Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood

My final project for the class that I created my blog for is focused on, in a nutshell, the way that reproductive rights are being threatened under the Trump administration.

In my first post of the series of four that I wrote, I write about Trump’s plans to defund Planned Parenthood and to limit women’s access to healthcare. I leave readers with the question as to why more people don’t seem to care about problems that are deemed “women’s problems.”

My second post focuses on some of the movements that came out of the threat to defund the organization, including several hashtags that were used on Twitter, some of which I even participated in.

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Photo by: Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter, “Planned Parenthood Fan Page Profile Photo”, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

While my second post focuses mostly on media movements, my third one focuses on the outpouring of support in the form of monetary donations that Planned Parenthood received in the wake of the election, because tweeting can only do so much.

My fourth and final post serves to remind American women that we aren’t being the only ones affected by this administration’s actions. I write about the reinstatement of the global gag rule, a policy that prevents any nongovernmental organizations that are funded by the US, many of which are in developing countries, to even mention the word “abortion.”

Our rights and our healthcare are at risk now more than ever, all thanks to the Trump administration, and we need to fight back harder than we ever have before.

It’s Not Just US

Even though Trump is only president of one country, his plans and actions are already affecting individuals, specifically women, all around the world.

One of his first actions in office (it was literally done just THREE DAYS after his inauguration) was signing an executive order that reinstated the Mexico City Policy, more commonly referred to as the global gag rule.

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, responded to the rule’s reinstatement in a video in which I think she explains it and its repercussions pretty well and in simple terms. The organization, which is obviously against the global gag rule, also has a handy-dandy page on its website that I referenced when I first found out about the rule because honestly, I had no idea it even existed before Trump reinstated it.

As explained in this awesome article from The New Yorker that I really think you should read, the global gag rule prevents the US from contributing “to nongovernmental organizations that ‘perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.'” So basically, if an organization is receiving funding from the US, they’re not even allowed to mention abortion or provide their clients with information about the procedure.

The policy was first introduced in 1984 under Reagan’s presidency and has since been put into place by every Republican and taken away by every Democrat. So, for eight years, we didn’t have to worry about the literal millions of women in developing countries that are put in danger.

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Photo by: Kevin Gill, “Earth”, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

Pregnancy is already risky for women in developing countries without access to proper care and the global gag rule just exacerbates the danger.

The policies of the rule this time around is, however, much more dangerous than it has been in the past. The rule now limits funding to programs fighting against HIV/AIDS and those that fight “many other infectious diseases, and [promote] maternal and child nutrition.” How could anyone think that this is a good idea???

We sometimes are blinded by our own problems and fail to realize that the repercussions of the actions taken by the leaders of our country extend beyond our borders.

Trump isn’t just hurting us – he’s hurting the entire world.

We’re Persisting – The Money

Beyond tweeting and showing support on social media for Planned Parenthood, which is what I wrote about in my last post, supporters of the organization banded together, organized, and showed their solidarity in so many different ways, one of which being by donating.

According to The Atlantic, after the election (before he was even inaugurated!!!), “organizations whose agendas counter those proposed by President-elect Donald Trump,” like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, received an outpouring of donations and volunteer applications.

The ACLU received “roughly 120,000 donations totaling more than $7.2 million” in only five days!! That’s crazy!!

AND, in the first three days after the election, Planned Parenthood received almost 80,000 donations!!! That’s also crazy!! Cecile Richards, the organization’s president, called it “unprecedented.”

Individuals weren’t the only ones donating to these organizations, though. Several different companies got in on the action, a few of them being record labels. Run For Cover Records and Tiny Engines both opened up their catalogs on Bandcamp, an online platform for sharing and selling music, as pay-what-you-want with all of their proceeds going to Planned Parenthood and, in Tiny Engine’s case, the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well. Additionally, Run For Cover Records promised to match the donations up to $5,000.

It’s so obvious that people care about organizations like Planned Parenthood – so many people want to help. If anything good has come out of the election, it’s the fact that people are showing how much they care, banding together, and taking action now more than ever before.

We’re Persisting – Social Media

One of the very, very few positive things that’s come out of the election of an atrocious excuse for a human being as president is the amount of organizing, teamwork, and support that has happened since then. A sense of community has developed among the like-minded people who refuse to normalize his actions or those of the people who make up his administration.

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, which goes over some information about Trump’s plans to undermine women’s health, women, including myself, are scared. But in case you haven’t noticed, we’ve banded together, specifically to try and keep that from happening.

After it was announced that Trump so badly wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, and even more so after he became elected, people around the world (not just in the United States!!!) started showing their support for the organization on social media outlets, specifically on Twitter, by using the hashtag #IStandWithPP. I’ve seen it trending worldwide on multiple occasions.

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Photo by: Women’s eNews, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood”, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

It’s even been popping up on my newsfeed today after the House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Trump’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, that proposes to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

Celebrities, politicians, and other organizations, like the ACLU, even used the hashtag to show their solidarity and support for Planned Parenthood, which undoubtedly helped it spread across so many different social media platforms.

The organization even made a website from the hashtag, I Stand With Planned Parenthood, that acts as a resource for people to get updates, a platform to share stories, and encourages them to take action and to donate.

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Photo by: lookcatalog, “Birth control pills”, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

Another social media campaign that’s use is chronicled in Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2014 Annual Report is the hashtag #BirthControlHelpedMe. This one didn’t go as viral as #IStandWithPP, but it helped women share their stories as a means of expressing how important access to affordable birth control for multiple reasons.

There are sooooo many different reasons for women to go on any given type of birth control. For example, beyond preventing pregnancy, the birth control pill can help regulate periods, help control acne or menstrual cramps, help lessen the effects of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a really extreme form of PMS), and can help women suffering from endometriosis, too. Honestly, the list goes on and on.

For myself, #BirthControlHelpedMe manage the symptoms of my polycystic ovarian syndrome, a condition that causes a hormonal imbalance that the birth control pill helps regulate.

In addition to the hashtags that everyone was able to participate in, the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, took to social media, too. She went Facebook Live back in January when the plans were announced to defund the organization!! She addressed several concerns of women who were, and probably still are, worried about their healthcare coverage and reproductive rights.

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Photo by: Sarah Mirk, “Mirena IUD”, (CC BY-NC 2.0), via flickr

In the video, Richards says that Planned Parenthood saw “a 900% increase in women trying to get an IUD appointment” after the election. An IUD, an intrauterine device, is a long-lasting, hormonal form of birth control that would last longer than Trump’s presidency. This fact alone is enough to make it clear that women see the risks and are scared about the availability of other methods of birth control under the current administration. Today’s House decision about the AHCA is more than enough to validate our fears.

Make America Care About Women Again

When Donald Trump was campaigning for president, one of the issues that was consistently at the forefront of my mind was that of women’s health – my health – and I was scared. And I wasn’t alone.

During his campaign, his obvious sexism came out over and over again, each remark and incident seeming even more sexist and misogynistic than the last. From threatening to sue and calling the several women that came forward about having been sexually harassed liars to basically giving men the go-ahead to assault women, it became pretty evident to me, and to people all around the world, that this man has an inherent hatred for women.

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Photo by: George Skidmore, “Donald Trump”, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via flickr

Throughout his campaign, Trump vowed to make it harder for women to access birth control via the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which would also cut women off from receiving other basic forms of health care, including essential procedures like mammograms and Pap smears,  basically stripping women of their basic healthcare and bodily autonomy.

At the Republican Presidential Debate of February 26, 2016, Trump said this about Planned Parenthood:

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.

So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn’t fund it.

I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.

Okay, so there are several things about this statement that I could bring up to criticize it. Like the fact that he says he doesn’t believe the fact that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions, despite literally admitting that he doesn’t “know what percentage it is.” Or the fact that it’s full of logical fallacies and that he really can’t form a completely coherent sentence.

But instead, I’m going to focus on its contradictory nature.

Trump blatantly states that “millions and millions of women” receive healthcare from Planned Parenthood and are “helped greatly,” but then states that he doesn’t really care because they also provide abortions, too.

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Photo by: Fibonacci Blue, “Planned Parenthood in St. Paul”, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

The man is so concerned with his own desires that he’s willing to overlook the needs of **literally** millions and millions of women that receive basic and life-saving health services from Planned Parenthood.

Despite what Trump might or might not know, Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2015 annual report (the most recent one that I could find) reports that, indeed, only 3% of services they provided were abortion services. The majority of their services, 45%, were STI/STD testing and treatment which, by the way, includes testing for women AND men.

The second most common service that Planned Parenthood provides, coming in at 31%, is different forms of contraception, which actually includes vasectomies. I mean, I’m no expert, but the fact that Planned Parenthood provides so many women with contraception is probably part of the reason why their abortion rate is so low. But that’s just me.

So, yeah, millions and millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood, but many men are, too. Defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t just a women’s issue – we need to stop pretending like it is.

But even if it were solely a women’s issue, why should that make it any less legitimate?

Sustainable Movements

In the final chapter of By Any Media Necessary, “It’s Called Giving a Shit: What Counts as ‘Politics?’”, Henry Jenkins and Sangita Shresthova tie together all of the articles from the previous chapters while adding some final thoughts to the discussion.  They effectively discuss some of the overarching themes throughout the book, including intersections between different movements and criticisms, as well as some of the commonalities and differences between the movements that are included.

One of the ideas that they bring up is that of the contrast between the development of older social movements and that of newer ones, like the ones that are brought up in the book. They say that even though the older movements took much longer to develop, that they “came with shared identities and agendas” whereas newer movements were developed more quickly but “struggle with issues of coherence and sustainability” (263).

They recount an attempted movement to “call out… Chick-fil-A for its owner’s support of homophobic organizations” that one of its organizers thought would be easy for supporters to participate in. Because of a lack of “coordinated effort” on their side, the message got into the hands of enemies who “distorted [their] message and reframed the story” (263).

This makes me think about (again) the Women’s March and the backlash that it received. There were so many voices and concerns that went unheard and much of the criticism was that it was a march put together by white women for white women. It’s true: it was not as cohesive as it could have been, but I would argue that many women are now working to be more inclusive in future movements.

Dreamers

Chapter Three of By Any Media Necessary focuses on some issues that have gotten a lot of attention since the election of our newest president: immigration and citizenship. “DREAMing Citizenship: Undocumented Youth, Coming Out, and Pathways to Participation” by Liana Gamber-Thompson and Arely M. Zimmerman specifically focus on the experiences of undocumented youth and some of the ways that they’ve gone about advocating for themselves, like posting “coming out” videos and staging walk-outs during school. Here are some of my thoughts about the movement.

 And here’s an article about the recent DREAMer deportation that I refer to.

 

Kony 2012

I distinctly remember sitting at the computer desk in my house in early March of 2012 watching a 30-minute video that I had seen being talked about all over Twitter.

At first I thought it was kind of overrated and I didn’t really want to spend a half hour watching a YouTube video (30 minutes!!! Way too long for my 16 year old attention span), but after my best friend, who was and still is much more critical than I am, tweeted about Kony 2012, I decided to bite the bullet and just watch it. I Tweeted about it too, referring to it as “the most inspiring half hour of my life.”

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Photo by: Sara Nicotra

I remember there being some backlash against the circulation of the video from people my own age that I followed on Twitter.  People were saying things like, “Why did you not care about this before?” and, “What can we even do about stopping what’s going on in Uganda?” As Sangita Shresthova points out in the second chapter of By Any Media Necessary, “‘Watch 30 Minute Video on Internet, Become Social Activist’?: Kony 2012, Invisible Children, and the Paradoxes of Participatory Politics,” my peers were not the only critics of the video.

Shresthova quotes TMS Ruge, an activist from Uganda. He called the video “another travesty in shepherd’s clothing befalling [his] country and [his] continent” and said that it was “so devoid of nuance, utility and respect for agency that is so appallingly hard to contextualize” (66).

I know I said that the 30 minute video was a little much for my 16 year old attention span, but the fact that it’s only 30 minutes does a disservice to the issue at hand. There had to have been so many complexities of the situation that weren’t covered, including the effects of colonialism. This detailed and complicated issue that had been going on for years had been reduced to a 30 minute video, and it’s evident that TMS Ruge recognized that.

 

Young Citizens

The next book we’ve been assigned to read is By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism, which is, like Media and Social Justice, is a collection of articles written by a number of different people. It was published in 2016 and highlights several of the most recent political and social movements for justice, such as Occupy Wall Street, the protests that came in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown, and Black Lives Matter.

Just like when I was reading Necessary Trouble, which was also published in 2016, it’s really interesting to read about events and movements and protests that have happened in my very recent memory. Not only do I have a bit of background knowledge about these events, but it’s cool to get yet another perspective on them that’s different than my own. And I always end up learning more about them, too.

As implied by its full title, By Any Means Necessary is focused on young people’s involvement in activism. The first chapter, “Youth Voice, Media, and Political Engagement: Introducing the Core Concepts,” Henry Jenkins makes it a point to define “youth” as “people in their teens or twenties” who are not only in “a stage of physiological or psychological development, but also a stage in the process of acquiring the skills necessary for political participation at an age where there is less than complete access to the rights of citizenship” (7).

I think it’s interesting that he brings up running for office as a “right of citizenship.” When I think of political citizenship, I think of voting, which I just did for the first time in this past election, not running for office. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any interest in running for any kind of political office, but the thought has literally never crossed my mind. I do, however, think it’s a great way to infiltrate the system.

A kid that I had graduated high school with was recently elected as a councilman of the borough that he lives in, so clearly, running for office is a thought that has crossed other young people’s minds, and I think that’s awesome.

After reading what Jenkins had to say, it dawned on me that someone who is currently my age will be the President of the United States. We will be the ones holding all of the political positions in the future and honestly, that gives me hope.

The Pay Gap and the Media

Mind the Gap

So as I began to write this post, it was April 4th, Equal Pay Day. This day marks how far into the year that women, because of the pay gap between males and females, must work to make the same amount of money as men did for the previous year. Equal Pay Day is a way in which social media is used to bring attention to this social injustice – its hashtag was trending worldwide almost all day on Twitter.

equalpayday trend

Picture by: Sara Nicotra

In Chapter 9 of Media and Social Justice, “Feminism and Social Justice: Challenging the Media Rhetoric,” which I mention in a previous post of mine in which I also discuss the pay gap, Margaret Gallagher quotes a magazine interview with Sir Stuart Rose. In it, he claims that “there really are no glass ceilings” and that women have “got more equality than you can ever deal with” (131). It seems to me that he’s almost suggesting that we have more rights than we actually deserve. Nice.

According to the American Association of University Women, contrary to what Rose might believe, white women were paid just 80% of what men were paid in 2015. This number varies, though, according to factors like age, motherhood, level of education, state of employment, and especially race, which is extremely important to remember and bring up when talking about the pay gap; it sometimes gets lost in conversation. I found particularly shocking was how much the pay gap varied from state to state. In New York it’s only 89% while in Wyoming it’s 64%. I knew that the pay gap varied greatly according to race, but I had no idea that there was this much of a difference from state to state.

Oh and by the way, the AAUW also says that at the rate we’re going now, the gap won’t close completely for another 135 years. It will be 2152 before women achieve wage equality. I’d be 156, but don’t worry, I’ll be cheering the women of the future on from the afterlife.

Anyway, as Gallagher points out, the World Economic Forum reported that the gender gaps in 16 of 114 countries actually widened over a span of five years (132). The gaps measured include not only gaps in pay, but also gaps in education, economic and political participation (this includes pay gaps), and health. In 2010, when Media and Social Justice was published, the United States ranked 19th out of 134 countries in gender equality. In 2016, we ranked 45th out of 144. “Yikes” is an understatement. I think it’s pretty clear that we have a lot of work to do. (I found all of these numbers from the Global Gender Gap Reports on the World Economic Forum’s website; you should check it out).

Iceland: An Example

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Photo by: Bjarki Sigursveinsson, “17. júní”, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via flickr

Putting the United States to shame by coming in first in both 2010 and in 2016 (and every year in between) is Iceland. Though the wage gap still exists there, too, Iceland is the first country to make big moves to try and close it. Within the last week, a bill was proposed to parliament that “would require companies to prove they offer equal pay to employees,” risking fines and auditing if they don’t obey. Not only does it prevent pay discrimination towards women, but it also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, disability, race, and religion. The United States needs to be more like Iceland, we all do.

With that being said, I didn’t see this information trending on Twitter, Facebook, or any other website that I usually get see news like this on. I’m signed up to a service that sends out an email every morning that gives readers the lowdown on what’s been going on in the world. It’s perfect for me – I don’t have a TV, so I don’t watch the news, and the news updates are short and to the point. I learned about this bill from the email that I received on March 29th, and I haven’t seen anything about it, without having to actively look for the information, since then.

The last chapter of Media and Social Justice, Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips’ “Media Democracy in Action,” begins with a discussion of what kind of information dominates the media, basically claiming that Americans and the American media are often concerned with useless and insignificant information. Which is true.

Specifically, they bring up the 2007 death of Anna Nicole Smith, someone who I hadn’t even heard of before she died. They state that the coverage of her death and the paternity debate that followed was “among one of the longest interrupted ‘news’ broadcasts at CNN” since 9/11. Around the same time, however, “the US ambassador to Iraq misplaced $12 billion in shrink-wrapped one-hundred-dollar bills that were flown to Baghdad,” and that was getting very little coverage (242). I don’t remember hearing about that like I heard about Anna Nicole Smith.

I talked about this in another post in which I bring up the idea that there has to be important information that we’ve been missing because of what the media chooses to cover instead. The fact that I haven’t seen any coverage whatsoever, not even as a brief trending topic on Twitter or a shared video on Facebook, on this proposed bill in Iceland is a testament to that.

As Huff and Phillips put it, free press was created to “keep the citizenry informed, engaged, and in dialogue with one another about crucial issues of the day” (251). How are we supposed to be informed and engage with these critical issues if the issues aren’t even being presented to us?

It’s no secret that there is a lot going on in our country in regard to politics and the government. So what are we missing? What kinds of bills and laws being signed into action are we not hearing about? What’s being swept under the rug, whether purposefully or inadvertently? And, more importantly, why are we letting this continue to happen??

Equal Work?

One of the main arguments against the strive towards equal pay is that women are paid less because they elect to be paid less by entering career fields and jobs that just pay less than other fields that tend to be male-dominated (I’m looking at you, STEM). Or they blame it on the fact that women choose jobs with liberal maternity leave policies or that they are less educated than their male counterparts. They, unsurprisingly, like blaming things on women.

However, the pay gap that really exists is that between men and women with the same jobs and with the same education and with the same everything, really.

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Photo by: Pulicciano, “Hollywood Emmy Rossum”, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via flickr

The reality of the pay gap is perfectly illustrated in a recent battle for a pay raise between Shameless’ Emmy Rossum and the producers of the show. Rossum plays an oldest sister who is the head of a dysfunctional family in the South Side of Chicago while William H. Macy plays the deadbeat, drug-addicted, alcoholic father. They pretty much have equal time on screen, I would argue that Rossum might have more, and are literally doing the same job, but Macy had recently been given a raise.

So she fought back.

Rossum sought a deal with Showtime and Warner Bros to not only be paid the same as Macy, but to be paid more than Macy. It sounds like it was a battle – Showtime could have canceled the show or kept it going without her. It was talked about a lot on social media – I saw it over and over again on Twitter. While Emmy Rossum was most definitely getting paid more than the majority of working women before she got the raise, it just goes to show that the pay gap is real in all fields of work and that the struggle is real for us all.

Rossum’s public battle with the media that was covered on the media did great work in bringing even more attention to the issue. As Sue Curry Jansen says in the introduction of Media and Social Justice, “media exposure is an essential constituent of all successful social movements” (6).  While Rossum’s personal battle with her producers won’t close the pay gap, it brings attention to not only the issue itself, but also to the fact that women of all statuses and careers are subjects of this injustice, even those that work in the public eye.

The pay gap, and the gender gap in general, continues to be an issue even though there we have been making strides to close it. As Jansen suggests, we can harness the media and use it to our advantage in our fight to strengthen this social movement. We’ve seen what the power of the media can do over and over and over again. When used well, it’s a force to be reckoned with. And so are we.