Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Language Matters

October 31, 2015

Any valid points “allies” to trafficking/prostitution survivors otherwise make in articles like this one in Huffington Post, are fully negated by calling crime victims (trafficking survivors) “prostitutes.”

How we are labeled and named determines how we are treated by everybody else—for the rest of our lives. Because what was done TO us was used to define us and STILL is many years later, even into our 40’s and 50’s (if we live that long and have not died from unrelieved abject poverty and total social neglect in a country where the middle class/rich refuse to provide any real, decent non-discriminatory and uniform social safety net for the unemployable/jobless poor whom no one will hire)

Over 75% of the adults in prostitution were initially trafficked into it as minor children between the ages of 11-14, which means they are trafficking victims—victims of a crime. No magical Choice Fairy pays you a visit on your 18th birthday after you’ve been trafficked into prostitution since age 12 or 13, and gifts you with all the options and access to opportunity that middle class privileged NON-trafficked people get.

in 44 states here in the US, 12, 13, and 14 yr old trafficked girls are still arrested for prostitution, and that automatically slaps a 99-year “sex offender” status on them, rendering them unemployable for life. In other words, a 14 yr old trafficked child arrested for prostitution won’t be able to pass the background checks and be able to get a job, rent an apartment or even get food stamps (in many states) if she manages to exit and get any education or build any “in-demand” marketable skills in order to make herself “worthy” of a chance for a job. (Gee, ask me how I know this.)

In other words, in most states in the US, that 14 yr old trafficking victim won’t be able to get even a minimum wage job at McDonalds until she reaches the age of 113 years old—if she lives that long.

Which is a joke, considering that plenty of unemployed, NON-trafficked/prostituted women over age 40 with years of work experience and employment references to put on their resumes can’t get jobs because no one will hire them due to age discrimination.

So what chance does a poor marginalized 48 yr old woman who’s a trafficking survivor have after she was unable to get ANY job at all when she was younger due to her un-expunged/vacated prostitution record? The US only pays lip service to helping poor trafficking survivors.

When you refer to an adult trapped in prostitution, operating under the control of brutal pimps/trafficking rings, who initially got trafficked into prostitution as a homeless 12 or 13 year-old child, as a “prostitute”, that very damning and deeply stigmatizing label harms ALL the victims/survivors, everywhere.

It perpetuates oppression through the imposing of “middle class values” and top-down paternalism. And it puts the onus of responsibility for abject poverty on the individual poor marginalized woman instead of addressing the systemic and structural causes. (And let’s be honest here: Middle class/rich women can be victims of incest and have drug addiction issues, but they’re not usually trafficked into prostitution as a result.)

Especially in countries like the US where 12 yr old trafficking victims get arrested for prostitution and that prostitution arrest record results in them getting slapped with a 99-year “sex offender” status which renders them unemployable for life—IF they can ever manage to escape their trafficking situation alive (as opposed to leaving “the life” in a body bag only to lay unclaimed in some morgue).

The language used to describe us, whether in front of us or even when you think we’re “not in the room”, dictates what kind of helping hand up we get to rebuild our lives (if we get ANY help at all, since the majority of American trafficking victims in the US don’t get anything while all these anti-trafficking charities are making bank off of this trendy ’cause’).

For far too long, the voices of poor women and girls who always were traffickers’ and johns’ primary targets, have been ignored and once again, our voices are being shoved aside in this ‘movement’ for some long overdue justice for us.

Too often, poor women and kids who are trafficked are pathologized. As in, “there was/is something wrong with us.” And it was the very damning label of “prostitute” that caused that.

I was a human sex trafficking survivor DECADES before the term “human trafficking” became part of the public lexicon. The human sex trafficking of poor, disposable women and children was always a problem in the US and across much of the world, even during the “better” economic times.

But abusive social and economic policies (like Welfare Reform here in the US) caused it to reach a crisis level because NOBODY ever gave poor, marginalized women a fair shot in life. Instead, they blamed the poor for being poor and refused to take any responsibility for unequal opportunities and lack of enough jobs for all. Why? To preserve their own privileges and status by eagerly serving as “gatekeepers” to economic opportunity.

Fact: Human trafficking was not made an issue and concern for trafficking victims was non-existent until: (1) it started happening to middle class women and girls, and; (2) upper-middle class white Christian males were able to monetize this ’cause’ via Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” which he signed into law by Executive Order #13199 on Jan 29, 2001.

What that did was redirect any public tax dollars earmarked for “welfare” to private “faith-based” charities instead of giving that money directly to the poor who need it.

Being a trafficking survivor who gets referred to as a “prostitute” and who sees other victims of human trafficking labeled as “prostitutes” reinforces the message from society that I don’t deserve a chance for a good job, a chance at love, the experience of being treated like a princess (even if only for ONE night—like the prom I never got to have since traffickers don’t let their victims go to school, never mind go to the senior prom), to be treated like I mattered, to be wanted and to be socially accepted.

Calling women like me “prostitutes”, “child prostitutes”, or even “former prostitutes” reinforces the message so often said by pimps and traffickers: “Once a ho always a ho”—which calcifies the gutter and an early grave as the ONLY place in society we’ll ever be allowed to have.

Language matters. Make NO mistake about it: it is NEVER acceptable to refer to human trafficking victims/survivors as “prostitutes”, “child prostitutes”, or “former prostitutes.” There is only ONE acceptable accurate term for us: CRIME VICTIMS. You blame the victim, you become an accomplice.

A Little Walk Through History

October 31, 2015

Poverty is the worst form of violence. And systemic discrimination to ensure a permanent underclass is force added to that violence.

When society collectively denies poor women any real equal job/economic opportunity and refuses to provide a livable Guaranteed Basic Income and universal healthcare as an adequate safety net for those who’ve been shut out or pushed out of the economy so that NO woman or girl is forced to “choose” between dying from unrelieved abject chronic poverty, or death from prostitution, the entire society is collectively guilty of democide against the poor and guilty of human sex trafficking by proxy.

When vulnerable, disadvantaged women are forced into prostitution and homelessness due to  chronic abject poverty from which escape has been made impossible due to the politics and policies chosen by middle/upper class “gatekeepers” who shut poor women out of jobs while blaming the poor for being poor, compounded by job discrimination against women with POOR women bearing the brunt—that makes this entire society guilty of human sex trafficking. Just as guilty as armed, dangerous gangs of traffickers, predatory “Romeo” pimps and their predatory middle class/rich male customers (the “johns”) whose money drives the $32 billion/year global sex trade.

Almost immediately after LBJ (who created anti-poverty and welfare programs which mostly helped poor women who’ve always suffered the most and the worst effects of sexism and discrimination) left office and Nixon got elected, there was an immediate backlash against LBJ’s Great Society social programs for the poor. In fact, it began even before that—resistance was mounted by well-heeled interests, and led by professional middle class academicians while Johnson was trying to get his poverty relief measures pushed through during his 1963-64 Poverty Tour.

In the early 1970’s, lawmakers in the state of Nevada where prostitution is legal and “regulated” and most of the brothels are owned by members of the Bonano crime family, passed a law forcing poor younger women who applied for welfare to first take “work” in the legal brothels (since prostitution is legal there, it is a “job just like any other”).

The National Welfare Rights Union, which was a grassroots org spearheaded by poor single mothers receiving a paltry welfare benefit under AFDC, launched a massive protest right out in front of Nevada’s infamous Mustang Ranch brothel to protest poor women being forced into prostitution by the state (which essentially made the state of Nevada guilty of human trafficking). Several feminists, including Gloria Steinem, joined in and protested with the National Welfare Rights Union.

The protests forced the state lawmakers (many whom were brothel owners themselves) to back down because the public outcry was tremendous.

As a poor older woman who is a survivor of child sex trafficking, I never got a chance for a job after escaping my traffickers 31 years ago no matter what/how hard I tried in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job. I was shut out of any and all jobs my entire working age life due to the visible conditions of poverty and an unfair prostitution record that held me back and rendered me unemployable—a record I incurred from when I was trafficked into prostitution as a homeless orphaned child from age 12/13 -17.

After I managed by sheer dumb luck to escape that hell, I never got a chance for a job no matter what hoops I jumped through in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job—while getting told by smug, arrogant middle classers that I “have it made compared to the poor in other countries”, and that “no one owes you a job” and that if I was poor and not making it, it was my own damn fault for “not trying hard enough.”

While middle class and rich women get 77 cents to every male dollar, POOR women from the permanent underclass who’v been shut out of any chances for jobs all our lives get ZERO to everyone else’s dollar.

I never in my entire 48 years of life had access to adequate medical and dental care and some semblance of a stable life. Ever since I was trafficked, and throughout the past 31 years since escaping my traffickers, I have never known what it was like to be able to experience one full year of not having one or more basic utilities cut off for lack of any money or income to afford the bills. I have never known what it was like to be able to get decent medical, dental, and (very badly needed) vision care.

I don’t know what it’s like to be able to afford three meals a day. I often can’t afford just one meal a day and when I can afford food, it sure isn’t poached salmon, filet mignon, or whatever else that privileged people can afford so they don’t end up malnourished and fat (therefore socially unacceptable) in their 40’s and 50’s even though they certainly got a lot more to eat than I ever did.

I don’t have the luxury of being able to afford basic things such as a hot shower to bathe properly when I need one, or the ability to afford the “right image” of having all my teeth so I can smile with confidence without revealing evidence of my extreme poverty for which I will be judged and punished by those who are better off—just like I always had been throughout my entire life.

I don’t have the privilege of being able to afford professional clothing that flatters my fat, older lady figure so I can try my best to look as good as I can for any kind of professional setting.

Physical attractiveness, beauty, etc. is a luxury that I’ve never been able to afford—and lacking it meant getting nothing but abuse, and heaps of scorn, personal value judgments and ridicule from the professional middle class who never let the jobless poor have a chance no matter what impossible hoops we jumped through, while those with privilege have the pustule-infested balls to then blame the poor for being jobless and poor.

The ability to afford to be well-groomed enough to “pass as middle class” in order to be socially accepted by the upper-middle class in order to have any chance at all for getting a job—as slim and elusive as that is with barriers of age discrimination, sex discrimination and vicious classism—is a luxury that is out of reach for me as a poor older marginalized woman who was never able to win at the whole getting hired at a job thing. No matter what I tried or how hard I tried throughout my life, it was never good enough to make me “worthy” of a chance for a job. It doesn’t even pay to try when you’re from the very bottom of the social heap—nobody else will ever accept you or cut you a break anyway. I’d have gotten just as far in life with a lot less pain and aggravation NOT trying.

Getting a job—after struggling to get an education and teaching yourself computer programming around hunger, cold and utility shut-offs and life-threatening health crises without access to medical care—is a convoluted middle class ritual of secret passwords, mannerisms, and life experiences that the poor have been excluded from. And THAT is by deliberate intent on the part of class-privileged gatekeepers who feel it is their “divine right” to bar poor marginalized women’s entry into the middle class fold.

I may not have any middle class “soft skills”, but I’m not so stupid that I don’t see just how rigged the system is. I experienced and observed this classist, sexist, misogynous “Me First” male-dominated society in its shit-stained underwear—not its fancy lecture suit.

The very short-lived Great Society programs “failed” because they were sabotaged by the servants of privilege and power: privileged academicians from elite universities, policymakers, Congress and every president after LBJ. The sabotaging of anti-poverty programs began almost immediately after LBJ implemented them, thanks to the middle class/rich white male dominated political climate that has always been deeply entrenched in this country.

Upper-middle class academicians deliberately stood on their privileges to lead the War on the Poor, particularly against poor women, starting with the Moynihan report. The Moynihan report not only racialized poverty to the point of pathologizing female poverty (especially white female poverty—we’re just “poor white trash”), it also dehumanized ALL of the poor in general.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report was influenced heavily by Harvard urbanologist, Edward C. Banfield who was a “leading scholar of his generation.” Banfield was also one of Moynihan’s drinking buddies. According to Banfield, “the poor have no interest in the public good” and are “pre-occupied with having sex.”

Banfield held that the only way to ensure that the poor got chances for jobs was to abolish the minimum wage. He also suggested that the only way to get rid of poverty was to get rid of the poor—preferably by “auctioning off poor women’s babies to the highest normal class bidder.”

Banfield not only influenced Moynihan’s report, he also served as an advisor to former presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.

Since Ivy League academia as a bastion of privilege produced “scholarship” claiming that poor women couldn’t keep their legs shut because of the lower class’s “pre-occupation with having sex”, it’s no wonder that America’s privileged classes decided that prostitution was the only thing poor women were good for.

When Clinton “ended welfare as we know it” in 1996, nothing was done to ensure that this country’s poorest women would be welcomed into middle class jobs during those “better times” when there were a lot more jobs to go around than there are today.

Nothing was done to remedy the problem of sex discrimination in hiring/firing/ promotion/pay.

Nothing was done to ensure that poor women being thrown off of their measly $4K annual AFDC aid, which never was enough to live on, would have access to advanced educations, apprenticeships, and have any legally enforceable and protected right to a toehold onto even the lowest rung of the middle class jobs ladder.

Nothing was ever done to guarantee 100% full employment for all who are able to work so that nobody—regardless of age, race, gender or disability—would be socially and economically excluded and left unable to economically fend for themselves.

All of the funding cuts to welfare and the elimination of other social programs for the poor starting with Reagan leading up to Clinton’s Welfare Reform was a real boon for pimps, trafficking rings, and johns—men with middle class incomes who use their money to enrich pimps by buying rape tickets, who are nothing but socially shielded child rapists if we’re going to be honest about it. [According to a 2014 study by the Urban Institute, the average pimp in the US makes $32,000 PER WEEK]

These same rape ticket buyers are also the most ardent opponents of equal opportunity employment laws with teeth and any legitimate welfare social safety net for the jobless poor—things that would greatly reduce (if not eliminate) the number one condition of vulnerability that forces poor women and girls into homelessness and puts them at high risk of being trafficked: Absolute poverty due to structural oppression and systemic economic/job discrimination.

Our domestic sex trafficking crisis in The US is one of the most shameful, darkest legacies of America’s War on the Poor because poor women and girls were not merely collateral damage in these past 40+ years of the War on the Poor—we were the primary target.

Those with the most privileges in this country say “well why aren’t the poor dying in the streets like over in the slums of Mumbai?” without looking at the countless POOR WOMEN who died out on the streets of America that were written off as “No Human Involved” as official police procedure on official homicide reports because of being “only prostitutes” by cops—who often extort money and “free samples” from poor prostituted/trafficked women while these same fascist jackbooted thugs are enjoying middle class incomes, job security plus medical and dental benefits, paid vacations, and pension plans.

And of course, no one questioned how/why so many poor women and girls got pressed into prostitution in the first place, either—they already knew the answer to that. Society already decided long ago that the gutter and an early grave was the only place poor women deserved ans should ever be allowed to have.

I don’t know how many of my fallen trafficked/prostituted sisters’ bodies have gone unclaimed in morgues after their deaths didn’t even make a blip on the news. Nobody has been counting them. Nobody ever cared.

For those tiny few of us who managed to escape and survive, I don’t know of more than two who ever made it to even the lowest rung of the middle class. We’re mostly all poor. We’re STILL treated as sub-humans and denied jobs and looked down on as garbage by everybody else in society—even those of us who are accomplished self-published authors, even those of us who managed to get educations and built high tech skills around the obstacles of extreme, soul-crushing poverty.

You would not believe the degree of danger and the constant threats of harm that are aimed at the few of us who escaped and survived. For speaking our truths, we get doxxed, stalked, threatened, slandered and discredited—by very privileged people with upper-middle class jobs and the luxury of lots of free time to spend attacking poor trafficking survivors who dare to hold personal fundraisers as our only way of getting any money to be able TO survive.

We literally have NO support at all. Not socially, economically, or otherwise.

But plenty of middle class issue tourists have no problem using poor trafficking survivors’ stories and this ’cause’ as a platform for boosting their own upper-middle class careers while those of us who actually suffered and who still are being denied our basic human rights aren’t getting any of the benefits as these privileged status-climbers are padding their resumes along with their wallets at our expense while doing fuck-all for us

Nobody cares about us. They never did. Those who’ve “got theirs” want poor, marginalized women dead. They never let us get chances for jobs, and they won’t even let us survive with just a little bit of basic human fuckin’ dignity—because “their taxes.”

And of course, not a single middle class raindrop ever believed they were responsible for causing the flood.

Systems of oppression do not happen by accident in a fit of collective absent-mindedness; they’re upheld and perpetuated by deliberate intent. And that deliberate intent is all about preserving privileges for some at the expense of others—those without privilege.

Systemic oppression is a privilege transfer vehicle that serves up the human rights of consumable, disposable people in economies of scale. Privilege occupies the space where someone else’s human and social rights belong.

Every poor dead trafficked and prostituted woman and teen who wouldn’t have been trafficked or otherwise forced into prostitution in the first place if not for a real lack of equal opportunity and the absence of an adequate economic safety net—are the dead albatrosses that the Left should hang around every middle class and rich liberal’s necks, starting with both of the Clintons.

As for the misogynist far Right, we already know they’re sexist, racist, fascist, scum—including every boot-licking misogynistic self-propelled shitcannon who supports their policies and votes for them. We got the memo on them decades ago, as we saw liberals and Democrats getting pulled farther and farther to the Right as a result of their political “pragmatism” in every compromise they’ve made with the Right. We now effectively have one political party with two right wings: Republican-Lite and Teapublican. (And THIS is what upper-middle class/rich liberals call “progress.”)

We Don’t Serve Your Kind—Dispatch From the Anti-Trafficking Trenches

May 1, 2014

Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Without Apology and Classism for Dimwits

An anti-trafficking activist shared an article in a Facebook anti-trafficking group addressing how orphans are particularly vulnerable socially and economically to human traffickers for exploitation in the commercial rape industry.

Yep. No Earth-shattering news there. Children who enjoy the least opportunities, social value and status and family protection are ripe prey for pimps and traffickers. I can totally relate. I was orphaned. And because I was orphaned, female and POOR, this whole society threw me away right into the clutches of traffickers and left me there to die, long before there ever was an anti-trafficking movement.

And instead of taking any measure to make any of this right for me throughout the past 30 years that I had been struggling just to NOT die from poverty since escaping from my traffickers, this society continues to hide its failures behind abusive social and economic policies, laws and unfair and discriminatory employment practices that blame the victim.

“Fallen woman” my ass—I was PUSHED. And if we’re honest about it, “pushed” is putting it very mildly. “Pushed” is something that kids do at the pool. Deliberately discarded and condemned to SLAVERY and slapped with lifelong dehumanizing stigma and total social exclusion (for those lucky to escape and survive) is more accurate.

The hatred and stigmatization of commercial rape victims resulting in the economic abuse of life threatening jobless poverty forces many to return to prostitution where they end up dying in “the life”—the average life expectancy for victims/survivors of commercial rape is only 34 in the US.

And what does society—including many of the privileged “do-gooders” getting donations and government funding for their “faith-based” anti-trafficking NGO’s—do when the women and kids they “rescued” are left homeless and unable to support themselves after leaving “faith-based” safehouse facilities because NO ONE will give them a chance for a real job, or allow them to rent an apartment, and no one will welcome them into their workplaces and into the community because “we don’t serve your kind?”

They go Pontius Pilate. They wash their hands of it. It’s no longer their problem and “we can only pray for them”, they say.

And when destitute pre-movement survivors—who have been PREVENTED from being able to get ANY chances at all for jobs with livable incomes to survive with just a little bit of human dignity for YEARS after escaping our traffickers, as opposed to struggling just to NOT DIE FROM POVERTY—are forced to BEG for money just to get SOME of our basic unmet needs met, we are told to “look to god to provide” by comfortably-off, privileged people who cannot seem to practice what they preach by giving away their money, their cars, and their nice houses filled with nice things to the poor disprivileged women with nothing whom they’re “ministering to” and then “looking to god to provide” in order to replace their stuff and meet their own basic needs.

This is how poor survivors with ZERO privilege are often treated by the very same people who raise millions in charity fundraising drives that never seem to go directly to resource-starved survivor-run organizations and to neglected older survivors in need of real material support and a real helping hand up (without the judgments and sermons and browbeating).

Too many people with privilege seem to feel that it’s OK to blame the victims, and look down on us and talk down to us with assumed superiority. Too many feel justified in using us for their own agenda, including using this movement as a platform for their war on women’s access to birth control and other forms of misogynistic abuse and re-exploitation.

Many feel that by “serving” in the anti-trafficking movement they can buy the right to be selfishly myopic by going out on “prayer walks” instead of actually giving up some of their privileges, comforts and luxuries to provide the social and economic resources needed to exit for the “fallen women” trapped in prostitution whom they are “ministering to.”

And of course, they deliberately ignore the pre-anti-trafficking movement survivors whose needs continue to go unmet.

People think that women and girls are trafficked because poor women are too mentally defective or culturally brainwashed and morally inferior and that this was how they ended up in the commercial rape trade.

They persist in pretending that there are NO other forces acting on commercial rape victims—like the socially constructed barriers of poverty, institutionalized misogyny, discrimination and abusive social and economic policy that put them there in the first place—all which act in synergy to ensure there is never any other place in society for POOR women, for abused, unwanted and unvalued women and girls, except the gutter and an early grave.

And as a 47 year old survivor of commercial rape who escaped from my traffickers thirty years ago when I was 17, I will NOT shut up about this compounding of injustice until this is made right.

Justice does not descend from its own pinnacle.

As an impoverished trafficking survivor with NO income, fighting for human dignity to abolish slavery and fighting for restorative justice for those of us who are struggling for our lives and basic human rights as victims of an industry of sexual torture, slavery, and the added oppression of stigmatization which has barred me from any employment in post-Welfare Reform America, your support is desperately needed so I may have a chance to rebuild my life, mentor other poor trafficking victims who want to learn software development, and continue my work in educating the public about this very important human rights issue. Please donate to support my work and my quest for restorative justice. Thank you.

Jacqueline S. Homan

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Why Personhood and Equal Rights for Women is a Life and Death Matter and a Human Rights Issue

April 23, 2012

  FACT SHEET:

By Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Eyes of a MonsterClassism for Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

Part I: Why Pregnancy and Childbirth Must Be Voluntary and Planned — No Matter What

In all of the abortion and contraception “debates”, the rigors and hazards of pregnancy and childbirth and the ramifications of forcing women to go through that against our will gets conveniently ignored and brushed aside as if anything women are forced to suffer somehow doesn’t matter. This report shows the legal, ethical, medical and humanitarian claims that support a woman’s human right to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity, particularly with respect to reproductive health choices.

Anti-abortion/anti-contraception groups and well-heeled religious lobbies downplay the trauma, risks, side effects, pain, disfigurement and injuries that even “good” pregnancies impose on women. Fake crisis pregnancy centers don’t mention these risks or do referrals for women who cannot go through/do not want to go through an unplanned pregnancy. Mandatory ultrasound laws and waiting periods in several states place an undue burden on women seeking abortion and these laws also require doctors to lie to their pregnant patients about the risks and hazards of their pregnancies and giving birth, and the presence of any condition or fetal abnormality that threatens the health and life of the pregnant woman and/or her fetus.

Getting stuck in traffic is an inconvenience, being forced by public law and policy to go through pregnancy and childbirth against your will while having to suffer any or all of the inherent risks and side effects is not.

Normal or expectable side effects of pregnancy:

  • exhaustion
  • gestational diabetes – can remain permanent as Type II diabetes
  • altered appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • heartburn and indigestion
  • constipation
  • weight gain
  • hypothyroidism
  • dizziness and light-headedness
  • bloating, swelling, fluid retention
  • hemorrhoids
  • hematoma (usually on the vulva but can be on the inside of the vagina)
  • abdominal cramps
  • yeast infections
  • congested/bloody nose
  • acne and skin disorders
  • skin discoloration
  • mild to severe backache and strain
  • increased headaches
  • difficulty/discomfort with sleeping
  • increased urination/incontinence
  • gum disease (leading to premature tooth loss)
  • pica
  • breast pain and discharge
  • swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain
  • difficulty sitting/standing in later pregnancy
  • inability to take regular medications
  • shortness of breath
  • higher blood pressure
  • hair loss (this is a permanent side effect)
  • anemia
  • inability to participate in some sports and activities
  • high susceptibility to infection (pregnant women have a much lower immunity to illness, infection and disease than non-pregnant women or men because the pregnant woman’s immune system has to literally shut down so her system’s antibodies don’t attack the implanted fertilized ovum)
  • extreme pain during labor and delivery (which can last for several hours to several days)
  • hormonal mood changes, including post-partum depression
  • post-partum psychosis/birth related PTSD (caused by a birth that was traumatic for the woman)
  • extended post-partum recovery period and exhaustion (a difficult vaginal birth or a C-section can take a year or more to fully recover)

Normal, expectable, and frequent permanent side effects of pregnancy and birth:

  • stretch marks
  • loose skin
  • permanent weight gain or redistribution
  • permanent change to pelvic skeletal and ligament structure — it is not uncommon for a woman’s hips to be 4” wider than normal for the passage of the fetus during birth as her pelvic bone opens and ligaments stretch, and often this change is permanent, leaving many women unable to EVER get back into their pre-pregnancy clothes even if they lose ALL their pregnancy weight (leaving poor women, who are unable to afford to replace all their pre-pregnancy clothes, with absolutely nothing to wear except a couple pairs of oversized sweatpants and maybe one or two donated used maternity outfits)
  • abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness that Kegels won’t necessarily prevent, cure, or fix
  • pelvic organ damage (causing urinary and fecal incontinence and severely diminished quality of life, try re-entering the workforce with a problem like that!)
  • difficulty resuming employment due to lifting restrictions imposed by permanent pelvic floor damage from pregnancy stress and/or childbirth injuries.
  • changes to breasts (saggy and “deflated”)
  • varicose veins
  • disfigurement/scarring from episiotomy or C-section
  • other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (which can be devastating to a woman’s life chances for everything from finding a marriage partner to getting a good job in a culture that emphasizes women’s value on youth, thinness and beauty)
  • hemorrhoids
  • loss of dental or bone calcium (tooth decay/loss and osteoporosis)

Occasional complications and side effects:

  • invasive Strep-A infection (also known as “childbirth fever”; causes necrosis, leading to limb amputation and sometimes death)
  • domestic violence/murder (pregnant women are more at risk for being murdered by boyfriends and husbands than non-pregnant women)
  • hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness causing dehydration, malnourishment, and bodily stress that can lead to kidney failure)
  • obstructed labor (caused by fetal malpresentation, large babies, fetal shoulder dystochia resulting in internal pelvic organ tissues to necrotize)
  • permanent injury to back (late pregnancy and delivery)
  • severe lacerations, tissue scarring requiring surgery (especially after additional pregnancies)
  • prolapsed uterus/vagina (risk increases tremendously after additional pregnancies and pelvic floor weaknesses)
  • pre-eclampsia (the most common pregnancy complication — edema and hypertension associated with 10% of all pregnancies, mostly among older pregnant women; a precursor to eclampsia, which is fatal)
  • eclampsia (convulsions, seizures, coma during pregnancy or labor, fatal unless pregnancy is aborted)
  • gestational diabetes — often remains permanent in the form of Adult Type II diabetes resulting in permanent debilitating health condition requiring medication, frequently leading to blindness and limb amputations (aggravated by lack of ability to afford healthy food low in starches and sugars)
  • placenta previa (causes laboring women to bleed to death during delivery)
  • thrombocytopenic purpura (causing women to bleed to death during/immediately after birth)
  • severe cramping
  • embolism (blood clots, air bubbles, amniotic fluid bubbles escaping into circulatory system causing stroke or massive heart attack; usually fatal)
  • medical disability requiring total bed rest
  • diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation/tears)
  • mitral valve stenosis (causes heart failure, stroke, and pulmonary edema)
  • lack of resistance to highly infectious diseases
  • hormonal imbalance (causes weight problems, depression, and breast and reproductive organ cancer)
  • ectopic pregnancy (fatal unless medically aborted)
  • broken bones (rib cage and lower spine from fetal pressure in late pregnancy and during delivery)
  • hemorrhage
  • refractory gastroesophegal reflux disease
  • aggravation of pre-pregnancy conditions/diseases (epilepsy, diabetes, heart condition, high blood pressure, etc)
  • permanently ruined sex life from injury to the nerves and tissues of the sexual organs (caused by 3rd and 4th degree vaginal tears, episiotomies received by 85-90% of all birthing women, paraurethral tract and parasympathetic nerve trauma, etc. during delivery often accompanied by permanent fecal and/or urinary incontinence)
  • elevated risks for certain cancers

Serious complications causing permanent problems associated with pregnancy, labor and delivery:

  • peripartum cardiomyopathy (weakened heart)
  • cardiopulmonary arrest (fatal: irreversible brain damage and death occurs within 4 minutes)
  • magnesium toxicity
  • severe hypoxemia/acidosis
  • massive embolism
  • increased inter-cranial pressure, brainstem infarction (An Alzheimer-like forgetfulness from brain matter shrinkage called “mommy brains”)
  • molar pregnancy/ gestational trophoblastic disease (a mass of abnormal/malignant tissue growth from the placenta)
  • malignant arrhythmia ( coronary artery spasms)
  • circulatory collapse
  • obstetric fistula – (tear/hole due to tissue damage from pressure to the area separating the vagina from the rectum or the vagina from the bladder; causing urine and/or feces to pass through the vagina uncontrollably. Fistulas require surgery and are not always able to be repaired 100% even after several subsequent surgeries)
  • colostomy – caused by an irreparable obstetric fistula and trauma to the internal pelvic organ system from pregnancy and giving birth

More permanent side effects:

  • poverty
  • future infertility
  • autoimmune disease
  • ovarian cancer
  • breast cancer
  • permanent disability
  • death

Since the passage of Roe v. Wade up until the recent Planned Parenthood clinic closings, 40 million women safely terminated unwanted pregnancies. During that same period, 21 million women died from pregnancy complications or during/shortly after giving birth. 400 million women have sustained debilitating permanent health problems, side effects, disabling childbirth injuries, and disfigurement which utterly destroyed their lives. A woman dies in childbirth every 90 seconds, according to WHO and Amnesty International. A trip to any old country cemetery will quickly verify the multitude of women’s premature deaths as casualties from men’s “right” to an orgasm at women’s expense. This is what male privilege costs women.

According to obstetric specialist and colorectal surgeon Dr. Michelle Thornton from the UK (which has a much better maternal health outcome than the US), about 40% of all women who have given birth sustain pelvic organ damage that Kegel exercises could not prevent or cure, leaving them with permanent fecal and urinary incontinence — undermining their confidence, ruining their sex lives and destroying their marriages/relationships, and decimating their ability to function at most jobs. Thornton states that the problem is underreported because women are too ashamed and embarrassed to tell their spouses and partners, let alone their doctors. Even when the surgical repair of fistulas caused by tears, episiotomies, and obstructed labor is successful, the physical limitations on women and compromised organ tissue’s integrity remains permanent; costing women everything from being able to participate fully in society to resuming a normal healthy sex life to re-entering the workforce or continuing their educations.

Maureen Treadwell of the Birth Trauma Association confirms this devastation and the unreported frequent occurrence of this “silent epidemic.” The trauma from the emotional and physical fallout left many women unable to contemplate another baby.

Many women’s bodies don’t handle pregnancy and childbirth well. Not all women will suffer the worst results and side effects but there is no way to accurately predict which women will and which ones won’t.

As to the claim that pregnancy and childbirth — particularly childbirth without adequate pain relief — is “natural to the female condition”; the natural course for appendicitis without unnatural man-made medical remedy is 30% chance of death from peritonitis. And if it’s “only natural” for all women to want to go through pregnancy and childbirth every year of their lives from puberty to menopause, then we don’t need any unnatural man-made laws to force women to go through it.

Human beings do not have a “reproductive drive”, we have a sex drive. The human sex drive extends far beyond childbearing years because the primary function for the human sex drive is the emotional pair-bonding even when childbearing is not desired or possible. The human sex drive is also the strongest natural force second only to the natural drive to defend one’s own life.

A marriage license will not prevent an unwanted and/or medically dangerous pregnancy and abstinence-only is a recipe for relationship failure in a nation with a 50% divorce rate.

Forced pregnancy and childbirth is no more moral than any other form of forced organ donation. No “pro-life” laws exist anywhere that force men to suffer trauma, pain, disfigurement and risk of death from mandatory kidney donation surgery to save the life of another — even if the person in need of it is his own child who would otherwise die without it. No one has the right to the use of, or to coerce the use of, another’s body — in whole or in part — against their will.

Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy. Medical ethicist and philosophy professor David Boonin framed the argument supporting a woman’s right to choose based on consent. A woman has the right to refuse use of her body to support another potential human’s continued existence if:

  1. The cost is not trivial (even “good” pregnancies in healthy women of optimal childbearing age are non-trivial).
  2. The woman has not previously consented to the exact conditions of use, or the conditions which she consented to have changed.
  3. The woman does not owe the recipient (fetus) compensation for causing its worsened condition.

Boonin quite specifically excludes a woman who conceived following consensual sex from obligation to provide life support for that developing entity. The fetus would not have existed without this act and its accompanying male act, and is therefore better off — not worse off. The female host has not caused any harm to the fetus at all and is therefore not required to compensate it by being an incubator. The fetus on the other hand, is harming its host, and is therefore obligated to her. And the male that has caused the woman harm by impregnating her when she didn’t want to become pregnant is therefore obligated to compensate her.

Any woman who wants to gestate some man’s genetic material for his benefit in almost a year of involuntary servitude is more than welcome to do so. But no woman owes such sacrifice and martyrdom to anyone — especially not to a society that has always treated women like garbage; a society that grants full personhood to 15 second old zygotes and corporations while denying that very same status of personhood to the woman in whose body that zygote is being hosted.

Forcing women to get and remain pregnant against their will is a violation of human rights, period.

The idea that fetal pain matters but the pain, trauma and disfigurement women are expected to suffer in childbirth as a mandatory punishment for having sex shows just how easily the UN Convention of Torture can be subverted when it’s women being targeted for sexual and reproductive torture.

Denying women the human right to have control over what happens to our bodies by imposing a sexual double standard in denying us access to reliable contraception and abortion, and denying women adequate pain relief during childbirth without a scientifically valid reason (and there really isn’t any) while making sure Viagra and penis stents are legal, available, and covered by most insurance plans for any man that wants to have “recreational” sex — is state-sponsored discrimination, gender-specific torture and a crime against humanity.

The legal language in Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment spells out the definition of torture. This was ratified by the US Senate in 1994. Torture is the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering by, or with the consent of, state authorities for a specific purpose. Methods of torture include rape, sexual assault, and forced childbirth.

No matter how “pro-lifers”, social conservatives, and Christians want to spin it, the devastating effects and injuries of torture cannot be justified by “moral beliefs” or “faith.” In 2006, the same US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that is today in 2012 promoting the sexual and reproductive torture of forced pregnancy and childbirth against an entire identifiable group of people (women), asserted that policies permitting torture and inhumane treatment are “shocking and morally intolerable.” The USCCB also said, “Let America abolish torture now — without exceptions.”

Apparently, abolishing torture “without exceptions” doesn’t apply to women. This same powerful Vatican lobby group promotes the torture of women and girls with forced childbirth, even at peril to our health and lives, by influencing Congress and shaping public policy to deprive women of access to contraceptives and abortion — even in cases of rape or where pregnancy will kill a woman. That’s what “conscience clause” laws and “fetal personhood” laws being pushed by sadistic misogynists under the respectable habiliments of “moral beliefs” and “religious liberty”: Torture and chattel enslavement of women, no matter the harm and cost to us.

 

Part II: Medical Ethics and Religious Liberty

This is not a question of “freedom of religion”, it is about women’s human rights, legal and judicial equity, and medical ethics that are being violated by others’ abuse of the extra privileges that religious organizations enjoy and use like a loaded weapon to push harmful laws and public policy that target women for harm and injustice based solely on women’s vulnerability to pregnancy and sexual violence in a culture of impunity centered on male privilege.

When religious hospitals, Christian doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists serve the public, they serve people of different faiths. At this point, a sectarian institution or an individual of a particular faith relinquishes the right to coerce or force others into following a particular religious doctrine or teaching.

According to the IRS, in order to qualify as a 501(3)(c) non-profit religious organization, churches and their affiliated organizations must:

  1. Not use a substantial part of their money or activities to attempt to influence legislation.
  2. Maintain purposes and activities that are legal.
  3. Not use their money and activities to intervene in political campaigns.
  4. Not violate fundamental laws and public policy.

Patient abandonment resulting in patient harm or death is criminal. Deliberate patient abandonment resulting in patient death is murder. Murder is a crime. No institution or individual has the right to torture, abuse, or murder pregnant women in the name of “religious liberty.” Sacrificing the health, wellbeing, and lives of women as a class due to “conscience clause” laws arising from states’ expansion of the Church Amendment (passed in 1973 immediately after the US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade) enacted to protect “religious liberty” brings the entire American medical establishment, justice system, and system of government into disrepute.

Hemorrhage from ectopic pregnancies is the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester of pregnancy. Management of ectopic pregnancy that saves the life of the mother includes the use of methotrexate (medical therapy), removal of the embryo (salpingostomy), removal of the section of fallopian tube (salpingectomy), and “expectant management” (waiting for the fallopian tube to burst and then using surgical intervention). Expectant management is the most painful and dangerous option and it is the only one that the “Directives” at Catholic hospitals permit, even though it has cost women their lives or left them permanently disabled.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1395dd(e)-(e)(3)(B) requires hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to patients with emergency medical conditions who seek care at emergency rooms. An “emergency medical condition” is defined as “a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in: (A) placing the patient’s health in serious jeopardy, (B) serious impairment to bodily functions, or; (C) serious dysfunction of any bodily organ.

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Hospitals and Catholic-affiliated Healthcare Service Centers (the “Directives”) issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) prohibit abortion and prohibit health care providers from taking “direct action” against the embryo, even though ectopic pregnancies are not viable.

Patients with ectopic pregnancies, incomplete/inevitable miscarriages at Catholic hospital emergency rooms have been transferred to non-Catholic hospitals without treatment or stabilization. In some cases, patients could not be stabilized for transport to another facility.

Directive 47 allows for abortion to preserve the woman’s health or life, stating “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

But the interpretation of what constitutes a “serious pathological condition” has been left up to local bishops and Catholic medical ethics directors to decide — most whom have never gone through pregnancy and childbirth.

In November 2009, a 27 year old mother of 4 was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. She was 11 weeks pregnant. According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure” from pregnancy-related pulmonary hypertension and continuing the pregnancy meant nearly 100% chance of maternal death. The patient was unable to be stabilized enough to be moved into the operating room, never mind stabilized enough to be transported to a non-Catholic hospital 90 miles away. Relying on Directive 47, Sister Margaret McBride on the ethics committee authorized the life-saving abortion. The mother survived. The nun who saved her life was fired from her job and excommunicated by Bishop Thomas Olmstead.[1]

Father John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix, said, “There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child. But — and this is the Catholic perspective — you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means.”

Father Ehrich also stated that “pregnant women should embrace death rather than having to live the rest of her existence knowing that she had an abortion.”

With medical ethics directors like Father John Ehrich sitting in positions of tremendous power, privilege and authority overseeing doctors and hospitals across the US, this country is not safe for women.

Bishop Thomas Olmstead affirmed the church position for letting women die from treatable pregnancy complications despite Directive 47 and wrote a letter to the USCCB defending that position, stating, “Abortion is always immoral, no matter the circumstances, and it cannot be permitted in any Catholic institution.”

The IBIS Reproductive Health Study in 2009[2] conducted for the National Women’s Law Center interviewed more than 1,500 physicians, administrators, and clinicians from 69 Catholic hospitals across the US. Some respondents spoke at length about the influence of state legislation on hospital practices and policies, particularly in the realm of emergency contraception, sterilization, and medical abortion. Doctors told of seeing women bleed to death from incomplete miscarriages[3] and seeing patients suffer in agony from fallopian tube rupture because of delays in treatment.

Several physicians expressed concerns of losing their hospital practicing privileges and their jobs if they violated the Directives even though doing so was in the patient’s best interests, even in life and death matters for the patients. Several physicians were reprimanded or demoted for violating the Directives by performing tubal ligations in cases where the patient requested it and where additional pregnancies would likely be fatal for them.

Lori Freedman, PhD at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and Debra Stulberg, MD at the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago conducted extensive research[4] on the effects on women when they’re denied bodily autonomy in reproductive health matters, specifically with respect to voluntary and/or medically advised sterilization when “moral beliefs” and “freedom of religion” is allowed to trump women’s basic human rights to life, bodily autonomy and bodily integrity.

Freedman’s and Stulberg’s research shows that the primary disadvantage for doctors working at Catholic hospitals (and the women they treat) was the inability to perform sterilizations, particularly following a C-section (eliminating the need and trauma of a second, separate surgery). This was supported by fact-finding research by the Center of Reproductive Rights and the IBIS Study in communities where previously secular hospitals came under Catholic control through mergers and acquisitions.

One doctor described the impact of the denial of sterilization to women per adherence to the Catholic doctrine[5]:

“There are only so many C-sections a woman should have. With each one the next pregnancy is markedly compromised. There is a higher risk the placenta can implant on the uterine scar. You can’t get the placenta out, there’s morbid hemorrhage. It’s absolutely unconscionable. The pope, the cardinal, the board is not going to be there, not going to be here when she is hemorrhaging, bloody, you can’t see, it’s horrible, the uterus is cut, and she needs a massive transfusion. Six months later she still looks awful, like death warmed over; she can’t take care of the little ones she has.”

For women with difficulty accessing reliable long-term contraception, sometimes sterilization is the only viable option. Denying women that option has been fatal. All of the doctors interviewed in this exhaustive research endeavor told stories of women under their care who had been unable to obtain reliable birth control and sterilizations who had subsequently gotten pregnant when they did not want to and were medically advised not to, and one woman who requested a tubal ligation but couldn’t get it had 6 children and had ended up dying in childbirth as the result of an unwanted additional pregnancy.

For many women, a post-partum sterilization is recommended when additional pregnancies are not only undesired but would also threaten the woman’s health. Refusing to perform a requested sterilization, especially immediately following a childbirth, means denying women patients wanted and needed medical care that can even mean denying women their right to life. It also imposes the undue burden of additional costs in terms of money and physical recuperation time for a second, separate surgery.

For women for whom immediate post-partum sterilization is desired and/or medically advised, refusal to allow this procedure to be performed based on “moral beliefs” of practitioners and religious directives to which hospitals subscribe amounts to unethical and immoral denial of care.

Standards of care are defined as the practices that are medically necessary and the services that any practitioner under any circumstances should be expected to render. The ACOG has recognized that a patient’s health should always come first, and that access to health services should be based on the patient’s medical needs, not the provider’s personal or religious beliefs. In a recent Committee on Ethics Opinion[6], the ACOG states that the patient’s autonomy, and physical and mental health, limits the physician’s ability to refuse. The ACOG recommends that a provider’s personal beliefs can be accommodated only when the primary duty to the patient can be fulfilled.

But the American Medical Association (AMA) caved in to the pressures exerted by the all-male Catholic Church hierarchy, even though it too has previously addressed conscientious refusals in the context of hospital mergers. Despite the AMA core principle of medical ethics that states “a physician, while caring for a patient, must regard responsibility to the patient as paramount”, the AMA allowed for a watered-down resolution that reaffirmed the importance of access to reproductive health care but also stated that “medical professionals and hospitals should not be required to violate personally held moral principles.”

Denials of care by refusal of medical goods and services based on religious and “moral” objections have expanded to include the right not to provide care, not to provide referrals, and not to offer information (even if the patient requests it) about a range of legally available care and legally approved pharmaceuticals. Decisions to deny information and medical services based on “moral” and religious beliefs rather than scientific and medical evidence has resulted in poor health outcomes for women. Nearly every “moral objection” invoked under the cover of religious liberty exclusively targets women for the reproductive health conditions solely experienced by women.[7]

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) in attempting to “balance the interests” and acknowledge the legitimate place for individual medical practitioner conscience in medicine also warns that “conscience may conflict with professional and ethical standards and result in inefficiency, adverse outcomes, violation of patients’ rights, and erosion of trust if one’s conscience limits the information and care provided to a patient.”

The ACOG notes that “conscience clause” related refusals of medical procedures and pharmaceuticals almost always without exception occurs in the realm of women’s reproductive health. The ACOG states: “It is not uncommon for conscientious refusals to result in imposition of religious or moral beliefs on a patient who may not share those beliefs, which may undermine respect for patient autonomy. Women’s informed requests for contraception or sterilization are an important expression of autonomous choice regarding reproductive decision-making. Refusals to dispense contraception may constitute a failure to respect women’s capacity to decide for themselves whether and under what circumstances to become pregnant.”

Addressing tubal ligation specifically, the ACOG Ethics Committee Opinion states: “Although conscientious refusals stem in part from the commitment to ‘first do no harm’, their results can be just the opposite…religiously based refusals to perform tubal ligations at the time of Cesarean delivery can place a woman in harm’s way — either by putting her at risk for an undesired pr unsafe pregnancy or by necessitating an additional, separate sterilization procedure with all its attendant and additional risks.”

The American tradition is one of preserving a neutral position towards religion in order to allow believers of many faiths including non-believers in any faith, to work and live alongside one another peaceably under one common government. This requires respect for one another’s human rights, mutual tolerance, and practical accommodations. No purity for any specific religion and its members can be expected under this arrangement because the US is not a theocracy nor does is the government allowed to favor one religion and its members over everyone else.

Religious organizations cannot discriminate against employees of a different race or gender, or dictate how employees spend their paychecks. They cannot discriminate when hiring for non-clergy positions, even within a church. And they cannot use their religious or “moral” beliefs as grounds to deny another person, or class of persons, human rights to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity.

But social and religious conservatives and the Vatican’s political lobby group, the USCCB, have violated this arrangement. They have hijacked every aspect of our common government from Congress to state legislatures to the Supreme Court to government agencies that make public policies behind closed doors. And they have declared a War on Women with acts of legislative and judicial aggression that translate to real physical aggression and harm specifically against women and girls.

The issue is not whether religious liberty should be further protected — but whose religious liberty deserves the protection of the law, and at what cost in terms of real tangible harm to whom.

Congress, state lawmakers, and judges are ruling on case law, passing amendments and enacting legislation that create a far-reaching power — on “moral” or religious grounds — to trespass on the inalienable human rights and religious liberty of individuals. This violates the spirit of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. And it allows petty tyranny to trump bodily autonomy and bodily integrity, and gender discrimination to prevail over equity and fairness.

The Institute of Medicine, the ACOG, and women who are vulnerable to pregnancy and all its inherent risks and side effects are more qualified to decide the merits of contraception, abortion, and voluntary sterilization than clergymen and a group of historically privileged people (men) that will never suffer the consequences of unwanted and/or medically dangerous pregnancy, pregnancy complications, maternal disability, or maternal death.

The ACOG Ethics Committee proposed the following recommendations for medical professionals’ consciences without compromising the health and wellbeing of the women they serve:

  1. In the provision of reproductive services, the patient’s wellbeing must be paramount. Any conscientious refusal that conflicts with a patient’s wellbeing should be accommodated only if the primary duty to the patient can be fulfilled.
  2. Health care providers must impart accurate and unbiased information so that patients can make informed decisions about their health care. They must disclose scientifically accurate and professionally accepted characterizations of reproductive health services.
  3. Where conscience implores physicians to deviate from standard practices, including abortion, sterilization, and provision of contraceptives, they must provide potential patients with accurate and prior notice of their personal moral commitments. In the process of providing prior notice, physicians should not use their professional authority to argue or advocate these positions.
  4. Physicians and other health care professionals have the duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel that they can in conscience provide the standard reproductive services that their patients request or need.
  5. In an emergency in which referral is not possible or might negatively affect a patient’s physical or mental health, providers have an obligation to provide medically indicated and requested care regardless of the provider’s personal moral objections.
  6. In resource-poor areas, access to safe and legal reproductive services should be maintained. Conscientious refusals that undermine access should raise significant caution. Providers with moral or religious objections should either practice in proximity to individuals [other providers] who do not share their views or ensure that referral processes are in place so that patients have access to the service that the physician does not wish to provide. Rights to withdraw from caring for an individual should not be a pretext for interfering with patients’ rights to health care services.
  7. Lawmakers should advance policies that balance protection of providers’ consciences with the critical goal of ensuring timely, effective, evidence-based, and safe access to all women seeking reproductive services.

But this “balance” framed within the ACOG Committee’s recommendations is not what’s happening. When University of California student Heather Minton was raped in Riverside on a Friday evening in November 2003 and had a friend take her to the emergency room of the local hospital, Minton was denied emergency contraception at the Riverside Community Hospital. The ER nurse told Minton’s friend that if Minton hadn’t been raped she wouldn’t treat her, and suggested they try another hospital ER a half-hour’s drive away[8]. Emergency contraception is time-sensitive: it must be taken within 72 hours of the unprotected sex act to prevent pregnancy.

Minton said, “When we got to the emergency room, I was hysterical. No one knew what had happened to me, just that I had had sex and I wanted EC. But the nurse sent us to another hospital. It was after 2 AM, and we didn’t know where we were going or whether they’d refuse to treat me too.”

State laws have been giving hospitals, doctors, nurses, SANE’s, and pharmacists the right to refuse to offer emergency contraception or even prescribe birth control, fill birth control prescriptions, or provide IUD’s, shots, implants, low-hormone vaginal rings, diaphragms and cervical caps — all of which require an exam and fitting or insertion from a medical professional — since the 1990’s when states began aggressively expanding the Church Amendment (passed on the heels of Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 and Roe v. Wade in 1973 in the name of “religious liberty.”).

Since the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections, 1,100 more laws were proposed — and many were passed — that has made safe legal abortion and contraception access nearly insurmountable for millions of American women.

Because these conscientious refusal policies are rarely publicized, and often it is a discretionary matter left to the individual medical professional or pharmacist, it is unbelievably difficult for women seeking emergency contraception to know who they can trust will help them and who won’t. Delays can render time-sensitive emergency contraception, birth control refills, including replacement IUD’s, ineffective. The result is that women and girls are being forced to become pregnant against their will, at peril to their health and lives, traumatizing them, stripping them of their human dignity, and effectively violating rape victims after the rapist violated them initially.

Riverside Community Hospital declined to comment. Spokesmen for HCA, the corporation that owns the hospital, said that HCA does not dictate clinical policy to its facilities and physicians can use their own discretion. Anonymous calls to Riverside on three different occasions to different nurses on duty produced three different responses: “We do not offer emergency contraception”, “It depends on the physicians on duty because emergency contraception is an ethical issue”, and “We offer emergency contraceptives to women who have been raped.”

Even after the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, was made available for over-the-counter purchase, women must still run through a gamut of hurdles to get it. Plan B is kept behind the pharmacists’ counter rather than in the aisles. Women must still ask the pharmacist or pharmacy clerks for it, and they still have the right to refuse to sell Plan B in an arbitrary and capricious manner even though no prescription is required for women over the age of 17. Pharmacists and their assistants have lied to women requesting Plan B, saying that it is not in stock or that the pharmacy does not carry it, even when it is in stock. Recently, a study showed that many pharmacists deliberately deny Plan B to teens when they present a prescription from their doctor.

Yet, men seeking to get prescriptions for Viagra filled or seeking to buy condoms have no difficulty getting what they need to ensure that they’re able to have “recreational” sex — whether in committed relationships, extra-marital affairs, one-night-stands, with or without a woman’s consent. While pregnancy and childbirth pose serious risks to women’s health and lives and change their bodies in irrevocable ways, no man has ever been maimed or died from the inability to get an erection.

Directive 36, handed down by the Vatican, states that in the case of sexual assault, a woman may receive emergency contraception from a Catholic provider. But many Catholic facilities refuse to provide it anyway while others require a full medical exam and pregnancy test, delaying access to Plan B beyond the time it would be effective.

Teresa Harrison, project manager at IBIS Reproductive Health, a non-profit research organization, says, “There is no enforcement of laws requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception in cases of rape. Without enforcement, there are no incentives for hospitals to abide by the law.”

Although the medical establishment and science defines “pregnancy” as implantation of a fertilized egg, religious extremists define it at conception; the second the sperm meets the egg. Arizona lawmakers now are trying to define it as two weeks prior to conception — a belief held by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and PersonhoodUSA.

In August 2002 the “Emergency Contraception in Catholic Hospital Emergency Rooms” study conducted by Catholics for a Free Choice, only 167 of the then-597 US-based Catholic hospitals offered emergency contraception to rape victims. This same study also reports that Catholic hospitals provide health care to 1 in 5 people across the US.

According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, approximately 25,000 women in the US get pregnant each year from rape. The actual toll may be higher, since 54% of all sexual assaults go unreported to the police, 97% of all rapists never spend a day in jail, and 38% of all rapists were a friend or acquaintance of the victim.[9]

Harrison says that most Catholic hospitals align with the views of their local bishop. Access to emergency contraception for rape victims, tubal ligations following C-section or after a difficult childbirth, and even life-saving abortions where a pregnant woman is “bleeding out” or women with a high risk of dying from other pregnancy complications (eclampsia, placenta previa, placental abruption, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension, etc.) — women will be denied care and die, not because there’s a lack in medical technology and medicines, but solely for being female and pregnant depending on the views of a bishop and the “moral beliefs” of the ER physician, SANE’s, and nurses.

Although scientists, doctors, the ACOG, the AMA, and state health departments tried to clarify differences between Mifepristone (RU-486, the abortion pill) and Plan B, anti-woman Christian groups like Americans United for Life, Personhood USA, and Priests for Life continue to spread false information and lies that Plan B “kills babies.”

None of them care, however, that pregnancy and childbirth is very physically and emotionally traumatic even under the best of circumstances and wreaks havoc on women’s bodies and psyches and can sometimes even kill perfectly healthy women — women’s lives don’t matter. Dr. Gene Rudd, associate executive director of the Christian Medical Association, wrote in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy that “scientific evidence indicates that the drug works in part by preventing a developing embryo from attaching to the uterine wall, leaving it to pass out of the mother’s body and die.”

In 2004 in Denton, Texas, Eckerd pharmacist Gene Herr and two colleagues refused to fill a prescription for Plan B for a traumatized rape victim, and demoralized her. Herr is a “hero” in anti-woman circles.

In Faben, Texas a few weeks after the Denton incident involving Gene Herr, the small town’s only pharmacist and a self-described “Christ follower” Steve Mosher refused to fill the birth control prescription of a married woman who had just recently given birth a few weeks prior. The woman and her husband had to drive 40 miles roundtrip to El Paso to get her prescription filled.[10]

In July 2006, an 18 year old rape victim in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania was denied Plan B by the ER doctor on duty at Good Samaritan Hospital. He refused to write her a prescription because of his “religious beliefs.” The victim was forced to “beat the clock” in getting a prescription from her gynecologist only to then find that the one and only pharmacy in her area that carried Plan B was all out.

Through physical force and violence (including the use of drugging victims against their knowledge), rapists deprive women of the right to have control over their own bodies. Since emergency contraception is only effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B is time-sensitive and that requires that women have immediate access to it. Women have a basic human right to reclaim control over their bodies after a traumatic rape by having the ability to choose whether or not they get pregnant and suffer more trauma, pain and risk dying as a result of that rape.

Although Plan B was eventually approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sale, women (especially young women) are still denied access, thus women’s human rights have been subordinated to rapists’ sperm under the guise of “religious liberty.”

According to the Duvall Project[11], only 47% of Pennsylvania hospital emergency rooms offer information about or directly provide emergency contraception to rape victims as part of a basic standard of care. The CARE Act — Senate Bill 990 and House Bill 2159 — is critical Pennsylvania state legislation that would protect the human rights of rape victims by ensuring that rape victims get comprehensive medical care, including emergency contraception, when they present at emergency rooms.

But “religious liberty” was once again used to rob women of their human rights by state lawmakers whose amendments to the CARE Act added a religious facilities exception creating two classes of rape victims: One group would get comprehensive care including access to emergency contraception while the other group of rape victims would be denied that care because they were unlucky enough to be taken by ambulance to a Catholic hospital or living in a region where the only hospital was a religiously affiliated facility that does not believe that women deserve comprehensive care, giving extra reproductive rights to rapists at the expense of their victims.[12]

No woman should be forced to suffer additional emotional and physical trauma of an unwanted and medically risky pregnancy after a rape and given inferior medical treatment because of medical facilities’ or individual practitioners’ religious beliefs. Sexual assault is dehumanizing. For survivors to regain their sense of self-worth and control over their bodies, which serves the common good for all in society, comprehensive care should not take a back seat to someone else’s religion or “moral beliefs.”

Ensuring that rape victims are able to get emergency contraception helps survivors regain a sense of control over their own bodies and lives following sexual assault. The FDA approval for over-the-counter sales of Plan B has only removed a small portion of the barriers for women who have been raped. Women under 17 still need a prescription.

In rural areas like Erie County where the nearest Planned Parenthood is two hours’ drive away in Ohio which does not accept Pennsylvania (or any other state’s) Medicaid, women still have difficulty getting to a pharmacy that will sell it since this item is still kept behind pharmacy counters where the on-duty pharmacy staff takes control away from women by capriciously refusing to sell it to them — with or without a prescription. The price of emergency contraceptives ranges from $50 to $250 for a single dose. This leaves poor women without resources and a car in rural regions like Erie County, Pennsylvania without adequate remedy at law.

Although the City of Erie has a family planning clinic, Adagio Health, which provides some limited birth control options, Adagio will not provide emergency contraception or referrals for emergency contraception or abortion, no matter what the woman’s circumstance is.

This allows strangers to use their conscientious refusal rights to legally act as collaborators and accomplices with rapists in the commission of sexual/reproductive violence against women and girls — turning poor rural parts of the state into de facto government-approved open-air rape gulags. This scenario is common across the US.

The basic human rights to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity should never be framed as a social class privilege that only some people deserve based on socio-economic status, gender, race, or geography at the whim of strangers whose bodies and lives are not 100% at risk in unwanted and/or medically dangerous pregnancies — especially as a result of rape. Meanwhile, several Congressmen have pushed laws forward that redefine “rape” to further disenfranchise rape victims.

What other subgroup of the population is it acceptable to strip of their dignity and basic human rights in the name of “religious liberty” or “states’ rights?”

A more recent study in 2011 conducted by Dr. Tracey Wilkinson[13], a general pediatrics fellow at Boston Medical Center/Boston University School of Medicine revealed that although it’s legal for 17 year olds to get emergency contraception (and those younger with prescriptions), pharmacy employees are misinforming teens by telling them they’re not allowed to get it, or saying that they don’t carry it even when it is in stock behind pharmacy counters. Wilkinson’s study showed that 1 in 5 young women are denied emergency contraception on the whim of pharmacy staff.

For this study, researchers posing as 17 year old girls and doctors seeking help for 17 year old patients called every pharmacy in five US cities asking about the availability and accessibility of emergency contraception. All callers asked questions from a script. The results showed that 19% of the 17 year olds were told that they couldn’t get it under any circumstances while only 3% of the doctors were told the same thing. Pharmacy staff gave the wrong information 43% of the time.

Wilkinson’s study shows there seems to be a deliberate attempt to force teen girls into unwanted pregnancies because of “moral beliefs” about teen girls and sex, regardless if the sex is consensual of not. Despite this, US Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius invoked her authority to overrule the FDA’s recommendation to make emergency contraception available without a prescription to young women under age 17 even though most maternal deaths from complications during pregnancy or childbirth occur at both ends of the maternal age spectrum: girls under 20 and women over 35.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, approximately 750,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant every year and 85% of those pregnancies are unintended. The September-October 2007 issue of Ambulatory Pediatrics published a study by Dr. Elizabeth Miller and her research colleagues which showed that 26% of the teen girls studied responded that their partners actively tried to get them pregnant against their will by manipulating condom use, sabotaging the girls’ contraceptive use, and lying (“I’m sterile”), or making explicit statements about wanting to make the girls pregnant. Dr. Miller recalled one girl who came to her clinic for a pregnancy test and emergency contraception after the test showed negative for pregnancy — the girl was thrown down a flight of stairs by her boyfriend two weeks later. The micro mirrors the macro.

Nearly every sex education program fails to address the problem of forced pregnancy by abusive males who are using their penises like a loaded weapon to abuse, dominate, and utterly destroy women in our culture of impunity.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller’s newest study published in the January 2010 issue of the journal Contraception showed that 74% of women aged 18-49 reported having experienced some form of reproductive abuse, including forced unprotected intercourse, refusal to withdraw as promised, the sabotaging of condoms, flushing birth control pills down the toilet, and removing contraceptive patches and rings. Women who did become pregnant as a result were coerced or forced into going along with their partners’ wishes, who in some cases threatened to kill them if they got an abortion. These figures are consistent from clinic to clinic.[14]

Not one law has been passed to criminally prosecute men who cause injury, disability or death to women through the reproductive abuse of forced pregnancy and birth.

The US has a higher maternal death rate than 40 other countries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that two-thirds of maternal deaths in the US go unreported or are misclassified. Only 24 states have mandatory reporting laws for adverse pregnancy/childbirth/post-partum events. For each death, there are about 50 instances of complications related to pregnancy or childbirth that are life-threatening or cause permanent damage; and the “near misses”— including kidney failure, respiratory distress syndrome, shock, and the need for blood transfusions and ventilation — rose 25% from the late 1990’s to 2005. [15]

The percentage of unreported or misclassified maternal deaths was particularly high for women at the extremes of maternal age distribution. Half of all maternal deaths among teenagers and more than half of all maternal deaths among women over age 35 were misclassified or unreported. The US currently has no uniform method for reporting maternal deaths, something which certified midwife Ina May Gaskin brought attention to. The leading causes of maternal death — which is defined as all deaths causally related to pregnancy and childbirth — are hemorrhage, pulmonary hypertension, amniotic embolism, air embolism, and pregnancy/childbirth related cardiovascular disorder.

A pregnant woman or a woman who has recently given birth is more likely to die as the result of a cardiovascular disorder than any other cause. 6 out of 10 maternal deaths among 14-19 year olds were caused by cardiovascular disorder.

The lack of complete reporting of maternal deaths has led to misconceptions regarding the magnitude of the problem of maternal mortality. The findings of the underreporting of maternal deaths report compiled by Isabelle Horon with the Vital Statistics Administration of Maryland also reveal that a larger portion of maternal deaths from pregnancy complications in women who had not yet delivered were unreported, and deaths among this subgroup of pregnant women represented 19.3% of all maternal deaths for which the time of death was known.[16]

In March 2010, Amnesty International released its own report, “Deadly Delivery”, on the increasing maternal death rate in the US, which is double those in Canada, Britain and Western Europe — all countries in which women have wide access to birth control and safe, legal medical abortion These are all countries whose abortion rates are far lower than those in the US.

There is no question that an increasing lack of access to contraceptives, abortion, and voluntary sterilization due to the tremendous political and financial clout used by religious lobbies like the USCCB and the increased power over public policy have not only contributed to high maternal mortality and morbidity rates and the skewing of these statistics (which are used to justify legislation and shape public policy), but have also acted in synergy with deeply institutionalized misogyny to deprive women of human rights — in the name of “religious liberty” and “moral beliefs” — while actively promoting a de facto state establishment of religious policies that impact the public in violation of the spirit of the US Constitution.

Regarding maternal death and extreme misery and suffering that could be easily avoided through better access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, responded by saying, “Only God has absolute dominion over human life.” He cites scripture to support mother-killing and the deprivation of women’s human rights: “None of us lives as his own master and done of us dies as his own master.” (Romans 14:7)

On his website, Pavone states: “This is also the reason contraception is wrong. God’s dominion over human life does not begin at conception. It begins in eternity” and he cites the same Biblical verse that undergirds the Christian patriarchy movement known as Quiverfull: “Happy the man who has filled his quiver with arrows!” (Psalm 127:5)

Lisa Metzger of the Quiverfull movement says, regarding her thoughts on the high risk of maternal death and morbidity within the Christian patriarchy community, that she is “obeying by giving God the keys to my womb…It’s his domain to create life!”

Regarding abortion, contraception, or sterilization to preserve a woman’s health or save her life, even if that life-threatening pregnancy was the result of a rape and even if her death will leave orphaned children, Metzger cites scripture to justify compulsory maternity at all costs: “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him…” (Psalm 49:7) and “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this little thing, why worry about the rest? O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:25, Jesus speaking)

The proliferation of “pro-lifers” and Christians into the medical field, particularly in obstetrics and gynecology, is leaving more women than ever before unable to obtain birth control to defend their bodies from medically dangerous and/or unwanted pregnancies. Women need to ensure their doctor’s or pharmacist’s religious or “moral” beliefs won’t cost them their lives or deprive them of full reproductive health care. Googling some examples of anti-contraception/anti-abortion physicians turned up some interesting results regarding doctors who read a book by Randy Alcorn:

“No pro-life physician can rightly prescribe birth control pills after reviewing this data. I have started circulating this information.”  ~ Randall Martin, MD, Chairman, Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia Willamette Valley Medical Center

“Scientific papers suggest that escape ovulation occurs 4-15% of all cycles in patients taking birth control pills. Thus, as this book points out, early chemical abortions are a real concern.” ~ Paddy Jim Baggot, MD, OB/GYN, Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics

“In this challenging book Randy Alcorn has the honesty to face a tough and uncomfortable question. The compelling evidence will make you rethink the question of birth control.” ~ John Brose, MD, Surgeon

Women need to thoroughly investigate where their doctors, midwives, and pharmacists stand before investing any money and trust into a doctor-patient relationship. And this is all the more compelling of a reason why Title X funding should be increased, NOT decreased, for Planned Parenthood — women know that at least there they can get their reproductive health needs met without ugly surprises that could cost them their lives because of a medical professional’s “moral” beliefs.

Doctors, physician assistants, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, SANE’s, and midwives, et al, are products of the same deeply misogynistic society that produced Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum. Misogyny runs rampant in the medical community as it does throughout the rest of the social fabric. Abuse of gravid women during labor in delivery rooms by medical professionals is not uncommon.[17] Women have come forward and sued for physical and psychological abuse during childbirth. That abuse includes intimidation, coercion of unnecessary medical procedures, verbal abuse, and denial of adequate pain relief during labor, even during episiotomy repair.[18]

Across the US childbearing women continue to be abused physically and psychologically on a level that would constitute sexual assault and torture under any other context. Women are frequently punished by those in whose hands their health and lives are entrusted for failing to be sufficiently submissive to those in power over them in the top-down authoritarian structure of Western medicine.

Cruelty and abuse against women is reaffirmed and legitimized by the prominence of religious influence in government policy and public affairs. No other group of people is allowed to be tortured, abused, maimed, oppressed, or enslaved in the name of “religious liberty.” Until women are codified into the Constitution as full “persons” and “citizens” that are just as deserving of respect and equal protection of the law as men, and until women are viewed as being human enough for harm against us to matter, it is not safe to be a woman in the US.

Regardless of what faith one professes, a woman’s uterus is not designed to handle unmitigated, endless cycles of pregnancy and childbirth. A 2006 study pointed out that women who bear children at intervals of 18 months or less have a shorter lifespan and more health problems overall.

According to Stephanie Coontz, director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families, anti-contraception groups like Quiverfull and their Catholic counterparts have influenced government policy and laws under the guise of moral beliefs “to the extent that people get in positions of authority and planning — for instance, in the Department of Health & Human Services where they have control over abstinence-only education funds. Then you have choices being made behind closed doors about the options that will be available for everyone.”

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is considered one of the leading intellectuals of evangelical Christianity in the US. In a December 2005 column in The Christian Post titled, “Can Christians Use Birth Control?” Mohler wrote:

“The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most defining marks of our age — and one of the most ominous. This awareness is spreading among American evangelicals, and it threatens to set loose a firestorm…A growing number of evangelicals are rethinking the issue of birth control — and forcing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies.”

The intellectual force behind the assault on contraceptives and comprehensive sex education is Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation who worked with Mohler to push a religious agenda centered on taking away women’s rights to self-determination. Rector wrote some of the federal legislation mandating abstinence-only sex education which has not reduced the rates of teen pregnancy. Mohler and Rector admitted to having an agenda of social engineering to force a change in behavior and in the way people think about sex — using the bodies of women and girls as human shields in their ideological war against the life, liberty, justice, and freedom of women.

Cheryl Seelhof and Vyckie Garrison who both left the Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy movement have told how this misogynist ideology masquerading as a religious belief deserving of extra protection played a role in the unreporting/misclassification of maternal mortality and morbidity rates and how the impact of Quiverfull ideology permeates public policy to the detriment of women’s lives. Seelhof said, “My whole family is conservative Christian…my mom and dad are Bush Republicans and subscribe to Rush Limbaugh’s publication.”

One woman who had six children and left Quiverfull told about the Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull communities’ standard practice of concealing maternal deaths from health and government agencies. She was a small Christian news journal publisher. She was told by others in the community not to publish any stories that would reveal the high maternal death rates. “The woman had been told from childhood she could not have children because of her heart problems. She got married and “left it to the Lord” and got pregnant and she and her husband decided to “trust God.” She died in childbirth at home…my columnist asked me not to tell anybody — the husband, the family, all in Bill Gothard’s program — didn’t want anyone to know. Which is typical of these folks. Don’t talk about the women who die in childbirth. Or the ones who attempt VBAC’s against all odds. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally supportive of VBAC’s for most women who have had C-sections, but sometimes it isn’t a good thing…one woman I know, her uterus ruptured along the old C-section scar and she nearly died, had to have blood transfusions, and then had to return home to her large family with a newborn. They don’t talk about the abuse…Many women left this movement and continue to leave, although at great cost. I have worked with women who have had emotional breakdowns and have been institutionalized, who have had to try to make it on their own with no employment background, no references (all their references turned against them when they left), 6-12 children to take care of and exes who refused to pay child support and were protected in that by church men.”

Without the right to control whether or not she gets pregnant or carries an unwanted pregnancy to term, a woman faces a potential life-threatening or health-compromising pregnancy every year from menarche to menopause — for 30 to 40 years of her life, unless a high risk pregnancy or sudden childbirth complication kills her before middle-age like unmitigated childbearing did to 1 in 5 women as recently as 1950; 22 years before the US Supreme Court ruling on Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) which gave unmarried women the right to birth control access regardless of marital status.

To deny women the right to prevent or terminate an unwanted or medically risky pregnancy is to consequently deny her all basic human rights. It’s not a separate issue. It’s not a “special interest” issue. It’s not a frivolous issue. Not if one is a woman. It affects everything in her life. The right to determine what happens to your own body, the fundamental human rights of bodily autonomy and bodily integrity, are the sine qua non of ALL rights — including the right to “freedom of religion.”

If women’s human rights can be discarded, ignored, or postponed, then lawmakers are once again placing issues that directly and specifically relate to men at the top. There is no democracy or fairness in any sense of the word if double standards drive the issues. Democracy, freedom, and justice for only half the population but not the other is real no freedom or justice at all.

Throughout history, women have always been involved in the fight for labor (primarily benefiting white males), for the abolition of slavery, for the end of Jim Crow, for Civil Rights, and for LGBT rights. But as a class, women are still without equal rights as persons and citizens, or even basic human rights to our own bodies and lives. That is what is so patently wrong.

Don’t think that writing laws on any issue that brushes women aside by making men the default “normal” and therefore making women invisible, is something that can be “fixed” to include or benefit women later. That rarely, if ever, happens.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was defeated in 1980. Women still do not have explicit citizen rights and personhood status protection, or even basic human rights in this country. What does it say about women’s status in this country if less than half the states supported an amendment for equal rights that many men claim women already have? Why not just pass the ERA? Unless the reason perhaps is that most men really don’t want women to have basic human rights.

If women have no rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy, then the economy, jobs, education, infrastructure, defense, religious liberty, and all the rest no longer matters.


[1] http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Media/church-excommunicates-nun-authorized-emergency-abortion-save-mothers/story?id=10799745#.T4J2TdVX3As ; “Nun Excommunicated After Saving a Mother’s Life With Abortion”, Dan Harris and Claudia Morales, CBS News, June 1, 2010

[2] Angela M. Foster, Amanda Dennis, and Fiona Smith, IBIS Reproductive Health Study 2009, National Women’s Law Center; http://www.nwlc.org/resource/below-radar-fact-sheet-religious-refusals-treat-pregnancy-complications-put-women-danger

[3] Lori R. Freedman, PhD, Uta Landy, PhD, and Jody Steinauer, MD, “When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals”, peer reviewed, American Journal of Public Health, October 2008, vol. 98, No. 10

[4] Lori R. Freedman, PhD and Debra Stulberg, MD: “Standards in Conflict: How Catholic healthcare doctrine interacts with OB/GYN physician practice.”

[5] Freedman and Stulberg interview with Dr. Gwen Patterson, OB/GYN at Sierra Vista Regional Health Center in Sierra Vista, Arizona, November 17th 2010. (Sierra Vista is the only hospital in this rural Arizona three-county area situated near the Mexican-US border.)

[7] Health Care Refusals: Undermining Quality Care for Women, 2010; National Health Law Program, Los Angeles, CA

[8] “States of Denial”, Abby Christopher, Women’s World, Aug 18th 2004; http://www.wworld.org/crisis/crisis.asp?ID=455

[10] “Denial of rape victim’s pills raises debate”, Associated Press, Feb 24th 2004

[12] Memorandum to Pennsylvania Senate from Larry Frankel, Legislative Director of PA ACLU; Oct 6th 2006 (re: Senate Bill 990); http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/MemotoPASenateDB990.pdf

[13] “Pharmacies deter teens from Plan B, study shows”, Linda Carroll, http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/26/10834545-pharmacies-deter-teens-from-plan-b-study-shows

[14] “When Teen Pregnancy is No Accident”, Lynn Harris, The Nation, May 24th 2010; http://www.thenation.com/article/when-teen-pregnancy-no-accident

[15] “Maternal Deaths in the United States: A Problem Solved or a Problem Ignored?”, Ina May Gaskin, CPM, MA, The Journal of Perinatal Education, v. 17(2); Spring 2008

[16] Isabelle L. Horon, Dr. PH, “Underreporting of Maternal Deaths on Death Certificates and the Magnitude od the Problem of maternal Mortality”, American Journal of Public Health, March 2005; v.95(3):478-482.

[18] Catherine Skol v. Scott Pierce, MD, OB/GYN, Rush University Medical Center (2009), “Defendant Pierce told nurse LeJeune Dixon-Pickett that Plaintiff  Skol ‘deserved to feel pain’.”

Religious Freedom Rights v. Women’s Rights to Life and Bodily Autonomy

March 27, 2012

Capitalism’s Legacy, the Auschwitz of Palestine and the Attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla

June 6, 2010

Jacqueline S. Homan, Author: "Classism For Dimwits", "Nothing You Can Possess", "Eyes of a Monster," and "Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie"

Israel’s government claims its military was defending Israel against “terrorists” aboard the Freedom Flotilla that was bound for Gaza with humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees in Gaza. The coalition of international human rights volunteers had no guns. The IDF was heavily armed.

Israel controls all entry points to Palestinian territory in Gaza — which is not part of Israel — essentially blocking access to Palestine. Journalists, doctors, students, and humanitarian aid volunteers have all been denied access to Gaza. The Palestinians who struggle to subsist there are locked in. They cannot leave except through points of entry and exit controlled by Israel — including by sea. They languish in destitution.

Their homes and infrastructure destroyed by IDF bulldozers, tanks, and heavy artillery, Palestinians have no means of building their own viable society. They are denied the means to provide for themselves the most basic of human needs. One and a half million people are living there in the largest open-air concentration camp in the world.

Israel deploys well-heeled, well-armed military forces against a trapped and defenseless civilian population in Palestine, deliberately keeping Palestinians from being able to build and sustain viable life. Israel controls everything that enters or exits Palestine by air, land, and sea. Not just the ingress and egress of people; but medical equipment, food, building supplies, textiles, children’s toys, and school supplies. It’s not about defense against “terrorism”, or about Israel’s “right to exist.” It’s about a vicious form of capitalism known as colonialism. Consider:

All of humanity can be divided into three groups — A, B, and C. Group A is made up of those who live primarily off of stock dividends, interest payments on their bond investments, royalties on their land and mineral rights, inherited money, and rents for their real estate. In other words, Group A derives its livelihood from passive or unearned income generated from the capital it owns.  Groups B and C comprise the remaining 99% of humanity. Group B lives primarily off of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, fees or pensions. Group C are those remaining billions of people across the world who don’t even get that — they live hand-to-mouth on whatever crumbs they can scrounge.

Group A obtains wealth by imperialist or colonialist measures by deracination— driving the people off of the land either by genocide, incarceration, or other means of expulsion, and de-skilling and disenfranchising the remainder by forcing them to work for subsistence wages out of lack of options. Group A can also be called the “Owning Class” since they own most of the world’s resources and means of production. Group A also owns a lot of the government or the state.

Group A has very politically active elements that make careers out of protecting the interests of Group A. Those politically active members of Group A become presidents, parliamentarians, prime ministers, Congressmen, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of the US Department of Defense, CIA directors, Joint Chiefs of Staff, FBI directors, military intelligence, etc., whose function is to keep the world safe for the Fortune 500 companies — the people in Group A — so that they can extract the value from the natural resources and exploit the surplus value from the labor of Group B, and squash any populist uprising.

In order to deracinate Palestine — including Gaza, the West Bank, and Arab communities within Israel itself — Israeli military operations have damaged infrastructure and the Israeli government crafted a list of forbidden goods that cannot be delivered by humanitarian organizations to the Palestinians which have absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism. Instead, it has everything to do with ethnic cleansing and genocide with land expropriation as the motive.

Imperialist governments of the West have long defended Israel’s right to exist. Since its artificial creation by European and American heads of state in 1948, Israel has only allowed its indigenous Arab peoples — the Palestinians — the right to barely subsist. Power and privilege are a dangerous narcotic; more potent and addictive than any opiate. Violence used to protect privilege destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, and it consumes those who use it to become masters of the universe.

Israel uses sophisticated aircraft and navy vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums. To attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no army, and no artillery units, no mechanized army or command to control — and calling this “war”  — seems ludicrous. But in a sense, it is a war — a class war.  It’s class genocide. For its victims, capitalism is cruelty; not freedom.

Israel speaks to Palestinians in the language of intimidation, contempt, and death.

Those who orchestrate such aggression do not understand the insatiable rage born of long-standing policies of humiliation, violence, and human rights violations. A mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget.

A child that witnesses his sick or injured grandmother dying while being detained at an Israeli check point does not forget.

Pregnant women denied access to hospitals who suffer permanently maiming injuries from difficult labors and births; and who are stripped of their dignity by being forced to give birth in front of a hostile audience of gawking, lewd, racist soldiers that harass them in their most vulnerable state — peering between their legs while pointing a loaded gun at them — do not forget.

Parents who carry their child’s broken body to a bombed out hospital do not forget.

These crimes against humanity are engraved forever upon their memory. They sear the psyche and become like a virus in those who survive. Is it any wonder that 71% of Palestinian children interviewed in Gaza recently said that they wanted to be a suicide bomber?

The collective refusal of our government, our media, and our scholars to speak out in defense of the rule of law and fundamental human rights exposes our shambolic espousal of “freedom” and “democracy.”

The blind acceptance of Israel’s pogroms against Palestinians cloaked under the pretense of Israel’s “right to exist” contradicts reason as the images of the victims of Israeli policy seep out from behind the sealed ghetto of Gaza before the world’s eyes. It is a betrayal of the memory of all those killed in other genocides in other times and in other lands.

The lesson of the Holocaust was not that Jews are eternal victims. The lesson of the Holocaust is that when you have the capacity to stop genocide and fail to do so — regardless of who carries it out and who is targeted — you are culpable. And certain US government leaders, lawmakers, and multinational corporations are very culpable. The F-16 fighter jets, the Apache helicopters, and the 250 lb smart GPU-39 bombs are all part of the multi-billion dollar annual military aid package that the US gives Israel.

Dispossessed and disenfranchised children trapped win the world’s largest open-air gulag are being killed right now with US-made weapons. The American public’s indifference to this suffering and injustice should come as no surprise as capitalism’s architecture of aggression led us to go along with the program of killing even more women and children on a grander scale in Iraq and Afghanistan — so much so that Afghan women and girls who were atrociously oppressed under the Taliban are now fleeing in terror of their “liberators” — into the arms of Taliban mujahedeen.

From December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, Israel launched a brutal attack on 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. On March 9, 2010, a group gathered near the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and began reading from the Goldstone report; the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. Afterwards, hundreds of human rights activists and concerned citizens formed a single file procession to carry the evidence revealed in the report to the Waldorf Astoria where a gala was organized by the Friends of the IDF to honor Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli commander-in-chief of the military forces during Operation Cast Lead — the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. Over 1,400 Palestinians were killed by Operation Cast Lead alone.

This operation entailed the IDF’s use of depleted uranium weapons against the civilian population of Gaza, resulting in loss of sight and limb amputations. Cluster bombs and depleted uranium usage is prohibited under the Geneva Convention and international law. Yet, the very ones responsible for these crimes against humanity were honored at a $1000/plate dinner at the Waldorf Astoria — raising $20 million for the IDF through a US tax-exempt organization, “Friends of the IDF.” We are judged by the company we keep.  We should beware of what sort of “friends” we choose.

One of the authors of the Goldstone report, Colonel Desmond Travers, was interviewed by Rory McCarthy of the UK Guardian. Travers said that the IDF attacks were “intentional and precise and carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population. Gaza is the only gulag in the Western hemisphere; maintained by democracies, closed off from food, water, and air.”

Although both sides of the conflict are culpable, the degree of Israel’s culpability was far greater because of the extreme power differential. Travers said IDF tactics included “hostage-taking, felling of homes, destruction of the judicial police infrastructure, destruction of hospitals and medical infrastructure, destruction of the agricultural, water, and sewage infrastructure.”

Israel claimed this massacre was an “error.” The orchestrated mechanized maiming and killing of civilians; the deliberate targeting of schools, hospitals, homes, and mosques is not something that happens by accident.

Israel claimed that mosques and schools were frequently used to store caches of weapons. But the UN mission found no such evidence of that. Travers says those claims are part and parcel of a negative propaganda campaign that stereotypes Palestinians (and Arabs in general) and such prejudicial unfounded claims would never withstand criticism by the world community if leveled against any other group.

“During the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, if a British public figure or military official had said, ‘Catholic churches were warehouses for Semtex’ there would have been an international outcry, especially in the Catholic world over such a slur.” ~ Colonel Desmond Travers

But the Catholic world enjoys something that Palestinians do not: enormous wealth and centuries of unearned privilege. The Vatican is the world’s oldest imperialist multinational corporation. Privilege insulates its beneficiaries from the consequences it poses to others. Privilege is the central ingredient in imbalanced and unequal relationships. Capitalism and all of its varying forms — imperialism, fascism, feudalism, and colonialism —  require imbalanced and unequal relationships in order to thrive.

Capitalism is an architecture of aggression built upon the exploitation, disenfranchisement, coercion, intimidation, and dehumanization of others.

When you can see that a group is female, disabled, old, or a different race, that makes it easier to target and oppress them. Thus, capitalism’s “winners” get what they’ve got unfairly and protect their gains by breaking the backs of their victims — namely, those who dare to defy capitalism’s injustices of discrimination and the social damage inflicted by expropriation and the crushing of capitalism’s victims on a playing field that is anything but level.

If capitalism’s “losers” get restive, they are swiftly reminded of “their place.” They’re harshly pressed back in line and their backs crushed — their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a chance in life bulldozed and run over — like 23 year old Rachel Corrie, the unarmed peace activist deliberately hewn down by an IDF-driven Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer on March 16, 2003 in Gaza. The cold-blooded murder of a 23 year old American college student was no more of an accident than colonialism — or any other form of capitalism — is. To believe otherwise is to believe there is capitalism without capitalists, imperialism without imperialists, fascism without fascists, and colonialism without colonists.

You don’t have colonialism without colonists, capitalism without capitalists, or imperialism without imperialists.

These things don’t just happen in a vacuum. Left to their own devices, they devour themselves after consuming their hosts. Only the rule of law and a strong enough collective backbone of can prevent the social destruction and collateral damage left in capitalism’s wake. And international justice needs a spine of our collective human solidarity that is too strong to be crushed by tyranny, bribery, divisiveness and intimidation and to oppose death squads, slave labor, torture, artificially created poverty by capitalist disinvestment, armored bulldozers and all of the ideologies that promote discrimination and the dehumanization of others.



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