Our biweekly lists lay out notable issues in the news and tell you what you can do about them.
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Hey Teen Resisters!
We hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and got the chance to rest, eat, and spend ample time with friends and family--there is so much around us to be grateful for. As always, it's been quite a two weeks. This list covers the latest in the impeachment inquiry, a DACA update, recent school shootings, and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates' positions on climate change (the last being part of a new initiative we're starting to inform TR readers on where the candidates stand on important issues!!). Happy reading and activisting :))
peace & power,
what went down
*What is a quid pro quo? It’s when a favor or advantage is granted or expected in return for something. Here’s something interesting to think about—a lot of Americans don’t know the definition of quid pro quo (which makes sense, given that it’s a fairly antiquated Latin phrase), and it doesn’t have an inherently negative connotation without context. Experts have urged major liberal media outlets to use clearer language when discussing Trump’s crimes, like “bribery” or “extortion,” to communicate more directly the fact that Trump has committed a serious crime and to help people understand what that crime is.
What can you do?
A ruling on the case is expected anytime from January to June, 2020. The Supreme Court could rule in a number of ways, each of which would hold different consequences for DREAMers (DACA recipients). If you want to learn more about the legal arguments and possible outcomes, the National Immigrant Law Society has a good explainer.
What can you do?
Police have recently foiled some potentially devastating shootings as well. On November 22, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested a 13-year-old who had seized a high capacity magazine rifle and threatened to shoot his middle school with it. The police later found a map and list of teacher and student names.
Out of all of the issues that our country is facing, gun violence is one of the problems that affects our generation the most directly and the most dangerously. In the past 46 weeks, there have been 45 school shootings. As the number of shootings gets higher and higher, it’s becomes alarmingly easy to forget that behind every single one of those shootings are faces with stories to tell. It’s all of our jobs to make sure the stories of school shooting victims are heard and remembered. We will never be able to tell their stories or understand their agony, but we will do our very best to pay respect to unspeakable tragedies ad continue to pressure action.
On December 2nd, the Supreme Court is going to hear its first major Second Amendment case in nearly a decade. A decision on the hearing is expected to come in July of 2020. In the meantime, we can do our share as well:
What can you do?
NEW: 2020 Featured Issue—Climate Change
It's vital to us that TR readers have as much information as they need to make a decision about which 2020 presidential candidate they want to support. To that end, we've decided to do a featured issue every list from now until the primaries -- we've explained the basics of where each candidate stands on climate change and what they are planning to do to fix it below. We hope that it will be non-overwhelming and helpful in your process of figuring out who you're backing!!
What can you do?
Hi Teen Resisters! Welcome back. We're back with a list breaking down some of the major stories making the rounds in the media and social media this week. We want to help clarify things for you and let you know how you can have an impact.
FIRST, A NOTE:
As we're publishing this, it's just been reported that the Supreme Court is considering supporting Trump in his decision to end DACA benefits for Dreamers. For now, you can read this article, this article, and our DACA briefing to understand the issue, and we'll be back soon with action.
Without further ado, let's jump in!
What Went Down:
We hope these were helpful!
Sending lots of love and light,
Hey Teen Resisters!
With all the impeachment stuff that's going on, it's really easy to feel overwhelmed (we know that we do). And that makes sense—we're at a moment in history right now that it unprecedented and exceptional; it will likely be instrumental in shaping the political landscape of America for decades to come. Regardless of how important it is to stay up to date on all the impeachment stuff, though, it's also important to not let all the other key happenings get lost. Here are some items that might have flown under your radar over the past couple of weeks--read, digest, and act at your own pace! Sending large amounts of love & good vibes, and happy activisting :))
Note: In addition to content from our staff writers (listed here), this list includes writing from Ruby Goodman.
Before you dive in, we want to update you on a few quick things we want to update you on:
1) The October 11th CNN LGBTQ Town Hall for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, which came in the wake of the October 8th arguments for one of the most important LGBTQ+ rights Supreme Court cases in modern history (concerning workplace discrimination). Read about the town hall here and the case here.
2) The governor's race in Kentucky--if you're looking for a quick, simple, and impactful action to take, this topic is for you. The November 8th Kentucky gubernatorial election features a matchup which is--likely surprisingly to many of you, since Kentucky tends to be a red state--currently even, according to polls. Current AG Andy Beshear is running to unseat incumbent Gov. Bevin--read more about the race here, and phonebank here: www.mobilize.us/kydems/event/108304/
what went down
As they’ve struggled for citizenship in the Middle East, they have faced violence and oppression from all directions. In the past, the Kurds have created resistance parties to challenge Turkey in an effort to establish their own state while also trying to avoid conflict with the powerful Syrian regime. Because of this threat, the Turks have viewed the Kurds as a terror group and treated them as such, creating a major rift between the two groups.
So, where does the U.S. come in?
In the early 2010s, the radical Islamic terror group ISIS threatened the safety of the Kurds as it sought to take over territory in which the Kurds had been living. While Turkey looked the other way, U.S. and Kurdish forces teamed up to try to take down ISIS. The Kurdish troops led much of the decade’s fighting against ISIS, and were responsible for a lot of its success. They also established a cooperative relationship with the United States, regardless of the fact that the U.S. was (and is) an official ally of Turkey through NATO, causing the U.S. to be essentially caught between two hostile groups. Because of the middle ground position they were in, the U.S. decided to insert troops in the hot zones of Syria as a buffer between the Turks and the Kurds, consequently playing a major part in cooling the simmering conflict between these two groups. In addition to preventing conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, U.S. troops also stopped Bashar Al-Assad, the president of Syria, from seizing control over Northern Syria and the Kurds. Beyond that, U.S. forces in Syria helped subdue ISIS in the area, and secured Isis prisoners in Kurdish possession.
All in all, the last couple weeks have been filled with explosive violence in Northern Syria; the Kurds are in more danger of being destroyed than ever, and Russia, Assad, and ISIS all have gained global power. Vice President Mike Pence and President Erdoğan of Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire in Syria, followed by Trump lifting sanctions on Turkey, claiming that the ceasefire would be permanent. However, given the global chaos of the past couple of weeks, it would be very surprising if it held. Whatever happens, this abrupt U.S. foreign policy move will have repercussions in Syria for years to come.
What can you do?
Delaware has previously passed laws mandating that both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families offer free pads and tampons. Several other states, including California, Illinois, New York, and New Hampshire, have also passed laws requiring schools to provide period products. Rep. Longhurst and Sen. Lockman hope to have the bill drafted and proposed by the end of 2019.
What You Can Do:
On October 4th, 2017, Teens Resist launched! Two years later, we're grateful for every moment since.
Our mission has been and will always be to make activism and politics accessible to youth, who deserve to and do have a huge voice. In the past two years, we’ve watched and participated as youth involvement in politics and social justice has only grown and grown- and we’re really really here for it. Nothing makes us happier than finding out that our content has been helpful to someone! It makes all of it worth it. We hope that you’ve had that experience- please let us know what your experience with TR has been!
We’ve stayed true to our core by publishing online content, but we’ve also expanded into real-life workshops which have been so fulfilling. What started as one person in her room has grown to include two co-directors, two social media staff, and 20 writers, all of whom hail from across the country.
We’ve put out 54 long form lists/features, garnered views, and built this amazing social media community.
We’re proud of the work we do and we are proud of YOU for the amazing ways that you use it. We feel the love and hope you do too. Overall, these past two years have just gone above and beyond our wildest dreams, and we know it’ll only get more amazing. We have some big plans for 2020.
Thank you so much for your support, no matter how long you’ve known about TR! We love and appreciate you.
Hi there Teen Resisters! It's been a while, hasn't it? But we're back and better than ever with this feature on impeachment. There's a lot going on in the news right now but obviously, the announcement by Nancy Pelosi that there is officially an impeachment inquiry into President Trump has dominated the news cycle and been a source of excitement and confusion. So what is going on exactly? We've got you covered to help you understand it all.
What is impeachment?
What led to this inquiry?
What Happens Now?
So with all this in the works, what’s really to come of this movement for impeachment? President Trump will very likely be impeached in the House of Representatives, seeing as it is controlled in large part by Democrats. By this point, even moderate Democrats in conservative districts -- NY 11’s Max Rose, for instance -- have come out in favor of impeachment.
However, seeing as the Republican party controls 53 seats in the Senate (not to mention to tie-breaking Vice-Presidential position) it's unlikely he'll be convicted in the Senate, especially considering the ⅔ supermajority impeachment requires. This is in large part because of the political pressure the GOP and its donors place on their Senators; should one step out of line and caucus with the Democrats, they can rest assured that their campaign funds will all but dry up and they’ll be branded a “traitor to Trump.”
In fact, that fact may be all that’s holding the line -- according to Jeff Flake (R-AZ), 35 of his fellow Republican Senators would be voting to impeach Trump if their votes were private. This suggests that anti-Trump sentiments run deep throughout Washington; it’s the votes of his base (some 31% of voting Americans, polls estimate) they want, and it’s those votes the candidates lose when branded traitors. This being said, there have been multiple Republicans, including Flake, who have spoken out about this being a turning point.
Despite Trump’s imminent impeachment in the House, it’s doubtful that a sizable portion of Trump’s base will change their affiliation. Having already seen racism, xenophobia, ableism, and sexism from him (not to mention a previous example of what he’ll be impeached for: election interference by colluding with a foreign power), it’s hard to imagine that many will be so outraged as to pick a different hill to die on.
Regardless of what happens, the impeachment process will hang all of Trump's laundry out to dry, so to speak. And it's important that Pelosi and others are setting a precedent that, in Pelosi's words, "no one is above the law." It's about time that Trump is formally held accountable, and we're excited to see where this goes.
For more on this, see this very helpful flowchart from Buzzfeed News about the outcomes of this inquiry.
We hope that this was a little clarifying in this storm of news. There's lots more to come, and we can't wait to keep updating you. See you soon!
Peace & Power,
Hey Teen Resisters!
Welcome back; we hope you all had lovely and restful summers. With the (school!) year back in full swing, we're ready to get back on our regular biweekly schedule!! Can't wait to share this fight with you all :)
Before we begin....TR 2020 Announcements!!
If for some reason you need a reminder besides the endless media circus, the 2020 elections are upon us! It’s currently primary season, filled with lots of debates and confusion, especially because of the sheer number of Democratic candidates there are.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is right for you, so we won’t be endorsing anyone until primaries are over, but we really encourage you to start paying attention to the candidates and potentially getting involved early on. This could range from just watching the debates to donating to or canvassing for a candidate.
Outside the presidential sphere, we have a real shot of taking back Congress from the GOP in 2020, and local elections are more important than ever (for more info on this, look back to our Midterm Election coverage from 2018).
During this election season, we’ll be making a big push for you all to get involved with your favorite candidates and issues. One of the biggest mistakes made in 2016 was taking a Democratic win for granted, and we won’t make the same mistake again. Once there is a nominee, we’ll be announcing a 2020 Involvement initiative! This will include lots of 2020 coverage, calling parties & workshops, maybe a canvassing trip, and much more. We’re so excited to fight alongside you. Stay tuned!
(& learn about the candidates’ policies on issues you care about! Now!! In no particular order, a place to do that for each of the candidates polling above 5 percent:
And, without further ado...happy reading! Happy activisting!
what went (Is Going) down
Trump has attacked at least 80 existing environmental regulations over the course of his presidency, and he’s succeeding in overturning many, including in the areas of air pollution and emissions, drilling and extraction, infrastructure and planning, animals, toxic substances and safety, and water pollution.
However, that doesn’t mean that hope is entirely lost, especially at more local levels. In fact, just this past June, New York’s State Senate passed a bill, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, that plans to generate 70 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable resources and reduce 85 percent of the state’s greenhouses by 2050. And UN Secretary General António Guterres led a meeting on September 23 in New York to introduce the concept of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and even to net zero emissions by 2050. This includes the government on the federal and state level, international organizations, local authority, and us, the citizens. Thus, the question is: how do we help create impact? Spreading information—via social media, for example—in order to help our peers become aware is valuable, as is implementing environmentally friendly routines into our daily lives, like reducing plastic use. But is there something we can do beyond that? The answer is yes.
On Friday, millions of Americans are planning to peacefully protest against the use of fossil fuels and other environmentally damaging resources. These protesters are demanding environmental reform, including a ban on fossil fuels, increased statutes and limitations on polluters and fossil fuel companies, and a smooth transition plan to green energy that will prioritize the well-being of our Earth while avoiding major economic regression. This movement isn’t just national—in fact, there are currently over 2,500 strikes planned globally, in addition to the 500 domestically (the largest coordinated climate event yet!!!). And it won’t stop there. Starting next Monday, on September 23rd, constituents all over are planning a week of actions. For example, Washington, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Wisconsin, Vermont, California, and more are all coming together to create local legislation and action. The time to act and speak is now. Join the strikes!
What you can do:
Although the storm is now at sea, tens of thousands of people are still in catastrophe, left without homes, power, resources, or family. Here are some urgent measures that you can take to offer support to those affected today:
As with the border wall case, Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg wrote a strong dissent to the court’s decision, and, in the words of American Civil Liberties Union attorney Omar Jadwat, ““The human toll of today’s asylum ban stay will be horrific.” The order will fundamentally change the way that migrants are processed, and it will alter the number and nature of those who come. For example, migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador cannot seek asylum in the U.S. if they didn't first ask for it in Mexico. For many migrants, denied asylum is effectively, if not directly, a death sentence; violence, persecution—especially against women—and poverty characterize conditions in Central America especially.
What can you do?
Hello Teen Resisters! It's been a while, huh? This serves as our official August list before we resume our regular biweekly schedule for the year. We have an exciting year ahead, full of election news and lots of wonderful work. But before we jump into that... we hope everyone has had a great summer amid this hectic news cycle. We're sending lots of good vibes for the new school year!
So let's get you briefed on some of this news.
What Went Down:
We know that's a lot of news to digest. Have a great last couple days of summer and an amazing start to school!
Hey Teen Resisters!!
Long time no see! We've taken a bit of a summer break (and hope all of you have as well), so a LOT (more than usual) has happened since the last time we published a list. We obviously cannot cover everything, but we've tried to highlight we think are some of the most important happenings from the past month/ things to be aware of going forward. Feel free to skip around if the whole list is too much to handle, and take a deep breath before diving in.
what went down
Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, are typically portrayed in the media as the fiery progressives. Harris stands out because of her background as a criminal prosecutor, while Biden seems thus far to be running on a platform entirely based on a return to normalcy. And although those four are currently the top candidates poll-wise, there are a plethora of others who have their own passionate followings.
It’s still very early in the race, and we don’t want to pass judgement on any candidates yet. Our advice? Take time to learn more about each individual candidate before you decide who you’re going to pull for. Try to figure out what their actual policies are, and don’t trust everything that the media pushes (to take just one example, contrary to popular narratives, Sanders and Warren are actually quite different). Later on in the race, we’ll most likely do a feature that’s more concentrated on individual candidates/on tensions between them, so look out for that. For now, read and learn on your own!! A great place to do that is the second round of the upcoming Democratic primary debates, which will take place on July 30th and 31st. It’s okay to be excited about this election. Finding a candidate you love and pouring your heart and soul into getting them elected is a pretty amazing feeling, and the stakes are higher than ever this year—no matter what, 2020 is an opportunity for decisive and transformative change.
One last note: don’t forget—all of the House and about a third of the Senate is up for reelection in 2020 too! If you can vote in 2020, be sure to find out who’s running in your district. Local elections often have the biggest impact on our lives; don’t let the national coverage of the presidential distract you from what’s happening on your home turf.
What you can do:
The messages also hinted at potential corruption; the Puerto Rico Bar Association reported that seven possible crimes had been revealed in the chat, including a threat against the mayor of San Juan and instances of diverting funds, improper disclosure of private information, and intention to fire employees based on political beliefs.
Rosselló’s administration has been colored with corruption—he has been known to buy votes with handouts such as tax breaks and vacation days, and two weeks ago, six former members of his administration were charged with federal corruption charges. Beyond these instances and what came to light in the report, Puerto Ricans used this opportunity to protest years of financial mistreatment and the government’s insufficient response to Hurricane Maria, which took place nine months after Rosselló first took office. At the time, there was no time for protests, because people were struggling to survive. But now, with many still without electricity almost a year after the disaster happened, the people of Puerto Rico were ready to channel their anger and energy into resistance.
This isn’t much of what can you do-situation, since the protests succeeded, except for this: use what happened in Puerto Rico as inspiration, a shining example of what popular resistance is capable of doing.
The site is ideal for astronomy due to its high altitude, low light pollution, and dry climate, and those in favor of the telescope claim that its creation will create new jobs and positively impact the local economy. But the area is also a highly sacred space in native Hawaiian tradition, and legal challenges and peaceful protests against the telescope have been ongoing for the past four years. The fight is still very much ongoing: protests continue, and figures from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren to Hawaii’s own delegates, Rep. Ed Case and Senator Mazie Hirono, have defended and expressed solidarity for the native movement.
What can you do?
It was some horrible combination of xenophobia, white nationalism, ignorance, and racism, not unexpected coming from him but difficult to see nonetheless. The kickback was swift and fierce: all four congresswomen attacked, Nancy Pelosi, and countless others across the country denounced the message perpetuated in the tweets. A recent Fox News poll found that Americans overwhelmingly believe the tweets were racist.
For decades, a common attack against people who don’t look traditionally “American” (i.e. white) has been to “go back” to wherever they came from. The insult has been spit at immigrants, POC, and other minority groups, and it’s become valuable weapon in xenophobic propaganda. “Go back to your country” is essentially another way of saying “you’re not welcome here,” and while words alone don’t seem like a violent issue, they do enable violent and dangerous behavior—hate crimes. During a recent Trump reelection rally, supporters chanted “send her back” as a reference towards Ilhan Omar and Trump’s contempt towards her. Vice President Mike Pence released a statement on CBS about a week later, briefly stating that “the president wasn’t pleased about [the rally chant]. Neither was I.” However, both have not condemned the actions of their audience, instead stating that the group were just “incredible patriots.” According to a Washington Post analysis, reported hate crimes rose by 226 percent in counties where Trump held a campaign rally.
So when xenophobic behavior exhibited by the president allows others to follow his example, what can we do?
More than 2000 deportation orders were sent out prior to the raids. However, only 35 arrests have been made out of the 2000+ targeted since they have begun. Speculation has arisen about the ICE crackdown being solely a political stunt by Trump to cause fear and further divide the nation, possibly even one that could strengthen his base in the 2020 election and scare the opposition. Regardless, though, with everything that’s going on, it’s important to be prepared and acknowledge the situation. Learn more about your rights as an immigrant here in terms of encounters with ICE or law enforcement in your everyday life.
What can you do?
The federal government is required to provide an honest reason for including new questions or making alterations to the survey, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the reason the Trump administration gave for including the citizenship question “appears to have been contrived.” In giving this ruling, the Supreme Court was essentially acknowledging what is recognized by many as the real reason the Trump administration wanted to include the question on the census: to manipulate both the voting demographics of the country as a whole and the mindsets of immigrants and people of color living in this country.
There’s evidence that the inclusion of the question on the census would have discouraged noncitizens from filling out the census. Since the census is used to draw districts for House representation and to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding, the question could both give Republicans an electoral advantage and take funding away from communities that need it. Regardless of whether or not the question is included, damage has already been done. Simply the attempt to put the question on the survey has sowed distrust of the government and doubt of the confidentiality of survey results in the minds of noncitizens, which will inevitably alter the census results in Republicans’ favor. This is another part of the narrative of trying to push minorities and immigrants out of this country from within and make them feel like their voices shouldn’t be heard, and we need to continue to denounce it.
Opponents of the bill pointed to Oregon’s absenteeism rates, which are among the highest in the country: one in six Oregon students missed 10 percent or more of school days in the 2015-2016 school year. Critics argued that the bill would just give students more reasons to skip school. The bill’s supporters countered that the purpose of the bill wasn’t to encourage absenteeism, but rather to help students be more honest about why they did not want to go to school.
Mental health is an especially prevalent issue in Oregon, whose suicide rate is 40 percent higher than the national average. A survey of eighth-graders in the state found that 17 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past year. Proponents of the bill argued that the new law could encourage such students to be more open and seek help for mental illness.
What You Can Do:
And, in lieu of a puppy video this week, we've included something that we hope will give all of you a well-deserved laugh.
Hey Teen Resisters!
First off, happy Pride month!!! This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots against anti-LGBTQ police violence in June 1969, one of the most important events in the queer liberation movement.
Before we dive in, we want to highlight a few smaller happenings/resources that you should note:
what went down
This act has been the centerpiece of immigrant-youth led advocacy on policy for a long time, and its passage is an incredible milestone in the fight to make the US a place of welcome for all immigrants.
However, the act hasn’t passed the Senate yet, where it faces opposition from G.O.P. lawmakers. The Trump administration continues to facilitate the deportation and detention of thousands of immigrants. The next and equally as important fight is to push back against further funding for the institutions responsible for this damage to immigrant communities and families. Congress is currently working to pass an appropriations (budget) bill for the next part of the year. We need to make sure the budget doesn’t support, among other things, ICE and CBP.
What you can do:
President Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken gross advantage of this ability to declare a national emergency in the past, unlike other U.S. presidents (Remember this?). The clear abuse of power that would take place if Trump were to declare the emergency (he hasn’t yet), as well as the economically destructive nature of this tariff, has decreased Republican support for the policy—even Ted Cruz expressed his skepticism. If Trump were to actually declare the national emergency, Congress could override it by enacting a resolution under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Since Trump announced the plan, Mexico has negotiated with the United States to avoid the tariff, agreeing to actively work to decrease illegal immigration between Mexico and the United States. Mexico has stated that they will increase the amount of military personnel on the border, increase arrests of migrants, and turn away a majority of people seeking asylum from various countries in the region.
So why is this important? These new policies on immigration make an already violent and difficult system even more dangerous, as many prospective migrants will either be arrested or turned away. Additionally, turning away asylum seekers, people who are seeking protection in the United States, leaves many in inhumane and dangerous situations.
What you can do:
So: call your representatives!! This act is vital and fundamental; it’s 2019, and it should already exist, but it doesn’t. So here’s a perfect opportunity to use our basic script template to practice creating your own :)))
Teen Resisters-- we've been wanting to do this list for a while, and in the midst of the crazy news coming out of places like Alabama and Ohio, this seemed as good a time as any. We hope this list is informative, clarifying, and helpful. It was written by Stephanie Ulloa, Tali Natter, Kate Griem, and Sonia Chajet Wides.
Reproductive Rights Glossary:
Here are some key terms you might hear mentioned a lot, and what they mean:
A History of Repro Rights in the US:
The fight for reproductive rights has been a key part of the Women’s Liberation Movement for a long, long time. Inequalities throughout history are largely driven by the same stereotypes and double standards that permeate our society today—from the beginning of human society, men have been rewarded for being sexually active, while women are often shamed and degraded. That historical misogyny affects anyone with a uterus, whether they be women or not-- some trans men, non-binary people, and intersex people can get pregnant (and get abortions) too. Those consequences for people with uteri exist not just in terms of perceptions but also in terms of tangible outcomes: people with uteri, not people without, are the ones who get pregnant, and so they are often responsible for providing birth control. Strangely, in law, it works the other way: people without uteri are often responsible for regulating birth control and abortion. And as the pregnancy progresses, it is physically much easier for the other partner to walk away than the pregnant person. Reproductive rights is an issue that disproportionately affects poor people, because pregnancy and parenthood, as well as abortions and birth control, can be expensive and hard to access.
Abortion in the U.S.: A Brief History
According to the National Abortion Federation, abortion has been performed for thousands of years in every society that we have studied. In the U.S. specifically, abortion didn’t start as a moral, religious, or ethical issue. Before the mid-to-late 1800s, when states began passing laws that made it illegal, it was simply a part of life. Drugs to induce abortion were common and public; if those didn’t work, people could visit practitioners for instrumental procedures.
Abortion began to be politicized around 1860-1880 for a number of reasons. One was a widespread fear that the population would come to be dominated by the children of newly arriving immigrants, whose birth rates were higher than those of “native” Anglo-Saxon women (xenophobia, loud and clear!). Interestingly, this argument has switched to an equally disturbing side now: banning abortion is serviceable to systems that benefit from people being trapped in cycles of poverty and the population of the for-profit prison system. The other key reason was that the medical establishment wanted to eliminate their competition: the midwives, apothecaries, and homeopaths who often performed at-home abortions (and who took away patients and patient fees). The most effective way they saw of doing this was to make the procedure illegal, except in cases where the doctor determined that the woman’s life was threatened. This criminalization of abortion did not in any way diminish the number of people who sought it—although exact figures are unclear, the yearly number of illegal abortions in the years leading up to Roe v. Wade was over a million, and thousands of women died as a result of unsafe procedures.
In 1973, Roe v. Wade established a woman’s fundamental right to choose whether or not to have an abortion; the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes a “right to privacy” that protects a person’s right to abortion. Since then, restrictions on abortion have only increased. The first came soon after the Roe v. Wade decision. In 1976, the Hyde Amendment, named for its main sponsor Representative Henry Hyde, barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except when the pregnancy threatened the pregnant person’s life or if the pregnancy came from incest or rape. The Hyde Amendment has been instrumental in the justification of cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions among many other vital procedures like cancer screenings and pap smears. The exceptions for rape and incest are a difficult road to go down too-- we don’t have to remind you that the process of reporting a rape can be traumatic and lengthy, and it seems cruel to make people prove they were raped in order to get an abortion they might need (read more about this in this op-ed- TW: sexual assault). In 2017, Paul Ryan tried to push a bill that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, but it didn’t pass the Senate.
In 1992, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey weakened constitutional protection of abortion, establishing that state regulations are constitutional so long as they do not place a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” In 2007, in Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld President George W. Bush’s Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, the first federal law banning the “dilation and extraction” procedure, emboldening other states to pass more restrictive abortion laws as well. One other key case to be aware of is Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: in 2016, in a victory for abortion rights activists the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law designed to shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics with medically unnecessary restrictions.
Understanding a little bit about the legal history of the fight for abortion rights in the United States is key to understanding what the new Georgia and Alabama laws are trying to do right now. We only scratched the surface, so if you want to learn more about the legal history of abortion in the U.S., check out this article and this one. Also check out this article from NBC News for an important and less-told story.
Birth Control: A Brief History
The fight for universally accessible contraception originated during the Progressive Era, during the early 1900s specifically. Margaret Sanger,** a sex educator, writer, and nurse who coined the term “birth control,” fought for it for decades; her belief was that the ability to control family size was crucial to ending the cycle of women’s poverty. At the time, it was illegal to distribute birth control information, but she created her own publication (The Woman Rebel) to advocate for it nonetheless. She also opened the first birth control clinic in the United States (in Brownsville, Brooklyn), created the American Birth Control League (the organization that has evolved into what is Planned Parenthood today), and lobbied the government tirelessly until it became legal for doctors to prescribe birth control in 1936. In 1960, 6 years before her death, the birth control pill was invented, finally starting to separate sexuality from childbearing for a large number of women (and their partners). In 1965, Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut established that laws prohibiting the sale of contraceptives violated the right to privacy and were therefore unconstitutional. This ban of prohibitive laws was extended to unmarried couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972, and a federal judge gave unmarried minors the right to purchase contraceptives in 1974 (yay safe teen sex!).
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans cover birth control. But, as we’re sure you can all guess, the Trump administration has attacked women’s access to birth control time and time again, way too many for us to talk about here (if you want to learn more about it, check out timelines of the attacks created by the National Women’s Law Center here and by Planned Parenthood here).
**Setting aside the fact that she was a vital figure in the repro rights movement, it’s also important to recognize how problematic of a person she was. She was involved in the eugenics movement, which advocated for a process of selective breeding to weed out “undesirable” populations, including the mentally and physically disabled. Read more about it here.**
So What's Happening Right Now?
This recent Alabama law is the most severe, yet six other Republican-led states have passed the “heartbeat bill:” Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota. (Missouri?)
Heartbeat bills refer to a ban on abortions once a heartbeat can be detected at six weeks. Currently, the legal threshold for abortions is when the fetus is viable outside the womb, around 24 weeks. The heartbeat bills prohibit nearly all abortions because six weeks is often not enough time to confirm you are actually pregnant, decide what to do, find the funds, and set up an appointment to have the procedure done. Some women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks (it’s just two weeks late for your period, as AOC pointed out). The bills are extremely restrictive and often don’t include exceptions for rape and incest, which, as we discussed earlier, aren’t even always that helpful anyway.
More than 60 bills like this have been introduced across the country in states such as Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and West Virginia. Even in states considered safe havens for abortion rights, such as New York, anti-abortion lawmakers have introduced bills as a kind of protest, though they have not gotten far.
These laws have not yet been enacted and abortion after six weeks is still legal. They have either not taken effect yet or have been blocked by a judge. Still, abortion providers are taking the threat seriously and are planning to use their funding to shuttle women across state lines to obtain abortions. These laws across the country are part of a larger effort to eventually overturn Roe V. Wade at the level of the Supreme Court.
These restrictions are clearly unconstitutional and are used to pressure the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade or severely restrict how it is interpreted. Civil rights groups such as the ACLU are now tasked with the challenge to argue these laws in court to stop their implementation before they reach the highest court. And it's worth noting that the majority of Americans remain pro-choice and the majority of Americans oppose the Alabama laws.
But for now, unless and until the supreme court speaks on one of these cases, abortion remains legal to the point a fetus can survive outside the womb in the US, 24 weeks. Even if states do not succeed in making abortion illegal, the pile-on of restrictions has already made its impact. There are fewer abortion providers with less funding, and thus the procedure is becoming more expensive and harder to find, making it ever more difficult for pregnant people to exercise their rights.
Alabama: Set to take effect six months after becoming law, sued by ACLU and PP
Georgia: Set to take effect January 2020, but sued by the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights
Ohio: Set to take effect July 2019, but sued by the ACLU
Mississippi: Set to take effect July 2019, but sued by the Center for Reproductive Rights
Kentucky: Temporarily blocked by Judge David J. Hale after challenged in court by ACLU
Iowa: Blocked permanently by Judge Michael Huppert
North Dakota: Blocked permanently when the Supreme Court refused to review the ruling of a lower court
Missouri: Signed by Governor
What You Can Do:
Specific to right now (May 2019):
- Keep your eye out for marches and demonstrations. This summer will probably be chock-full of those opportunities!
- Sign this ACLU petition. Head to aclu.org/action for lots of action tips customized to how much time you have available.
- If you have the means, donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama right now- they're all doing imperative work to block these bans.
- Check this NY Times graphic to see if your state has had an abortion ban or fetal heartbeat bill proposed. If it does, head here to find your state legislators and call them with this script:
Hi, my name is ____and I live in ______. I'm calling to demand that you do everything you can to block abortion bans and fetal heartbeat bills proposed in our state. These bans and bills are unconstitutional, invasive, and cruel. (If you have a personal story, insert here.) Please keep in mind the millions of women and others who will be affected by these bans. Thank you for your time.
- It's all about the courts-- stay updated on SCOTUS news.
Repro Rights Constants:
And lastly, a puppy video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MnrWO-0f-Y
Sending love and light!
These lists include featured organizations, scripts, numbers, news updates and inspirational activists.