Crazy States: WTF Hawaii?!

It’s been almost four months since our last edition of Crazy States, but we’re back with a biggie.

Hawaii’s in the process of passing a bill (HB 1926) that cracks down on a number of crimes, including prostitution. One of the things the original draft of the bill did was stipulate that police are not allowed to have sex with prostitutes in the pursuit of an investigation. Seems pretty straightforward, right? While there are some exceptions, like undercover cops being allowed to do drugs if it’s required in order for them to maintain cover, police are not allowed to break the law in order to enforce the law. But Hawaii police disagree. It turns out that for a long time in Hawaii, police have been allowed to have sex with prostitutes, and they’ve testified that they need to keep doing it.

It’s important to understand that there’s a huge overlap between prostitution and sex trafficking. A lot of people believe that most prostitutes are adults who have ‘chosen’ their profession, but the reality is that many were abducted, tricked, or sold into prostitution, and are being held there through a combination of violence, economic slavery, forced addiction, and a number of other tools of modern slavery. The average age of a trafficked prostitute is 13. Trafficked prostitutes are common in Hawaii, as the islands are a convenient stop between Asia and the US, are hubs for tourists and the military, and receive a steady flow of low-wage foreign agricultural workers and their families.

So if a police officer has sex with a prostitute, there’s a good chance he is adding to the exploitation and traumatizing of a child trafficking victim. In addition to the obvious ethical issue, Derek Marsh (who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases and twice has testified to Congress about the issue) points out that such a practice worsens victims’ already entrenched distrust of police. Why the distrust?

“Police abuse is part of the life of prostitution,” said Melissa Farley, the executive director of the San Francisco-based group Prostitution Research and Education. Farley said that in places without such police protections “women who have escaped prostitution” commonly report being coerced into giving police sexual favors to keep from being arrested…

 

There have been instances of police being accused of victimizing sex workers across the nation. In Philadelphia, a former officer is on trial facing charges of raping two prostitutes after forcing them at gunpoint to take narcotics. A former West Sacramento, Calif., officer is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of raping prostitutes in his police cruiser while on patrol. And last year in Massachusetts, a former police officer pleaded guilty to extorting sex from prostitutes he threatened with arrest.

On the upside, HB 1926 proposes increased penalties for johns and pimps, while prostitution itself would remain a petty misdemeanor. But the bill has been amended to allow police to continue having sex with prostitutes, has passed the Hawaii state House, and is headed to the Senate.

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SCOTUS Says no to One Crazy Abortion Law

There’s cause, if likely only temporary, for celebration today. The Supreme Court has declined to consider a case from Oklahoma over a law that would effectively ban all medical abortion (like RU 486.) The lower court’s ruling, overturning the law, will stand.

Oklahoma has a whole bunch of reproductive rights restrictions already, including mandatory anti-abortion counseling (which previously included forcing women to look at a sonogram image of the pregnancy via transvaginal ultrasound, with no exception for rape or incest, until that part of the law was overturned in Dec. 2012 by the State Supreme Court,) a 24-hour waiting period, restrictions on when abortion can be covered by insurance or financed publicly, and parental notification and consent. Oklahoma City is the only place in the state that has abortion providers; 56% of women in Oklahoma live in counties without one.

There are more abortion cases heading toward the Court, though, and reason for concern (ahem, Texas) that this isn’t the strong precedent it should be. So we celebrate today while preparing for what comes next.

Let’s Play… Crazy States!

As you may already know, I try not to get wrapped up in talking about every insane state attempt to restrict reproductive rights, because I wouldn’t have time to, like, pee.

But in light of the news in recent weeks (specifically out of Texas and Ohio,) it’s important to talk about. Here are two concise ways to learn about these efforts in the big picture.

http://jezebel.com/the-annotated-guide-to-protecting-women-from-abortion-602475321

http://www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/major-restrictions-abortion-access-enacted-2013

 

“Don’t forget, we’re crazy!” – Michigan

Thanksgiving is over. So what’s next?

*BUZZER*

Good answer, but not this time. There will be no Christmas this year, nor ever again, because the world is ending on December 21.

I watched a show this weekend about people who believe that – like, A LOT – so I’m now all a-flutter trying to decide how best to witness their reactions to waking up on December 22 with dishes in the sink. (Though I do hope no one kills themselves or their families, which apparently some people are considering. Please no one do that.) 

I bring up the whole nutty apocalypse thing as a segue between the holiday break and today’s Vagina News – KooKooPants Edition. You may recall my prediction that, in light of the election’s likely consequences for The Supreme Court, we’d see a decrease in nutty state laws aimed at outlawing abortion. Boy, was I wrong.

Michigan is considering a law that would allow a fetus (of a minimum of 12 weeks development) to be claimed as a dependent on state income taxes. That’s a $3700 credit. (Thanks to my husband for sending me this story.)

This sparkly-new take on personhood comes on the heels of Michigan slashing state funding for child-care and the Earned Income Tax Credit, both of which helped children in low-income families. (And Michigan has a lot of low income families; The state ranks 44th in the US for number of children living in poverty.) So aside from the ‘when you’re a fetus, you’re valued, but once you’re born, you’re fucked’ message Michigan is trumpeting, I have a few pesky logistical questions. 

If the mother suffers a miscarriage, does she have to pay the money back? (I assume they’d make her pay it back if she had a legal abortion, but Michigan would much rather just make abortion illegal. (In fact, it was during debate of Michigan’s extreme anti-abortion bill that State Representative Lisa Brown was banned from the House floor for saying “vagina”, the story of which led to the birth of Vagina News.) Are any tests required to confirm the viability of the fetus in order to be eligible? Wouldn’t this create a financial incentive for low-income adults to get pregnant for the short-term tax benefit? And wouldn’t that family then be much more likely to need government assistance when child care costs kick in, especially in light of the recent aforementioned budget cuts?

The answer to all of those questions, of course, is ‘We didn’t think about any of that because it’s not really about taxes, it’s about defining a fetus as a person so we can overturn Roe v. Wade.‘ I’m still hopeful that this kind of nonsense is just the sad final trickle of what was put into the pipeline by those who were preparing for Romney’s crushing victory. Then again, if I’m wrong, the “slut vote” may have another chance to make itself heard in 2014. That would be fun, no?

Incidentally, I wonder how much overlap there is between those who were preparing for Romney’s crushing victory and those who believe the world will end on 12/21. And while we’re at it, those who actually went shopping on Black Friday, which would make very little sense in light of the end of the world. I plan to mull it all over at brunch on December 22.

I found it. The CRAZIEST state abortion law.

First, a quick fact. Only 1.4% of abortions take place after

the 20th week of gestation. At that point, the choice is often made due to
serious complications that endanger the health of the child, mother, or both.

So,
Georgia’s HB 954. In short, it bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Supporters call it the “fetal pain bill”, because the justification is that
fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. (There is no medical evidence to support
this.) Opponents call it the “women as livestock bill”, because… Well, you’ll
see.

Here comes the crazy. Be careful, it sneaks up on you.

Crazy – The original version of the bill made no exception
for rape, incest, health of the mother (you know, the usual), OR viability of
the fetus. Many serious birth defects can only be detected after 20 weeks, so
the main effect of the bill would be to force women to carry a non-viable (or
non-alive) fetus to term and delivery.

Crazier – The bill got national attention because State Rep.
Terry England expressed his compassion for women in this situation thusly;
“I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive — delivering
pigs, dead and alive. … It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it.”
He’s not unsympathetic, see? He feels for us ladies, just like he felt for
those pigs.

Craziest – The version that passed – aka, is now law – made
a compromise. The idea is to keep the fetus alive as long as possible, even
when the reason for the abortion is that it has no chance of survival. Here’s
the solution; If the doctor determines the fetus is not viable (the mother gets
no say) and it’s been over 20 weeks, she can have an abortion. But first, she
has to deliver the child vaginally or have a C-section – the abortion has to
take place outside the mother’s body. And if the doctor thinks vaginal delivery
might endanger the fetus on its way to abortion, that doctor is legally
required to perform a C-section instead, regardless of the woman’s wishes, or
face jail time.

I told you.

Google ‘Georgia HB 954’ or ‘fetal pain bill’ to learn more.