Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

NH Proposes Legislation that Endangers Women’s Health

January 25, 2012

Part 1: Restricting Access to Affordable Reproductive Health Services

New Hampshire set the stage back in June 2011 when – through a five-person “exectutive panel” – it’s declined federal funding for the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. As a result, it could no longer offer affordable birth control and considered doing away with pelvic exams as well. Raymond Wieczorek, a member of the panel who voted to nix the funding, voiced an all-too-common viewpoint from the anti-choice camp.

“I am opposed to abortion,” said , a council member who voted against the contract. “I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don’t ask me to pay for it.”

And here we are – well past saving babies and far into the waters of SEX! People having sex! Because of course, the Hyde Amendment is alive and well and no federal money is used to fund abortions. And how can anyone pretend to believe a an embryo, fetus, or fertilized egg, is an innocent life in need of rescue while at the same time restricting access to birth control? They can’t.

Fast forward seven months and the NH house pulled all state funding as well. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is keeping a running tally of women denied services. As of today, it’s 2459.

Part 2: Making it harder to protect victims of domestic violence

HB 1581 would prevent a police officer from making an arrest in a domestic violence case unless he directly witnesses the violence. An article in NH’s Concord Monitor illustrates an apt scenario:

An officer is called to a home where she sees clear evidence that an assault has occurred. The furniture is overturned, the children are sobbing, and the face of the woman of the house is bruised and bleeding. It’s obvious who the assailant was, but the officer arrived after the assault occurred. It’s a small department, and no one else on the force is available to keep the peace until the officer finds a judge or justice of the peace to issue a warrant. The officer leaves, and the abuser renews his attack with even more ferocity, punishing his victim for having called for help.

It’s hard to understand the justification for this kind of change. And as much as I’ve dug, I haven’t found any proponents speaking out on the web. Reasonable suspicion is good enough for most arrests – but not when the victim is a partner or spouse? It’s reminiscent of criminal investigation being paid by the state, except in cases of rape.

On top of that, we have HB 1608, severely limits when someone can be arrested for violating a restraining order to two things:

  • Committing an act of abuse or an offense against the person named in the protective order
  • Engaging in prohibited contact

Critics worry that this language takes away a judges right to rule on a case by case basis. Additionally, NH law enforcement believes the bill would

remove a judge’s ability to order a defendant in a domestic violence case to relinquish weapons or prevent him or her from purchasing a gun. It would also eliminate law enforcement’s ability to arrest a defendant who threatens to use physical force against a victim or her children.

New Hampshire residents can petition here.



“Proposition 8 is an Embarassment…To ALL Americans”

November 9, 2008

I’ve had zero time to blog recently, but came across a well-written comment on the passing of Prop 8 in California and want to quickly second it. Although a significant mental disconnect exists in embracing the intelligent musings of one whom I’ve come to unconsciously view as the horny and hapless Charlie Runkle, I have to admit that Evan Handler is spot on with the sentiment

“[T]he passage of Proposition 8 in California is an embarrassment to, and an indictment of, all Americans.”

He also noted that although the gay community is vocally protesting the measure, the straight community has been shamefully quiet. He’s right, and it’s another reason I’m taking a few minutes to write this tonight.

Handler continues

Denying any Americans any rights that other Americans hold is discrimination. Period. It doesn’t matter whether the discrimination is motivated by morality, or religious beliefs, or a Ouija board, it’s still discrimination. And that makes it illegal. (And that comes after the fact that it’s wrong.) It should be clear to everyone (or made clear to them) that it puts us all in danger of the same kind of discrimination being pointed our way the moment someone decides we’re on the wrong side of their moral or religious measurements.

He suggests supporting those businesses who openly opposed the proposition – notably Google and Apple, each of whom formally denounced Prop 8 – and denying business to those who supported it. This is my favorite way to protest, capitalism at its very best – hit ’em in the pocketbook!

Already the struggle has begun to overturn Prop 8 in court. You can sign a petition to Gov. Schwarzenegger or donate to the Invalidate Prop 8 campaign at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. All donations are made in the name of the Thomas Monson, head of the Mormon Church, which spent $15 million on a PR campaign to convince people gay marriage would corrupt and defile their children. Many more suggestions are available on the What Do We Do Now? page at

Thanks to Ann at Feministing, here are the outcomes of other Nov 4th ballot measures affecting LGBT rights:

Amendment 2 in Florida: Passed. Yet another gay marriage ban.

Proposition 102 in Arizona: Passed. As Dana noted previously, “Arizona became the first state in the nation to reject an anti-gay marriage amendment in 2006, but they’re likely to pass the measure this year, now that it has been stripped of language that also denied domestic partnership benefits to hetero couples.” Looks like that was the magic change to make bigotry palatable to Arizona voters.

Act 1 in Arkansas: Passed. Now gay couples are unable to adopt or foster-parent children. This from a state with 3700 children in the foster-care system, and only 1000 foster homes. Disgusting.

Question 1 in Connecticut: Failed! Lindsay at Female Impersonator explained earlier that this initiative would have allowed the state constitution to be changed — essentially clearing the way for anti-gay and anti-choice amendments to be tacked onto it. Glad it didn’t pass.

“Shh…” VA Covers Up Vet Suicide Rate

May 3, 2008

Last November CBS News ran a story on the epidemic of veteran suicides. Noting that the current administration has glaringly neglected to tally a nationwide rate, correspondent Armen Keteyian led an independent investigation that, based on information from 45 states, revealed 6,256 vet suicides in 2005 alone – a rate double that of the general population.

Yet Dr. Ira Katz, head of mental health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, was outraged by the story. He insisted the number was much smaller and that the rates fell within normal limits. “There is no epidemic,” he said. The VA then provided CBS with data that indicated a total of 790 vets committed suicide while under VA treatment in 2007.

However an internal email surfaced last week, written by Katz in December. It tells a different story.

Subject: Not for the CBS News interview request


Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address … before someone stumbles on it?

Ira R. Katz MD, PhD Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Office for Mental Health

Publicly the VA claims 790 per year, while internally it admits a prevalence over 15 times higher:12,000 per year. Even more staggering is that the actual number is even higher. The figure of 1,000 per month includes only those vets in treatment with the VA at the time of their deaths. A recent study by the Rand Corporation shows that although one in five vets experience symptoms of mental impairment, such as PTSD or severe depression, nearly half neglect to seek treatment. One barrier is the fact that military medical records are public and the move could negatively affect a vet’s career.

Additionally Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America reports a bureaucratic chaos that has left 1.8 million discharged vets without health insurance, and an overwhelmed system where 400,000 disability claims are currently pending, nearly 20% of which are over six months old. According to IAVA, at least one inside official admits that the VA’s inability to deal with the influx of wounded vets, most especially those with brain injury and mental health issues, has made care “virtually inaccessible” at some clinics.

Another factor is the troubling intentional misdiagnosis of “personality disorders” on men and women who actually suffer from PTSD or traumatic brain injury.

More on this in the next post…

“Like Rwanda, but Worse” – Rape as a Weapon of War in the Congo [Part 1: History of the Conflict]

December 7, 2007

Women in the People’s Democratic of Congo have been enduring barbaric sexual atrocities duringCongo2 the country’s violent civil unrest for more than a decade. Yet the western world seems to hardly have noticed. This is the first in an ongoing series documenting the situation in a country where women and children are inhumanly brutalized, where even the most unimaginable forms of rape have become common weapons of war.

Many are questioning how this level of sexual violence grew to such dramatic proportions. Although atrocities and rape in wartime are common, U.N. leaders consider the intensity and prevalence of horrors in the Congo to be “the worst in the world.”

It’s interesting to note that, according to a recent NY Times article

Many Congolese aid workers denied that the problem was cultural and insisted that the widespread rapes were not the product of something ingrained in the way men treated women in Congolese society. “If that were the case, this would have showed up long ago,” said Wilhelmine Ntakebuka, who coordinates a sexual violence program in Bukavu.

Contrarily, an Amnesty International report asserts that it is precisely women’s lower societal status that allows for this type of targeting in wartime.

“When you lift the stone of sexual violence, you will find another stone of the treatment of women more generally, which is effectively slavery. Women do everything: they walk miles for food or water, they care for the children, they cook, they clean, they cultivate the land and they earn the family income… That is the female condition in the Congo. “

— Expatriate woman psychologist working in DRC, interviewed by AI

In the very least, Congolese law leaves nowhere for these women to turn as crimes of rape, torture, mutilation, kidnapping, and sexual slavery are committed with nearly 100% impunity.

A 2002 HRW report summarizes women’s status in Congolese society.

Even before the war in Congo, women and girls were second class citizens. The law as well as social norms defined the role of women and girls as subordinate to men. Although women are often a major-if not the major-source of support for the family, the Congolese Family Code requires them to obey their husbands who are recognized as the head of the household.

Women and girls are also subordinate by custom and practice. A woman’s status depends on being married and girls tend to marry at a young age. It is generally considered more important to educate boys than girls[…] Literacy statistics for Congo (also) show gender-specific discrimination.

Male household heads often settle violent crimes against women and girls outside the courts. Some have “resolved” rape cases by accepting a money payment from the perpetrator or his family or by arranging to have the perpetrator marry the victim. […]

Women and girls who are raped suffer significant loss of social status[…] In cases of the death of women and girls by murder or negligence, the family of the victim sometimes agrees to accept the equivalent of a woman’s bride price as compensation and does not pursue the case further.

Congolese views about women and the issue of sexual violence were clearly demonstrated in 2005 when UNICEF spearheaded the first march against sexual violence in the boarder city of Goma. Hundreds of brutalized women donned black head scarves and nervously took to the streets. In a PBS interview, American filmmaker Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt describes the event:

…the march ended up being more chaotic than we imagined because every one of the bystanders, male or female, heckled the women marching. Their position was, “Why are you doing this? This is stupid. What is sexual violence?” On an official level, there aren’t any adequate laws against rape, and no one has been convicted of rape in 40 years, other than three or four people who were not soldiers.

Let’s take a quick look at how the climate in the Congo escalated to create an atmosphere conducive to these horrors.