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”

Feature: Theorizing Madness in Maddening Times

by Kellie Herson.

“Media research ages quickly,” my advisor regularly reminded me as I planned out my gender studies dissertation project in the early months of 2016. I understood the concept, but didn’t fully grasp what it might mean in practice. My work articulates mental illness as an intersectional social formation, using media and its interactions with medicine and policy as a site for unpacking how we understand mental health in relationship to discourses of gender, race, and sexuality. I assumed my analysis would remain timely; it didn’t seem to me that mental health stigma and health inequality and all the factors that amplify them were problems we would solve any time soon.

I did not consider the possibility that things might get worse.

The week Donald Trump was elected, my advisor’s advice sat at the front of my mind. I had just started drafting a chapter on how reality television makes a spectacle of mental illness that simultaneously depends upon and stigmatizes unstable behavior, particularly from women. My notebooks were full of detailed notes about myriad Real Housewives and Bachelor contestants who were deemed “crazy.” My analysis of the simultaneous fascination and repulsion with which we treat these women — and the occasional man — was rigorously outlined. Continue reading “Feature: Theorizing Madness in Maddening Times”