Human Rights Activism Opportunities

  • Federal LGBTQ Bill of Rights via @GetEqual — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: the Federal LGBTQ Bill of Rights.

    Indiana drew all the heat for the state legislature’s extra discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the Hoosier state is hardly the only place where firing, evicting, and even refusing to serve LGBTQ people is legal. Despite the wave of court mandated marriage equality wins and the cultural tide turning on the right to marry, only a federal affirmative right to be treated as fully equal human beings can protect all facets of life and liberty for LGBTQ people in all parts of the country.

    Rather than pushing for a patchwork of single-issue bills that would need to work their way through the legislature one at a time, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) are spearheading an all-encompassing fix. According to Sen. Merkely’s website, he and Rep. Cicilline “will be leading the legislative fight for a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill this spring. The legislation would be similar to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

    The LGBTQ rights group GetEQUAL is in the midst of a campaign to both support this legislative effort and demand that it be comprehensive and uncompromising. At their NoAsterisks.org website, you can sign on to back the full LGBTQ Bill of Rights, which is described as "a guiding document, created with the input of thousands of LGBTQ folks across the country, that lays out what the community really needs.”

    From preamble, to conclusion, the GetEQUAL document details the fears and dangers experienced daily by LGBTQ people that should be addressed and alleviated by true protections at work, at home, at the doctor, at school, and in the eyes of the law and law enforcement.

    Visit NoAsterisks.org and support GetEQUAL’s call to action:

    "As we approach the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution and the 224th anniversary of the Bill of Rights — the document that outlined the specific rights extended to (some) Americans — we demand that this country live up to the values espoused in the nation’s founding documents.”

    TAKE ACTION:

    SIGN to support GetEQUAL’s LGBTQ Bill of Rights

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Use Get Equal’s bill tracker to stay up to date: WeCan’tBelieveThis.org

    Sources/further reading:

    The LGBTQ Bill of Rights via GetEQUAL

    "Cicilline Announces Upcoming Legislation to End LGBT Discrimination” via Rep. David N. Ciciline (D-RI)

    ”Civil Rights Bill Top Priority For LGBT Voters, According to New Poll” by Amanda Terkel via Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

    "Resolution opposing RFRA passes City-County Council” via Wish-TV, Indianapolis

    ”Stop” — Indiana resident, activist, and writer Melissa McEwan’s take on #BoycottIndiana

    Indiana #RFRA Updates via Melissa McEwan

    "That Time I Ranted About #BoycottIndiana & Caring About All People” by Katie Klabusich

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #913 "Refusing to tolerate intolerance (LGBTQ Rights)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Jailbreak Your Phone For Security via @EFF - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Jailbreak Your Phone For Security.

    Jailbreaking phones used to be a way to switch providers without having to buy a new device. iPhones famously were only available on certain networks, but it was an industry-wide issue. Once the most visible evil corporate profit motive was alleviated as providers started letting you bring your old device to a new network, most of us forgot about or didn’t care whether or not jailbreaking was illegal under copyright law.

    But the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s latest campaign makes clear that the illegality of jailbreaking is a security prohibiting nuisance. Modifying the software on your phones and tablets can be a way to install security fixes making data collection more difficult or impossible. With the ongoing NSA Spying programs and whole warehouses being built to house our data “just in case” the government feels the need to mine it later, securing our ability to jailbreak is important.

    The “Take Action” tab at EFF.org has a link to their “Jailbreaking is Not a Crime” petition which sends a letter to the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress asking them to renew the exemption allowing us to legally modify our mobile devices. Join the more than 20,000 who have added their names already to preserve the right to protect ourselves. Regaining rights once they’re lost — as made clear by the fight to repeal all the provisions of the Patriot Act — can be a nearly impossible battle. Let’s do what we can to hang on to the privacy we still have.

    Also, a quick reminder that EFF’s website has a whole set of security tutorials to protect yourself on all your devices and networks. They can help you do everything from selecting good passwords to installing software to learning how to safely use social media.

    TAKE ACTION:

    SIGN the EEF’s petition: Jailbreaking is Not a Crime

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Take advantage of EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense tools.

    Sources/further reading:

    "EFF General Counsel Takes On NSA Spying”

    "Human Rights Watch Sues DEA Over Bulk Collection of Americans’ Telephone Records”

    "How to Jailbreak Your iPhone: The Always Up-to-Date Guide [iOS 8.1]”

    "Surveillance Techniques: How Your Data Becomes Our Data”

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #912 "Poking the watchful eye (NSA Spying) "

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Fighting the Patriarchy With Film: @thehuntinground & @theperfectvict — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Fighting the Patriarchy With Film.

    Survivors of rape and intimate partner violence share a fear of not being believed. Deeply rooted in the patriarchy that rules our culture and our institutions is a fundamental skepticism of anyone who comes forward to say they’ve been violated. We interrogate rape victims as they report and when they take the witness stand; we berate domestic violence victims with shaming questions like “Well, then, why didn’t you just leave?”

    A pair of documentaries seeks to put human faces out in front of the statistics in order to move the needle on the culture of blame. The subjects of “The Perfect Victim” and “The Hunting Ground” recount their stories in compelling fashion, demanding that viewers help address stigma and demand change to the legal hurtles that keep justice out of their reach.

    “The Hunting Ground” — in theaters now — is an indictment on college campus rape culture and the near complete refusal of administrators to address the issue or punish offenders. You can visit TheHuntingGroundFilm.com for show listings and to use the “Take Action” tab to get involved. Their “advocate” action takes thirty seconds and sends your representatives in Congress a note urging them to support the Campus Accountability & Safety Act.

    “The Perfect Victim” lays out the fallacy of the title through the stories of Shirley, Carlene, and Ruby — three women serving a collective eighty-five years in Missouri State prison for killing their abusive husbands. Each was denied the chance to tell their story at trial; each is hoping new council will help them find a path to justice.

    Beginning April 15th, The World Channel — which you can find at WorldChannel.Org — and Amazon Prime are both showing “The Perfect Victim” for free. You can find more information and get involved through the “Take Action” tab at ThePerfectVictim.Com.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Go see The Hunting Ground and visit their ”Take Action” tab to get involved.

    Go see The Perfect Victim and visit their ”Take Action” tab to get involved.

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #911 "Emasculation Nation (Rape and Intimate Partner Violence)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Student Aid Bill of Rights via @WhiteHouse — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: the Student Aid Bill of Rights.

    I’m running the risk of developing a reputation for being a White House shill, but it’s hard to disagree that second half of second term Obama is, indeed, the best Obama. It’s not all sunshine and roses — he is cheerleading the TPP after all, but some of the policies he’s dishing out are downright progressive. Enacting a Student Aid Bill of Rights is one of those policies.

    In his weekly address this past Saturday, President Obama unveiled a long-overdue proposal that builds on his State of the Union promise to provide two years of free community college to any American who wants to enroll and is accepted.

    The Student Aid Bill of Rights states that every student in America should:

    I. Have access to high-quality, affordable higher education.

    II. Be able to easily find the resources they need to pay for college.

    III. Be able to choose an affordable repayment play for student loans.

    IV. Receive quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment when repaying loans.

    It sounds simple — and it basically is. Currently, those who are able to go to college graduate with an average of $28,000 in debt; one in ten students graduates with more than $40,000; and “elite” degrees in law and medicine can cost upwards of $150,000 — if you don’t include undergrad. With federal student loans passing the $1 trillion mark — not to mention the private loans taken out by students and families, the debt our young people are saddled with before entering the work force is, as Forbes.com puts it, “crippling” the economy.

    Visit WhiteHouse.gov/CollegeOpportunity and add your name to the Presidential Memorandum, then use ContactingTheCongress.org to call, email, and tweet with the hashtag #CollegeOpportunity to let your representatives know you expect them to get behind this plan and take steps to enshrining the right to quality, affordable education into law.

    While you’re at it, let your state representatives know you expect them to implement the President’s plan for free community college. Even though it would be at no cost to the states, we’ve seen republican, split, and even some democratic state houses reject free federal money during this administration which means they need to hear from you.

    As long as the republicans control Congress, debt forgiveness is off the table. Let’s do what we can now to push the conversation to the left and keep student debt in the news and the forefront of the public consciousness so that during the primaries and 2016 presidential run, the ground work will be laid to make a trillion dollar infusion into the economy an obvious, politically viable plan.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Add your name: Student Aid Bill of Rights

    Let your reps know you support the plan through ContactingTheCongress.org where you can call, email, and tweet at your representatives using the hashtag #CollegeOpportunity.

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Reminder that the states have to agree to implement the president’s community college plan. Even though it would be at no cost to the states, we’ve seen republican (and even some democratic) and split state houses reject free federal money during this administration. Let your state and congressional representatives know you back a plan to make community college available to everyone who wants to attend.

    Sources/further reading:

    Press Release: “A Student Aid Bill of Rights”

    “Your Weekly Address: A Student Aid Bill of Rights”

    "5 Reasons Not to Get a Law Degree” via CBS News

    "How The $1.2 Trillion College Debt Crisis Is Crippling Students, Parents And The Economy” by Chris Denhart at Forbes.com

    "The President Proposes to Make Community College Free for Responsible Students for 2 Years”

    Watch POTUS video on two free years of community college: The President Proposes to Make Community College Free for Responsible Students for Two Years

    "FACT SHEET - White House Unveils America’s College Promise Proposal: Tuition-Free Community College for Responsible Students”

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #906 "Crushing our potential with student debt (Education)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Gender Neutral Bathrooms — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Gender Neutral Bathrooms.

    Sometimes the answer to a problem is so simple, cheap, and easy to lobby for it’s a wonder it hasn’t already been handled.

    This show has talked about the violence perpetrated against trans people due to overt bigotry, misogyny, and discrimination. Because of that and other factors, trans people are more likely to commit and attempt suicide than any other group. (The information for Trans Lifeline — (877) 565-8860 — a suicide hotline staffed by trans people for trans people is listed below.)

    What we don’t talk about much is the day to day hassles and micro aggressions that feed the culture of violence against trans people.

    Parker Molloy, a Chicago-based trans woman writer, described what an afternoon of errands used to be like for her in an interview with The Chicagoist:

    "One thing that a lot of transgender people struggle with is...well, for me, there was a period in my life where I was started taking hormones, and if you saw me in public, you'd be like, 'I have no clue what you're even going for here. Man? Woman? What?' ...I kind of hit this weird androgynous phase. It was to the point where, if I walked into the men's room, I'd get a lot of weird looks, and if I went into the women's restroom, I'd get a lot of weird looks. And so, rather than continuing to do that, before one of the weird looks became a scream, or became violent, I just decided to use the bathroom at home. Which is super inconvenient and hard. I would sit there and schedule my errands for making sure I wasn't away from the house for more than a few hours… Which is really sad that that has to be an issue, but it is an issue.”

    The cities of Austin, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and West Hollywood have all taken a simple step to alleviate both the stress of those situations and the potential for violence by enacting ordinances to make single-use bathrooms gender-neutral. The fix is cheap — usually $20-$50 at a Home Depot for supplies to change the signs — and most patrons don’t really notice the difference. West Hollywood business owners have even discovered a handy side-effect: shorter lines because anyone can use any of their bathrooms.

    Kentucky State Senator CB Embry, Jr. is pushing legislation that would bar transgender students from using the locker rooms and bathrooms that match their identities — and he’s not alone. The easiest way to prevent new discriminatory legislation is to create a cascade of proactive, rights-affirming legislation. And the good news is you have loads of power at the local level where gender neutral ordinances are being introduced!

    Go to your next city council meeting, call your alderman or your city council member and connect with your local LGBTQ group to lobby for change where you live. If cities and states can go smoke-free in public places for health and safety despite the tobacco and business lobbies, swapping out a couple of signs should be an easy ask.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Call and write your local alderman/city councilperson to push for local gender neutral bathroom ordinances.

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    TransLifeLine is a crisis hotline staffed by trans people for trans people. Contact them via Twitter and phone: US (877) 565-8860, Canada (877) 330-6366

    Sources/further reading:

    "INTERVIEW: The Advocate's Parker Marie Molloy on Grantland, Piers Morgan, and More” at The Chicagoist

    "A trans advocate’s perspective on Trans 101 questions” at Transadvocate

    "TLDEF Condemns Kentucky Bill Targeting Transgender Students for Discrimination” via TransGender Legal

    "No label required on West Hollywood's gender-neutral bathrooms” at LA Times

    "Austin Makes Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Out Of All Single-Use Stalls, And Other Cities Should Take Note” at Bustle

    "My Transgender Coming Out Story” ebook by Parker Mollow

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #904 "Opt for compassion and inclusion (Transgender Rights)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Bolstering Unemployment Benefits with the 2016 Budget via @WhiteHouse - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Bolstering Unemployment Benefits with the 2016 Budget.

    I’ve had my differences with the president during his tenure in office, but I'm a pragmatic fan of good ideas. And fixing our busted unemployment insurance system is a very, very good idea. Building that kind of meaningful, benefit extending, life changing reform into the budget is even better than a good idea.

    As a whole, the budget is solid enough that the typically critical folks at Common Dreams are fans of what they’ve seen so far. Dave Johnson describes the White House’s move to the left and the end of the austerity mindset still reigning from the sequester this way:

    "President Obama is using his 'bully pulpit' to push the country in a new direction. The President has submitted a budget that calls for more public investment in vital areas, and pays for it with more taxes on the wealthy. He has drawn a dividing line between a Reaganomics era of 'trickle down' favors for the wealthy combined with cuts, austerity and intentional economic pain and harm, and a return to an era of a government that does things that make people’s lives better.”

    A large part of "making people’s lives better" is redesigning “triggers” that kick in unemployment insurance benefits so that they are available early enough in a downturn and don’t require action by Congress — which typically comes after a recession is in full swing. The unemployment reform even has bipartisan roots — something that may make you cringe, but is necessary with a Republican-controlled Congress. Also, the plan makes sense.

    As Danny Vinik writes at The New Republic:

    "The plan has two components. One would offer states financial rewards for changing the eligibility criteria so that more people who work part-time or who work on and off are eligible for benefits. The second part would encourage states to implement programs to promote reemployment…[S]tates could offer the unemployed relocation vouchers to move where jobs are more widely available, an idea that Republican Senator John Thune proposed in 2014. States could also support more extensive reemployment services and job training programs.”

    So if your job is actually GONE and not just downsized or restructured, you could get help learning new skills. And if your job hops a state border or too many towns over to commute, you could get a hand relocating. This seems like common sense not just because it’s helpful, but because getting people employed quickly is less expensive than long-term unemployment or social programs. It should be win-win from any perspective.

    Luckily, we have enough time before the budget will hit the floor to make the unemployment boost popular, giving opinion poll cover to the White House and creating a PR nightmare for conservative congress members who would lobby to nix it.

    Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and let the president know you support an un-compromised budget with none of the unemployment reform bargained away in the months to come. You can always tweet to @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama to leave a public comment that encourages others to do the same. Information on writing and emailing the White House can be found at WhiteHouse.gov/contact.

    Then, use ContactingTheCongress.org to let your representatives in Congress know you support this provision of the 2016 budget and you expect them to publicly do the same.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Let the White House know you support the unemployment provisions of the 2016 budget via phone (202-456-1111), email/mail and via Twitter to @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama

    Use ContactingTheCongress to let your reps know you expect them to publicly support the unemployment plan.

    Sources/further reading:

    Fiscal Year 2016 Budget of the U.S/ Government via The White House

    "Obama's Budget Proposes a Major Overhaul of Unemployment Insurance” by Danny Vinik at The New Republic

    "Right-Wing Media Use Flawed Study To Attack Unemployment Benefits” by Rachel Calvert at Media Matters for America

    "U.S. jobless claims fall as labor market gains momentum” by Lucia Mutikani at Reuters

    "Conservatives Cheer Research Saying Cuts To Unemployment Benefits Helped The Economy” by Arthur Delaney at HuffPo

    "Obama Budget Signals End Of Austerity, Return Of Sanity” by Dave Johnson at Common Dreams

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #901 "The wealth divide and the crumbling bridge across it (Economics)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • #EqualPayDay (4/14/2015) - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Equal Pay Day.

    There’s a stat most people are aware of. On the right they do back flips and employ non sequiturs to “refute” it. On the left we rattle it off automatically whenever anyone says: “Men and women are equal these days, so why is everyone still complaining?”

    Data shows that women in the U.S. earn approximately 25% less than their male counterparts. Still. Like right now. In 2013, women’s earnings were 78.3% of men’s — up 1.8% from 2012 according to the Census.

    That stat comes with an important caveat that should be noted and remembered when participating in today’s action. The 78.3% number is for white women. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), African American women earned 68.1% of all men’s earnings and Latinas’ earnings were 60.4% of men’s. So, far less than their white counterparts.

    Even if we just use the white woman pay equity gap, the numbers are staggering. In 2013, men earned an average of $50,033 and women came in at $39,157 — a difference of over $10,000 per year. Think about what you could do with ten grand. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, neither women’s nor men’s earnings improved much from 2012 to 2013 — the most recent numbers available. Their “wage gap fact sheet” states:

    “If the pace of change in the annual earnings ratio continues at the same rate as it has since 1960, it will take another 45 years, until 2058, for men and women to reach parity.”

    The biggest awareness day for the pay gap is coming up. The National Committee on Pay Equity started Equal Pay Day in 1996 to illustrate how many extra days into the new year women would need to work to equal what men earned the previous year. In 2015, the date is April 14. So, women would have to work all of 2014, plus the first three and a half months of 2015 to match what men took home in 2014.

    Social media will likely use the traditional hashtags of “Equal Pay” and “Equal Pay Day” with people sharing stories and statistics. Wearing red — possibly with a selfie or two posted to your networks — symbolizes how far women and minorities are “in the red” with their pay.

    You can also visit the “What You Can Do” tab at Pay-Equity.org anytime to track legislation, contact Congress, and find out how to do an equality audit of your business.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Wear red on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 for #EqualPayDay.

    Visit the “What You Can Do” tab at PayEquity.org to track legislation, contact Congress, form a wage club, or do an equality audit of your business.

    Sources/further reading:

    Wage Gap Fact Sheet via Institute for Women's Policy Research

    Equal Pay and the Wage Gap via National Women's Law Center (NWLC)

    "Women Can't Afford to Celebrate Equal Pay Day” by Margaret Carlson at Bloomberg View

    "For African-American Women—and All Women—Let’s Make Every Day Equal Pay Day” by Stephanie Schriock and Rep. Terri Sewell at The Root

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #900 "Stuff we shouldn’t have to explain anymore (Feminism)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • The March to Full Marriage Equality Continues with @MEUSA - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: The March to Full Marriage Equality Continues with Marriage Equality USA.

    Thirty-seven states plus the District of Columbia currently have full marriage equality on the books. With only 13 states and five U.S. territories to go, the cementing of this particular right for LGBTQ people seems inevitable. As discussed previously on this podcast and in LGBTQ activist writing and campaigning, marriage is not the only right we should be concerned about. But the goal is well within reach, so how about we push hard to get all the way there while building resources and momentum for battles on employment, housing, and healthcare discrimination protections?

    MarriageEquality.org is the nation’s oldest non-profit dedicated to building equality for the LGBTQ community through civil marriage equality at the state and federal level. Their “What’s Happening Now” tab is a comprehensive aggregation of wins and setbacks around the country. They link to local and state-level actions as well as post videos and other shareable content to spread around your networks.

    MarriageEquality.org also tracks anti-equality groups like The National Organization for Marriage and politicians like Mike Huckabee and the Arkansas legislators who just sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would build the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people into state law.

    Tracking state-level legislation has become increasingly important. As the finish line approaches on full marriage equality in America, right-wing groups and legislators are digging in their heels and even repealing protections against discrimination. Basically, they’re using all the press and celebration over marriage to attempt a quiet undermining of the dozens of other rights not as yet afforded to LGBTQ people. The most recent example is in Kansas where the governor essentially cancelled protections for state employees by taking an executive action by former governor Kathleen Sebelius off the books.

    Not exactly a bastion of liberal thought in recent years, even the Washington Post editorial board is giving it to Governor Brownback on both moral and logistical grounds. Their editorial from last week titled "In Kansas, the governor is rolling back tolerance,” reads in part:

    "...his official rationale is embarrassingly weak. Just like chief executives in the private sector, governors and the president set workplace policies within their executive branches all the time. Those policies don’t apply to private employers; it’s up to lawmakers to mandate state or national anti-discrimination policy. That’s no reason for governors or the president to sanction discrimination in the meantime, particularly when “it makes good business sense to treat employees . . . with dignity and respect.”

    Help MarriageEquality.org and the local group Equality Kansas raise awareness and fight back by joining their action to let Governor Brownback know how you feel. You can call the Kansas state Capitol at 877-579-6757 and post a message for him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/govsambrownback and on Twitter at @govsambrownback.

    Also, keep an eye on your state; it is possible to celebrate the realization of one right while looking ahead to continue the fight beyond this victory.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Help finish off the fight for full marriage equality & track state-level discriminatory legislation at: MarriageEquality.org

    Join Marriage Equality USA and Equality Kansas fight Governor Brownback’s discriminatory executive action by calling the state capitol at 877-579-6757 and posting messages on Facebook and Twitter

    Sources/further reading:

    U.S. map of marriage equality via Freedom To Marry

    "Arkansas Legislature Passes Bill Allowing LGBT Discrimination” by Dominic Holden

    "Governor Brownback Cancels LGBT State Employee Protections” via Equality Kansas

    "In Kansas, the governor is rolling back tolerance” by The Washington Post editorial board

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #899 "Work still to be done (LGBTQ Rights)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Fighting the Anti-Vaxxer Movement with @Voices4Vaccines - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Fighting the Anti-Vaxxer Movement with Voices For Vaccines.

    It looks like this run of “I can’t believe this is a thing that needs action” segments is ongoing. Measles — a serious illness even Baby Boomers barely remember — is back. More than 100 people in 17 states have confirmed cases and DisneyWorld had a double digit outbreak just before Christmas.

    Why? Because a study from over a decade ago, based on a handful of cases, that has been refuted and debunked and thoroughly discredited through things like science and a hundred years of data is popular again. For a brief glimmer of a moment, vaccines looked like they might be risky and a generation of parents were scared into opting their children out. Many, like CNN contributor and Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn regret that decision now and are talking about why they’ve changed their positions. Speaking out can get you attacked by right and left fringes alike — this is one of those rare topics like climate change that has skeptics on both sides. Storytelling combined with the science has become a necessary tool, as it has with so many issues recently.

    Polio survivor Minda Dentler pleads with readers at Time.com to vaccinate their children with her graphic, brave story of surgeries and pain and overcoming it all to become the first handcyclist to complete the Kona Ironman. "Most people who oppose vaccines don’t know first-hand what these diseases can do to you,” Dentler writes. "They should meet me.”

    Writer and parent Jessica Valenti joins in with near-compassion for anti-vaxxers in her column at The Guardian:

    “….when I read quotes from parents denying any social responsibility to vaccinate saying things like, 'My child is pure ... It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child,' it makes me livid. Where once we said 'it takes a village,' these days some people don’t care if the village burns to the ground so long as their precious snowflake is left standing.”

    Valenti’s piece points out why the right-wing loves this movement; supposedly it’s about personal choice — a topic they’re keen on unless it has to do with someone’s uterus. The left can get taken in as part of the whole “pure and healthy” trend in food and cleaning supplies. What both sides miss — not that the right-wing would care — is that the anti-vaxxer fringe isn’t just awful because they’re risking the rampant return of nearly eradicated diseases. They’re promoting some serious bigotry and discrimination as well.

    Maria Mora has a straightforward, important reminder at SheKnows.com for people who still refuse to believe the thorough debunking of the study celebs like Jenny McCarthy — yes, that Jenny McCarthy — used to fuel the fear of vaccines. "Autism isn't a punishment,” she writes. "It isn't a bogeyman. It shouldn't be what keeps parents who vaccinate their kids up at night.”

    Vaccines don’t cause autism. But beyond that, it’s ableist to talk about fear of autism in a way that pretty much flat out says, “I’d rather risk my child and your child dying from the measles than raise their risk of becoming autistic.” Imagine the message that sends to people with autism.

    With so much to combat, we as concerned, science- and empathy-appreciating citizens are lucky to have Voices For Vaccines as a resource. They are a parent-led, evidence-based non-profit with a team of doctors and immunologists who serve on their board.

    The “Tools” tab at VoicesForVaccines.org has printable handouts; archived conference calls and law manuals on vaccines as resources; community and parent toolkits; new and expectant parent toolkits; links to their “Kick the Flu Out of School” campaign because, yes, people do still die from the flu; and a primer for writing op-eds to your local news outlets and for publication.

    Their social media feeds are active, current, and full of useful information as well as links to local actions and updates. Visit their page, get educated, and help spread the facts to keep the immune compromised and vulnerable in our society protected.

    Also, a quick heads up for those who thought their vaccine schedule ended sometime in college, you very likely need a Pertussis booster with your next tetanus shot to protect against the increased risk of Whooping Cough. It’s back as well, it’s awful, you have increased risk if you spend time with children, and you should ask your doctor if you’re due for one as immunity does wear off over time.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Use the resources at: Voices For Vaccines

    Follow Voices For Vaccines on Twitter and Facebook.

    Find out more about the adult pertussis vaccination at: AdultVaccination.org

    Sources/further reading:

    "A Polio Survivor’s Plea: Vaccinate Your Children” by Minda Dentler at Time.com

    "Anti-Vaxxers Brought Measles to the Happiest Place on Earth: A measles outbreak has sickened 70 people at Disneyland, and could be the spark that brings the once-eradicated disease back in force.” by Russell Saunders at The Daily Beast

    "Your feelings about vaccines don't trump another child's medical reality” by Jessica Valenti at The Guardian

    "Elizabeth Warren Asks Questions About Vaccines, Gets Shocking Answers” by Kaili Joy Gray at Wonkette

    "Dear anti-vaxxers: Stop using autism as a bogeyman” by Maria Mora at SheKnows

    "I Didn’t Vaccinate My Child—And I Regret It: How I finally discovered that vaccinating your kids is the right thing to do.” by Sally Kohn

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #898 "Ignorance and fear sending us backwards (Vaccinations)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • End Abortion Coverage Bans - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: End Abortion Coverage Bans.

    New year, same as the old year. Except slightly worse. The newly GOP-lead Congress announced their priorities for the 114th legislative session by exhaling the final word of the oath of office, removing their hands from their Bibles, and — without so much as pausing — introducing a slate of abortion restrictions.

    Because jobs? and national security? and…maybe they didn’t actually run on anything and this was always the plan. Their very unproductive plan to make restricting people’s bodily autonomy seem not so extreme and, in fact, mostly OK ahead of the presidential primary fundraising set to begin any moment.

    The first vote was scheduled for January 22nd which marked the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade — the seminal date in reproductive rights. They seem to have either zero recognition of history or zero shame — unsurprising from a group that voted over fifty times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, knowing that any bill they passed would be vetoed.

    Similarly, the White House has promised to veto any anti-choice bills that make it through both the House and the Senate — but we can’t rely forever on the West Wing to be a stop gap for bad laws. And the one that passed last week — H.R.7 — is extremely bad policy.

    H.R. 7 — the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015 — would make federal funding for abortion care double, extra, super secret illegal. It’s already on the books thanks to the Hyde Amendment which gets attached annually to the federal budget to prohibit people insured by Medicaid from using their coverage for abortion care. HR 7 would expand that access restriction to absolutely everyone in the country, no matter their insurance provider.

    Privately purchased plans, employer-provided plans, ACA plans — none would be allowed to offer abortion coverage. So much for the free market.

    As Emily Crockett reports at RH Reality Check, the medical community — who deal daily with patients struggling to afford care — are none to happy about H.R.7. Hal C. Lawrence, executive vice president and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — the group we probably should be listening to on this as they’re the experts — expressed his concern:

    “We remain disappointed that the House leadership continues to target abortion by pivoting to payment policies. Medical care must be guided by sound science and by the patient’s individual needs, not by legislative mandates or financial concerns.”

    H.R. 7 is making its way to the Senate; you can track it’s progress at GovTrack.us and then use ContactingTheCongress.org to let your Senators know you expect them to vote “no” when it hits the floor.

    Even when H.R.7 is defeated, low-income Americans will be facing the renewal of the Hyde Amendment. Congress has seen fit to actually pass a budget the past couple of years, which means some GOP legislator will reintroduce Hyde to maintain the punishment of the poor. Disadvantaged Americans have long been on the legislative chopping block, used as tools and talking points by ambitious politicians without fear of reprisal.

    As the group All* Above All says in their letter to end Hyde: "It’s time to stop abortion coverage restrictions, plain and simple.”

    You can sign their letter to your representatives at AllAboveAll.org under the “Act” tab. If you are in a blue state, you have additional power here. Your representatives should be at least “check the box” pro-choice and moveable on this. The president has also revised his language on abortion and come out unapologetically without couched language against H.R. 7; it’s time he did the same with Hyde. President Obama can end this continual punishment of low-income and marginalized communities by promising to veto a budget that includes Hyde.

    The importance of ending coverage bans cannot be overstated. Only 13% of counties in the U.S. even have abortion providers thanks to TRAP laws and attacks since Roe. The affects of these bans is explained perfectly by Heidi Williamson, the Senior Policy Analyst for the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress and long-time reproductive justice advocate:

    "We celebrate Roe as a standard and a vision that we must continue to strive for as a nation. All women, regardless of age, gender, income, socio-economic status, or funding source of insurance should benefit from its promise. And our fight for justice isn’t done until all woman have comprehensive reproductive health care, including the access to abortion services.”

    TAKE ACTION:

    Track H.R.7 via GovTrack.us and use Contacting the Congress to tell your Senators to vote NO when H.R.7 comes to the Senate.

    SIGN All* Above All’s letter opposing the Hyde Amendment on the 2016 budget: End Abortion Coverage Bans Now!

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    SIGN NARAL Pro-Choice America’s petitions to the 114th Congress:

    ”Ask the Republican Leaders: Where Are The Women?”

    ”Anti-Choice Politicians Don’t Speak For Me

    Sources/further reading:

    Graphic courtesy of The Repeal Hyde Art Project

    See who the H.R.7 co-sponsors were: Congressional Bill Tracker — H.R.7

    "New Year, Same as the Old Year? 2015 Reproductive Rights Preview” by Katie Klabusich at Truthout

    "Roe Should Be a Reality for All, Not Just for a Wealthy Few” by Heidi Williamson at TalkPoverty.org

    "Congress Rejected A 20-Week Abortion Ban, But These States Didn’t” by Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #893 "Bringing harm, one patriarchal policy at a time (Abortion Rights)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich