Reproductive Justice

NAPAWF's Miriam Yeung and the Co-Creators of Women War & Peace Honored by The National Council for Research on Women

On March 6, The National Council for Research on Women (NCRW), a network of 120 leading U.S. research, policy and advocacy centers to improve and celebrate women's leadership across the public, for-profit and non-profit sectors, held its 2012 Making A Difference Awards. This year, Miriam Yeung, the Executive Director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), is to be among those celebrated at this awards ceremony for her work to advance women’s issues and promote female leadership. To remind readers, NAPAWF is the only national Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women’s multi-issue, social justice and human rights advocacy organization in the country. It works to guarantee the self-determination and dignity of API women and girls by prioritizing anti-trafficking advocacy, immigrant rights, environmental justice and reproductive justice within a human rights framework. Ms. Yeung’s leadership has been integral to many of the important projects, accomplishments and collaborations that the group has engaged in.The Overbrook Foundation congratulates Miriam on this honor as she continues her work to advocate for issues that are important to women of the API community.

In addition to Miriam Yeung, Abigail Disney, Pamela Hogan and Gini Reticker, co-creators of PBS's Women War & Peace, were honored at this event. As explained in a communication from WNET/Thirteen to our Foundation, this series demonstrates “how women are becoming primary targets and suffering unprecedented casualties in contemporary conflicts – yet they are simultaneously emerging as key partners in brokering peace and forging new international laws.” Overbrook supported this project by funding its accompanying educational materials designed to bring lessons and video on conflict and human rights concepts into schools around the country. Through this award, we continue to see the impact of and the recognition for this film and its creators who have so powerfully brought issues of women’s human rights to the broad public.

In addition to honoring these human rights and social justice activists, The Overbrook Foundation would like to wish our readers a wonderful International Women’s Day.We take this day to recognize the important contributions of our many grantees to protect and advance the human rights for women both in the United States and beyond.

National Sexuality Education Standards Released in January 2012

After two years of development and coordination among researchers, national organizations on health education, doctors, public health professionals, teachers, young people and representatives of social justice and reproductive health organizations, National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12, the first report to compile standards for sexuality education, has been released. In response to the inconsistent and uncoordinated teaching of sexuality education across different states and school districts within the U.S., this publication provides a minimum base level of age-appropriate sexuality education for students in K-12. Major authors of the project are American Association for Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, the Society of State Leaders for Health and Physical Education, and the Future of Sex Education Initiative (with the involvement of Overbrook grantee Advocates for Youth).

These guidelines are meant to assist teachers in translating "an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can be put into practice in the classroom.” The report presents a rationale for sexuality education in schools citing parental desire for this curriculum and statistical information on improved graduation rates and school performance, an opportunity to minimize bullying in schools, increased empowerment for students and adolescents, and a link to decreased rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended teenage pregnancy. However, the majority of the report outlines basic lessons, goals and content to be covered in each grade. The seven topics in these standards include anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent development, identity, pregnancy and reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, healthy relationships and personal safety. Despite maintaining a health focus, these standards contain extensive requirements for teaching about gender identity, sexual orientation, bullying, sexual assault, different family structures, proper anatomy and respect.

Many of the Overbrook Foundation’s Reproductive Justice grantees, including Advocates for Youth, stress the importance of comprehensive, quality and age-appropriate sexuality education for their constituents in all schools regardless of resource allocation, the community served or the geographic location.So, we are pleased to hear about grantee progress in this area. While the impact of these recommendations is yet to be seen, these standards are an important step towards making quality sexuality education more widely available to American children and adolescents. Access to this information will help individuals to make informed choices about their own sexuality and their relationships with others.

Please click here if you are interested in an article describing the response and a more complete summary of the new standards.It includes comments from Advocates for Youth President, Debra Hauser.If you are interested in the details of the standards, please download the full version of this publication.

Defending Women's Rights in Oklahoma

Another victory for one of our grantees, the Center for Reproductive Rights -- this time, in Oklahoma.  That's where a judge blocked a new law intended to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state.  Lawmakers passed the measure earlier this year, which would have prohibited doctors from prescribing drugs for off-label uses, including abortions.  Attorneys for Oklahoma argue the drugs should only be used in accordance with FDA guidelines.  But opponents contend drugs are often prescribed for uses other than those stated on their labels; and the bill puts vulnerable women at risk -- not to mention, undermines their constitutional rights.  The Center filed the lawsuit earlier this month, on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, an abortion rights group, and Nova Health Systems, an abortion provider. Yesterday's temporary injunction prevents the measure from going into law next month.

"We are extremely pleased that women in Oklahoma will continue to have access to treatment options for pregnancy terminations that have been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations around the world," said Michelle Movahed, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The Overbrook Foundation praises the Center for its ongoing commitment to protecting women's rights in the face of constant legal attacks.

To read the full press release on the Center for Reproductive Rights' website, click here.

Major Reproductive Rights Victory in Texas

A federal judge has blocked key parts of Texas' new abortion law, which would have been one of the strictest in the nation.  Overbrook Foundation grantee The Center for Reproductive Rights sued to overturn the measure, which Gov. Rick Perry (who's now leading the pack of Republican presidential nominees) called an "emergency item."  Earlier this summer, the Center filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Texas abortion providers, then requested a preliminary injunction.  The Center argued the law violated doctors' First Amendment rights by requiring them to deliver politically-motivated messages to female patients.  The measure would have forced doctors to show patients ultrasound images of the fetus before the abortion, and require patients to listen to the fetal heartbeat.  Patients could only opt out of seeing the images by signing a statement, declaring they had become pregnant through incest or sexual assault.   Yesterday, Judge Sam Sparks struck down both of these key provisions.  The ruling underscores the continuing need to fight for women's reproductive rights in states where they remain under attack.  For more details, click here.

Trust Texas Women

Some high-profile cases are chipping away at some of the strides made by Roe v. Wade – but the Center for Reproductive Rights, an Overbrook Foundation grantee, is stepping in to meet one such challenge.  A seminar at the Center’s national office earlier this month outlined some of the frightening ways in which pro-life legislation has been encroaching on reproductive rights.  The measure set to go into law later this year in Texas is one of the most restrictive in recent memory.

Starting this fall, a woman seeking an abortion will not be able to undergo the procedure before meeting certain requirements.  More specifically, the law will force a patient to receive an ultrasound, look at the images, and hear detailed information on the fetus.  And it doesn’t end there.  After the initial visit, the patient will have to wait 24 hours to receive the abortion (unless she traveled at least 100 miles to the abortion provider).  Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the measure into law this past May, calling it an “emergency item.”  It places Texas on par with Oklahoma, in terms of having some of the most restrictive ultrasound laws in the nation.

But the Center isn’t letting the law take effect without calling for some emergency action of its own.  Last week, the Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the physicians and medical clinics affected by the measure.  It also unleashed its newest campaign: “Trust Texas Women.”  According to the campaign’s website, the suit calls the new law an attack on “physicians’ free-speech rights by requiring them to deliver ‘politically motivated’ messages” and “that the law could put doctors cross-wise with the wishes of their patients.”

Hopefully, the initiative – and impending lawsuit – will help restore a woman’s full right to choose, which measures like this are unfortunately trying to overturn.  Roe v. Wade entrusts women to be able to make decisions about their bodies for themselves; and politics shouldn’t get in the way of a doctor being able to provide much-needed services.

If you’d like to contribute to the Center’s campaign, or join Team Texas, click here.