The number of women sentenced to more than 1 year in prison increased from 2015 to 2016

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics released its report, “Prisoners in 2016.” By and large, the numbers are “encouraging” in that prison populations, by and large, are reducing. While certain states buck the trend, overall, thanks to criminal justice reform, fewer people are spending time in prison. That would be good news, except for this: “The number of females sentenced to more than 1 year in state or federal prison increased by 500 from 2015 to 2016”. In a year of generally decreasing prison populations, this exception is noteworthy.

Here are the highlights of “Prisoners in 2016”: “The number of prisoners under state and federal jurisdiction at year-end 2016 (1,505,400) decreased by 21,200 (down more than 1%) from year-end 2015. The federal prison population decreased by 7,300 prisoners from 2015 to 2016 (down almost 4%), accounting for 34% of the total change in the U.S. prison population. The imprisonment rate in the United States decreased 2%, from 459 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents of all ages in 2015 to 450 per 100,000 in 2016. State and federal prisons admitted 2,300 fewer prisoners in 2016 than in 2015. The Federal Bureau of Prisons accounted for 96% of the decline in admissions (down 2,200 admissions). The number of prisoners held in private facilities in 2016 (128,300) increased 2% from year-end 2015 (up 2,100). The number of females sentenced to more than 1 year in state or federal prison increased by 500 from 2015 to 2016.” Why are women the exception to the new rule? What’s going on?

At the end of 2016, women comprised 7% of the total national prison population. From end of 2015 to end of 2016, there were 69 fewer women prisoners, nationwide. In the same period, the number of male prisoners dropped by 21, 137. For women, that’s a .1% reduction, and for men .3%. Twenty states reduced their number of women prisoners while 26 states increased that number, and this is in one year. Kentucky, Washington and Ohio led the pack in increased incarceration of women.

“The imprisonment rate for the U.S. population of all ages was the lowest since 1997 … On December 31, 2016, a total of 1% of adult males living in the United States were serving prison sentences of more than 1 year (1,108 per 100,000 adult male residents), a decrease of 2% from year-end 2015 (1,135 per 100,000).  The imprisonment rates for females of all ages and adult females in 2016 were unchanged from year-end 2015 (64 per 100,000 female residents of all ages and 82 per 100,000 adult female residents).”

Once again, Oklahoma had the highest rate of women’s imprisonment: 149 per 100,000 women residents. Kentucky, South Dakota and Idaho follow close behind.

“The imprisonment rate for black females (96 per 100,000 black female residents) was almost double that for white females (49 per 100,000 white female residents). Among females ages 18 to 19, black females were 3.1 times more likely than white females and 2.2 times more likely than Hispanic females to be imprisoned in 2016.”

The war on drugs continues to be a war on women: “A quarter (25%) of females serving time in state prison on December 31, 2015, had been convicted of a drug offense, compared to 14% of males … More than half (56% or 6,300) of female federal prisoners were serving sentences for a drug offense, compared to 47% of males (75,600).”

While rates of incarceration and raw numbers of incarcerated people decline, rates of incarceration for women increase and raw numbers of women sentenced to more than a year increase. That is not an oversight. That is public policy. The war on women, waged through police, courts, and prison, continues. If the report were to include immigrant detention, the profile would be that much clearer. It’s time to stop the war on women, to pay greater attention to the reasons that the State targets women for imprisonment. It’s time to end the national witch hunt.

 

(Image Credit: Prison Policy Initiative)

Women are Tunisia’s revolutionary guards: What are we waiting for? Fech Nestannew?

On December 17,2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, set himself on fire and ignited Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution. It was a desperate act that lit the sky and the world. His act reflected a general sense of despair, and in that reflected despair, people saw transformative change as their only hope. Within a month, on January 14, 2011, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali dissolved his government. From its first flicker, the Jasmine Revolution was more than the ouster of a dictator. It was an assault on patriarchy that emerged from decades of women and youth organizing. Seven years later, it still is. Ask the women who have ignited the current wave of protests across Tunisia, protests that demand a practical, material response to their question: “Fech Nestannew?” “What are we waiting for?” “Qu’attendons-nous?” “فاش نستناو ؟”

For Tunisia, the past seven years have been “interesting,” and particularly for women. The government has seesawed repeatedly on its position vis-à-vis women’s rights, equality, and roles. The State and parts of Civil Society have colluded in trying to diminish the significance of women’s work and contributions. And women have pushed back. In this last round of push-back, women have responded to an IMF-imposed budget, agreed on in December and implemented as of January 1. This budget follows the tried and true, or better failed and false, austerity menu: increase taxes, slice subsidies, subject the civil service to “efficiencies”, raise food prices, stop recruiting and hiring for public sector jobs. The IMF declared the new budget is bold and ambitious. Tunisian women thought otherwise. They asked, “When do we get the jobs we struggled for and were promised? When will food become generally affordable? Where is our housing? What are we waiting for?” Women demanded a better menu than that offered by the IMF: “Travail, pain, liberté et dignité” “Employment, bread, liberty, and dignity”.

The Fech Nestannew? movement describes itself as horizontal, but it does have spokespeople, most notably Henda Chennaoui and Warda Atig. Warda Atig explained that Fech Nestannew? activists held their first action on January 3: “We were waiting for the government to make the law official and we chose the date of our first action to be January 3. The date is very symbolic because, on January 3, 1984, there was the Intifada al-Khubez (bread uprising) in Tunisia [over an increase in the price of bread]. On January 3, we made a declaration in front of the municipal theatre [on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis] and we distributed pamphlets with our demands. We were about 50 activists.” On January 3, they were about 50 activists. As of Monday, mass demonstrations, and small ones as well, have rocked Tunisia from one end to the other. As Atig explains, while the activists are demanding that the State “end the increase in prices, cancel the moratorium on recruiting in the public sector, provide security and healthcare, end privatisation and put forward a national strategy to counter corruption”, at its heart, it’s a bread uprising. Austerity targets the stomach, and in so doing, always targets women first, most directly and most intensely.

Henda Chennaoui contextualizes the current situation: “Gas oil has increased by 2.85 percent which has an impact on the price of food. The minimum wage has not changed for years. It is 326 dinars ($131) per month. That equates to about two weeks of groceries for a family of four. To understand the fed-up, we must know that after 2011, a kind of contract was made between Tunisians and politicians. The latter were committed, after the political transition, to satisfy all the demands of the population, especially to improve the economic situation. We waited. In 2014, nothing happened. In 2015 either, neither in 2016, nor in 2017. The political class showed no sign that it was doing anything. That’s why we called our campaign ‘What are we waiting for?’.”

Thirty-three years ago, Tunisian women led the January Bread Revolt. Seven years ago, Tunisian women led the Jasmine Revolution. Today, Tunisian women are in the streets, and everywhere else, organizing, pushing, demanding, rocking the country, rejecting corruption, and taking on the fundamental tenets of austerity as development. Women are saying that any budget in which “the poor pay the bill” is no budget at all. The time is now. What are we waiting for? Fech Nestannew?

Warda Atig

 

(Photo Credit 1: Jeune Afrique / Sipa AP / Hassene Dridi) (Photo Credit 2: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours / Al Jazeera)

Gretchen Carlson, Fox News, U.S foreign policy, and the women of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria


Gretchen Carlson, sexual harassment, Fox News, POTUS, women’s lives in war-torn Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Let’s connect the dots.

Fox News is the mouthpiece of POTUS; it is a brainwashing machine that spins the POTUS’ view, backing the U.S wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Syria, makes the public believe that the country is fighting for freedom, and promotes white privilege ideology and American exceptionalism. Fox news anchors are expected to toe this political line, and they do, paying homage to the supreme leader, the troops, the NRA, pro-life. Fox is a right wing enterprise that supports unquestioningly the collateral damage of U.S. led wars—the overwhelming number of civilian casualties in Iraq, the number of females who are refugees in Syria and Jordan, some of them forced into prostitution in order to survive.

Gretchen Carlson, as one of these Fox news anchors, toed this line, barely blinking an eye at the extreme suffering of the Iraqi and Afghan women at the mercy of U.S. air strikes. Fox news only made the audience aware of American troop deaths, not the terrible loss of life of Iraqis and the plight of the survivors.

Fox News Corporation, built on the patriarchal, capitalist model, is a greenhouse for sexual oppression. Just as it views the outside world as inferior to a white, Christian U.S., so too does it have a hierarchy where victims would not be able to complain readily because of the stakes stacked against them. I am not sure if Gretchen was beginning to see the connection between Fox news’ attitude to U.S. policies toward the world and its own internal politics of how powerful males treated their female employees. Perhaps she was beginning to see the connection when she said last year that assault weapons ought to be banned, totally out of line for a Fox anchor to articulate. And filing the sexual harassment lawsuit against Aisles was another shock.

Gretchen, after her resignation from Fox, has now written a book, is advocating for women, speaking at women’s rights events, and so on. I am glad that she filed a lawsuit against Roger Aisles for sexual harassment. But does she see the larger picture of Fox’s vision of the world that ignores women under U.S. tyranny who have died, who have lost everything, their countries reduced, and infrastructure ruined? Can these women ever file lawsuits against the U.S. government?

 

(Photo Credit: Vox / Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

Radio WIBG: Women’s voices from the Mediterranean: the state of play in Croatia

Nela Pamukovic

In 2008, women activists founded the Mediterranean Women’s Fund (MedWF) to support and strengthen women’s organizations around the Mediterranean region. The Mediterranean Women’s Fund (MedWF) has adapted its action to the new needs of Mediterranean women’s organizations. Relying on networking and collective intelligence training for activists, the MedWF has worked on developing strategies to respond to the continuous attacks on women’s rights. In its efforts to provide a comprehensive support to these organizations the fund has organized meetings to gather women activists in six countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Croatia, Libya, and, last summer, France. They invited a delegation from Croatia, Rada Boric and Nela Pamukovic, to describe the situation and priorities of their women’s group.

Rada Boric and Nela Pamukovic are Croatian members of the Women’s Court created in 2010 in the Balkans. The Women’s Court is a space where women’s voices are heard; women can give their testimonies of the injustices they have experienced during the war and after. It is a space where resistance is organized.

Croatian women’s groups’ members have been on every front since the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, during which women were used as weapons of war. Since then, women, such as Nela Pamukovic, have organized to have this humiliating and devastating crime recognized as a war crime. About 20 years after the war’s end, Croati passed a law meant to compensate survivors of sexual war violence. Thus far, few women have been able to obtain that status and receive their rightful regular financial stipend. Meanwhile the war criminals have been released for good behavior, often being praised as Croatian heroes. They now  even receive government benefits and social welfare.

Croatian women have also fought on the turf of sexual and reproductive rights to protect women facing the increasing involvement of the church in the political arena. Church politics is based on the subordination of the woman’s body, constraining access to contraception, to abortion, as well as undermining the justice process for cases of sexual harassment, rape and all sorts of violence.

Although women compose 51% of Croatia’s population, they find their status to be in line with that of minorities.

Rada Boric

Brigitte Marti in collaboration with MedWF and 50 50 magazine

 

(Photo Credit 1: Global Fund for Women) (Photo Credit 2: One Billion Rising)

In India, 24-year-old Hadiya Jahan says, “I want freedom”

Hadiya Jahan at today’s Supreme Court hearing

Today, November 17, 2017, Hadiya Jahan spoke … or better, was “allowed” to speak and perhaps be heard. Hadiya is a 24-year-old woman, who for the past year has been caught in a web of “protections” “for her own good.” Throughout, Hadiya has tried to speak in her own voice, and has been thwarted. Today, she spoke, and she was partly listened to. More people should be listening, because Hadiya Jahan’s story haunts women, and womanhood, everywhere.

Hadiya’s story is both straightforward and complicated. She was born in Kerala to an atheist father and Hindu mother. Her birth name was Akhila Ashokan. In 2010, at 18 years of age, she went off to study homeopathy. In 2015, she publicly declared she was considering converting to Islam. In January, she attended school, wearing a hijab. Her Hindu “friends” reported this to her parents. Her father rushed to the school, did not find his daughter, and filed a missing person’s complaint. Meanwhile, his daughter had gone to Sathya Sarani, a self-described Islamic educational and charitable trust. They provided her with shelter. Akhila changed her name to Hadiya. When the missing person’s case came to court, Akhila showed up and said she was neither missing nor abducted. The court agreed.

In August 2016, Hadiya’s father filed a second petition, claiming there was a plan to move his daughter out of India. The implicit claim was trafficking. Hadiya denied this. The court placed her in a women’s hostel. At the next hearing, on December 19, 2016, the Court said Hadiya must be allowed to return to college and complete her studies. Meanwhile, also on December 19, Hadiya married Shefin Jehan. When the Court was informed that Hadiya had married, they returned her to the hostel. The Court told Jehan to keep away from Hadiya. No interaction whatsoever. On May 24, 2017, the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage, and sent Hadiya to “live” with her parents. Hadiya appealed to India’s Supreme Court, and that’s who heard her today.

Since May, Hadiya has been under house arrest, at her parents’ house. She has been forbidden from talking with the world. Everyone has spoken for, and even as, Hadiya, but Hadiya has been silenced. Finally, the Supreme Court demanded that Hadiya be produced.

Much has swirled around this case, from claims of “love jihad” to “mental kidnapping.” Hadiya’s story has split women along predictable lines. In a smuggled video, shot in August, Hadiya said, “You need to get me out. I will be killed anytime, tomorrow or the day after, I am sure. I know my father is getting angry. When I walk, he is hitting and kicking me.” She begged for freedom. Who listened?

Today, Hadiya spoke, and not only to the Court. She said, “I want freedom… I want to complete my studies and live my life according to my faith and as a good citizen.” The Court released Hadiya from her parents’ custody and sent her back to homeopathy college to complete her studies. In late January, the Court will hear the couple’s appeal to undo the annulment of their marriage. Hadiya, a 24-year-old woman, wants to be free. It’s not complicated.

 

(Photo Credit: Vipin Kumar / Hindustan Times)

In India, Janak Anand said NO to forced widow marriage and, yesterday, she won!

Janak and Dipak Anand

Soldiers go to war. Often, they die in war. Some receive medals of bravery. In India, the medal of bravery is the Vir Chakra. It’s called a gallantry award. Those who died “gallantly” are called martyrs. Decades ago, India created a special hell for martyr’s widows. Widows received a gallantry award, but it came with strings attached: “The widow will continue to receive the allowance until her re-marriage or death. The payment of the allowance will, however, continue to a widow who re-marries the late husband’s brother and lives a communal life with the living heir eligible for family pension.” If the widow wanted, or needed, to continue to receive the award and if she were to re-marry, she could only marry her dead husband’s brother. Janak Anand, a martyr’s widow, said NO to forced widow marriage, and to all the structures that support and normalize it, and yesterday … she, and women across India, won!

Janak Anand’s story is straightforward. In 1971, she and Captain S C Sehgal were married. In December 1971, the Indo – Pakistani War broke out. Captain Sehgal was killed, and posthumously awarded the Vir Chakra. Janak Anand received gallantry benefits, along with the regular family pension. In October 1974, Janak Anand re-married. She married Major Dipak Anand. At that point, she lost her gallantry benefits. Janak Anand protested. Finally, after 43 years of protests, inquiries and litigation, the Armed Forces Tribunal, in September, agreed with Janak Anand, and strongly criticized the government for its policy. Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence suspended the policy. After 43 years of pushing and prodding, Janak Anand will receive her gallantry award payments plus 10%. Additionally, she will have some sense of dignity as a woman recognized formally by the State.

The story of the policy itself is equally straightforward. Janak Anand was not the first to contest it, and each time it was contested, the State fortified the policy. For example, the language of the current rule, cited above, was issued in 1995 by the Minister of Defense. According to Janak Anand, the officials had no sense of urgency in deciding the matter or issuing her any relief.

In September, the Armed Forces Tribunal concluded, “We cannot have a policy which dictates as to whom a widow must marry if she wants to earn financial benefits of her martyred husband. It is nothing but an affront on the dignity of the war widow whose husband sacrificed his life for the country and earned the Vir Chakra. On one hand, the President of India confers the gallantry award to the lady as a mark of respect for her husband’s sacrifice for the country. On the other, our derogatory policies like that of January 31, 1995, humiliate the widow by denying her rightful dues. We are saddened to observe such slipshod treatment to a war widow of 1971.”

Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence said, “The government, after considering the issue and receiving several representations, has now been decided to remove the condition of the widow’s remarriage with her late husband’s brother for continuation of the monetary allowance.”

As Sharanya Gopinathan noted, “It’s great news that this bizarre rule has been scrapped, but it also makes you wonder how many more insanities we’re left to find in all our rulebooks and statutes, and how long it will take to clean our laws up.”

After more than four decades of struggling and pushing for her rightful due, both as money and dignity, Janak Anand has forced the unwilling State to begin to face its patriarchy, misogyny, and routine humiliation of women. We were saddened by the slipshod treatment of Janak Anand, and other war widows and other widows and other women, and are delighted and encouraged that, after a lifetime of struggle, yesterday, finally, she won. The struggle for women’s justice continues.

 

(Photo Credit: India Today)

Radio WIBG: Women’s voices from the Mediterranean: the state of play in Algeria

In 2011, women were in the forefront of the democratic movements in Mediterranean countries. Those movements of liberation didn’t fulfill the promises for women’s emancipation. In countries such as Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Algeria, the response of authoritarian patriarchal powers has been brutal. Women have paid a heavy price during these uprisings facing now a counterblast that sends them back to basic fights for gender equality. Nevertheless, they gained determination. In 2008, women activists founded the Mediterranean Women’s Fund (MedWF) to support and strengthen women’s organizations around the Mediterranean region. The MedWF has become an important articulation to shore up women’s movements in the regions.

The MedWF has adapted its action to the new needs of Mediterranean women’s organizations. Relying on networking and collective intelligence training for activists, the MedWF has worked on developing strategies to respond to the continuous attacks on women’s rights. In its efforts to provide a comprehensive support to these organizations the fund has organized meetings to gather women activists in six countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Croatia, Libya, and, last summer, France.

Amina, an Algerian activist with the Collectif Féministe d’Alger (the feminist association of Algiers) an organization that campaigns to stop violence against women, presented the situation in Algeria. She described the everyday struggle of Algerian women for recognition, organizing to gain emancipation and sexual and reproductive rights. A code of silence has been muffling women’s voices for women’s rights. Women demand to be heard and respected as full citizen with equal legal rights.

 

Brigitte Marti

In collaboration with MedWF and 50 50 magazine

 

(Photo and Image Credit: Mediterranean Women’s Fund)

Elder Care Workers in the United States Are Fighting for Justice

The aging of the largest generation in the United States, the Baby Boomers, is creating a desperate shortage for care workers for elders. By 2024, upstate New York will need 451,000 home health workers in 2024; currently the state employs 326,000. Already, the shortage is problematic for New York. For example, Rebecca Leahy of North Country Home Services reports that, every week, it is unable to provide a staggering 400 hours of homecare services which have been authorized by the state. Leahy explains, “My fear is that in the near future most patients in the three Adirondacks counties of Franklin, Essex, and Clinton could be without services because the sole provider for most of this region will not be able to cover payroll.” That would leave thousands of elders without the physical and emotional urgent care that they need.

The current trend, pushing us into a critical shortage of homecare workers, has been caused by the lack of well-paying jobs in the elder health-care industry. That lack creates a pool of continually underemployed workers. Upstate New York, and most of the country, consistently employs workers at wages and conditions that keep them in poverty, causing a high turnover rate of workers in a health industry that needs stability. Currently, the number of people in the United States over the age of 65 is expected to double. With the urgent and pervasive need for personal-care aids and home healthcare workers, employers and the state should provide jobs that give aids decent wages and benefits, including paid time off and health insurance.

Those benefits have not been procured by employees. Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, has highlighted the extreme precariousness and vulnerability in elder care workers. With an industry where 90% of workers are women, the majority women of color and 30-40% immigrants, the conditions are impossible, ‘The average income for home care-workers is $17,000 a year. The median income for an elder care-worker…is $13,000.” Additionally, according to Poo, because they are characterized as domestic workers, elder care workers don’t qualify for work protections such as “limits on hours and overtime pay, days off, health benefits and paid leave.” Workers are completely dedicated to the patient who needs care, but are unable to receive the benefits and pay they deserve, many taking care of our families and loved ones.

Nearly 75% of nursing home care and home health care is paid for through Medicaid and Medicare, where the reimbursement rate has stagnated for several years. With the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back expansions granted under the Affordable Care Act, those reimbursements are unlikely to increase any time soon.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance is one of the leading organizations in the United States working for the inclusion of domestic workers, which include elder care employees, into the Fair Labor Standards Act which guarantees workers a federal minimum wage, overtime, sick, and vacation pay.

Caring Across Generations is a coalition of more than 100 local, state, and national organizations, working towards a policy agenda which includes, “access to quality care, affordable home care for families and individuals, and better care jobs.” The organization lists four major proposals to help address the underemployment of homecare workers and the growing need for elder care services:

  1. Increase the national minimum wage floor for domestic workers to $15.00 per hour.
  2. Improve workforce training and career mobility to ensure quality.
  3. Develop a path to citizenships for undocumented caregivers.
  4. Create a national initiative to incentivize and recruit family caregivers into the paid workforce, since nearly 85% of long term care is provided by family members.

According to Ai-jen Poo, domestic workers, including elder care workers, “need fair wages, decent working conditions and access to reproductive health care, including abortions”. It seems a simple request, considering these workers provide physical, mental and emotional care for our elderly family members while sacrificing their time with their own families. Given the emerging crisis, the time to help these workers is now!

 

(Photo Credit: Caring Across Generations)

In India, the Bihar “stampede” was a planned massacre of elder women

Kartik Purnima is a holy festival celebrated by Sikh, Jain and Hindu people. Yesterday, thousands gathered in the village of Simaria, in Bihar, to celebrate. They went to Simaria to dip into the Ganges River. Something happened. The press and the State called it a stampede. Three elderly women, each reported to be in their 80s, were killed. The State says the women died of suffocation. That may be the forensic determination, but those women, and so many others in stampedes – from Jakarta to New Delhi to KwaNongoma to Karachi to Abidjan to Valley Stream to Lahore to Johannesburg to Mymensingh to Khayelitsha – were part of the plan. Yet again, the gender of stampede is women, and yet again, the world takes little or no notice. Just another sudden rush, just another panic, just another day in which women `naturally’ dominate morbidity and mortality rates. Just another day.

In 1999, a “high powered committee”, established by the Indian government, released a report on disasters. They determined five categories: water and climate; geological; biological; nuclear and industrial; and accidental. They described accidental catastrophe as “urban and forest fires, oil spill, mine flooding incidents, collapse of huge building structures, bomb blasts, air, road and rail mishaps, boat capsizing and stampede during congregations.” None of these are “accidental”, since all are preventable. Since that report, the State has done less than nothing to “mitigate” the possibility of “stampedes”. In the intervening eighteen years, they have expressed “concern” at “the recurring stampedes at places of mass gathering, including religious places, and typically ad-hoc responses to those”, and issued “crowd managementguidelines, with absolutely no force and little promotion. At the same time, India’s National Management Authority lists three categories under “Man-Made Disaster”: nuclear, biological, chemical. No stampede, no crowd control, and no concern.

Yesterday, in Bihar, thousands of devotees passed through capillary alleys barely wide enough to allow passage to hundreds. The result was predictable, and the State did nothing. That was not a stampede in Bihar yesterday. Instead, three elderly women were massacred. Now, after decades of doing nothing, the State claims concern and pretends to act, but it will not acknowledge its own guilt. There was no accident. There was no stampede. Just another day.

Scattered slippers after the event

 

(Photo Credit 1: The Tribune of India / PTI) (Photo Credit 2: Scroll / PTI)

Stop Punishing Poor Women’s Sexuality Through Abortion Bans!

Nearly 1 in 4 women under the age of 45 will have had an abortion. Women’s access to abortion continues to be a matter of contention between mostly white, mostly male, politicians who tout about the sanctity of life while simultaneously working to deny the benefits that women and children rely on to survive. Rather than help those children who rely on social assistance and the state for healthcare (literally by letting a program insuring 9 million children expire) and food, Congress has moved forward with a national ban on abortions past 20 weeks.

Anti-choice hypocrisy would rather claim that the rights “of a human being who has never taken a single breath a single breath are more important than the rights of the person with thoughts, a past, relationships and emotions that would be forced to renounce her bodily autonomy to accommodate the fetus.” The fight for a fetus’ life ends the moment a child is born; it does not continue as the child is raised, especially the fifteen million children who live in poverty in the United States.

Abortion bans are not implemented to curtail abortion rates. If one truly wishes to see the end of abortion, there would be universal access to various forms of birth control, along with comprehensive sexual education in public schools to help the decrease in teenage pregnancy rates; these methods have effectively helped to decrease the abortion rate, which occurred in 1 in 3 women in 2008. Abortion bans continue across the country because it is the state’s way of controlling women’s, especially poor women’s, sexuality. It is a method of punishing women’s sexual freedom, while make their struggle to survive ever more precarious. As Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, noted, “When we take away a women’s choices about her own body, we hamper her ability to make sound decisions for her and her family. We force her into her tougher bargains to make ends meet. We threaten her capacity to thrive. We hurt her ability to raise children that are healthy and resilient. And we perpetuate cycles of poverty.”

That is what anti-choice men in power want: poor women forced to have children, forced to work nearly any wage to care for said children, to survive. A never-ending pool of desperate labor willing to work for scraps to avoid starvation, and then the continued reproduction of those poor pools of labor in the form of their children. Means of sustaining an exploitative capital regime hide under the guise of being pro-life.

A continued insistence on women’s necessity to remain chaste and virginal perpetuates the belief that women are only sexual for the sake of procreation, and never for pleasure. Harper’s Bazaar has the best response for the continued control of women’s decision to have sex for enjoyment:

“There are certainly going to be people who will reply to this by shouting, ‘then women should keep their damn legs shut.’ No. Go crawl back to the time capsule you came out of. 95 percent of Americans have pre-marital sex. 9 months of unwanted pain and possibly death is not an acceptable punishment for being unlucky while engaging in an almost universally practiced past time. It is the punishment for 0 percent of men, which is the correct percentage.”

Today, the United States has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. We save the fetus to kill the woman. We proclaim the rights of the fetus’ “life” while exploiting and killing the poor women who are forced to bear it. That is not pro-life; that is anti-woman. When we scream “Never Again!”, we are not only demanding the protection of women to have a safe and legal abortion. We are protesting the desire to revert to a time when women died from illegal and dangerous abortions. And as our elected officials gleefully hinder the march of progress for women’s reproductive freedom, women and men everywhere should continue to raise their voices to make sure we hinder them every step of the way.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Rewire / Lauryn Gutierrez) (Photo Credit 2: Women’s Web)