Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sickened and Still Waiting for Justice: 9/11 First Responders and Cold War Nuclear Weapons Workers Battle for Fair Compensation

By: Antoinette Bonsignore: January 25, 2012: Truthout

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (Zadroga Act) and the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (EEOICPA) represent two federal reparatory and remedial compensation programs designed to compensate sickened populations unwittingly exposed to toxins while serving the nation.  Both programs are, in part, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  As a long time advocate for sickened cold war era nuclear weapons workers battling the complexities of the EEOICPA, I have come to realize that the burdensome evidentiary hurdles they have faced over the past ten years will similarly burden 9/11 first responders and survivors in their fight to have cancer compensated under the Zadroga Act.  If the Zadroga Act becomes bogged down in the search for scientific certainty regarding which 9/11 heroes will be compensated and cared for, we will not only fail to honor these heroes but NIOSH will be repeating the same mistakes that sickened nuclear weapons workers have endured for far too long under the EEOICPA. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reproductive Rights and the Deafening Silence from the “Mainstream Media"

Echo Zen, the Co-President of Voices for Planned Parenthood, posted an enlightening article today on the fantastic global feminist blog Gender Across Borders – here’s the link:

And here’s my response:
The last example I can recall of someone on TV supporting abortion rights in an unapologetic, unabashed, and hilarious manner is Elaine Benes from a 1992 Seinfeld episode.  She explains how she refuses to patronize any business that supports domestic terrorist groups like Operation Rescue (a clear reference to Domino's pizza at the time); and then hilarity ensues in a restaurant and when she is forced to break up with a cute guy.  I honestly do not recall any other instances on TV quite like that one in 1992 and that does indeed make me sad.  In terms of consistent media coverage - Rachel Maddow does a great and consistent job of covering the topic but again she is one of too few women represented in the media that reach any sizable audience.  Reproductive rights organizers should seize the opportunity presented by the blatant attacks on contraception as the seminal moment to advance a much needed media agenda within the "mainstream media" so that we can kick open those doors for a genuine and truthful discussion, shining a light on the full on assault against reproductive rights for all women.    Perhaps so-called pro-choice politicians will then be forced to take a real and honest stand and demonstrate some semblance of a backbone. We should be taking an instructive cue from LGBT organizers in that regard as well.  Thanks so much for the enlightening article and this call for action!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Abortion Battle Casualties: Bargaining Away Health Care for America’s Most Vulnerable Women

The Indianapolis Star reported on Monday that Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) is being forced to cut off all services to Medicaid patients, lay off staff, and furlough workers as they shut down all clinics in the state one day a week to save money.  Public donations that had sustained PPIN since May 10th, when the defunding law went into effect, have now run out.  The Indianapolis Star article noted the all too familiar response from anti-abortion activists, “…Planned Parenthood has ‘made it clear what their priority is…They wouldn't stop providing abortions even in the interim to keep the women's health services…”  We have heard this refrain time and again from anti-choice politicians and anti-abortion activists – if Planned Parenthood really cared about poor women’s health care services they would just stop performing abortions – then all of their problems would magically disappear. 

Of course, for Planned Parenthood this is not an option; to stop performing abortions would not only cede the argument that abortion is not health care and endanger women’s health and lives, but it would also not stop the war on women or the war on reproductive rights.  One only needs to see the writing on the wall with the increasing “personhood” movement that is moving through Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia.  This legislation, which would provide personhood rights to fertilized eggs, would not only outlaw abortions but also potentially ban contraception by defining life “…from the moment of fertilization and implantation into the womb.”  Anti-choice politicians and anti-abortion activists are not only seeking to outlaw abortion but they also want to outlaw contraception.  And shutting down Planned Parenthood eliminates one of the most critical ways low-income women access contraceptive services. 

NPR recently explained that while “[l]ast year's GOP takeover of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country has dramatically changed the shape of the nation's abortion debate.  It has also given a boost to an even more far-reaching effort: the push to legally redefine when life itself begins.”  This personhood redefinition movement “…could threaten the use of a long list of commonly used contraceptives…” 

Last week at Netroots Nation conference, RH Reality Check’s Amanda Marcotte detailed her participation on a panel discussing the war on contraception.  The panel discussed “…the escalating attacks on contraception access from the religious right.”  Marcotte noted that while the war on contraception “…can also be viewed as an opportunity…[to] highlight the distance between anti-choice claims to be ‘pro-life’ and their actual demands, which are focused on sex and gender,”  she remains concerned that “…the response to the anti-choice movement’s bolder attacks on contraception will not be to use this to highlight the anti-sex, anti-woman ideology underlying the opposition to abortion but instead, pro-choicers will simply de-prioritize defending abortion rights in order to protect contraception.” 

Trying to compromise with anti-choice forces that believe contraceptive access actually increases the incidence of abortion; that believe using birth control puts women’s health at risk; and that believe Planned Parenthood is a front for prostitution, the sex trafficking of young girls, and exploits the Hyde Amendment’s rape and incest exceptions to provide abortions to teenage girls regardless of their age, seems increasingly futile.  These anti-choice extremists will never be convinced that “[i]n 2006, publicly funded family planning services helped women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 860,000 unintended births and 810,000 abortions.” 

Friday, June 17, 2011

TRAP Laws and the War on Women: Condoning Women’s Bodies as Collateral Damage

An increasing number of states are finding a newly emboldened and insidious way to further constrain abortion access specifically directed at abortion providers and clinics throughout the country – via regulatory fiat.  The “targeted regulation of abortion providers” or TRAP laws are being enacted to impose renewed burdensome and costly regulatory requirements on abortion providers across the country.  The Center for Reproductive Rights explains that TRAP laws “…single out the medical practices of doctors who provide abortions, and impose on them requirements that are different and more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices.”  TRAP laws generally cover “…health facility licensing schemes, ambulatory surgical center requirements, and hospitalization requirements.” 

According to the Guttmacher Institute twenty states have introduced TRAP laws this year alone, with Arkansas, Utah, Virginia, and Kansas actually enacting such laws this year.  And now Pennsylvania is on the verge of becoming the next state to enact TRAP laws that will increase abortion costs for poor women and force financially constrained clinics to close their doors.  South Carolina enacted some of the most seminal TRAP laws regulating clinics back in 1996.  TRAP laws and the subsequent regulations focused on abortion providers are designed specifically to shut down clinics and make abortions increasingly unaffordable under the guise of safeguarding women’s health and safety from unscrupulous providers. 

Last week, the Washington Post reported that anti-abortion activists are now lobbying Virginia’s State Board of Health to model their regulations after South Carolina’s abortion clinic regulations.  South Carolina’s regulations were enacted in 1996 and faced a federal court challenge from “[t]wo abortion clinics and an abortion provider…claiming they placed an undue burden on women’s decisions to seek abortions and were unfair because they singled out abortion providers over other medical professionals.”  Ultimately, the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals found the regulations to be constitutional.  The Court ruled that the regulations served a “…valid state interest…[did]…not strike at the abortion right itself and required only modest increases in the cost of abortions.” 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Abortion, Rape, and the Shameful Legacy of the Hyde Amendment

Abortion access is the only fundamental constitutional right that is constrained by how much money a woman has and how far away she lives from an abortion provider.  The result -- poor women bear the greatest burden of this legal discrimination; with the discriminatory effect felt most acutely by women of color and in immigrant communities.  And while the impact of the Hyde Amendment continues to grow, there seems to be next to no political will to do anything about it.  Moreover, as a result of the political legitimization of the Hyde Amendment we are now seeing the continuing erosion of the fundamental need to provide abortion services for rape victims, regardless of their economic status. 

Meanwhile, the continuing national fight over Planned Parenthood defunding efforts in the states like Indiana, Kansas, Texas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Minnesota, Utah, and Wisconsin has forced the Obama administration to draw a line in the sand.  State efforts to defund and disqualify Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program are illegal.  Federal Medicaid law prohibits any states from limiting a Medicaid beneficiary’s family planning choices based solely on the fact that the provider in question also happens to provide abortion services.  This is settled law.  Similarly, efforts to limit federal funding for abortions under the Hyde Amendment for rape and incest victims also violate federal Medicaid law.  However, two states are now attempting to do just that, following in the footsteps of a third state that has been violating federal Medicaid law since 1994. 

Iowa and Louisiana are attempting to limit federal funding for abortions under the Hyde Amendment solely for cases of life endangerment.  South Dakota has been limiting federal funding for abortions under the Hyde Amendment solely for cases of life endangerment ever since the Clinton administration expanded the Hyde Amendment to include pregnancy resulting from rape or incest in 1994.  South Dakota has never faced any sanctions from the federal government for this blatant violation of federal Medicaid law.