News Tag: Reproductive Freedom

Why Are We Still Asking if a Dying Woman Should Be Able to Get an Abortion to Save Her Life?

May 08, 2015

By Jennifer Dalven, Reproductive Freedom Project

A recent analysis of abortion attitudes by The New York Times came to the right conclusion: The divide on how Americans feel about abortion is much smaller than partisan politics would have us believe.

But there's a bigger idea that the piece in the Times — and the poll it relies on — missed: All too often, we're still asking the wrong questions when it comes to gauging public opinion on abortion. We're too focused on questions at the margins — death versus abortion, rape, and incest or abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances. These questions do little to illuminate the reality of most women's lives and the range of feelings people have about abortions that happen in the real world.

Much of the piece centers on how Americans feel about two questions. The first is whether a woman who needs an abortion to save her life should be able to get one. Why are we still asking this? Is whether a woman should be forced to die rather than have an abortion really still up for debate when it comes to public opinion? I don't think so.

The other question examined at length concerns a woman who wants an abortion because of the sex of the baby. To set the record straight, that's a largely imagined scenario, designed in part by abortion opponents to communicate the stigmatizing idea that a woman who has decided to have an abortion is doing so for a frivolous reason.  Not to mention that it's racist, relying on ugly stereotypes about women of color. Asking this question doesn't get at any kind of truth on abortion attitudes.

I'm thrilled that the analysis in the Times' got the real answer. But it's still not asking the right questions.

Women have abortions for complex reasons — to better take care of the children they already have, to pursue an education or career and improve their life circumstances, or simply because they know they are not in a position to be the best parent they can be.

For many years, it's been clear that when you ask people about how abortion impacts real women's lives — instead of party-line questions about abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances — you get surprising answers and high levels of agreement.

Vox recently took this wholly different approach. Instead of asking the standard questions, the poll asked questions like:

"Which comes closer to your view: The law says a woman has a right to an abortion. As long as this is the law, women should have access to safe and affordable abortion care. Or even though there is a right to abortion, we should work to reduce abortions by making it harder for women to access care."

And:

"Think about a woman who has decided to have an abortion. How would you want that experience to be for her?"

And even:

"If a close family member or friend told you she decided to have an abortion, would you give her a lot of support?"

When you ask these types of questions, a much deeper, more nuanced, and more accurate picture of attitudes on abortion appears. In that picture, it's clear that Americans are in overwhelming agreement that a woman who has decided to get an abortion should be able to get one without additional hurdles. They're in overwhelming agreement that we shouldn't be passing laws that make a woman who has decided to get an abortion feel ashamed about her decision.

And Americans agree that lawmakers who are determined to restrict access to abortion are moving our country in the wrong direction.

Buried in the Times piece, even with it's strange focus on scenarios that have little connection to most abortions, is one clear truth: "Focusing on the exact details of abortion decisions may reveal more about when Americans agree on this difficult issue than when they disagree."

View this blog on ACLU.org.

2015 Legislative Tracking: Equality for all Mississippians

May 01, 2015

Oppose


HB714 - Creates a rebuttable presumption that a child being placed in the custody of a homosexual parent is not in the best interest of the child.

Status: Died in Committee

We strongly oppose HB714. In addition to being discriminatory, this will lead parents in contentious custody disputes to allege that their spouse or ex-spouse is gay to gain the upper hand, and require courts to be part of witch hunt trials to determine the truth in such assertions. What does this mean for same sex couples who have a custody dispute? Would custody be taken away from both parents and given to someone else?


HB493HB1218HB177 - Anti-Sharia bills prohibiting the application of foreign law.

Status: HB493 & HB1218 Died in Committee; HB177 Signed by Governor into law.

The ACLU of MS opposes HB493, HB1218, and HB177. State laws that single out religious groups for discrimination and ban all recognition of established international law are unconstitutional.


SB 2272HB1306 - Requires any infant born to a mother who tests positive for illegal drugs or controlled substance w/o prescription to be placed in foster care.

Status: SB2272 & HB1306 Died in Committee

We oppose SB2272 and HB 1306. By focusing on punishing women rather than promoting healthy pregnancies, these bills would unconstitutionally single out women struggling with alcohol or drug dependency and deter from seeking necessary pre-natal care. Further, HB1306 imposes a harsh penalty, requiring such mothers to be charged with felonious child abuse.


SB2072 - A parental rights amendment.

Status: Died in Committee

SB2072 is a thinly-veiled assault on public education, which would allow parents to challenge any educational or child welfare policy that doesn’t coincide with their own personal, political, or religious beliefs. It could tie officials’ hands in enforcing child abuse and other child welfare laws. It would result in an administrative nightmare. It is also unnecessary, as parents already have the right to opt their children out of certain curricula.


SB2706 - Revises enforcement and penalties under the Mississippi Employment Protection Act. Allows people to report undocumented workers by filling out a complaint form.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU remains opposed to legislation which penalizes employers for hiring undocumented immigrants. We believe that such legislation would exacerbate existing patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination in employment, by creating greater risks for employers hiring applicants whom they believe to be immigrants.


HB1309 - Personhood bill.

Status: Died in Committee

HB1309 has wide-ranging consequences for a women's health. This bill would undermine the ability of women and family to make important personal and private decisions. It could be used to ban some methods of birth control. It endangers women's health and lives by interfering with doctor’s ability to treat miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. Further, it could have far-reaching, unforeseen consequences, including reinterpretation of every state law that uses the word "person" (i.e. inheritance or who can file a lawsuit).


HB609 - Anti-Bullying bill.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB609 because the bill fails to identify and protect categories of students most susceptible to bullying and harassment at schools. Mississippi must develop a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates groups that are susceptible to bullying. Research has shown that students in states with non-enumerated bullying laws are no more protected from bullying than students who live in states without any anti-bullying and harassment laws.


HB594 - Includes sex between same sex partners as behavior constituting adultery.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB594 because the bill is intended to create a barrier to equitable treatment for same sex partners. This bill is uneccessary, Mississippi does not need a separate statute to define adultery to include sexual activity with someone of the same sex. The current statute already defines adultery as sex with a person other than your spouse, which is inclusive of all extramarital relations regardless of gender and or sexual orientation.


HB383 - Requires recipients of public benefits to be drug tested annually.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU opposes any effort to mandate any type of drug testing of public benefit applicants and recipients as an intrusion upon an individual’s right to privacy and an unreasonable search by the government. In addition to constitutional issues, drug testing is a misguided policy, based on the false premise that individuals affected by poverty are more likely to be drug users than other members of our society. By targeting recipients of public benefits, these proposals disproportionately impact communities of color.


SB2010 - Parents whose child support payments are in arrears shall have their gaming winnings applied to their outstanding child support balance.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose this bill because it provides no privacy protections for men and women who owe child support. The bill would allow casinos and other gaming licenses to access the information of people who owe child support obligations by granting them access to real-time electronic database shared with the Department of Human Services. This means the data will be shared with any number of the gaming licenses employees.


SB2138 - Increases the minimum waiting period before a woman can have an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS strongly opposes this legislation because the mandatory 72-hour waiting period is intended to shame, judge, and make a woman change her mind. Requiring a 72-hour waiting period before abortion is about political interference, not informed consent. Health care decisions are best made by a woman and her doctor, not politicians.


SB2767 - Makes it illegal to perform an abortion of a child based on the child's race or gender.

Status: Died in Committee

SB2767 is essentially an anti-abortion bill disguised in anti-discrimination language. Doctors, not politicians, should decide whether an abortion may or not be performed on a patient, based on a woman’s unique circumstances and health. The ACLU is committed to protecting each woman’s ability to make personal, private health care decisions without government interference.


HB299 - Early Voting, requires absentee voters to attest that they will be absent from their precinct both on Election Day and every day that early voting is allowed.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports legislation that expands the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot without having to provide a reason or excuse. However, we oppose this bill, as it requires that voters attest that they will be absent from their precincts on Election Day and every day that early voting is permitted. There are too many Mississippi voters who do not have access to in-person absentee voting sites because of disabilities, lack of transportation, or work schedules that conflict with in-person absentee voting hours. Additionally, voters should not have to provide a statutorily-permitted reason or excuse to vote by absentee ballot, as disclosure of confidential or sensitive information raises privacy concerns. No-excuse absentee voting should be available to all qualified voters through the mail and by in-person methods.


HB941 - Would allow election managers and commissioners to receive fewer than eight hours of annual training.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB941 because the bill would allow election commissioners and poll workers to receive even less Election Day training than they currently receive. Fair, open, and accessible elections are a cornerstone of the democratic process and we cannot afford for anyone's voting rights to be trampled due to our failure to adequately prepare the men and women who assist us on Election Day.


HB196 - Tuition Equity bill, which possibly runs afoul of Federal law.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS is concerned that HB196 runs afoul of federal law which prohibits residency with the state as a basis to receive in state tuition.


HB1154 - Would allow hospitals who are owed a debt to go directly to the IRS or state tax commission to collect on a debt.

Status: Died in Committee.

We oppose HB1154 because it would constitute an illegal “taking” of personal property, in violation of the 4th Amendment. Before a person can be deprived of a property right, they must be given due process. Further, this bill is unnecessary, as hospitals already have legal mechanisms to collect debts without violating a constitutional right.

 

Support

HB10 - Discourages wage discrimination.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB10 because, by working to end discrimination in the workplace, we ensure that all workers — regardless of sex, race, national origin, age or disability—are able to bring home every dollar they rightfully earn.


HB750HB573SB2466SB2474 - Amends bullying laws to enumerate categories of victims, and mandates the creation of anti-bullying policies for school district.

Status: HB750, HB573, SB2466 & SB2474 Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports these bills, as research has shown that students in states with non-enumerated bullying laws are no more protected from bullying than students who live in states without any anti-bullying and harassment laws. According to the Mississippi Department of Health Vital Statistics in 2013, 635 youth ages 10-24 have committed suicide since 2000 – an average of 49 deaths per year. The most often-cited cause of this is bullying. HB750 strengthens Mississippi’s existing anti-bullying law by clearly identifying common characteristics that all-too-often become the target of bullying in schools, including disability, appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.


HB534 - Adds “sexual orientation” as a basis for hate crimes charges.

Status: Died in Committee

We support this legislation because it recognizes sexual orientation alongside other protected categories. This bill would punish people for violent acts when victims are targeted because of bigoted beliefs. LGBTQ Mississippians need and deserve the protection of the law. HB534 shows them that they are not alone in their fight to live free of harassment, intimidation, and abuse.


SB2295 - Requires the State Superintendent of Education to report on the number of students arrested as a result of any unlawful activity which occurred on educational property or during a school-related activity.

Status: Died in Committee.

We support legislation which seeks to find more complete and long lasting solutions to handling school disciplinary problems. However, we believe that any such legislation must include adequate standards concerning the disclosure and retention of data collected.


HB652 - Tuition Equity Bill.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB652. The prospect attending college in pursuit of a career is part of the American dream. Unfortunately, many Mississippi graduates who wish to attend college face a major hurdle—unaffordable out-of-state tuition rates—simply because of their parents' immigration status. HB652 would enable all students who attended for at least 2 years and graduated from Mississippi High Schools, to pay in-state tuition rates and make their dream of college a reality.


HB9 - Salary increase for state employees.

Status: Died in Committee

We support HB9 because Mississippi teachers and many state employees are some of the lowest paid in the nation. It's time to invest in people who work day in and out to keep the state of Mississippi functioning at its best potential.


SB2601 - This bill allows voters to register to vote online via a secure electronic application.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU supports legislation which grants more access to the polls; electronic voter registration is one convenient alternative to our current system of registration. However, this bill includes language which limits access to all Mississippians. There are too many MS voters who do not have access to in-person absentee voting sites because of disabilities, lack of transportation, or work schedules that conflict with in-person absentee voting hours. Additionally, voters should not have to provide statutory permitted reason or excuse to vote by absentee ballot because disclosure of confidential or sensitive information raises privacy concerns. No-excuse absentee voting should be available to all qualified voters through the mail and by in-person methods.


SB2017HB836 - Requires state agencies to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Status: SB2017 Died in Committee; HB836 Passed House and Senate as amended. Returns to House for approval.

We support this bill because there are too few opportunities for people with disabilities to be able to get real employment that pays real wages. Therefore, requiring that the state agencies responsible for administering services to people with disabilities also prioritize finding opportunities for their employment is both advantageous and for the good of all Mississippians.


HB 1200 - Requires equal pay for women and men 

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB1200 because by working to end discrimination in the workplace, we ensure that all workers — regardless of sex, race, national origin, age or disability—are able to bring home every dollar they rightfully earn.

VICTORY! Federal Jury Holds Catholic School Accountable for Sex Discrimination

December 23, 2014

By Brian Hauss, Legal Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project

Emily Herx never imagined that she could lose her job for trying to get pregnant. But after working for more than seven years as a literature and language arts teacher at a Catholic school in Indiana, she was shocked to learn that her teaching contract would not be renewed: All because the in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment she was undergoing in an attempt to have a second child made her a "grave, immoral sinner" in the eyes of her religious employers.

Emily filed a federal lawsuit against the school and the local diocese for sex discrimination, pointing out that they had never fired a man for his involvement in infertility treatment. Her former employers responded by arguing that they should be exempted from federal anti-discrimination laws because their decision to fire Emily was motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs. Fortunately, the court held that religious schools do not have blanket permission to discriminate against lay teachers and allowed a jury to hear Emily's case.

Read the ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief here.

After a four-day trial, the jury found that the school and diocese discriminated against Emily on the basis of sex and awarded her $1.9 million in damages. This resounding victory for women's equality should send a message to employers everywhere that they cannot use religion to justify discrimination. And we owe it all to Emily's decision to stand up for her rights.

As Emily herself wrote in a blog post for the ACLU:

The emotional strain of infertility treatments, the loss of a job I loved so dearly, and my involvement in this case have all taken a toll on my family, my friends, and me. While I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from individuals across this nation, this has been a challenging and traumatic road. However, it is important to me to right the wrong that has been done when the Diocese and school discriminated against me.

My husband and I teach our son that doing what is right is important, even when it is hard. I am heartened that one day my son will be able to look at his mom with pride for standing up for what is right and just, even when it was a struggle to do so.

We all have a right to our beliefs, but the fundamental right to exercise religion is not an excuse to discriminate against others. That is why the ACLU works tirelessly to end the use of religion to discriminate.

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New Alabama Law Puts Teens Who Need Abortions on Trial. That's Dangerous and Cruel.

October 02, 2014

By Jennifer Dalven, Reproductive Freedom Project

Picture this: You are 17 years old, in your senior year of high school, and you've just learned you're pregnant. You'd like to be able to turn to your parents for support but you know you can't. After all, they kicked your older sister out of the house when she got pregnant. But you have discussed your options with your aunt and a trusted counselor and decided to have an abortion.

You call a women's health center to make an appointment and are told that unless you get your parent's consent, you will have to go to court and essentially be put on trial in order to get the care you need.

That's right. Instead of a doctor, you get a trial.

Thanks to a new Alabama law, a teen who can't get a parent's consent has to undergo a gauntlet of questioning to get the abortion she needs. Because of this law, a prosecutor and a representative for the fetus, both of whom are charged with protecting the "state's interest in fetal life," (a.k.a. making sure the teen doesn't get an abortion), will cross-examine her.

That isn't even the half of it. In their quest to ensure that the teen can't get an abortion, the new law allows the prosecutor and fetus's representative to tell other people in the young woman's life -- including her teachers, pastor, employer, relatives, and friends – that she is pregnant. And to haul them in to court to testify against her.

No, I am not kidding.

Now, we all want our daughters to come to us if they get pregnant, and thankfully most do. But we all know that, unfortunately, some just can't. Some teens don't come from good families, and some teens don't come from safe homes. Putting these teens on trial is not the answer. The cruel irony of this law is that it means teens from troubled families, those who need our help and support the most, will struggle the most to get it.

I have been working for almost two decades to ensure that teens like these are able to get the medical care they need. In all that time, I don't think I have ever seen a law aimed at young people as misguided and mean spirited as this one. That's why I am proud to say that this week the ACLU went to court to challenge it. We did it because not only is it wrongheaded and dangerous, the new law is also flat-out unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has made clear that if a state decides to require teens to get a parent's consent to get an abortion, it must also have a confidential and expeditious alternative for those teens who can't turn to a parent. In passing this law – which allows the prosecutor and a representative for the fetus to tell anyone they want about the minor's pregnancy – Alabama politicians snubbed their nose at this long-standing constitutional requirement and thoroughly eliminated any expectation of privacy.

And worse than that, they have put young women in harm's way, creating a situation that might force them to take matters into their own hands. Given what we have seen the last few years, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. In state after state, from Texas to Ohio to Wisconsin and so many others , we have seen extremist politicians who are willing put women's health in jeopardy all to score political points. This is one more example of that.

We all want teens to be safe, but this law is cruel, dangerous, and unnecessary. To protect the young women of Alabama, we can't let it stand.

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ACLU and Planned Parenthood Release Infographic on TRAP Laws

August 08, 2014

Supreme Court Allows Employers to Discriminate Against Employees by Denying Contraception Coverage

June 30, 2014

Employers Allowed to Use Religious Beliefs to Refuse to Comply With Law Requiring Contraception Coverage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of closely held corporations that sought an exemption to a federal law requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The owners of the plaintiff companies – Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft supply store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania furniture company – cited religious objections to contraception as a reason not to comply with the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, religious organizations, other civil rights and women’s health groups, business leaders, and members of Congress filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the companies’ owners cannot impose their personal religious beliefs on employees to withhold coverage for health services with which they disagree.

"This is a deeply troubling decision. For the first time, the highest court in the country has said that business owners can use their religious beliefs to deny their employees a benefit that they are guaranteed by law," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. "Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but that freedom does not include the right to impose beliefs on others. In its ruling today, the Court simply got it wrong."

More information about these cases can be found at:
aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/challenges-federal-contraceptive-coverage-rule

There's Work Yet to Be Done

April 01, 2014

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

A year ago, I wrote an email to my pastor advising him of my decision to accept the task of directing the work of the ACLU of Mississippi. On this the anniversary of my first year as the Executive Director, I would like to share excerpts from this personal communication.

“Pastor,

As you may know God has placed in me a passion to stand in the gap for others and to extend equality and justice to those less fortunate than some of us. I know that Isaiah 61 is the call God has on my life to minister to the neglected, the informed, and the poor. My gift includes a boldness and fearlessness to give voice to the voiceless and those others just refuse to hear. Like the Lord I love justice. This is what I am anointed to do.

God has opened the door for me to return to my passion. I have been offered and have accepted the position of Executive Director of the Mississippi affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

As I completed law school and prepared to leave MS, the Holy Spirit told me to stay for "there is still work to be done". I did that and was not only successful in my task but as a result of the work God gave me to do significant changes were made in MS's juvenile defense system. All Glory given to the Father. After many years of fighting institutions . . . I grew weary. . . . I am renewed and ready to return to the fight for freedom and justice for all. There is yet still work to be done. I solicit your prayers.

Please know my belief in and reliance on God's word have not wavered. It is God who has brought me this far and it is He who will lead me on. I believe it is God who has brought me to this hour in my life. The ACLU under my direction will tackle many issues which will prayerfully make Mississippi a more even playing ground.

I wanted to discuss this with you because many people forget that the ACLU's mission is to defend the Constitution. This mission which includes voter rights, racial justice, education rights, health care disparities, access to the courts etc. (issues important to the African American community and other disenfranchised populations) is often forgotten when issues such as women's right to make their own health care decisions are overshadowed by abortion debates.

As the ED of ACLU-MS, I will also be the spokesperson for our work. On occasion, however, the position I take may differ from yours. . . . I would ask that you respect that as I extend justice to some I may be asked to extend justice to all.”

I shared this letter not to promote my passion but the commitment shared by the team of social justice professionals that make up the staff of the ACLU of MS. My story is but one example of the conscience decision it takes to do the work we do to bring about positive change. The positions we take are not often not popular or safe but they are necessary as someone must stand in the gap.

The ACLU of MS has assembled a team of guardians who stand ready to defend the Constitution and extend civil liberties to all Mississippians. This year alone we stood in the gap with a child who had been literally left behind by the bus when his school unconstitutionally denied his right to attend school. We stood with a doctoral student when she was racially profiled. We stood with a Sikh truck driver when he was harassed not only by the highway patrol and discriminated against by judge before whom he was compelled to stand. We stood with the LGBT community when they stood at the Capitol to let policy makers know they are here and they count. We will continue to stand in defense to equal access to the voting booth. We will stand with women to ensure their right to make personal health care decision. We will continue to stand in protection of children against the funneling of the school to prison pipeline.

I start my second year knowing and more importantly wanting you to know that the ACLU of Mississippi will stand with you.

Legislative Bills Still Alive - the Good and the Bad

March 05, 2014

We spoke out earlier in the legislative session about some bad and some good bills. Now those bills have moved forward and are up for a vote in either the House or the Senate. Here’s an update on some of those bills and an opportunity to take action.

- Remember HB 49, the bill that would require drug testing for TANF recipients? That bill is still alive and likely to be voted on in the Senate.

This bill:

  • Violates equal protection for low income Mississippians receiving federal aid.
  • It would cost more to implement than it would save.
  • It violate a right to privacy.
  • There is no evidence that public assistance recipients are more likely to use drugs than anyone else.

Contact members of the Senate and tell them to oppose HB 49 and not to take away important resources for Mississippi’s neediest families!

- The Mississippi Student Safety Act is a bill that we want to move forward! SB 2594, is a bill designed to keep students safe by limiting the use of seclusion and restraint on students.

This act will ensure the safety of students in school and promote a positive culture and climate which has been shown to lead to greater academic achievement. A high percentage of students who have been restrained are not exhibiting behavior that would warrant those interventions and the students that are often affected by restraint and seclusion were young students with disabilities, often with no verbal means of communication.

Contact members of the House and tell them to protect our students and pass this bill!

- HB 765 and SB 2325, are disingenuous bills that would not accomplish what the title says they would do. They are both called the “Equal Opportunity for All Students with Special Needs Act,” but do not create equal opportunity for students with special needs. The act restricts the academic programs offered to children with special needs. They violate a child's right to equal protection and discriminate against children with special needs attempting to exclude them from the civil right to education in public schools.

Contact your representative in both the House and the Senate and tell them that this act does not create equal opportunity for students with special needs and does the opposite.

- SB 2430, is a bill to require DNA collection from individuals arrested for a certain crime.
This bill violates equal protection, takes away right to privacy and could exacerbate racial disparities in our criminal justice system. We are innocent until proven guilty and innocent people don’t belong in a criminal database.

DNA collection, analysis and retention is expensive. Given the current economic conditions, storing genetic samples of individuals who have not and may not ever be convicted of a crime may not be a good use of resources.

Contact members of the House and tell them to oppose SB 2430 and protect the right to privacy given in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution!

For a full list of the 20 bills we are monitoring, please visit the legislative section in each of our Centers of Focus.

The War on Women is Alive and Well in Mississippi

February 12, 2014

Mississippi Legislators are once again playing politics with women’ lives and intruding into women’s private, medical decisions. Presuming that they know better than a woman and her doctor, legislators are considering a new ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

Every pregnancy is different and we cannot know all the circumstances surrounding a personal, medical decision to have an abortion. What we do know, is that women’s health and well-being should be supported and valued.

Two years ago the legislature and Governor Bryant took aim at the state’s only abortion provider and passed a bill requiring that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Although they claimed – wrongly - that the bill would protect women’s health, they were clear that their purpose was to end abortion in Mississippi. The Jackson Women’s Health Clinic took the state to court and has been granted permission to operate pending the outcome of the litigation.

Mississippi is not the first state to consider a 20 week abortion ban. South Carolina is considering a ban and the Arkansas Legislature approved a measure banning most abortions at 12 weeks and another banning most abortions at 20 weeks. Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed both bills, saying they were unconstitutional, but lawmakers overturned both vetoes in bipartisan votes. The Arkansas ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the 12 week ban. Texas and Arizona have also passed 20 week abortion bans. The Arizona law was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and in January the Supreme Court refuse to hear the case, leaving the Ninth Circuit decision in place.

Mississippi’s bill, HB 1400, trivializes women’s health and well-being by creating a cookie cutter approach to women’s healthcare and ignoring individual circumstances of Mississippi women and families. Imagine a woman who is happily planning for a new addition to her family and develops complications. Instead of being able to make the best decision for herself and her family, HB 1400 would force her to make the decision that legislators in Jackson choose; a decision that does not take her personal circumstances into consideration, a decision that requires her doctor to practice medicine based on politics, not best medical practices.

Women in Mississippi face new challenges to access safe legal abortion every year. We must stand firm; just because legislators don’t like the decision a woman might make, they cannot deny women access to basic constitutionally protected health care and the ability to work with her doctor to make the best decision, based on her own individual circumstances.

Mississippi already has some of the most restrictive laws in the country. It is time for our legislature and Governor to start putting women’s healthcare first and take positive measures to ensure every Mississippian has access to quality healthcare. If they really care about women’s health they should be working to expand Medicaid and implementing comprehensive medically accurate sex education programs in our schools. It is time to stop playing politics with women’s lives.

Taking Action at the Start of the 2014 Legislative Session

January 22, 2014

The Mississippi Legislature started its 129th Session on January 7th, 2014. The legislative session has garnered attention as Mississippi legislators launched an agenda geared towards “Public Safety.” This year, the Democratic Legislative Caucus’ agenda discusses healthcare, education, state employee benefits, as well as roads and bridges. Republican legislators have promoted an agenda that attacks a range of issues from reproductive freedom to public benefit opportunities.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi (ACLU- MS) is monitoring legislation that falls within our four centers of focus: criminal justice reform, youth justice reform, equality for all Mississippians, and freedom of speech and expression. We will take an active stance against any legislation that infringes on reproductive freedom, freedom of speech, and access to equal opportunity. The ACLU-MS will actively support Medicaid expansion, immigration reform, and legislation aimed at reducing the number of our children who find themselves in the School-to-Prison pipeline.

In the House, Rep. Mims introduced H.B. 49 which would require the drug testing of persons who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This bill was referred to the Public Health Committee and passed to the House floor on a vote, along party lines, of 74-46. This legislation unfairly targets Mississippi's poorest and neediest citizens. It is inefficient as it will only affect a small group of people and will cost the state a large amount of money. The ACLU-MS is working to actively defeat this bill as it heads to the Senate’s Public Health and Welfare Committee chaired by Senator Kirby.

Also in the House, Mims introduced H.B. 29 which requires a prescription to dispense emergency contraceptive to persons under 18 years old. We are actively opposing this unnecessary legislation. H.B 29 was referred to the Public Health Committee. This bill infringes on reproductive freedom. Young people in Mississippi deserve the same reproductive health care as all others living in the United States. The ACLU-MS Mississippi will take a stand to defeat these arbitrary barriers on safe and effective birth control.

In the Senate, the ACLU- MS is monitoring a wide range of legislation. We will actively oppose S.B. 2304 introduced by Sen. Tollison which will require the designation of certain disabilities on drivers licenses and identification cards under certain circumstances. This bill also requires training for law enforcement officers to recognize certain medical conditions.

As always, the ACLU-MS will continue to keep you informed of our efforts, as things unfold over the weeks to come of the 2014 Legislative Session as we work to protect civil liberties for all Mississippians.

Please take action and stand with the ACLU of Mississippi.

Joi L. Owens
Legislative Strategist
ACLU of Mississippi

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