gay person."

According to Joshua, the person who assaulted him argued he was aware of "inch measurements" and how deep the penetration went—the implication being that there was consensual sex. "Then I was asked by Dean Braun whether or not I could corroborate the inch measurements," he said. "[The assailant] was acting like there was a ruler on site at the rape." In an email, Joshua noted that the assailant "later proceeded to mold his account of events into a situation in which I was forcing him to have sex with me (forcing himself to insert)."

The rapist was found guilty of sexual assault and expelled in May—the first student to face expulsion at Swarthmore in ten years, claim Joshua and Hope Brinn (class of 2015), one of the main complainants behind the OCR charge.

"The College Judiciary Committee process is in the most dire need of reform," Brinn told RH Reality Check. Brinn reported experiencing sexual harassment and sexual assault on two separate occasions within the last two years, and said she was met with "deliberate administrative indifference" by the school. "Students found responsible for committing sexual assault were able to appeal their decision and then before the appeal was final, transfer to another school without anything on their record or on the college's."

While campus judicial procedures do not explicitly state it's possible for students to leave school without anything on their record during the appeals process, they do note that a CJC hearing will not move forward if a student accused of sexual misconduct withdraws from Swarthmore before the case is tried. The only way a trial will continue, though, is if the student applies for readmission; the case would have to be heard prior to re-entry. This means an accused student could conceivably withdraw from the college and attend a different one, with none the wiser to the accusations brought against him.

 

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