Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Newsweek, YouTube and An Abortion Mini-Doc

Anna Quindlen’s column for Newsweek, How Much Jail Time?, spotlights a pretty cool little mini-documentary about abortion protestors in Libertyville, Illinois.
Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."

You have to hand it to the questioner; he struggles manfully. "Usually when things are illegal there's a penalty attached," he explains patiently. But he can't get a single person to be decisive about the crux of a matter they have been approaching with absolute certainty.

Now Quindlen’s column is focused on abortion (and I urge people to read it), but I found it baffling that the online version of her column didn’t even include a link to the featured clip! In this day and age there’s no excuse for that bit of oversight. (Update: They have added the link.)

Fortunately Real Women, Real Voices has tracked down the clip. I agree with Quindlen, it’s a pretty fascinating mini-documentary running six and half minutes.

Ending the Housing Crisis for People With Disabilities

By Lisa LaBrecque

In 1971, the U.S. Congress created the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The noble goal of the program was to provide financial support for people who can’t work because of a significant, long-term disability.

Unfortunately, our country has failed to meet that goal. According to a report recently released by the Technical Assistance Collaborative called Priced Out in 2006, national average rents for both one-bedroom and efficiency apartments were more than the entire monthly income of an individual relying solely on SSI. About 3.5 million people in the U.S. rely on SSI as their sole source of income.

Here in New Mexico, the average SSI payment is $603 a month. That means an individual in New Mexico who relies solely on SSI has to spend 77 percent of his income on an efficiency apartment or 88 percent of his income on a one bedroom apartment. That leaves only about $100 a month to pay for food, medical care, clothing, transportation and utilities.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting Blogged at the BlogHer Conference

Candidates to women bloggers:
Wish we could be there; have a nice conference

CHICAGO--You would think that all of the presidential candidates, Republican and Democrat, would be interested in talking to a gathering of women bloggers from across the U.S. After all, it's said the women's votes will ultimately decide who the next president will be. Lisa Stone, BlogHer's CEO, said that all the candidates were invited to either appear or send surrogates. But as far as anyone could tell, only Hillary Clinton and John Edwards sent surrogates. Clinton sent Dana Singiser, her women's outreach coordinator, while Edwards sent campaign blogger Tracy Russo along with a real powerhouse of a surrogate, his wife, Elizabeth, who happens to be a longtime blogger.

Among the more interesting sessions I attended at BlogHer was the one titled: Patriots Act: How to Turn Your Blog into a GOtV (Get Out the Vote) Machine. There Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), was joined Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen, Sarah Simmons of the John McCain campaign, and Zephyr Teachout, who had served in the 2004 election as Howard Dean's director of online organizing discussed ways of motivating your particular online community to turn out at the polls.

One way: add a "badge" or button to your blog that links directly to voter registration forms or info.

More politics coverage later.

--Adele M. Stan

Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting Blogged at the BlogHer Conference

What do you stand for?

CHICAGO--Here at the BlogHer conference, one of the operative words is "brand." While policy-based and mainstream political media have been notoriously slow to welcome women into their commentary continuum*, the masterminds of corporate brands see the dollar potential of the greater female blogosphere -- the part that includes the self-described "mommy bloggers," make-up bloggers, sex bloggers, as well as feminist bloggers, political bloggers and business bloggers. If it's specific to women, there's money in it, since women make more day-to-day purchasing decisions than men. Among the sponsors of the BlogHer conference are General Motors, AOL, Butterball turkeys, Dove cosmetics, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's Windows Live (a sort of social networking software package).

But the brands aren't just corporate. In fact, brands are people, too. Women, to be specific -- women bloggers, that is. And they packed to overflow what appeared to be the most popular opening break-out session: The Business of You: Self-branding and Self-promotion. Moderated by Penelope Trunk of The Brazen Careerist, who was joined by panelists Nina Burokas, a digital branding expert, and Stephanie Cockerl, entrepreneur of a successful Web-design site, the session was jammed with women who blog on everything from knitting to radical feminism (sometimes in the same blog).


The Digital Divide: Getting Access To The Debate

Now that some of the dust has cleared from the CNN/YouTube debate there have been some thoughtful reactions to CNN’s staging of the debate. Jennifer L. Pozner’s WIMN’s Voices has an extremely interesting reflection video by independent media producer Stephanie Mackley, better recognized as the woman who asked about energy consumption in her bathroom.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not All Issues Are Colored In Pink

Ruth Marcus’ column in today’s Washington Post epitomizes the need for efforts such as those undertaken by the National Women’s Editorial Forum. Women as a whole really lose out when there aren’t female voices in the editorial pages…or on the campaign trail.

Marcus’ column is on Hilary Clinton, Pretty Formidable in Pink, but I think her take on even writing about candidate Clinton speaks to why sometimes a dearth of women’s editorial voices means that if there’s only one woman on an editorial board it can mean, by default, you get to write the “women issues” while men get to write about everything else.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube Debate: Men Ask the Questions

Last night, the Democratic presidential candidates faced off in a forum that featured questions submitted by regular folks, in video format, via YouTube.

A few days ago we urged women to submit questions to YouTube for the debate because the numbers of women-submitted questions was pitifully low. (If you missed the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate last night it can be found here on YouTube.)

I don't know whether YouTube received a last-minute rush of submissions by women, nor do I have a count of the final tally of the submitted videos broken down by the ratio of men versus women.

But I do have the number of videos CNN picked that featured women: eleven. Out of the 39 viewer-submitted questions aired by CNN, 30 featured men speaking and only 12 featured women. (One question, #33 showed four clips, two women and two men.)


Minimum Wage Raise Is No Worry For Business
By Lya Sorano

In Georgia, one of the reddest of the "Red States," one might expect an almost universal denouncement of the raise in the minimum wage. In fact, the opposite is true.

Business owners and managers I've spoken with aren't concerned. They're glad the minimum wage is going up because workers deserve it, and they believe it will help our local economy.

The $5.15 minimum wage has been in effect for a decade -- the longest period without a raise since the minimum was established in 1938. Georgians covered by the federal minimum wage saw their hourly pay rise to $5.85, on July 24, 2007. It will increase to $6.55 on July 24, 2008 and $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

Those increases are lower than they seem. The minimum wage has lagged so far behind inflation that even at $7.25 the minimum wage will still be lower than it was in 1956 when it was $7.65 in today's dollars.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Abortion Protest Leader Arrested In Birmingham

Continuing coverage of the weeklong siege of Birmingham by anti-choice protestors, I just got off the phone with Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, field director for Feminist Majority’s National Access Project. I got a tip that there had been some arrests of anti-abortion protestors this morning.

Nancy was inside the New Woman, All Women clinic when we spoke, having worked all week with the clinic staff as they dealt with the protestors. She confirmed that Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue), was arrested between 9:30 and 10 a.m. this morning. She hasn't yet learned, she told me, exactly why he was arrested, or whether Benham's arrest involved a 12-year-old injunction governing activities outside the clinic.

Since 1995, even before the clinic was bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph, Nancy explained, a federal injunction specific to the New Woman location has been in effect requiring protestors to stay behind a 25-foot buffer around the clinic. The injunction also includes a provision against noise reaching certain levels, she asserted. Nancy said she and the clinic staff have been encouraging the Birmingham police to enforce the noise violations of the federal injunction and today they seemed to have done so.

Benham and his group had previously been warned by the police that they were too loud. Yet today the anti-choice protest organizer had turned up his sound amplifier—even louder than it had been before, she related—so that that his "preaching" was could be heard inside the clinic.

After Benham's arrest, Nancy said, all the protestors from his group left to join him at the courthouse.

“For the moment, it’s very quiet here,” she told me. She said that she and the other 50-some pro-choice supporters were waiting to see if Benham and his OSA supporters were going to return. As of 2:30 p.m. they still hadn't returned.

I’ll post news reports and updates as I get them.

---Rachel Joy Larris

Thursday, July 19, 2007

First-Hand Account Of Clinic Protest in Tuscaloosa

As part of Operation Save America’s siege of Birmingham, as I reported yesterday, the group moved their camp to a Tuscaloosa clinic, West Alabama Women’s Center. The group was crowing about the arrest of the Center's director Gloria Gray on their Web site, and since news accounts about Tuesday’s protest in Tuscaloosa didn’t really explain why it was the director who got arrested, I called the Center myself in order to figure out what happened.

I spoke to the Center's registered nurse, Lorrie Foss-McGaha. She said that Tuscaloosa police had told the clinic staff earlier that the anti-abortion group had applied for a permit to demonstrate, but that the permit was for Wednesday, July 18.

“We were excited about that because we’re closed on Wednesdays,” Lorrie explained. But, she said, the Center started getting a bunch of calls from women needing appointments that, according to the callers, could only be on Wednesday. “That’s how the protestors found out we were closed on Wednesdays,” she said.

The clinic opens at 8 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17, Lorrie said, the protestors showed up and "swarmed" all over the property, including the parking lot, which is on private property. Clinic staff, Lorrie asserted, have dozens of pictures of the antichoice protestors on the private property, as close as 12 feet from the front door, despite news coverage saying they were only standing on the “right of way.” (A "right of way" is generally treated as public property by a court of law.)

Protestors, said Lorrie, actually came inside the clinic, as well.

"Two young females [protestors] came inside looking like patients," Lorrie asserted. "And one of receptionists notified us that they walked in. They just asked for a price list and sat down, but they also handed out pamphlets to a patient and they gave one to me. Myself and a policeman escorted them out."

Lorrie described the protestors as having taken over most of the parking lot so that the patients of other health care facilities same complex—a dentist's and an ophthalmologist’s office—couldn’t park, and couldn't avoid looking at the group’s gruesome photos, which they typically carry on oversized signs.

By the time the police arrived, "my director [Gloria Gray] had given them the warning that they were trespassing," Lorrie said. She continued: "We called the police when they first arrived and at first a policewoman arrived. She was very nice, but [the protestors] completely ignored her."

Shortly thereafter, according to Lorrie, more police came but, she said, they were mostly focused on keeping the peace. She said the police didn't seem concerned with the fact the protestors were on private property and lacked a permit.

David Lackey, an Operation Save America official and an organizer of the Tuscaloosa protest, was talking to the officers, Lorrie related, when Gloria Gray, executive director of the clinic, walked over to the where the police and Lackey were talking to explain the situation. That's when Gloria Gray, according to Lorrie, called Lackey a “liar.”

"And then the one cop said to her 'Ma’am, I’m telling you to back off or I’m going to arrest you,'" Lorrie said. Gray then replied, according to Lorrie, "That’s bullshit." At that point, Lorrie explained, the police officer arrested Gray, charging her with disorderly conduct.

Despite the fact that Gray was physically compromised by a medical test she was undergoing (she had a tube inserted into her nose) the officer handcuffed her. Clinic staffers stood nearby, Lorrie said, holding cups of water for Gray to drink because she was getting dry-mouth from the tube.

After being taken to the police department and booked, Gray was released on a signature bond. Lorrie said when she and Gray returned from the station, which was roughly 10:30 a.m., the protestors had moved off the private property. But she relates they also had printed up pamphlets featuring a picture of the doctor at the Center saying: "BEWARE of this [person]; he murders children in your neighborhood" and they had put them on every car in the lot.

The protestors left around noon, Lorrie said, even though the clinic was open until 5 p.m.

The Center normally enjoys good relations with the police department, Lorrie said. She confirmed what Tuscaloosa News reported that the West Alabama Women’s Center is looking into possible legal action against the protesters.

--Rachel Joy Larris

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Women’s Voices Needed For YouTube Debate;
Lifetime Networks to Launch ’08 Campaign

Via BlogHer and Women’s Voices For Change

We know women care about who becomes our next president. But you wouldn’t know it by the number of questions submitted by women for the next round of presidential debates, which are sponsored by YouTube and CNN. Until July 22, anyone can submit a video question via YouTube for the July 23 Democratic debate and until mid-September for the Republican debate on September 17. However, out of the first 200 submissions, according to Nancy McDonald of BlogHer, only 34 were from women!

At Lifetime Television, the women in charge know how much the voices of women matter in presidential elections. (It’s often said that women will decide who wins the presidency in 2008.) That’s why they’re planning to expand their nonpartisan Every Woman Counts campaign, begun in 2000 “to encourage women to get more engaged in the political process as voters and future candidates.” At the Nest Room in Washington, D.C.’s sumptuous Willard Hotel yesterday, Lifetime Networks introduced its new CEO, Andrea Wong, to the leaders of women’s organizations, asking for ideas on how to enlarge the scope of the campaign.

This is an opportunity for your perspective to be heard in the presidential debates. CNN is looking for serious questions that will be televised. Since many of the video questions submitted to date are more humorous than serious, you still have a chance to have your videotaped question used by CNN. And since all the submissions will be posted by YouTube, your video will be viewed by many people on the internet, which could change the public discussion of issues.

Upload your video to http://www.youtube.com/debates, comment below, and post the link to the video in our “comments” section once your video is up. I’ll be linking to posters' YouTube questions.

--- Rachel Joy Larris

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

From Birmingham to Tuscaloosa

As my colleague, Rachel Joy Larris, mentioned below, Operation Rescue, a.k.a., Operation Save America (OSA), is reporting that a woman named Gloria (but referred to as "Jezebel" by the Operation Rescue blogger), who is described as the director of a woman's health clinic in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was arrested today when she confronted the anti-choice group's protestors as they convened outside the West Alabama Women's Center clinic. Now comes confirmation, via an Associated Press dispatch in the Tuscaloosa Times Daily, that a clinic worker (not described as the director), one Gloria Gray, was indeed arrested during the course of the protest:

Police Capt. Greg Kosloff said Gray was outside the clinic during a demonstration when an argument began. Gray disobeyed officers who told her to go back inside and was arrested, he said.
The question that remains to be answered is whether Gray's First Amendment right of free speech was abridged by the arrest. Gray, according to the AP, was released on $500 bond.

--Adele M. Stan

Dispatches From The Birmingham Protests

In light of Gloria Feldt’s excellent column detailing the ongoing Operation Rescue/Operation Save America weeklong protest in Birmingham, Alabama, I wanted to post some first-person blogger reportage of the scene. So far the local paper, The Birmingham News, only offers a few, very dry dispatches. Today’s headline “Abortion protest trouble-free.”

Various reproductive rights groups are in the area counter-protesting (or as I like to think of it, making sure the women in Alabama are allowed to figure out their own lives without judgmental, violent protestors harassing them every step of the way.) The National Abortion Federation has a staffer in the field, but that’s about all I could find so far for scene coverage. I’m happy to post links to any bloggers covering the protest.

This is from the Birmingham News.

Kim Adams, coordinator of the Alabama Reproductive Freedom Summer counter-protest and president of the Greater Birmingham National Organization for Women.

The clinics were open, with more than a dozen supporters standing guard, she said.

"There was no engagement between the two sides," Adams said. "We consider it a bust. They haven't had that many people out today."

I spoke to Larry Rodick, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Alabama. He told me the protestors have been divided between the local Planned Parenthood clinic and the New Woman All Women Health Care site, with latter getting most of them.

But so far his impression is that Operation Rescue didn’t get nearly the numbers of protestors reported by The Birmingham News. For example, Rodick says there were roughly 20 protestors outside the Planned Parenthood site, all of whom then left when it started raining.

But there’s also a breaking development today in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The group is reporting they managed to stir up some trouble for West Alabama's Women’s Center, which seems to have been ambushed by the group. I’ll post news coverage as it become available.

---Rachel Joy Larris

Monday, July 16, 2007

Turning Down The Heat On Abortion Clinic Protests
By Gloria Feldt

It’s the sweltering heat of summer. We can count on seeing ads for escapes to the beach, reminders to wear sunscreen, and the extreme anti-reproductive rights, homophobic Operation Save America's annual attempt to turn up the political heat by mounting a media-circus demonstration at a high-profile women's health center that provides abortions. This summer from July 14 to 22, the target-of-choice is the New Woman, Every Woman Healthcare Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.

If the location and clinic name ring a bell, there’s good reason. In 1998, Eric Robert Rudolf detonated a firebomb of dynamite and nails at the clinic’s front door, killing police officer Robert “Sandy” Sanderson on his beat and seriously wounding clinic nurse Emily Lyons. In addition to sustaining first, second, and third degree burns covering the front of her body, Lyons lost her left eye and her right was seriously damaged. A hole the size of a fist was blown in her abdomen and her left leg was shattered—just for starters.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Supreme Court Decision Jeopardizes Pay Equality

By Lisa Grafstein

You get your first paycheck at a new job and, not one to be shy, you ask the coworker in the next cubicle how much he makes. It turns out you are making fifty cents less per hour doing the same work. Do you literally make a federal case out of it? Under the Supreme Court’s decision this term in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, maybe you should. If you don’t, you may be forever barred from claiming pay discrimination, no matter how much you may have lost in wages over time.