a bird and a bottle

Another Progressive Powerhouse Is Lost.
January 31, 2007, 9:24 pm
Filed under: news

Molly Ivins died today at 62. The Nation‘s remembrance is particularly moving, and it ends with this quote that should inspire all of us rabblerousers:

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

That’s two tough-talking, Bush-bashing Texas women we have lost in the last several months.  Kind of makes a girl start thinking about conspiracy theories and how in some states those damn Bushes just have their hands in every pot.*

I just hope Ann Richards and Molly Ivins continue to raise hell. Pun intended.

* I am not actually saying the Bush dynasty had a hand in these deaths. I’m just saying, I bet they’re not sad that two of their most outspoken critics can critique no longer.


Rape Victim Arrested & Denied EC Gets An Apology. EC in time? Not so much.
January 31, 2007, 11:34 am
Filed under: criminal justice, law, reproductive justice

Apparently, the Tampa, FL woman who was arrested on an outstanding warrant for restitution after going to the hospital to report that she had been raped, and then was denied Emergency Contraception by the nurse for the private company contracted to run the city jail, has received an apology.

From the St. Petersburg (FL) Times:

“In this case the victim was not treated properly, and we don’t want this to ever happen again,” said Mayor Pam Iorio.

“We feel remorse that she ended up in jail,” said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy, offering an apology on behalf of the department.

Wait, the Tampa police feel remorse that she ended up in jail?!? What about the fact that some self-righteous person denied this woman — a rape victim! — emergency contraception and completly ignored what the woman herself wanted!?!?

The woman’s mother says it better than I could:

But a nurse at the jail would not let the woman take her second dose. The woman’s mother said her daughter didn’t get the medication until just before she left jail Monday afternoon.

The mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her daughter’s identity, says a jail nurse cited religious objections for withholding the emergency contraceptive.

“I was in total disbelief,” the mother said. “You just can’t imagine the fury that was going through me. How dare that person force their religious beliefs upon my daughter in such a way that it may harm her?”

Of course, the nurse claims it was not religious beliefs and heaps more blame on the woman who had been raped and then arreste, saying “the poor girl was clearly distraught.” Ya think? And might the nurse’s denial of EC, thus leaving the woman at heightened risk of pregnancy as a result of rape had anything to do with that?


LitBrit at Shakespeare’s Sister has more, including how this is all – inevitably – tied to the Bush clan.

More Discussion About Pregnancy, Prisons, and Drugs Around the Web
January 30, 2007, 9:33 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, reproductive justice

There are really interesting discussion threads going on over at FeministePandagon and Bitch PhD about punitive approaches to women who give birth despite a drug problem (which I wrote about yesterday here and have also written about here and here).

I have to say, I am thrilled to see this issue getting more coverage in the blogosphere (I think in no small part because of the NAPW conference). There’s no shortage of incidents like the one we heard about today, in which a woman who was raped and then arrested for some outstanding warrant was denied EC. That’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The quality of the conversation in the posts and in comments has been great, and I hope it will continue. I’ll certainly keep on fanning the flames in comments at other blogs and in my posts here.

Fighting an uphill battle
January 30, 2007, 8:47 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, frivolity

Sigh. Sometimes, like when I see ads like this, I feel like we feminists are fighting such an uphill battle.

Apparently the Mercedes this ad is promoting has 8 airbags (get it?) to keep you safe in a crash. That’s nice and all, but after seeing this, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that car.

Via Feminist Law Professors.

Yet Another Example of Why Your Religion & My Body Do Not Mix
January 30, 2007, 1:49 pm
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, law, news, reproductive justice

update: Dr. B over at Bitch, PhD has a fantastic post up that uses this article as a jumping off point to talk about issues of women in the criminal justice system. Run don’t walk (or whatever the blog equivalent of that is) over there to read it.

Commenter Jeff alerted me to this story:

A pre-med student in Tampa was grabbed and raped behind a building following a parade early Saturday afternoon. After the assault, the woman called police, who took her to a nurse examiner’s office. While processing the report, they discovered an outstanding juvenile warrant from 2003 for failing to pay restitution (the article does not specify the old charges). The police then arrested the woman and took her to jail, where she remained for the next two days. But wait—that’s not where it ends.

The clinic had given her Plan B for emergency contraception but the jail’s medical supervisor, an employee of a company contracted to provide medical services in the jail, refused to allow her to take the second dose, citing (of course) religious objections. The second pill is supposed to be taken within twelve hours of the first one, but the woman was prevented from taking it for nearly 48 hours. Her lawyer claims that she has paid the restitution already and the record of non-payment must be a clerical error.

Other bloggers, including Jill and Jessica have already covered this story.

I just want to add this: beyond being totally and utterly outrageous as an abuse of power and an example of the bad bad bad encroachment of religion into personal decisionmaking (as with phramacists), this episode represents one of the myriad problems posed when private companies run prisons. As far as I know, a public employee could not deny a rape victim EC. It also exposes yet another reason why rape victims often do not seek help. Because they are stigmatized, because it might expose them to criminal prosecution, because it means other people get to at least try to control their bodies.

There’s a lot of anger about this in the feminist blogosphere today. And rightfully so! The Tampa Police Department’s response through spokeswoman Laura McElroy?

“We may need to revisit our policy.”

She wins for understatement of the year.

The Treatment & Child Care Gap
January 30, 2007, 8:03 am
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, reproductive justice

I wrote yesterday about the perils of policies that allow for the prosecution of pregnant women who have a drug problem. In that post I called for treatment instead of prosecution. What I didn’t mention was how difficult it is for pregnant or parenting women to find treatment programs that will accept them. And then Women’s eNews went and did it for me today with an article charting how difficult it is for women, but especially for pregnant or parenting women, to get into treatment programs that will accept them with their kids.

Among [drug-addicted] women the lack of child care is a major issue, said Sharon Amatetti, senior public health analyst and women’s services coordinator for the federal mental health agency. “There is not a great capacity to offer treatment programs that either have child care–so women can bring their children–or offer residential treatment for women and children. That’s a continuing problem that we’ve been aware of for a long time. The problem is that providing residential beds for families is an expensive model of care.”  In 2005 less than 15 percent of U.S. treatment facilities accepted women who were pregnant and-or had children, according to the agency.

Yes, treatment for families is more expensive than treatment for single individuals. But it still costs less than a prison bed. And it’s a much better option in terms of public policy. Instead of forcing children into foster care and giving mothers criminal records that will constrain them their whole lives, families in treatment programs can stay together, learn appropriate skills, and leave healthy.

Even when treatment programs do exist for women with children and accept Medicaid as payment, they are often not specifically focused on the needs of women and on the unique causes of their addictions.

Raquel Jeffers, acting director of addiction services for the State of New Jersey, estimated that for every mother who receives substance abuse treatment at least one more is in need of these services.

She said she did not believe that mothers who abuse drugs and alcohol are being served in proportion to the problem. “The services aren’t client-centered and aren’t always addressing these women’s very complex needs,” Jeffers said.

And still, prosecutors and state legislatures continue to blame pregnant women. For not getting one of the few treatment beds available (as Lynn Paltrow noted in her recent San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed, a pregnant woman in Amarillo, TX would not have a single treatment bed available in a 100-mile radius). For not “choosing” sobriety over addiction. The choice, we are told, is the women’s.

But with so little treatment available and the threat of prosecution looming large, it’s a false choice.

Why Prosecuting Pregnant Women is a Bad Idea
January 29, 2007, 8:54 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, law, reproductive justice

Jill Morrison, an attorney at the National Women’s Law Center, has a great post up at Feministing explaining why prosecuting pregnant women because of their decision to carry a child to term despite a drug problem is not only bad public policy but is also outside the scope of state laws and unconstitutional. She’s an expert on this and spoke on the topic at the NAPW conference; her post is well worth reading.

Amanda at Pandagon also posts on the issue here.

This issue is NAPW’s bread and butter and it’s a biggie. It’s at the nexus of the War on Drugs and the war on reproductive rights. These prosecutions give personhood and all of the rights that status carries to the fetus while robbing the adult woman of her rights. In this equation, the woman becomes the incubator and her every need, desire, and yes, vice, is considered only through the lens of the fetus she carries.

There’s a lot about this issue that gets me mad, not least of which is the line of BS that throwing pregnant women in jail protects them and their fetuses. But maybe what gets under my skin the most is the idea that pregnant women who are unable to kick drug habits are – unlike everyone else – blameworthy because they “had a choice” and chose to keep using throughout their pregnancies. (The rhetoric of choice turned against us). Apparently, unlike Rush Limbaugh, Keith Urban, and other (white male) addicts who relapse time and again, pregnant women should, in the eyes of people who support these prosecutions, be legally bound to kick the habit the minute they find out they are pregnant. Of course, this line of reasoning ignores both science (which acknowledges that addiction is an illness and that people who are addicted to drugs, much like diabetics who want their sugar, may try and fail a few times before eventually getting sober), and common sense, which tells us that addiction is not in fact a choice (how many people do you know who have tried countless times to quit smoking, only to light up again when they are stressed or anxious).

No one is saying that it’s ideal for pregnant women, or anyone for that matter, to be using drugs with any frequency. But the solution for everyone – pregnant or otherwise – should be treatment not prosecution.

There are several other important issues that these prosecutions raise, including why the idea of a crack baby is a myth. But I’ve got Evidence reading to do. So now that I’ve (hopefully) piqued your interest, that rant will have to wait.