by Austin McCoy
Detroit's movement to oppose the city's water and sewage department's draconian bill collection program won a significant victory on July 29. The city's Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, extended more control over the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) to Mayor Mike Duggan. While Orr retains the authority to restructure the DWSD, the announcement means that the DWSD will suspend its bill collection program temporarily. In March, the DWSD announced that it would shut off its delinquent customers' water. To date, thousands of Detroiters have experienced shut offs already. According to the Detroit Free Press, the DWSD shut off water to 7,556 customers. If the DWSD’s goal was to pass the costs of its financial crisis to its customers, the program appeared to work, as up to 17,000 Detroiters have entered into payment plans. Unfortunately, the DWSD turned its fiscal emergency into a human rights issue, a public health and political crisis.
By Ginny Engholm
As everyone who reads this blog (or is on Facebook or Twitter) is by now well aware, the Supreme Court's recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case has dealt yet another powerful blow to women’s right to access contraceptives and manage their own health care, reproductive choices, and bodies. But a recent law—this one in Louisiana and regarding prenatal testing and counseling—poses yet another, but much less recognized, threat to women’s reproductive freedom. In May, Louisiana joined several other states (Massachusetts, Kentucky, Delaware, and Maryland) in passing a version of the Down Syndrome Information Act. This measure is part of the pro-information movement, which attempts to balance disparate groups and agendas within the Down syndrome community by bringing together both pro-choice and pro-life Down syndrome advocates in favor of providing women balanced, medically-accurate, and sensitive information about options when faced with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The act as intended requires doctors to give appropriate medical information about the diagnosis and the options. It also requires doctors to give referrals to genetic counselors and relevant support services when delivering a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome to a patient.
by Andrea Milne
Everybody and their sister is blogging about the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling, so I’ll spare you all the gory details, if for no other reason than to preserve my sanity. Here, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, are the most important things you need to know:
By Carrie Adkins
Until last week, Jill Abramson, the executive editor of the New York Times, was considered the nineteenth most powerful woman in the world. She was the first woman ever to hold that particular job, and she managed it during a challenging period, as the Times moved to embrace digital technology and cope with the changing face of American journalism. On Wednesday, May 14, however, the newspaper’s publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., announced unexpectedly that he was firing Abramson. He replaced her with Dean Baquet, who thanked Abramson for her work and noted that he was taking over “the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago.” And just like that, Abramson -- who played a major role in making those improvements at the Times -- was out of a job.
by Lara Freidenfelds
As we wait for the Supreme Court to render a decision on the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case, I have been pondering the historical relationship between contraception and health care. Is it obvious that contraception should be considered part of “health care?” And would it be possible to decide that it isn’t, but still make it affordable and available? This case seems, to me, to rest largely on whether we think contraception counts as health care. The justices are wary of an outcome that would allow employers to decline to pay for blood transfusions or routine vaccinations, even if an employer might genuinely have religious reservations about those procedures. Those are clearly health care. Contraception, though, seems different. It is prescribed for healthy people, and it does not cure or prevent disease (at least not directly).
By Lara Freidenfelds
Miscarriage rarely makes the news, except in tabloids. But last year, Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain’s ill-advised attempt to require Virginia women to report all miscarriages to the police contributed to his failure to become Virginia’s state attorney general. The bill, introduced in 2009, haunted his race for the position. Obenshain was trying to demonstrate his moral outrage over the case of a frightened teenager who had given birth to a premature stillborn baby, and disposed of it in a dumpster. It was a tragic case, to all observers. But instead of asking how his state could better provide sex education and contraception, or provide support to teens who get pregnant, he wrote a bill aimed at surveillance and punishment. On penalty of up to a year in prison, women would be required to report all incidences of fetal demise occurring outside a physician’s supervision to the police. They were to report the pregnant woman’s name and the location of the remains, and would not be allowed to dispose of them without police supervision.
By Austin McCoy
President Obama, Paul Ryan, and Bill O’Reilly walk into a bar. Rather than engage in abstract conversations about the role of America in the world or the federal government’s role in the market, they decide to talk about an issue where they can forge some common ground. What issue could the three men come together around? It is probable they would likely converge around trying to explain and address the poverty of black men and women in the United States. This common ground is possible because national conversations about public policy never seem to escape the orbit of culture, meritocracy, colorblindness, and normative understandings of gender and family. More specifically, Ryan’s, Obama’s, and O’Reilly’s recent comments on the subject revolve around two political archetypes—the heteronormative family and the black male. When considered together, they take a special place in our nation's "gendered imagination."
By Guest Author
Recently, NPR reporter Quil Lawrence presented a radio series in which he profiled veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges from the military after violating rules of conduct, breaking the law, or getting in trouble with military authorities. Despite their service – including, for many, tours in active warzones - soldiers with so-called ‘bad paper’ are no longer considered veterans. As former Marine Michael Hartnett put it: “You might as well never even enlisted.” Hartnett was given bad paper in 1993 when he began abusing drugs and alcohol - an attempt to self-medicate his undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans like Hartnett are no longer eligible to receive any of the veterans' benefits they were promised when they enlisted.
By Helen McBride
In 1999, Sweden passed the Law against Procurement of Sexual Services, criminalizing the purchase of sex, which punishes johns but not prostitutes. Worldwide, the law is considered a progressive way to improve the lives of sex workers while also combating the root causes of exploitation in the industry. Currently up for debate in Northern Ireland’s government is a similar measure, a new law, titled the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which seeks to limit human trafficking in Northern Ireland. Clause 6 of this bill emulates the Swedish model in an attempt to criminalize those who pay for sexual services. Problematic, however, is the lack of distinction made between individuals who choose to become sex workers and those who are trafficked.
By Austin C. McCoy
I wish I found the idea of cutting $39 billion from the federal government’s food stamp program (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP) during a recession unbelievable. But, as usual, House Republicans continue to thwart all belief and reason. Some Republicans like Paul Ryan (R-WI) are concerned about the program’s sustainability. They worry that the size of the program will not shrink fast enough over the next four years. However, as Travis Waldron of Think Progress notes, SNAP is based upon income and not employment, therefore explaining the program's projected marginal decrease.