An Open Letter to Public Officials and Policy Makers:
As organizations advocating for reproductive health, rights, and justice, we urgently call on public officials and policy makers to use the word abortion. Abortion stigma—defined as associating a “negative attribute” towards people who provide, have had, or are seeking abortions—has facilitated the passage of radical laws like Texas SB 8, which bans abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy and has forced nearly all abortion services to an abrupt stop across the state. Failing to explicitly use the term abortion and reinforcing negative messages about self-managed or non-clinical abortion contributes to abortion stigma. It is more dire than ever that policy makers act now to protect access to care and make all possible efforts to break down abortion stigma, including using the term abortion.
Abortion is health care. Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including access to abortion care, is essential to gender equity and equality. Abortion restrictions rely on and reinforce harmful stereotypes about gender roles and women’s decision-making instead of offering support, undermining their ability to control their own lives and well-being. When someone makes the decision to have an abortion, they should be able to access the care they need with respect and dignity, free from burdens, barriers, and stigma.
Even though abortion is common and a normal part of reproductive health experiences, with one in four women in the U.S. having an abortion in her lifetime, there remains considerable stigma about abortion. Consequently, public officials will sometimes refer to abortion as “women’s health” and the legal framework around abortion rights as “the right to choose”, “pro-choice” or “protecting Roe v. Wade.” Avoiding the word “abortion” reinforces abortion stigma and the notion that abortion is morally wrong, allowing opponents of abortion to define the moral narrative surrounding it.
Dear Members of Congress,
We, the undersigned 242 Burmese diaspora, local CSOs inside Burma, community-based organizations, and civil society organizations both here in the U.S. and around the world welcome the introduction of the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021, or, the BURMA Act, and call on all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to co-sponsor this crucial legislation and support its expeditious passage into law. As the situation in Burma worsens daily, U.S. action is vital to the millions of lives currently suffering at the hands of the Burmese military. The BURMA Act will provide much needed U.S. support for the realization of all Burmese peoples’ aspirations for an inclusive, rights respecting democracy.
Since the February 1st coup, the people of Burma have seen increased human rights violations and militarization, and the situation is growing more dire by the day. While the number of people killed by the junta is significantly higher, there are over 1,100 confirmed deaths since February, including at least 75 children. More than 8,700 people have been arrested, of which an estimated 7,104 are still detained. 220,000 have been newly displaced, with 3 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. The World Bank predicts an 18% drop in GDP for Burma this year, which, combined with slower growth in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will leave Burma’s economy 30% smaller than originally expected. The World Food Program estimates that food insecurity will have more than doubled since the coup by October 2021 to more than 6.2 million people.
Despite the Burmese military junta campaign of oppression to terrorize and demoralize the people, they have not won. In each of Burma’s states, ethnic minorities are witnessing the worst of the Burmese military’s violence and crimes against humanity. While it is clear that Burma’s ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by violence from the Burmese military, the country’s majority Burman group are also affected, representing the extent to which the junta’s attacks are indiscriminate and truly affect all in Burma.
Excerpt of Just Security article by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Legal Advisor Danielle Hites.
Over the last 30 years, the world has seen progress, largely due to feminists, in delivering justice for gender-based crimes — particularly sexual violence. However, most of this progress has relied on retrofitting gender-specific experiences into pre-existing legal frameworks that didn’t care much for gender. Take, for example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s groundbreaking finding of rape as an act of genocide in the Akayesu case, or much of the jurisprudence out of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia related to sexual violence, including finding rape as a form of torture. These precedents were built on gendered readings of crimes whose definitions make no explicit reference to sexual or gender-based violence.
The Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ICC) was certainly an improvement on the Genocide and Geneva Conventions in its explicit codification of sexual and gender-based crimes. But the last 20 years of the Court’s practice have also shown its limitations, with only two standing convictions for sexual and gender-based crimes.
Given this track record, a new convention on crimes against humanity could be a gamechanger for the effective prevention and prosecution of gender-based crimes.
Re: Keep a pathway to citizenship for immigrant communities in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill
Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi,
We, the undersigned 57 civil and human rights organizations, write to urge you to prioritize keeping a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the budget reconciliation bill. Deeply rooted immigrants—including those who came to the United States as children and may have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those who have fled violence and other crises and currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and those who have kept the US economy going during the pandemic by serving as essential workers—deserve lasting protection from deportation and the ability to live freely with their families and in their communities, protecting fundamental rights, and powering US businesses and the national economy.
The budget reconciliation bill remains the most viable opportunity to finally make this reform to the US’ unfair immigration system. We urge you not to let obstacles posed by any single individual—whether it be the Senate parliamentarian or a member of Congress—derail the moral imperative of finally achieving a pathway to citizenship.