I probably don’t have tell anyone here that last night was pretty great for vaginas.

Let’s get into the details.

  • For starters, the obvious. We have a pro-choice,
    pro-equality President for the next four years. We also have four Supreme Court
    justices well over the age of 70. (I predict we will see far fewer
    anti-abortion laws floated on the state level, because the pro-life movement’s
    hopes of one of those laws making it to the SC and being used to overturn
    Roe v. Wade just got turned upside-down.) http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/30/opinion/la-oe-chemerinsky-scotus-future-20121030
  • A record number of women will serve in the US Senate next
    term; 20, up from 17 this term, and more than double the number that served 15
    years ago. The new senators include the first openly gay woman (Tammy Baldwin,
    Wisconsin), the first female combat veteran (Tammy Duckworth, Illinois), and
    the first Asian-American woman (Mazie Hirono, Hawaii) to serve in the Senate.
  • All six female Senators who were running for reelection won; Maria Cantwell
    (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar
    (Minn.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
  • Female Senate candidacy broke records as well; Almost half of the 33 Senate
    races this year had serious female candidates, and in two races, both final
    candidates were female.

Thank you, San Francisco!

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (or CPCs) are faith-based, anti-choice non-profit organizations that pretend to be health service providers. They use false advertising (like “Pregnant? Scared? Alone? We can help!” billboards) to lure in women seeking information and referrals for reproductive health options like birth control and abortion, and then deliver medically inaccurate information and anti-choice propaganda.

San Francisco recently passed a ‘truth in advertising’ law
that forbids CPCs from misrepresenting their services. One of the affected CPCs
challenged the ordinance, and last week, a federal court rejected their
argument, making San Francisco the first US city to force CPCs to be honest
about what they do.

Similar truth-in-advertising laws have been passed in
Baltimore & Montgomery County, Maryland, Austin, and New York. Each been
struck down in the face of legal challenges.


I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. Here’s one of many reasons why.

Women make up about 2/3 of Wal-Mart’s 1 million person workforce, yet only about 15% of managers are female. In a recently leaked internal memo, Wal-Mart officials acknowledged that the company is “behind the rest of the world in promoting women to management ranks.”

1975 former female employees have filed suit against Wal-Mart for discrimination. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to certify them as a national class, because there was too much variety in the complaints. Since then, individual suits have been filed in every single Wal-Mart region in the country – that’s every state but Montana and Vermont.

This week, a federal judge in California rejected the company’s request to have that state’s case dismissed, and is considering certifying female employees as a class on the state level. 

In a statement supporting that case, a male employee says he discovered he was earning more per hour than a female peer who had 3 years more expereince. When he later recommended that peer for promotion, he was told the District Manager didn’t allow women to be promoted; He then realized there were no women in managerial positions in his department. He later told another female employee about this experience, and after being confronted by the District Manager and admitting to doing so, was fired.

To learn more, Google some combination of “Wal-Mart”, “discrimination”, and “gender”. 

Sexual assault of women serving in the military

I could do 4 posts based on this one article and blow your minds with every one.

Some (really horrible) highlights:

– The rate of sexual assault in the military is double that in the general public.

– HuffPo calculates that “… a servicewoman was nearly 180
times more likely to have become a victim of military sexual assault (MSA) in
the past year than to have died while deployed during the last 11 years of
combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

– The Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
Office (created in 2006) estimates that there were approximately 52 MSAs per
day between 10/1/10 and 9/31/11.

– Only 14% (or 3,192) of those MSAs were reported, and by
the end of 2011 only 240 were brought to trial. 6% of reported cases resulted
in a court marshal conviction, mostly resulting in reduction in rank,
confinement, a fine, or discharge.

– SAPRO estimates that 90% of MSAs are committed by repeat

– Victims have no direct legal recourse. Per the Uniform
Code of Military Justice, MSAs must be reported to the victim’s unit commander,
who decides whether to authorize an investigation and whether the case should
be prosecuted. When deciding how to proceed, commanding officers can consider
factors like how valuable the accused perpetrator is to the unit.

– According to the recently released documentary “The
Invisible War,” about one in four service-member victims don’t report an
assault because the person to whom they must report it is the

– MSAs are subject to UCMJ policy, not civil law. One victim
was told her case could not be prosecuted because “sodomy was not a crime under
the UCMJ — forcible or otherwise”. If a case is tried, the judge, jury,
prosecutor, and defense are all military.

The Science of Women Silencing Themselves

This past June, Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the House floor after she used the word “vagina” while debating a proposed anti-abortion bill. It was one of the stories that led to the creation of Vagina News.

I felt a strong connection to the story – not initially because of the word “vagina”, or the fact that it’s unquestionably relevant to a discussion about abortion – but because I’m all too familiar with the experience of being pressured into silence in a predominantly male group. I suspect most women are.

A recently published study puts science behind that shared
experience. Researchers found that, in collaborative group settings, “the time
that women spoke was significantly less than their proportional
representation—amounting to less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke.”
It also found that groups reached dramatically different conclusions when
making decisions by secret ballot vs. open voting, suggesting that women are
often pressured into siding with the male majority.

I have not read the full 15-page report, but I plan to;
Google “Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation” if you’d like to join me. You’ll also find a number of interesting articles about it by Googling ‘American Political Science Review woman speak less.’

For my part, I’m going to keep speaking my mind in spite of
pressure to the contrary, and thank you in advance for cheering me on when it
gets me into trouble.

Sexual assault in the military, Part 2

On Saturday, we talked about the military’s failure to address the staggering issue of sexual assault among service-members. 

Now let’s talk about their failure to respond to military sexual assault once it’s happened.

– As we’ve discussed before, military health insurance (or
TRICARE) does not cover abortion, even in cases of rape. In many military
medical facilities, especially in combat zones, abortion services are
unavailable even to women willing to pay out-of-pocket. The Shaheen Amendment
would fix this, but House Republicans have blocked it. Google “Shaheen
Amendment” or click here to learn more.

– Sexism is baked into the benefits process. PTSD can
qualify a veteran for disability benefits, and the amount of the benefit is
determined by Veterans Affairs Department. Marine Capt. Anu Bhagwati, executive
director of the Service Women’s Action Network, says “Women were more likely
to receive a 10% to 30% rating and men were more likely to receive a 70% to
100% disability rating.” 

From 2008 to 2010, only 32% of PTSD claims stemming from
military sexual assault were approved for benefits by the Department of
Veterans Affairs – that’s compared to 53% of all other PTSD claims. Part of the
problem is that victims are required to prove the attack happened during their
service in order to receive benefits – hard to do if the person you’d have to
report to was your attacker.

Arizona v. Women – The Sequel

Remember the law in Arizona that allows a doctor to withhold information from a patient if the doctor believes it may lead the patient to choose to have a legal abortion? Here’s Part 2.

Pending legislation in Arizona would:

1 – Repeal the standing requirement that employers who cover
prescription medication also cover birth control.

2 – Require female employees
who want covered birth control to submit a claim proving that they need it for a medical
condition, rather than for contraception.

3 – Allow employers to fire a female employee if they
discover she is taking birth control for contraceptive purposes – even if she
purchases the medication outside the employer’s health plan.

(You have to look closely to find the firing part. It’s not
explicit – rather, they REMOVED the following language:

“A religious employer shall not discriminate against an
employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or
prescriptions for contraceptives from another source.”

See what that does?)

The AZ House passed it in March. The AZ Senate rejected it,
but scheduled a revote, which as far as I can tell is still pending.

To learn more, Google some combination of:

‘arizona’ ‘hb 2625’ ‘fire’ ‘birth control’