"In a spirit of openness, we explore how we are classified, stratified, ignored and singled out under the law because of our race, sex, gender, economic class, ability, sexual identity and the multitude of labels applied to us. . . . [W]e welcome all viewpoints and ideas that are expressed with respect and collegiality. . . . [W]e are a journal that promotes living discussion."
This blog is the brainchild of the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice at the University of Iowa College of Law. It is intended as a forum for people to discuss their personal views concerning topical issues. Posts reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily the Board or the Student Writers as a whole. We encourage well-rounded debates and discussions.
Jennifer C. Wang, Note & Comment Editor 2010-11 JGRJ Board
Crisis pregnancy centers (or CPCs) are organizations that purport to provide women with unwanted pregnancies with all of their choices. They are standing propaganda machines, styled to look and appear as if they exist to help women by providing diapers and infant clothing in order to convince women that if and when that if they decide against abortion, someone will be on their side. They often advertise in the phone book under “women’s clinic” or “abortion clinic,” and are staffed by volunteers with no medical training. CPC waiting rooms often have anti-choice videos and literature to convince women not only that abortion is wrong, but also that abortion causes breast cancer, depression, the inability to later conceive, and other blatant lies.
Film makers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the masterminds behind the documentary film “Jesus Camp,” have just released a documentary called “12th and Delaware,” which offers watchers the chance to step inside a crisis pregnancy center for themselves. Ewing and Grady employ the “fly on the wall” technique, giving viewers the ability to see the issue for themselves without narration. The crisis pregnancy center in “12th and Delaware” is called the Pregnancy Care Center, located in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the intersection of 12th and Delaware. Interestingly, the Pregnancy Care Center exists strategically across the street from a (real) comprehensive reproductive health clinic called A Woman’s World.
Throughout the film, viewers are offered first hand the chance to interpret and experience the lies, the hypocrisy, and ridiculous tactics stemming from the Pregnancy Care Center. At one point during the film, Anne, the director of the Pregnancy Care Center, attempts to coerce a young woman against having an abortion by telling her that if she has a baby, her abusive boyfriend might not be so abusive anymore. Anne also tells another woman that condoms are ineffective against preventing pregnancies, and that 95 percent of women who have had abortions regret their decisions. Both are utterly untrue, and Anne conveys these statistics with seemingly medical certainty. Anne later explains, “I’m not trying to talk to her out of it…there’s no deceit in this.”
The film ends on a somber note: one morning, a woman arrives for her appointment at A Woman’s World for a scheduled abortion. She speaks only Spanish, and uses her sweater to shield her head from the hoards of protestors from the Pregnancy Care Center. The protestors heckle the woman, saying that she’s making the wrong choice. The woman says that she has six children at home already, and has never received help from anyone. The protestors respond, saying that if she steps into the Pregnancy Care Center, they can pay her rent, write her checks, and purchase food, toys, and clothing for her children. After minutes of heckling, the woman decides to cross the street and enter the crisis pregnancy center. There, she is confronted by a priest, who tells her to choose some toys for her children, and that she made the right decision. Ultimately, women like the one dissuaded from exercising her 14th Amendment right by lies and deception walk away with perhaps one month’s rent, one or two toys, and in this case, a seventh child. It ends here; no one will be on her side after she gives birth.
-Jennifer Wang, JGRJ Student Writer 2009-10
Recently, the Department of Defense decided to stock emergency contraception to dispense to members of the military in hospitals and health clinics around the world. This occurred during the aftermath of several Bush Administration attacks women’s health, including federal regulation that gave health care workers the ability to refuse to dispense medication or provide medical care in situations that they found to be morally objectionable. This included the ability to refuse to provide reproductive health services for family planning and to rape victims.
Women serving in the military have fought long and hard battles to be recognized as equals and treated with respect and dignity. Countless women are raped and sexually harassed and have had trouble seeking support and assistance from their military counterparts. Countless rapes and instances of sexual assault occur in the military that never get reported. Women serving in the military are at an elevated risk of experiencing discrimination, outright sexual assault, and sexual harassment while serving their country. This has included the problem with disciplining men who rape women in the military, as many ignore the pleas of women who are survivors of rape and sexual harassment.
Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning after pill,” or more commonly, “Plan B,” is effective at preventing pregnancy when taken within seventy-two hours of a sexual encounter. Most physicians and much of the medical community view emergency contraception as a safe and effective way to protect women’s autonomy, particularly in situations of rape. However, certain political communities are of the opinion that emergency contraception is abortion, which is a view that has never been proven or supported by the medical community. However, emergency contraception, like abortion and other reproductive health care measures like comprehensive sex education, are under constant attack.
It is exceptionally crucial that rape victims have access to emergency contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Further, since women make up a considerable amount of military personnel, and since they have historically experienced prejudice, increased levels of sexual violence, and discrimination, it is of the utmost importance that female survivors of rape and sexual assault have the critical medical treatment that emergency contraception can provide in times of crisis.
The recent decision to provide emergency contraception to women serving in the military will have a widespread effect on the status and autonomy of female troops. The policy has the potential to affect over 350,000 women, and it stands as a beneficial change to the multitude of barriers that women currently experience while serving their country. It is a policy that will undoubtedly contribute to ending gender discrimination and violence against women.
-Sarah Brandt, JGRJ Student Writer 2009-10
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma state legislature passed a law which mandates publishing information about every abortion performed within the state on a public website. The law was intended to take effect on November 1, 2009. Under the law, a woman seeking to obtain an abortion in the state will have to reveal the following information: (1) date of the abortion; (2) county where abortion was performed; (3) age; (4) marital status; (5) race; (6) highest year of completed education; (7) state or foreign country of residence; and (8) total number of previous pregnancies including live births, miscarriages, and abortions. Doctors who fail to comply with reporting requirements face potential revocation of their medical license and criminal penalization. The law will cost almost $300,000 of taxpayer money to implement in the first year and an additional $250,000 for each subsequent year.
Opponents of the law argue that it is a blatant violation of women’s privacy rights. Though women are not required to reveal identifying information, such as their addresses or names, opponents of the law fear that the required information will be sufficient to reveal the identities of women seeking abortions in smaller communities. Keri Parks, Directors of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, stated, “They’re really just trying to frighten women out of having abortions.” Oklahoma resident Joyce Davis, who filed a lawsuit with Representative Wanda Jo Stapleton over the law, argued that the state should not be able to reveal such personal information about a woman in such a tragic predicament.
Dan Sullivan, the Oklahoma State Representative who wrote the law, stated that the data will help identify the demographic characteristics of the women in Oklahoma who are most at risk for unwanted pregnancies. Sullivan explained, “If there’s something that we can do to positively impact that segment of that population — and have a lowering effect on those rates — then we want to be able to look at what policy decisions we can make.” Because abortion services are available in only three of the seventy-seven counties in Oklahoma, Sullivan argues that it will not be possible to determine a woman’s identity from the solicited information.
Following weeks of heated debate, Twyla Mason Gray, an Oklahoma County District Court Judge, placed a temporary restraining order on the law this week. The temporary ban comes just a year after the Center for Reproductive Rights successfully challenged an Oklahoma law requiring women to view an ultrasound prior to undergoing an abortion. Because the ban of the current law just occurred, it is unclear when or if the current form of the law will ever take effect.
The irony of the law in its current form is that, in each instance for which the state intends to collect information, the abortion will have already taken place. Thus, prevention is no longer possible in each specific instance. Collecting this information after the fact to obtain general statistics about women obtaining abortions in Oklahoma is virtually useless, given that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already collects similar statistical information on a state by state basis. With these potential purposes eliminated, it seems the only other possible justifications for the law relate to making it more burdensome and stressful for women to obtain abortions in Oklahoma.
For more information, check out this article and this article about the law, and this article and this article about the law’s temporary restraint.