Efforts to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

Yes, Donald Trump is president of the United States of America and yes, he is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. And yes, he immediately went to work, in lock-step with Congress, dismantling healthcare programs. Massive demonstrations here in Minnesota, across the country, and around the world did nothing to dissuade him or Congress from pursuing a course of action that may well prove to be detrimental to the health and well-being of many families in this country.

As one of his first acts as president, Mr. Trump signed the “MINIMIZING THE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PENDING REPEAL” executive order on January 20, 2017.

In this executive order, Mr. Trump clearly states his intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is no mention of a replacement plan.

Per section 2 of the order, governmental agencies may, at their discretion, deny services authorized by the Act. Some of the agencies that provide healthcare services are Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs, Social Security Administration, Indian Health Services and others.

Sec. 2. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”

In the most extreme scenario, all healthcare services presently authorized by the Act could be summarily halted. Imagine the impact this would have on women, men, and children across the country! More likely, there will be an erosion of services over a period of time as classes of conditions and/or groups of people are excluded.

This action by Mr. Trump is a danger to the health and welfare of many women and families in the United States.

The President and Members of Congress all have great healthcare plans totally paid for by us, the taxpayers. Apparently, the rest of us aren’t entitled to economical healthcare and prescription medications.

Contact your representatives and let them know that we all deserve access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.

I should have been in a theater on Monday night

On Monday night I should have been in a theater watching Invisible War with 116 people who want to fix a broken military judicial system that enables the continuation of pervasive sexual assault. Sadly, MN NOW and our co-sponsors fell 50 people short of the required 117 tickets sold to screen Invisible War.

I first saw Invisible War a couple years ago when Gender Justice organized a screening, and I was so disappointed in how few people showed up. They did nothing wrong in how they marketed the screening. There was no other event that any of us knew about that was drawing away any possible audience. They even lined up an amazing panel of experts to discuss the film and answer questions. To this day, I don’t know why more people didn’t show up, but I was determined to screen it again. But once again, we didn’t get the turnout that the movie deserved. We didn’t get the turnout that the survivors deserve.

So why? Maybe our potential audience was distracted because they were busy with Get out the Vote efforts. The election was on November 4, and our deadline to sell 117 tickets was just three days later on November 7. Maybe, maybe not. I have a few other thoughts about why people aren’t showing up to see this important movie.

A friend tells me that it’s available on Netflix, so why would someone pay for a ticket to see it? I’m glad that it’s on Netflix and hopefully reaching a wide audience, but I see a definite value in screening it for a group. When I saw it, I received the benefit of expert panelists who could address questions from the audience. I attended the movie with a friend who had survived sexual violence in the military, and her insights were invaluable. Additionally, this movie will challenge your heart and soul. It is not easy to watch. I would recommend that you have someone to emotionally support you after watching it.

At my social media seminar today, the organizer pulled up a meme of a baby with a scrunched up face. All of the attendees giggled, and he made the point that he chose that image because all of us in the room had some connection to the image (one pregnant lady and two doting aunties in the room), and that is why it appealed to us. The point of the lesson was that people respond to familiar and appealing images. Perhaps we don’t relate to the experience of the woman soldier on the promotional materials and so we feel somewhat removed from their lives.

I hope that the people who read this will share your thoughts about why people didn’t show up for the viewing, because we are not deterred. We will find a way to screen the movie, because the message is too important not to share.

The isolation that any rape survivor feels is multiplied times ten when it happens in the military. The process of military justice is not conducive to justice for survivors at all. Imagine if your boss raped you, and he was your only means of obtaining justice. Imagine being stationed in the middle of nowhere, and having to work alongside your rapist(s) day after day with no independent venue for justice.

This is why it is important for us to show up in droves to view Invisible War, even if we don’t serve in the military.

Here are some of the truths shared in Invisible War:

“Service members must report rape to their commanders. However, if their commanders take action and prove that rape occurred, they also prove a failure of their own leadership.”- Brian Lewis, who was 20 years old when he was raped while in the Navy.

14 percent of female veterans report experiences of gang rape.

About 40 percent of victims in one study indicated that the perpetrator was their ranking officer.

One-third of victims indicate that the perpetrator was a ranking officer’s friend.

“I was repeatedly drugged and raped by several of my superior officers over a nine-month period. …There was no one I could turn to because, like so many victims of sexual assault in the military, my attackers were in my chain of command. So I kept my mouth shut.” – Testimony of Trina McDonald, who was 18 when she was stationed in Alaska and assaulted.

62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault experienced retaliation.

Heath X reported that he was gang raped, told he was lying, threatened, bullied, assaulted again and tried to commit suicide all during his first month in the service. He left, became homeless, was incarcerated and was diagnosed as suffering “intense psychological pain.” He was taken to a naval jail, and then returned to his post where he had to serve with the “gang of molesters” that had attacked him before. He faced court-martial or dishonorable discharge. He was denied benefits because he was dishonorably discharged. He was 18.

90 percent of survivors of sexual assault in the military are involuntarily discharged.

80 percent of perpetrators and those accused are discharged with honor.

Kori Cioca was serving in the US Coast Guard when she was raped by a commanding officer. He also broke her jaw, leaving her with lifelong pain and serious depression. When she attempted to bring him to justice, she was informed by her commanding officer that she’d be court martial as a liar. The commanding officer admitted that an assault happened, but said it didn’t include rape. As such, he was only restricted to his base for 30 days without pay for a short time.

By the terms of the current military legal code of justice system a general’s decision to overturn a jury verdict is the final word.

If you find these truths to be disturbing, I encourage you to see and hear them directly from the survivors’ mouths. MN NOW will continue our efforts to screen this movie again in the Twin Cities, with your help.

~Beth Johnson, MN NOW President

This is dedicated to my dear friend, who passed away last year from injuries related to a serious drinking problem. She drank to numb the memory of the rape committed by her training officer while she was serving our country.

~The chances of a female veteran developing PTSD are nine times more likely if she has been sexually assaulted.

~Military victims of violent assault or rape are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than service members and veterans who have not experienced sexual assault and rape.

Let’s Talk About Sexual Violence in the Military

The American military is an institution founded in patriotism and shrouded in the mystique of brotherhood and love of country. I’m grateful for the important and life-threatening responsibilities that the men and women of our military undertake on a daily basis. I also know that it’s something I could never do. The aim of this post is not to question the bravery of those who serve our country but to express my anger with how the U.S. military handles instances of sexual assault.

I read an alarming statistic the other day in my research about sexual assault in the military — a female soldier is more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. Also, women make up 15% of armed forces, but 47% of sexual assault cases. Although women are ‘allowed’ to serve in the military along side men, in terms of their own bodily autonomy they are certainly not equal.

Soldiers — both men and women — who report sexual assault are subjected to lifelong consequences that affect their physical and emotional wellbeing as well as their career. Ninety percent of sexual assault survivors in the armed forces are involuntarily discharged. The perpetrators of these crimes aren’t usually punished in any way. In fact, 80% of those accused are actually discharged with honor.

I recently rediscovered an article in Huffington Post that lists 50 powerful and eye opening statistics about sexual assault in the military — and links to the original articles and research for your reference. I found that reading these statistics and other studies and watching “The Invisible War,” has made me realize how frequently sexual assault occurs in the military and that it’s a huge problem we have yet to solve.

We’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has served in the armed forces about their experiences with sexual assault — whether it was something you witnessed, experienced, or came across while you were serving. If you have something to contribute, please sound off in the comments or Tweet to us at @Minnesota_NOW using the hashtag #NotInvisible.

We are co-sponsoring a screening of the Invisible War on November 17th at St. Anthony Main Theater, and hosting a discussion with a panel of experts after our screening. If you haven’t seen The Invisible War, or even if you have, I highly suggest you make the time to watch it with us — we need folks from all perspectives to truly create a well-rounded discussion.

Get your tickets here!

Join Us at Pro-Choice Lobby Day 2013!

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The 2012 election brought some positive shifts to the Capitol, moving us from a solidly anti-choice House and Senate to a slim pro-choice majority in the Senate–though the House retained its anti-choice majority. With these changes we can look forward to advancing women’s reproductive healthcare while, at the same time, defending our reproductive rights from the repeated anti-choice attacks on the horizon.

PRO-CHOICE LOBBY DAY is an incredible opportunity to talk with your legislators about the plans for the new Healthcare Exchange which will bring essential coverage to thousands of Minnesotans.  The Healthcare Exchange will also provide the opportunity to increase reproductive healthcare options and access to Minnesotans!

Family planning, birth control, abortion procedures, wellness visits and many other services must be included in this debate, and we need you to help make this happen!

Please join us on February 20th and share your thoughts on reproductive healthcare with your Legislators as we stand together to move Minnesota’s women forward!

RSVP for this FREE event here: http://www.prochoicelobbyday.org/

SEE YOU THERE!

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Robin Marty & Jessica Mason Pieklo Preview “Crow After Roe”

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As part of the Minnesota Choice Coalition’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Minnesota NOW is thrilled to host Twin Cities-based writers Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo for a talk about the state of reproductive rights today.

This special event happens on Thursday, January 17, 2013, from 8-9 pm, at the  Ridgedale Public Library (12061 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka MN, 55305) The official, very shareable Facebook invitation: https://www.facebook.com/events/318790854897466/

Marty and Pieklo will offer a special preview of their book, Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That. It will be published in April, but you can pre-order your copy now!

From the book’s Amazon listing:

2013 will mark the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, one of the most divisive rulings ever to shape American politics. In recent years, attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade have reached a fevered pitch. Since 2010 hundreds of bills banning or creating roadblocks to abortion access, contraception, and basic women’s health have been proposed across the United States, with nearly one hundred new laws going into effect. The goal is to create a law that will eventually be brought before the most conservative Supreme Court ever to occupy the bench, in order to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard In Women’s Health And How We Can Change That takes a look at twelve states that since 2010 have each passed a different anti-abortion or anti-women’s health law, and how each law is explicitly written to provoke a repeal of Roe v. Wade. The book will detail not just the history of the laws in question, but how they challenge Roe v. Wade and create a reproductive health care system that puts women—especially poor, rural, or those of color—into a separate class with fewer choices or control.

Robin Marty is RH Reality Check’s senior political reporter, focusing primarily on state legislation restricting women’s reproductive rights. Her political, women’s rights, and reproductive articles have appeared in Ms. magazine, Truthout, AlterNet, and BlogHer.

Jessica Mason Pieklo is the assistant director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline Law School in St. Paul, Minnesota. She covers law and politics at Care2.com and RH Reality Check. Her articles have appeared in Ms. magazine, Truthout, and AlterNet.

A survivor’s voice to #PassVAWA2012

TODAY, November 14,  is the #PassVAWA2012 Day of Action.  Why?

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  You can be forgiven for being “unaware,” for the presidential election seemed to swallow up the world’s attention. The issue of violence against women barely made a ripple in the ocean of campaign ads, debates, and literature, though the reauthorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act has been held up in Congress for nearly two years, subject to partisan bickering over what should be a very simple vote in support of fully funding resources to combat violence in our communities across the country.

One woman didn’t forget–she couldn’t.  She is our friend and colleague Laurie Olmon, and she is a survivor.  She made this video to remind us all of what’s at stake.

Please watch and tell others–especially your Senators and Representatives–that domestic violence affects everyone, every day, in every community.

Take action NOW! Join the #PassVAWA2012 Social Media Campaign! 

From our friends at the National Task Force to End Sexual & Domestic Violence Against Women:

Be a part of a ground-breaking campaign to leverage the full power of social media in fighting for the Reauthorization of VAWA! Join the #PassVAWA2012 Facebook Photo Campaign to tell Congress that it’s time to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act!  It’s easy, just snap photos of you, your friends, your colleagues, & sympathetic strangers holding up signs saying why we need to Pass VAWA NOW!  Submit your photos via email to lccref@gmail.com or tweetpic with #PassVAWA2012. 

Join the Task Force at 12:00pm Eastern on Thursday, November 8th for a very important VAWA update and organizing call. Dial-in Number: 1-213-226-0400 Conference Code: 451747

Additional information:

Alexandra House, providing support, resources, and advocacy for survivors of violence and the families in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota

National NOW Core Issues: Violence Against Women

“I’ve had enough trying to fit a cultural definition of beautiful.”

TRIGGER WARNING: this post contains graphic depictions of living with eating disorders.. We share it today in observance of the National NOW Foundation’s 2012 Love Your Body Day. It is our belief that telling our stories is a powerful and transformative feminist act.  A list of resources is available at the end of the post. All images, except the 2012 Love Your Body Day contest winner, were taken from online “thinspiration” sites that Andrea refers to in her essay.

By Andrea Persephone Sand, Minnesota NOW Affirmative Action Chair

Hipbones and collarbones, muscles and tendons, that space between your legs. The more I found, the better and worse I felt about myself. The less my scale showed, the greater the accomplishment and the further the goal was pushed back. It felt like the only real control I had over anything in my life was over what and how much went in to my body, and how much of it made it to digestion. Nobody noticed my warning signs, and since nobody seemed intent on asking if I was okay, I never really mentioned what was going on. I even began using it as a joke, to see if anyone took me seriously. When asked how I was dropping all this weight, I just responded “lots of exercise and a diet low in food.”

By the time I sought help, my weight had dropped 70 or so pounds in under six months. It became something more like 80 or 90 by the time I dropped out of a treatment program I felt was counter-productive. As I write this, over a year after the fact, I have lost about 100 pounds. I’m happy my weight loss has slowed down or stopped, I hope that I’m holding at what I was the last time I had to go to the doctors. I don’t know. I had to have a friend throw away my scale for me because I knew I couldn’t do it myself. How do you throw away something you use 8-10 times a day, even if it’s destroying you? An addiction is an addiction, no matter how you look at it.

I’ve lost so much over the last year, it’s heartbreaking for me to have to think back over it all. The money I’ve lost replacing things I’ve forgotten, or the money I’ve lost when I’ve misplaced my wallet in public spaces. Your memory fades from you, you see, and eventually you have trouble even holding a conversation. I’ve lost all semblance of self. I feel I look physically similar now as I did over a year ago, and my obsession and addiction to weight loss even led me to sell my car and upgrade to a nice bicycle to get everywhere with. I’ve lost any form of confidence I had in myself. My tiniest transgressions in public or private will cause me to not only immediately apologize, but also dwell on it from between the next few hours to the next decade or so. I have no idea how to forgive myself for anything I’ve ever done wrong.

Before my computer melted down and I had to reinstall the operating system, losing all my information, I had a large folder of what some people refer to as “thinspirational” pictures and images. These are pictures of naturally skinny people with things like hipbones and collarbones, ribcages and spines. It is essentially holding up a picture of what you really wanted to compare against what you have. These people though, they aren’t starved and they aren’t hungry. They’re naturally healthy, and were born that way. It’s not healthy and now that I’m in struggling through recovery, when I see my friends who battle similar food demons post pictures like this on their facebook or tumblr, I become worried and talk to them. The hardest part of recovery with any addiction is it’s so similar to cancer. You never truly beat it, you’re just in recovery or remission until your next relapse or death. Even now, there are still days where I do not eat. Even still, there are times where I feel I’ve eaten far too much and need to purge, lest my weight returns.

There is nothing quite as sobering as having to have a tooth yanked out, and having it snap off in your head with the healthy roots still dug in for dear life. I rotted away enough of my wisdom teeth that two were just yanked out today. The only thing more sobering than seeing a tooth in four pieces is later weeping in to your pillow, crying “what have I done to myself” as you drool blood on your bedsheets. I swear I have to recover harder. I am so scared, because now that I’ve stopped intentionally starving myself I’m waiting for all these health problems to boomerang back around at me full force. From the first time I had to beg my brother to take me to the hospital, to him being here now helping me deal with two missing teeth, anorexia and bulimia have robbed me of everything it tricked me in with. I feel fatter than ever, I have no self-esteem, my teeth are falling out and my hair is still coming out in clumps so I feel pretty ugly and misshapen, and my body is slow to heal and doesn’t feel much pain below a threshold of ‘sheer agony’. My nerve endings died a little, became less responsive to input. Where my hand could feel chilly or cold water before, now it can’t; not until it feels like frostbite. Peripheral neuropathy? What the fuck is that? My hands and feet will randomly go numb; do you know how scary that is to just lose feeling in parts of your body for minutes and then have it come back? This happens far too fucking often for me!

They need to have warning labels on beauty magazines like cigarettes; warning: Not all people are meant to look this way.

Anorexia and Bulimia can and will greatly reduce your quality of life. You are beautiful, and shouldn’t aspire to be anyone other than you.

So I’ve had enough trying to fit a cultural definition of beautiful. I’m still not skinny and I don’t give a fuck. I can’t believe I’ve been had so hard by the ad industry, by the health industry, by far too many industries telling me I’m fat, that I’m worthless, that I’m ugly and undesirable, and that there is something wrong with me that needs to change and/or die in a fire. I’m still “overweight” and I can count my ribs, I can see my spine, and I FINALLY just lost the little baby hair growing on the back of my neck; my memory’s almost back and I can carry a conversation again. You know what? I’m not having them rip out the other two wisdom teeth. I’ll be “fat” and “ugly” and healthy and happy. We’re built the way we are. Can we celebrate this fact for once instead of mourn it every time it doesn’t line up with a Victoria’s Secret or Calvin Klein model? Can we give each other a fighting shot at not crying our collective selves to sleep at night?

RESOURCES:

National Eating Disorders Association (includes a toll-free help line)

The Joy Project (a Twin Cities-based ED support & advocacy group)

Sex, Stereotypes and Women (a project of the National NOW Foundation)