Cheers to equality

Last week, NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota co-sponsored a happy hour with the Sioux Falls Center for Equality.

The point of this happy hour? To gather young professionals together who believe in reproductive choice and marriage equality.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has taken an official stance in support of marriage equality, and we as the South Dakota affiliate were proud to see our organization stand with another group – the LGBT community – that has been marginalized much as those who support reproductive choices often are.

At this event, pro-choice and pro-marriage equality activists came together in the name of equality and justice. At the informal sign-in table we had a poster that people could contribute to. We wanted to display some of the reasons why attendees are pro-choice and pro-marriage equality.

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The people gathered clearly believed that women (and men) are not only the masters of their own bodies, but also their own minds and emotions.

In case you can’t read them in the picture, here are the reasons listed on the poster:

I’m pro-choice and pro-marriage equality because…

my decisions are nobody’s business.

everyone should be able to make their own choices.

equality means understanding everyone is different!

let’s all let people be free to make choices about their own lives.

it’s my life, my choices, my right to be free from others’ religious beliefs.

it’s my body, my love. I give it to whom I want to.

medical decisions are personal and private.

equality only counts if everyone has it!

I don’t make choices for others.

If we can some together to support each other, than hopefully someday we will gather to celebrate, not just advocate.

Native women fight for access to reproductive healthcare

Sunny Clifford is a NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota board member.

I grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, born and raised. I am a child of eight siblings. My mom was married twice and had four children from each marriage. She ended up a single mother of eight. Life was hard growing up. As soon as I found out what my body was capable of (around the age of 12) I didn’t want to be like my mom. I didn’t want to have eight children. We were hungry, sometimes shoeless. I didn’t want to bring that suffering upon anyone. So here I sit, childless, and not unhappy. I have a dog and she’s the best. I waited a really long time to be a dog owner. I want all women to have this right to decide if they want children or not, and when they want them.

The lack of access to reproductive healthcare in South Dakota, especially on an Indian reservation, is astonishing. You’d think you weren’t in the United States, you know with the woman’s right to choose and Roe v. Wade, those freedoms that make life feel as if you have some control over it.

I wasn’t aware of my lack of reproductive rights until last year when I read a report about Native women’s lack of access to Plan B, the morning after pill. (click here for the Roundtable Report on the Access of Plan B as an over-the-counter (OTIC) within Indian Health Service). I read that we are entitled to get the emergency contraceptive through Indian Health Service (IHS). I was shocked and upset that I hadn’t known this before. The reality is that for most of us living on reservations, it has been extremely difficult to access over-the-counter Plan B (however, significant improvements have been made in the past few months due the activism work of incredible Native women). I sat there and thought to myself: Why are so many women being denied this right when the rest of the women in America are not? Is it because we are Indian? Yes, it was because of our race; it was because of our location.

We are denied so many other crucial reproductive rights. Since Cecelia Fire Thunder’s impeachment from her position as tribal president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in 2006—because she stood up for women’s rights in the state of South Dakota—the tribe has outlawed abortion on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. And since then, the state of South Dakota has instated mandatory counseling sessions and a 72-hour wait period prior to obtaining abortion care. Oh, and let’s not forget the numerous other anti-choice, anti-women laws that have been passed recently. Where is our freedom? Where is our choice? Where are our rights?

I feel blessed (most of the time, especially when I’m not menstruating because it’s so utterly painful) to be a woman. I love my body. I love having breasts. I love the idea that I can be host to another being inside my body. It’s beautiful. However, other times, as an Indigenous woman, I feel powerless because of policies that have been forced upon my peoples’ bodies since the days of early colonization.

Let’s reminisce for a sweet moment while I try to take you down a memory lane you have no personal recollection of. In a land not far away from here, on Indian reservations, there once were a people, in particular, a group of women, who were in complete control of their reproductive systems. They knew what plants and teas to consume, they knew those things as medicine for their bodies. They knew when it was appropriate for them to have children and how many they wanted. Their world was turned upside down when the settlers decided that the Native American lands and people were theirs for the taking. This was over a hundred years ago; it still has not ceased.

We cannot feel sorry for our circumstances – okay if you must, take a second or so to feel bad – but then get enraged. Get enraged because we should be the only people to decide for ourselves what to do with our bodies, our precious, beautiful, life-giving bodies (or non life-giving bodies, that should be our choice).

Denying Native American women, and especially those women living in rural areas across the country (and wherever else these violations occur), access to reproductive healthcare is unacceptable. We must all join together and reclaim our bodies, reclaim our minds, reclaim our lives. We do not need Congressmen telling us how we should run our woman parts.

Click here to sign Sunny’s petition on Change.org for IHS to stop blocking access to Plan B.

Marriage equality reaches the Supreme Court

NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota are proud to have an official position in support of marriage equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard almost two hours worth of oral arguments regarding the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. DOMA affects more than 1,000 federal laws and programs with rules whose application depends in part on a person’s marital status. DOMA defines marriage, under federal law, as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The question is whether the law violates constitutional law via federalism or equal protection.

This week the Supreme Court also heard arguments on Tuesday regarding a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in the state.

Currently, same-sex marriage is legal only in nine states: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Hew Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont (plus Washington D.C.). New Mexico and Rhode Island legally recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island allow civil union, while California, Oregon, Nevada and Wisconsin offer domestic partnerships.

The bad news is that marriage equality activists are unlikely to get the sweeping victory that they might have hoped for. The Supreme Court appears reluctant to declare a broad ruling that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry in the United States. In short, the court is moving forward cautiously rather than boldly supporting gay rights.

Considered a crucial swing vote on the issue, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voiced concerns that DOMA is a violation of equal protection rights, and it also undermines states’ rights and federalism. This case ruling will ultimately determine if the federal government has the authority to regulate marriage.

Two of the justifications Congress cited for passing DOMA in 1996 include defending traditional notions of both morality and marriage. The Obama Administration has urged the court to find these two justifications unconstitutional.

If the court strikes down DOMA, then the federal government will have to recognize same-sex marriages in states where they are legal, but the states will still have the freedom to decide separately whether or not to allow gay marriage.

Rulings on both DOMA and Proposition 8 are expected by the end of June.

Choice: There’s an app for that

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The app store – not exactly the first place you’d look to as a platform for the battle for reproductive rights and comprehensive sex education, but nevertheless these issues have found their way into the world of mini specialized programs. Found on mobile devices and tablets, apps are ultra accessible, downloading at the touch of a button, but they also put users at the mercy of the developers.

What kind of information is the app providing? What is the scope of the information?

We searched for apps that came up under “pro-choice,” “pro-life,” “abortion” and “sex education.” We found some programs that offered balanced, factual information, but we also found others that do nothing but lead women to crisis pregnancy centers and shame.

Here’s a brief breakdown of some of the best – and worst – apps that we found.

Best

Birdees

This bright, light-hearted app is an interactive sexual education tool for parents to teach children ages 2-8 about their bodies and sex. Using information from expert opinions and current scientific research, this virtual sex education experience facilitates communication and features age appropriate models. They are currently working on modules for ages 9-12 and 13-15.

SafeSex101

Produced by a division of the campus newspaper at UCLA, this app is chalk full of sexual definitions and lessons. The app lists the definitions of different contraceptives and locations where they can be found. While the location information isn’t helpful outside of the Los Angeles area, the other content is universal. The lessons include everything from how to put on a condom to talking to a provider and sexual consent.

Worst

OnlineForLife

This app is produced by the nonprofit Online For Life, and is meant to provide real-time alerts from crisis pregnancy centers that are affiliated with the app. Users are encouraged to join a prayer team that receives notifications when appointments are made at local crisis pregnancy centers, and they are notified when the center has “rescued” a baby. Users are also asked to make monetary donations.

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From this app users can email or call a crisis pregnancy center from this app. The app also includes images of a developing fetus and newborns, videos about how to inform parents of a pregnancy, and a quiz to help determine if a woman is pregnant. The messaging is anti-choice. At the bottom of the images page it asks, “…Why is it when I wanted the baby – it was a baby, and when I didn’t – it was something else?”

Help Pass the Access to Birth Control Act

Senia Hiltunen is the Fundraising and Policy Intern for NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota. 

Picture this; you go into a pharmacy to refill your prescribed birth control from your doctor. You hand the pharmacist your prescription, and he gets a weird look on his face. Then, he hands back your prescription and tells you that they cannot fill your PRESCRIBED birth control because it is against his moral beliefs. You leave the pharmacy empty-handed, feeling ashamed and embarrassed. This picture of a story is real.  It has happened before, even in this state. Actually, only seven states hold pharmacies accountable if their pharmacists block women from getting birth control prescriptions filled.  This is WRONG!

Letting a pharmacist lecture a woman about birth control or emergency contraception is not only humiliating for the woman, but also an overstep of authority for the pharmacist.  Birth control is a prescribed medication from a doctor who has seen and validated it as a medical need. As for emergency contraception, it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter sale to adults.  For pharmacists to use their personal beliefs to interfere with essential women’s healthcare is an insult to women and medical professionals alike. 

But now, there is a way you can help stop this ridiculous practice.

It’s called the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Frank Lautneberg (D-NJ.) If enacted, it would ensure that a pharmacist’s personal beliefs do not hinder a women’s right by making sure that pharmacies have policies in place to guarantee timely access to prescription medicines for paying customers. With the ABC Act, Congress has an opportunity to give women control over their reproductive health by ensuring access to birth control, the most commonsense way to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion.

NARAL needs YOU to help pass this crucial piece of legislation by contacting your U.S. representatives and senators, and urge them to co-sponsor and pass the ABC Act.

NARAL has set up a way where you can easily contact them here.

So, please join me and NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota in standing up against rogue pharmacists and supporting the ABC Act to ensure access to birth control for everyone, everywhere in the U.S.

FB Campaign Highlights Weekend Woes

In the wake of the state Senate’s disappointing passage of House Bill 1237 yesterday, we have started a social media campaign to let the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Jon Hansen, know how much we pro-choice activists disagree with his intrusion into our personal lives and reproductive freedom.

The weekend is nearly here, so we know that the brains of women all across the state of South Dakota are about to shutdown, not to think another thought until business hours resume on Monday. But since Rep. Hansen pretends to care so much for women, and since he is clearly the legislative expert on women’s reproductive health, why not ask him to help you with the questions that you will be unable to answer for yourself this weekend?

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Thinking on the weekends is hard (near impossible!) for women. Rep. Hansen is here to help. You can find Rep. Hansen’s campaign page on Facebook here.

Ask away!

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HB 1237 moves to the Senate floor

This morning the Senate State Affairs Committee voted 6–3 to send HB 1237 to the Senate floor, with only the Sens. Frerichs, Tieszen, and Lucas voting against it.

Proponents of the bill testified that the extension to the 72-hour mandatory waiting period would allow women to comply with another requirement – that they must make a forced visit to a crisis pregnancy center before receiving care. The centers, according to proponents, can’t possibly be expected to have counselors available for women on the weekends and during holidays, so women must wait longer for services to be available to them. In essence, the concern from proponents is that CPCs are able to coarse women as comfortably and leisurely as possible. Never mind that a women may be in crisis and struggle on the weekends. Or during Christmas.

We are sorely disappointed that HB 1237 has been allowed to progress this far, and we will continue to advocate against it in the Senate.

HB 1237, Senate State Affairs, Do Pass

Olson (Russell) Yea Rave Yea Lucas Nay
Rhoden Yea Brown Yea Tieszen Nay
Frerichs Nay Lederman Yea Johnston Yea
Ayes 6 Nays 3 Excused 0 Absent 0

Rallies against HB 1237

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Yesterday at our Sioux Falls rally against House Bill 1237 pro-choice activists braved the cold weather for more than an hour to show their support for the women and families that stand to be affected by this offensive legislation.

If you haven’t heard yet, HB 1237 redefines the state’s 72-hour mandatory delay and two-trip requirement by applying it only to business days – weekends and holidays are excluded from counting toward the three-day waiting period. In practice, this could lead to a delay of weeks.

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An anti-choice counter rally formed on the other side of the street, but only with half the amount of supporters. Many people driving by honked their horns, gave us thumbs up or waved in support. We also talked to passerby who were supportive, some even picked up signs and joined us for a few minutes! One passerby, Valerie, told us that we could walk to a nearby business and have a hot cup of coffee on her. We were grateful for her generosity and encouragement.

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Then Emmett joined us with a great homemade sign.

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Meanwhile, across the state in Rapid City pro-choice activists were also gathering to show support for women.

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Activists across the state are standing up for women’s reproductive rights. We were proud to have so much participation in the rallies!

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And on it goes…

Alisha Sedor is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota.

This week, HB 1237, the legislation to exclude weekends and holidays from the already egregious 72-hour mandatory waiting period, was heard on the house floor.

The bill passed by a vote of 56-13 after a lengthy and heated debate. HB 1237 was on the agenda as part of Crossover Day, which is the last day for a bill to leave its chamber of origin. In other words, if it was introduced in the House first, it has to be voted on in the House and sent to the Senate by that day or the bill dies, and vice versa for those introduced in the Senate.

Crossover Day almost always proves to be a long day, and this was no exception with HB 1237 floor debate not even starting until 7:30pm CT. (You can listen here at 3:13:35)   Opposition was voiced by Reps. Peggy Gibson, Marc Feinstein, Paula Hawks and Karen Soli, each highlighting a different reason for voting against the bill.

As we all know, abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman to make. Politicians can’t know every woman’s circumstances and have no business inserting themselves into that decision making process. H.B.1237 allows for government interference into personal, private medical decisions that are best left to a woman, her family, her faith and the medical provider of her choice. We send our thanks to the legislators who recognized this voting against HB 1237 and speaking out in opposition on the House Floor.

HB 1237, House, Do Pass Amended

Bartling Yea Bolin Yea Cammack Yea
Campbell Yea Carson Yea Conzet Yea
Craig Yea Cronin Yea Dryden Nay
Duvall Yea Ecklund Yea Erickson Yea
Feickert Yea Feinstein Nay Gibson Nay
Greenfield Yea Haggar (Don) Yea Haggar (Jenna) Yea
Hajek Yea Hansen Yea Hawks Nay
Hawley Nay Heinemann (Leslie) Yea Heinert Excused
Hickey Yea Hoffman Yea Hunhoff (Bernie) Yea
Johns Nay Kaiser Yea Killer Nay
Kirschman Yea Kopp Yea Latterell Yea
Lust Yea Magstadt Yea May Nay
Mickelson Yea Miller Yea Munsterman Yea
Nelson Yea Novstrup (David) Yea Olson (Betty) Yea
Otten (Herman) Yea Parsley Nay Peterson Yea
Qualm Yea Rasmussen Yea Ring Yea
Romkema Nay Rounds Yea Rozum Yea
Russell Yea Schaefer Yea Schoenfish Yea
Schrempp Yea Sly Yea Soli Nay
Solum Yea Stalzer Yea Steele Yea
Stevens Yea Tulson Yea Tyler Yea
Verchio Yea Werner Yea Westra Yea
Wick Yea Wink Nay Wismer Nay
Gosch Yea
Ayes 56 Nays 13 Excused 1 Absent 0

HB 1237 received its first reading on the Senate floor yesterday, February 21, and was referred to the Senate State Affairs committee. The hearing will occur in the coming weeks, we hope our readers will reach out to committee members via phone and/or email and express opposition to HB 1237.

Rally in Pierre to protest HB 1237

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On Friday morning February 15, 2013 pro-choice advocates gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Building in Pierre to protest against House Bill 1237, which was up for discussion and vote in the House Judiciary Committee. HB 1237 redefines the state’s 72-hour mandatory delay and two-trip requirement by applying it only to business days—weekends and holidays are excluded from counting toward the three-day waiting period.

Representative Peggy Gibson and Senator Angie Buhl joined activists on the steps to show their support for killing the bill in the House committee. Rep. Gibson talked about how the bill opposes what South Dakota women believe about making decisions for their own bodies.

Holding handmade signs, advocates braved the chilly weather on the steps before heading inside to sit-in on the House Judiciary Committee meeting. After hearing testimony from both the bill proponents and opponents (including our executive director and an intern), the committee voted on whether or not to send HB 1237 to the House floor. Rep. Gibson attempted to kill the bill, but was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, the House Judiciary Committee voted to send the bill onward, with only Rep. Gibson and Rep. Killer voting against it (Rep. Feinstein was excused).

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HB 1237, House Judiciary, Do Pass Amended

Wink Yea Killer Nay Feinstein Excused
Gibson Nay Hoffman Yea Magstadt Excused
Kopp Yea Erickson Yea Stevens Yea
Johns Yea Hajek Yea Hansen Yea
Gosch Yea
Ayes 9 Nays 2 Excused 2 Absent 0