April 18, 2020 9:12 pm
In the midst of a global pandemic, Texas lawmakers have banned access to abortions, an essential and safe medical procedure.
Three weeks ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Republican, ordered a halt to “all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.” Additionally, steep penalties exist for anyone who violates this order, including fines up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail– this includes providers.
This ruling has placed an undue burden on Texans who will now have to travel anywhere from 100 to 800 miles in order to seek out these services, during a time when money for travel and accomodations simply does not exist. The last time this was true in Texas was in 1973, before Roe v Wade.
What is the reasoning behind this anti-abortion and anti-woman ruling? Governor Abbott claims that deeming abortions unnecessary will free up Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic. In reality, most abortion procedures do not require the use of PPE, or even hospitalization.
Abortion is a time-sensitive procedure, and many Texans cannot delay in receiving care. Working women are being forced to delay treatment until later in the gestation cycle, which can be dangerous, and in many cases outright denying them the right to abortion.
Texas lawmakers have made it clear that they will take advantage of medical crises to further their so-called “pro-life” agendas. What about the lives of the people who need access to medical care now?
Healthcare workers in Texas and around the United States do not have reliable access to PPE, despite the advance warning that a pandemic would reach this country.
Nurses and other frontline healthcare workers are forced to reuse what few resources they have, or to use non-medical grade equipment like bandanas and trashbags in an attempt to cover up.
This has left individual states to compete with one another for life-saving equipment including ventilators. Compounding this problem are seizures of supplies by the federal government, who refuses to enact the Defense Production Act in a meaningful way.
Disastrous lack of planning and blatant disregard for the lives of the people of the United States by the federal government has left Texans at the mercy of state-level leadership. That leadership is determined to wind back the clock on abortion and will do so at the risk of lives.
Women in Texas are fighting back. Organized resistance in the time of shelter-in-place orders means that people are voicing their opposition to anti-abortion and anti-women policies online. The movement for reproductive justice will continue to make clear that under no circumstances will we allow our rights to be revoked.
Abortions do not unnecessarily require Personal Protective Equipment, and should not be under attack during this public health crisis. Abortion is an essential service, and a right. The government of Texas and the federal government have no reason to attack this or any other essential medical service in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis for which the government’s ineffective response is at least partly to blame.
May 27, 2020 12:49 am
The US Secretary of Education, Betsey DeVos, released new sweeping federal mandates that give more protections to those accused of sexual misconduct. The new Title IX rules, which come into effect in August, are a right-wing reaction to the #MeToo movement and is intended to roll back the gains made by activists, and survivors of sexual assault and misconduct.
The new rules will adopt the Supreme Court’s narrow definition of sexual misconduct as “unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive”. That means schools, under the new regulations, will now be able to dismiss complaints, such as dating violence, that do not meet the narrowed definition of sexual misconduct.
Colleges are now only responsible for responding to on-campus incidents or off-campus incidents strictly related to school activity, such as fraternities or school-support functions.
By limiting investigations to location-based boundaries, many sexual harassment complaints will be virtually ignored. Most sexual assaults do not happen on college campuses, but instead occur at off-campus spaces. Off-campus locations and activities include housing ―87% of college students live off-campus ― parties and bars where sexual assault can be prevalent. For example, according to data obtained by the Associated Press, the University of Texas has received 58 complaints of sexual assault on campus grounds since fall 2014, while during the same period there were 237 reported incidents at apartments, houses and other off-campus locations.
A significant part of this restriction is that colleges will not be required to investigate sexual misconduct involving students in living abroad programs― where assault is also prevalent. A 2017 study reports that women who study abroad are five times more likely to be assaulted than their peers who remain on their college campuses.
The new Title IX rules would also allow schools to conceal off-campus misconduct perpetrated by staff. Schools will be shielded from liability for ignoring or covering up sexual misconduct. Colleges already have a history of ignoring sexual assault and not taking responsibility for the epidemic of college-based sexual assault and harassment that is happening both on and off their campuses.
The new changes also limit what an official report of sexual misconduct is and who can report it. The regulations expand stringent procedural requirements for sexual misconduct complaints — while loosening the mandated reporting status of coaches and other school personnel. Under reporting sexual assault is already a crisis, limiting who can report it will exacerbate the issue. The new Title IX will leave little recourse for sexual assault survivors and could lead to more underreporting.
The regulations mandate colleges to hold live hearings for the allegations in a process that would allow for cross-examination of the sexual assault survivor. This procedure retraumatizes survivors by making them feel like they are on trial for stepping forward about sexual misconduct. These types of proceedings are marked by the sexist and racist nature of the justice system itself that misplaces blame on women who have experienced sexual assault. Too often, in these hearings, odds are against the survivors of sexual assault because of discrimination against their gender, race, and class.
The new rules stem from a long-running anti-woman and anti-student campaign to overhaul Title IX since Devos, a prominent and long-time public education opponent, was appointed as Secretary of Education in 2017.
The Title IX regulation under the Obama administration required colleges and universities to have processes in place to combat sexual assault, or risk losing federal funding. These regulations, while not comprehensive enough, were important gains won through collective struggle.
Right-wing and so-called “men’s rights” groups and their constituencies are pushing these new mandates — and using the pandemic to roll back women’s and LGBTQ rights. DeVos met with many reactionary men’s groups— who harass women and survivors of sexual assault— for consultation on the Title IX overhaul. The narrative about due process rights they purport is really a dog whistle for reactionaries to attack women’s rights.
Whenever there are attacks on women’s rights, there will always be working women ready to fight back against the patriarchal capitalist system. Sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of violence against women has deep ties to patriarchal class society. The protections for survivors of sexual assault are gains hard fought for by women and student activists hitting the streets and organizing together. Women are outraged and will continue to fight the systematic inequalities that women, people of color, and workers face!
Sexism and misogyny is on the rise, coupled with attempts to roll back the gains women have made as a result of militant organizing and popular movements. From attacks on social services that directly benefit women to Title IX protections to reproductive rights, women’s rights have been set squarely in the target of a ruling class assault on working and oppressed people, globally. This issue of Breaking the Chains magazine highlights the necessity of building a movement to turn back the assault tide. But that tide is an outgrowth of the brutal and bankrupt capitalist system, itself. Liberal capitalist reformers offer critiques but no solutions. For women to be truly liberated, we must win socialism.
This issue includes:
Women and the Climate Change Emergency
A Marxist analysis of Socialism and Women’s Liberation
An interview with central committee member of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party in South Africa, Mikaela Erskog
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