Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Remembering Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas, a pioneering White House correspondent who was raised in Detroit, passed away on July 20th, after battling a long-term illness. This boisterous journalist attended Wayne State University, and spent most of her career reporting on politics. In time, she made a name for herself at White House news conferences, beginning during the Kennedy administration and retiring in 2010. According to CNN, Thomas was considered the dean of the White House press corps due to the length of time she dedicated to her work in the White House.

Thomas was not only a whip-smart and discerning journalist, she was the first woman to attain the status of a White House correspondent – at least, when it came to hard news (think international relations as opposed to White House dinners). Presidents came to dread Thomas's often brutal questions – particularly the Bush administration, for whom Thomas's brash statements opposing the war in Iraq stirred some public contention.

No one is perfect. In fact, Thomas left a legacy of antisemitism in recent years. Many reports of her death contained speculation on her filmed condemnation in 2010 regarding the Israeli people in Palestine. While Thomas was not without bias, and may not have even considered herself a feminist, it would be doing the field of journalism a disservice not to recognize her as the groundbreaking and accomplished woman she was, and to theorize that were it not for Thomas, many high-profile women in journalism would not be as recognized for their successes as they are today.

As Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, tweeted after Thomas's death, “Any woman who has had the privilege of sitting in the front row of the White House briefing room owes huge debt of gratitude to Helen Thomas.”

Kai Niezgoda, NOW Intern

Friday, July 26, 2013

Passage of Texas Anti-Choice Bill Causes Immediate Damage

If any more proof is needed that House Bill 2, passed in Texas last Thursday, is destructive, look no further. The anti-choice law is already taking a toll on Texas residents' access to reproductive healthcare. According to the Huffington Post, three Planned Parenthood clinics in Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin, Texas will soon close due to the drastic regulations enforced by the law. Among other things, the law mandates that reproductive healthcare clinics meet standards for surgical centers – whether or not the clinic provides abortion care. It also places a 20-week post-fertilization ban on state-wide abortion care.

Ironically, as concerned as conservative Texas legislators are with abortion access, only one of the three clinics that will close actually offered abortion services. That means that, in the case of the other two clinics, state law is denying Texas residents access to affordable basic preventative care, like cancer screenings, PAP smears and STI testing. Those in support of the measures, and by proxy, in support of shutting down clinics that provide basic healthcare, claim its passage was for the health of Texas women.

“This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” Gov. Rick Perry said. Needless to say, potentially shutting down all but five of the state's clinics and restricting access to these services is anything but pro-life.

Is there any immediate hope of reversing the measure? Maybe. Pro-choice groups intend to argue that the law violates Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992), which established that states cannot restrict abortion care before viability. Of all anti-choice measures passed in recent years, Slate predicts that this particular law has a shot at eventually being catapulted to the Supreme Court. There's no telling whether it will, or whether this will have an effect on similar measures passed across the country, but it is clear that reproductive justice advocates will not retreat at this assault on choice.

Kai Niezgoda, NOW Intern

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why You're Just Like Wendy Davis

Do you have the stamina to take on one of the most conservative groups of politicians in the United States? Filibuster legislation with the odds stacked against you and your voice ignored? Stay on your feet and on your guard for as long as it takes to fly from Sydney to LA? Chances are, if you're not Wendy Davis, your answer to these questions is no – but I argue that the answer is yes.

In case you missed it, reports of Davis's bold takedown of last week's foreboding Texas anti-choice legislation have been flooding in of late. Davis reportedly stood on her feet for (reportedly) 11 to 13 hours, filibustering a widely supported piece of legislation that would ban all abortions in Texas after 20 weeks and shut down nearly all of its reproductive health clinics through unneeded regulations. Davis is a hero, though Texas Gov. Rick Perry called a special session of the Legislature to try again to pass the law, despite the fact that a large majority of Texas women, doctors, and hospitals are against it. Wendy Davis was brave and stood for all Texas women that night. 

We may not know when, but each one of us has a chance to do something heroic like Wendy Davis, whenever we stand for what is right. Sure, it's true that not all of us are politicians or activists by trade. We might not ever see our name in a headline, or in the “trending” column on Twitter. Still, at the root of Davis's action was simple courage and the strength to fight for what is right. If pro-choice Americans convey that sense of justice, against adversaries and antipathy, on a scale relative to our positions in life, we can all have the hero status of Wendy Davis, whether or not the media catches on, whether or not our work takes place amongst family and friends or amongst a legislative body.

Kai Niezgoda, NOW Intern