Thanks to Consistent Life for alerting us to this petition. It asks the Secretary of HHS to make pregnancy a “qualifying life event” allowing people to obtain insurance coverage outside of the three-month open enrollment period. Childbirth is already considered a qualifying life event — pregnancy should be too. Making sure pregnant women have access to affordable medical care is good for both mother and child.
Seeing black children as nothing but criminals, worthy of death, starts early.
Among the findings likely to provoke reaction, sources say, are two emails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials.
One, written in November of 2008, said that Barack Obama could not be president for four years because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
Another, written in May 2011, read: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
Just one more reason why justice for moms is good for their children too: Babies born to mothers who face ethnic discrimination have higher levels of cortisol than babies whose mothers did not, meaning that their mothers’ stress has an effect on their bodies. This could set them up for health problems down the line.
The placenta, that semi-clear sac that nourishes the fetus, has enzymes that convert cortisol into a weaker version of itself. However, the placenta can only convert so much cortisol. When the concentration is abnormally high, Thayer posits, some of the non-converted hormone seeps into the womb. Again, a moderate amount of cortisol is healthy for fetal development. Babies who are born prematurely sometimes need synthetic cortisol injections to prompt lung development. But, too much cortisol comes with health problems.
Generational fallout: The meaning of high cortisol levels during infancy isn’t entirely clear. But infants who already have more symptoms of stress compared to their teeny-tiny peers could face health disparities down the road, perhaps related to mood disorders and cardiovascular disease.
Looking at the study more broadly, inheriting bias-induced stress might be part of an observed phenomenon in which maternal health influences a child’s health and development. Some researchers focus on what’s called the epigenetic impact of maternal health, which is roughly the study of how environmental factors (e.g., stress, smoking, diet) actually change genes. Thayer says she’s working on an epigenetic study to see if discrimination against mothers could change the expression of genes related to cortisol production in children.
Inequality compromises its victims’ life chances in so many ways — discrimination, diminished educational opportunities, criminal justice disparities, housing segregation. Now it appears that its effects are written on the body before a child is even born.
For Immediate Release
December 3, 2014
Washington, D.C.—On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Young v. United Parcel Service, a case that will help determine what accommodations employers are legally obligated to provide to their pregnant employees.
Peggy Young is a UPS employee who sought light duty after her doctor advised her not to lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. Although it grants accommodations for other medical needs, UPS refused to allow Young to return to work until she was no longer pregnant.
Women’s rights and labor rights organizations filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs on behalf of Peggy Young. In addition, 23 anti-abortion groups signed on to a brief filed by professors from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Some media accounts have framed this as a case of “strange bedfellows”—but not everyone finds it strange.
All Our Lives and Feminists for Nonviolent Choices are two of the organizations that joined the pro-lifers’ amicus brief. Both groups work to address the social and economic factors that put unjust pressure on women to have abortions. Both see pregnancy discrimination in employment as an example of social structures that fail to respect human life.
“Our society claims to value children and motherhood so highly, and yet we don’t value them enough to put them before the maximization of profit,” said Jennifer Roth of All Our Lives. “Without reasonable accommodations, a pregnant worker might have to choose between protecting her health and her baby’s on the one hand, and supporting her family on the other. If their lives really matter, they’re worth the cost of a few extra water breaks or a light duty assignment.”
Dr. Mary Dahl Maher, president of Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, stated, “For a truly pro-woman, pro-life decision, the Supreme Court must rule that the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act mean employers are to meet the needs of pregnant women the same as they would meet the needs of any other worker who’s similarly physically restricted. Employer policies that are merely ‘pregnancy-neutral’ are, in fact, prejudiced against pregnancy and therefore against women.”
This is why it’s so important to push back against claims like “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
I feel sorry for Pakistani rape victims who can never get the justice they deserve. In the first instance, going by what Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan said in an interview that a rape victim should stay silent and not report the incident to the police, or anyone else for that matter.
I asked another member of his party,
“What will she do if she gets pregnant?”
“Impossible, a woman cannot get pregnant unless she’s willing”, quoting a US Republican Congressman who said the same thing.
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Does that headline get your hackles up? It got mine up. But then I read the article, and it was devastating. The author describes the experience of hoping that this time, someone would care that an unarmed black kid had been killed by the police. Maybe this time, someone would think that Mike Brown — and his community — had gotten far worse than they deserved. Until people went looking for reasons why he must have brought it on himself.
For a moment there, things were looking pretty good. A boy shot multiple times with his hands up. College bound. Poor. Innocent. And in response: helicopters and tanks. Maybe this time, we thought, they would believe us.
But that’s all been ruined.
We now have all sorts of reasons to make us doubt Brown’s humanity. He may have stolen some cigarillos. He may have been facing the officer when he was shot. He got shot in the top of the head, which might mean that he was surrendering, or might mean he was being defiant. He made amateur rap songs. Perhaps worst of all, he’s been caught grimacing at a camera making a contorted peace sign, and it turns out that he was pretty tall.
And Fox News has been trying to cast doubt on whether he was actually going to go to college in the first place.
All signs that his life was worth less than we might have hoped.
The inevitable had happened. Apologists for police violence had successfully painted Mike Brown as a “thug” who deserved what he got. If the question is “what could a black person do that would make their death not their own fault?”, there’s no answer. The question should be “why are black people required to prove — over and over again, in a rigged game — that they don’t deserve to be killed?”
Determination of who “passed” and who “failed” was entirely up to the whim of the Registrar of Voters — all of whom were white. In actuality, whites almost always “passed” no matter how many questions they missed, and Blacks almost always “failed’ in the selective judgement of the Registrar.
If you don’t want to grant someone a status in the first place, any excuse to revoke it will do. So it is with the right not to be killed. If people wanted to see an 18-year-old black man as a fully human person deserving of the right to life, then video of him allegedly swiping a handful of cigars and shoving a store clerk wouldn’t change that. Photos of him making a hand signal wouldn’t change that. Rap lyrics wouldn’t change that. That he was tall and heavy wouldn’t change that. How do I know? Because white people miss those questions on the humanity test, as it were, all the time without being dismissed as thugs who need killing.
For obvious reasons, nobody who considers themselves pro-life should embrace an ideology that requires human beings to pass tests to be considered worthy of living.
And speaking of pro-life, consider this: In the United States, the abortion rate is highest among black women. Black women in America have 40 abortions per 100,000 women — almost 4 times the rate among non-Hispanic white women. That’s 360,000 black lives ending in abortion every year. That’s who knows how many black women ending up in clinics like Kermit Gosnell’s. How many of those abortions would have been avoided if black Americans, on average, had the same healthcare, access to resources, and life prospects as white Americans? If we acted like black lives, born and unborn, really matter?
All Our Lives has joined 22 other pro-life organizations in filing a “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) brief in Young vs. United Parcel Service, which the United States Supreme Court will hear during the 2014-2015 session.
Peggy Young is a UPS employee whose doctor advised her not to lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. She sought an accommodation that would allow her to have lighter duty. Although it grants accommodations for other medical needs, UPS refused to allow Young to return to work until she was no longer pregnant. Young sued on the basis that the refusal to accommodate her needs during pregnancy was illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to join this brief, which makes the case that “policies structured around a male-centered ‘ideal worker’ paradigm” are invalid, discriminatory against women, and anti-life.
You can download a PDF of the brief here.
With the tragic and heartbreaking news of Robin Williams’ death by suicide, many people have been contemplating the reality of severe clinical depression and asking how it could have crept into the life of someone as talented, fulfilled and beloved as Robin Williams. I myself derived hours of enjoyment, solace, and even edification from his movies, some of which dealt sensitively with the topic of suicide. Perhaps his death illustrates that depression is not a character flaw; nor is it a respecter of persons.
I am more than disheartened to witness the inevitable comments that have appeared on the internet in response to the news that he was battling early onset Parkinsons’ disease. Underneath an internet story on this news, one commenter wrote:
It gives some basic level of comfort in that Robin was successfully fighting his depression but got sidetracked by a disease with a lousy prognosis. I feel that his actions now weren’t of depression but of self determination. I truly feel, that when faced with imminent deterioration of function, the decision is that of the individual. I’ll miss you Robin, I grew up with you from age 10 on Happy Days and Mork and through your career, but I’ll always respect your decision.
As mentioned in the related news story, scientists have established that Parkinsons inhibits the production of dopamine, which, like serotonin and norepinephrine, is responsible for facilitating concentration, energy and feelings of well-being. Major depression is already indicated by a lack of these chemicals; hence, I imagine that Parkinsons-induced depression could push someone with preexisting depression into a psychological meltdown. Perhaps Williams situation frayed his connection with humanity’s innate survival instinct, giving previously checked suicidal impulses uninhibited access to his mind. Whatever the case, what happened on August 11th indicates that when he killed himself, Williams was not successfully fighting his depression: he fought valiantly, but he lost that battle.
Moreover, the respect this commenter is offering to Williams only exacerbates the situations of people with unmet mobility needs. We are approaching the second decade of the twenty first century, yet people who use wheelchairs, respirators, or other mechanical devices to engage our world; as well as those with psychological and cognitive anomalies that preclude our society’s narrow concept of independence, still lack the right to receive related services in their homes.
This would likely not have been a problem for Williams, who probably would have been able to fun the receipt of such services himself, as can others with a solid middle to upper class income. Hence the error of validating actions based on the resources of a privileged few: the underprivileged are always left to experience the negative consequences of that action. Such people need support, compassion, accommodation and access to treatment; not a choice between marginalization or death.
Ultimately, the attitude expressed by the aforementioned comment reflects a meme with universal and oppressive implications: Being impaired and/or requiring the help of others is worse than anything else. Death, despite its historical role of inducing near-pathological fear, is suddenly perceived as good. No one can know what lies beyond the grave, but let us not push ourselves or our loved one toward it with empty, privileged platitudes of “self-determination.” Instead, let us do the hard work of providing whatever individuals need to regain fulfilling lives.
In Part 1, I talked about why the Hobby Lobby decision matters. In this post, I’ll address some of the arguments offered in support of the nation that making contraception part of the standard package of preventive services required in all insurance plans violates employers’ religious freedom.
Claim: There are two parties in this dispute: employers and the government.
OK, nobody really comes out and states that as a claim, but it’s the underlying assumption behind a lot of discussion of the Hobby Lobby decision. Hell, it’s right there in the name, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius: there was nobody arguing the workers’ case. Ultimately, this isn’t just a question of religion, or contraception, or even abortion; it’s a labor issue. But the worker is the forgotten party.
It’s pernicious, this attitude. I almost did it myself, in this very post. I almost titled it “Birth control, insurance, and employers.”
With some exceptions, the relationship between employer and employee is an inherently unbalanced one. Companies can’t survive without workers — something that people who regard workers as little more than parasites on the bottom line tend to forget — but an individual employee almost always needs a job more than the employer needs that particular employee. That gives the employer power; and the worse the labor market is, the greater their power. This reality is the reason workers organized for unionization and labor laws in the first place.
What does that have to do with Hobby Lobby? Consider that only one party — the employer — is generally portrayed as having religious liberty interests. Why is it that only the beliefs of the more powerful party carry weight? What about employees’ own beliefs about whether or not it’s morally acceptable to use their insurance to access contraception?
And that leads me to…
Claim: It’s wrong to force employers to spend their money on something their religion forbids.
If there were a law or regulation requiring people who oppose contraception to go out and buy condoms or birth control pills and hand them out to anyone who works for them, I would be sympathetic to the argument that would constitute a burden on their free exercise rights. (It would also make absolutely no sense as public policy, of course, and would never pass; remember that the Supreme Court isn’t the only check on what laws exist in this country.)
But that’s not what’s happening with employer-sponsored insurance. When a company hires an employee, they offer a compensation package. Part of that package goes directly to the employee in the form of wages or salary. Part of it goes to pay premiums for an insurance policy that allows the employee to access a wide variety of health care services, including contraception if they so choose. For companies that pay wages with debit cards, should they be allowed to put restrictions on those cards so that they can’t be used to buy anything that the employer’s religion forbids? After all, it’s certainly possible to construct an argument that not doing so would be facilitating the employees’ access to something (that the employer considers to be) evil. If you’d object to not being allowed to buy alcohol or pork with your payroll card, then you can understand why some people object to the contraception exemption.
I really can’t stress enough that health insurance is an earned benefit. It’s not a gift. People say that the owners of Hobby Lobby shouldn’t have to spend their money on something they don’t believe in, but it’s not their money once the employee has earned it by exchanging her labor for it.
Claim: Every plan excludes some things, so excluding contraception is no different.
Just as an employer can’t pay you unlimited salary, they can’t provide unlimited health insurance. Limitations based on price will have to be made. Now, where you would draw the line on those limitations may not be the same place where your employer draws the line, but at least everyone agrees that it’s reasonable for insurance plans not to cover absolutely everything.
Additionally, there will be limitations on what’s covered due to judgments about what is or is not effective. You can’t get homeopathic remedies with health insurance, thank goodness, because they’re useless. But those limits should be based on medical and scientific evidence.
What’s being proposed in Hobby Lobby and similar cases is that the decision about what medical services you can access with your health insurance should be made not based on cost — which is regrettable but unavoidable — or medical judgment, but on your employers’ religious beliefs.
Claim: This isn’t about making sure people have access to contraception; it’s about punishing employers for having the “wrong” religious views.
Despite what folks like Rod Dreher might have you believe, advocates for insurance coverage of contraception are not driven by a compulsion that “The Religious Right Must Always Lose.” We do have an interest in making sure that safe, effective contraception is available to everyone, and in making sure that employees’ rights are protected. We do often express anger and frustration about beliefs we consider harmful. But if the U.S. moved to a single payer system or a system where everyone got vouchers to buy their own insurance or whatever, we’d be fine with that. We wouldn’t be upset because we’d no longer have the opportunity to show those Christians who’s boss. It’s not about them.