Over the weekend I saw the movie Precious. This movie, about “an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child” is a soaring tribute to human dignity and, for me, captures the reasons why NAPW takes the cases we do.
Recently, NAPW chose to work on behalf of R.G. — an African American teenager from Mississippi who became pregnant when she was fifteen. She suffered a stillbirth one month after turning sixteen. What was the state’s response? They arrested her and charged her with murder.
NAPW learned about the case shortly before R.G. was scheduled to go on trial as an adult. We learned that her mother’s efforts to obtain help from other organizations had been rebuffed. NAPW reached out to her local counsel and offered our assistance.
The state claims the stillbirth was caused by R.G.’s cocaine use. Never mind that researchers have not been able to link cocaine use to pregnancy loss. Never mind that no country in the world has passed a law making it a crime for a teenager to suffer a stillbirth. And never mind that a Mississippi Supreme Court judge has expressed serious concerns about the qualifications of the doctor hired by the state to prepare the autopsy report.
This case is pretty horrific. You can see more about Nelson’s story in the RH Reality Check video above. More info:
On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit (the federal level appellate court that reviews decisions from federal district courts in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, and Arkansas) issued the long-awaited decision in Nelson v. Norris. In this case, Shawanna Nelson argued that being forced to go through the final stages of labor with both legs shackled to her hospital bed was cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. She argued that she should be allowed to sue the director of the prison and the guard who repeatedly re-shackled her legs to the bed. Ms. Nelson, an African-American woman, was incarcerated for non-violent offenses of credit card fraud and “hot checks.”
The idea of shackling any person during labor is abominable, but in this case the one argument for the practice is bunk. The only argument I can think of (which I definitely don’t agree with) is that an incarcerated person could be “dangerous” and therefore need to be restrained, even while giving birth. It’s ludicrous for even the most “violent” of criminals, let alone a woman like Nelson, who was incarcerated for CREDIT CARD FRAUD. Absurd.
Anna Clark has a great piece up at RH Reality Check about the practice of shackling incarcerated women. She delves into both the realities of the practice (horrific) and the amazing activist response that has arisen to organize against this practice (and has been successful!). Here is an excerpt:
The 2008 federal policy against shackling cued renewed hope among advocates for the humane treatment of incarcerated women. Beyond lawsuits and advocacy with individual departments, legislative campaigns to restrict shackling are finding unprecedented success-after years of falling on deaf ears.
New Mexico is the most recent state to bar shackling through a bill signed by Governor Bill Richardson this spring. New York and Texas currently have bills backed by legislative support that await the word of their governors before they become law. “For us, it’s not enough to change regulations (on shackling in particular prisons),” Saada Saar said. “To do this campaign through the legislature gives us a way to respond to violations of the policy. Through state statutes, mothers’ rights are better protected.”
“A lot of states do have corrections policies that restrict shackling, but (the policies) aren’t commonly known or understood,” Sussman said. “A law allows us to go to court; it makes it hard for others to say they didn’t know (that shackling is restricted).
“We have a strong case in Illinois because of the law there, for example. We need to bring cases to ensure enforcement,” Sussman added. “It’s a dual strategy.”
It’s a strategy that inspires diverse support. Broad coalitions are signing on to legislative and legal campaigns to transform the experience of giving birth in prisons, jails, and detention centers.
Among those backing the New York Anti-Shackling Bill are women’s health advocates, prison rights organizations, medical and public health groups, and “even fellowships and ministries that aren’t our frequent allies,” Sussman said.
That post remains the most highly trafficked post at Radical Doula ever. As the comic points out, it’s these inconsistencies that really highlight the racism in our medical profession. It’s indicative of racism that exists much more broadly, but these moments really bring it to light. Especially now that the green/global warming/environmental movement is kicking into high gear, racist population control thoughts and policies are even more likely.
RH Reality Check: What is the significance of Roe to you and to the women you serve?
Miriam Perez, Senior Advocacy Associate at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health:
For the women we work with, many of whom come from countries in Latin America where abortion is still criminalized, Roe has the potential to have a huge impact on their lives. Roe has the potential to make reproductive health services just like any other healthcare need a woman has, it has the potential to make a usually clandestine procedure safe and accessible. Unfortunately for them, the Roe decision has been weakened and diluted by subsequent legislation. The Hyde Amendment, in particular, has seriously stunted the potential of Roe. Because of these laws, we have a long way to go for low-income and immigrant women to really feel the full affects of this historic Supreme Court decision.
RH Reality Check: Is Roe enough? What does our country need in addition to Roe to ensure reproductive justice for all women?
Roe isn’t enough because privacy is not enough. That narrow legal framework has only barely protected our legal right to access the procedure. It says nothing about access, about funding, about autonomy and barriers.It says nothing about justice. It has not addressed those who based on moral and religious convictions try to limit the health care women can receive. It has not addressed those who want women’s bodies to be manipulated in service of a religious agenda and who want the fetus’s rights to be placed about those of the mother. We need a lot more than a shaky legal framework to stand on if we want to achieve reproductive justice.
More about the anthology to come, but if you happen to be in Philly, you should come to our reading tonight! I will be there along with the editors Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman.
The reading is at Robin’s Bookstore. Come check it out if you’re in town. Also, Robin’s is closing down next month (after 73 years!) so you can visit the store for one of the last times. Robin’s Bookstore, 6pm 108 S. 13th St, Philadelphia PA 19107. Hope to see you!
You can listen to the two ads here and here, but here is a summary:
The radio ads appeal to people of faith with one of the 60-second spots noting that: “I’m Catholic and there is nothing more important to me than protecting family and love. That’s why I talked to my grandson about condoms.”
The first ad features a grandmother speaking about her grandson, a gay man, who hears that Catholics are not supposed to use condoms. She tells her grandson, “I took care of you because I love you and if you love that man, you’ll take care of him, too.”
The second ad features a couple and models language that couples can use when discussing the importance of love, faith and condom use in their relationship. The ad concludes, “We are Catholics and people of faith and we know sex is sacred and that we need to take care of each other. And this means using a condom every time we have sex.”
Pretty tame right? Well not according to Univision. They refused to run the ads on three of their radio stations in NYC, despite the fact that these organizations were willing to pay for them. To add insult to injury, Univision recently received an Cable Positive award for their work on HIV prevention with the Kaiser Family Foundation. Apparently HIV prevention is cool, but talking about condoms is a no go? Or maybe it was the queer theme of the first ad that caused the rejection.
Anyways, if you want to send an email to the President and COO of Univision Radio telling him he should run the ads, go here.
This summer, the question of abortion and the rights of the unborn once again took center stage as a presidential campaign issue. In August, at the Saddleback Civil Forum, Pastor Rick Warren asked both presidential candidates: “At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?” Senator John McCain’s answer, “at the moment of conception,” immediately established his anti-abortion bona fides.
But the right answer, as a matter of international human rights principles and simple justice, is: human rights attach at birth, not at conception.
This is the only position that ensures that upon becoming pregnant, women do not lose their human rights.
Political candidates of all persuasions should rest assured that to oppose the recognition of human rights before birth is not to deny the value of potential life as matter of religious belief, emotional conviction or personal experience. Rather, it is to recognize the value of the women who give that life.
The Rocky Mountain Coalition for Humanizing Birth is excited to announce our first annual conference for all childbirth professionals and those interested in the state of Mother-Friendly Care in the Rocky Mountain region. This is a multi-state conference and all are invited to attend.
Topics for this 2 day Conference includes:
Understand the state of CIMS and Mother Friendly Care in our area and nation
Hear the latest information on VBAC research, practice and politics
Gain perspective on Mother Friendly Mental Health Care
Honor yourself and others who are trying to make maternity care safer
Discuss birthing rights as a fundamental human right
Recognize how social movements can be most effective
Utilize tools to create change through activism, advocacy and education
Be involved in creating a plan for the future, and the role of the Rocky Mountain Coalition for Humanizing Birth
Much better. I also LOVE the sponsorship levels: trust birth, my body’s not a lemon and birth rocks. The sponsoring organization, the Rocky Mountain Coalition for Humanizing Birth is also quite bad-ass.
The Rocky Mountain Coalition for Humanizing Birth (RMCHB) is an organization born out of the need to change the current pregnancy and childbirth practices that violate the rights of women and their families. All too often women are forced, coerced, and lied to in the current medical establishment and it is the goal of the RMCHB to bring these violations to the attention of the community, and community leaders in order to bring about change towards Mother-Friendly Care.
The mission of RMCHB is to bring reproductive justice to the forefront of the human rights movement, particularly as it relates to the perinatal period. RMCHB is a collaboration of activists and birth professionals; care providers and community members who recognize our ability to effect change through politics, art, advocacy, and education.
Go if you can, its September 26th and 27th in Denver, CO. It’s pretty affordable and sounds like it’s going to be awesome.
I’ve posted about this great film-in-progress before, but if you happen to be in NYC on March 21st you should check out this great event and fundraiser.
Bellydancing, Cocktails and a Film About Cervixes www.atyourcervixmovie.com
Friday, March 21, 2008
Doors 6:30, Show/Screening 7 pm
279 Church Street, New York City
Hello folks! It’s almost spring and we’re throwing a party in honor of that film we keep telling you about. Hope you’ll come and see some clips, have a drink, give what you can and enjoy a great night of performances and celebration. We’re not finished, but this event will help us get there!
In the name of improving pelvic exams for all patients, hope to see you!
For more information about this important film check out our website for info, trailer, our mailing list, and ways to donate.