Jan 21
Her eye on the news
‘No Choice’

While 59 percent of American adults may believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the election of Donald Trump as president, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and constant legislative attacks on abortion rights has many women afraid of the possibility that conservatives could successfully make abortion illegal in the U.S. again. To give a sense of what that reality would be like, a video series from Bill Moyers, called No Choice, features interviews with women who went through abortions before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade 44 years ago — when abortions were illegal, and potentially life-threatening.

Lynne Hanley, now a retired professor of literature and fiction writing, said that she was in her third year at Cornell University and dating a man she felt she was in love with. She had tried to obtain contraception, she said, but was refused a prescription because she was not married. After she missed her period, Hanley used a false name to make an appointment with a doctor. She learned that she was pregnant — and that she’d be brought up on criminal charges if she tried to get an abortion. Hanley and her boyfriend didn’t feel ready for marriage or ready to raise a child, she said. So after some asking around, her boyfriend gave her the number for a Chinese laundromat in New Jersey. She was told to call and recite a coded phrase: “I can’t get the blood out of my husband’s blue silk shirt.”

“I had no idea who I was dealing with … I was terrified,” recalled Hanley. “But clearly my desire to not be pregnant was stronger than my fear.”

After meeting an intermediary who whisked her into a car to an apartment building, she was led to a woman who may or may not have been a doctor. She was given no anesthetic.

“After a bit, I suddenly screamed because it was excruciating painful,” said Hanley. “She hissed at me and said, ‘If you dare scream again you’ll never have children.’”

Below, watch Hanley’s story and those of two other women, Holly Alvarado and Gaylon Alcaraz, from the No Choice series.

Read the full story at


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‘Mentally strong’

One of India’s top women wrestlers, 21-year-old Neetu, has shared her story about escaping two illegal, and unwanted, child marriages that left her a mother of two before she reached the age of 15. Neelu, who won a bronze medal at India’s National Games in 2015, told BBC News that wrestling gave her the chance to start her life anew.

“I am 21, but my story starts when I was 12. I was illegally married to a mentally-ill 40-year-old man,” Neelu told the BBC. “The marriage lasted only two months. But I was married again and gave birth to twin boys at 14. I took to sports after my boys were born.”

Her new commitment to wrestling, however, came at a cost. Neelu says that she is only able to see her sons and family rarely, but that the sacrifice is worth it because “wrestling is my life.”

“People in my village said a mother of two won’t be able to become a wrestler,” she recalled. “They also said that a person from low-caste Dalit community shouldn’t have such dreams. I also know hunger very well. I didn’t have enough to eat when I started training. I would often see other girls have juices and cheese while I only survived on water. But I knew I had to be mentally strong because that’s everything.”

But after her efforts translated to a medal at the National Games in 2015, Neelu said, her detractors abruptly had a change of heart.

“People garlanded and celebrated me,” she said. “The people who didn’t believe in me earlier suddenly wanted me to train their daughters.”

Neelu says that her current goal is to win a medal at the Olympics. And this time, nobody is counting her out.

Watch BBC News’ interview with Neelu below.


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Watch out

Anyone who values reproductive rights for women, take note: Donald Trump on Friday became the first sitting U.S. president to speak at the March for Life, an annual rally held by abortion opponents in the nation’s capital. Trump’s speech, delivered from the White House Rose Garden and shown to the thousands who turned out on the National Mall, comes just days before the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Roe v. Wade case, which legalized abortion.

Trump’s appearance wasn’t just meant to be symbolic — his rhetoric was strong. “Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life,” he vowed, while pointing out that his administration is making it easier for states to direct funds away from Planned Parenthood.

Trump, as he often does, played fast and loose with the facts, particularly with his remarks on late-term abortion, which he insisted “is wrong” and “has to change.” According to The Washington Post, Trump grossly overstated the amount of abortions that occur during the ninth month of pregnancy. “Ninth month” abortions, as Trump put it, are effectively banned already because most states bar abortions from being performed after certain points of pregnancy well before the ninth month.

While Trump’s words were tough, assessing how much meaning they actually carry or whether he’s just pandering to his base is another challenge unto itself. As The Washington Post notes, some conservatives are upset that Trump hasn’t done more to crack down on abortion in his first year in office. And it’s always worth considering an old interview in which the Trump of 1999 contradicted the Trump of 2018. During an appearance on Meet The Press, Tim Russert asked Trump about partial birth abortion and Trump replied, saying, “I’m very pro-choice.” He admitted that “I hate the concept of abortion,” but still returned to the idea that “I just believe in choice.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post


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‘Did not want this’

The creator of the Shitty Men in Media list, New York-based writer Moira Donegan, never wanted to be identified as the list’s creator, she told The New York Times’ Ainara Tiefenthäler during her first on-camera interview. Donegan revealed her identity a week ago after it appeared that journalist Katie Roiphe was planning to out her in an upcoming piece for Harper’s magazine. Roiphe has denied that she planned on revealing Donegan’s identity, but acknowledged that she had asked a fact-checker to message her and inquire about whether she wanted to claim responsibility for the list.

“I actively tried to avoid this. I’m a very private person. I did not want this kind of attention to be on me,” she said, adding that she now lives in fear of possible violent retaliation from men — on the list or otherwise — who feel anger toward her for having creating it.

Donegan explained to Tiefenthäler how the list arose as a form of whisper network that was meant to allow women to share the names of men “who had behaved badly toward them, whether through sexual assault or rape or harassment.” She shared it with friends and colleagues in her industry who she knew had their own stories, and “from there, they sent it to people they knew had stories — and they sent it to people they knew had stories.”

The spreadsheet grew larger and larger — eventually encompassing more than 70 names, 14 of whom were highlighted in red to indicate multiple claims of rape or sexual assault against them. Eventually, the list became public knowledge after someone shared it on social media — prompting investigations of some of the men on the list, as well as a nationwide discussion.

“So much of the conversation after the spreadsheet was made public was about the methodology of the spreadsheet, and sort of the tactics that anonymous women were using to try and keep each other safe,” said Donegan. “People were more worried about a hypothetical man whose reputation might be damaged than real women who were really raped.”

Asked whether she felt guilty that some men on the list lost their jobs, Donegan noted that they were only fired after “they were found to have committed wrongdoing … it’s their responsibility that they acted that way.”

Read the full story at The New York Times and watch the full interview above.


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‘Shoulder to shoulder’

During the Women’s March on Washington last year, which drew half a million people into the U.S. capital and sparked solidarity marches across the globe, curators from the Smithsonian Institute were quietly embarking on an important project — collecting signs from the protesters to preserve the movement’s place in history.

Lisa Kathleen Graddy, a curator for Division of Political History at the National Museum of American History, said that she and six colleagues went to the National Mall on the morning of the popular mass-protest in an attempt to collect material that would help inform current and future generations about what the march had been like, and what the protest was about. Asking people to donate their signs to history, she recalled, almost always generated an identical heartwarming response.

“First, they’re startled,” said Graddy. “They’re stunned that the Smithsonian might be interested in something they made or are carrying, and then most people are pleased. It’s a nice thing to have somebody come up and say ‘We’d like to save that thing you’re carrying for all time.’”

After sorting through the myriad materials they had gathered, the curators culled their collection to about 50 items — including roughly 35 posters featuring slogans such as: “Girls just want fundamental rights” and “Out of the minivan and into the streets.”

Asked about what her personal favorite sign was, Graddy told The Cut that making such a decision was “like choosing your favorite child.”

“There were so many that were amazing, but there was one […] it was covered in images of women suffragists, and used the slogan ‘Shoulder to Shoulder,’” she said.

On Saturday, thousands of women will celebrate the anniversary of the original protest by participating in the 2018 Women’s March.

Read the full story at The Cut.


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