Feature: Sex Work and Public Health in the Age of Trump

by Stephanie Kaylor.

Photograph of an individual on a sidewalk from the knees down going through a series of protest signs. The two visible signs read "Human Rights" and "Support Sex Workers." Photo by PJ Starr.
Photo by PJ Starr. Used with permission.

While it seems that every day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency comes with a new threat to human rights that advocacy groups are quick to denounce and organize against, one such threat has received little attention from social justice advocates: on February 23, 2017, Trump declared that the problem of human trafficking was one that he would commit to combatting through the “full force and weight” of the U.S. government. Though some progressive advocates may interpret this to be a rare instance of a concern for women’s rights at best, or an empty promise at worst, the ramifications for those involved in or suspected of being in the commercial sex trade are quite severe.  “Anti-trafficking” efforts have historically been used to grant government and law enforcement agencies increased permissions to surveil, intimidate, arrest, and deport these individuals even as they have been characterized by feminist rhetoric and support. The repercussions of the policing of sex workers has led to their further marginalization, including impediments upon their ability to practice safe reproductive healthcare practices or consult with health care practitioners. Continue reading “Feature: Sex Work and Public Health in the Age of Trump”

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Feature: Women’s Health in the Age of Trump

by Rosemary Talbot Behmer Hansen

Reproductive justice has been defined as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights” [1]. This concept becomes inclusive, however, when we acknowledge the words of the brilliant reproductive rights author, transgender person Cazembe Murphy Jackson: “in order for any of us to have a taste of reproductive justice, it must be available to all of us.” While this essay oftentimes uses the term ‘women’ to describe issues of reproductive health and justice, all people, including those who are gender fluid, gender queer, gender nonconforming, nonbinary and transgender are affected by changes in women’s health policy.

In the pursuit of reproductive justice, women’s health advocates have been challenged. Between declaring Mexican immigrants are “rapists,” bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy,” and condemning the reproductive health decisions of a 17-year old immigrant, President Donald Trump has proven to have political and personal interests in women’s bodies. In Trump’s America, where fact is up for both debate and negotiation, women’s healthcare and safety have become increasingly politicized. Notions currently found in the realm of abortion policy—ideas that permit women’s choices to be controlled by the public and state—are increasingly being applied to traditionally-less-controversial conversations about contraception, maternal health and sexual violence in the United States (US). In light of this shift in political discourse regarding women, standing in solidarity with those affected can be an effective first step in combating threats to reproductive justice. Continue reading “Feature: Women’s Health in the Age of Trump”

Feature: The Global Gag Rule, a Policy Without a Cause

by Priyanjana Pramanik.

Abortion remains a controversial issue in many parts of the world, with many governments attempting to limit access to services through domestic policies. In studies comparing countries with restrictive abortion laws to those without, researchers find that the former have more abortions than the latter (37 abortions per 1,000 women to 34 abortions per 1,000 women). This is because countries with more restrictive abortion policies are also more likely to suffer from unmet contraceptive needs, theoretically increasing the incidence of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion there. The World Health Organization estimates that 553 million dollars are spent each year on treating complications caused by unsafe abortions.

Unfortunately, it is not just domestic policies related to abortion that are a cause for concern in developing countries. In 1973, shortly after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, stating that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” In 1984, it was followed by the introduction of the Mexico City Policy, which has come to be known scornfully as the Global Gag Rule. Continue reading “Feature: The Global Gag Rule, a Policy Without a Cause”