Trans Sex Workers and Reproductive Justice

Candace Gibson, Resident Blogger (’12, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law)

The reproductive justice and LGBTQ liberation movements share the values of bodily autonomy and sexual liberation and believe that all persons should have the resources they need to form the families they want.  However, many of these desires, including bodily autonomy, are often denied to trans persons, especially trans sex workers, many of whom are trans women of color. At a recent conference that I attended, Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of HIPS, painfully articulated the experiences of trans sex workers and their attempts to survive in our economy.  She had mentioned how trans sex workers not only faced violence from their clients but also from the police as they were arrested, how police officers often sexually harassed these individuals. In 2013, a D.C. police officer shot three transgender women in a car after one of the transwomen refused to provide sex for money.  Clay also discussed how often young trans persons were forced onto the streets because their families rejected who they were and that trans persons are excluded and erased from larger conversations on anti-trafficking efforts, unfortunately nothing new to many of us in different movements.

Clay’s comments remind me that we still live in a society hung up with gender, body parts, and the selling of sex.  Unfortunately, through our regulation and, in this case, criminalization of sexual desire for sale, we often harm and kill the most vulnerable without providing critical solutions and resources for those who are merely trying to survive.  Survival should not be the standard for some-we should all have the resources we need to thrive as persons and as members of our community.

Maybe, it’s time for the broader reproductive justice community to center the voices of sex workers, especially trans sex workers, in our conversations.  It may be hard at first but we have never shied away from a challenge.  

Parentage Laws and Reproductive Justice

S J Chapman, Resident Blogger, (’12, Northwestern University Law School)

Gay marriage is an issue in which LGBTQ justice and reproductive justice go hand-in-hand. Illinois provides a concrete example.  Illinois’ landmark gay marriage law goes into effect this June. But its parentage law is lagging behind and unless it’s changed, it will impede reproductive justice for same-sex spouses.

Like most states, Illinois has a “presumed father” law, under which a child born during a marriage is presumed to be the husband’s legal child, even if it’s not biologically his. The legal parent-child relationship has important consequences in areas like guardianship and inheritance. If one spouse dies, the other spouse has automatic guardianship over a legal child. Or, if a spouse dies intestate, half their property goes to their spouse and half to their legal children.

Take, for example, a different-sex married Illinois couple — we’ll call them Bob and Heather — whose child was conceived through an alternative reproductive therapy, and where biologically, Bob isn’t the father.  Bob is, however, the legal parent when the child is born.  If anything happens to Heather, Bob will have automatic guardianship of their child. Furthermore, their child stands to inherit half Bob’s property if he dies.

But what if Heather were instead married to Rachel when she conceived the child?  Now Heather’s spouse, Rachel, is not considered the legal parent.  Instead, Rachel must go through the adoption process to gain the parental rights that were automatically Bob’s. Until Illinois revises the law from “presumed father” to “presumed parent,” it is discriminating against same-sex couples like Heather and Rachel.

In general, the government should stay out of private parties’ decisions about family formation. Where the government does have a say, reproductive justice demands that laws not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As the states pass gay marriage laws, they need to pay attention to their parentage laws to ensure both reproductive and LGBTQ justice.

Dropping the F-Bomb

Amanda Shapiro, Resident Blogger (’15, Brooklyn Law School)

How many times has one of your friends started their sentence with “I’m not a feminist, but…”? If you answered “one,” that’s already too many. We [read: self-proclaimed feminists] hear the beginning of that sentence not just from our friends, but from celebrities, professors, acquaintances, and even blind dates. Sometimes, the qualifying “but” isn’t even thrown in; sometimes it’s the conclusory “I’m not a feminist.” A few weeks ago, a fellow female law student told me after class, “I would never call myself a feminist, but pregnancy discrimination has gotten out of control.” Does that mean feminism could finally warm its way into her heart if pregnancy discrimination hit absolute rock bottom? Now, to be fair, some people just refuse to ascribe any labels to themselves [read: hipsters]. But the most common “I am not a feminist” utterer isn’t someone who really doesn’t believe in feminism or hates labels, it’s someone who doesn’t want to be perceived as a feminist, or just does not understand it. I’ve been told “I can’t possibly be a feminist because I like pink and I like to get my nails done.” But when I pressed whether this person believed that there were social and cultural forces that prevented women from achieving equality on par with men, she answered with an unqualified “yes.” So what is it about the F-word that gives people the heebie-jeebies?

Embarassingly, I used to be a feminism-denier when I was an undergrad at Harvard. But there’s nothing quite like being surrounded by scary-rich young men of privilege to turn you into a practicing feminist. It didn’t help my anti-feminism either to learn that many of my friends had been survivors of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault; and apparently, it hasn’t gotten much better. Aside from the traditional, feminist groups on campus where I gained some much-needed perspective, there was also a growing coalition of conservative women. When one of these women (a board member of the campus republicans) was interviewed about her work, she proudly noted that she was a feminist. In response, one of her male, republican colleagues commented “that’s cute that she thinks that.” His comment gets at the source of the ire for the F-word: supposedly, it’s only reserved for certain women – women who don’t shave their armpits, who attend Lilith Fair, who go on diatribes about killing off the male race.

But the crux of feminism is that, as my Women and the Law professor reminds our class, there are many, many feminisms. They don’t all agree with each other. My feminism, for example, has been pulled in so many directions that it now feels like salt water taffy. But they all embrace the idea that something is wrong with the way our society treats women, and it needs fixing. If you can acknowledge that, then you are a feminist. And when you’re ready, I have an extra ticket to the Lilith Fair revival tour with your name on it.

Support the HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act!

This article was originally published by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Lauren Paulk is the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will go a long way toward ensuring access to quality healthcare for most LGBT individuals, many LGBT immigrants are still prohibited from obtaining the affordable health care they need. Despite being authorized to live and work in the United States, many immigrants—including LGBT immigrants—are ineligible for affordable health coverage and care through vital programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Many immigrants are subject to a ban that makes them ineligible for federal Medicaid and CHIP for at least the first five years they are authorized to live and work in the United States, and other lawfully present immigrants who do not fall into an outdated and restrictive list of “qualified” immigrants are barred altogether. Since immigrants—particularly LGBT immigrants—are disproportionately low-income, it can be difficult or impossible to obtain the health care they need. That means five years without insurance coverage for critical and life-saving services, including pap smears, mammograms, HIV treatment, mental health care, or pediatric care for children.

Young people granted status through “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) are forced to wait even longer. DACA refers to a program enacted in 2012 that allows undocumented people ages 15-30 who arrived in the US as children (and who are currently in school or working) to remain here for renewable two-year periods. While they are considered lawfully present and are eligible to work and pay into public health benefits systems, they are prevented from accessing affordable care. Currently, people with DACA status are ineligible for federal Medicaid or CHIP coverage and the years they live in the United States with DACA status will not count toward the five years of lawful presence required before they become eligible. To add insult to injury, these young people are even ineligible to purchase private health insurance on the ACA exchange—with or without federal subsidies.

Many LGBT immigrants come to the US after fleeing interpersonal and state abuse based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, once they arrive, LGBT immigrants face a number of challenges to obtaining affordable and culturally competent health care. While the ACA will continue to combat the discrimination LGBT people face in the health care system due to lack of cultural competency, all of its positive effects are out of reach for LGBT immigrants because of gaps in coverage. The existing barriers to affordable health care disenfranchise hard-working LGBT immigrants who come to the United States to have a better life, only to encounter difficulty getting the care they need. Moreover, because LGBT immigrants are much less likely than non-immigrants to be able to access health care through their jobs, they are putting work into a system that does not support them.

However, new legislation introduced by Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham would change these realities for good. The Health Equity and Access under the Law for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2014 (“HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act” for short) restores access to Medicaid and CHIP for immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States who are otherwise eligible. The bill also extends full participation in the ACA to young people granted status under DACA.

The HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act is especially important for families. LGBT families are more likely to live in poverty than non-LGBT families, meaning health care on the private market is often out of reach. We know that LGBT people deserve the same access to health care as non-LGBT people, and this should include LGBT immigrants. The HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act would bridge the gaps in the ACA, Medicaid, and CHIP by extending needed care options to immigrants, and in so doing, strengthen our workplace, our economy, and our communities. NCLR applauds Congresswoman Lujan Grisham for introducing the HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act, and we encourage other members of Congress who support the LGBT community to stand beside her in expanding the health care options for many LGBT immigrants. Please show your support for the HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act by signing this pledge, put together by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Please check out @NLIRH’s twitter timeline for more information on how this important bill will impact our communities!

#KeepItConfidential

Ruth Dawson, Resident Blogger (’12, Emory University School of Law)

Under a landmark California bill passed last year, individuals covered under another person’s insurance policy will soon be able to seek sensitive services such as birth control, STD tests, and mental health services, without worrying about the disclosure of these services to the policyholder. This person is usually a parent or spouse, a fact which often prevents people from using their insurance to get the medical care they need. Going into effect January 1, 2014, the Confidential Health Information Act (SB 138) closes a loophole in California law, where insurance plans unintentionally violate patients’ confidentiality by sending information about the services received home to the policyholder.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and is thus a particularly important time to be focusing on confidentiality of medical and mental health services. In addition to the common problem of young people heading to a free clinic for routine reproductive care and claiming no insurance (as many of my friends did instead of admitting to their parents that they needed care), this law will have a profound effect on survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and gender-based violence. Maintaining confidentiality is crucial for survivors of assault to feel comfortable and empowered to access the physical and psychological services they need, without fear of stigma, forced disclosure, or cruel yet common reactions, such as victim-blaming.

For this new law to have the wide-reaching impact advocates desire, we must create a smooth system for patients to request confidentiality, educate patients across the state that they have the option to request confidentiality, and train providers in how to effectively implement this system in service provision. The smoother the implementation of this bill, the more likely the new law will be used as a model for patient confidentiality of sensitive services around the nation.  I’m proud that California is making real strides to #keepitconfidential for all patients.

I am a rape survivor. NOT a victim, a survivor. This is my story. (Part II)

Maria Moore, Guest Blogger (’16, University of North Carolina School of Law)

I have always been very open sexually and have never had any problem expressing my sexuality. It could be argued that this is the result of what happened to me at a young age, but I don’t really care what caused it because it is a part of who I am and I would never change it.

In the summer of 2003, I decided I was tired of being a virgin, so I offered myself to a friend, who I will call Larry. It was quick, painful, and entirely unremarkable in any way. It was all over in a matter of minutes and I felt no different after it happened. Why do I tell you this? Because Larry became an accomplice to my rape.

Two days after I lost my virginity, I went swimming at a friend’s apartment complex. After swimming for awhile, I headed back to her apartment to change in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, on a path I had repeatedly walked

I never made it to my friend’s apartment. Larry stopped me. He was with a friend of his, an attractive, tall, very skinny boy with dreads, who Larry told me was named Mark. Apparently, Larry had made an arrangement with Mark for me to have sex with him for a bag of marijuana. I was not party to this conversation. Larry said that since I was a “hoe” now, it should not bother me to have sex with Mark, especially since I was helping out a friend. He told me that I should go with Mark into an abandoned apartment in the apartment complex and have sex with him upstairs. Several people from the neighborhood had done drugs in the apartment so it was “safe.”

I protested that I was barefoot and a briar patch in front of the apartment’s broken back door, so I would not be able to safely make it there without hurting my feet. I then proceeded to head to my friend’s home, thinking I was in the clear.

Larry picked me up and carried me to the abandoned apartment, with Mark in tow.

Why didn’t I scream when my friends were very likely within hearing distance? Why didn’t I fight, kick, punch, scratch, tear, or otherwise try to escape? The answer is that I had been lead to believe that rape was a violent attack, one that happened in the deep of night, when a stranger dragged you into an alley. I knew to kick that stranger in the balls and run. I had no clue what to do in this situation.

Once in the apartment, Larry deposited me in the second floor bedroom and disappeared. At this point, Mark asked me if I wanted to have sex. I said no. He began to remove my bikini bottom. I said no. He put a condom on. I said no. He pushed me (not hard) onto the floor. I said no. He raped me. I covered my face in my hands and sobbed, praying that it would just be over and I could leave unscathed. All of the sudden, it stopped the same way it had started. A boy who was in my gym class at school was peering around the doorway from the stairs. I couldn’t even tell you his name now, but he knew what was happening. Mark got up and bolted. I never saw him again.

I ran to the bathroom, which was completely dark. There was no power in the apartment and no toilet paper. I sat on the seat in my bikini top and I cried and cried and cried. Finally, I managed to grab my bikini bottom and walk down the stairs. The apartment was utterly filthy, filled with condom wrappers, cigarette butts, broken glass, and the insides of cigars that had long ago been filled with marijuana and smoked.

I sat down on the fireplace and cried. I did not move until my friend, whose home I had been intending to walk to, came in and asked me what had happened. I could not speak. I allowed her to help me up off the bricks and out of the house. Larry was standing outside when I walked out, along with a crowd of other friends and acquaintances who lived in the neighborhood or frequently came to visit.

“Fuck you, Larry!” was all I could get out through my tears. I walked to an A/C unit and sat down, feeling like the absolute worst bit of nothing that had ever existed. I felt dirty, I felt used, but oddly, I did not feel that I had been raped. As I said, rape was this thing where you were beaten and tied up, maybe tortured. It was certainly not something that happened in the daylight hours in a familiar neighborhood at the behest of a friend to whom you had recently lost your virginity.

I don’t remember much of what happened next. I know that I jumped into the pool. I wanted to get the disgust off me. If I was just a hoe now, I could at least be a clean one. I know that eventually my parents picked me up and that when I wandered into the house, I told my mother that I needed to go back to see my therapist. I know that I was going to be leaving for Florida in two days so I was supposed to stay in that night to spend time with my family.

My best friend, Melinda, was not there when the events transpired, but she heard about them and she and her mother came to the house to get to the bottom of it. Melinda’s mother told mine that Melinda had just been dumped by a boyfriend and really needed her best friend, so I piled into the car and went to Melinda’s house.

Eventually, the story of what had happened came out. Melinda’s mother said to me, “Maria, you know that you were raped, right?” I was shocked. There was no way I had been the victim of such a crime. I honestly just thought I had engaged in sex that I didn’t want to have, sex that made me feel dirty and worthless, but not sex I was FORCED to have. There were no weapons or threats.

I think this is part of the problem in the United States. We don’t teach our girls that rape will most likely be perpetrated by someone that we know. The violent, savage attack by a stranger gets good ratings on TV and in movies and gets a lot of attention on the news, but it is not the typical case. Usually, the rapist thinks you will have sex with him and when you say no, he carries on anyway.

I wish I could say that the horror of my story ended here. But it was far from over.

The next day, Melinda and her mother helped me tell my mother what had happened, and we decided to call the police. A squad car pulled up and a female police officer emerged and asked me what had happened. She then asked me to show her the scene of the crime. The four of us piled into the cop car and rode the couple of miles to the apartment complex where my friend lived. We were able to get into the abandoned apartment easily through the broken back door. I walked up the stairs, irrationally terrified, and showed the officer where the rape had occurred. We found the condom wrapper that Mark had discarded on the ground.

Next, the officer took Melinda and her mother home, and took me and my mother to the hospital to have a rape kit done. For those who are unaware, this means I spent hours (nearly an entire day) in the ER getting blood drawn, giving urine samples, getting shots, getting a pelvic exam, having fifty hairs plucked out of my head at the root, and being questioned again. And again. And again.

During my pelvic exam, the police officer on my case was in the room. There was a “privacy” curtain drawn around my bed and my mother stood beside me and held my hand. The pain was excruciating due to the small tears that can often occur in the vagina when it is penetrated without enough lubrication.

The detective on my case had actually been my DARE officer in elementary school. She was very upset by what had happened and very willing to do everything she could to prosecute the man that did this to me. Unfortunately, she ultimately had to drop my case because her husband was in a very serious motorcycle accident. Without her personal interest in my case, I went to the bottom of the list.

I did end up going to Florida and I was fine until I received a teddy bear that said something like “We care!” in multiple colors and fonts from a family friend. I dissolved into tears. I begged my mother to come and the next day, she and my little sister arrived. There are times in your life when you need your mother. It’s not something that is easy to explain but you know when it happens. In the ensuing weeks, I cooperated with the investigating officers as much as I possibly could. I gave them Larry’s full name and picture, as well as where I thought he lived. I recounted my story over and over again. The cold, detached way that the questions were phrased was excruciating. I was forced to relive the most awful moments of my life alone in a room with a strange grown man. I often felt as though no one at the police department believed me and if they did, they didn’t care.

At one point, an officer came to my home and showed me a line-up of photographs. He also played me a voice recording. The person who the local police thought was responsible for my rape was currently in jail for another sex crime. Mark’s face did not peer out at me from any of the pictures, however, and I couldn’t have remembered his voice if I tried. This was their last attempt at solving my case.

Larry is active on Facebook; we currently have 13 mutual friends. The first time I saw him after my rape, I was in the mall food court with my mother and a friend. My immediate reaction was to jump under the table, hide, and burst into tears. I have since seen him around town a few times but I never let anyone who cared about me know until he was so far away that they couldn’t get into trouble for attacking him.

Remember Melinda? My former best friend? Supposedly, she smoked crack with Larry some time after the events occurred and he tearfully informed her that he thought I would say yes, that he didn’t believe I was a virgin when we had sex, and that he never thought Mark would actually rape me if I said no.

My mother and I went to the Rape Crisis Center on the advice of the initial officer on my case. The volunteer, bless her heart, started the conversation with, “As a victim –“ I interrupted her, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I am not a victim.” I have never been a victim and will never be one. I understand that rape derails the lives of many women and I understand why that is the case. But that’s not me.

Often when prosecutors put rape survivors on the witness stand, the jury is unmoved without some grandiose show of emotion. There is no specific way that a rape survivor “should” act. Each of our experiences is unique and each of us expresses the feelings it has caused in different ways. Most of us would not be willing to share our true feelings in a courtroom filled with strangers about something so personal that it is often difficult to talk about to our closest confidants.

At least in my situation, I found that it was helpful to word vomit as much as humanly possible. I talked about my rape to anyone and everyone who would listen. I still do. Call it attention seeking, hell you may think this essay was written merely to garner sympathy or attention. But if that is the case, you are missing the greater point – that the survivors of rape should not be silenced or shamed when they choose to speak. We have done nothing wrong. If, when, and how we choose to share our story should be our right and ours alone.

I was raped nearly ten years ago. I have no foolish ideas that this essay will affect my long-dead case or the cold hearts of the police department in my hometown. This is not why I have shared my experience with you. I have chosen to tell my story because I am tired of the ignorant statements about rape that even well-meaning people espouse in front of me on a regular basis. I’m tired of the rape jokes, the snide comments, and the overarching idea that somehow a woman is “asking for” rape.

Was I wrong to have sex at the age of fifteen? Was I wrong to lose my virginity to someone random and ultimately awful? Was I wrong to walk by myself, regardless of the fact that it was broad daylight, and I had made this walk on countless occasions for years? Maybe. Am I wrong now that I sometimes go out in skimpy outfits or actually enjoy having sex with someone I have no emotional connection to? Perhaps. Does any of that make me culpable in my own rape? Absolutely not.

I am not scared. I am not ashamed. I will not be silenced. I think it is a cultural imperative for us to understand the experience of being a rape survivor so that it is understood how truly sensitive you must be when discussing this subject.

My name is Maria. I am a daughter, sister, friend, law student, volunteer, and much more. I am also a survivor of rape, and I am not afraid to say so.

I am a rape survivor. NOT a victim, a survivor. This is my story. (Part I)

Maria Moore, Guest Blogger (’16, University of North Carolina School of Law)

My story actually starts several years before I was raped, on March 7, 1997 when I was in third grade. I was called to the principal’s office, and the usual chorus of “OOH!”s that can be expected from a group of third graders accompanied me as I left the classroom. I walked the familiar path to the office of our school disciplinarian, wondering what I had done this time.

It was not the principal who awaited me, however. It was a stranger, who told me she was a detective, and that everything was okay now and that I had nothing to worry about as long as I told the truth. Then she told me that she knew I had been touched in an inappropriate way by a family friend and that as long as I did everything I could to help, I would be safe from that ever happening again.

My parents were not present. A lawyer was not present. The principal was not present. It was just me, the detective, and her tape recorder. I was 8 years old. Little did I know that my little sister, age 5, was in another chamber of the catacomb that encompassed the administrative suite of my elementary school. She was being asked the same uncomfortable and odd questions about a family friend we both loved.

The detective proceeded with a line of questioning that included everything from my usual activities with said family friend (let’s call him “Q”), which involved the types of innocent enjoyment a normal grown man can be expected to have with the daughters of two of his closest friends, to my vivid and unusual nightmares. Somehow, these two things were later combined and used against Q in the papers. Later that day, a female police officer picked my sister and me up from our after-school program and brought us home in a squad car. The police had already arrived at my home and discussed the situation with my parents, who allowed entry because the police officer who knocked on the door said simply, “Your children have been hurt.”

When we walked in, my mother called us to her room and asked whether there was any truth to the allegation that Q had ever touched either of us in a sexual way. The answer was a resounding “no.” When we emerged from the room, a man I did not recognize proceeded to scream at my mother for allegedly “yelling at us” and “telling us what to say.” This upset me and my sister greatly. Never once during the harrowing 6-month investigation was any evidence uncovered that Q had indeed abused us. We went through family therapy, individual therapy, physical examinations (this being a euphemism for having cameras and fingers shoved in our vaginas and anuses), repeated visits from a social worker and various police officers, and countless questions.

This man did not abuse us. This was an innocent man who ran afoul of some of his co-workers and whose life was destroyed because of it. He was described in the paper and on the news as a Satanist and a child molester. He, along with unnamed others (including my parents), were supposedly part of a group engaging in Satanic ritual child abuse.   I believe the lead detective on the case wanted to make a name for herself with one or more convictions.

Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence, my parents were warned that my sister and I could be taken from them and that we were not to leave town. Q was forced to serve 30 days in jail on a trumped-up pornography charge for the heinous crime of having obscene pictures of an adult ex-girlfriend in his attic. He has never set foot in the state of North Carolina since he got out of jail, with one exception – my wedding day. This is a man who loved two little girls in every sweet way that an adult man can. His absence from our lives is deeply felt and incredibly unfair.

One good thing, if you can possibly stretch the meaning of “good” that exceedingly far, is that Q’s lawyer was able to keep his name off of the sex offender registry. Yes, you read that right. No evidence of any wrongdoing was ever found, yet the prosecutor was still aiming to put the name of an innocent man on a list that would act as a scarlet letter branded on his chest for the rest of his life. For no reason.

During the time that our local police department actively and tirelessly wasted taxpayer money pursuing this entirely meritless case, there were undoubtedly  an innumerable amount of girls and women actually being sexually abused and assaulted, women whose attackers were less visible and whose stories were less striking, and who therefore garnered significantly less attention (read: none.)

I know this because I was eventually one of those girls.

Reflections on Women’s History Month

Deodonne Bhattarai, Resident Blogger (’12, Northeastern University School of Law)

Hannah Dustin is my great aunt thirteen generations removed.  As a direct descendant, Hannah’s story was as common to me growing up as any fairytale or children’s book.  In 1697, Hannah was kidnapped, along with her infant daughter and midwife during an Abenaki raid on her farm in present day Haverhill, MA.  At some point during her abduction, Hannah’s days-old baby was brutally killed by her captors when they smashed her against a tree to stop her from crying.  During a night on a small island in NH, Hannah, with the help of her midwife and a teenage boy who had been taken from another town, escaped after killing and scalping many of the Abenaki. Hannah then made her way back to her family in Haverhill, where she received a generous bounty and eventual notoriety for her actions.

In 1874, a statue of Hannah was erected on the small NH island. It is believed to be the first publically funded statue of a woman in the country – no small feat in a nation where only 8% of all outdoor sculptures of individuals depict women.[1] The island also took on the name of the Hannah Duston Memorial State Historic Site. However, like many strong, independent women, Hannah’s motives have been called into question and her legacy is wrought with controversy.  What is seen by some as a grieving mother’s desperate fight for survival and self-preservation is countered by claims that she was a vengeful, murderous women who should be seen as no more than a mercenary.

This past fall, a representative of the New Hampshire state legislature introduced a bill that would have, in response to this on-going controversy, stripped Hannah’s name from the island, returning it to its original name of the Contoocook Island State Historic Site. The bill was withdrawn once it was determined that the state didn’t actually own most of the island.

Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to reflect upon how we view female historical figures and I can’t help but wonder if this story would continue to garner so much ire if Hannah had been a man. The reductionist, ‘mercenary’ view denies Hannah’s experience justice in a similar way many would deny women their justice in the realm of reproductive health services.  By focusing on the broader context at the expense of the individual experience we are posed to miss out on the lived reality of women past, present, and future.

Removing Hannah’s name from the island would not change this discreet episode of violence within the broader context of our country’s contentious and painful history with the Native Americans and it is disappointing that this revisionist approach to history would come at the expense of one of our nation’s few female historical figures.  For now though, it appears that Hannah’s name will remain and other elements added to the landmark.  In this way, we can recognize and honor the Abenaki experience without literally erasing Hannah’s.

I’m a fan of birth control and religious freedom

Melissa Torres-Montoya, Resident Blogger (’11, University of California, Berkeley School of Law)

Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of March Madness. I jumped on board with the madness; making the effort to watch my favorite team (go Bruins!) specifically at the bar that serves as DC’s “official” UCLA bar, hanging out with friends who had brackets so we could enthusiastically and nonstop talk/compare our brackets, and basically addictively watching the games.  While this March Madness is at the end of the day all fun and games, the real madness that is going on this March is the Supreme Court hearing of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.
The precise legal question has to do with religious freedom.  As this National Public Radio piece points out, the legal standard for whether a law infringes upon the constitutionally granted right from laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion has changed over the years.  And this summer the Supreme Court will issue its decision as to whether  the new law requiring employers to provide health insurance that includes coverage for contraception poses a substantial burden on the corporate owner’s of Hobby Lobby’s right to free exercise of religion and whether as corporate owners they even have such a legal right.  The madness in this all, for me, is the non legal question here is that, for some, the question exists as to whether contraception is even considered a preventive health measure.  
Former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement bemoans that “The federal government for the first time has decided that they are going to force one person to pay for another person’s not just … hip replacement, but something as religiously sensitive as contraception and abortifacients.”  Hobby Lobby, of course, would never challenge coverage of a hip replacement for a 75 year old employee who fell down the stairs.  Nor should they challenge the use of a medication by a 34 year old fertile woman to prevent pregnancy, a medical condition that changes a woman’s body so that she’ll grow a whole new human within her.  According to the world health organization family planning, ”allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women at increased risk of health problems and death from early childbearing, and can prevent pregnancies among older women who also face increased risks.“  Spacing of pregnancies, as experts at the Mayo Clinic describe, has medical implications.  So yes, contraception is just another medical treatment that should be included in health insurance coverage as routinely as say, a hip replacement or high cholesterol medication. Hopefully, a majority of the justices see it the same way and publicly identify contraception as a critical, routine and medically accepted preventive health measure.
Today, the Supreme Court is listening to oral arguments on this case and like most women in the U.S., I oppose Hobby Lobby’s attempt to carve out some contraception from the health insurance plan it provides its employees. I’m publicly acknowledging today that I’m a fan of birth control and religious freedom.  You should too.  Make your new cover page this or pledge your support here.

The Women’s Health Protection Act: A Missed Opportunity

S J Chapman, Resident Blogger, (’12, Northwestern University Law School)

Last year, Sen. Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a bill titled the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013 (WHPA).  The bill’s intended purpose is “to protect a women’s right to determine whether and when to bear a child or to end a pregnancy by limiting restrictions on the provision of abortion.” The bill begins with legislative findings that acknowledge how access to safe, legal abortion services in the US has recently been hindered by obstructions such as blockades and violence in front of facilities, restrictions on insurance coverage, restrictions on minors’ ability to obtain an abortion, and injurious laws singling out abortion providers.  These are serious obstacles to reproductive justice that must be addressed.

Thus, it is apt that the bill states, “federal legislation putting a stop to harmful restrictions throughout the United States is necessary to ensure that women in all States have access to safe abortion services, an essential constitutional right repeatedly affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.” In my opinion, the bill is ultimately too weak to effectively carry this goal out.  It explicitly declares that the WHPA “does not apply to clinic violence, restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion, or requirements for parental consent or notification before any minor may obtain an abortion.”

So what does the bill do?

Basically, it prohibits regulating the manner in which abortion providers carry out their services, such as regulating which specific tests be performed, whether doctors may delegate certain tasks, whether a doctor may prescribe certain drugs, or whether a doctor may provide an abortion via telemedicine. The bill also feebly encourages Congress to “address” the larger issues like clinic violence, insurance restrictions, or parental notice laws in separate legislation.

All of this makes for a good start, but it’s a shame that Sen. Blumenthal ultimately passes the buck on some of the largest issues that hinder reproductive freedom today rather than championing them in this bill.