A round-up of links related to the ongoing global battle for women’s equality.
Tamara Loerstcher was suffering from an untreated thyroid condition and depression and had begun to self medicate with drugs when, in late July 2014, she suspected she might also be pregnant. Loerstcher, uninsured at the time, went to an Eau Claire, Wisconsin, hospital for medical treatment and to confirm her pregnancy.
After submitting to a urinalysis, Loerstcher disclosed her past drug use to hospital workers. But instead of caring for Loerstcher, who as it turns out was 14 weeks pregnant, hospital workers had her jailed.
Those are the allegations in a soon-to-be-filed federal civil rights lawsuit by attorneys from National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the Carr Center for Reproductive Justice at New York University School of Law, and the Perkins Coie law firm.
Loerstcher and her attorneys, in a call with reporters, detailed her experience, including her alleged mistreatment by Wisconsin officials and the ongoing deprivation of Loerstcher’s constitutional rights under a Wisconsin law that grants authorities the power to involuntarily detain and confine a pregnant woman for substance use if she “habitually lacks self-control” and her substance use poses a “substantial risk” to the health of an egg, embryo, or fetus.
The Wisconsin policy is similar in nature to radical “personhood” laws pushed in state legislatures controlled by anti-choice lawmakers. “Personhood” amendments, which would outlaw abortion at any stage of pregnancy, were roundly rejected by voters in several states on Election Day.
According to Loertscher and her attorneys, unbeknownst to her, as hospital workers were preparing a prescription to treat Loertscher’s thyroid condition, they were also initiating unborn child protection proceedings on behalf of Loertscher’s then 14-week-old fetus.
Loertscher and her attorneys claim that within days of Loertscher seeking care, hospital workers had already turned over Loerstcher’s hospital records to the state without Loerstcher’s knowledge or consent. They also claim that with those records in hand, state officials filed a petition accusing Loerstcher of abuse of an unborn child and held a hearing in which the state had appointed an attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, for the 14-week-old fetus, but granted Loerstcher no meaningful representation.
This is so maddening. Advocates of that law don’t give a shit that Loertscher was self-medicating to ameliorate her suffering. No, they don’t care about her at all. They only care about the fetus.
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In October 2012, Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock wrote a 65-page decision affirming a state mandate that at least one parent be notified before a woman under 18 can obtain an abortion. But from the get-go, and throughout the decision, Suddock deflated anti-abortion advocates’ loudest claim: that abortion is unsafe for women.
On the question of whether abortion causes mental illness—critical to the abortion-harms-women narrative—Suddock dismissed that one, too.
“Mental illness is a constellation of subjective and objective signs and symptoms ultimately causing individual distress,” hewrote. “The illness may have genetic origins or derive from life experiences. Since the 1980’s, the majority consensus of American psychiatry is that abortion does not cause mental illness.”
Despite the court’s agreement with plaintiffs that the law in question “advances no compelling state interest in the health of minor women,” the court upheld the bulk of the law, arguing that it promotes “family involvement in a young woman’s pregnancy decision” by “the least restrictive means available.” (Plaintiffs appealed the decision, and the case is pendingbefore the Alaska Supreme Court.)
But the court’s upfront dismissal of common but unfounded claims that abortion is a generally unsafe procedure prompts the question: Why are states continuing to pass abortion restrictions based partly on erroneous theories that abortion harms women?
And why are state attorneys general calling as expert witnesses some of the very people who proffered these spurious notions to state legislatures in the first place?
In the last few years, state legislatures have been passing abortion restrictions largely based on unfounded theories that abortion is a dangerous procedure that significantly increases women’s risk of developing breast cancer and mental health disorders, among other claims. RH Reality Checkrecently profiled several of the medical professionals and researchers who routinely peddle these largely unsupported theories, first before state legislators and then later before state and federal judges, on the taxpayers’ dime. Those profiled in our False Witnesses series have collectively received at least $657,000 from state attorneys general to help them defend abortion restrictions that, in some cases, they helped enact.
In some cases, these False Witnesses have had a clear impact on the formation of state laws.
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It’s an all-too familiar story: A male teacher engages in a sexual relationship with one of his underage students, committing statutory rape and breaking every ethical rule of his profession in the process. When his crimes are discovered, the teacher pleads for mercy and accuses the student in question of concocting the entire affair — she was”predatory!” She’s older than her “chronological age!” She’s a latter-day Lolita!
These arguments are frequently dispatched by the legal teams of child molesters eager to exploit rape culture’s tendency to blame the victim in cases of sexual violence. A case in California, however, may be the first time that those same indefensible “defenses” have been utilized by an entire school district charged with facilitating the abuse of one of its own students.
In an investigation by Southern California public radio station KPCC, the Los Angeles Unified School District used this legal strategy after Elkis Lazaro Hermida, a middle school math teacher, confessed to having repeatedly statutorily raped a student who was between the ages of 13 and 14. He was arrested in May 2011 and later convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor.
When the guardian of the former student sued the district for negligence, the school district argued in court that the middle school student was mature enough to consent. As Keith Wyatt, the district’s trial attorney, told KPCC:
“She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?”
“Making a decision as to whether or not to cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that’s a much more dangerous decision than to decide, ‘Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher.'”
In his closing arguments during the civil trial, Wyatt accused the rape victim of pursuing the case for financial reasons: “She wants to be paid for doing something that she knew was wrong, that she acknowledged was wrong, that she knew was from the beginning. She doesn’t want therapy, she wants money. That’s what they are asking you for.”
The school district also entered the girl’s sexual history as “evidence” of previous promiscuity — a practice that’s legally inadmissible in criminal cases but allowed in civil cases. The school district even persuaded Judge Lawrence Cho to place the girl’s name on the jury’s verdict form, giving jurors the option of finding a juvenile rape victim “at fault.”
The jury sided with the district, submitting that since the school administrators didn’t know about the abuse, they weren’t liable for the estimated $100,000 in therapy the victim would require over the rest of her life.
This is vile. The state of California has ruled that children under the age of 18 are not capable of giving consent. Arguing otherwise is disgusting.
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Premier Brian Gallant is removing a key regulation that has restricted access to abortion services in New Brunswick for two decades.
Gallant made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday morning in Fredericton.
The premier promised in the election campaign to review Regulation 84-20, which requires women seeking a hospital abortion to have two doctors certify it as medically necessary.The review identified barriers to abortion services, according to Gallant.
It also requires the procedure to be done only by a specialist, whereas other provinces allow family doctors to perform abortions.
The so-called two-doctor rule has been in place for two decades, supported by previous Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments.
“Identifying those barriers was an important step towards eliminating them,” Gallant said in a statement.
Gallant said the new regulation will no longer require two physicians to certify the procedure is medically necessary, effective on Jan. 1.
This will put reproductive health procedures in the same category as any insured medical procedure, according to the government.
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The Canadian Public Health Association is calling on the government to regulate the sex industry as a business with rules to protect the safety of prostitutes.
In a position paper released Friday, the association says the world’s so-called oldest profession should be regulated under existing occupational health and safety regulations.
It says that would help deal with some of the root causes of prostitution, such as poverty and homelessness.
“There are indications that a public health approach based on harm reduction and addressing the social determinants of health may provide the tools needed to address the underlying factors that result in participation in the sex trade, and vulnerability to human trafficking and violence,” says the report.
The report comes after Canada’s controversial new prostitution law went into effect last week after the Supreme Court ruled that the old law violated the safety rights of prostitutes.
More than 60 groups across the country have called for a repeal of the law, which criminalizes the purchase of sex, along with advertising and some forms of communication.