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Ms. Wright Goes to Washington

By Sheryl Wright

Despite their pledge during the 2010 mid-term election campaign to focus on jobs,Republicans have used their majority in the House to push abortion to the front of the Congressional agenda. On January 7, 2011, Congressman Mike Pence introduced H.R. 217(the Pence Amendment).

 

Bachmann Spiking the Tea

By Karima E. Rustin

One of the many things I look forward to on a Saturday morning  is reading The New York Times. And who do I see prominently figuring at the beginning of the column but Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)...damn, not Bachmann again!

 

The Politics of Union Envy 

By Sheryl Wright

Neither of my parents went to college, but both were union members—my father in the private sector and my mother in the public. In addition to their salaries, which allowed them to provide a comfortable life for our family, the benefits won by their respective unions

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Roundtable: Delegitimizing Obama–The Intersection of Gender, Power & Politics  

Sheryl: Almost 800 days in office and it seems every day is seen as an opportunity for renewed criticism of the President. The latest kerfuffle is around the claim that President Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the action in Libya

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Entries in reproductive rights (3)

Saturday
Apr162011

Ms. Wright Goes to Washington


By Sheryl Wright


Despite their pledge during the 2010 mid-term election campaign to focus on jobs, Republicans have used their majority in the House to push abortion to the front of the Congressional agenda. On January 7, 2011, Congressman Mike Pence introduced H.R. 217 (the Pence Amendment). The House passed the bill, which prohibits the awarding of federal family planning funds to any entity that performs abortions, on February 18th. According to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, the legislation would effectively eliminate state health departments’ and other public and nonprofit organization administrators’ ability to maintain a public health safety net that provides family planning services to millions of women and men around the country. In response, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than twenty other organizations came together for a rally and lobby day to express support for women’s health/family planning programs and outrage at what many saw as Republican political gamesmanship.

It may not have been as dramatic as the Hollywood classic about Mr. Smith’s epic battle in Washington, D.C., but my visit last week to the nation’s capital was an exciting opportunity to participate in a true demonstration of democracy. Having attended the February Rally to Protect Womens Health in New York CityI saw the trip to D.C. as a chance to speak directly to my congressperson about the importance of Planned Parenthood.  

I know women without health insurance who have had to turn to Planned Parenthood for preventive care. I have heard stories from people who, as teenagers, relied on Planned Parenthood for sexual health information. As someone who is not insured through an employer and is responsible for paying the full health insurance premium, I want to do what I can to ensure that Planned Parenthood’s services will be available to me should I ever need them. Republican assertions that government funds are used for abortion are untrue. The abortion services, which are a small, yet vital component of  the  reproductive health services offered, should be readily available to women who want it—like it or not, Roe v. Wade is still the law.

The bus trip down was relatively quiet with the exception of a sprinkling of women chatting with each other; considering the 6:30 a.m. departure time, most people opted to take a nap. As we approached the city limits, the Planned Parenthood staffer assigned to the bus provided a brief overview of what to expect during the day. For the first stop on the agenda, we walked to the National Mall for the Rally for Women’s Health. It was exciting to stand in the midst of a crowd coming together for a common cause. It was equally exciting to see men in the crowd; from 2000 to 2009, Planned Parenthood services to men increased by 103 percent. The list of speakers included a host of federal elected officials and celebrities who pledged their continued support for women’s health programs and Planned Parenthood. I am a little embarrassed to admit that one of the celebrities, David EigenbergSteve Brady, Miranda’s husband in HBO series Sex and the City—was a big highlight for me. Aside from him being my favorite male character on the show, I was moved by his remarks as to why it was important for him to be at the rally.

The second part of the day consisted of lobby visits with our individual congresspersons. I have participated in rallies before, but this was my first lobbying trip. With my trusty lobby day map in hand, I left the rally and  headed over to the Rayburn House Office Building to meet with Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). As I walked the halls, I took note of the doors to the offices of representatives whom I have watched on television—some whose positions on the issues I largely share and others whose positions I absolutely despise. I also noted the many name-tagged people in business attire walking in the halls alongside me and standing in front of the office doors of individual representatives. I started to wonder what right I had to be there; I don’t represent a large corporation or some other monied interest. I am not promising a large monetary contribution or any other form of largesse, except my vote. It’s just me…Sheryl Wright. The more I walked those halls, the more I felt I belonged; I have a constitutional right to petition the government on my own behalf and on behalf of the people I know who have relied on Planned Parenthood’s services. Why should monied and corporate interests have more influence in our government than people like me?

The meeting with Congressman Towns went very well—he has a Planned Parenthood 100-percent, pro-choice rating. In fact, all of the members of the New York City House delegation are rated 100  percent pro-choice with the exception of Republican Michael Grimm, Staten Island’s sole representative. My lobby visit with Congressman Towns was an opportunity to personally thank him, let him know I stand with him in his support of Planned Parenthood, and urge him to be even stronger in his advocacy for women’s health. At the close of the meeting, he thanked my group for coming and told us these kinds of meetings provided a wind beneath his wings. The cynic in me immediately questioned his sincerity, however, it didn’t take long for me to understand; no matter who you are, it is good to know that there are others standing with you.

 

Monday
Mar142011

Stupidity

By Karima E. Rustin
For the past few weeks, I’ve found it truly amazing to see the people of other nations take a stand for their civil rights, overthrowing tyrannical regimes, and coming together with one voice to establish a movement for change. But I also start every day with an ache in my heart—and a little indigestion—after reading or hearing news reports about certain acts being done right here in my own backyard.
 
So I decided to establish a movement—yes, my very own revolt. I too must speak out against the outlandish measures certain elected officials are trying to impose on us. These special individuals (don’t worry I will name them)  seem hell bent on pissing me off in regards to women’s reproductive rights.
I revolt against stupidity!!!!!
 
Right now as I type this there are people in the  United States who are trying to drown out, subvert and sabotage well-meaning discussions about reproductive rights...wait let me make this clear, women’s reproductive rights. Now I would like to call out a few candidates for this week’s gallery.

The Prime Suspects:
 
South Dakota State Senator Phil Jensen (R) introduced a bill (HB1171) a few weeks ago (which fortunately was shelved) that would have allowed the use of the “justifiable homicide” defense for people accused of killing with the intent to prevent harm to a fetus.  This “justifiable homicide” defense requires there only be  a pregnant woman. I don’t understand—can you also kill  her husband, her parents, or her children to commit "justifiable homicide" in defense of her fetus?  Now…..is it just me or does this sound like chicken shit? Senator Jensen stated he did not intend for “anti-abortion vigilantes” (his words) to use such a defense when drafting this bill but only to protect the life of the fetus. So if an 18-year-old girl (let’s call her Sandra) comes home and tells her father she is with child, and Sandra’s father decides he has every right to beat his daughter, then I guess she is fully within her right to defend herself and her unborn child by blowing her father’s head off. Gee, thanks, Senator Jensen!!
 
Then we have Nebraska State Senator Mark Christensen (R) who wrote a nearly identical bill to the one in South Dakota.  However, the difference is that the bill expands the defense to a third party. Why the hell not? Let’s have everyone join in on the fun of a potential killing spree! Senator Christensen is another pro-lifer who doesn’t believe abortions should be legal in the event of rape and can’t wait for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Now here are some things Mr. Christensen really believes in: the right to carry concealed unregistered guns and… the death penalty. So Mr. Christensen will not be there for you when you get pregnant, are sexually assaulted, need affordable health care for your child or when you get gunned down by that irate public school teacher (who just lost his or her pension) on your way to drop off your child at school. But if by chance that teacher gets convicted of murder, you can count on Christensen to be there to strap his or her ass to the electric chair!

Georgia State Senator Bobby Franklin (R) is a real prize fighter. Senator Franklin introduced a bill, HB 1, that would distinguish an abortion as “pre-natal murder” and punishable under the law. He believes that abortions have had a negative impact on the people of Georgia in many ways: including economically, psychologically, emotionally, and in terms of overall health and  medical well-being (that was a mouthful). At no point should an abortion be legal in the state of Georgia, according to Mr. Franklin. Okay. I also found something very interesting about Senator Franklin. He believes that if a woman was raped, stalked, or abused by a family member (which usually results in rape or murder), this woman is deemed just an “accuser” and not a “victim” during court procedures. Rape and sexual assault are the most underreported crimes in America. Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation for incidences of “forcible rape” (also see The Daily Show’s take); this suggests there is a fundamental issue in how crimes against women are perceived in Georgia. So Senator Franklin, are you saying that sexual assault does not have a negative impact on rape victims, their families, and their livelihood? What message are you trying to send Mr. Franklin to women who are sexually assaulted when you want to accuse them of murder if they want to terminate pregnancies that result from such acts?

You would think women were the sexual predators; the majority of the birth control that is produced is aimed at controlling women’s fertility. All that is asked of a man is to place a protective barrier on his sexual organ while women are asked to insert, ingest and implant various items and devices into their person. Why is there this belief that the sperm is more important than the egg?
 
Why are men entitled to explore their sexuality and promote their fertility while women’s reproductive rights need to be so strictly governed?

A century ago a registered nurse started a column for the New York Call titled “What Every Girl Should Know.” She wanted to educate women, especially impoverished women about birth control after seeing countless women suffer from self-induced abortions and health issues resulting from frequent childbirths. She believed a woman should be “the absolute mistress of her body.” She opened up the first family planning and birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY. Her name was Margaret Sanger and now her hard work and the work of thousands of women (and men) for the past century is unraveling because of the folly of people who come to us with distorted intentions to balance the budget.

We cannot let this happen. We must be the mistresses of our bodies. We must be warriors for our girls and educators to our boys. Women make up 51 percent of the population in the United States so why are there elected officials who don’t represent our voice?

Senator Jensen, Christensen and Franklin and other like-minded congressmen must understand they do not have sovereignty over our bodies and they  need to keep their hands out of our uteruses!

 

Tuesday
Mar082011

Standing With Planned Parenthood

By Sheryl Wright

 Photography by Chris La Putt ©2011 at Brooklyn Vegan

“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” is my favorite chant from the rally I attended on Saturday in support of Planned Parenthood. Walking to the Planned Parenthood rally with hundreds of fellow rally goers who had also come out in support of the ongoing Wisconsin labor protests, I felt an enormous release in having an opportunity to physically demonstrate what I believe in. Along with at least 5,000 other like-minded men and women, I stood in Foley Square in Manhattan to express my vehement opposition to the Congressional amendment passed on February 18th to cut off federal funding for organization. The Republican-controlled House agenda is to turn back the clock to a time of “back alley” abortions and seven day work weeks. The vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just another shot in their attempt to circumvent Roe V. Wade by eliminating women’s access to abortion services. Anti-abortioners claim to be concerned about the lives of the unborn, and whether that is true or not, state control of women’s’ reproductive choices strips women of their ability to control their own lives. I tend to believe that leaving women to their own devices causes great anxiety for many right-wing conservatives.

I strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose, but Planned Parenthood provides much more than abortions. It is the nation’s leading provider of women’s health services. Millions of middle- and low-income women turn to Planned Parenthood for their STD, HIV and cancer screenings as well as for their contraceptives, pregnancy tests, and counseling. One speaker spoke of how she went to Planned Parenthood for a Pap smear when she did not have health insurance,

As I was leaving the rally and putting away my NOW “Stop the war on women” placard, I passed four anti-abortioners being led by a man. Each held on to a banner. I can’t recall what it said, but I immediately turned to face them with my sign in front of me and thought, What idiots! The effort to defund Planned Parenthood is outrageous, and I am ready to get out in the streets as many times as it takes to ensure that it is stopped.