The Roots of Resistance: The Social Justice Context of Sexual Harassment Law

wga_posterEarlier this year, Scandal star Kerry Washington brought sexual harassment into the spotlight with her portrayal of the embattled Anita Hill in HBO’s Confirmation. The movie dramatizes how Hill herself made sexual harassment a topic of high-profile, nationwide debate when she came forward to speak out against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Hill’s testimony gave resolve to others who had experienced similar treatment in the workplace, ushering in a 40-percent increase in the number of sexual harassment claims filed with state and federal agencies in 1991 and 1992. But as inspiring as her testimony was, Hill stood on the shoulders of brave women before her who confronted sexual harassment and helped advance a body of law that makes workplaces, schools, and other institutions safer spaces. That body of law now protects people against “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature,” as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission summarizes.


The fight against sexual harassment is closely connected to the long struggle for freedom among African Americans.


The breakthrough cases in sexual harassment law provide a revealing look at the short and surprising history of the battles, both in and out of court, that brought the issue into public consciousness. It is a history that shatters popular perceptions of feminism’s second wave and brings to light an overlooked dimension of another fight for social justice: the Civil Rights Movement.

Two Landmark Legal Decisions

When Mechelle Vinson applied for a job at Capital City Federal Savings in 1974, she was only 19 years old, but she had already had part-time jobs at several businesses around Washington, D.C., including a shoe store and an exercise club. For Vinson, lessons in supporting herself had come early. A strained relationship with her father had led her to drop out of high school and make repeated attempts to run away from home. She got married at “14 or 15,” because, as she recounted later, “I thought if I get married, I don’t have to go through problems with my father.” Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • scientist face maskThe GOP debates were last night. Just an FYI: Every single one of those dingbats has deplorable, antiquated views on women’s reproductive rights and health. (Bustle)
  • The foolery surrounding unfounded allegations that Planned Parenthood has been illegally selling fetal tissue has reached ASININE LOWS, people. (NYT)
  • And it’s helped three state governments reach their ultimate goal of defunding us and further chipping away at women’s reproductive rights. Alabama is the latest. (CNN)
  • Speaking of Ass Backward Alabama, these clowns tried to snatch the parental rights of a pregnant prison inmate to stop her from getting an abortion! What in the hell! (Guardian)
  • With regard to fetal tissue, several organizations agreed to speak with The New York Times about their involvement in obtaining fetal tissue for the purpose of medical research on numerous degenerative diseases, such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and others. (NYT)
  • Scientific and medical research is already beginning to suffer as a result of this fetal tissue non-scandal. Colorado State University officials have suspended the school from acquiring fetal tissue from entities linked to Planned Parenthood until “Congressional investigations are concluded.” (RH Reality Check)
  • Thank you, Salon, for covering the facts of this debacle in a reasonable manner. And exposing the fact that Planned Parenthood has prevented possibly 3 million abortions in 2013 and 2014 by providing affordable or free birth control to those in need. (Salon)
  • Ebony has a magnificent piece on what you absolutely must know about Planned Parenthood and black women. (Ebony)
  • Warren Buffett has funded a birth control revolution on the down low?!? #WhoKnew (Bloomberg)
  • The Economist has quite the chilling piece on how “exceptionally deadly” childbirth is in the United States. Gee, almost seems like women should have a choice about whether or not they want to risk their lives giving birth to a child rather than having it forced upon them, right? (The Economist)
  • The birth control pill has prevented how many instances of cancer in the last decade?! (Time)
  • In case it slipped your mind, our senator, John McCain, is still The Worst. (Phoenix New Times)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • same-sex-coupleLet’s start this rundown off right with some heartening, touching news: Our uber-conservative governor, Doug Ducey, shocked us all by clearing the way for same-sex couples to adopt and foster children in Arizona. (AZ Central)
  • Somebody pinch me. More Arizona goodness: A Scottsdale venture capitalist is doing his part to ensure that women in the United States have access to affordable birth control. How terrific! (Tucson Sentinel)
  • Delaying pregnancy could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. (Live Science)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 90 percent of teenagers who are sexually active used some form of birth control the last time they were intimate. Ninety percent! Ahhh-mazing. (Tech Times)
  • Dear Religious Right: My president is not here for your “conversion therapy” shenanigans. (NYT)
  • Will California pass a bill to force “crisis pregnancy centers” to start giving abortion options? If so, I’ll go ahead and wager my entire bank account that these lying liars will close every single location. Sorry, but the truth is they’d much rather deceive women than help them. (RH Reality Check)
  • Joining Utah, South Dakota, and Missouri, North Carolina is on track to become the fourth state in the nation to enact a three-day waiting period for abortion. Congratulations on sucking, all of you.  (The News & Observer)
  • Kansas has banned the safest and most convenient procedure for women undergoing second-trimester abortions. (NYT)
  • The whirlwind of Republican idiocy continues in Alabama, where conservatives are now trying to prevent abortion clinics from being located within 2,000 feet of a public school. Because someone terminating a pregnancy could somehow affect anonymous, oblivious school children? Does Alabama ban guns (including concealed carry) within 2,000 feet of public schools? Nope!!! (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Younger Republicans are less pig-headed about birth control than their older peers, but still fairly pig-headed. (HuffPo)
  • Women who develop gestational diabetes early in their pregnancies are more likely to give birth to children who will later be diagnosed with autism. (Reuters)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • NOW thumbnailAfter abandoning earlier plans to push through a 20-week federal abortion ban because President Obama threatened to veto the hell out of it, Republicans in the House pushed through some bullhooey banning federal funding of abortion yesterday. (Reuters)
  • Unfortunately, many states already have laws in place banning abortion at 20 weeks, and more are sure to follow. (NPR)
  • Weird scenario … You find out you’re pregnant and give birth to a 10-lb. kid an hour later. Ahh! Talk about an American Horror Story! (USA Today)
  • A new health and wellness center specifically for members of the LGBTQ community has opened in Tucson. The very first of its kind in Arizona! (Tucson Weekly)
  • Are “hookup apps” the cause of rising STD rates among gay men? (HuffPo)
  • Hormonal birth control may be increasing women’s risk for a rare brain tumor. (Luckily that risk is small.) (Medical Daily)
  • Black women are making themselves heard on the topic of abortion access. (Think Progress)
  • And with black women being four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, it’s high time our voices are elevated. (Think Progress)
  • With his birthday just passing, it’s important to remember that Martin Luther King Jr. was a champion of birth control. (HuffPo)
  • An Arizona abortion provider speaks about the changing political landscape and how it’s affected her practice and its patients. (WaPo)
  • Oh gawd. Someone decided to give men a platform (’cause they don’t have enough of those already) to speak out about their “abortion regrets.” In particular, not engaging aggressively enough in reproductive coercion to force the women they got pregnant to continue their unwanted pregnancies. I could seriously vomit reading this tripe. (RH Reality Check)
  • Good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good: If you’re a fetus in Alabama, you have a legal right to a state-paid attorney to “protect your rights”! Even though you can’t, like … communicate your wishes to the attorney, or think coherent thoughts even. It doesn’t matter! You get a lawyer on the state’s dime! Now the bad news: If you’ve had the misfortune of being born already, you don’t have the right to an attorney paid for by the state. Sorry. Your protection ends once you leave the womb, pal. (Jezebel)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • handcuffsOh, brother, fetuses have actual rights over the rights of the woman carrying them. And these women are being put in the slammer. The reproductive rights of women are becoming non-existent. (Salon)
  • Arizona is trying to eliminate the rights of pregnant women as well. Not that this is extraordinarily out of character for this state. (RH Reality Check)
  • By the way, Ohio sucks too. (Think Progress)
  • Add Texas to the list as well. (NPR)
  • Et tu, Alabama? (ABC News)
  • And lest you think these injustices are limited to the United States, the European Union is on the anti-woman train as well. (The Washington Times)
  • We might be looking at another government shutdown. This time over contraception. *Heavy sigh* (The Daily Beast)
  • Things you should know about the pill and its potential effects on your skin. (HuffPo)
  • Birth control is awesome and you won’t have fertility issues after you stop taking it. (Care2)
  • 2015 will be a banner year for male contraception! Only 14 months away! Not that I’m counting or anything … (Collegian)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Teen_GroupA federal district court has decided that emergency contraception must be sold over the counter without any age restrictions. WOOO HOOO! (WaPo)
  • In a rare moment of common sense, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has decided to end her (losing) battle with Planned Parenthood. (RH Reality Check)
  • Why the pro-choice community needs to talk about the horrifying Gosnell abortion trial. (Jezebel)
  • A bill defining life at the “moment of fertilization” has been sent to the governor of Kansas to be signed into law after passing in both the state House and Senate. Ten bucks says another state will try to trump this ruling by declaring “life at the moment of ejaculation.” (Ms. Magazine)
  • Sorry, anti-choicers, you can no longer give away “fetus dolls” to students in New Mexico. (Raw Story)
  • Alabama is trying to go the way of its suckatcular neighbor, Mississippi, with regard to new stipulations on abortion clinics. (CNN)
  • A rash of radical “heartbeat” abortion bans are a growing threat to Roe v. Wade. (MSNBC)
  • Compared to those born in the 1970s, teens today are waiting longer to have sex. (Guttmacher)
  • Forbes rightly deduces that all the controversy over contraception misses the economic point. (Forbes)

National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Brittany Sevek, our communications and marketing intern, who is a fourth-year journalism student at Arizona State University.

We are currently in the midst of “40 Days for Life.” Spanning from February 13 through March 24, “40 Days for Life” is a campaign that coincides with the 40 days of Lent. Participants in the campaign protest against abortion, seek to discourage women from having abortions, and even hope to shut down health centers that provide abortion care entirely. At a time like this, when people are openly rallying against the very things Planned Parenthood works to protect, it is important to take a minute to reflect upon and appreciate those who have labored so hard to support women’s rights and maintain access to health care.


We should be able to get health care without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation.


Another important date in regards to abortion falls within these 40 days: March 10. Many are probably unaware that March 10 is designated as National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Established in 1996, National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers was founded to commemorate the life of Dr. David Gunn. Unfortunately, March 10 marks the anniversary of Dr. David Gunn’s 1993 assassination — 20 years ago this Sunday.

Dr. David Gunn was a physician and abortion provider in rural Alabama, and was assassinated in Pensacola, Florida, at an anti-abortion rally. Shot three times in the back, Dr. Gunn was killed by an anti-abortion extremist. Gunn’s death is noted as the first assassination of an abortion provider. Since then, there has been a total of nine murders of abortion providers and other clinic personnel, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Even those who support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions do not generally consider the risks and dangers to which abortion providers are subjected in order to continue providing their services. The National Abortion Federation tracks statistics of acts of violence and disruption against abortion providers. These acts range from murder, attempted murder, death threats, hate mail, stalking, bombing, arson, vandalism, and even acid attacks. In 2001, a record total of 795 acts of violence were committed against abortion providers. These numbers dropped for several years, but spiked again in 2005 when 761 incidents of violence occurred. Thankfully, in recent years this number has dropped dramatically: 2011 saw 113 violent acts committed.

However, this number is still 113 violent acts too many. It is therefore crucial to honor those who put themselves at risk every day. By taking the time on March 10, and every day, to commemorate and recognize these abortion providers for supporting women’s rights, we can raise awareness about this otherwise unspoken issue. In turn, we can continue to diminish these numbers, and hopefully stop such terrible acts of violence from occurring in the future.