Gender & Sexuality

Mother's Day, For Real

In the real America, the lives of women—especially black and brown women—are no bed of roses.

In partnership with The OpEd Project, The American Prospect presents this series, curated by Deborah Douglas, examining aspects of life unique to women, on one of greeting card industry's biggest days. (Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock) Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament DEBORAH DOUGLAS “What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous...

If America Really Cared About Mothers, Reproductive Health Care Would Be Available to All

Rates of maternal death are greater in the U.S. than in 40 other countries. Yet we pin the perceived moral failings of Asian nations on pregnant immigrant women from India and China.

(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin) Purvi Patel is taken into custody after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent on Monday, March 30, 2015, at the St. Joseph County Courthouse in South Bend, Indiana. Yet she may simply have had a miscarriage. This essay is published by The American Prospect i n partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. O n March 30 Purvi Patel, a 33-year old Indian immigrant from South Bend, Indiana, was charged with feticide and child neglect. While many of us wonder how she can be charged with feticide, which requires a dead fetus and the simultaneous neglect of a dependent child, which requires a live birth, state prosecutor Ken Cotter said Patel deliberately attempted to terminate her second-trimester pregnancy with illegal pharmaceutical abortifacients procured online. Instead, she delivered a living fetus, which was...

Ever the Protectors, Moms Seeking Asylum Need Protection, Too

Obama failed to specify that his enthusiasm for mothers is strictly limited to American moms.

(AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
(AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca) In this September 10, 2014, file photo, an unidentified immigrant from Guatemala who declined to give her name, is interviewed, while her son paints on a whiteboard at the Artesia Family Residential Center, a federal detention facility for undocumented immigrant mothers and children in Artesia, New Mexico. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. I n last year’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, President Obama recommended we put our moms first “because they so often put everything above themselves.” He said we should “extend our gratitude for our mothers' unconditional love and support” because “when women succeed, America succeeds.” Obama should have specified that his enthusiasm for moms is strictly limited to American moms. Last summer, his administration systematically locked up over a thousand mothers and...

For Mothers Across America, a Somber Day of Remembrance

It seems wrong to celebrate when so many women are in pain over the loss of their children to oppression and violence.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Shelia Price, center, is comforted by a friend as group of mothers and others march against police brutality as mothers from across the country join the "Million Moms March" with the group Mothers For Justice United at the Department of Justice in Washington, on Saturday, May 9, 2015. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. W hen Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914 , it was designed to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Though the commercialization of the holiday is undeniable decades later, it remains a day where many of us celebrate and thank the women that birthed and or nurtured and raised us. But this Mother’s Day feels different. Ominous. Heavy with sorrow. It seems wrong to celebrate when so many mothers are in pain. For example, though 300 women and girls were recently...

Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament

I let my well-founded fears of medical abandonment and loss of free agency keep me from being a mother. After all, I'm a black woman. That's too often how it goes for us.

(Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock)
This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. “ What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous and real, instead of wallowing in the wreckage of failed relationships, bridges burnt, tasks incomplete, dreams left to...

The Marriage Cure

Policies to help the broad range of families are better for kids—and better for progressive politics.

(Photo: CSA-Plastock/iStock)
(Photo: CSA-Plastock/iStock) This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . S everal authors long associated with the idea that marriage is a prime cure for inequality have published a manifesto, condensed in The Washington Monthly . The new wrinkle is an alliance between marriage traditionalists and gay-rights activists. The Marriage Opportunity Council, a spin-off of the Institute for American Values, hopes that by adding same-sex unions to the definition of marriage, they can unite progressives and conservatives in a cause to promote marriage generally. The basic premise of the essay and the broader campaign is that marriage provides economic as well as emotional security; that it’s good for children to grow up in two-parent families; and that a class gap has opened up in the incidence of marriage, which widens inequality and harms...

Pity the Purist in the GOP Primaries (A Tear for Bobby Jindal)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
I t's the season for pandering to the base, which is as good a time as any to ask whether the glorious, fascinating mess that is today's Republican Party can ever unify enough to win back the White House—or whether unity is something they should even be after. Because it may well be that a fractured, contentious GOP is the only kind that can prevail next November. You probably missed it, but over the weekend nearly all the Republican presidential candidates (with the notable exception of Jeb Bush) hotfooted it back to Iowa to participate in the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Forum, where they testified to the depths of their love for the Lord and their hatred for His enemies, particularly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The entreaties to this band of the base—important in primaries everywhere, but critically so in Iowa, where 57 percent of the attendees at the Republican caucuses in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christian—are a good reminder of the internal and...

First in the Nation: New Abortion Restrictions in Kansas

The ban of a common medical procedure is giving the state a dubious distinction.

(Photo: AP/John Hanna)
Protesters rally against abortion at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka in January. Kansas and Oklahoma both recently banned a medically safe and common abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation but referred to by opponents as "dismemberment abortions." T ypically, “first in the nation” is a title that a state would feel proud to receive. However, in the case of Kansas’s first-in-the-nation law that criminalizes doctors who perform a certain type of abortion procedure, our policymakers should be ashamed. In a state that is already hostile toward women, this new law prevents doctors from providing the best care to their patients and limits women’s ability to decide what is best for themselves and their families. Even worse, Kansas has already been joined by Oklahoma, with Governor Mary Fallin’s signature on nearly identical legislation. These bills are sprouting up throughout the country as part of an extreme, anti-women agenda that intends to ban abortion care across the U.S...

The Latest Target of 'Religious Freedom' Advocates: Reproductive Rights in the Nation's Capital

A House committee has voted to overturn a local D.C. law that prevents discrimination based on employees' reproductive choices.

(Photo from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah is the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which voted late Tuesday night to disapprove the District's Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. H ere’s a riddle for all you students of the American political system: You are an elected representative, and you would like to curry favor in your home district among right-wing conservatives. One way to do this is to pass a local law sanctioning discrimination against LGBT citizens and women who choose to use birth control, under the guise of “religious freedom.” But you’ve recently discovered that such a law can backfire pretty spectacularly. Just look at poor Mike Pence, Republican governor of Indiana, regarded as presidential material not long ago. What other tactic, besides sanctioning religion-based discrimination, could you use? Well, if you’re a member of Congress, you’ve got the people of the District of Columbia to whom you can teach a thing or two; they’re not...

How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of 'Religious Freedom' Laws

They've been the driving force behind anti-LGBT legislation. But now their numbers are falling off.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(Map from Gallup) Southern states still rate among the highest in the country for church attendance, as the map shows. But recent surveys suggest that once-dominant white evangelicals are in decline in the South. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies . L ast month, Indiana sparked a national debate over so-called "religious freedom" bills, a controversy that soon flared up in other states across the South and country. A similar bill stalled in the Georgia House amidst the backlash. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act only after substantial revisions, although civil rights advocates say it still doesn't go far enough . North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, who is also a Republican, said he won't support his state's proposed RFRA bill, which scholars and activists say would allow for a wider range of discriminatory practices based in religion...

The Fight for LGBT Equality is Not Over

Indiana's 'religious freedom' law is just one of dozens of state-level bills that could allow LGBT discrimination. 

(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler) Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015 to push for a state law that specifically bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. S ometimes you hate to be proven right. In an article in The American Prospect ’s recent winter issue, I wrote that while marriage equality enjoyed some significant victories in 2014, Republicans would likely use their electoral successes that November to push back hard. Under the guise of “religious liberty,” Republican lawmakers at the state level were poised to legalize and protect discrimination against LGBT people in countless ways. And how. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) may have grabbed the most attention, but it’s just scratching the surface. Republican lawmakers had, as of April 6, introduced more than 100 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in 29 states, according to Human Rights...

Playing Offense on Reproductive Rights

With a resurgent right threatening reproductive rights nationwide, abortion activists are getting pro-active.

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman) Women with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health demonstrate outside of 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in New Orleans. E ver since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion foes and anti-choice activists have been working to roll back progress made in the fight for reproductive justice. Both the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections were decidedly Republican victories, and with those electoral wins came an onslaught of legislation designed to strip women of their constitutionally protected right to an abortion. Missouri , Kansas and Texas , among others, have passed laws that curtail abortion access. But, while it may seem as if pro-choice activists must constantly play defense, several cities and states, including Washington and Oregon , as Nina-Liss Schultz details at RH Reality Check , have begun playing offense on reproductive rights . The National Institute for Reproductive Health works in partnership with...

Anxiety Itself

As a party identified with women, Democrats face a distinctive challenge in 2016. 

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Gaston Hall at Georgetown University, in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . T he success of the Democrats in 2016 will depend on women as candidates and as voters, up and down the ballot, as never before. That identification with women creates distinct political challenges at a time when public worries are high. Unless Democrats confront those anxieties effectively, Republicans may be able to win over voters, including women, by presenting themselves as the more reassuring “daddy” party. The identification of the Democrats with women starts at the top with presumptive presidential favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton and the leader of the party’s progressive faction, Senator Elizabeth Warren. The number of visible women in the...

Janet Mock's Brilliant Cultural Insurgency

As perhaps the most visible trans woman in the public eye, being herself—and having fun doing it—is the feminist TV journalist's wildly effective form of activism.

(Photo: janetmock.com)
MSNBC Janet Mock hosts So POPular! on MSNBC's Shift platform. “ We got new music, I like it,” Janet Mock says, in a break between segments of her video show on a Friday morning in March. “Well done, Nick!” she exclaims to her producer, who’s in another room, communicating with her through her earpiece. Mock sings the tune and snakes her neck, snapping her fingers and rolling her torso in the chair from which she commands her set, which looks like a fancy but somewhat sterile living room. The music is new, but not much newer than the show, So Popular! , which premiered on MSNBC’s digital platform, Shift, in December. Mock’s panel of guest commentators has just left the set, after a discussion that covered Madonna’s stance on women’s rights, Kelly Osborne’s and Kathy Griffin’s departures from E!’s Fashion Police , and President Barack Obama’s remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery. Today, the “feminist clique,” as Mock dubbed...

Miscarriage of Justice: Asian-American Women Targeted -- and All Women Threatened -- by Feticide Laws Like Indiana's

Purvi Patel's pregnancy ended with a medical emergency—and a 20-year prison sentence. 

(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin) Purvi Patel is taken into custody after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent on Monday, March 30, 2015, at the St. Joseph County Courthouse in South Bend, Indiana. Yet she may simply have had a miscarriage. L ike many women, Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman living in South Bend, Indiana, had an unplanned pregnancy. But unlike most women’s experiences, her unplanned pregnancy and subsequent stillbirth led to a criminal conviction. Today, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Patel, an unmarried Indian-American woman living with her parents in South Bend Indiana, kept her pregnancy a secret for months, while working a low-wage job to support her parents and grandparents, who suffer from costly health conditions. Last summer, Patel believed she had suffered a miscarriage. She went to an emergency room seeking assistance for heavy vaginal bleeding. Just a few hours after she underwent medical...

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