Monthly Archives: November 2010

Illinois Considers That Maybe Doctors Who Assault Patients Shouldn’t Be Doctors

It seems like a no-brainer: a doctor who sexually assaults his patients should have his license permanently revoked faster than you can say “scumbag.” But Illinois lawmakers are just starting to think that maybe they shouldn’t let rapists be gynecologists.

Cara at The Curvature reports that, after a Chicago Tribune series called attention to the massive failure to protect patients against known sexual offenders in the doctor’s office earlier this year, Illinois state legislators have been shocked and shamed into coming up with (largely unsatisfying) bills to address this glaring problem.

The case that really set the wheels in motion involved Chicago gynecologist Bruce Smith, who was permitted to keep poking around in women’s genitalia for nine years after being accused of raping an eight-month-pregnant patient by holding her down in stirrups (his DNA matches her rape kit and he was finally brought to trial this year), stirred up particular outrage. During the years following that rape, he managed to rack up sexual assault or harassment complaints from another seven women.

Yet when the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation finally got around to taking action in 2009, they suspended his license for a mere nine months: the administrative judge, Michael Lyons, wouldn’t even add a few more month because that the department hadn’t proved Smith performed an unwanted tubal ligation. Sure, Lyon determined that the doc had sexually assaulted or harassed three women, but that alone hardly warrants a whole year suspension.

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Shop the Feminist Way This Year

It’s Black Friday, which means that people around the country are scrambling to jump-start their holiday shopping by taking advantage of the sales, sales, sales. Or, you could shop online, the feminist way. Here are just a few suggestions, courtesy of’s Women’s Rights Cause. Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and gooey inside to know that you can spread around your holiday dough for great gifts that support women’s rights? And you can do it in your PJs.

  • Bead for Life offers a collection of fair trade necklaces, bracelets, and earrings as well as beautiful loose beads for your own crafty adventures — you can tell your friends you strung together their favorite new necklace, or make it an social gift with a Bead for Life jewelry-making party. The exquisite beads are made of recycled paper (score one for the environment) by women in Uganda working to support themselves and their families.

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Michigan State University Students Storm President’s Office to Protest Rape Culture

Michigan State University gained infamy in August when two basketball players were accused of rape. Though the police recommended sexual assault charges of the highest level, the Ingham County prosecutor decided not to prosecute since he claimed “no crime had occurred” — even though one of the players essentially confessed to police, stating that the girl’s statements were clear that she didn’t want to have sex. The player suggested to police that he and the other attacker should apologize for having “disrespected” the young woman. Some of us think rape is a lot more than disrespect, and an “I’m sorry” shouldn’t get you off the hook for a serious crime. And the Coalition Against Sexual Violence at Michigan State University wants their campus held accountable for taking real action to protect female student and prevent sexual assault.

Workers World reports that even though administrators promised to meet with coalition members, they never made good on their word. It seems like it was more an empty promise to shut justifiably angry students up — but if so, the tactic really backfired. Demanding to be heard, the coalition staged a rally on November 19th, decrying campus rape culture and the university’s abysmal failure to do anything in the wake of the reported assault, complete with a list of nine demands for the president that can be found on their website. Coalition members then stormed the administration building to stage a sit-in at MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon’s office, at which time the president’s diversity advisor and the vice president of the university offered to have an immediate meeting with the coalition.

In their statement of demands, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence writes, “We have been told that once a woman consents to sex, she loses her right to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’. We have been told that as activists against rape, we are ‘just jealous that no one will fuck us.'” There are no words to describe how much this treatment disgusts me, but unfortunately, I’m not surprised at the reaction these brave anti-rape activists have encountered.

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Woman Arrested for Using the Restroom

All Tyjanae Moore wanted was use the restroom at Houston Public Library, but that simple act landed her in jail.

Did she go in and start vandalizing public property? Did she scrawl graffiti on the walls? Break mirrors? No, no, and no. She just needed to use the bathroom.

Michael Jones reports on the Gay Rights blog that Moore, a transgender woman, was tossed in jail on Friday for being a “man” using a women’s bathroom, which is banned under state law. Though Houston has a non-discrimination ordinance covering gender identity enacted by Mayor Annise Parker’s executive order earlier this year, police defended the arrest as valid because Moore hasn’t had a complete sex change operation. Opponents of the non-discrimination order claim it violates state law and that transgender persons should only be allowed to switch bathrooms after they’ve gone through a complete sex change.

But Moore does identify as female, and lives her life under that gender expression: whether or not she has undergone a sex change operation is irrelevant to her gender identity and how she should be treated.

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Woman Jailed for Getting Pregnant Dies From Medical Neglect

Thrown in jail for getting pregnant? That seems like a particularly absurd violation of women’s reproductive rights. But it’s actually an established policy in Allegheny County, PA. Cara reports at the Curvature that, for Amy Lynn Gillespie, becoming pregnant meant violating the terms of her work release under probation, and getting thrown in jail. Yet this story comes to an even more tragic ending, because Gillespie died while in custody from advanced pneumonia.

Gillespie’s grieving mother has decided not to let the people who caused her daughter’s death off the hook: she has a lawsuit against the Allegheny County jail warden, Allegheny Correctional Health Services Inc., the county itself, and a few other implicated individuals charging that medical neglect caused Gillespie’s death. Though the young woman spent weeks complaining to guards of trouble breathing and mucus in her lungs, they refused to send her to access medical care until it was too late. The hospital, which is not charged in the lawsuit, says that Gillespie was beyond saving due to the long delay in getting her treatment.

Gillespie should not have been in jail in the first place: to imprison a woman for becoming pregnant is a violation of her human rights, and should not be a condition of probation or work release. To then neglect her, when the very pregnant condition she was locked up for meant that she needed extra medical attention, is horrifying. The crimes that got her in trouble with the law in the first place were minor shoplifting (when caught stealing food, she told the police officer she was hungry) and prostitution (which, though illegal, hurts nobody). Amy Lynn Gillespie’s unnecessary death is nothing short of tragic, and highlights deep flaws with the Allegheny County prison system.

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Apple Gives Anti-Choice, Homophobic App Its Stamp of Approval

Update: Victory! Michael Jones reports on our Gay Rights blog that Apple has removed this app.

What kind of iPhone app would you say deserves a 4+ “no objectionable material” rating from Apple? Talking kittens, homophobic and anti-choice extremism, Tic Tac Toe — hold up, what was that second one?

Michael Jones at the Gay Rights blog writes that, if you download the Manhattan Declaration app, you’ll be asked to fill out a survey that is really a test of your right-thinkingness in disguise. If you think same-sex couples deserve to marry and support women’s right to control their own bodies, you fail. But you can redeem yourself by signing on to the declaration vowing to obstruct the marriage of two people in love and make meddling with a woman’s uterus a priority. (The Manhattan Declaration, by the by, is an attempt by conservatives who don’t think members of their party are conservative enough to amp up the cultures wars with a statement of principles.) Sorry, wrong language: I mean, you can denounce “immoral sexual partnerships” for “eroding marriage.” My bad.

Say Apple … I have some objections to the material presented in this app. I thought you had strict standards about what was allowed in the iTunes store. Standards, one would hope, that include a policy against hate and bigotry. So why give the stamp of approval to an app clearly created to disseminate intolerance?

You can join with over 1,000 members who have signed the petition telling Apple to brush up on its definition of “objectionable material” and yank this homophobic, anti-choice iPhone app. Their 4+ ranking gets an F-.

Photo credit: William Hook

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Women’s Rights Activists Push NYC to Act Against Lying Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) thrive by tricking women seeking comprehensive reproductive care through their doors, then setting in on them with anti-abortion shaming and scare tactics. But, as I wrote last month, there’s hope for the women of New York City to access the care they’re looking for without accidentally ending up in a deceitful CPC: the City Council is considering legislation that would require the anti-choice centers to post signs admitting they offer only limited resources, and no abortion or birth control information. This past Thursday, women’s rights advocates and health care providers testified before the council’s Committee on Women’s Issues on behalf of the truth-in-advertising legislation.

Testimony came from organizations like Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), Concerned Clergy for Choice, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. On the Choices Campus blog, Megan writes that clergy objected to women being emotionally harmed by mistakenly ended up at a New York CPC, and the NYCLU argued that the government should protect women’s right to access reproductive care in a timely manner. Furthermore, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman argued that women’s rights can be protected without infringing on the centers’ right to free speech, which has been the major rallying point for anti-choice activists to push against regulation.

NARAL Pro-Choice New York had also sent out a call for women to share their experiences with local crisis pregnancy centers. It was NARAL’s extensive investigation into CPCs, demonstrating that women are mislead into entering CPCs and then manipulated and given false information, that helped fuel this bill. PRCH Medical Director Dr. Anne Davis provided disturbing testimony about a woman who was unable to get an abortion because her pregnancy had progressed into the third trimester due to extended delays by the CPC she went to, and false assurances by staff there that she had plenty of time to access the procedure she was seeking.

Austin, Texas, and Baltimore, Maryland, have already passed truth-in-advertising legislation to protect women against lying crisis pregnancy centers. New York City needs to be next: support the efforts of these activists by telling council members to cast their vote for women’s rights.

Photo credit: TheTruthAbout

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33 Chilean Women Take Over Mine to Protest End of Jobs Program

You’ve probably heard about the 33 miners who spent over two months trapped in a collapsed mine in Chile before finally being rescued. A group of Chilean women is now making use of the publicity around that event to stage a high-profile protest over the cessation of a government jobs program helping earthquake victims. One hundred protesters support the cause from outside an abandoned mine, while a symbolic 33 women ventured inside and shut themselves up underground.

The program in question has provided jobs for as many as 12,000 people who lived in regions hard-hit by a massive February earthquake. Earlier this month, the program came to a halt for inhabitants of the two most destroyed regions, leaving 8,000 people out of work. These women believe that’s just not acceptable. They want the program continued and renewed in the 2011 budget, and to amplify their voices, they went to the town of Lota to take over a mine preserved as a tourist attraction.

“The (government) is obliging us to take measures of force,” Brigida Lara, a spokesperson for the protesters, explained to Chilean media. Clearly, these Chilean women feel that their government hasn’t been paying attention to their concerns, so they came up with a means of social activism that would draw attention by playing off the widespread celebrity status of the trapped miners. These 33 women stand for thousands of people in their earthquake-ravaged regions who require the continued assistance of the government work program to go on with their lives in the wake of catastrophe. And they’re willing to go into the dark, empty mine to support their cause.

Photo credit: Rick Cooper

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Lesbian Kicked Out of Oklahoma School for Living With Her Girlfriend

In Oklahoma, everything is not O.K. for gay students. Two teens in Del City are being denied the chance to complete their education because they live together as a couple, and the Del City High School principal doesn’t want their “homosexual lifestyle” tainting his hallways.

Eighteen-year-old Melissa McKenzie states that she was kicked out of school for living with her girlfriend. Kelsey Hicks, also 18, says that she recently dropped out of school in large part due to widespread homophobia at the school. “He’ll be like, ‘You’re gay … you might as well just drop out now,'” Hicks complains of the principal. “It’s the stuff that puts you down that makes you want to drop out.”

Michael Jones writes on the Gay Rights blog that both McKenzie and Hicks are trying to return to school, graduate, and receive their diplomas, but Del City High School administrators don’t want them. McKenzie was told she could come back — if she moved back home with her mother. McKenzie has no intention of kowtowing to discrimination and leaving her girlfriend to be allow back into the school’s intolerant classrooms.

At 18, McKenzie and Hicks are not minors who need parents to be responsible for them. They have the right to live together if they want to, without meddling from the high school in their private lives. It’s none of the school’s business.

Other gay students, current and former, have alleged significant homophobia on the part of the school administration, which takes the position that if you’re gay, your life is ruined, so why bother educating you. Since when are schools in the practice of discouraging youth from getting an education?

Sign this petition to tell Mid-Del Schools to give McKenzie and Hicks the chance to graduate.

Photo credit: brandi sims

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Steve Li’s Deportation on Hold

City College of San Francisco student Steve Li was set to be deported today, but last-minute actions by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have put a hold on his removal.

If you remember, 20-year-old Li was unaware that he didn’t have legal status to be in his country, a case of his parents trying to protect him by keeping him in the dark. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) came to take him away, Li was shocked. He faces deportation to Peru, a place he left at 11 years old and where he knows nobody. Li’s parents will be deported separately to China, their country of origin. The fact that Li will be stranded in a strange country without his family has increased concern over his plight.

Students and campus groups have rallied in support of their peer, which seem to have paid off with the stalled deportation order. Rep. Pelosi had vowed to worked with other Congressional leaders on Li’s behalf, and Sen. Feinstein is considering introducing a private bill for legal status, which would keep him in the United States while the bill was under review, and hopefully permanently when it was successful.

Steve Li is one of many hard-working students who would benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow him to earn legalization through college attendance and pursue his dream of opening a medical clinic to serve immigrants. But while Congress drags its feet on that vital legislation, it could be too late for Li. Sign this petition to keep the pressure on Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to introduce a bill to keep Steve Li at home.

H/T Bender’s Immigration Bulletin

Photo credit: Dream Activist

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