November 10, 2011
Posted by Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Reproductive Freedom Project
The people have spoken: Twice in South Dakota; twice in Colorado and now in Mississippi. Red state, blue state — it doesn’t make a difference. The message to government is clear: Women’s lives matter. Respect for women, respect for their decisions about their health and families, respect for their basic rights, matters. So keep out of our bedrooms, our doctors’ offices, and our personal lives and do your @##@$*#& job already.
In case you missed it, the people of Mississippi voted yesterday to reject a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have criminalized all abortions without exception, including treatment for ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, as well as some of the most common forms of birth control. No one believed they could do it and we owe this landmark victory--and a huge debt of gratitude--to the people of Mississippi who fought tirelessly and against all odds to defeat this extreme and dangerous initiative. Mississippi, reputed to be the most conservative state in the nation, now joins South Dakota (which has twice voted to reject abortion bans) and Colorado (which has twice voted to reject a “personhood” amendment) in saying enough is enough—stop playing politics with women’s lives.
Indeed, while this is a huge win for Mississippi, the effects of their victory will and should be felt nationwide. This past year saw an unprecedented legislative attack on the reproductive rights and health of women and families around the country. We saw bans on insurance coverage for abortion; laws that tried to strip any and all public funding from organizations that provide, or even talk about, abortions; and a law that would require any woman seeking an abortion to visit a crisis pregnancy center to be lectured by anti-abortion activists about why her decision is wrong. If anything, the vote in Mississippi tells us there is a huge disconnect between these politicians and the people they are supposed to represent. Yesterday’s vote should make it crystal clear that the American people do not support this extremist, anti-woman, anti-family agenda. The American people trust women, and it’s about time their elected representatives do so, as well.
November 02, 2011
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said on Nov. 2 he's concerned about Initiative 26, an extreme measure that could have unintended consequences.
"I believe life begins at conception. Unfortunately, this personhood amendment doesn't say that," Barbour said on MSNBC. "That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning."
Barbour also made comments to Fox News and local media. For the full story, read here.
October 14, 2011
Oct. 18 Community Forum and Discussion
American Association of University Women, Cleveland Branch
Delta State University Alumni House in Cleveland, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Oct. 19 Save The Pill Rally!
Oxford Courthouse Lawn, 5 p.m.
Oct. 20 Forum on Initiative 26 and Initiative 27
Sponsored by the Biloxi Branch of the NAACP
Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi, 6 p.m.
Oct. 20 Election Forum
Tougaloo College Pre-Law Society, 6 p.m.
500 West County Line Road
Tougaloo, MS 39174
Oct. 25 Personhood and You: Implications of Initiative #26
Barnard Observatory, 7 p.m.
Student Union Dr. and North Lane, adjacent to the Grove in Oxford
Oct. 25 Amendment 26: Exploring the Implications of MS's Personhood Initiative
Mississippi College School of Law, 6 p.m .
151 E. Griffith St., Jackson
Oct. 31 Ballot Initiatives Town Hall
New Hope Baptist Church in Greenville, 6 p.m.
Nov. 1 Vote No To Amendment 26 Dance In!
Drill Field @ Mississippi State University
Starkville, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 Community Forum on the Legal Consequences of Proposition 26
The University of Mississippi School of Law, Room 1078 at 5 p.m.
Nov. 3 Ballot Initiatives Town Hall
Mound Bayou Community Facilities Building in Mound Bayou, 6 p.m.
For more information about the events, contact Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, 601 354-3408. None is sponsored by the ACLU of Mississippi.
September 30, 2011
Oct. 13, 2011
A townhall meeting was held at Jackson State University to discuss Initiative 26. More than 150 came out as ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright and others talked about the dangers the proposed constitutional amendment would have on women and families if it is passed on Nov. 8.
The initiative, which attempts to give legal rights to fertilized eggs, would ban some commonly used forms of birth control, in vitro-fertilization and abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. The measure has been publicly opposed by medical associations and other organizations. Lambright explained to the gathering that the initiative would allow government intrusion in decisions that should be made by women and their families.
The implications of the measure are serious. The initiative would force women whose lives are at risk to carry a pregnancy to term or risk criminal charges. The threat of criminal charges also would loom over doctors who must consider whether to perform life-saving treatments on women. Lambright urged participants to educate others about the perils of Initiative 26, and to vote "No" on Election Day.
The event was sponsored by the Jackson State University School of Social Work.
September 30, 2011
By Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh
I have worked to protect the rights of women across the country for nearly 20 years. As an organizer for a national women’s rights organization, I traveled around the country working beside activists to prevent anti-abortion extremists from shutting down abortion clinics with their rhetoric, their bodies, and sometimes their bullets.
I have been outside hundreds of clinics watching extremists spew hate and judgment on women and their families entering these facilities while holding a Bible to justify it. I have seen parents with up to a dozen children ranging from newborn to teens standing in 100-plus degree weather for eight hours holding signs (that most of them couldn’t even read or understand) in an attempt to intimidate or shame women from getting an abortion. I have worked with federal, state, and local law enforcement in an effort just to get existing laws enforced at clinics which are legal businesses and more importantly – healthcare facilities. I have taught doctors, nurses, and receptionists how to protect themselves and their children from harassment in their homes, in their children’s schools, and at the healthcare facilities.
In all these years of working tirelessly with loving caring human beings who risk their lives every day to provide safe, legal, and sometimes medically necessary healthcare to women – nothing would stop the bullet that killed my friend and someone I admired – Dr. George Tiller. He was killed while attending service at his church.
Today, we are seeing a different kind of “bullet” aimed at the heart of women. This past legislative session was frightening for those of us who fight to defend the dignity of women across this country. We are still making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes and we face assaults on our fundamental rights to control our own bodies. We watch legislators in our states and in DC spew vitriol about us in an attempt to legislate our womb and our ability to access services. While the men hold these great debates about us, we are getting breakfast for our kids, heading off to our second job, meeting with our children’s teachers, and caring for our aging parents while trying to scrape up enough money for the rent that is due in a few days.
Mississippi extremists want to take away the right to abortion and birth control by passing the “so called” Personhood Ballot Initiative #26. It is dangerous and is an all out assault on women and their families. If passed, this amendment would not only ban abortion but also birth control and many assisted reproductive healthcare procedures which include in-vitro fertilization. The initiative will insert government control over our wombs, our ability to choose when and how many children we have, and we will be criminally investigated when we have a miscarriage.
I still have nightmares about my friend being murdered. I see the bullet exit the weapon in slow motion and I dream that I put my hand up and stop it. Initiative #26 is a bullet. The bullet is moving slowly through the air in Mississippi. This time, I am putting my whole body up to stop it. Will you?
Don’t allow this initiative to pass. Individuals across the state are banding together and getting out there to educate voters on the broad and sweeping implications of Initiative #26 if passed. Organizations are educating their members and mobilizing to the streets. Even if you oppose abortion, this “bullet” will explode into a million pieces and it WILL hit you too. Get out there and talk to your friends, family, church, and civic organizations. Make a case for stopping the bullet. On November 8, use your hand to stop the bullet and vote NO on Initiative #26. If you sleep in on November 8, you might just wake up to a nightmare.
September 15, 2011
The Mississippi Supreme Court refused Sept. 8 to prevent proposed Initiative Measure Number 26 from being placed on the November 2011 ballot. The initiative attempts to redefine the term “person” in the Mississippi Bill of Rights to apply at the moment of fertilization. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the initiative, but instead said that it would not rule on any proposed measure before the election.
The initiative was challenged by a Mississippicitizen because it failed to comply with the ballot initiative process as set forth in the Mississippi Constitution, which forbids making modifications to the Bill of Rights.
“We're disappointed with the ruling,” said Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “A measure will be on the ballot that will allow the government to dictate what is a private matter that's best decided by a woman, her family and within the context of her faith.Mississippivoters should reject this intrusive and dangerous measure.”
“This initiative is extreme and could severely undermine women's access to birth control, in vitro fertilization and life-saving medical procedures,” said Bear Atwood, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “This measure is harmful to women and has no place on the ballot.”
“It is unfortunate the court decided it could not review the initiative at this point in time, but the Mississippi Constitution is clear -- you cannot make any changes to the Bill of Rights through the initiative process,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
“As a lifelong Mississippian, I am disappointed that this broad and intrusive measure has been allowed on the ballot,” said Cristen Hemmins, plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the initiative. “I call on all voters to vote ‘no' on #26. The government should not be interfering with the personal and private health care decisions of Mississippi families.”
October 15, 2009
School must allow lesbian student to wear tuxedo in senior portrait
Sarah Young, ACLU of Mississippi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project Coordinator; 315-396-5892 / email@example.com
Kristy Bennett, ACLU of Mississippi Legal Director, 601-540-6642 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Jackson, MS - The ACLU of Mississippi has sent a letter to Copiah County School District demanding school officials immediately cease violating a student's rights. The school has barred the student from wearing a tuxedo in her senior prom picture, despite the fact that boys are allowed to wear them. Such a requirement for gender-specific clothing is a violation of students' rights to gender equality and self expression.
School officials told Ceara Sturgis, an openly gay senior at Wesson Attendance Center in Wesson, MS, that her photo would not appear in the yearbook because in it she is wearing a tuxedo, not the traditional drape worn by other female students. Assistant Superintendent Robert Holloway informed Ceara's mother that there was no policy in the student handbook requiring females to wear drapes. The decision by school officials to require Ceara to wear a drape is arbitrary, discriminatory and unconstitutional.
In its letter to the Copiah County School District, the ACLU-MS reminds district officials that students' right to self expression is protected under the First Amendment of the constitution. Clothing, such as a tuxedo, worn as a statement of lesbian and gay rights, has been upheld by courts to be symbolic speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Schools have an obligation to protect, not extinguish, such speech.
The letter further reminds district officials that the 14th Amendment prohibits public schools from engaging in gender discrimination. Courts have also consistently upheld the First Amendment right of female students to wear tuxedos to senior proms. While school officials may impose a requirement of proper, even formal attire for senior photographs, officials cannot lawfully mandate requirements based on notions that only boys may wear tuxedos and only girls may wear dresses or drapes.
Dfferent treatment based on sex is constitutional only if supported by a significant governmental interest. The ACLU-MS certainly sees no significant governmental interest in barring girls from wearing tuxedos or forcing them to wear dresses/drapes.
The ACLU-MS is demanding the Copiah County School District comply with the law by allowing Ms. Sturgis's photo be included in the student yearbook.
(ACLU demand letter can be found here (PDF): http://www.aclu-ms.org/downloads/wesson.pdf)
September 09, 2009
Jackson, MS – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi today asked a federal court in Mississippi to end government funding of religion in the state’s abstinence-only-until-marriage program. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District on behalf of a teen and two community members who attended a state-sponsored abstinence summit in May of this year.
“The state of Mississippi cannot sponsor overtly religious events as part of its abstinence-only-until-marriage program,” said Brigitte Amiri, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This is not the first time the state has crossed the line in its abstinence programming, but we hope it will be the last. Instead of preaching, the state needs to start teaching youth how to make responsible and healthy decisions throughout their lives.”
As part of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) holds an annual teen abstinence summit each May. After last year’s summit, which included overt religious messages, the ACLU sent a letter to MDHS asking for assurances that future events would remain secular. MDHS did not respond to the ACLU’s letter and failed to address the legal concerns in this year’s event.
The 2009 summit featured religious themes and overtly Christian messages, including a lengthy presentation about the Ten Commandments by Judge John N. Hudson of the Adams County Court in Natchez, MS. Judge Hudson told the audience, “Abstain, God says, from promiscuous sex – thou shall not commit adultery. But why? Is not God being a killjoy? Did He not create this great gift which is so good and wonderful? Why would He tell us not to do it? He’s not. He’s telling us that He created this great and wonderful gift for a special and unique committed relationship that is to last forever.” The program also included several prayers and a performance to gospel songs by the Pilgrim Rest Mime Ministry.
“By using the summit to promote a religious message rather than offer health-related information, the state missed an important opportunity to help teens make healthy and smart decisions when it comes to sexuality,” said Kristy L. Bennett, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Mississippi. “Study after study shows that abstinence-only-until-marriage approaches are ineffective at preventing teen pregnancy or the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Given the high rates of teen pregnancy and HIV infection in Mississippi, the failings of this year’s summit are inexcusable.”
In Fiscal Years 2007 and 2008 MDHS received $1,428,753 each year in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds.
“Mississippi cannot continue to act like it is above the Constitution and repeatedly sponsor religious events with taxpayer money,” said Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.
Since 1996, Congress has appropriated more than 1.5 billion dollars for programs that focus solely on promoting abstinence and censoring information that young people need to make healthy and responsible decisions about sexuality. A 2007 congressionally mandated study found that teenagers who had taken abstinence-only courses were just as likely to have sex at the same mean age as other teens. Alternatively, studies show that curricula that stress waiting to have sex while providing information about effective contraceptive use can significantly delay the initiation of sex, reduce the frequency of sex and the number of sexual partners and increase condom or contraceptive use among sexually active teens.
Today’s case is Robinson v. Thompson. Lawyers include Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Bennett of the ACLU of Mississippi; and Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.
Video excerpts from the 2009 Teen Summit can be found at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sexual-justice/god-and-abstinence_b_213462.html
The ACLU’s complaint can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/religion/40962lgl20090909.html
June 01, 2009
Statement By Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union And Louise Melling, Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
NEW YORK – We are shocked and saddened by the murder yesterday of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor in Wichita, Kansas, who for decades provided abortions for women even in the face of harassment and violence. Dr. Tiller continued to care for women after being shot in 1993 and while experiencing relentless threats and harassment at his home, his place of worship and his clinic. We honor Dr. Tiller’s courage and compassion throughout his life and condemn his heinous murder.
Dr. Tiller was a man who understood the importance of ensuring women’s access to safe and legal abortion care. He respected the right of every woman to be able to make this most private and personal decision of whether to have a child, and he worked to ensure that a woman experiencing a problem pregnancy could obtain an abortion to protect her health and life. He was a true beacon of liberty.
Our thoughts and sympathy are with Dr. Tiller’s family, friends, staff and colleagues. We proudly stand with abortion providers throughout the country who care for women every day and demonstrate what it means to ensure everyone’s constitutional right to make private health care decisions free from violence, harassment and intimidation.