California Public Schools Will Now Require Teaching LGBT History

Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1987 (The Washington Post)

Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1987 (The Washington Post)

California has long been one of the most progressive states in the union, fearlessly blazing a trail where other states dare not tread.

OK, maybe I’m biased because I live here.

But California is about to do something (else) no other state has done: require teaching LGBT history in public schools.

Granted, this isn’t a complete shock. Last year, the state voted to pass a new curriculum for history and social studies where children will learn about LGBT history at various points during K-12 schooling. Topics will range from learning about diverse families in elementary school to historical nuts-and-bolts in high school.

(Side note: A public forum was held in 2015 regarding the new curriculum. While there were disagreements over how some religious groups were portrayed, “no one protested the inclusion of the history of LGBT rights.” Progress!)

This measure comes after the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Act (FAIR) Education Act was passed in 2012. This act bolstered the inclusion of minority groups (including the LGBT community) in public education on history. The deadline to include this new information in textbooks was this year.

With California leading the way, I hope other states will follow suit in teaching inclusive history to their students.

 

The Philippines Might Get Access to Free Birth Control

Birth control pills (Salon)

Birth control pills (Salon)

Women in the Philippines might soon get access to free birth control.

The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order for women of the country to receive free birth control, as well as access to further reproductive health services.

The order implements the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012, which promotes family planning with the support of the state. It was signed into law that year. The order took 13 years to be signed into law (so it was introduced in 1999…yikes).

It’s estimated that there are currently 6M women without birth control within the country, with 2M women classified as poor. There are 24 live births per every 1K people, giving the country the 66th highest birth rate in the world. Considering that abortion is illegal, the need for some form of birth control is high:

More than half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and more than 90 percent of unintended pregnancies occurred in the absence of modern contraceptive methods.

Duterte’s goal is to completely eradicate any “unmet family planning needs” by 2018.

Trump Bans Funding for International Organizations that “Promote” Abortion

Trump signs international abortion ban (Lifesite)

Trump signs international abortion ban (Lifesite)

Well, that was quick.

On his third day in office, Trump showed his hand on female reproductive rights (not like we didnt already know…) He moved to block U.S. aid for organizations that “promote” abortion. In this case, “promoting” abortion means presenting it as a viable option and/or providing abortion counseling.

Similar rules have been in place since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan instituted the first rule known as the Mexico City policy. (The policy was named for the location in which Reagan announced it.) Depending on which party is in office, the bill has been repealed (by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) and reinstated (by George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush).

Despite the fact that the policy has been around for over 30 years, it’s unclear whether it’s actually working:

Health experts say the policy has not led to a decline in abortions in the affected countries. Some research suggests that it has had the opposite effect: increasing abortion rates by forcing health clinics to close or to restrict contraceptive supplies because of lack of funding. Others say the restriction only heightens the risk of illegal and often unsafe abortions.

A study completed by the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2011 found that the Mexico City policy was “linked to increases in abortion rates in sub-Saharan African countries.” But the study also found that it was difficult to link a country’s abortion rates back to the policy.

 

Ohio Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks

Ultrasound of fetus at 20 weeks (The Times in Plain English)

Ultrasound of fetus at 20 weeks (The Times in Plain English)

Another blow for women’s health: Ohio Governor John Kasich (yes, the former Republican presidential hopeful) signed a bill to approve banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. (To put this in context, most pregnancies are around 40 weeks long.)

The Senate Bill 127, signed December 2016, does not allow for exceptions in rape and incest cases. Supporters of the bill claim that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. (I’m curious how they know this; did they ask the fetus through the ultrasound?) The only exception will be for women whose pregnancy puts their health at risk.

Providers caught performing abortions after 20 weeks will charged with a “fourth-degree felony.”

Earlier that month, Kasich tried to sign a “heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortion after six weeks. A heartbeat pulse can generally be found around that time, though women may not know they’re pregnant. He eventually vetoed it due to overwhelming public pressure.

Around 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks. The new law takes effect Mar. 14, 2017.

Bus Permits for the Women’s March Outnumber Bus Permits for the Inauguration by a 1:6 Ratio

Women's Strike For Peace And Equality March, 1970 (Time)

Women’s Strike for Peace-And Equality, Women’s Strike for Equality, Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, August 26, 1970. (Photo by Eugene Gordon/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)Women’s Strike For Peace And Equality March, 1970 (Time)

Friday, January 20th is Inauguration Day for the president-elect. The Women’s March takes place the next day. (Who’s going? I am!) D.C. can already tell the event is sure to be huge, judging by the number of bus permits secured. And the March might overshadow the previous day’s activities.

According to D.C. Council member Charles Allen, 1,200 buses have secured parking permits for the day of the March in RFK Stadium. (RFK Stadium has a capacity of 1,300 buses.) By contrast, just 200 buses have registered for parking permits for Inauguration Day. For every bus that has registered for the inauguration, six buses have registered for the March.

For President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2009, 3K buses registered for permits. Bus registrations for the current president-elect comprised 6.67% of that total.

Attendees for the March are expected to number as many as 200K.

Hopefully, this detail begins getting the message to the president-elect loud and clear that we will not be ignored.

 

 

New York City Issues the First U.S. Intersex Birth Certificate

Sara Kelly Keenan (LGBTQ Nation)

Sara Kelly Keenan (LGBTQ Nation)

In December 2016, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene re-issued a birth certificate to Sara Kelly Keenan. The action made history: Keenan’s corrected birth certificate denoted her intersex identity. (Keenan uses female pronouns.) The new birth certificate is the first one ever in the U.S. to note the gender identity.

The term “intersex” refers to a physical condition where one’s anatomy does not fully line up as either male or female. Keenan is “genetically male with female genitalia and mixed internal reproductive anatomy.” When Keenan was born, her birth certificate originally read “male,” but was changed to “female” three weeks later.

This change has been a long time coming, seeing as Keenan is 55 years old. She’s seen a lot of changes, especially within the fields of reproductive health and anatomy: When Keenan was born, “hermaphrodite” was the commonly accepted term for her condition.

Previous to the birth certificate change, Keenan had self-identified as non-binary (that is, neither male nor female).

First Female President of South Korea Impeached

South Korean President Park Guen-hye (NovoRossia)

South Korean President Park Guen-hye (NovoRossia)

South Korean President Park Guen-hye made history in 2012 by becoming the first woman elected to the country’s highest office. Now, she’s made history for a more ignominious reason: Park is the first female president of South Korea to be impeached.

Park is battling various charges of corruption. The South Korean National Assembly voted to impeach her 234 to 56. The vote now will move to the Constitutional Court, which could take up to six months.

And if the Constitutional Court is in favor?

Park will be formally removed from office if six of the court’s nine justices support her impeachment, and the country would then hold a presidential election within 60 days.

According to a recent poll from Gallup Korea, Park’s current approval rating sits at a measly 5%. Incredibly, this is an improvement from her 4% approval rating. Poll respondents supported her impeachment at a rate of 81%.