When Being HIV-Positive Becomes a Prison Sentence
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the start of the health insurance exchange application period, on October 1, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is especially true for people working to end the HIV epidemic in the United States. For starters, enrolling in health-care plans should help more people with HIV access treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), an estimated 1.2 million people are HIV-positive in the United States, but only 940,000 know their status. Of those who know they have HIV, only half are receiving care for the virus.
There is also hope that the ACA will help more people who don’t know their HIV status to find out what it is and, if necessary, get linked to care. But what if finding out you have HIV opens you up to criminal prosecution? Even though the health-care reform law has made it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against such enrollees, people newly discovering their HIV status may find themselves facing prison time.
And that has got to stop.
Four Things You Probably Don’t Know About Title IX
Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 6th, is National Girls & Women in Sports Day, which has people singing the praises of Title IX from soccer fields, softball diamonds, tracks, pools and countless other sporting venues — and for good reason! Title IX is an enormously important law for female athletes — no other law has done more to expand opportunities for women and girls in athletics. While there is still work to be done, the progress we have made thanks to Title IX is tremendous.
But what many people don’t know is that the benefits and protections of Title IX aren’t limited to athletics. Here are four other ways Title IX is there for young women (and men, too):
1. Equal opportunities in career and technical programs in traditionally male-dominated fields
Title IX requires that girls and boys be given equal opportunities in career and technical education programs, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields. Getting more women in these fields may be the key to closing the gender wage gap, since predominantly female occupations pay lower wages than predominantly male ones. Women still face barriers and a lack of encouragement in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (often referred to as STEM), but Title IX has broadened opportunities for a number of women and girls.
Dear Schools, Please Stop Discriminating Based on Pregnancy. Thanks, Title IX
Imagine you’re an honors student at a community college. You’re doing great: you’ve got a merit-based scholarship and you’re enjoying your classes. You’re also pregnant and excited to welcome the new addition to your family.
Being the conscientious student that you are, you approach your professors as soon as classes start, tell them that you’re due near the end of the semester, and ask that if you miss any tests due to a pregnancy-related absence you be allowed to make them up. You even offer to provide a doctor’s note. Three of your professors congratulate you, and tell you that of course this won’t be a problem.
But one of your professors says she will not excuse any such leave or allow work missed to be made up, even if it’s a labor and delivery emergency. She will not reconsider this policy “just because you find it inconvenient.” You’ll just have to deal with it or drop the class.
Sheesh, okay, fine, this professor is being unreasonable. But surely when you appeal to the administration — including the dean — they’ll intervene and tell the professor to reverse her decision, right?
In fact, though, the dean tells you that each professor gets to set his or her own leave and make-up rules, regardless of what those rules are. And if you don’t like it, you’ll have to drop the class.
You feel defeated, so you do it. You drop the class. And because dropping the class disqualified you from your scholarship program, you withdraw from that too.
This all could have been prevented if the school had complied with Title IX, the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
Evidence-Based Advocacy: How Do Abortion Providers Experience Stigma?
Evidence-Based Advocacy is a monthly column seeking to bridge the gap between the research and activist communities by profiling provocative new abortion research that activists may not otherwise be able to access.
Ask anyone to tell you who’s doing the most innovative research on abortion provider stigma and they’ll tell you it’s Dr. Lisa Harris and her interdisciplinary team at the University of Michigan. Together they pioneered the Provider Share Workshop, a pilot project testing the possibility that a support group for abortion providers could help reduce the negative impact of stigma. She writes about topics that others in even the most pro-choice communities shy away from the need to have open and honest conversations about second trimester abortion provision, how stigma affects abortion complications, and, recently, the need to recognize conscience as a motivating factor in abortion provision. Now, Dr. Harris and her team, which includes social worker Jane Hassinger, and public health PhDs Michelle Debbink and Lisa Martin, have gone a step further and actually mapped out how abortion providers experience abortion stigma, coining a new term: the legitimacy paradox.
Based on their interviews with abortion clinic staff who participated in the Provider Share Workshop, Dr. Harris and her team theorize that the combination of stigma and silence perpetuate a vicious cycle:
"When abortion providers do not disclose their work in everyday encounters, their silence perpetuates a stereotype that abortion work is unusual or deviant, or that legitimate, mainstream doctors do not perform abortions. This contributes to marginalization of abortion providers within medicine and the ongoing targeting of providers for harassment and violence. This reinforces the reluctance to disclose abortion work, and the cycle continues."
Abortion Stigma is Simply Discrimination: Here Is How We Get Rid of It
Last week, I attended the annual International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics conference in Italy. During the five days I was there, nearly 500,000 women had abortions. Many of these women faced stigma, a mechanism of social control used to dehumanize and devalue women who need, or decide, to terminate pregnancies.
When we began to examine the social construct of abortion stigma several years ago, we found that very little had been published. And yet, it’s really the root of all barriers that women — and even providers — face to obtain or perform abortions. Why do we legally deprive women of a health care service that could safe their lives? Why are women forced to undergo a waiting period in order to get an abortion? Why are abortion clinics often separate from other reproductive health care clinics? Why do women trade safety for secrecy and turn to “back-alley” providers? And the questions go on…
Stigma contributes to the idea that women who have abortions are not the norm, although they are. The social construct of abortion stigma creates an “us-versus-them” mentality — in spite of the fact that in the United States one in three women have abortions and a much higher share of all women globally terminate a pregnancy sometime during their reproductive lives, abortion is still constructed as something that is wrong, inappropriate, or deviant. Discriminating against women is therefore considered normal; 26 percent of women live in countries where abortion is legally restricted and many more live in places where they have to justify their abortion. If this isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is.
"How can this decision be wrong?" asks Dr. Nozer Sheriar, a gynecologist in India. "How can any decision, choice or action taken by 43 million women each year around the world be wrong?" If all the women in the world who have had an abortion live together in one country, he points out, it would be the third most populous country in the world. Think about the level of discrimination against a group so large.