Who are essential workers in the pandemic? Grocery store clerks, teachers, nurses, women.

While the President lies, downplays, and now considers easing up on the social distancing rule despite public health officials’ warnings, we are in the midst of a pandemic. 

People who are non-essential workers are being told to stay home, to telecommute and teleconference. To work from their personal laptops and flatten the curve.  

We’re hearing this everywhere. Non-essential, non-essential. But who are the essential? Who are the critical workers that are leaving their homes and risking infection, whether they want to or not, because they provide a public good? 

They’re teachers, nurses, EMTs, grocery store clerks. In short, they’re women.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve learned several valuable lessons (well, not really. I knew them already, but I really hope this experience radicalizes those who did not). And that is who should be considered valuable and essential workers in times of crisis. What I mean is this:

Grocery store workers/truck drivers/warehouse workers deserve a Congressperson’s salary, with health insurance and benefits and a pension plan that rivals how much Paul Ryan makes after he retired from the House. Those workers have spent two to three weeks stocking shelves, taking care of people despite the risk of infection, and have been donating to food banks so that local people can have food. We’ve been doing more than any person in Congress is doing right now.

Teachers need a Presidential Salary. I don’t know, is it $275,000? or over $400,000? Either way, teachers and schools provide more services than the government does for the impoverished in their area! Children are fed, given emotional care, taught and, in the case of NYC, provide literally a place for homeless children to stay!

And hospital workers? Nurses? EMTs? Forget about it. CEO salary. And I’m not talking small to mid-size business here. I’m talking about Bob Iger’s compensation before he ducked out of the Walt Disney Company. You are keeping people alive, despite the fact there might not be enough beds, or ventilators, or even face masks! While other jobs are able to work from home, to stop the spread of the disease, you are working under extreme conditions to make sure people get to go home, alive and healthy, to their families.

Those are the people who are essential. When this is over, when this crisis is averted (and even now), maybe it’s time to start demanding we be treated as essential workers.

(Photo Credit: John Autey / Pioneer Press) (Image Credit: Bored Teachers)

How many children die as a result of a parent, and especially a mother, being incarcerated?

Last week former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg made claims as part of his 2020 presidential campaign to tackle racial bias in the criminal justice system and lower the prison population. In his plan, released on February 18th, Bloomberg promised to “end the era of mass incarceration, ensure fairness and equality in our criminal justice system, and shift its focus from punishment to rehabilitation.” At the same time, he received criticism for his previous support of stop-and-frisk policing that disproportionally targeted people of color during his tenure in New York City. 

If going through the courts is a necessary step to address the criminal justice system, what do these alleged promises mean in a time when the Trump administration has worked to appoint conservative judges? Bloomberg states that as President he would support legislation to make changes for federal officers, pledge money to reforms, and end federal cash bail. While he’s getting pushback for his positions on social issues, it’s worth noting that he spent more than $41 milliontowards campaigns in the 2018 midterm election that would later help elect 21 Democrats to the House. 

Bloomberg’s allocation of wealth raises the question: if wealth and positions of power created the unjust systems that exist today, is wealth also needed to dismantle them? Is it enough to have people with good morals taking initiatives on criminal justice reform, or do you need to have accomplices in positions of power of wealth? In the case of Bloomberg, his contradictory actions bear assessment

Bloomberg claims he will invest $1 billion in programs to support young men of color, but what about young women of color?

This past week, a California lawmaker proposed bill AB 732, also known as the “Reproductive Dignity for Incarcerated People Act” to improve treatment of incarcerated pregnant women. This followed a 2016 ACLU report exposing the abhorrent conditions for pregnant women in jails, and a class action lawsuit after there were three miscarriages and inmate Candace Steel was left alone for hours in her isolated jail cell without care during the labor and delivery of her child in 2017. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office disputed her account, but a federal judge believes otherwise. Steel was one of 28 other women since 2014 who sued for civil rights violations, medical malpractice and emotional distress. This is just one example of an incident that could have been avoided if proper attention was given to the needs of women. 

Surveillance video released this past week reveals Damaris Rodriguez, a mother of five, suffering from starvation and psychological behavior in a Washington state jail cell before dying from a treatable metabolic condition. 

What is wrong with this sentence: “Since this incident, our employees have received comprehensive training in crisis intervention”. It is all too common: proposed action after a lawsuit. Why? Because we are living in a carceral world where mental and physical health is policed before it is assessed and treated. Will this ever be corrected if poor training is used as a loophole for the state? 

Last week, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, local rights group Licadho asked prison officials to investigate the death of a five-month-old baby living with its incarcerated mother during her pre-trial detention for possessing $2.50 of methamphetamine. According to a statement issued, the baby had been taken to the hospital for a hip fracture in late January of 2020, where it was denied the ability to spend the night for observation. Upon returning to prison with its mother, it began experiencing medical complications. Only after the baby’s condition worsened was it taken back to the hospital, where it eventually died from pneumonia and severe malnutrition. 

A Prison Department official blamed the child’s death on the mother and denied the baby suffered from malnourishment. Since 2017, there has been mass incarceration of Cambodians as part of the country’s “war on drugs”. The local rights group is bringing this to light in the hope that all pregnant women and mothers in prison with their children serving pre-trial detention will be granted bail before International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020. 

Would this sort of promise be possible in the United States? How many children die as a result of a parent, and especially a mother, being incarcerated?

(Image Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine)

The problem of female misrepresentation in medical studies is very real

Reference Man

The misrepresentation of women in medical studies is a problem that has misled medical officials for generations. In “On the Generation of Animals”, Aristotle characterized a female as a mutilated male. No one corrected him. Instead, we make medical decisions based on data derived from Reference Man. Reference Man is a Caucasian male, aged twenty-five to thirty, weighing about 155 lbs. Reference-Man fails to represent half of the world population’s anatomy. Women have worked tirelessly to right these wrongs — and receive accurate medical care.

Through a whirlwind of decisions made from 1977 and 1993, women lost their right to participation and they took it right back. In 1977, women “of childbearing potential” were removed from the possible subject pool of medical studies. This was due to the fact that 10,000 children had been born between 1960 and 1962 with thalidomide-related disabilities because doctors prescribed it to pregnant women for morning sickness. Drug developers and doctors everywhere had made the mistake, and women continued to pay the price. In 1985, Public Health Reports released “Report of the Public Health Service Task Force on Women’s Health Issues”, which called for data on women – not data on Reference Man. Because the data simply did not exist. In response, NIH and FDA worked to develop more inclusive guidelines regarding the inclusion of women in medical studies. In 1993, the 1977 ban was rescinded. 

Yet we fail to learn from our mistakes. In 2012 and 2013, as recounted by Vox producer Kim Mas, headline after headline read that women were crashing their cars the morning after taking a sleeping pill, Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien. Why? Men and women received the same prescription of a ten-milligram dosage for eight hours of sleep. But developers had failed to test the drug’s effects on women. Women’s metabolism took twice as long as men to break down the drug and remove it from their system. So, when they got started with their day the following morning, they were still under the influence of Ambien, impairing their ability to operate a motor vehicle. But the doctor prescribed it, so how could it be their fault? 

Well, it was. Surprise! Reference Man had gone through the trials, and his results were not generalizable. Not to women, and not to anyone besides Reference Man. Rather than take the time and money to test more subjects, developers assumed the data they had covered it all. Plus, the Vox report illustrates how even if women are included in these studies, their results are usually lost amidst the overwhelming male data. Following this scandal, the FDA released a safety warning in 2013 cutting the Ambien dosage for women in half. If drug companies cannot take the time to test the effects of their drugs on women, how can we trust our medical care? And how can we expect anyone else to give a damn about our needs?

We can’t. In February 2018, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published an all-male-authored medical paper entitled ‘Gender differences in clinical registration trials: is there a real problem?’. Their conclusion? No, the problem was not “real”. If you ask me, when women are crashing their cars because their doctors did not know the effects of the drug dosage they were prescribing, I’d say that’s a real problem.

(Photo Credit: Vox)

Why is women’s leadership so scary for men?

Data shows that start-ups which are women-led receive more revenue than those led by men. Data also shows that women score higher than men in five key traits of a successful leader. In her book, Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez touches on an interesting aspect, how women’s leadership is shown to be successful but men still want to discount it from successful women. According to BI Norwegian Business School research, the five key traits used to identify a successful leader are emotional stability, extraversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness and conscientiousness. After reading this, I looked up to my male friend and asked whole-heartedly, “Why is female leadership so scary for men?” He answered this might be because in the past, there has always been this tough, demanding white boss, and intimidation brings (or brought) results.

The BI Norwegian Business School traits all have to do with listening, being empathetic and having emotional stability. Who on Earth wants to work for a mean, disrespectful boss? Criado

Perez writes that “women are better suited for leadership than men” and I cannot help but think about the reactions people have towards this. What is so bad about it? Why can’t women be great leaders, and why can’t men be led by them?

While Criado Perez was talking about leadership in the workplace, I would ask the same question for the feminist movement. The anti-femicide demonstrations that have been happening around the world with the song “Un Violador en Tu Camino” has impacted the feminist movement greatly. Why can’t women be great leaders, and why can’t men be led by them? Across Latin America, people are attacking feminists who performed this song, mocking their movements without knowing their meaning, objectifying them, and the comment that bothers me the most: “n=No one would ever want to rape you!” Are these trolls saying that wanting to be raped is an honor? Society needs to understand what feminists are fighting for. Men need to be open to learning and understanding what women go through every day. It would be interesting to see people take a step back, listen to what the feminist movement is asking for, and let women lead into more peaceful, inclusive communities, both in the workplace and beyond.

(Photo Credit: Pagina 12) (Video Credit: YouTube / El Mundo)

We will resist: India rejects CAA

(Credit: Feminism in India / Instagram: Creatives Against CAA)

Remember the women in labor, because no one else will

In August, I lost my great-aunt.

She was 95 years old and was in relatively good health at the time. She worked from the moment she turned 13, and then, after she retired, went on to perform unpaid reproductive labor, taking care of her nieces and nephews, their children, and their children’s children. She was also an avid smoker, and we had assumed (at least partially correctly) that the new diagnosis of lung cancer was because of that. However, as we spoke more clearly with the hospice nurse, we realized that it was not only the two packs of Pall Mall golds she inhaled into her lungs a day that did her in, but her nearly 40 year career as a seamstress in a sweatshop, with the small particles of fabric every single day on her industrial grade sewing machine. 

How many people have received such dramatic diagnoses, and had it blamed on preconceived personal failings? How many people have injuries that are from years of the same, monotonous work without the employer taking the blame? And what about the women who face being labeled as invisible in the labor movements to address these issues? Because women need to remain a rather loud voice in the labor movement. We have always been the face of precarious labor.

I worked in a supermarket. Our union consisted largely of women, since it represented the bakery department. Highly gendered, as the creation of delicate pastries and pies is quintessentially a woman’s job, if they aren’t baking it home. Seriously, look at your local grocery store and you’ll see how gendered something as simple as picking up loaves of bread can really be. But…I digress.

The union rep was a man. The union president is a man. The union leaders remain men. Men who most likely have been out of the industry for a good twenty to thirty years. The secretaries are the women. And the people they represent are women. 

Do they understand the injuries we face daily? Do they understand that, after constant years of heavy lifting and labor, we face burns that never quite heal, carpal tunnel from squeezing pastry bags that require surgery down the line? Are they fighting for the long term physical issues we will have?

I have severe carpal tunnel in my left hands. I have muscles that hurt like a sixty year old woman. At 27, it is probably caused by my standing every day in the same place, or lifting heavy boxes. 

Those pains and injuries are not thought of, especially after we’re gone. They are labeled as inconsequential. Well, would you look at that! You have bad arthritis. Must’ve been your job, eh? Our injuries persist because of our labor and, as women, we bear that brunt because we are moved into the precarious workforce, where injuries exist, but are rarely seen until it’s too late. 

I am constantly thinking of my Tanty, of her aches and pains. The arthritis that caused her to walk with a limp and be unable to lift her arm above her head. The chronic bronchitis and heart failures, and trips to the emergency room for more of a tune-up than anything. Because she couldn’t get better. Her labor and work in the sweatshop is what killed her. Imagine where that labor has been shipped off to if it’s no longer in the United States. And the women who are laboring under worse conditions for those pieces of commodities. The women who most definitely will not make it to 95.

We need to defend our insurance, we need to continue to organize for women’s right and organize for women workers. Because at this point, who else will?

In Sudan, “this revolution is women’s revolution!”

In Sudan, on December 19, 2018, people took to the streets to protest a precipitous rise in bread prices. Since then, protests have persisted and grown. As so often in food uprisings, the price of food was the visible spark that revealed an undergrowth of fire, and, as so often, women of Sudan set and sustained the sparkOn June 3, freedom loving, democracy building people, `civilians’, `protesters’ were butchered by the so-called Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, under the leadership of Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, also known as Hemeti, also known as the Frankenstein of Khartoum.The RSF are also known as the Janjaweed, the group that terrorized Darfur for years, with particularly brutal violence against women. Killing at least 128 people, brutalizing everyone, raping women en masse, was meant to intimidate the masses, especially the women, into silence and submission. It didn’tOn June 30, in response to a call for a “millions march”, hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets. Eleven people were killed. On Monday, a call was issued for mass civil disobedience on July 14. Your news media may or may not be covering these events, but, in Sudan, the revolution continues, and, in Sudan, this revolution is women’s revolution: “Throughout Sudan’s ongoing revolution, women have led the chants for freedom, justice and peace.” Women have led and women are leading.

While Sudanese women attach a multitude of meanings and aspirations to freedom, justice and peace, they are united and uniform in their insistence that the military step down and turn over power to civilian authority. To that end, the women are united in their determination that the movement in Sudan for freedom, justice and peace is a revolutionary movement. That means that those who committed atrocities, and particularly those who used rape and other forms of sexual violence and intimidation as a weapon of State, will be held accountable. While many women differ on what sorts of freedom they want, for women, for everyone, they are clear and united in the determination that this is the moment to broaden and deepen the space(s) for freedom, for women and for everyone. 

For 30 years, Sudanese women have organized and mobilized to end the dictatorship and to establish a just, egalitarian, democratic, free society and nation-State. For 30 years, women in Sudan have refused to sit down, shut up, disappear. When the current regime shut the internet, women opened windows and doors, as they have done for the past three decades. In Sudan, today, women are organizing, mobilizing, chanting, singing, refusing to be shut down or shut out, demanding freedom, chanting, “Long live the struggle of Sudanese women!” “This revolution is women’s revolution!”

(Photo Credit 1: Global Fund for Women) (Photo Credit 2: BBC / EPA)

India votes and `suffers’ women prisoners and their children. And we call it democracy.

Elections matter. Australia voted, catastrophically, and immediately after suicide attempts and other forms of self-harm spiked among refugee and asylum seeker prisoners on Manus Island and Nauru. Elections matter. India voted, catastrophically, and the news for women inmates in prisons and jails across India is grim. The last five years of the Modi regime have meant ongoing and increasing violation of women prisoners’ rights, autonomy and well-being, on one hand, and a policy of increased opacity, on the other. In both instance, Australia and India, the State blames the women and children for the violence and torture the State visits upon their bodies and souls … and they call it democracy.

India went to the polls from April 11 to May 23. While it had little or no impact, the same week the elections began, the National Crimes Record Bureau, NCRB, finally released its Prison Statistics India 2016 Report. That report came in after an unexplained years’ long delay. The Prison Statistics India 2015 Report was issued in a timely manner in September 2016. The 2015 Report opens: “I am privileged to release the 21stedition of `Prison Statistics India’ for the year 2015, an annual publication of National Crime Records Bureau since the year 1995.” In 1996, the National Crime Records Bureau was tasked with publishing an annual report on the conditions in India’s prisons and jails. For 21 years, it did so, dutifully and faithfully. And then … it stopped. This silence concerning the conditions of prisons, jails and, most importantly, prisoners was matched by an equivalent “failure” by the NCRB to publish its annual Crime In India report for 2017. This was the first “failure” of this annual report since 1953. Taken together, the lack of reporting begins to look more like refusal than failure: “All this has happened on the watch of a government that is known for being less than forthright about official data.”

This refusal to provide detailed data continues throughout the Prison Statistics India 2016 Report. Most glaringly, the new report says nothing about caste or religion. Whereas earlier reports described, in detail, the situation and conditions in prisons and jails for Dalits, members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, members of religious minorities, especially Muslim, this last `report’, the methodology of which is ostensibly the same as previous reports, says nothing. According to the most recent census, 16.6% of India is Dalit, while Dalits made up 21.4% of India’s prison and jail population. Likewise, Scheduled Tribes make up 8.6% of the Indian population and 12.8% of the prison and jail population. Many noted these discrepancies and strove to address them. The Modi regime has addressed them by erasing not only categories but whole sectors of the population. This is not failure to represent, this is refusal to represent, and it’s part and parcel of the caste and religion-based politics of the Modi regime and of his political party.

Where are the women in this picture? Everywhere and nowhere. Before the latest report came out, it was already known that prisons and jails in India are particularly damaging to women. First, they’re designed for men. Second, they have less access to facilities and resources within prisons and jails. Third, they have less access to resources outside of prisons and jails. For example, “a woman, nearly 70 years old, has been in jail for the past 18 months on kidnapping and rape charges … While five others, including two male co-accused, have been released on bail, she continues to be behind bars. Having lost her husband during her incarceration, she has no one to reach out to. What purpose is being served by keeping her inside?”

Further, over the preceding fifteen years, the rate of men’s incarceration has increased by 33%, while that of women has grown by 61%. Despite this growth of women’s incarceration, neither budgets nor infrastructure has increased. Thus, the women’s prisons are severely overcrowded and filthy; the food and hygiene are deplorable; and there is virtually no physical and mental health care. For Dalit and Adivasi women, the conditions are predictably worse. According to a recent study, “76% (279 prisoners) of prisoners sentenced to death in India belong to backward classes and religious minorities, with all 12 female prisoners belonging to backward classes and religious minorities.” None of this is in the most recent NCRB report.

The NCRB report does provide some data, and the most salient fact is that 67% of India’s prisoners are “undertrial”, meaning awaiting trial … meaning officially innocent. From 2014 to 2016, the number of undertrial, or remand, prisoners rose 3.6%, from 282,879 to 293,058 in 2016. Close to 71% of undertrial prisoners are deemed illiterate or low literate. While among convicted prisoners, prisoners 30 – 50 years old predominate, among undertrials the majority are 18 to 30 years old. 72% of women prisoners are awaiting trial. Much more than with male prisoners, women prisoners are overwhelming young, minimally educated, poor … and formally innocent. Additionally, there are 1,809 children in prisons and jails across India, and they all are cared for by their mothers, women prisoners. Of the 1809 children living behind bars, 78% of their mothers are awaiting trial, minimally educated, poor … and formally innocent. 

Elections matter. Information matters. Transparency matters. Democracy matters. The United States “discovered” this week that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in custody, last September, and that the State lied and hid that girl-child’s death. We are dismayed but not shocked or surprised. Refugee and asylum prisoners in Australia engage in increased self-harm and suicide attempts following the Australian national elections. Some are finally, in some cases after five-year delays, sent to the mainland for `care’. India cages more and more Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim young women and children, all formally innocent, and covers it in the civil equivalent of the fog of war. And we call it democracy.

(Photo Credit: The Tribune India)

Where are the women? In jail. In prison. On probation. There is nothing to celebrate here.

Yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics released two reports, Prisoners in 2017 and Jail Inmates in 2017. Headlines would suggest that the United States is beginning its exit from decades of mass incarceration: “Prison populations decline again, Justice Department report shows”; “Crime Is Down, Yet U.S. Incarceration Rates Are Still Among the Highest in the World”. The picture is not that simple. First, six states account for much of the decline: Alaska, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, Vermont. Even there, the picture is muddy. In California, for example, much of the prison population decline has resulted from moving people from prisons to jails. Predictably, that move has resulted in rising death rates in jails across California. Meanwhile, according to the Vera Institute, 19 states saw increases of prison population: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Where are the women in all of this mixed picturing? Everywhere, and for women, the picture continues to be clear and grim.

At the end of 2017, women comprised 7% of the total prison population. From 2016 to 2017, the number of women in prison fell by 0.4%, while the number of men in prison fell by 1.3%. From 2007 to 2017, the number of women in prison fell by 2.6%, while the number of men in prison fell by 7.1%. From 2009 to 2017, the number of men in prison has fallen every single year from the year before. For women, that is not at all the case. The numbers have fluctuated up and down from year to year, and for the last three years have remained more or less constant. States with the highest prison rates for women are, in descending order: Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Dakota, Idaho. The prison rates for Black women is almost double that for White women; 18- and 19-year old Black women are 4.4 times more likely than White women of the same age to be in prison. Finally, 25% of women in state prisons had been convicted of a drug offense. 14% of men in state prisons were in for drug offenses. 

The picture in jails is worse.  From 2005 to 2017, the incarceration rate of women in jails grew by 10%; for men it dropped by 12%. The male population in jails went from 649,300 in 2010 to 628,2000 in 2017. The female population in jails went from 91,900 in 2010 to 113,4000 in 2017: “From 2005 to 2017, the female jail population grew by 20%, while the male population experienced a small decline (3%). As a result, the percentage of the jail population that was female increased from 12.6% to 15.2%.” 

As the Prison Policy Initiative, PPI, noted last year, women are disproportionately dumped into local jails. 60% of women “under local control” are remand prisoners. They have not been convicted of anything and are awaiting trial. State and federal agencies contract with local jails, and so around 13,000 state and federal women prisoners are housed in jails. Finally, again according to the Prison Policy Initiative, taking into account the impact of disproportionate use of jails for women leaves the picture largely undone, because 74% of women “under control of any U.S. correctional system” are actually on probation, which is another way of saying are ever more precariously positioned to return to jail or prison.

There is nothing to celebrate in this week’s reports from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Until the same attention and resources are directed towards decarcerating women, until reports of “prison populations” actually report on women prisoners, the struggle continues. Last year, it was reported that of 714,000 women and girls held in penal institutions across the world, close to 212,000 were women and girls held in institutions in the United States. Close to 30% of all imprisoned women and girls anywhere in the world are located in the United States. The United States has the highest rate of female imprisonment of any country in the world. There is nothing to celebrate here. 

(Infographic Credit: Prison Policy Initiative)

The latest bandwagon of anti-abortion bills in the US: Heartbeat or heartless?

The “heartbeat bill,” a euphemism for a fetus endowed with life, conjures in people’s minds the villains of mother and, in some cases, the State, murdering the person in the womb. Since Roe v Wade, the anti-abortion movement in the U.S has launched strategies to establish the personhood of the fetus. Numerous initiatives over the past 30 years in many states have tried to establish that full life as a person starts at the moment of conception.  The heartbeat bill in Mississippi signed by Gov. Phil Bryant on March 21st2019 was just the next step after the failure of initiative 26 Life Begins at the Moment of Fertilization Amendment (2011).  The move from Initiative 26 to the heartbeat bill is easy transition. The heartbeat bill effectively dramatizes the war between mother and womb-inhabitant to a new level—to the very tip of the iceberg: the banning of abortion. Period. Roe v Wade that has somehow survived for 40 years, often barely a whisper in many states lately, seems to be in the middle of its death rattle in others. In the first quarter of 2019, the heartbeat bill was introduced successively in Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Utah, Mississippi, and Missouri. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “governors in four states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Utah) signed a total of eight measures that ban abortion in one way or another. Similar measures passed the legislature in Arkansas and Georgia and were adopted by one chamber of the legislature in six other states…. So far this year, these restrictions have been enacted in Kentucky and Mississippi; passed the legislature in Georgia; and passed one chamber of the legislature in Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. The new law in Kentucky would have gone into effect immediately, but a federal district court issued an order blocking enforcement. The Mississippi legislation is scheduled to take effect in July. Only two other states, Iowa and North Dakota, have ever enacted six-week abortion bans, both of which have been struck down by the courts.” 

In addition to the heartbeat bill, Kentucky has already passed laws restricting private insurance coverage of abortions, mandating a 24-hour waiting period and parental consent for minors. Like Mississippi, Kentucky has only one abortion clinic. One can see clearly how women are severely restricted from obtaining abortions.

What is cruel about the heartbeat bill? According to this bill, women can terminate their pregnancy before 6 weeks. How can this be possible when women generally find out they are pregnant only after 6 weeks? “Some physicians won’t even perform abortions before around six weeks of pregnancy; an embryo at that stage is so small that it might not be visible on an ultrasound, which is used to ensure that a pregnancy is not ectopic, or growing outside the uterus.”

If the heartbeat bill is not a weapon against women’s bodies, their fundamental right to their bodies, the choice to give birth or not, I don’t know what is! As Brigitte Marti says, “One of the great mistakes is to look at the demise of women’s rights as an isolated event. Soaring inequality and legislative measures to control women’s health and rights work together to disempower women and civil society.”

What’s more, many of the states where the heartbeat bill has passed or is in the legislative process have a shortage of obstetricians and have high maternal death rates.

This heartless law targets minority and poor women. How can the United States boast about being the spokesperson for women’s rights when it is shackling women and keeping them imprisoned in age-old ideas about sexuality, contraception, reproduction, and health? It feels as if the major legislative triumphs of women’s equal participation in society and to themselves are being severely undercut by restrictive anti-abortion laws like the latest heartbeat bill.

We see these restrictions on women’s rights happening worldwide. Even in a country like India where abortion has been legal since 1971, the number of unsafe abortions are at a record 25 million, abortion is legal only until 20 weeks, exceptions do exist, but the stipulation is that the woman be married. “An amendment was proposed in the MTP Act by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in October 2014. The bill proposed certain very valid propositions, such as extension of the legal abortion limit to 24 weeks,” but it was dead in the water.

It is truly disheartening when women themselves are the strongest voices proclaiming the need to make abortion illegal. But we need to keep voicing the injustice in the bills and highlight the harm it does to the poor, people of color, and women in general and make the connection between reproductive rights and our equality as human beings. We don’t want to say “before the law,” because we need the law to recognize that we are indeed humans with full rights before we can legitimately stand before the law.

(Photo Credit: Rewire)