A brief round-up of last week's war on women

A brief round-up of last week's war on women

A few days ago two, when I was beginning to organize myself to write this week’s WoW diary, two big stories hit the news that felt like a one-two punch, namely, the decision of the Florida judge in the Acosta/Epstein case, and the announcement of the administration’s new rules for Title X funding, which somehow seemed connected to me though I wasn’t sure how. Then I woke up Friday morning to snow here in Tucson and news that a good friend had died, who said to me soon after Trump took office that he was undoing everything she had worked all her life for.

So this is a different diary than I planned.

Thanks as always to the WoW crew who provide stories and discussion during the wee,k, who this week include Besame, officebss, Tara TASW, Sandra LLAP, karij, and elenacarlena.

Alexander Acosta

So what do the stories of the Acosta case and the Title X story have in common?

The short version: Donald Trump.

Alexander Acosta, who is now Sec. of Labor, was found to have broken the law in 2008 when, as a federal prosecutor in Florida, he signed a plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein, who had been accused by 30 women of sexual trafficking when they were minors, including bringing some under-age girls in from foreign countries.  The deal contained a do not prosecute agreement, not just for Epstein but for anyone else who participated in the abuse of minors, and an agreement not to inform the victims of the deal beforehand so they could not appear to oppose it.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that the decision to keep more than 30 of Epstein’s accusers in the dark about the non-prosecution deal that allowed Epstein, a prominent financier with political connections, to avoid federal prosecution was unconstitutional.

By signing the deal, Marra ruled, Acosta and other DOJ lawyers violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), which guarantees victims the right to speak with prosecutors.

The story is not new, but evidence brought forward in this case includes communications between Acosta and Epstein’s lawyers (including Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz) that appeared conspiritorial rather than like the two sides negotiating.

The right thing now would be for the deal to be voided so Epstein and whoever else was involved can be prosecuted and the victims get their day in court. We’ll see whether the parties come up with that solution.

Epstein and Trump were friends, and partied together in New York. I have long wondered whether Trump had anything to do with Epstein’s getting off so easily. In any case, Acosta now holds a post in Trump’s Cabinet. It took several days for the White House to acknowledge this story and to say they are “looking into” it.

Title X Rule Change

Ironically, one of the new rules for Title X is:

Protecting women and children who have experienced child abuse, child molestation, incest, sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner violence, and trafficking by:
  • Requiring that Title X clinics provide annual training for staff and have a site-specific protocol in place to protect victims/survivors of sexual assault.
  • Requiring compliance with State and local laws on reporting or notification of these crimes.
  • Requiring counseling for minors on how to resist attempts to coerce them into sexual activities.

Let that sink in for a minute.

But of course, Title X is the program that subsidizes reproductive health services, especially birth control, for low-income women, and the new rules focus on this. The religious right has been trying for years to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X money. A number of states have passed laws, but the laws have been overturned in the courts. This past December, the Supreme Court refused to take a case brought by Kansas and Louisiana appealing such rulings, so Planned Parenthood is still the largest provider of birth control to low-income women in the country.

The relevant provisions of the new rule to abortion are:

  • 1001 – Title X Services 

    Grants under Section 1001 assist in the establishment and operation of voluntary family planning projects which provide a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and related preventive health services that include natural family planning methods, infertility services, and services for adolescents; highly effective contraceptive methods; breast and cervical cancer screening and prevention services that correspond with nationally recognized standards of care; STD and HIV prevention education, counseling, testing, and referral; adolescent abstinence counseling; and other preventive health services. The broad range of services does not include abortion as a method of family planning.


  • 1005 – Title X Information and Education

    Grants and contracts under Section 1005 provide for the development and dissemination of informational and educational materials including the OPA website and the Title X family planning clinic locator database.

  • 1008 – The Prohibition of Abortion

    None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.

Notice that the first of these calls for physical separation between abortion and other services. That means a full reproductive health services clinic could not perform abortions in the same building as their other services.

And this prohibits doctors from counseling about abortion and making referrals where appropriate — the gag rule, in other words. And it keeps Title X funds from going to organizations that also provide abortions, i.e. Planned Parenthood. Title X funds are already completely separate from abortion services as required by law.

The language of the bill would also allow abstinence only programs and programs that counsel on the rhythm method to receive Title X funds.

If you don’t find this creepy, you’re reading the wrong diary. The religious right ignores the Jeffrey Epstein side of Trump and blesses him because he has given HHS and the judiciary over to them. Religion is replacing science in women’s health care as it is in so many other areas. The Republicans have made a Faustian bargain without seeming to realize that the devil always wins in the end.

Action Items

Do you remember the four black girls in Binghamton, NY who were strip searched by the school nurse, supposedly looking for drugs because they were acting giddy at lunch? Well apparently the school investigation determined it wasn’t a strip search but a medical examination, and therefore they did nothing wrong. Here is a petition from Color of Change seeking justice for these girls.


And here’s something you can do to fight what is happening to women’s reproductive health care — sign this petition urging the House of Representatives to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.


Other News

A professor at York University has found letters that tell about Charles Dickens trying to have his wife put into an asylum when he wanted to live with another woman. I belong to an online group that discusses 19th and early 20th century women writers, and this was posted there.


With all that modern medicine has learned we still don’t know what causes a woman to go into labor.

Vink told us that, you know, rare diseases are being cured in this day and age, but we don't know what triggers full-term labor," Crystal recalls. "That just collectively blew away everyone in the room."

It was surprising but true. When it comes to pregnancy, research on some basic questions stalled decades ago, Vink says. If a pregnancy is normal, that doesn't matter much. But when things go wrong, those gaps in knowledge become issues of life and death.

"It's mind-boggling that in this day and age, we still don't understand [even] in a normal pregnancy how women go into labor — what triggers labor," Vink says. "Because we don't understand the normal fundamental mechanisms, we can't identify how things go bad — and then how we fix it when things go bad."


At least nine women have accused former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias of sexual assault.  Arias is a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate. for his Central American peace plan.


Former Utah football player convicted of 6 sexual assaults.


Emma Thompson backs out of role in Skydance film after Skydance hires notorious harasser John Lasseter:


Polish women’s rights groups hit by raids, funding cuts and smear campaigns, Human Rights Watch report finds

The Polish government is hampering the efforts of women’s rights groups with raids, denial of funding, public smear campaigns and disciplinary action, a report has found.

The study warns the tactics are putting women’s rights and safety at grave risk – saying the government’s overt disdain for women’s rights and failure to counter misinformation campaigns has cultivated a climate of fear among campaigners.


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