women's human rights: Canada & the world


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Look, you’re a feminist who, in this particular case, made the non-feminist choice. That’s all. I assume it was the right choice for you, or you wouldn’t have done it, and that’s fine! But feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are fucked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.

Mindy Kaling's Sitcom Could Help Disrupt Abortion Provider Stigma

When I read Mindy Kaling’s words in her interview with Flare magazine, I and many other reproductive rights advocates were confused and frustrated:

“It would be demeaning to the topic [of abortion] to talk about it in a half-hour sitcom.”

How would it be “demeaning” to talk about abortion in a sitcom about a gynecologist’s office? Many sitcoms have talked openly about abortion, including Girls and Sex and the City, as well as recent films, like Obvious Child. In its first two seasons, Kaling’s show, The Mindy Project, has tackled many issues related to reproductive health care, such as the distribution of condoms, birth control, and teen sex. Why not abortion?

But then I remembered, it always comes back to stigma—in this case, abortion provider stigma.

Half of women in the United States will experience an unintended pregnancy, and one in three will have an abortion before she turns 45. Kaling’s character, Dr. Mindy Lahiri, would surely see patients who want pregnancy options counseling, and some of those patients would likely seek an abortion. Why wouldn’t she provide them with one in her practice, or at least refer them to an abortion provider?

Actually, Dr. Lahiri’s behavior is reflective of a real-life norm: There are many OB-GYNs who don’t provide abortions based on fear of violence, lack of training, or their own internalized stigma toward abortion care. A 2011 survey found that only one in seven OB-GYNs are willing or able to provide abortions. However, 97 percent of OB-GYNs stated that they have encountered people seeking abortion care.

One of the reasons for this is lack of access to medical training on abortion. In 2009, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that only 32 percent of medical schools include at least one lecture on abortion in their curricula. The group also found that 45 percent of schools offer clinical experience in providing abortion care, though participation at those schools is low because the program is opt-in rather than integrated into the curricula like most other forms of health care. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education does require that OB-GYN residency programs offer training in family planning and abortion. Still, residency programs can opt out of providing this training in-house, forcing students to attend training at another program.

Even when clinicians do receive training to provide abortions, they face barriers in offering those service to patients. Because of the stigma associated with abortion, many hospitals, especially religiously affiliated ones, refuse to allow providers to offer abortion care.

“Private practice groups as well as hospitals routinely prohibit their group members and staff from performing abortions either because of institutional religious affiliations or because they fear protest from the community,” explained Dr. Kathleen Morrell, a reproductive health advocacy fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health. “For example, a colleague of mine who received abortion training and wanted to offer her patients comprehensive reproductive health care joined a private practice that refused to let her offer abortion care. The other doctors in the practice were concerned about possible backlash from the community if they became known as an abortion provider.”

So perhaps Dr. Lahiri’s colleagues don’t want her to provide abortions. Wouldn’t that make an interesting plot device!

Backlash from colleagues and the community is a constant fear and barrier for providers. The stigma of abortion leads them to receive death threats, see protests outside of their clinics, and fear for the safety of their family and friends. While many providers are proud of the compassionate care they are able to offer their patients, abortion providers often keep their work a secret to alleviate some of the impact of the stigma. Understandably, this secrecy allows them to live a more normal life and continue doing their work, yet it can also perpetuate stigma.

“When abortion providers do not disclose their work in everyday encounters, their silence perpetuates a stereotype that abortion work is unusual or deviant, or that legitimate, mainstream doctors do not perform abortions,” writes Dr. Lisa Harris on the cycle of silence and stigma. “This contributes to marginalization of abortion providers within medicine and the ongoing targeting of providers for harassment and violence. This reinforces the reluctance to disclose abortion work, and the cycle continues.”

But there are providers who refuse to let stigma and shame keep them from providing care. In a recent interview with Esquire, Dr. Willie Parker, who provides abortion care at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, spoke frankly about how stigma affects his work, the role his faith plays in abortion care, and why he began providing abortions full-time the day Dr. George Tiller was murdered in 2009. “The protesters say they’re opposed to abortion because they’re Christian,” Parker said. “It’s hard for them to accept that I do abortions because I’m a Christian.”

It’s media coverage like the Esquire profile of Dr. Parker and abortion plot lines in television shows and movies that can help to disrupt the cycle of abortion stigma in our society. “Media can shift stigma by portraying abortion as most people experience it: normal, manageable, social, and not the end of the world,” Steph Herold, deputy director of the Sea Change Program, told me. “Positive portrayals of abortion provision may even help providers feel less isolated, and reinforce the simple truth that providing abortion should be part of routine health care.”

Abortion stigma may be keeping Mindy Kaling from talking about abortion on her show, but if she were to do so it could help educate the public, inspire future providers, and fight abortion provider stigma. (Dr. Parker as a guest star, anyone?) Also, I’ll bet viewers would love to see Dr. Lahiri tackle an issue so many of them have experienced.

03:40 pm, by padaviya15 notes

Are Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities wrong about everything? Spoiler alert …

The world could use a few more celebrities like Angelina Jolie. This is, after all, a woman who campaigns against sexual violence and also allows her children to write “buttock futtock” on her wedding veil. That’s a hell of a dame, as Jimmy Cagney might have said.

Her ability to focus attention on obscure foreign issues is so great that journalist Paul Salopek has invented a measurement called the “Jolie” to quantify her influence. And Canadian research presented at the Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco revealed that Ms. Jolie’s revelation about her preventative double mastectomy had an enormous positive impact on women with the same problematic mutation of the BRCA1 gene.

“The Angelina effect seemed to increase the awareness and the referral for women who were truly at high risk for hereditary breast cancer,” said Dr. Andrea Eisen of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, co-author of the paper.

The reason women took notice of Ms. Jolie’s 2013 article in The New York Times is not because she’s a smart cookie or a decent person, both of which are true of many people at risk of developing cancer, but because she’s a Hollywood deity, half of the glossy-maned, many-offspringed mythical creature called Brangelina.

This is an unprecedented age of celebrity influence. You find them on every social media platform, advising and chastising. Of course, people have always cared about what stars wore and who they dated, but there was perhaps a recognition that zones of influence stopped somewhere around Sunset Boulevard. Clark Gable may have crashed the market for men’s undershirts when he failed to wear one in It Happened One Night, but I’m pretty sure nobody looked to him for advice about the New Deal or diaper rash.

It’s entirely unlikely that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge would have become the extraordinary success it did without footage of various celebrities having freezing water dumped over their heads and challenging equally famous figures to do the same: “I nominate the Queen, Pope Francis and Vishnu. Awesome!” Did Leonardo DiCaprio’s experience at the prow of a big ship give him some special insight into the Alberta tar sands, which he recently railed against?

So what if people listen to celebrity opinion? What harm can come of it? Is it not outweighed by the positive influence of people like Ms. Jolie, or Michael J. Fox spreading awareness of Parkinson’s disease? That’s the very question Timothy Caulfield examines in his upcoming book, which has possibly the greatest title ever: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? (It’s being released in January.)

“Celebrity culture has become such a huge part of our universe, and it has a great impact on us, whether we think it does or not,” Prof. Caulfield, director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, told me in an interview. “That culture isn’t going anywhere, and social media isn’t going anywhere, so we need to look at how these things affect our decision-making.”

One of the problems with celebrity-dominated media coverage, he says, is that the story becomes about the star – at the expense of nuance and complexity. He and his colleagues conducted an analysis of the news stories after Ms. Jolie’s mastectomy announcement, and found that most articles ignored salient points, such as the rarity of the risk she faced. As well, he points to another study conducted on the “Angelina Jolie effect,” which surveyed 2,572 people about the knowledge they’d gathered after all the publicity. It concluded that “fewer than 10 per cent of respondents had the information necessary to accurately interpret Ms. Jolie’s risk of developing cancer relative to a woman unaffected by the BRCA gene mutation. Awareness of the Angelina Jolie story was not associated with improved understanding.”

The other problem is that if celebrities are given a platform by virtue of their prominence, every fruitcake idea gains credibility because it’s issued from famous lips. Do you believe Jenny McCarthy’s pernicious untruths about the safety of childhood vaccines, or Alicia Silverstone’s notions that diapers are evil and diet causes postpartum depression?

Or, if we take the title of Prof. Caulfield’s book at face value, and not as a rhetorical question (because then it would be one page long), just how much of a medical expert is Gwyneth Paltrow, anyway? Should her lifestyle newsletter Goop be considered a valuable educational reference? Is the human body really in need of artificial “cleanses”? Is wheat the grain of Satan? Is the colon really a haunted house with gristle-monsters hiding around every corner, or is it, in fact, a nicely self-cleaning bit of machinery? (Spoiler alert: “There’s no science behind any of it,” said Prof. Caulfield.)

Because we are inherently biased toward people whose values reflect our own, I’m inclined to trust Ms. Jolie’s judgment, whereas I wouldn’t trust Ms. McCarthy to throw me a lifesaver if I were drowning. This is not a rational way to make a decision, however – and that’s precisely Prof. Caulfield’s point. Dig deep, beyond the celebrity headlines and YouTube videos. Seek out other information. Don’t trust your own biases – and for God’s sake, don’t trust theirs.

12:20 pm, by padaviya1 note

Richard Dawkins’ only use for women is when he can trot out behavior against them as proof of why religion is bad. All other acts by women should be criminalized.

Indiana Woman Charged With Feticide For Premature Delivery

An Indiana woman has been charged with feticide after she delivered prematurely and sought hospital treatment.

Purvi Patel, 33, sought help at an emergency room for vaginal bleeding where it was discovered that she had delivered prematurely at home. After investigation, police charged Patel with feticide, punishable with up to 20 years in prison, as well as neglect of a dependent. Her trial is set for Sept. 29.

Patel is not the first woman in Indiana to be charged with feticide: in 2012, Bei Bei Shuai was charged with feticide after Shuai, who was 33 weeks pregnant, attempted suicide.

“Once again prosecutors in Indiana are using this very sad situation to establish that intentional abortions as well as unintentional pregnancy losses should be punished as crimes,” Lynn Paltrow, Founder and Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told The Guardian. “In the US, as a matter of constitutional law and human decency, no woman should be arrested for the outcome of her pregnancy,” Paltrow said.

Fetal homicide laws, which treat fetuses as “people” with rights separate from those of pregnant women, were promoted as ways to prevent violence against pregnant women. But they are often used to prosecute pregnant women themselves and have been criticized for deterring pregnant women, especially those suffering from drug dependence or mental illness, from seeking medical care or other social services.

If you do your job as a woman and give perfect birth to a perfect baby, you’re safe,” said Sally Kohn, writing about the Patel case for the Daily Beast. “But God forbid anything go wrong, that you have any complications either due to your own actions or actions that could be attributed to you, that you as a woman fail in your duty as a vessel for the fetus the rights of which the State of Indiana is clearly more invested in than your own. What then?”

Fetal homicide laws are akin to proposed “personhood amendments,” that have been defeated in several states, and will be on the North Dakota ballot this November, as well as in Colorado, where voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to define “person” and “child” in the state criminal code and Wrongful Death Act to include “unborn human beings.” If Colorado voters pass Amendment 67, “All pregnant women’s bodies would become potential crime scenes,” writes Gaylynn Burroughs, Director of Policy & Research for the Feminist Majority Foundation, in the Fall 2014 issue of Ms. Magazine.

Personhood measures, which grant rights to fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs, threaten abortion rights, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life or health of the woman, birth control, fertility treatments and some medical treatments for critically ill pregnant women. They also, like fetal homicide statutes, open up the possibility of criminal investigations into miscarriages. At least 38 states have enacted some type of fetal homicide law, and 23 of those laws apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy.

12:20 pm, by padaviya

There’s no point to a guy yelling, “Hey sexy baby” at me out of the passenger window of a car as it speeds past. Even if I was into creepy misogynists and wanted to give him my number, I couldn’t. The car didn’t even slow down. But that’s okay, because he wasn’t actually hitting on me. The point wasn’t to proposition me or chat me up. The only point was to remind me, and all women, that our bodies are his to stare at, assess, comment on, even touch. “Hey sexy baby” is the first part of a sentence that finishes, “this is your daily message from the patriarchy, reminding you that your body is public property”.

Haunting Photos Powerfully Capture the Terror Facing Canada's Indigenous Women Today

A Canadian tragedy: On Aug. 17, Winnipeg police pulled the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine out of the Red River near Alexander Docks.

CBC reports she’d been missing for eight days and was found in the water wrapped in a plastic bag.

The month-long investigation into Tina’s murder remains unresolved, but with more than 1,200 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls reported in Canada over the past 30 years, her fate is far from unique.

1,200. The scope of the tragedy promptedHolly Jarret of Hamilton, Ont. — cousin to Loretta Saunders, an indigenous woman who was murdered in February at age 26 — to launch the #AmINext hashtag earlier this month.

What it is: #AmINext has been used by Aboriginal Canadian women and their allies to demand answers. Many social media users utilizing the hashtag hold signs asking how many more missing and dead women it will take for the government to launch an official inquiry into the crisis. According to CBC, the campaign asks others in solidarity to respond with their own picture within 24 hours, much like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

#AmINext aims to both raise awareness and pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to take action. Here are some of its more powerful and sobering images:

Scaling the crisis: Though they represent just 4% of the country’s population, indigenous women make up 12% of missing and 16% of murdered women nationwide, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told the Globe and Mail.

"Yes, [this number] was a surprise," he said. Previously, studies estimated there had been closer to 824 combined murdered and missing Indigenous womenover the past 60 years, not 1,200 in half that time.

So what’s being done about it? Not much.

Calls for Harper to launch an official inquiry into the crisis have been met with callousness. Though statistics suggest the blatantly racial nature of the problem, Harper remains keen on ignoring an approach based on what he calls “sociological” factors.

"I think we should not view this as sociological phenomenon," he said in a controversial statement in August, CBC reports. “We should view it as crime. It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such.

Meanwhile, the tragedy continues: Without speculating as to why Harper thinks crime and sociology are mutually exclusive, the women most victimized by this violence are understandably sick and tired of their government doing solittle to solve it. (Some programs have been set up in the interim, despite Harper’s views, but with limited success.)

"This crisis has gone on for far too long," MP Niki Ashton said in the House of Commons on Thursday, the Globe and Mail reports. “Families want closure. They want justice. They want to be heard, and they want action from the government.”

With the bodies and disappearances piling up by the day, it’s past time for Harper’s government to consider all factors contributing to the crisis, regardless of his personal views. The Indigenous women of Canada can’t afford to wait any longer.

Click through for the photos

12:20 pm, by padaviya1 note

Student debt increasingly trails Americans into retirement, U.S. report says @insidehighered

Between 2012 and 2013, Social Security garnishments for defaulted student loan debt increased five-fold across all ages. During that same period, the number of borrowers 65 and older who saw their monthly social security checks reduced jumped roughly 500 percent, from 6,000 to 36,000 borrowers.

03:40 pm, by padaviya1 note

Personally, now that I have daughters, I don’t think anyone should do bad things to women, especially the ones who are my daughters. I think we should treat every woman in the world like she was my daughter, except for my wife and my mother, who I will treat slightly differently.

Did you know that when you have daughters, it’s like making a woman you have to care about out of parts of your own body? Well, it’s true. Now that I have daughters (two of them, to the best of my knowledge), I’ve got all sorts of new ideas about how to treat women. Now that I’ve got daughters, it’s time for the whole world to make some changes.

So this is a free speech issue, in the sense that women on the internet who are trying to exercise this right by expressing feminist ideas are facing rape and death threats. And not just women. As someone who writes about men’s rights activism on a regular basis, I get harassed as well. Some of it is awful, but what I get is really nothing compared with the kind of relentless harassment that Sarkeesian gets. I got death threats the other day after writing about her, and it’s very telling that the only time this happens is when I write about her. Guys get so mad at her that they are even threatening to kill people who defend her. Other people from the gaming community and beyond who have spoken out for Sarkeesian, like Joss Whedon, have faced similar attacks.


OUR LIVES MATTER by Jellykah. amfranklin.com

Our Lives Matter. Don’t let them convince you otherwise. I do this for my brothers. my parents. my love. my sisters. I do this for all of you. We shouldn’t have to fear for our lives every time we leave our homes. Just because our skin is enriched with more melanin. We shouldn’t have to be afraid to ask for help because we’re not sure if we’ll be gunned down in the process. We shouldn’t be murdered in cold blood and have our bodies left out in the street for hours while they try to justify killing us. I do this for Emmett Till. That was only 59 years ago. How much has changed? I do this for Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. I do this for Jordan Davis who was gunned down 5 mins from where I used to live. I do this for Michael Brown. For Ezell Ford and Dante Parker who were both unarmed and gunned down by police SINCE Michael Brown. I do this for Renisha McBride and the countless other women of color who are mistreated and killed all the time. This is real. Don’t let them continue to devalue us. OUR LIVES MATTER. Stand up. Fight Back. Grow. Learn. Listen. Teach. OUR LIVES MATTER.


TRUTH. (via Torontoist)


TRUTH. (via Torontoist)