I haven’t written a blog post in a year. While there are many personal reasons for this, the biggest reason is that I have been so disgusted by the horrors taking place in my own country that I haven’t known where to begin. It’s overwhelming. That’s what those in power are counting on—that we will be immobilized by the overwhelm, and as a result we will do nothing to stop the atrocities. Historically that’s what happens, isn’t it? And my own political party is so adept at doing nothing, thinking that somehow these wrongs will eventually be made right.
That isn’t going to happen.
So here I sit, once again boycotting America’s Independence Day just as I did last year after the Supreme Court went against years of legal precedent in order to strip us of the right to bodily autonomy—a basic human right. How can anyone celebrate independence when so many who live in this country are being denied basic human and civil rights? We should be out protesting—fighting for all who have been denied rights this past year. It’s their liberty we should be seeking rather than celebrating the liberty of the select few in positions of power.
Let’s start with all of the changes in access to reproductive healthcare since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade a year ago: “Most abortions are now banned in 14 states following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Georgia also bans abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant” (nytimes). Full bans on abortion are in effect in Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia. In many of these states, there are no exceptions for rape or incest. Let me say that again. In many of these states, THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS FOR RAPE OR INCEST. A full ban in Indiana goes into effect August 1st. Georgia, as mentioned, has a six week ban. North Carolina and Nebraska both have a 12 week ban. Utah, Arizona, and Florida have 15-18 week bans. Bans are currently blocked due to ongoing legal challenges in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Ohio, and South Carolina.
In the last year, these newly implemented bans have led to countless forced births in states that have cut critical social services programs that support mothers and children. These bans have also led to health crises for people with ectopic pregnancies and pregnancies that are nonviable for other reasons. Women have been forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term. Women have been denied miscarriage care until they are in immediate danger of dying themselves. It’s important to know and understand these women’s stories, because unless and until we acknowledge their faces and names and lived experiences, it is easy to dismiss them. Click here to learn about just a few of the families that have been impacted by the denial of bodily autonomy.
Never in my lifetime did I imagine that I would have had more rights as a young woman than my daughter has now. And it won’t stop here. Extremists are pursuing a national ban on abortion. They are pursuing a ban on medical abortion—which is how the majority of abortions are performed in the US today. They are going after contraception. They will not stop until forced birth is the norm. They also don’t care about what happens to all of these children once they are born. They will deny them access to social or financial support. They don’t care if they are abused. They don’t care if they are neglected. They don’t care if they die, just as they don’t care if those who are forced to birth them die. All they care about is that they are born. There is nothing pro-life about this. It is all about control and pushing their own religious beliefs onto others. That’s all that matters to them.
Gender Affirming Care
The same people who want to deny access to abortion also want to deny access to gender affirming care for anyone under age 18 (and in some cases anyone under age 26), despite the fact that puberty blockers have been considered an evidence based best practice for years. States that have enacted bans on gender affirming care for youth include Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia. States where gender affirming care restriction laws are being considered include Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.
“The truth is that data from more than a dozen studies of more than 30,000 transgender and gender-diverse young people consistently show that access to gender-affirming care is associated with better mental health outcomes—and that lack of access to such care is associated with higher rates of suicidality, depression and self-harming behavior. (Gender diversity refers to the extent to which a person’s gendered behaviors, appearance and identities are culturally incongruent with the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender-diverse people can identify along the transgender spectrum, but not all do.) Major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Endocrine Society, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, have published policy statements and guidelines on how to provide age-appropriate gender-affirming care. All of those medical societies find such care to be evidence-based and medically necessary” (Scientific American).
Would you like more evidence of the benefits to providing gender affirming care and the dangers of withholding this care? Studies abound: “This study found that gender-affirming medical interventions were associated with lower odds of depression and suicidality over 12 months. These data add to existing evidence suggesting that gender-affirming care may be associated with improved well-being among TNB youths over a short period, which is important given mental health disparities experienced by this population, particularly the high levels of self-harm and suicide” (JAMA).
Denying gender affirming care harms trans kids. In some cases, it may lead them to take their own lives. Those pressing for these laws don’t care about trans kids’ wellbeing. They don’t care about their lives. They only care about pushing their own limiting beliefs about gender onto others.
- As reported by The Williams Institute (in “How Many Adults and Youth Identify as Transgender in the United States?”), there are more than 300,000 high school-aged (ages 13-17) transgender youth in the United States today, many who need gender affirming care. Many trans youth (1%, or 132,300) live in states in which transgender youth have lost access to, or are at risk of losing access to, gender-affirming care, because of discriminatory laws and policies. Three in ten (30.9% or 92,700 total) trans youth aged 13-17 live in states that have passed bans on gender affirming care.
- An additional 2%(39,600 total) trans youth are living in states that are considering bills and policies that will deny more trans kids access to life saving gender affirming care (hrc.org).
Same Sex Court Decision
This week the Supreme Court also decided that a woman who builds wedding websites and is against gay marriage does not have to serve gay couples. It doesn’t matter that she likely lied about the client she says requested that she build him a site. The court says she can deny her service to gay couples because of her religious beliefs. So if you own a business that serves the public, you can decide not to serve someone based upon your beliefs, whether or not others share those beliefs. Here is another issue I thought we had moved beyond as a result of the Civil Rights movement. Apparently not. The danger, of course, is that we have now started down a slippery slope that will continue to see rights denied to the LGBTQIA+ community. It will also be interesting to see if others will take the opportunity to file suits to call into question the validity of this one: “And even though Friday’s decision was narrow, some experts said it could be expanded in coming years to slowly chip away at nondiscrimination laws that prevent businesses from discriminating against people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or any other protected class they might fall into. So does this mean that a corporate photography studio could refuse to take portraits of women because of the belief that women should not work outside the home? The majority, said Cole, ‘does not take on that core question, which is, what is the limit of their decision?'” (nbcnews.com).
In this year’s Supreme Court finale, the court not only chose to deny financial relief to students buried under student loan debt, ensuring that multiple generations will never be able to fully participate in the economy; they also chose to end affirmative action in the college admissions process. I have worked in higher education for 34 years. Let me be clear here. Not every child has equal access to educational opportunity. Inner city kids and rural kids do not receive the same quality of education or educational opportunities as kids who live in the suburbs or kids who go to private school. Other issues of intersectionality also come into play. Kids for whom English is not their first language, kids who have to miss school to help care for relatives or to work to help their families financially, kids who can’t get to a school, homeless kids—let’s face it—the playing field is not level here. It never has been. To say that affirmative action is no longer needed is to deny the harsh realities that make up our nation. And who is denying these realities? Those in positions of power—the haves, not the have nots. Entering and navigating college was tough enough for students who are first generation, low income, and racial and ethnic minorities before this decision. Now? I believe many will simply choose not to even try, and what a loss that is for this country.
“Previous state-level affirmative action bans have shown that race-neutral admissions policies are ineffective at improving racial equity in higher education. One study found an immediate 1.6-percentage-point decrease in Black enrollment in the most selective schools after such state-level bans. School leaders in some of these states filed amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in support of affirmative action, stating that their schools’ Black enrollment has dropped and remained lower than pre-ban levels after more than a decade. And now, minority enrollment is predicted to decrease by as much as 10% in highly selective colleges following the elimination of race-conscious admissions nationwide. The end of affirmative action is, as colleges and universities have warned, a major blow to their ability to tap into the full spectrum of student talent. Systemic barriers such as underfunded schools, housing discrimination, and income inequality can prevent even the most talented students from attaining higher education. Without affirmative action to help students from underrepresented groups overcome these systemic barriers, fewer Americans will be able to maximize their participation in the economy and democracy” (brookings.edu).
Immigrants and Refugees
Immigrants and refugees have always faced discrimination in this nation that, ironically, was created by immigrants and refugees. However, in recent years the abuse they have endured has been unimaginable—those in power separating children from their parents, forcing sterilization procedures on unsuspecting women, illegally and inhumanely subjecting human beings to long periods of detention, upending the overwhelmingly successful DACA program. And now this: “DHS has announced the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways final rule. Individuals are encouraged to use lawful, safe, and orderly pathways to come to the United States. Effective May 11, 2023, the U.S. government will generally presume individuals who unlawfully enter the United States through its southwest land border or adjacent coastal borders are ineligible for asylum, unless they can demonstrate an exception to the rule or rebut the presumption” (uscis.gov).
“A comprehensive immigration overhaul has eluded Congress for decades. Former President Bush, a Republican, pushed for one, but was met with opposition from immigration hard-liners in his own party. President Obama, a Democrat, also made an effort to get one passed — and it nearly did. Sixty-eight senators voted for sweeping legislation in 2013, but it died in the Republican-controlled House. Former President Trump’s ‘build the wall’ hard-line stance discouraged any sort of negotiations to make way for a path to citizenship for the million in the country, who crossed the border illegally. All of it has led to this point” (npr).
So, who really gets to celebrate freedom and independence on America’s 247th Birthday? Members of Congress. State legislators. The uber wealthy. Corporations. And oh yes, gun owners. We can’t forget that guns have more rights than all of the marginalized groups discussed here. As of Independence Day 2023 (day 185 of the year), there have been 405 mass shootings in the US.
I read an interesting analysis today, titled “Why the US Does Not Get to Assume that It Lasts Forever.” Some version of this discussion has come up more and more in my conversations in recent years. We are certainly reaching a tipping point. “More tangibly, red and blue states are hurtling apart. The most aggressive moves have come from red states shifting social policy sharply to the right on a broad array of issues, from retrenching abortion and LGBTQ rights, to censoring classroom discussion of race, gender and sexual orientation, expanding access to guns while limiting access to books that provoke conservative objections, and restricting access to voting. With red states exploring various ways to discourage their residents from traveling to blue states for banned activities (such as abortions or gender-affirming care for transgender minors), and blue states passing laws to inhibit such red state enforcement, the nation is facing open conflict over the cross-border application of state law reminiscent of the bitter disputes between free and slave states over the Fugitive Slave Act. No single issue separates the red and blue states today as profoundly as the gulf between those with and without legal segregation during the Jim Crow era, or that between states with and without slavery before the Civil War. But, as experts point out, the current divergence involves more issues in more states than those earlier conflicts, with nearly half the country joining the red state drive to create what I’ve called “a nation within a nation” operating by its own rules and values. ‘I really feel like we are becoming two different countries, if not that it has already happened,’ says Wolfe. ‘I don’t like it, but I don’t see what we have in common anymore. I really don’t.'”
I don’t either.
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.