Speaking of Women's Rights: 2019

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Title X: Federal Funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers

By Stephanie Verdoia, Legal Voice summer intern

In March, the Trump administration issued new rules to the Title X program that funds family planning services for people with low incomes. These changes forced Planned Parenthood to withdraw from the program last month, which will result in limiting health care access for low-income communities across the country. But there is another problem with the new rules; they will redirect federal money to organizations that don’t provide the full range of care for patients and refuse to inform patients of all the birth control options available to them.

Since the 1970s, crisis pregnancy centers, sometimes called “limited service pregnancy centers,” have been posing as walk-in medical clinics for family planning and pregnancy-related care. These so-called “clinics” claim to provide comprehensive medical care by saying in their advertisements that they offer “evidence-based medical care” and “all options pregnancy counseling.”  Their staff often wear white coats or scrubs and perform quasi-medical services like pregnancy testing and ultrasound examinations, although they often have no medical education or training, and thus no business diagnosing anything. The clinics provide information about contraception and abortion that is false or misleading — all for the purpose of delaying a pregnant person’s decision-making process until it is too late to terminate the pregnancy. What is particularly alarming is that there are far more crisis pregnancy centers across the country than there are legitimate reproductive health clinics.

In recent years, some crisis pregnancy centers have begun offering medical services beyond pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, though they still refuse to counsel patients about birth control (other than the rhythm method) or abortion, or provide referrals for these services — even at the request of their patients.

The new Trump rules enable these more “medicalized” CPCs to apply for Title X funding by relaxing the old requirement that the grant recipients provide comprehensive care to their patients, including the full range of FDA approved contraceptives. This means that people who rely on Title X clinics for healthcare may receive less than comprehensive information and care.  Instead, patients’ medical treatment options will be tailored to align with an extremist politic agenda.

Before the Trump Administration issued these new rules, clinics that received federal funding were required to offer all options to the pregnant person without promoting one option over another, a practice called non-directive counseling. Grantees also were required to offer the full range of “medically-approved” family planning services, including contraception options.

The new rules prohibit abortion referrals, even in medically urgent situations and green lights funding for grantees that offer no family planning options other than fertility awareness-based methods (basically the rhythm method), which have a higher risk of pregnancy than birth control pills or the IUD.

Of course, this will cause the greatest harm to those who most rely upon the Title X program for their basic reproductive healthcare needs, including women with low incomes, women of color, young women, and LGBTQ people. Over 4 million low-income, uninsured, and underserved clients have relied on the Title X program for almost fifty years.

Although more than 20 states and the American Medical Association are challenging the new regulations in court, many low-income communities already feel the impact of the changes. Planned Parenthood served 40% of Title X recipients, and in states with no backup funding, delays and higher costs in services are already occurring.

Patients seeking family planning services deserve to understand all of their options-- regardless of their socio-economic status. Individual autonomy in medical decision making is a fundamental liberty that the federal government should protect - not undermine.  These regulations ensure that only the most privileged of our society will continue to enjoy access to the care they seek.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

#PROUD: Our List of Pride Parades, Festivals & Events in the Northwest

There are so many opportunities throughout the Northwest to celebrate the LGBTQ community, including several events that center the transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) communities.

Here are our picks for 2019 Pride parades and festivals in the Northwest! We'll be at the events marked with an asterisk (*)—be sure to stop by and say hi!

June 8 - Volunteer Park Pride (Seattle, WA)*
June 8 - Spokane Pride Rainbow Festival (Spokane, WA)
June 28 - Trans Pride Seattle (Seattle, WA)*
July 13 - Tacoma Pride (Tacoma, WA)*
July 20 - Seattle Latinx Pride Festival (Seattle, WA)
August 22–25 - Pacific Northwest Black Pride (Seattle, WA)

Click here for a list of events happening in and around South Seattle, including inaugural events in White Center and Tukwila.

June 8 - Magic Valley Pride Festival (Twin Falls, ID)*
June 15 - Boise Pride Fest (Boise, ID)*
June 15 - Alt-Pride (Boise, ID)*
June 29 - Idaho Falls Pride (Idaho Falls, ID)*
July 13 - Celebrate Love 2019 (Lewiston, ID)*
August 24 - Palouse Pride Festival in the Park (Moscow, ID)*

Special thanks to Add the Words, Idaho for sponsoring us at these Idaho events!

June 15 - Juneau Pride (Juneau, AK) 
June 29 - Anchorage PrideFestival (Anchorage, AK)

June 22 - Big Sky Pride Parade (Helena, MT)

June 7 - Astoria Pride (Astoria, OR) 
June 15 - Portland Trans Pride (Portland, OR)
June 22 - Central Oregon Pride (Bend, OR)

Click here for a more events happening in Oregon.

Of course, Pride isn’t all about parades and festivals! Check out these workshops, forums, art events, and learning opportunities happening around the region:

June 5–29 - Rainbow Story Times (Seattle, WA) hosted by The Seattle Public Library
June 6 - Interrupting Racism Actionshop (Portland, OR) hosted by Resolutions Northwest
June 7–July 2 - PRIDE Multimedia Art Show (Portland, OR) hosted by Multnomah Arts Center 
June 8 - Generations of Pride (Portland, OR) hosted by Our Bold Voices
June 9 - Don’t Be Self-Conchas Poetry Open Mic (Seattle, WA) hosted by Aviona Rodriguez Brown
June 15 - Pride Antakshari (Seattle, WA) hosted by Trikone Northwest
June 21 - Navigating the Allyship thruthe Genderverse (Helena, MT) hosted by TransVisible
June 22 - Gender Expansive GroomingWorkshop (Anchorage, AK) hosted by the Anchorage Transgender Community
June 22 - Backyard Comedy with Mattio Martinez (Boise, ID) benefiting The Pride Foundation
June 25 - Intersections of Displacement:Transportation and LGBTQ Seattle (Seattle, WA) hosted by GSBA
6/29 LGBTQ Youth Forum (Idaho Falls, ID) hosted by Idaho Falls Pride

“Progress” Pride Flag by Daniel Quasar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Title IX is Under Attack. These High Schoolers are Doing Something About It.

By Phil Bouie, Legal Voice Development Officer

“As a student and a woman, I deserve to have laws that protect against violence and assault.”

–Scarlett, high school senior & Title IX activist

What may seem like a reasonable public safety request on campuses has resulted in policy proposals that ultimately strip institutions of accountability, further muddle schools' ability to adhere to their code of conduct bylaws, and complicate the process for reporting gender-based violence. If you wanted to find an impractical example of policy failing future generations of this country, this would be Exhibit A.

Spurred on by a sexual assault that took place at their high school last year, Maya and Scarlett found themselves face-to-face with Washington State legislators this past February. Legal Voice helped them prepare to testify before the House College & Workforce Development Committee in support of a bill that aimed to create a task force on Title IX protections and compliance.

While the legislation ultimately failed to pass in the legislative session, the high school activists received an up-close look at the process.

“I learned a lot about how the legal system works and how bills are passed,” commented Maya. Scarlett added, “And how difficult it can be to make productive change in our laws.”

They had initially come to Legal Voice because they were not completely confident in the way their high school administration handled the assault at their school. They wanted to learn more about their rights.

“Everyone was required to take health in ninth grade but it wasn’t a great course,” said Maya. “There were a lot of holes in the curriculum. I might not remember because it was four years ago, but I don’t think we had anything about sexual assault.”

Given the prevalence of the conversation surrounding sexual assault, it seems more than a bit unsettling that during the most impressionable and impactful years of a young person’s life, there are no clear academic guidelines on what sexual assault is. Who should you see in the aftermath? What are your rights?

“We’ve learned a lot more about our rights by helping Legal Voice than any school has ever taught us. I think that’s super important,” remarked Scarlett.

As much as we enjoy educating people about their rights, if high schools aren’t laying the proper foundation in regards to educating about sexual assault and consent, how are colleges that are being stripped of Title IX protections going to do any better?

If the Trump Administration's proposed Title IX changes are enacted, there will be serious consequences for victims and survivors of sexual assault. By raising the legal standard of evidence, schools will discourage victims from coming forward and confronting their accusers. Changes will also allow cross-examinations, evidence in investigative proceedings available to both parties and eliminate restrictions on parties’ rights to speak about allegations.

We cannot and will not stand for this.

The next generation of students should be able to trust that their institutions of higher learning and the law have their best interests at heart. How is that possible when schools can’t be held responsible if an assault happens off campus? In the case of the University of Washington and many other schools, “on campus” could be right across the street. The next generation shouldn’t have to schedule bake sales where tasty treats are exchanged for pamphlets on Title IX, sexual assault, and consent. The next generation shouldn’t have to drive to Olympia to make sure adults, who graduated long ago, don’t strip them of their agency or their right to a conflict-free education.

We owe it to the future of this country to make sure there is space for young people to be heard, and most importantly, ensure they are safe and secure in their academic environment. Stripping Title IX of its faculties would be an egregious mistake. Let’s fund the future we want to see today!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Books Behind Bars: How Title IX Protects Incarcerated Students’ Rights

By Olivia Ortiz

In the United States of America, more than two million people are currently incarcerated. Many prisons and jails offer vocational programs, which can and do have powerful effects on incarcerated people in their reentry into society outside the prison walls. Like any other students in a federally-funded educational program, incarcerated students are guaranteed protection against sex discrimination by Title IX. However, incarcerated students still experience significant barriers to these educational programs, in large part because they are not granted the rights due to them. Incarcerated students and their advocates can utilize Title IX as a fulcrum to fight for the education which is their legal right and which they deserve.

Incarcerated students have worked tirelessly to fight for recognition under Title IX. In Jeldness v. Pearce, incarcerated women sued the Oregon State Department of Corrections (OSDC), alleging sex discrimination. The OSDC’s women’s prison offered only two vocational courses: office administration and cosmetology. Two OSDC prisons for men offered twelve courses. Women were permitted access to these courses. However, OSDC cited “penological necessity” to force invasive searches on women attending courses at the men’s prison. These invasive searches frequently made women late to class, often so late that they could not attend class at all. Furthermore, men were paid for participating in certain classes. Women were not.

In 1994, the Ninth District Court of Appeals held in Jeldness that Title IX and its regulations protected incarcerated students in vocational programs. Although a prison may not be considered a traditional educational institution, the fact that a prison receives federal funding for such programs requires that prisons follow Title IX. The court held that “penological necessity” does not exempt prisons from compliance with Title IX. (Jeldness, 30 F.3d at 1229–1230) Further, the court held that paying men, but not women, for the same course constituted not only disparate impact but disparate treatment under Title IX.

Although courts and regulations have repeatedly and explicitly stated that Title IX protects incarcerated students, those students require further support to make their rights a reality. Incarcerated people face high rates of sexual violence not only by fellow incarcerated people but also by those who should be enforcing their rights: prison staff and administrators. The Survived and Punished Project has several resources for supporting incarcerated people. Organizations supporting survivors should explore offering Title IX workshops to prisons and uplifting incarcerated students’ voices in their advocacy. Individuals can support incarcerated students by becoming involved with and donating to projects like Survived and Punished.

The beauty of Title IX lies in its broad applicability. The character of the law affords students protection even at non-traditional campuses like prisons. Still, unlawful obstacles obstruct these students from their legal rights. Title IX, survivor, and anti-carceral advocates must consider how Title IX regulations, like those proposed by the Trump Administration, impact incarcerated students. If incarcerated students’ Title IX rights exist only in theory, incarcerated students do not have Title IX rights. It is only when incarcerated students can access their rights in reality that Title IX promises anything at all.

Olivia Ortiz is a leader of Legal Voice's Campus Sexual Assault Work Group. She is a first year JD student at the University of Washington School of Law and tweets at @ortizoliviaa

Image credit: Simon Booth-Lucking | CC BY-NC 2.0