Undocumented Teens Targeted by Trump’s Abortion Agenda

By Eden Lumerman

Trump

In September 2017, an undocumented teen immigrant from Central America who was held in a federally contracted shelter in Texas, discovered she was pregnant. She decided to get an abortion, secured a permission from a Texas judge, and raised the funds for the procedure. However, federal officials intervened and would not allow her to leave the federal “shelter” to the abortion clinic. Instead, she was sent to receive pro-life counseling. Jane Doe (her name in the legal papers) is one of many undocumented minors who have been subjected to the attempts of the Trump administration to make abortion unattainable for undocumented teens. According to VICE News, since October 2017 “four teens have accused the administration of blocking them from getting abortions while they were in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement” (Sherman, 2018). In an unprecedented manner of state intervention in the lives, privacy, and bodily integrity of undocumented immigrants, the ORR has both attempted to prevent the teens from starting an abortion process within a safe time-frame, and attempted to reverse a medication abortion by delaying the pregnant teens from taking their second pill of the procedure. The ORR even suggested a new experimental method of reversing abortion: injecting the pregnant woman with the hormone Progesterone. Scott Lloyd, the director of ORR and a staunch anti-abortion activist, has described abortion as “violence that has the ultimate destruction of another human being as its goal.”

This case raises a few important questions: Since when does the US government care about the unborn children of undocumented immigrants? Why target undocumented minors? Why does the government suggest experimenting dubious medical procedures on the bodies of Brown, poor, underage pregnant women? This new policy issued by the ORR is more than Lloyd’s personal campaign against abortion. It has everything to do with the state’s systematic regard of poor Brown women as not entitled to authority over their bodies and their lives.

In “Punishing Drug Addicts Who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality, and the Right of Privacy,” Dorothy E. Roberts argues that the “prosecutions of drug-addicted mothers infringe on… the right to individual choice in reproductive decision making… the prosecutions infringe on choice by imposing an invidious government standard for the entitlement to procreate” (172-3). Like the prosecution of drug-addicted mothers, the forceful imposition of undocumented teens to carry their pregnancies to term is a violation of their right to individual choice. Roberts continues, “Such imposition of a government standard for childbearing is one way society denies the humanity of those who are different” (173). Indeed, by preventing Jane Doe from obtaining an abortion, the state denies her humanity and claims authority over her body.

Furthermore, the intersection of race, gender, citizenship, nationality, and socio-economic status is at the core of this event. The undocumented teens were an “easy target” for the state: they are already under constant surveillance in federal custody, they are not citizens, and probably not familiar with their constitutional rights. In “An Open Letter to Pierre Schlag,” Maria Grahn-Farley writes, “Pierre talks about the violence of the law but he does not talk about those whom the violence of the law serves or those whom the violence of the law violates” (141). This case illustrates clearly the way in which (in this case state policy), commits violence that serves those in power, and violates those who are least powerful in society. Thus, the pregnant undocumented teens are the “martyrs” of the law and social order; the sacrifice of their freedom of choice and right to privacy is the price American society pays in the name of social order (Grahn-Farley,143). Since they are not citizens, this sacrifice is coherent with the legal regime that does not perceive non-citizens (especially Brown and poor people) as entitled to the same human rights as those who are citizens.

Moreover, Grahn-Farley’s discussion of the “normative language of rights” is instructive in understanding the state’s disregard of the teens’ individual choice in reproductive decision making. She writes, “To understand a right is already to have understood a lack. To connect the self to a right is also to connect the self to a lack. To understand the self as incomplete, as not yet done, as missing, is to understand one’s rights” (145-6). The right of the teens to have an abortion is thus a lack; a lack of citizenship, a lack of whiteness, a lack of social status, a lack of language, a lack of ability to have authority over their bodies without filing a class action suit with the help of the ACLU.

Jane Doe and the other three teens who accused the Trump administration of blocking them from obtaining an abortion won their case with the help of the ACLU, and eventually were able to have an abortion. However, more questions remain unanswered: how many other pregnant undocumented minors are still subjected and will be subjected to the bullying of the Trump administration? Until when will government officials continue to assert their authority and dominance in the expense of poor women of color? When will society cease to deny the humanity of those who are “different?”

Denying Science, Denying Rights

By Savanah McDaniel

Over the last few months, the Trump Administration has blatantly violated women’s right to healthcare. In April, President Trump signed an executive order cutting government funding for Planned Parenthood. Last month, the Administration reduced healthcare access for women by rolling back an ACA mandate that required employers to cover birth control costs. Now women’s access to birth control depends on their employer’s moral or religious stance, while clinics that provide contraceptive assistance have been defunded.

Under attack by religious conservatives, women’s access to healthcare relies increasingly on science for support. Studies across disciplines have concluded that access to birth control improves the health of women and their children, and allows women to obtain higher paying jobs[1]. Even with bodies of research supporting women’s access to birth control, there is still a movement to remove this necessity. Political discourse often ignores the data, presenting birth control as a controversial, moral issue. Though if the decision to cover birth control was a strictly ethical one, politicians and the religious right would stop denying science and support contraception. Sadly, moralistic arguments do exist- even in medicine.

Earlier this month, Marguerite Duane, M.D. published an article titled “Stop Denying Science. Birth Control Isn’t Necessary for Women’s Health.” In her article Dr. Duane uses personal anecdotes, biased with her moral-political convictions, in lieu of scientific evidence to support the Trump Administration’s roll back. Since Dr. Duane is using her position as a medical expert to support recent political rhetoric that limits women’s healthcare options, I find it important to deconstruct her argument using data from peer-reviewed articles, widely accepted by research-backed organizations and medical associations[2].

“birth control is not the only, or even best, way to treat the reproductive issues women experience.”

Here, Dr. Duane introduces the adverse side-effects of birth control she experienced, to support her claim that birth control is not necessary to women’s health. I agree that the pill or other hormone-based contraceptives are not the only way to treat issues like menstrual irregularity and pain, however, these treatments are effective for many women. In fact, 58% of women in the US who take the pill do so for non-contraceptive reasons[3]. Hormonal birth control- like any medication- can produce adverse side-effects. Unless the medication is causing more harm than benefit, side effects should not necessitate market removal. A logical solution to this issue would be to promote better research. More research on women’s reproductive health could lead to birth control and other treatment methods that do not have as many side-effects.

“While it can help prevent pregnancy and then only some of the time, it does so by suppressing the normal function of a woman’s reproductive system” [italics added]

Contrary to the first part of this statement, the most common contraceptive methods (male condoms, IUDs, the implant, and the pill) are above 90%[4] effective at preventing pregnancy[5]. Whereas the family planning, or “charting”, methods Duane advocates for are only 76% effective[6]. Though some of these more effective methods come with side-effects, as Dr. Duane points out in her article, most women consider effectiveness a top priority when considering contraceptive options[7]. Among women in the US who currently use contraception (which is 62% of 15- 44 year olds) the most common contraceptive methods are the pill, male condoms, IUDs, Implant, and female sterilization[8]. Even though fertility-based “charting” methods do not produce side-effects, they are less effective and therefore less popular among women.

Like her claim to the effectiveness of birth control, the second part of this statement is also arguable. By stating that birth control suppresses the normal function of a woman’s reproductive system, we can infer that Dr. Duane also means natural– or unimpeded by medical treatment. My inference here is supported by her statement that birth control should not be used to treat noncontraceptive issues like cramps because it “suppresses” a woman’s fertility[9]. There are many reasons why women take hormone-based contraceptives, including regulating their period. Should women with an irregular, or a naturally suppressed menstrual cycle, not take the pill? By this logic any chronic disorder, which occurs naturally -like the author’s asthma- should not be treated because it disrupts the body’s “normal function”. Furthermore, there are hormonal disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where birth control is a major treatment method. Whether it be an inhaler or birth control, medical interventions are necessary because bodies can disfunction, naturally. A person with asthma needs access to an inhaler, just as someone with PCOS needs access to birth control.

“Why do we ‘fight for birth control’ but not drugs that allow people to breathe?”

First, this is not an issue of insurance either covering birth control or other medications; removing birth control coverage does not preclude taking access away from other medications. Any medication that treats issues which impede a person’s life should be accessible. Private insurance companies are not struggling; there is funding to cover birth control as well as other necessary medications. Additionally, comparing access to asthma medication to that of birth control is like saying, in the words of Irina Dunn, “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”: the two do not relate. 1 in 12 people in the US suffer from asthma[10] whereas 99% of women will access birth control at some point in their lives[11]. Not only does the funding of birth control not affect access to asthma medication, removing access to birth control will directly affect more people than there are asthmatics.

Second, we (feminists, women’s rights activists, concerned human beings) fight for birth control because all women deserve to lead healthy lives, unimpeded by unplanned pregnancy and reproductive issues. Through protests, collaboration, and lobbying we have and will continue to defend access to this necessity. The argument that Dr. Duane presents uses personal anecdotes, masquerading as scientific evidence, to defend the Trump Administration’s repeal of the ACA mandate. In supporting a company’s decision to deny coverage of birth control for moral or religious reasons, she ignores research that shows birth control increases a woman’s quality of life by opening up employment opportunities, decreasing unplanned pregnancies, and treating painful reproductive disorders.

It is irresponsible for Dr. Duane to use her medical authority to support an opinion- not science- that threatens women’s rights. In advocating to defund birth control coverage, and rejecting medical literature that supports birth control access, Dr. Duane invalidates her medical expertise. Unsurprisingly, though her argument contradicts the data, it does align with her pro-life views and fertility-oriented organization. Duane co-founded the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science (FACTS), which values women for their reproductive capacity, erasing the complexity of women’s lifestyle choices and contributions outside of child rearing. Her conservative, pseudo-scientific argument threatens to reduce women to reproductive vessels, while supporting the strategic removal of women’s rights through Trump’s policies. These political moves are unacceptable, blatant, sexist rhetoric that endanger women’s health and humanity. Through her writing and political organizing, Duane is not only complicit, she is actively supporting the dehumanization of women. We must not allow anyone, especially those who masquerade as public servants, to limit our contributions to society, to reduce our value to our bodies- nay our wombs. So yes, in the words of (Dr.) Marguerite Duane, “stop denying science”.

Editor’s Note: Many people who use and depend on birth control do not identify as “women,” and their access to healthcare is arguably even more threatened by the Trump administration’s agenda. Despite its terminology, this article is not intended to essentialize “women’s health” into an exclusive category.

 

[1] Adam Sonfield, et al. “The Social and Economic Benefits of Women’s Ability to Determine Whether and When to Have Children,” (New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013), 14-18, <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/&gt;.

[2] All data was collected from articles published in peer-reviewed journals or by organizations using data published by similar sources such as the Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health.

[3] Rachel K. Jones. “Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits Of Oral Contraceptive Pills,” (New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2011).

[4] The pill and male condoms are 99% and 98% effective with perfect use, 91% and 82% with typical use.

[5] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Effectiveness of Family Planning Methods,” (2011), <https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/pdf/contraceptive_methods_508.pdf&gt;

[6] Ibid.

[7] Cassondra Marshall, et al. “Young Women’s Contraceptive Decision Making: Do Preferences for Contraceptive Attributes Align with Method Choice?” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 48, no. 3 (2016): 119-127.

[8] Kimberly Daniels, et al. “Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15–44: United States, 2011–2013,” National Center for Health Statistics, no. 173, (2014).

[9] Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science. “About FACTS: Statement of Principles,” (2017), <http://www.factsaboutfertility.org/about/&gt;.

[10] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Asthma in the US,” (2011), <https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/asthma/index.html&gt;.

[11] Adam Sonfield, et al. “The Social and Economic Benefits of Women’s Ability To Determine Whether and When to Have Children,” (New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013), 3, <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/&gt;.

While Things Are Stirring

While Things Are Stirring (Cover)

Created by Dorsa Djalilzadeh (Editor), Niyat Ogbazghi (Journalist), Mariel Wilson (Journalist), and Corrina Leatherwood (Graphic Designer) in Block 6 2017

“At times activist work can be daunting but that is why we are here. This publication exists as a guide, a way for learning the theories and the on-the-ground tactics for acknowledging and resisting oppression and engaging in conscious and intentional activism and feminism. Whether it be by protesting with a sign or tweeting to people across the world, ultimately, it is this work that must continue and spread to effect change. As Sojourner Truth so aptly said, ‘I am for keeping things going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again’ (92). For some people, existence itself is resistance. For them, that is enough. But some of us can do even more and it is our responsibility to resist for them. Moving is resistance, even the subtlest raising of an arm. Reader, do not go still. Ask for help. Do not hesitate. Keep things stirring.”
—Dorsa Djalilzadeh, Editor

Click here to read While Things Are Stirring!

While Things Are Stirring (ToC)

Activism: To the Blogosphere and Beyond!

By Lila Schmitz

Grrrls Team ILast night, I was up late. As the drizzle pitter-pattered on our window, Amelia and I joined the chorus around the globe of the vocal chords forming the sounds of tragedy. The feeling of pain and fear in our guts was enough to keep eyes open and minds muddled. As Amelia spoke on their feelings of hurt and powerlessness, I recalled Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück’s message about the necessity of activist self-care. In musing about my latest musical obsession, Akala, I had to share his words with Amelia: “The only way to ever change anything is to look in the mirror and find no enemy,” adding, “But I think it’s more than that, it’s more than ‘no enemy.’ It’s about being good and healthy first.”

We woke without the springing bounce that seemed to guide us out of bed over the past week. In my grogginess, I made it at least a block from the apartment before realizing my shorts may not have been the most appropriate choice on this chilly, damp morning. On the train, I pieced together, with the aid of good ol’ Google Translate (complete with a downloadable offline feature!), a headline about the massacre that read, “[Donald] Trump Calls for Obama’s Resignation.” I wish the permeation of the former’s overused name into this German headline had been a jolting surprise, but alas, since arriving in Europe three weeks ago, I’ve noticed it more than ever. While in London, I read an opinion piece in The Evening Standard, which claimed, “The Trump phenomenon would be a little less alarming were it confined to America. But it is merely the most dramatic instance of what looks increasingly like a pan-Western pathology.” The extensive transnational effect of the United States makes me worry tenfold about the aftermath of the events of this election season and this Sunday morning could have around the world.

In “The Pink Triangle and Political Consciousness: Gays, Lesbians, and the Memory of Nazi Persecution,” Erik N. Jensen explores transnational collective memory, as it bridges between Germany and the United States. Jensen finds, “Films, plays, historical studies, and commemorative strategies produced in one country have often found a receptive audience in the other” (339). Yet, he also explores the dichotomy that exists as the gay community in the United States finds the Jewish Holocaust “a template for understanding the persecution of homosexuals, [while] the German gay community has avoided this comparison” and looks to the history of the United States (342). By appropriating the story of the Holocaust in association with German gay movements, the United States is able to elevate itself above the level of that sort of inhumane oppression by “othering” the terrors of the foreign. Meanwhile, Jensen notes the German commemoration of the Stonewall Riots in the United States, an act of not only solidarity, but also adopted history, leaving me to wonder what could happen if our histories begin to cross again in the current political climate.

This is where my mind is as we sit, again in Each One Teach One, to hear from Magda Albrecht and acclamie, writers for the largest German feminist blog: “Mädchenmannschaft” (“Grrrls Team” in English). Magda and acclamie sit at the front of the room in cushioned chairs in a laid back, talk-show style, next to Heidi, who “feels like Oprah.” Today, the show is a continuation of the special series: “How to Live as an Activist,” Episode: “Blogging.” acclamie and Magda introduce the history of “Grrrls Team” and its development over its nine year lifespan. Coming to fruition in 2007 at the hands of three young white women, this blog family is now composed of fourteen writers, and has resulted in 4,500 posts that have received 51,000 comments.

The “Grrrls Team” writers, like most activists, work for a gain that exists outside the realm of capitalism ($0 per hour, after taxes). Magda is a self-proclaimed musician and political educator, doing events management to “pay the rent.” Her dress has smiling hot air balloons of different pastel colors, and she refers to herself as the “Grrrls Team granny,” as she is currently the longest standing writer, having joined the blog in 2009. She works specifically in queer feminism and fat activism. acclamie chooses to use a pseudonym for job safety reasons, but it also allows her freedom of voice that Magda writes without. “I’m still scared to hit the publish button!” Magda tells us. “Wow, really?” acclamie exclaimed, as she hasn’t fully realized the power of her own pseudonym until today. Both women found feminism in returning to Germany from studying abroad in “anglophile” countries, the U.S. and the U.K. They laugh, remembering the feminism they were reading at the time and reflecting on their constantly developing activism. acclamie finds that social change “takes for fucking ever.” “Things reconfigure, but do they really change?” she wants to know.

The writers tell us about the slow introduction of intersectional feminist theory throughout the years at “Grrrls Team.” For instance, for their fifth anniversary, they celebrated with panelists and other invited activists, but as happens in the world of activism and Oprah, some of the guests who came to speak about SlutWalks spouted some “racist bullshit” and set off a divide in the “Grrrls Team.” Five members of the team left, while the rest stayed on with an even clearer notion that antiracism and feminism must coexist. Four years later the blog is still thriving and inspiring readers every day. In looking back at this timeline, Magda was wary of the potentially teleological narrative that could arise, saying, “This idea that development is so linear, I have a problem with that.”

The conversation turns toward the possibility of “eradication” of oppressive systems. Heidi finds this a place of impossibility, but acclamie counters, “Racism is not transcendental. [It has a historical emergence.] It takes for freakin’ ever, but it is possible. It is man-made. It has a starting point, so it could have an ending point.” Along these lines, one of the early proponents of women’s rights in Germany, Clara Zetkin, found, “Only with the destruction of capitalism and the victory of socialism would the full emancipation of the female sex be possible” (Honeycutt 133). As capitalism is an essential part of sexism, the idea that anything man-made could be man-destroyed, or better yet woman and/or trans-destroyed, allows for a train of thought I had long ago believed was out of commission. What does it mean that capitalism and sexism are man-made? What does it mean that that which is created can also be eliminated? How do I even begin to imagine a world in which eradication is a possibility?

On “Grrrls Team,” not all comments are published. The authors monitor them, and about 10% do not make it through the screening process. While that is often an easy decision, it comes down to the author of the piece because, as Magda shares, “We have to feel comfortable with it. In German, we say, ‘This is our neighborhood, our little garden.’” “Our turf,” acclamie adds. Contrary to popular belief, this is not censorship, because it is not executed by the state. It is in their self-cultivated garden, and there are only so many bacteria along with which their flora can survive.

Grrrls Team IIIn addition to their (free, volunteer, activist) work on the blogosphere, they organize and host Lady*Fest, which happens two weeks from now in Heidelberg. The poster promotes workshops, parties, lecture/performance, self-defense, film, café, Do It Yourself, and art. Magda noted today that although the blog’s internet capital is soaring, social and financial capital is only a fraction of the size, which for a primarily internet activist must be a constant frustration. With this festival, the opportunity to merge the physical and virtual activist bodies becomes an imperative. The festival is creating a space to find comfort, learn, and create. This reminded me of the introduction to Winter Shorts, a collection of short stories illuminating oppressive systems in contemporary Germany, Sharon Dodua Otoo recalls, “Recently, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion called ‘Can art save the world?’ And when I think about how Black people are being dehumanized, my honest answer is: it is the only thing left that can” (18).

Grrrls Team IIISo here I am, sitting in Café Berio in Schöneberg staring at the art on the walls. Naked bodies in their own distinct coloring sit, thinking. A green woman kisses a blue one contrasting the bright red background. They exist as connected bodies, particles of paint, colors dancing with each other. I find the other works (all by the same artist, who signs “Sarah”) more subtly solemn and pensive, yet coexisting with the tender, passionate embracing couple. As activists, we will inhabit the single portraits of pensive philosophers, but we cannot thrive in the work without a laugh or a kiss. I’m still going to worry about the state of political affairs, queer safety, racism, and the many other pains that compose the world as I know it, but for now, I think I’m going to take a walk through Berlin and listen to Doublethink for the thirtieth time this week, as I’d like something to give me a little hope, and I think Otoo might be right: Art is “the only thing left that can” (18).


Lila IILila Schmitz is majoring in Film and Media Studies and minoring in Feminist and Gender Studies at Colorado College. She’s going to be starting her second year at CC and third year of college in the fall. She’s enjoyed getting involved with CC theater and a capella (Ellement!), as well as tripping and sweating her way through intramural sports. This summer she’s lucky enough to get to do some gallivanting on the European continent, where you can often find her in a park (photographed in Tiergarten) with that very notebook. Important note: She does not usually look so serious, but rather was trying to figure out how to draw a chin and ended up with this photographic chin display.