Monthly Archives: January 2017

Boston area reacts to Trump’s Muslim Ban

President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order Friday that shut U.S. borders to refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. The following weekend, the country experienced chaos and confusion as green card holders were detained in airports and the acting attorney general was fired by Trump for directing the Justice Department to defy the presidential order.

On Sunday afternoon, tens of thousands of people joined the Council on American Islamic Relations – Massachusetts in Copley Square to protest the Muslim Ban.

Check out my Boston social media roundup here.

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Tens of thousands protest Trump’s Muslim Ban in Copley Square

Tens of thousands of people joined the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Massachusetts in Copley Square on Sunday afternoon to protest President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

By live tweeting the event, I was hoping to share a diverse spread of photos, quotes and videos that captured the electric, impassioned energy of the large crowd, while also relaying important information to the public.

Covering events via Twitter is beneficial for journalists because it allows them to share bursts of information quickly, especially for fast-moving events such as what I was covering. However, there were so many people at this protest that I often lost cell phone service and was unable to post my tweets until I found service, which was a definite con to covering the event on Twitter.

Another major downside is that Twitter tends to be an unfiltered platform that is open to trolls and harassment—something that I was surprised to experience with my tweets from this protest. I posted a photo from the event, which I considered rather uncontroversial, of prayer rugs set up on the ground outside Trinity Church. The tweet set off a firestorm of responses—with it currently boasting 860 retweets 2,223 likes. A lot of the responses were positive, with people considering the image a depiction of religious tolerance, but many were despicably racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic. Unfortunately, covering events on Twitter makes journalists vulnerable to that hatred.

10 Twitters to follow for reproductive justice

If you’re interested in following the evolution of access to abortion and birth control under the Trump administration, then there are a lot of Twitters you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on. Here are my top 10 (in no particular order), from both sides of the aisle:

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1. Planned Parenthood Action Fund (@PPact

Planned Parenthood is a national health clinic that provides sex education, birth control, abortions, tests and treatments for sexually-transmitted diseases, Pap tests and breast exams for millions of women and men each year. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Planned Parenthood has become the poster child for Republican congresspeople’s anger.

Republicans have been trying to defund the clinic at least at the state level since the 1970s, but the campaign really became a national hot-button issue in the past couple years. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is the branch that deals with education and advocacy for women’s health and rights.

What better place to get updates on the reproductive justice movement than the institution at the center of all the controversy?

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2. Susan B. Anthony List (@SBAList

The Susan B. Anthony List is one of the most well-known organizations that lobbies for pro-life bills in Congress and works to elect pro-life candidates. According to their website, the goal of the organization is to  “protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion.” They can pretty much be thought of as the polar opposite to Planned Parenthood.

As for whether Susan B. Anthony, the 1850s women’s rights icon, was actually pro-life or pro-choice has been heavily debated by American historians and journalists.

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3. Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti)

Jessica Valenti is a Brooklyn-based Guardian US columnist and the author of four feminist books, most recently her memoir “Sex Object.” Valenti writes with humor, clarity and wit about feminism, reproductive rights and other pressing women’s rights issues. She also faces a lot of harassment for her viewpoints, especially on Twitter. The harassment has gotten so bad that she briefly quit Twitter in July 2016 after receiving rape and death threats targeting her 5-year-old daughter.

Valenti is important to follow in order to get the voice and perspective of a modern-day feminist journalist.

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4. Pro-Life Action League (@ProLifeAction)

The Pro-Life Action League is a Chicago-based grassroots organization that recruits and trains people to protest against abortion. They organize nationwide rallies to protest celebrations of Roe v. Wade—the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that federally legalized abortion—and to advocate defunding Planned Parenthood. The league offers an important look into the recruiting styles and strategies of pro-life activists.

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5. Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards)

Cecile Richards is the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She skyrocketed to feminist icon fame after she remained calm while being grilled by Congress in September 2015 about a series of videos by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress that purported to show that Planned Parenthood made money from the sale of fetal tissue. This led to a popular rally cry for pro-lifers—that Planned Parenthood “sells baby parts.” Richards vehemently denied the allegations, saying the videos were deceptively edited and was “just the most recent in a long line of discredited attacks.”

Richards’ Twitter is a great source to find not only information on Planned Parenthood, but also on recent laws passed by Congress concerning women’s health and reproductive rights.

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6. Judie Brown (@Judie_Brown)

Judie Brown is president of the American Life League (ALL), which is the “largest grassroots Catholic pro-life education organization in the United States,” according to its website. ALL is as far right as it gets, believing that abortion can never be “medically necessary or morally permitted.

Brown is an important source for new developments in pro-life activism and laws.

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7. Christine Grimaldi (@chgrimaldi)

Christine Grimaldi is a federal policy reporter for Rewire News, a pro-choice website focused on issues including abortion, contraception, LGBTQ rights and sexual health. Grimaldi, who is based in Washington D.C., writers about reproductive health and justice issues in Congress, making her an invaluable source for this blog.

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8. DC Abortion Fund (@DCAbortionFund)

The DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) is the only nonprofit in Washington DC that provides grants to low-income pregnant women so they can afford abortions. According to their website, the group’s vision is to “make reproductive choice a reality.” Since the organization’s very existence is tied to having abortion access, one can understand why they’d be particularly vocal on the issue—and why they’d be a good Twitter to follow.

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9. ProLife Youth (@ProLifeYouth)

ProLife Youth is a organization looking to portray pro-life youth in the media. They believe that life begins at conception and that it is wrong to take away life “no matter the reason or situation,” according to the organization’s website. This organization gives voice to a relatively unheard audience in the abortion movement—pro-life youth—thus making it an important follow.

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10. Alexa Garcia-Ditta (@agarciaditta)

Last but not least, we have Alexa Garcia-Ditta, a former Texas Observer reporter who now works for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. Texas has been at the center for heated debates concerning abortion access.

In 2013, the Texas state legislature passed a series of laws—known as TRAP laws or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—that imposed heavy restrictions on abortion clinics and caused all except for a handful of clinics to close temporarily in the state. Former State Senator Wendy Davis rose to national prominence when she famously filibustered the state senate for 13 hours in an unsuccessful attempt to block the bill from passing. In June 2016, the Supreme Court struck down the TRAP laws as an unconstitutional “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion. Still, the issue is far from being resolved in the state.

As someone who both lives in Texas and works for an abortion rights organization, Garcia-Ditta will be a crucial perspective to gain insight from.

The truth about the Mexico City policy

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President Donald J. Trump / Photo courtesy (cc) 2011 Gage Skidmore

Just three days after his inauguration, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order Monday barring U.S. federal funding from international nongovernmental organizations that perform abortions.

It’s no surprise that Trump enacted this order, known as the Mexico City policy—or the “global gag rule” by its opponents. Since Ronald Reagan first implemented the policy in 1984, it has been repealed by every succeeding Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican.

Those that support the Mexico City policy, however, are often dishonest in their reasonings, claiming they don’t think American taxpayers should be paying for overseas abortions. The truth is that, just like in the U.S., taxpayer money is not funding abortions, despite what some Republican congresspeople would lead you to believe.

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The Helms Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act in 1973 made sure of that. The amendment prohibits U.S. federal aid from paying for abortions. The Mexico City policy, therefore, strips NGOs of all federal aid for offering abortion services, even though they receive outside funding in order to perform those services.

This approach is very similar to what Republican congresspeople have tried to accomplish by attempting to defund Planned Parenthood. Because they can not outwardly prohibit abortion—as it is protected by the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade—they attempt to defund the institution so that it will no longer be able to function. In a roundabout way, if the institution is forced to shut down because it has no funds, then it can no longer provide abortions.

Now that NGOs can not perform abortions without risking the loss of federal funding, the ones who will suffer the most are the vulnerable and poor women around the world who rely on these life-saving services.

A startling 97 percent of unsafe abortions—or those not performed by medical professionals—take place in developing countries. From those unsafe abortions, 68,000 women around the world die each year, making it one of the leading causes of maternal deaths.

With the Mexico City policy now back in action, it’s possible that many of those deaths—and more—will be on Trump.

The future of news

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Photo courtesy (cc) 2011 Nghiem Long

With the advent of the Internet and personal computers, the way that people consume news has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Many people, even before these technologies were conceived, understood that print journalism would not be a permanent medium and looked ahead to predict how the industry would adapt in the future.

A 1981 newscast from San Francisco’s KRON covered revolutionary efforts by The San Francisco Examiner and The San Francisco Chronicle to program the day’s newspaper articles and transmit them to personal home computers. Through a modern lens, the broadcast is funny because the technology seems archaic. However, if you take a step back, it’s pretty remarkable to realize that the editors at the San Francisco papers were essentially predicting the Internet and online journalism.

Perhaps most prophetically of all, David Cole of The Examiner said of the new technology, “We’re not in it to make money.” In retrospect, this is a painfully ironic statement about where the industry was headed, as the Internet made it impossible for journalism to continue as a profitable business.

1994 broadcast from The Knight-Ridder in Boulder, Colorado, debuted another new technology—the tablet newspaper. Roger Fidler, the director of the paper’s media lab, understood that media was undergoing a dramatic transformation and that there needed to be “an alternative to ink on paper.”

At its heart, the tablet newspaper that Knight-Ridder created was a remarkably early version of the iPad and iPhone. The biggest thing the company got wrong, however, was that journalism would still be able to profit through advertising—especially interactive ads. This proved to be woefully inaccurate, as nobody wants to interact with ads. On the contrary, the Internet has given advertisers ways to sell their products without going through newspapers.

Finally, the EPIC 2015 video from the Museum of Media History offers a rather bleak view of the future of journalism (that, thankfully, has not fully come to fruition). However, a lot of it was correct—notably that Google develops the “Google Grid” to combine all of its services, which is essentially Google drive, that Amazon tracks buying patterns and customizes advertisements from it, and that The New York Times switches to a paid subscription service. Google and Amazon, thankfully, have not combined yet to make Googlezon and The New York Times has not sued Google and lost in the Supreme Court.

While it seems that many individuals were able to predict new technologies and mediums for journalism, none of them could figure out one all important question: how would journalism profit in the modern era?

Covering reproductive justice in 2017

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An American flag flies in Miami. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2008 Julian Carvajal

In just three days, Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. He will be greeted in D.C. by a U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that are both controlled by Republicans, many of whom have worked tirelessly in Congress to defund women’s health clinics and limit access to abortion and birth control. For women and men who rely on services provided by clinics such as Planned Parenthood—which also offers sex education, Pap tests, breast exams and test and treatments for sexually-transmitted infections including HIV— they may very well be facing the fight of their lives. The Body Politic is here to chronicle that fight.

First, we aim to look at Trump’s record on reproductive services, which has been wishy-washy at best. He was openly pro-choice for many years, but stunned the audience at a February 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference by announcing that he was pro-life.

The president-elect said throughout his 2016 campaign that he was in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. He also said he believes abortion should be decided by the states, and that women who would receive illegal abortions should be subject to “some sort of punishment.” He later backtracked on that statement and said doctors who perform illegal abortions should be punished.

On the issue of birth control, the president-elect has not been as outspoken, but he has been adamant in his plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, under which millions of women receive birth control at no additional cost to their health insurance.

The Body Politic aims to deliver well-informed opinions on the state of reproductive justice in America, and take a look at how policies proposed by Trump and a Republican Congress will have a greater effect on millions of Americans. I will continually check in with Planned Parenthood‘s blog, the Pro-Life Action League BlogOur Bodies, Our Blog, Every Saturday Morning, Feministing.com and Jessica Valenti’s column for The Guardian.