Crystal Nguyen, a former inmate at Valley State Prison seen with son Neiko Nguyen, said she worked in the prison infirmary. She said she often heard the medical staff ask repeat offenders to agree to be sterilized. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” Nguyen recalls.
Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.
From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.
The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.
Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future….
The allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were commonplace in California. State lawmakers officially banned such practices in 1979.
IN HER BOOK THE NEW JIM Crow, Michelle Alexander argues that the system of mass incarceration in the United States, fueled by the war on drugs, operates in a seemingly color-blind, race-neutral way to create a new Jim Crow system that forces African Americans, especially African American men, into a permanent underclass. I believe that attacks on Roe v Wade and efforts to treat fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as separate legal persons will establish a system of law in which women who have abortions will go to jail. Furthermore, all pregnant women are at risk of being assigned to a second-class status that will not only deprive them of their reproductive rights and physical liberty through arrests, but also effectively strip them of their status as full constitutional persons.
Here I address major changes in US law enforcement since Roe v Wade was decided in 1973 that make it likely that if Roe is over-turned women who have abortions will be arrested and sentenced to incarceration. I discuss how efforts to undermine Roe and to establish separate legal personhood for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses are already providing the basis for the arrests and detentions of and forced interventions on pregnant women. I conclude that these efforts, if unchecked, not only will result in massive deprivations of pregnant women’s liberty, but also will create a basis for ensuring a permanent underclass for preg- nant women or, for lack of a better term, a new Jane Crow.
Today’s criminal justice system, however, is radically different from the one that existed when Roe was decided. In the 1970s, the United States had approximately 300000 prisoners, and relatively few women were prosecuted for any crime, including abortion. Between 1970 and 2000, the US population rose by less than 40%, yet the number of people in prisons and jails rose by more than 500%. The United States now has a prison industrial complex that includes a for-profit prison industry that reaps enormous financial gain from building prisons, providing ongoing services to those prisons, and ensuring that those prisons remain filled.
Currently, US prisons and jails hold more than 1.5 million people, and 4.8 million more are under some form of criminal justice supervision in the community, such as probation and parole. In 1977, the number of women in prison was 11212 and in 2009, it was 105197—an increase of 938%. Today, more than 200000 women are behind bars, and more than one million women are on probation or parole. The fact that a woman is also a mother caring for one or more children is no deterrent to incarceration. Two thirds of the incarcerated women in the United States have at least one minor child, and approximately five percent of women are pregnant when they begin their incarceration.
This new era of mass incarceration—which is largely accepted by the public, defended by an army of lobbyists, and justified by a war on drugs deeply rooted in America’s history of slavery and racism makes it far more likely today than in 1973 that if Roe is overturned women will themselves be arrested and jailed. It is also likely that women having or considering having abortions will be subject to far more government surveillance than in the past.
Though Congress remains whiter, older, and more male than the nation as a whole, the incoming class will be the most diverse in history.
The 113th Congress will be more representative of the United States from race to religion, and from gender to sexual orientation. It will look more like America with 4 new African American representatives, 10 new Latinos, 5 new Asian Americans and 24 women in the House or Senate.* It will believe more like America with the first two Hindu congresspeople, the first Buddhist senator, and the first non-theist to openly acknowledge her belief prior to getting elected. It will love more like America, with 4 new LGBT congresspeople or senators, including the first openly bisexual congresswoman and the first openly gay congressman of color. And it will be younger, with four new congressmen born in the 1980s.
With President Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2012 election, he becomes the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and the only president since Ronald Reagan—to win two consecutive elections with more than 50 percent of the popular vote. Although the election was closely contested, President Obama successfully solidified his historic progressive coalition from 2008 and held on to all of the states he won that year with the exception of conservative-leaning Indiana and North Carolina. And after the electoral disaster of that Democrats suffered in 2010 at the congressional level, the party expanded its majority in the Senate with significant wins in Massachusetts, Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, and even Indiana.
Why did this happen? A potent mix of demographics, a steadily improving economy, a clear rejection of the GOP’s extreme conservatism, and an embrace of pragmatic progressive policies on social and economic issues propelled the president and his party to victory. The president’s central message that “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules” was more convincing to Americans dealing with rising inequality and diminished economic opportunities than the conservative alternative of supply-side tax cuts, deregulation, and limited government. His policy choices—from the stimulus bill and auto and financial sector bailouts to the health care law and support for expanded rights for women, Latinos, and gay and lesbian families—clearly paid off politically as the nation decided to give the president more time to lay a new foundation for our economy, society and government.
With his clear Electoral College and national popular vote majorities, President Obama has arguably created a genuine realignment at the national level that could continue to shape American politics for years to come. Obama’s strong progressive majority—built on a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class coalition in support of an activist government that promotes freedom, opportunity, and security for all—is real and growing and it reflects the face and beliefs of the United States in the early part of the 21st Century. The GOP must face the stark reality that its voter base is declining and its ideology is too rigid to represent the changing face of today’s country.
The day before the election, President Barack Obama was preparing to speak in Ohio when state Republicans tweeted that they had knocked on 75,000 doors that day. Campaign aides told Obama they had knocked on 376,000 doors that day, according to a campaign staffer who recounted the story to reporters.
The president smiled widely. “That’s my team,” he said.
Through investing heavily in a ground game devised by field organizing veterans and honed over the last five years, the president’s campaign used voter-to-voter contact, a sprawling physical campaign, and personalized outreach to help the president compete against the financial advantage of the his opponent.
Recently Republican senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock suggested that a pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended to happen.” Mourdock’s Christian fascist views permeate through a significant portion of the Republican Party, which has rampaged against reproductive rights with medieval zeal. The GOP’s anti-feminist backlash poses the gravest threat for women of color, who historically never had the benefit of being viewed as “proper” rape victims because innocence and “virtue” were an oxymoron when you were a slave, “squaw” or concubine.
In an era in which the wombs of African-American and Latino women are handily served up in every election cycle as welfare-queen-anchor-baby-spitting breeders, humanism has got to be culturally relevant, steeped in activism, and the everyday realities of communities of color.
Our call for news of Obama reelection-related layoffs brought in the following, from across the nation:
Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray read a prayer, and then “laid off 54 people at American Coal, one of his subsidiary companies, and 102 at Utah American Energy, blaming a ‘war on coal’ by the administration of President Barack Obama.’”
A business owner in Williamson, Georgia told C-Span that he laid off three employees (“who voted for Obama”) and cut his remaining employees’ hours from 30 to 25 per week due to his fear of Obamacare.
The owners of the West Cinema and the Pink Sugar boutique in Cedartown, Georgia say they are closing those businesses because they anticipate “higher taxes and more regulations during Obama’s second term of office.”
The CEO of Papa John’s Pizza said that due to Obamacare, it’s “likely that some franchise owners would reduce employees’ hours in order to avoid having to cover them.”
[T]he GOP’s suppression strategy failed. Ten major restrictive voting laws were blocked in court and turnout among young, black and Hispanic voters increased as a share of the electorate relative to 2008.
Take a look at Ohio, where Ohio Republicans limited early voting hours as a way to decrease the African-American vote, which made up a majority of early voters in cities like Cleveland and Dayton. Early voting did fall relative to 2008 as a result of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s cutbacks in early voting days and hours, but the overall share of the black electorate increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. More than anything else, that explains why Barack Obama once again carried the state.
I spent the weekend before the election in black churches in Cleveland, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the GOP’s push to curtail the rights of black voters made them even more motivated to cast a ballot. “When they went after big mama’s voting rights, they made all of us mad,” said Reverend Tony Minor, Ohio coordinator of the African American Ministers Leadership Council. According to CBS News: “More African-Americans voted in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida than in 2008.”
The same thing happened with the Latino vote, which increased as a share of the electorate (from 9 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2012) and broke even stronger for Obama than in 2008 (from 67-31 in 2008 to 71-27 in 2012, according to CNN exit polling). The share of the Latino vote increased in swing states like Nevada (up 4 percent), Florida (up 3 percent) and Colorado (up 1 percent). Increased turnout and increased support for Obama among Latinos exceeded the margin of victory for the president in these three swing states.
Racial minorities made up 28 percent of the electorate in 2012, up from 26 percent in 2008, and voted 80 percent for Obama. “Romney matched the best performance among white voters ever for a Republican challenger—and yet he lost decisively in the Electoral College,” wrote Ron Brownstein of National Journal. Minorities also accounted for 45 percent of Obama’s total vote. That means that in the not-so-distant-future, a Democrat will be able to win the presidency without needing a majority of white votes in his or her own coalition. In a country with growing diversity, if one party is committed to expanding the right to vote and the other party is committed to restricting the right to vote, it’s not hard to figure out which one will ultimately be more successful.
So much for voter suppression. So much for the enthusiasm gap. So much for the idea that smug, self-appointed arbiters of what is genuinely “American” were going to “take back” the country, as if it had somehow been stolen.
On Tuesday, millions of voters sent a resounding message to the take-it-back crowd: You won’t. You can’t. It’s our country, too.
President Obama and the Democratic Party scored what can be seen only as a comprehensive victory. Obama won the popular vote convincingly, and the electoral vote wasn’t close. In a year when it was hard to imagine how Democrats could avoid losing seats in the Senate, they won seats and increased their majority.
Republicans did keep control of the House, but to call this a “status quo” election is absurd. After the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans had the initiative and Democrats were reeling. After Tuesday, the dynamics are utterly reversed.
In 2008, Latinos were 13 percent of the electorate; about 60 percent voted for Obama. On Tuesday, Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters — and, according to exit polls, three-fourths of them supported the president. Think that might have something to do with Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration policy? I do.
Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent and Asian Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.
Ok, now the election’s done. Good. Thank God—it went on about six months too long. There went a billion dollars that could’ve been used to help educate children or wipeout poverty or pay 1/16000th of our national debt. But at the end of the day, our guy (Obama) won, the best President ever for Tribes; a great champion for Native people, Tester, won; and Heitkamp also won. Good job everybody—thank you to all of the organizers, all the volunteers, all the Natives who fundraised, who spoke, who kept Native people as a relevant topic to the campaign. Heck, there was even a couple of Skins in Chicago in the headquarters on election night representing. ALL OF YOU did a great job.
Still, now is not the time for celebrating. Now is the time for working—in fact, the hard work only begins now.
In the past few months, there have been MANY people asking you to vote for specific candidates—Obama, Tester, Heitkamp, Inslee for example (and, of course, there were folks on “the other side” encouraging you to vote for their candidates as well). “Our” people won, in no small part due to the Native vote in various states. Now is the time to hold those candidates and their supporters accountable. If those candidates, their parties, and/or supporters (including me) cannot show how Native life is improving as a result of those candidates’ respective actions, then we need to reconsider how much value to put into those candidates’ and/or parties’ performances. That’s how this system works—“We give you support when you need it (during election time) and you give us support when we need it (when we need help with our issues).” That’s what the Jewish voting bloc has done for decades; that’s what the Hispanic voting bloc is beginning to do now.
NOTE TO ELIZABETH WARREN: Oh yeah, our favorite Cherokee—Elizabeth Warren—also won her Senatorial seat in Massachusetts. Despite her strategic, fictitious Native lineage that she leveraged to distinguish herself from other job candidates, she’s been dodging Indian media, Indian Democrats, Indian people. Heck, she probably doesn’t even sit Indian-style or bar-b-q during Indian Summer; she seems to want nothing to do with us. The truth is, she doesn’t have to be Native to be an ally—who cares? Inouye isn’t Native. Obama isn’t Native, although he is adopted Crow. Tester isn’t Native. He’s a big cornfed white boy rancher who happens to be one of the best champions that Native people have in DC. Therefore, this is an invitation to Senator Warren’s people—congratulations, and come talk to us. Otherwise, we’ll likewise hold you accountable.
President Barack Obama was declared the winner of Florida’s 29 electoral votes Saturday, ending a four-day count with a razor-thin margin that narrowly avoided an automatic recount that would have brought back memories of 2000.
No matter the outcome, Obama had already clinched re-election and now has 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
The Florida Secretary of State’s Office said that with almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Obama led Republican challenger Mitt Romney 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of about 74,000 votes. That was over the half-percent margin where a computer recount would have been automatically ordered unless Romney had waived it.
There is a Nov. 16 deadline for overseas and military ballots, but under Florida law, recounts are based on Saturday’s results. Only a handful of overseas and military ballots are believed to remain outstanding.
For this is the way the new power lies: Those who once dwelled at the margins of the Commonwealth have appropriated the language of their colonial masters and used it with great degree of articulation as they inch toward the center, crossing all kinds of demarcations, dispelling the old myth. If Crusoe contends that he still is the lead actor, Friday is far from being content to playing subservient and sidekick any longer.
That old superior-inferior fiction is further supplanted and eroded by the way history flows. Major cities have become highly diverse, and demographer point to the inevitable: by the year of 2050 whites will become a minority, just like the rest.
It was Defoe’s conceit in his novel—published in 1719 and considered by many as the first novel written in English—that the “savage” can only be redeemed by assimilation into Crusoe’s culture and religion. It was beyond his power of imagination, however, to see how much Friday, in time, could radically change Crusoe, and that the world of Crusoe’s is forever altered for having absorbed Friday.
But on November 4, 2008, Friday spoke up loud and clear and eloquently, and declared himself an equal. And his voice is reaffirmed on November 6, 2012. He tells us to dare to dream big, for change has already come and the world forever changed. He tells us to dare to dream big, even this once considered impossible dream: Son of Africa becomes the new patriarch of America.
The old curse ends. Some internalized threshold for previously subjugated people is breached. A child of any race in America now has a fighting chance. Those dwelling at the margins can see a path toward the center, crossing all kinds of demarcations. He knows now it’s within his powers to articulate and reshape his new world, regardless the color of his skin, and to have the audacity to play central character of the script of his own making.