TRAP Public Comment Period – Closes Thursday

We have just two days left to push back against the highly politicized targeted regulations on abortion providers (TRAP). The public comment period ends at midnight Thursday, July 31. Please take a few minutes to make your views known about these medically unnecessary regulations that have already resulted in two clinics closing and threaten the health and safety of Virginia women.
Click here to submit your comment.
Here are some talking points to use when writing your comment:
  • The Board of Health must completely repeal and rewrite the current regulations of women’s health centers to protect women’s health and preserve access to comprehensive reproductive care.
  • All health professions should be regulated, but these politically motivated restrictions aren’t necessary for patients’ safety. Instead, these restrictions endanger women’s health.
  • Current regulations of Virginia women’s health centers are about politics, not medicine.
  • Doctors, health care professionals, and a majority of Virginians oppose these regulations.
  • If the regulations are not repealed and rewritten, tens of thousands of Virginia women and families will lose access to critical medical care.

Thank you for taking action for the health and safety of Virginia women.

Marj Signer
Virginia NOW
Legislative VP

To comment, go to the Virginia Regulatory Town hall site: http://www.townhall.virginia.gov/L/comments.cfm?periodicreviewid=1316. 

Learn more:

In May, Gov. McAuliffe directed the Virginia Board of Health to conduct a review of the abortion clinic regulations designed by former Atty General Ken Cuccinelli and enforced by former Gov. McDonnell. Currently, the Virginia Dept. of Health is accepting public comments on whether to amend, repeal and rewrite, or uphold the regulations in their current form.

~o~

Click here to see available current reproductive, choice, and abortion services within Virginia. 
http://www.vanow.org/support/reproductive-choice-abortion-services

On Wednesday: “How to Elect More Women” Panel Discussion and Networking Happy Hour

“How to Elect More Women” Panel Discussion and Networking Happy Hour

Hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats Women’s Caucus
Chair Paradise Kendra and Vice-chair Michelle Woods

When: Wednesday, July 23rd 5:30-630 pm
5:30-6:30 pm Networking Happy Hour. Free Appetizers Provided.
6:30-8:30 pm Panel Discussion with Q and A

Where: Café Asia: 1550 Wilson Blvd #100, Arlington, VA 22209
Metro: Rosslyn (Orange and Blue line) Parking: Available on street and in Café Asia garage for $3

Who: Panelists include:

1.) Senator Jennifer Wexton, VA State Senator of the 33rd Senate District
2.) Senator Barbara Favola, VA State Senator of the 31st Senate District
3.) Jennifer Boysko, former and future House of Delegate candidate of VA’s 86th district
4.) Kathleen Murphy, former and future House of Delegate candidate of VA’s 34th district
5.) Yasmine Taeb, former House of Delegate candidate of VA’s 48th district

Why: It’s more than evident, we need to elect more women in this country and we need to do it now. The United States ranks 98th in the world in number of women in our national legislature. At this panel we will ask our panelist about best strategies in order to elect more women at both the state and national level. We will learn about the barriers that exist and how to combat them.

Right now there are 335 state legislative leaders, and just 60 of them are women, a total of 17.9 percent. In Virginia, only 17% of its legislative body is represented by women, compared to states like Colorado and Vermont where 41% of their legislative bodies are represented by women. Virginia leads states like Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina, which currently have the least diverse gender representation at 13% but none of this is acceptable for the 21st century.

Point of Contact: For questions contact AYD Outreach Director Michelle Woods at womenscaucus@arlingtonyoungdems.org.

The Hobby Lobby Decision

So, from now on, when you go to a job interview, remember to ask the HR folks about the corporation/company’s religious exemptions to your health insurance.

According to Reuters, Hobby Lobby did not seek exemption for all forms of birth control, only emergency contraceptives and IUDs. Justice Ginsberg sees much larger and more chaotic implications of the decision, as noted in her objection. Part of the problem is that the owners of the company don’t have to follow the science about these drugs/methods, only their “sincerely held beliefs.”

Importantly, employees can still obtain these services/medications through their insurance, just in some as yet undefined process that does not involve the employer (my bet is a separate “rider” for whatever they choose to exclude, at your extra cost).

See the Reuters article here (click).

Hobby Lobby has a page on its site devoted to its Ministry Projects, and various not really applicable historical quotations. So, how far does this collection of quotations go toward being a ministry project or the actual demonstration of “sincerity.” There is no evidence here of any practical project.

As a bar for legal sincerity that will affect the cost of health care, even its access, for women who do not share an owner’s faith, this strikes me as exceptionally low.

Further reports and analysis and educated rants at Politco, Jezebel, Bitch. I’m sure there’s more to come.

Carry on!
Simone Roberts
Web Editor / Historian
Virginia NOW

 

NSA Update: “Collect it all.”  

Some restrictions do apply.

About six months ago, I posted a long, long piece on the NSA and asked VA NOW members to contact their state and federal representatives to let them know that life in a surveillance state is not an American life. Since then, a few, little things, have changed for the better. However, that surveillance state is still intact.NSA Yes We Scan

 All oppressive authorities— political, religious, societal, parental— rely on this vital truth, using it as a principal tool to enforce orthodoxies, compel adherence, and quash dissent. It is in their interest to convey that nothing their subjects do will escape the knowledge of the authorities. Far more effectively than a police force, the deprivation of privacy will crush any temptation to deviate from rules and norms.*

Feminist activists do a great deal of dissenting and deviating. We dissent from the religious and culturally conservative agenda that is the current loudest defense of the age-old patriarchy and its values. We dissent from its enforcer, the rape culture. We dissent from those elements of capitalism that exhaust workers and families. We dissent from the classist assumption that basic good health is the province of the wealthy, and that the rest of us can just keep eating our corn-syrup infused everything, or just soda and chips. And many, many of us dissent vigorously from our government’s neo-conservative foreign policy, our sly expansion of empire, our
adventurous wars, and our combination of universal surveillance and extra-judicial killing of (anyone) American citizens. We dissent from a government that can, effectively, revoke our citizenship and maroon us in a no-woman’s land called Enemy Combatant from which country there is no known return.

Which means that, as feminists, we have a problem with the National Security Agency (and its partner agencies of HLS and cooperating internet companies) having the ability and the permission to observe us in ways that make our political associations and intentions manifestly clear before we even manifest them. This is what the collection of your meta-data means. With your meta-data, the NSA can tell who you called, when, and from all that figure out a lot about you.

 Listening in on a woman calling an abortion clinic might reveal nothing more than someone confirming an appointment with a generic-sounding establishment (“East Side Clinic” or “Dr. Jones’s office”). But the metadata would show far more than that: it would reveal the identity of those who were called. The same is true of calls to a dating service, a gay and lesbian center, a drug addiction clinic, an HIV specialist, or a suicide hotline. Metadata would likewise unmask a conversation between a human rights activist and an informant in a repressive regime, or a confidential source calling a journalist to reveal high-level wrongdoing.+

History has demonstrated again and again that just knowing that you live in a state that can record your life in this way, and threaten you with loss of citizen protections, cows most of the population into stupefied obedience and silences the most imaginative contributions to progress and human dignity. This kind of surveillance works, and works well, even if they never look at you. You begin to live and write and think as if they are looking at you, and you don’t want to be in that depth of trouble. Chapter 4 of No Place to Hide, from which I have been quoting, deals with this history, the methods of surveillance, and the normal psychological and behavioral responses humans have to them. They are dramatic.

 A prime justification for surveillance— that it’s for the benefit of the population— relies on projecting a view of the world that divides citizens into categories of good people and bad people. In that view, the authorities use their surveillance powers only against bad people, those who are “doing something wrong,” and only they have anything to fear from the invasion of their privacy. This is an old tactic. In a 1969 Time magazine article about Americans’ growing concerns over the US government’s surveillance powers, Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell , assured readers that “any citizen of the United States who is not involved in some illegal activity has nothing to fear whatsoever.” **

Given the intense surveillance of civil rights and anti-war activists, we know that to have been a dead lie.

So, hurray!, the NSA has been ordered by Congress to stop collecting meta-data of phone calls made by and to US citizens. It’s the law.  This is a worthy revision to the powers granted by the PARIOT Act.

So it’s something, but it’s really nothing.

The UK newspaper, The Guardian (which has been challenging over-bearing governments for over 200 years), publishes most of the best work on the NSA because Glen Greenwald was a reporter with them when Edward Snowden contacted him. Two recent articles clarify the state of the surveillance state.

 By a substantial and bipartisan margin, 293 to 121, representatives moved to ban the NSA from searching warrantlessly through its troves of ostensibly foreign communications content for Americans’ data, the so-called “backdoor search” provision revealed in August by the Guardian thanks to leaks from Edward Snowden. ++nsa_inside

So, the NSA can’t look right at your meta-data, nor can it look at you just because you know someone who lives in Libiya.

But, it can still do even worse than that.

 But exactly one year on, the NSA’s greatest wound so far has been its PR difficulties. The agency, under public pressure, has divested itself of exactly one activity, the bulk collection of US phone data. Yet while the NSA will not itself continue to gather the data directly, the major post-Snowden legislative fix grants the agency wide berth in accessing and searching large volumes of phone records, and even wider latitude in collecting other kinds of data.

There are no other mandated reforms. President Obama in January added restrictions on the dissemination of non-Americans’ “personal information“, but that has not been codified in law. The coalition of large internet firms demanding greater safeguards around their customers’ email, browsing and search histories have received nothing from the government for their effort. A recent move to block the NSA from undermining commercial encryption and amassing a library of software vulnerabilities never received a legislative hearing. (Obama, in defiance of a government privacy board, permits the NSA to exploit some software flaws for national security purposes.) ***

The provisions that force software and internet companies to insert backdoors in their encryption and security systems (this includes your banking and health records), that even infiltrates anonymizers like Tor, yeah that’s still totally intact. NSA can still sneak around back that way, and with much less restriction than has recently been applied to your cell phone. These backdoors make your computer, and your bank, and our whole national security apparatus MORE VULNERABLE to malicious hackers because weakened encryption is weakened encryption. More deliberately, the NSA was aware of the Heartbleed bug, and used it to assist its own hacking operations for a couple of years.

You really do have to wonder about the ethical code driving this organization: collect it all, by any means necessary.

It’s change without change.

The NSA is still doing all manner of bulk surveillance of whole national populations. More the rule for over-riding this new restriction is as low as “reasonable suspicion” which is nothing near as strong as the “probable cause” that comes to mind when we think of “search and seizure.” As Greenwald puts it in No Place to Hide, let’s say your pizza deliverer is new immigrant to the US from a nation that harbors, or just can’t kick out, known terrorist groups or radical clerics. Say his mosque in the US is giving money to Boko Haram, but he doesn’t know that, and you don’t know that, and the NSA does. But, he gets lost on the way to your house and calls you from his cell phone for directions. Boom. You are now, and possibly forever, captured in the two-degrees net, the collection system just automatically logging your call activity for the foreseeable future. There is almost no way for you, innocent citizen, to know which of your business or social interactions might get you swept up in the data dragnet.

And, if any of that pattern is interpreted by an algorithm or a human to constitute “reasonable suspicion” that you are up to some kind of dissent/no-good, a warrant can be gained that allows the NSA to put a “tap” on your phones, your computer, and your computer’s or phone’s camera and microphones and use all that to observe you whether you are using the machines or not, and whether you turn the machines on or not. The NSA can – I am not making this up – turn your cameras on and watch and listen to you whenever they like once they have that warrant. The PowerPoint slides in Greenwald’s chapter 3 are fascinating.

But, you know, not to worry really. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T EVEN WORK (as a method of terror prevention, as advertised). CBS DC reported in January 2014 on a study by the New America Foundation that found:

 … the bulk collection methods used by the NSA under Section 215 of the Patriot Act appear to have played an identifiable role in, at most, 1.8 percent of the terrorism investigations.

 “Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group,” reads the report.

Spy-pus

NROL-39 is a surveillance satellite.

The only result toward which this kind of surveillance is effective is to coerce as many people (on Earth) as possible to leave the status quo and the agendas of the elite and power    roll along without our pesky interference. So, Virginia NOW is asking you to keep these issues in mind. Check in with The Guardian from time to time. Their US edition has  devoted a whole department to the NSA. The Atlantic and Salon have also done some excellent original reporting on issues of security and surveillance.

We also ask that you consider, again, writing to your representatives. You can find their contact information on our Represent page (click here, scroll down). Writing your own letter, in your own words, is the most effective way to get the staff’s attention and get your opinion counted.

Only imagine this: a future in which a conservative as tenacious and aggressive and paranoid as Representative Issa or J. Edgar Hoover is the POTUS, and she or he decides that,  say, pro-choice organizations need to be observed more closely because liberals are notoriously tolerant of Muslims. Sadly, that is the level of reasoning many conservatives display lately. The level of reasoning that had the FBI watching Ernest Hemingway, a surveillance program that is now seen as helping to drive the Nobel Prize winner to suicide in 1969. Now imagine that a largely conservative Intelligence Committee agrees with that POTUS. Is that impossible? No, not at all. Is it the most American thing in the world to assure ourselves and future generations that it does not happen? Yes, yes it is.

Just this week, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the local police need a real, written, signed warrant to search your cell phone in the event of your arrest or suspicion. This decision, now this might eventually have some meaningful impact on surveillance. But, that is yet to be seen.

Feminism and feminists do mean to change the world in deep and permanent ways. The State is not fond of that idea, and will use both surveillance and force (as we saw with Occupy) to prevent it. Act up. Speak out.

Carry on, people!

Dr. Simone Roberts

Web Editor / Historian

Virginia NOW

 

Sources

*Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Kindle Locations 2346-2349). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

+Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Kindle Locations 2039-2043). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

**Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Kindle Locations 2492-2498). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

++ Ackerman, Spencer. House of Representatives moves to ban NSA’s ‘backdoor search’ provision TheGuardian.com, Friday 20 June 2014.

*** Ackerman, Spencer. Edward Snowden, a year on: reformers frustrated as NSA preserves its power.TheGuardian.com, Thursday 5 June 2014.

What Happened at the Working Families Summit?

Working Families Summit

1. Some great records of the event are on the website: http://workingfamiliessummit.org/.

2. You can read up on and share commentary here (click).

3. Read and share the articles and op-eds archive at the Huffington Post here (click).

Feminists have long (oh so long) worked toward better working conditions, pay, health care, family leave, and other support mechanisms for working families. We are making some
progress with the help of new allies and energy. Please, make some noise to your friends and to your state and federal representatives. Families that are secure and have the
flexibility they need to deal with real life, not the life of the ideal worker, are families that contribute better to our nation, our culture, and our economy — they are families that have the resources and the time to raise engaged and caring citizens and to just plain enjoy life in America.

These sources are just a start, but we wanted you to have a chance to tune in the events of the summit.

Carry on, people!

Dr. Simone Roberts
Web Editor / Historian
Virginia NOW

 

Virginia NOW Foremothers Oral History Update

So I am way hard at work learning to use Corel VideoStudio X7 in order to produce the oral history videos. This is taking a little while, since it’s the first time I’ve learned to render video in this way (at all), and want to get it right. The goal is for Paradise Kendra and Simone to create 5-10 installments of each interview, edit them with necessary captions/quotes/links, post them on our YouTube channel (to be announced). Each interview will be presented in its entirety, just cut for watchability, edited for sound quality, and annotated so that viewers can navigate the videos quickly.

Collected so far:  a 4 hour interview with members of the Congressional Union and several other activists (Marianne Fowler, Pat Harley, Mary Ann Beall, Mary Peterson Hartzler, Lee Perkins, Ray Bridge, Georgia Fuller, and Emily McCoy (who now helps run the Turning Point Suffragists Memorial efforts), recorded just after the memorial for Jean Crawford in March 2014); a 3 hour interview with Bobbie Frances (who runs EqualRightsAmendment.org and has been the Chair of the ERA Task-force for NCWO), and a 3 hour interview with Barbara Irvine at the  (where Irvine is a founding board member) — drove up to the picturesque climes of northern New Jersey for those two; and a 2 hour interview with Bonnie Becker who was at the heart of implementing Title IX in Virginia. As soon as the first clips are ready for viewing, we will make lots and lots of noise. Stick with us!

ERA YES

OTHER ARCHIVAL MADNESS!

Paradise is working to build a photo archive of more recent VA NOW history and events, of which there are a considerable number of excellent photos to upload, catalogue, and tag into a database. She is also doing the video conversions, fixing format issues, and and generally working to make these clips “viewable”.  Simone, meanwhile, has been gifted with lots of photographs of memorabilia from the participants, and with lots of digital documents ranging from copies of The Washington Equality Times to a few letters and other papers Jean Crawford’s family chose to share with the archive. There is a lot of work to be done, new skills to be learned, about 30 more people to interview (if they all agree!), and only two people doing it on a volunteer basis.

Those two people are also having a blast with this work, and look forward to bringing Virginia an archive of its feminist history that will be broad and deep, multi-media and historically relevant, and very personal. Hang in there! We’re bringing this huge project along as fast as we can!

 

By the by, it’s not the Virginia NOW Foremothers because we’re only interviewing VA NOW members, but because VA NOW is funding and developing the project. Our Foremothers so far have been members of NOW, but also of the Congressional Union, of the Democratic Party of Virginia, and several other historical and extant organizations. We hope of offer an archive of history, sure, more importantly a record of who these women and men were, and who they were together.

Carry on, people!

Dr. Simone Roberts
Web Editor/Historian
Virginia NOW

Action: TRAP Review Public Comment Period Now Open

Dear Virginia NOW members and friends,

Thanks to Gov. McAuliffe’s call for REVIEW OF TRAP regulations that threaten to close many of Virginia’s health clinics (especially reproductive health clinics and abortion providers), the PUBLIC IS NOW INVITED TO COMMENT on the topics of choice, reproductive justice, and abortion access.

Virginia NOW urgently requests that you engage this opportunity to GET ON THE RECORD FOR CHOICE.

To add your voice in support of truly comprehensive health care for women and our families, and to emphasize the importance of complete reproductive autonomy for women as unique individual human beings free to follow their their own moral compass:

CLICK HERE to go directly to the PUBLIC COMMENT FORUM.

If you need background, or a guide to the process, or want a few talking points for inspiration for your unique message, follow these links. You can download these documents for your reference, and you can share these links on your social media.

Our Lobbying Director, Vicki Yeroian, has created several easy to follow guides to help you engage in this process effectively. If you have further questions, you may contact Vicki at lobbyingdirector@vanow.orgYou may also contact our Legislative VP, Marj Signer, at legislativevp@vanow.org for more information.

Please share this post widely with your friends. It is absolutely vital that Virginia women be heard LOUD AND CLEAR at this point in the review.

With our appreciation and thanks,

The Virginia NOW Executive Board

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