Secular Woman Celebrates Second Year

We can hardly believe it, but Secular Woman is celebrating its two year anniversary today! Over the past two years we’ve been lucky enough to establish a wonderful and supportive member base who continually remind us of what secular women can accomplish and why Secular Woman was founded in the first place – so that secular women could have a dedicated voice.

Over the past two years, we’ve been privileged to be able to take part in many actions that support secular women. This year we participated in Free Thought Blog’s online conference by running a track of panels on topics from sexual harassment and the law to religion and homeschooling. We’ve organized and taken part in numerous twitter chats to provide a space for and encourage women to talk about issues of importance to them. Among our favorite recent chats are Secular Mental Health (#SecularMH) – where we focused on dealing with mental health without religion, Women’s History Month (#HerStoryNow) – which focused on current women’s accomplishments, and our co-sponsorship of Stop Street Harassment – where we led a chat on harassment at conferences.

This year we also began supporting Rebecca Watson’s Patreon video project, where she makes hilarious videos on science, feminism, and skepticism. And we are a sponsor of the secular magazine The Celestial Teapot. Most recently, we are proud to support a new LA Women’s Atheist Group started by Amy Roth, whose purpose is to foster a safe/supportive space for atheist/agnostic women.

We are very proud of the projects developed over the last year, such as @AbortTheocracy – a project created to advocate for reproductive rights and fight against theocratic encroachment and the campaign aimed at ending stigma over abortion that @AbortTheocracy began running in the summer of last year, our ShameLESS campaign. Also, as part of @AbortTheocracy we’ve participated in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

We’ve voiced our support for women in other ways as well. In February, Secular Woman, under @AbortTheocracy, signed on to the National Women’s Law Center’s amicus brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. And last fall Secular Woman members spearheaded a petition to the Southern Poverty Law Center urging them to list Gender Identity Watch (a group that targets trans people for harassment) as a hate group.

We are excited to begin our third year working to amplify the voices of secular women and the issues important to them. Our focus this year is on advocating for the bodily autonomy of women and providing ways for women to better connect with one another.

Thank you to our members and supporters for another wonderful year!

Sincerely,

The Secular Woman Board of Directors
Kim, Elsa, Becca, Brandon, Nicole, and Monette

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Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: www.SecularWoman.org.

@AbortTheocracy is a project focused on the intersection of religious power over women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty, dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government.

Abort Theocracy

Show Your Support for Reproductive Rights with @AbortTheocracy Stickers

Want to show the world that you proudly support reproductive rights? @Abort Theocracy, Secular Woman’s project focused on the intersection of religious power over women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty and dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government, now has stickers available depicting @AT’s stunning logo.

“What a smart way to remind us that legislators have a responsibility to expand access to care, not infringe upon our rights!” says Becca Thomas, director of @Abort Theocracy.

Perfect for your car, your laptop case, your bike panniers, or your office wall, @Abort Theocracy stickers are an attractive way to show your support for reproductive freedom and help end the stigma surrounding abortion. The stickers come with your $6 donation to Secular Woman’s efforts to amplify the voice and influence of women in the secular movement and combat religion in government.

“Upon launching @Abort Theocracy, some of the first requests we received were for stickers––and here they are!” says Secular Woman president Kim Rippere. “We hope you enjoy them and consider giving them as holiday gifts!”

Order them online here.

 

Pizza and Pregnancy Tests

Pizza and Pregnancy Tests
by J.M. Bates

My friend confided in me that she might be pregnant. She was absolutely terrified. At first, I was surprised that she came to me with her serious issue. She wasn't my best friend; in fact, far from it. She often seemed to really dislike me, often calling me "boring" and like "an old lady" in front of our other friends. However, she said I was the only one she could trust not to tell anyone else about her possible pregnancy.

I tried my best to comfort her. I took her out for pizza in an attempt to cheer her up a little, but she could hardly talk or eat due to her high stress. She looked like she was on the verge of tears the entire time. I had no idea what to say to her; she was occupied by her thoughts anyway. We later went to a store together and I told her that I'd buy her anything she needed. She picked out a box of at-home pregnancy tests, the kind where you pee on a stick. That box of multiple tests was expensive to purchase. I thought to myself that her boyfriend should be the one buying it instead of me. Where was that deadbeat, anyway? My friend was going through hell and her boyfriend probably had no idea what was going on. I bought the tests for her from an elderly cashier who looked at me disapprovingly.

Back at my friend's house, I remember watching her face as she waited for her test results, the plastic urine-dotted strips all lined up alongside each other by the bathroom sink. Her wild anxiety merged with disappointment and dread as each test yielded a positive result.  

This event happened sixteen years ago. My friend and I were both twelve years old at the time.

I didn't have sexual health education at my school until I was seventeen years old. By that time, multiple girls in my class (including my friend) had already become pregnant and dropped out of school. A few boys in my class were teased for impregnating girls who attended other schools.

The sexual health education we did eventually receive at our school was dismal. Outdated textbooks depicted cross-section diagrams of human genitalia and stock photographs of wholesome teenagers with 80's haircuts. The texts heavily involved hygiene and diseases, with recurrent life advice focusing on abstinence. We were never taught about condoms or other contraceptives, nor about consent or safe sex. Our teachers seemed clueless and embarrassed to be there, with a different teacher each week. I was given the impression that this class was dumped on unwilling teachers to perform, possibly determined by choosing out of a hat or by a spreadsheet on the principal's computer. I recall one flustered football coach give our class this vague advice: "If you don't want it [sex], just cross your arms and… yeah." On another occasion, an entire class period was wasted on a discussion about the conspiracy theory of the government inventing AIDS.

The girls in my class that had already become pregnant and dropped out of school most likely would not have benefited from this particular sexual health education class if it had been provided earlier to them. I would say the same about the male classmates who got their female partners pregnant. These individuals most likely would have learned nothing from this class, just like the rest of us. If the class had instead been medically-accurate, current, and included information about contraceptives and safe sex, then maybe fewer students would have become pregnant or impregnated others.

The entire time I was in this terrible sexual education class, I kept thinking to myself, "This is bullshit!" I was getting a lot of sexual health information from the internet at the time, and it was a lot more current and sex-positive than what I was being taught in school. I didn't watch porn, a popular source of disinformation about sex, because pornography in general scared me. Instead, I found myself migrating to feminist and sex-positive online communities, blogs, and websites. Even feminist sex shops with websites online gave useful information. I learned important things from these multiple sources, such as only using water-based lubricant with latex contraceptives, and that HPV could be transmitted between partners even while using condoms and dental dams. I also learned what a dental dam was.

All in all, it was nice to educate myself in privacy from sources that were medically accurate and sex-positive. It changed my life for the better. My overall attitude towards life was improved, because I became more aware and also less plagued by guilt and shame about my needs. I had many other friends confide in me about their pregnancies, abortions, and diseases. I always did my best to provide sources of medically-accurate information as well as a non-judgemental and understanding shoulder to lean on. I look forward to the day when medically-accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education becomes mainstream in the United States. Until then, I'm going to keep e-mailing politicians to put comprehensive sex ed bills through. I will also continue to buy pizza and pregnancy tests for my friends in need.

About the Author
J.M. Bates is an atheist feminist living in the Chicago area. Race, gender, sexuality, income, and youth issues are part of her main focus. She has written for Fuck Yeah Feminists, Examiner, MOOT, Elevate Difference, and Starpulse.

Inmate Sterilization, the Continued Assault on Women’s Autonomy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727  E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

Inmate Sterilization, the Continued Assault on Women's Autonomy

The Center for Investigative Reporting released a report indicating that nearly 150 inmates in two California state prisons were sterilized without state approval between 2006 and 2010. The tubal ligation procedures were in violation of prison rules, but according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners, the state paid doctors $147,460 from 1997 to 2010 to perform these sterilizations. Worse, former inmates interviewed for the story reported that prison medical staff coerced the women, allegedly based on their likelihood of returning to prison.

“This apparent targeting of women in prison and coercing them into sterilization––without state approval––is reminiscent of the eugenics practices of the early 20th century,” said Secular Woman President Kim Rippere. “These women have been manipulated and robbed of their reproductive rights at a time when they were most vulnerable.” The sterilizations echo a disturbing past for the state of California in particular. “Between 1909 and 1964, about 20,000 women and men in California were stripped of the ability to reproduce – making the state the nation’s most prolific sterilizer,” reports the Center for Investigative Reporting. “Historians say Nazi Germany sought the advice of the state’s eugenics leaders in the 1930s.” Racial minorities, the disabled, the poor, criminals, and the mentally ill were targets of compulsory sterilization laws in California and 31 other states.

The number of incarcerated women is increasing at nearly double the rate of men in the United States, with a high number of nonviolent, drug-related offenses; female inmates have disproportionately prevalent histories of physical and sexual abuse. African-American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely to be incarcerated. In the context of these alarming numbers, these recent findings of coerced sterilizations in California prisons seem to be  merely a continuation of California’s dark history of eugenics.  

Secular Woman decries this abuse of women already in the vulnerable position of incarceration; we support every woman’s right to body autonomy and are gravely concerned at this attempt to control reproduction by selectively sterilizing groups considered to be unfit to procreate. Tubal ligation is a major surgery for women under the best of circumstances––much more invasive than vasectomy for men––requiring general anesthesia and, also, unlike vasectomy, is irreversible. Reports from former inmates indicate that many were coerced into sterilization while under sedation, in labor, and often based on inaccurate advice regarding their risk factors––for example, based on the idea that women who have had multiple C-sections should be sterilized. “Dr.Carolyn Sufrin, an OB-GYN at San Francisco General Hospital who teaches at UC San Francisco, said it is not common practice to offer tubal ligations to women who’ve had one C-section,” the report stated. “She confirmed that having multiple C-sections increases the risk of complications, but even then, she said, it’s more appropriate to offer women reversible means of birth control, like intrauterine devices or implants.”

This attempt to selectively control women’s reproductive choices has extremely disturbing social and medical implications; furthermore, shaming women into a serious and permanent medical procedure that will impact the rest of their lives is the height of unethical behavior. Secular Woman hopes that, as a result of these findings, swift action will be taken to ensure transparency and proper acquisition of approval for medical procedures in U.S. prisons, to prevent unethical physicians from taking advantage.

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Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: www.SecularWoman.org.

 

The Invasion of Women’s Bodies continues in North Carolina

The Invasion of Women’s Bodies continues in North Carolina

by Elsa Roberts, follow her on Twitter

North Carolina legislators continued their underhanded attack on women’s reproductive rights yesterday with a sleight-of-hand move, transferring the anti-abortion language on HB 695 to a motorcycle safety bill (SB 353) early yesterday morning. This surprise move includes citizens being denied their right to speak; there is a three hour comment period today, but it is only open to representatives, many of whom have done a very poor job representing – as the continued Moral Monday protests demonstrate.

Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL North Carolina, expressed the anger many in NC, and concerned citizens across the country feel, stating,

 

the process this legislation has taken shows an utter disregard for women’s health and safety. This is not the kind of leadership North Carolina voters deserve. The women’s health advocates and reproductive rights supporters who have showed up at the NCGA every day this week to protest HB 695 will not be silenced by empty promises or word-games, and they will not be fooled by claims that SB 353 is somehow a pro-women bill.

It is clear that NC legislators are determined to stomp out women’s reproductive rights, despite the will of the people and the disastrous effects it will have on women’s life and health. Secular Woman President, Kim Rippere, urges women from around the U.S. to “stand with NC and continue to fight.” She reminds us that this bill and other’s like it are “part of a concerted effort by theocratic politicians to push through religious based legislation nationwide, from Texas to Ohio to North Carolina.” She continues, “We must fight against this trend to legislate religious based ideology into women’s uteri and lives and maintain a firm separation of church and state.”

North Carolina lawmakers are barely adhering to an appearance of process, restricting and outright denying public comment, switching language to new bills with only a moment’s notice, and restricting the audience to an unreasonable degree (no laughter or clapping in hearings). “They have made it clear that injecting their religious beliefs into bills is more important than representing the people they were elected to and upholding the constitution and women’s rights,” states Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

These laws, if passed, cannot stand. They fly in the face of women’s constitutional rights and years of court precedent. Secular Woman looks forward to the injunctions sure to be placed on legislation of this type and of the courts upholding women’s right to bodily autonomy.

With these continued roadblocks and underhanded moves state lawmakers hope to wear women and their supporters down, but we can’t let that happen! To hold on to our rights and reject the insertion of religion into our bodies we must remain vigilant and continue to keep up the pressure, in North Carolina and across the country. We must Stand With Women! Take action and contact Governor McCrory and spread the word on what is happening in North Carolina.

 

 

#ShameLESS, a Campaign to Help End Abortion Stigma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727  E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

#ShameLESS, a Campaign to Help End Abortion Stigma

Secular Woman, through its latest project @AbortTheocracy, is launching a new month-long campaign aimed at reducing abortion stigma and encouraging people to talk openly, shamelessly, about their abortion experiences. The campaign is, appropriately, called #ShameLESS. And, in July, we will be sharing your stories about abortion through memes which you can share via social media, as well as articles on abortion and reproductive health and rights throughout the month.

This campaign is a response to the fact that even though approximately one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, many women and people designated female at birth (DFAB) are silent and ashamed about their abortion. When we are silent we are alone.  It is possible that the peson sitting next to you has had an abortion and never told their sister, mother, best friend, or anyone – this collective silence disempowers and isolates us.  Just as domestic abuse victims were alone and isolated in the 1970s before talking about abuse became more acceptable. When women find their voice and use it to tell their lived experiences they change our lives, the lives of future women, and society.

Abortion is a medical procedure, and, like other medical procedures, a woman (or person DFAB) and her doctor should be making the decision without interference or intervention from religious groups or any governmental legislative body. One of our goals for this year is to “advocate for women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty”; this campaign is an integral part of that.

This campaign will launch with a story from the co-founder, Kim Rippere who says, “I am Shameless and I’m ready to tell my story.” Storytelling is a powerful force for change, with each story told this month another woman will find her voice and other women will be empowered to be #ShameLESS and unafraid.  

 

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Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: www.SecularWoman.org.

@AbortTheocracy is a project focused on the intersection of religious power over women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty, dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government.

 

Senator Wendy Davis Leads “Unruly Mob” in Exercise of Democracy

Thanks to the bravery of Texas senator Wendy Davis, the Texas democrats, and hundreds of Texans in attendance at the capitol yesterday, Senate Bill 5––a bill that would have legislated widespread restrictions to abortion access––is dead. Secular Woman applauds this brave stand by Davis, whose filibuster last night that made national news and quickly garnered massive support on social media (including a tweet linking to the livestream from President Obama, using the hashtag #StandWithWendy.).

Though Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst suspended the filibuster at 10 p.m. last night, claiming Davis digressed from the topic at hand with her discussion of mandatory ultrasounds, the Democrats appealed the decision immediately, and the already-inspired crowd became even more animated.

Spectators filled the chamber gallery, chanting “Let her speak” for several minutes after the filibuster was suspended. The Austin Statesman reported that the senate struggled to vote on the bill “over the sustained and screaming protests from spectators in the gallery,” especially when Republicans motioned to call off all debate. Senators tried to vote on the bill, but the crowd continued its protests, exploding into cheers when State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, challenging the ruling against Davis, asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The "people's filibuster" delayed the vote until the clock ran out on the session, the Statesman reported this morning; Secular Woman donated to RH Reality Check’s call for funds to help provide food for the protestors. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst expressed his frustration to the Statesman, remarking, "An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” If the “tactic” he is referring to is democracy, he couldn’t be more correct.

Monday night, Davis tweeted, "The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege" Beginning at 11:18 a.m. on Tuesday, and sporting pink tennis shoes, Davis began an eleven-hour filibuster against a bill that would have closed all but five of the state's abortion clinics, prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, forced clinics to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, and restricted access to medication abortions, reported the Huffington Post. The bill also would have required any doctor at a clinic to obtain admitting rights at a local hospital, reporter Ben Philpott told NPR. “In rural Texas… you don’t have a hospital within 30 miles of some of these clinics, let alone one that would then be able to give you admitting privileges.” While Republicans argued that the bill would help ensure women’s safety, it would effectively have shut down all but a handful of clinics in the state.

Secular Woman supports every person's right to bodily and sexual autonomy and opposes all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion. Our @AbortTheocracy campaign, which covered the session proceedings until the wee hours via Twitter, is specifically focused on the intersection of religious power and women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty and dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government. We stand with Wendy Davis and applaud her activism to protect women’s health in Texas. “Women are entitled to full and complete ownership of their bodies,” says Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

The connection between full bodily autonomy and religious influence in government must be terminated so that women are free, empowered, and in control of their lives and their futures.

Davis began her filibuster by accusing the GOP of "a raw abuse of power," citing their decision to allow the bill to be debated without the required two-thirds support and accusing them of placing a political agenda over the well-being of Texans. “The reality of this bill is not to make women safer … it’s to force the closure of facilities across the state of Texas that would provide proper care to women,” Davis said. “The actions intended by our state’s leaders hurt Texas; they hurt Texas women and their families.”  

Texas rules for a filibuster prohibit leaning on one's desk, pausing, or straying off subject; warnings work on a three-strike system, reports NPR. Davis took no bathroom breaks, spoke with no food or water, and wore a back brace to avoid needing to lean. At one point Republican Sen. Tommy Williams  attempted to have her filibuster suspended because of the back brace. Democratic Senator Kirk Watson expressed support for Davis's filibuster, telling the Statesman,

There’s an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that. It’s important that a woman who’s the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help.
 

Though The Texas Legislative Service originally listed SB5 as having passed on “6-26-13,” the listing was changed shortly after 1 a.m. to reflect passage before midnight; at 3 a.m., Dewhurst announced that although the bill passed on a 19-to-10 vote, it was dead.

“Today was democracy in action,” Davis told her crowd of supporters last night. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.” In response to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “unruly mob” remark, Davis retorted, “I think that’s a disservice to the people who were here. The people who were here were justifiably upset about an attempt to infringe upon a constitutional right they hold dear, primarily one that would have an impact on women but also on the men who love them.”

Are you #ShameLESS?

Secular Woman, through our project Abort Theocracy, has launched a campaign aimed at eliminating stigma and encouraging people to talk openly, shamelessly, about their reproductive health experiences. The campaign is, appropriately, called #ShameLESS. We are sharing your stories on our sister site aborttheocracy.org.

Share your first person reproductive health story on topics like abortion, adoption, childfree decisions, miscarriage, midwifery, genital mutilation, sex ed, etc. with us today by filling out this form and let everyone know you are #ShameLESS!

CPCs: Not a Reasonable Option

“Pregnant? Need Help?”

Have you seen these signs around your community? You might be forgiven for mistaking them as advertisements for women’s health centers – but you’d be wrong. These are advertisements for religious organizations called Crisis Pregnancy Centers and they are the happy recipients of your tax dollars.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are anti-choice “fake clinics” which exist solely to dissuade women from having abortions and, more often than not, are run by churches and religious organizations. They often advertise falsely in phone listings as “abortion services” or “family planning services” but the only service most provide are drugstore pregnancy tests and, in limited cases, an ultrasound. In fact, very, very few CPCs even have medically trained staff, choosing to rely instead on church volunteers. Many CPCs have been caught in the act of giving out false medical information and acting coercively, all in the name of God and a woman’s traditional role. Some CPCs have deceptive sounding names such as “A Woman’s Choice” and women often find themselves calling what they think is a clinic or an abortion provider only to find that the person on the other end of the line refuses to discuss abortion or contraception unless the woman comes in first, “just to talk”. All of this subterfuge is meant to trick women into visiting the center so that more pressure can be brought to bear.

I visited a Crisis Pregnancy Center as a teenager and found out very quickly that the main focus was evangelizing. I was greeted by what I now know was a volunteer who led me to a private room and had me give a urine sample. She placed the sample on her desk, popped in a drugstore test stick and picked up a heavy bible. She told me she wanted to pass the time by reading scripture to me. I sat and listened politely and then told her I was non-religious. She insisted on praying with me anyway and then read the result of my test – negative. She then asked me if I used contraception and told me that condoms don’t really work and that I was better off just not having sex at all. With that, I was released.

My friend *Katie was not so lucky. Years later she visited the same CPC and her test was positive. Instead of offering support to a pregnant teen, the center pressured her to give the baby up once it was born. Katie was adamant that she wanted to raise the baby herself but the volunteers at the CPC had already pulled out a list of eager couples and continued to pressure her with horror stories of teen parenthood. She was finally able to leave and is now a happy mother.

Not content with simply defunding Planned Parenthood, many conservative states and even the federal government are openly giving taxpayer dollars to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. In fact, in 2010 the Obama administration gave Care Net, one of the largest purveyors of CPCs a “capacity building” grant, despite the fact that the organization is strictly a proselytizing entity which does not provide family planning services and which has an explicit “Christian only” hiring practice.

State and local government give further support to these religious centers by openly endorsing them in ways that seem innocuous to those who don’t know what CPCs do. The Virginia Department of Health lists Crisis Pregnancy Centers in its online publication, A Virginia Guide to Family Planning, Genetics and Social Services while leaving unmentioned any family planning clinics.  The guide even mentions Colonial Heights Baptist Church as a family planning resource!

Government funding of CPCs is clearly a violation of the separation clause of the first amendment. In 2011, I began a campaign to get the Virginia Department of Health to stop endorsing CPCs through its guide and you can get active in your state too. Check out your state and city health departments to see whether they endorse CPCs and start a campaign. You might also want to find out who is teaching sex education in your city’s schools. In some states, sex education teachers are not required to be certified and anyone can volunteer to teach it and many churches see this as a great opportunity to send in one of their own. You can also fight back by using this handy toolkit to document false advertising practices used by CPCs.

Finally, you can get educated. It’s astonishing how many people are unaware of CPCs or don’t realize the intensely religious nature of what goes on behind their doors. Consider hosting a screening of 12th and Delaware in your community to let everyone see firsthand and objectively what CPCs are all about and the damage they do to women’s lives.

*Name has been changed

 

Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson

Richmond (VA) Clinic Defense

[email protected]

@AutumnReinhardt