Friday FREAK OUT! Access to abortion services in Texas CUT OFF

Late last night, three republican judges (all appointed by former president George W. Bush) at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated legislation that requires Texas clinics offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in order to perform abortions on-site. This ruling comes on the heels of the news on Monday that Judge Yeakal ruled that that part of the law was unconstitutional.

What does this mean? That abortion clinics are calling up patients and canceling appointments, and many clinics will be forced to close completely. Only 5 clinics out of the 42 in Texas meet the requirements of the new legislation, meaning that women will be forced to travel far to get the services they need. Some fabulous organizing efforts have already been put into place, such as Fund Texas Women, which is raising money to help give financial assistance for bus tickets and hotel stays for women. Texas Equal Access Fund (TEAFund) also helps women financially, and they are keeping us updated on closures and the status of clinics on their twitter feed and Facebook wall.

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While I am all about prevention and education, sometimes I have to turn my attention to policy, advocacy, rights, and services. You bet I’m freakin out about this one, and I hope others are too. Part of me wants to pack up my bag and join the efforts in Texas to elect Wendy Davis and help women regain their rights. I am so glad that women ARE mobilizing.

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So the takeaway for educators is that young people need to know how to access services, and what to do if those services are limited. One experiential educational activity could be giving each student a ‘profile’ of someone who needs a particular reproductive health service (including, but not limited to abortion), a city and state (not just Texas but maybe a variety of locations), and some life details (in school, job, health insurance coverage). Then assign them the task of finding a service provider, the cost of the service, the hours that they are available, the distance they will have to travel, the transportation method and cost, if they will need hotel/housing (and cost of that, too!), and how that will impact the rest of their life (do they need childcare for a child already in the family? will this force them to miss class? how will this affect their job?). This person could be a woman, or a man- maybe it’s the boyfriend, the brother, or the father of someone who needs these services. After they have found the information, pair up with another person and compare notes. In having to find the information, the participants will learn not just what services are (or aren’t) available, but HOW to access them. Just remember, the goal isn’t to scare them or make them afraid of needing an abortion, it’s to prepare them for accessing services they (or someone they know) may need in the future. They will also hopefully learn the value of laws that ensure ACCESS to reproductive health services. (BTW, this may already be a more polished lesson plan that someone has written and published. If that’s the case, please share that info!)

Texas isn’t the only state affected by these egregious laws, but it’s certainly getting lots of attention. I hope that we can use this opportunity to bring to light the negative impact of all sorts of TRAP laws that reduce access to vital reproductive health services across the US.

SB5, DOMA & Prop 8- SHUT DOWN!

Today has been one of the most memorable Wednesdays for legislative victories in my arena, ever! I honestly do not remember a time when we’ve had so much good news about such bad legislation. Not only have we had a citizen filibuster shut down an outrageous abortion law in Texas, the Supreme court made MAJOR rulings in favor of marriage equality. This sexuality educator is thrilled! (Although maybe it would have been better spread out, so we can relish the wins over time. But I’ll take it any way I can!)

SB5

Senator Wendy Davis answers questions from Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, with major support from her fellow Democrats Leticia Van de Putte, Senator Kirk Watson, Senator Royce West and Senator Rodney Ellis (read more about the power players in the filibuster), led the charge against some abhorrent TRAP laws that would have imposed unnecessary regulations on Texas abortion clinics, thus forcing the closure of all but 5 in the entire state. The bill would also ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Her inspirational filibuster prevented the vote on what would have been a sure-fire pass on SB5. The Twitterverse was AFIRE with supporters (and a few dissenters), proclaiming that they #standwithwendy in her awesome pink sneakers.

Supporters of Wendy Davis, in orange, filled the Senate building.

Although, not as vocal as the protesters/supporters that were AT the senate. At about 11:48pm (CT), the crowd started cheering so loudly, it delayed the vote until after the 12am deadline. Lt Governor David Dewhurst called for a vote anyways, which kept supporters (and Wendy Davis) on their toes, but it was eventually deemed invalid due to the fact it was taken after the deadline. Want a great recap of the day, including memes and tweets? Check out Buzzfeed’s post, The Internet Celebrates Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’ Filibuster. A more journalistic approach can be found on my ever-fave, Huffington Post.

DOMA

Since March, the Human Rights Campaign has led the charge raising awareness about the DOMA Sumpreme Court rulings.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law in 1996 by good ‘ole President Clinton, has been a MAJOR barrier for achieving marriage equality. The law basically said that one state did not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. In the case United States v. Windsor, Windsor sued the government after being charged estate tax on her partner, Spyer’s, property, which should would not have to do if their marriage was legally recognized. From here, the tale is tough for this not-so-much-a-lawyer sexuality educator to tell, so I recommend the Washington Post’s rundown on what you need to know about the case. What’s especially outstanding about this ruling, is the strong language used in the majority  opinion issued by Justice Anthony Kennedy…

The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity…By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

It is such a relief to see a Justice of the United States Supreme Court uphold the value of human rights. Suzanne Goldberg’s got it right in her post, that the real victory here is “the direct, clear way that the Court seems to understand why DOMA is such an egregious violation of the constitution’s equality guarantee under the Fifth Amendment.”

Prop 8

The Supreme Court also ruled on the 2008 California ballet measure, Proposition 8, which created a state constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court ruled that they will not make a ruling, and the case will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. What does that mean? The ruling in the Lower Court of Appeals stands, and same-sex marriage is back ON in CA. Again, I will admit my non-lawyer status (although my mom DID tell me to think about law school! yeah right, that legalese makes me dizzy) and direct you to the Huffington Post for more details on the legal process involved.

What does all this mean for fearless sexuality educators like myself?

One thing is that HOPE springs eternal. We so often do this work amidst setbacks, institutional barriers, and the FEAR that what we do is for naught. But days like today help us maintain our strength, and remind us to be steadfast and vocal for what we believe in. If we don our orange, stand up against injustice, and speak up for what we believe in, we can accomplish our goals.