Issue Brief: This Month in Racial and Immigrant Justice

Racial Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Racial and Immigrant Justice.

Not1More Protests Continue
#Not1More non-violent protests have been happening all around the country for the past year, pushing President Obama and Congress to end all deportation of undocumented workers and to eliminate holds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The latest protest happened in Philadelphia this week, as protesters surrounded an ICE building, blocking deportation vehicles from exiting the building.

Conservative Student Group Faces Backlash over “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” Game
The University of Texas at Austin’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) gained national headlines after announcing plans to host a “catch an illegal immigrant” event on campus. Scheduled to take place on November 20th, the goal of the event was to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives,” by having students chase people on campus wearing  “Illegal Immigrant” pins for $25 dollar gift cards. The group was quickly denounced by both the student body and University officials, and the YCT was forced to cancel the event under increased pressure. The event was created by Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the UT Austin chapter of the YCT and former paid employee for the Gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Greg Abbott. In an official response, Abbott denounced the event, but not before throwing in a few jabs at the left, arguing that “conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, and the “failed policies of the Obama administration are not a joking matter.” This was not the first time that first time that Garcia and the YCT have caused controversy. Earlier this semester, the group held an anti-affirmative action bake sale that had different prices set according to race and ethnicity.

New Student Group at Tufts Rallies in Support of Immigrant Justice
While the Young Conservatives of Texas grabbed national headlines, a newly formed student group at Tufts University rallied in support of Immigrant Justice. On November 20th, the proposed date of the “catch an illegal immigrant” game, United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ) held a rally at the University’s Mayer Campus Center near Boston. The group was founded last year by two students after attending a national conference organized by the Massachusetts Student Immigration Movement. One of the co-founders, sophomore Elizabeth Palma, traveled to  D.C from November 19th to the 21st with over 200 college activists across the country to rally for immigration reform, and increase pressure on the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive reform bill. The group protested in front of the offices of numerous Conservative members of congress, and sang in front of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) office until his staff threatened to have them arrested for civil disobedience.

New Proposal Aims to Prevent Future Racial Profiling at Retail Outlets
On December 9th, a group of civil rights leaders and representatives from numerous high-end retail outlets formed a coalition to create a list of rules to prevent customers to being subject to “stop and frisk” laws at department stores in New York City. The coalition, which included Rev. Al Sharpton and executives from Barney’s, Macy’s, and other department stores, established a “customer bill of rights” for department stores after numerous cases over the past few months where Black shoppers were unfairly accused of theft and credit card fraud by undercover NYPD officers. In a statement following the announcement of the coalition’s proposal, Sharpton hailed what he called the “best practices” agreement as a step in the right direction, but noted that in order to have real progress, the coalition needs active participation from the NYPD.

The World Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela
On December 5th, the world lost one its most celebrated advocates of racial justice and human equality. Former South African President Nelson Mandela passed away at the age 95 after years of ill health. Mandela, the face of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, spent over 27 years in prison for his involvement in protesting against the oppressive regime. Mandela never let his incarceration deter him from being one of the most fierce and compassionate activists for equal rights, and even rejected three conditional offers to be released. Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, and four years later became the first democratically elected President of South Africa, as well as the first Black president. Mandela is considered by many to be one of the greatest champions of social justice and equality, and is an inspiration to many of us at PRA. In his article “Celebrating the Movement Mandela,” PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos noted how Mandela’s passing is an important moment for us to not only reflect on the impact of Mandela and the African freedom movement, but to reflect on “our own lives and social justice commitments.” He notes that while Mandela’s legacy is one of remarkable accomplishments, the dreams of equality remain unfulfilled. As the the world reflects on life and legacy Mandela left behind, we are reminded that the battles for equality are far from over. It is crucial that we learn from Mandela’s legacy as we continue to rally against the the continued assaults on racial justice in our own country.

Right Wing Responses to Mandela’s Passing Distort His Legacy
While political leaders, human rights activists, and advocates for equality across the world gave their final praises to Nelson Mandela, many on the Right responded with many hateful, distorted, and altogether inaccurate claims about Mandela and the movement to end Apartheid rule. Anti-choice activist Jill Stanek said that because of Mandela’s pro-choice views, she “cannot view Mandela as any other than a leader who engaged in mass genocide of his own innocent people.” American Family Radio Host Sandy Rios argued that Mandela deserved his 27 year jail sentence because he was a “criminal” and “criminals are placed in solitary confinement.” Others such as Rick Santorum attempted to the link the plight of Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement to domestic policy fights, with Santorum going as far as to equate apartheid with Obamacare. Tea Party Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) posted positive Mandela tributes on their Facebook pages, only to immediately be attacked by their Tea Party constituents for supporting a “known terrorist.” Lacking from the dialogue coming from the Right is any mention that many prominent American Conservatives lobbied against Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement, including President Reagan, who had Mandela’s African National Congress organization added to the Terrorist Watch List. In defense of Reagan, Newt Gingrich claimed that he “was no friend of the Apartheid,” (despite voting against ending Apartheid) and Mandela’s death is “just another excuse for the left to smear Reagan.”

Speaker Boehner Continues to Balk On Immigration Reform
On November 13th, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he would not allow any House-approved immigration legislation to be blended with the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, stating “we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill,” and that there is not enough time left in 2013 to debate and pass immigration reform. In response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that passing the Senate bill would be “easy,” noting that there are enough votes currently in place to pass the comprehensive immigration reform if Boehner would simply allow a vote on it. As more Americans begin to support immigration reforms, many moderate Republicans are worried of the political consequences if they are unable to pass a reform bill. Despite his vocal opposition for compromise, many prominent Democrats believe that Boehner will soon relent, including Vice President Joe Biden, who publicly called out the Speaker saying “It’s really pretty basic – pass the bill, John Boehner. Bring the bill up and let us pass it.”

Three San Jose Students Charged With Hate Crimes Against Black Suitemate
In mid-November, a student at San Jose State reported repeated instances of racial abuse by three of his eight campus suitemates. On November 22nd, the three students were suspended by the school after being charged with hate crimes and battery. If convicted, each student faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison. The Police investigation found that over the course of three months, the victim was continuously subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including being referred to as “three-fifths,” hanging a confederate flag near his door, and locking a “U” shaped bike lock on his neck and refusing to unlock it. In response to the charges, the Black Student Union at San Jose State held a campus rally demanding answers about the case, and calling for stiffer punishment against the accused perpetrators. As noted by Lecia Brooks at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the instance at San Jose State is only one of numerous recent cases of racist behavior on campus, including sorority girls dressing in “blackface” makeup, students dressing as Trayvon Martin for halloween, and a student at Towson University in Maryland that established a “White Student Union” on campus.

Report Shows Inequality in “Stand your ground” Laws When Affecting Black Males
While there are many examples of racial injustice in our criminal justice system, John Roman of the Urban Institute notes there is a striking gap disparity that has not been adequately researched until recently. In a November 27th report, Roman notes that the in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, new studies have uncovered that African Americans are far less likely to be found justified in a gun-related homicide than white Americans. The report, which uses data from Supplemental Homicide Reports submitted to the FBI between 2005-2010, shows that when a perpetrator is black and the victim is white, there is a less than 1 percent chance of the case being ruled justified, while if the perpetrator is white and the victim is black, over nine percent are ruled justified. In states that have Stand Your Ground laws, justification for White on Black killings goes up to over 17 percent, though the rate for Black perpetrators stays the same.

Following Re-election, Chris Christie Reverses Stance on Immigration Reform
During his most recent campaign for reelection, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claimed he would vote in favor of passing the Tuition Equality Act, New Jersey’s version of the Dream Act that recently passed through the State Senate. Under the new reforms, undocumented students that have attended a public high school for at least three years would qualify for in-state tuition rates at any New Jersey public college. Despite his earlier pledge of support, Christie announced on November 25th that while he is still in favor of extending in-state tuition rates for the children of immigrants, he would not sign the Senate’s version of the bill, claiming that the bill approved by the Senate was “overreaching” by asking for more funds than the federal version of the bill. In response to his announcement, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney accused Christie of “once again turning his back on those who need us most… When he was running for governor he supported it, now that he is running for President he does not.” MSNBC columnist Steve Benen noted how Christie appears to be cross-pressured in trying to appeal to Latino and moderate voters within his state, while still keeping favor with the national Conservative base, which have become increasingly polarized on immigration issues.

Right Wing Fringe Groups Claim Illegal Immigration Will Cause Millions of “Anti-American Muslims” to Enter America
On November 11th, Right-Wing conspiracy theorist Gabor Zolna posted a video on YouTube claiming that Obama is using immigration reform to bring in 150 million Muslims to the U.S as part of a plot to impose Sharia law on Americans. Despite no evidence for his claim, the article was quickly picked up by other Right-Wing commentators. Brandon Walker of The Free Patriot claimed in a November 13th article that if the U.S passes an immigration reform bill, it will be “a back door calling for 150 million Muslims to be brought to the U.S. by 2018.” When Sandy Rios was asked what she thought of the claim, she said that it not only made sense, but questioned whether the entire immigration reform campaign is a just a “Muslim plot.” She then pointed to a Muslim organizer of DREAM Act activists as “proof,” saying “there’s no question that bad character Muslims, the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are going to use the whole amnesty problem that we have to bring in tons of illegal immigrant Muslims who don’t wish us any kind of good.”

From the Archives: Righting Crime, Conservative Criminal Justice as Common Sense

Nine years ago, PRA published an article written by our founder Jean Hardisty, examining the conservative model of punishment that has dominated the criminal justice system. It examines both the philosophical debate about the nature of justice, and the scapegoating of minorities this conservative model has contributed to.

Since that article was published, the ‘on the ground’ reality in prisons has grown worse. The incarceration rate has increasingly dwarfed all other countries, ensuring that the prisons have become more crowded. A number of states, most notably California, have been struggling with both the logistical and budgetary challenges of full prisons. If the rate of incarceration is going to be slowed down, it will take serious sentencing reform. Unfortunately, ‘tough on crime’ promises still bring in the votes, and even if sentencing issues are addressed, we must question the role of the criminal justice system, and question its underlying motives and biases.

Contributing to the pressure of an overcrowded prison system, increased private sector involvement in the prison system has created perverse incentives and in some cases led to inhumane conditions. The Right-Wing has pushed for prison privatization, and in turn, private prison corporations have grown increasingly powerful. These corporations, unlike state governments, only stand to gain from harsher prison sentencing. In addition, as many have observed, one of the few mechanisms through which these corporations can reduce costs is through “employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly.” There is also some evidence showing “a heightened level of violence against prisoners in private institutions,” possibly due to fewer, lower paid, and less experienced staff. The ACLU also filed a lawsuit against a private Mississippi correctional facility, documenting appalling conditions and mistreatment of inmates, including regular fires in solitary confinement, sometimes lit by inmates to get the attention of guards, failing to intervene in and possibly encouraging fights, and in one case, finding an inmate dead after spraying excessive amounts of mace into his cell. While neglect of this nature certainly exists in the state run prison system as well, the incentives of private prison corporations only exacerbate the situation.

In order to tackle our soaring level of incarceration, we need to question what we expect of our correctional facilities. The answer is in the name. We need to push back against the tough on crime message, and increasingly lengthy sentences, and make our prisons ‘correctional.’ Prison overcrowding has become enough of a problem that sentences are being reduced as is, but that change is merely a stop-gap, without comprehensive policy ensuring inmates can integrate back into society, and make re-offending an unappealing option. In doing so, not only do shorter sentences work well, but have the potential to cut crime in the long term.

While recidivism rates are not necessarily directly comparable, in Sweden, where they have just closed four prisons due to a massive drop in prison admissions, their recidivism rate is by any measure lower than that of the US. To prevent recidivism, part of the solution has to be ensuring that ex-prisoners are employed, or at the very least employable, and focusing on eliminating the need for former convicts to resort to crime to make a living.

Simmering under the huge incarceration rate is the massive ethnic disparity in sentencing. According to one study, one in three African American men will go to prison at some point in their lives, and they receive sentences nearly 20 percent longer than white men, for similar crimes. As Hardisty’s article states, it is impossible to “not conclude that these policies, and those who defend them, are racially motivated.” Furthermore, this glaring inequality filters back into society, with ex-felons finding employment out of reach. In some states, the disenfranchisement of ex-felons can even determine electoral outcomes, as might have been the case in the recent elections in Virginia.

Underlying possible changes to the role of the criminal justice system, is the need to make reforms that tackle crime in the long term, through, as Hardisty puts it, “the creation of jobs, housing, economic opportunity, and universal health care that includes treatment for addictions.”

Political advantages of longer prison sentences aside, the continuously increasing incarceration rates are imposing enormous monetary costs on individual states. In many states, funding the prison system is becoming a substantial burden in its own right. Perhaps we can take this opportunity to reform the criminal justice system, and possibly go further to redirect “attention to the root causes of crime, such as poverty, abuse, addiction, and lack of opportunity, and by challenging the demonization and scapegoating of ‘criminals.’”

Issue Brief: This Month in Reproductive Justice

reproductive health SLIDE

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Reproductive Justice.

One Court Strikes Down Texas Anti-Abortion Restrictions, Another Reinstates
On Monday, a federal district court struck down a provision of the recent restrictions on Abortion rights Texas had set to go into effect on October 29th. The restrictions, signed into law on July 18th by Governor Rick Perry, required physicians that provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The proposed restrictions caused an instant political and media backlash, most notably when State Senator Wendy Davis held an 11-hour filibuster to block the vote on the measures. Although state legislators claimed the provisions were meant to protect the health of women, they were widely condemned as an attempt to deny abortion coverage to over a third of all women in Texas. Over 80 percent of the Texas population opposed the restrictions, and medical experts across the country claimed it would provide no medical benefits, and would in fact “jeopardize women’s health and safety.” In the ruling, the judge noted that the law had “no rational relationship to improved patient care.” While the ruling was a victory for reproductive rights, the ACLU reported that ‘less than an hour after the decision, the state of Texas had already filed its appeal” against the federal ruling. On Wednesday, a panel of three judges (all George W. Bush appointees) granted Texas’ request for a stay on the lower courts ruling, effectively placing the restrictions back into place for now.

Outrage Erupts in England Over Gender-Based Abortions
Christian groups across England are planning lawsuits against two doctors who arranged for the abortion of female fetuses for parents who had wanted boys. Over the past year, the Daily Telegraph began an undercover investigation of abortion clinics, secretly filming doctors that “agreed to terminate fetuses for sex selection purposes.” The investigation caused a media uproar across the country and a subsequent investigation by the British Government. On October 7th, the Government announced it would not charge the doctors, claiming the Abortion Act of 1967 “does not expressly prohibit gender specific abortions.”, and held a debate in parliament over the issue two days later. Numerous anti-choice groups have begun preparing lawsuits against the doctor

In El Salvador, A Miscarriage Can Lead to Jail Time
El Salvador is currently one of five countries to have a total ban on abortion, and outlaws abortions even in cases of rape or when a mother’s health is at risk. The controversial ban sparked worldwide attention this summer when government officials refused to let a dying woman have an abortion, even after it was determined that the baby had no chance of survival. A report by BBC News this past Thursday found from 2000 to 2011, over 200 women have been accused of using a miscarriage as cover up for a suspected abortion. 49 of these women were convicted of murder, with prison sentences ranging from 12 to 35 years. The report also underlines that all the accused women came from the public health sector, and were “overwhelmingly poor, unmarried and poorly educated.” Not a single case started from the private health sector, where it is estimated that thousands of abortion procedures take place annually. Defense Attorney Dennis Munoz Estanle, who represented 29 of the convicted women in court, says these women were used by a criminal justice system “that needs women to make examples of.”

New Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Push Legal Boundaries, Closes Clinics
Since the appointing of Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis to the state medical board in 2011, Ohio has passed extensive restrictions on abortion clinic procedures.  Under one of the new restrictions, public hospitals are barred from making transfer agreements with clinics, resulting in clinics across the state being unable to find a willing private hospital to sned patients to in the case of an emergency. In the past month, two more clinics have closed while another clinic appeals a state order to close, bringing the overall total to five clinics closed in 2013, leaving only nine remaining in Ohio. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a challenge to these new restrictions in state court, arguing that they violated the “single subject” rule in the Ohio Constitution since the restrictions were passed through an unrelated budget bill. Pro-Choice advocates say these restrictions as tip-toeing federal law by both limiting access to abortions, and shaming the women who enter clinics through questionable methods. Starting this month, abortion clinics in Ohio are required to ask all patients if they would like to see an ultrasound of the fetus and feel its heartbeats.

Documentary Highlights Risks For Physicians Who Perform Late-Term Abortions
Earlier this month, the documentary After Tiller was released, which profiles the four doctors remaining in the U.S who “still openly offer the controversial third-trimester procedures,” following the murder of Dr. GeorgeTiller in 2009. Third-trimester abortions are a highly controversial procedure, opposed by many on both sides of the abortion debate, who view them as being too close to childbirth. Tiller, who performed third-trimester abortions through his clinic in Kansas, was shot to death during a service at his local church by an anti-choice radical. Instead of focusing on the political debate surrounding abortion, the documentary highlights the every day risks these doctors face and the emotional toll inflicted on both them and their patients. To little surprise, the ProLife Action Leaguestill found a way to be offended by the politically neutral film, claiming it was filled with “contradictions and moral blindness.”

Annual “1 in 3” Aims to Directly Confront the Stigma of Abortion
October 22nd marked the beginning of the 1 in 3 Campaign Week of Action, a grassroots campaign put together by the Advocates for Youth organization. The campaign aims to show the American public that abortion is more mainstream than people realize, while confronting the negative stigma associated with abortion that “continues to impact women’s experiences with their reproductive health.”The campaign takes its name from recent studies that show about 1 out of 3 mothers will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Despite being a common health care procedure, many of these women are fearful to openly talk about their experience. The organization believes the fear to speak out is directly associated with the increased attacks on women’s reproductive rights. The campaign centers around the stories of many women who have bravely shared their testimonies in a new book published by the organization to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe V. Wade, which made the right to have an abortion legal across the country.

House Republicans Attempt to add “Conscience Clause” to Obamacare
In a last second move, the GOP-controlled congress attempted to add a provision to the Affordable Care Act during their most recent attempt to defund the law. Under the new ACA guidelines, companies with over 50 workers are required to provide insurance plans which cover contraception coverage. Though religious organizations are exempt from this requirement, it was not enough to satisfy House Republicans. Just days before the federal government shut down, conservatives added a “conscience clause” to their funding bill. The move was seen by many as as a symbolic attempt to add their social views into the battle over Obamacare, despite having little relevance to the overall debate and no chance of being passed.

Nebraska Court Rules Teenage Girl “Too Immature” to Have An Abortion
On October 4th, the Nebraska Supreme Court denied a 16-year-old girl’s request for an abortion, claiming she lacked the maturity to make the decision by herself. State law requires pregnant women under 18 to obtain written consent from a parent or guardian before they can have an abortion. The young woman in this case, who became pregnant in May, was placed in foster care months earlier after the parental rights of her biological parents were terminated on the grounds of abuse. Upon becoming pregnant, the woman requested a consent waiver from the state, fearing her foster parents would refuse due to their religious beliefs. The court ruled she was not mature enough to make the decision on her own since she was dependent on foster parents, despite not being her legal guardians. Attorney Catherine Mahern, who represented the young girl, noted this story is only one example in an alarming trend. “The real story here is how many girls in foster care are getting pregnant,” she said. “It’s shameful.” According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011, 33 percent of women in foster care become pregnant before the age of 18, over double the national average at 14 percent.

Lawsuit Challenges Fetal Protection Laws In Wisconsin
This past July, a pregnant woman was arrested in Wisconsin after informing her doctor of a previous drug addiction, on the grounds of “endangerment to her unborn child.” Under a 1998 state law known as the “cocaine mom” act, welfare authorities can confine a pregnant woman who uses drugs and alcohol to “a severe degree and refuses treatment.” Despite years of sobriety, which was validated by a urine test, the doctor and a local social worker informed the police of the woman’s prior drug problems. Upon being arrested, she was brought to the county commissioner, who disregarded her plea for a lawyer, though “the court had already appointed a legal guardian for the fetus.” She was ordered to attend a drug treatment center for 78 days. In response to the ruling, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women filed a federal suit against the state on October 2nd, arguing the law is unconstitutional. In their official statement, the group argues that the law “deprives women of physical liberty, medical privacy, due process and other constitutional rights,” and creates a nature of fear around pregnant women seeking care. The suit also notes hundreds of similar cases, in which “low-income and minority women affected disproportionately.” Wisconsin is currently one of four states with similar fetal protection laws.

Local GOP Party Backtracks After Comparing Abortion to Slavery
On the morning of October 30th, the Republican Party of Chisago County, Minnesota posted a meme depicting a slave auction with the caption “Pro-Choice. Against Slavery? Then dont buy one.” The picture caused an instant media backlash and the group deleted the meme the same afternoon. In a statement responding to the controversy, the Party refused to name who created the picture, but noted they were “very sorry that something so clearly improper (either intended or in poor taste) ever made it to our page”, and that the Republican party “believes in Freedom for all Americans regardless of race or religion. It is after all where the Republican Party came from in its origins, the anti-slavery movement.” But not everyone was offended by the piece though. Minnesota Republican Party Secretary Chris Fields, who is African-American, told the local StarTribune that he saw “absolutely nothing offensive about that (Facebook) post.”

 

 

 

ISSUE BRIEF: Racial and Immigrant Justice

Racial Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Race and Immigrant Justice.

California’s New Law Prohibits Deportation for Minor Crimes
Undocumented immigrants in California can breathe easier now that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a group of bills pertaining to immigration rights. The Trust Act, known officially as California Assembly Bill 4, establishes that local law enforcement officers cannot detain undocumented immigrants for deportation if they have committed a minor and nonviolent crime. In addition, the bills also include allowing undocumented peoples to apply for professional licenses, as well as fining employers who threaten their employees with deportation. This comes with the hope of giving approximately 11 million people the opportunity to “come out of the shadows,” so they can “live without fear of deportation.”
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/10/07/230183623/undocumented-immigrants-in-calif-will-benefit-from-new-laws

1/3 of Asian Americans Face Voting Booth Problems.
Roughly one third of Asian Americans in the United States face issues at polling booths because of their limited knowledge of the English language. As there is no official language in the U.S., these citizens are provided assistance as outlined by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which “requires local jurisdictions to provide language assistance when the language minority population reaches a certain size and its English ability and literacy rate is low.” According to the national affiliation Asian Americans Advancing Justice, however, many districts across the country are not meeting standards. Despite these failures, AAJC has composed a list of the best practices implemented at successful jurisdictions, in hopes of encouraging officials to reexamine Section 203 to ensure that these voters receive the aid guaranteed to them by law.
http://newamericamedia.org/2013/09/asian-american-voter-bloc-grows-but-unique-challenges-persist.php

Black Pennsylvania State College Sues for ‘Illegal Racial System”
While thirteen of fourteen Philadelphia state colleges are sharing a $100 million budget surplus, the fourteenth school, Cheyney University, unlike its predominately White colleagues, is suffering a $14 million deficit. Cheyney, one of the oldest historically Black colleges in the United States, and its students, faculty, and supporters are not accepting this racial injustice. A coalition for Cheney University is currently seeking the revival of a civil rights lawsuit filed in 1980, which stated, according to the plaintiffs then and today, that Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth maintained “an illegal and racial ‘dual system’ of higher education.” Cheyney’s coalition hopes to receive more funding for their school through this lawsuit.
http://www.workers.org/articles/2013/10/04/black-school-revives-civil-rights-lawsuit/

Report Details Top Groups Promoting Islamophobia
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group, has listed 37 individuals and institutions they found to be “at the center of promoting Islamophobia in America.” This information, offered in their report, titled “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States,” also named organizations battling Islamophobia. CAIR reported that these Islamophobic nonprofit organizations have grossed more than 119 million dollars in order to tarnish the religion of Islam as a whole. With CAIR’s list, more attention can be brought to these anti-Muslim groups so that action can be taken to stop them.
http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-19/national/42211614_1_islamophobia-american-muslims-nihad-awad

Native American Veterans File Federal Lawsuit for Better Voting Access
To participate in elections and exercise his constitutional rights, U.S. veteran Mark Wandering Medicine must travel a total of 157 miles. A member of the Northern Cheyenne nation in Montana, Wandering Medicine and his community have struggled to cast votes in the past because of the lengthy journey from their reservation to the nearest county seat. With no public transportation, and due to the economic injustices on American Indian reservations, it’s nearly impossible for some to even reach a voting booth. Rather than allowing this inequity to persist, Wandering Medicine and other veterans are filing a federal lawsuit. Filed on behalf of the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, and Assiniboine nations, they aim to receive the same treatment White voters have when it comes to voting ease.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/07/montana-north-cheyenne-reservation-voting-rights

Jan Brewer Bans Drivers Licenses for Deferred-Action Recipients in AZ
In mid-September, as a response to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—which temporarily suspends the deportation of an undocumented immigrant who meets its criteria, allowing them to work in the U.S.—Governor Jan Brewer pushed to expand Arizona’s ban on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The new policy now encompasses all deferred-action recipients, not just the DREAMers. Brewer claims, that “only Congress has the authority to grant non-citizens legal presence, which is required under state law to obtain a driver’s license or state ID.” This measure will be especially harmful to recently abused immigrants who are granted deferred action, because they won’t be able to receive a driver’s license to work.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/23/arizona-immigrant-drivers-license-ban/2854965/

Native Americans Hit Hard by Government Shutdown
The Native American community was one of the hardest-hit communities during the government shutdown. Because so many Native American programs depend on federal funds—from nutrition programs to financial assistance for low-income groups—this shutdown has stripped away assistance to over 75,000 people in approximately 276 nations.
http://www.abqjournal.com/274035/news/nm-news/federal-government-shutdown-hits-indian-tribes-hard.html

Judge Dismisses ACLU Lawsuit Against Racist Anti-Abortion Law in AZ
A federal district court in Arizona dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Arizona on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. The suit was challenging Arizona’s anti-abortion law that the groups alleged relies on harmful racial stereotypes to shame and discriminate against women of color who decide to end their pregnancies.

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/05/29/aclu-challenges-arizonas-race-and-sex-selection-abortion-ban/
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/10/07/federal-court-dismisses-challenge-to-arizonas-race-and-sex-selection-abortion-ban/

Report Reveals Racial Prejudice in L.A. Canine Police Unit
According to a new report on the Los Angeles Sheriff Department Canine Special Detail, in the first six months of 2013, 100 percent of the LASD dog bite victims were Black or Latino. Urban areas of Los Angeles, where a majority of the residents are people of color, have experienced more dog bites than 21 other areas with higher White populations combined. The LASD has also been singled out by the Department of Justice for their stop and seize tactics, which target mostly Black and Latino people.
http://thinkprogress.org/immigration/2013/10/10/2760181/lasd-canine-use-minorities-2013/

Video Reveals Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s Anti-Asian Skits
White evangelicals at a conference hosted by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California are under scrutiny after a video of the event was posted publicly, revealing White pastors engaging in a skit rife with racist Asian stereotypes. In a “parody” of the 
Karate Kid, a White pastor “joked” about “making his church-planting apprentice do menial activities, such as getting him coffee, giving him massages and holding his towel.” The pastor and apprentice then engaged in speaking with fake Chinese accents, as stereotypic Asian music played in the background, and performing a karate segment where they bow to one another. This follows Rick Warren himself posting a Facebook photo of the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution with the caption: “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” Warren later offered a weak apology, stating that he apologized if people were offended by his insensitivity. No comments have been made by the Saddleback staff regarding the skit at their conference.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/asian-americans-troubled-by-stereotypes-from-white-evangelicals/2013/10/11/6689c33e-32ab-11e3-ad00-ec4c6b31cbed_story.html

 

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month in Reproductive Health

reproductive health

Every week, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue! This week, we’re recapping the last month in Reproductive Health.

ANTI-CHOICE GROUPS:

Koch Brothers Donate $8.2 million to Anti-Choice Groups
The Koch brothers, not particularly well known for their support of social issues, are in the spotlight again. A recent report published by Politco revealed that the “Koch’s secret bank” donated $8.2 million to the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC), the legislation and advocacy arm of anti-choice CWA. CWALAC has already lobbied for the bills that effectively banned all abortion 20 weeks after fertilization in Texas, and now with this donation, one can only assume what moves will be made next following the financial boost.
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/09/12/kochs-give-millions-to-anti-choice-efforts-in-the-states/

Conservatives Use Abortions in India to Propose American Anti-Choice Bills
Conservative politicians sink to a new low by exploiting India’s “missing girls” for their own anti-choice propaganda. Arizona Congressman Trent Franks (R) and New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith (R) have discussed the sex-selection abortions occurring in various states of India where some potential Indian girls are aborted, resulting (in Haryana) a ratio of 832 girls for every 1,000 boys. Instead of discussing the sexist injustices that have caused alarm for human rights advocates, these politicians are co-opting it as a basis to ban all abortions. Human rights advocate, Mallika Dutt, noted that, “Claiming to ‘protect’ women’s rights by denying women rights makes absolutely no sense.”
http://www.salon.com/2013/09/16/congressional_republicans_try_to_exploit_indias_missing_girls_for_anti_choice_propaganda/singleton/

Oklahoma Abortion Case Moves to SCOTUS
Despite multiple court successes by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice to block a 2011 law that restricted the way doctors could administer abortion-inducing medication, the state of Oklahoma continues to appeal their lawsuits. Two victories issued by the state judge and Oklahoma Supreme Court has not stopped the state from appealing the case of Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court for more clarification on the law. Depending on whether the Supreme Court allows the lower courts’ decision to stand or whether they’ll look into it themselves can determine how significantly reproductive rights will progress.
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/09/11/2606261/supreme-court-abortion-explainer/

Mississippi Anti-Choice Groups Make Unfounded Complaints About State’s Last Abortion Clinic
Anti-choice groups, including Leaders of Pro-Life Mississippi, Physicians for Life Mississippi, Mississippi Right To Life, and Pro-Life Action Network have filed a complaint with the health department of Mississippi, claiming the Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the only abortion provider left in the state—has been failing to accurately report its data. Despite having no independent evidence to prove the clinic is lying about its statistics, these anti-choice organizations continue to push state health officials into looking at JWHO and its compliance with the law.
http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308310040

NY Times Publishes Report Validating “Pseudoscience” Anti-Choice Propaganda
The New York Times recently published an article entitled “Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain,” which essentially promoted bad science as good. Writer Pam Belluck offered multiple opinions in the debate over so-called “fetal pain,” but presented them as equally valid. One of these opinions came from a policy director at a national anti-choice group. The notion of “fetal pain” has already been dismissed as pseudoscience by Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but the newspaper still printed this study as an objective look into the subject matter. Rather than discussing scientific evidence, or simply not presenting the story at all, the New York Times legitimized a falsity being pushed by anti-choice propaganda.
http://www.salon.com/2013/09/17/new_york_times_legitimizes_anti_choice_propaganda/

PRO-CHOICE GROUPS:

Men-For-Choice Group Holds Fundraiser in D.C.
NARAL Pro-Choice America held its ever first annual “Men for Choice (And the Women Who Love Them)” fundraising event September 18 in Washington D.C. While reproductive rights are always and foremost an issue related to people who can bear children (in this case generalized as women, but can include trans* men and non-binary people), NARAL decided to rally the people who cannot (in this case, generalized as men), but who support reproductive rights by honoring them at the event. NARAL is calling its function a success, with pro-choice men, including notable figures such as Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s son Nathan Daschle attending in support of a woman’s/person’s right to choose what to do with their bodies.
http://www.blogforchoice.com/archives/2013/09/look-what-happe.html

Pro-Choice Group Rallies Against New Mexico Anti-Choice Bill
Once again, another bill proposal is undergoing the process of hindering a person’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the city council voted to put a bill on their November ballot that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The Albuquerque chapter of WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) is fighting back, issuing a call-to-action to intervene on the proposal. With support from members of the community as well as local and national women’s groups, including NOW (National Organization for Women); Respect ABQ Women; NM Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Young Women United; and Personhood for Women, WORD will be busy working to oppose any ballot measure that would strip away the reproductive rights of the citizens in Albuquerque.
http://www.answercoalition.org/national/news/Women-and-allies-pack-the-Albuquerque-City-Council-to-defend-reproductive-rights.html
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/17/us-usa-abortion-newmexico-idUSBRE98G12U20130917

California Passes New Law Expanding Access to Abortion
California is likely to soon put a new law into place promoting reproductive rights and ensuring their proper place in the Golden State. As of this writing, the state is simply awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature to enact the law, which will expand the number of medical professionals who can legally perform abortions. This broader access will allow nurse practitioners and trained physician assistants to perform abortions, giving women the ability to have early abortions and avoiding delayed procedures in the case of locating the nearest doctor possible. In addition, California legislators are working to ensure abortion clinics are not held to the impossible standards which have closed many clinics across the United States.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-27/california-senate-bill-allows-nurses-to-perform-abortions.html

Rutgers Holding 40th-Anniversay-of-Roe Conference
On October 11, the Center for Reproductive Rights will co-sponsor “Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World” at Rutgers School of Law for the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Speakers at the event are expected to not only focus on constitutional rights, but the broader themes of reproductive justice and reproductive oppression. The scheduled topics will range from abortion regulation to justice in child birth, with Byllye Avery, founder of Black Women’s Health, to present the keynote speech.
http://reproductiverights.org/en/feature/beyond-roe-reproductive-justice-in-a-changing-world-rutgers

Women of Color Call for Repeal of the Hyde Amendment
On the 37th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, women of color gathered together to call for legislators to repeal the law banning federal Medicaid coverage for abortions. Jessica González-Rojas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Eleanor Hinton Hoytt of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Miriam Yeung of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum wrote an article for RH Reality Check discussing the struggles women of color have had dealing with the limits on reproductive rights, saying that the Hyde Amendment “violates principles of racial and economic justice.” On its 37th anniversary, these leaders and organizations, along with their supporters, pushed to spread information about this injustice, creating the “All Above All: United to Restore and Sustain Abortion Coverage for Low-Income Women” campaign.
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/09/30/for-37-years-reproductive-rights-have-been-unaffordable-for-women-of-color/
http://www.thenation.com/blog/176411/spread-word-hyde-amendment-must-be-repealed#

Next Friday: This month in LGBTQ