Monthly Archives: April 2013

Erotic literature wit’ novelist Mary Honey B Morrison

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

I once was told that reading was the theater of the imagination and, probably because it was introduced to me at an early age by my parents, it has always been one of my favorite pastimes. In a conversation with my comrade Tyson, one of the owners of Black and Nobel bookstore in Philly a few years ago, I learned that Black people in the U.S. bought twice as many erotic and gangsta lit books as we do anything else. So I thought that it is important for me to read and get to know what people are reading and the people who are behind the scenes sculpting this art form.

Mary B. Morrison

Mary B. Morrison

A few weeks ago, I hosted a panel for women’s month at the San Francisco Main Library, where I met erotic lit novelist, Mary Honey B Morrison, who was on the panel, alongside legendary Black Panther leader Ericka Huggins and another female author. Mary Honey B Morrison had a lot of prolific and enlightening ideas when it came to literature, expressing one’s self and sexuality, so I wanted to turn our readers on to a legendary author in our midst. Read Mary Honey B Morrison in her own words …M.O.I. JR: What was your life like before you became a writer? What inspired you to become one?

Mary Honey B Morrison: The relationship with my soulmate lasted I say five years; he says seven. When he proposed, I sobered up realizing neither one of us was ready to make a lifelong commitment.

Our relationship was the best of the best and the worst I’d ever experienced. Not in a physical way but when couples are spiritually connected we almost know one another too well. We know what makes the other person happy and we know how to piss them off.

As I’ve heard before, “Hurt people hurt people.” That’s what we did to one another. In my novel, “Soulmates Dissipate,” that is being made for the big screen, I pen the essence of love and loss that my fans can relate to.

Mary Honey B Morrison had a lot of prolific and enlightening ideas when it came to literature, expressing one’s self and sexuality, so I wanted to turn our readers on to a legendary author in our midst.

M.O.I. JR: What created the urge in you to write erotic stories? What is the importance of expressing yourself sexually?

Mary Honey B Morrison: I am a sexual person. I had to learn to respect my body as a woman. Growing up in my hometown of New Orleans, I was constantly told, “Don’t do it. You’re not going to be half the woman your mother was.”

Well, my mother had eight, some say, nine kids before she committed suicide. I had to learn that I am a person birthed from my mother. I am not and can never be my mother – whom I love beyond infinity.

Sexuality came natural to me. That is after I had my first orgasm at the age of 16. I’ve never been passive in a relationship. It’s always been common sense to me, perhaps because of my father’s abuse toward my mom, that I’d never allow a man to degrade or judge me.

I am a woman. God gave me a clitoris with more than 6,000 nerve endings and I intend to use every single one at my discretion.

M.O.I. JR: How many books have you written?

Mary Honey B Morrison: I’m a New York Times best-selling author with 18 published novels. Number 19, “I’d Rather Be With You,” will be released Aug. 1, 2013. I’m penning number 20, and have a contract for number 21, 22 and 23 with Kensington Publishing Corp.

In my novel, “Soulmates Dissipate,” that is being made for the big screen, I pen the essence of love and loss that my fans can relate to.

M.O.I. JR: How often do you write? What is your creative process like?

Mary Honey B Morrison: For me, creativity doesn’t have a time or place. I don’t write every day, but don’t tell my publisher this (lol). I do enjoy writing between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., but honestly I can write “any time or any place; I don’t care who’s ‘round.” I know that that’s Janet Jackson’s quote and yes, it’s sexual, but it also applies to my lifestyle of writing.

M.O.I. JR: What was the process like for you to find a publisher?

Mary Honey B Morrison: Finding a publisher was not difficult for me because I’m a hard worker, even to this day. I self-published my first novel, “Soulmates Dissipate,” in June of 2000. Sold over 14,000 copies total. Carl Weber introduced me to my first agent, Claudia Menza, and she secured me a three-book deal with Kensington Publishing Corp. in less than three months of my self-publishing my first novel.

M.O.I. JR: Do you do any work with women who have been sexually abused?

Mary Honey B Morrison: I’m so glad you asked this question. On May 9, 2013, I’m hosting an event at White House Black Market in Emeryville. Kensington Publishing Corp. is sponsoring gift cards, Maria Costen 99.7 is promoting the event on air, PF Chang’s is providing complimentary appetizers, Destiny the Harpist is performing, and I’m dressing three of the women from a local non-profit, 24 Hour Oakland Parent Teacher Children Center and Emergency Shelter.

'If I Can't Have You' by Mary B. Morrison coverI’ve also agreed to be the keynote speaker for the non-profit’s 2014 scholarship luncheon. It would be great if you could have me and the owner from the women’s shelter on-air to promote and talk about this wonderful event.

M.O.I. JR: What kind of stuff do you read?

Mary Honey B Morrison: No you didn’t say “stuff”! OK, now that I’ve loosened my lips, I primarily read magazine articles and online postings on Facebook. I’m currently reading Pynk’s erotic novel, “Politics. Escorts. Blackmail.”

M.O.I. JR: What kind of impact do you want your stories to have?

Mary Honey B Morrison: No matter what challenges my female characters encounter, they always prevail. Women are the gravity to earth. That’s how I’ve always written my novels.

I haven’t told anyone this, so you’re the first. My next series, “Single Moms,” will be based in Oakland. This series is anointed by God. I don’t want my publishers or readers to think I’m crossing over to Christian fiction. I’m not.

But the feeling that is upon my heart is heavy with the responsibility to help millions of women overcome this obstacle that plagues our – especially the African-American – community. These women meet at church, and each one has her journey. Some are successful. Others are not. That’s life.

M.O.I. JR: How do people stay up on what you have going on?

Mary Honey B Morrison: Sign up for my newsletter on my web site at Join my fan page on Facebook at I’m also on Twitter at Email me at


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The Skills Gap: A Global Problem

As many countries celebrate International Workers’ Day tomorrow, let’s think about the importance of education in skills training for getting young people into work:


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No Rich Child Left Behind


Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.

Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.

What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.

To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.

In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

The same pattern is evident in other, more tangible, measures of educational success, like college completion. In a study similar to mine, Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski, economists at the University of Michigan, found that the proportion of students from upper-income families who earn a bachelor’s degree has increased by 18 percentage points over a 20-year period, while the completion rate of poor students has grown by only 4 points.

In a more recent study, my graduate students and I found that 15 percent of high-income students from the high school class of 2004 enrolled in a highly selective college or university, while fewer than 5 percent of middle-income and 2 percent of low-income students did.

These widening disparities are not confined to academic outcomes: new research by the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam and his colleagues shows that the rich-poor gaps in student participation in sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and church attendance have grown sharply as well.

In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of theAmerican Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?

We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform.Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.

Part of knowing what we should do about this is understanding how and why these educational disparities are growing. For the past few years, alongside other scholars, I have been digging into historical data to understand just that. The results of this research don’t always match received wisdom or playground folklore.

The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.

Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.

A Look at the Data

75 ThumbnailGraphs highlight some of the trends described in this article.


The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising — substantially in math and very slowly in reading — since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.

The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades, trends that actually keep the yawning gap between higher- and lower-income students from getting even wider. If we look at the test scores of white students only, we find the same growing gap between high- and low-income children as we see in the population as a whole.

It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school. There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality. As you may have heard, the incomes of the rich have grown faster over the last 30 years than the incomes of the middle class and the poor. Money helps families provide cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children because it provides more stable home environments, more time for parents to read to their children, access to higher-quality child care and preschool and — in places like New York City, where 4-year-old children take tests to determine entry into gifted and talented programs — access to preschool test preparation tutors or the time to serve as tutors themselves.

But rising income inequality explains, at best, half of the increase in the rich-poor academic achievement gap. It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently. This is where things get really interesting.

High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.

With a college degree insufficient to ensure a high-income job, or even a job as a barista, parents are now investing more time and money in their children’s cognitive development from the earliest ages. It may seem self-evident that parents with more resources are able to invest more — more of both money and of what Mr. Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time” — in their children’s development. But even though middle-class and poor families are also increasing the time and money they invest in their children, they are not doing so as quickly or as deeply as the rich.

The economists Richard J. Murnane and Greg J. Duncan report that from 1972 to 2006 high-income families increased the amount they spent on enrichment activities for their children by 150 percent, while the spending of low-income families grew by 57 percent over the same time period. Likewise, the amount of time parents spend with their children has grown twice as fast since 1975 among college-educated parents as it has among less-educated parents. The economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, call this escalation of early childhood investment “the rug rat race,” a phrase that nicely captures the growing perception that early childhood experiences are central to winning a lifelong educational and economic competition.

It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich.

We’re also slow to understand what’s happening, I think, because the nature of the problem — a growing educational gap between the rich and the middle class — is unfamiliar. After all, for much of the last 50 years our national conversation about educational inequality has focused almost exclusively on strategies for reducing inequalities between the educational successes of the poor and the middle class, and it has relied on programs aimed at the poor, like Head Start and Title I.

We’ve barely given a thought to what the rich were doing. With the exception of our continuing discussion about whether the rising costs of higher education are pricing the middle class out of college, we don’t have much practice talking about what economists call “upper-tail inequality” in education, much less success at reducing it.

Meanwhile, not only are the children of the rich doing better in school than even the children of the middle class, but the changing economy means that school success is increasingly necessary to future economic success, a worrisome mutual reinforcement of trends that is making our society more socially and economically immobile.

We need to start talking about this. Strangely, the rapid growth in the rich-poor educational gap provides a ray of hope: if the relationship between family income and educational success can change this rapidly, then it is not an immutable, inevitable pattern. What changed once can change again. Policy choices matter more than we have recently been taught to think.

So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.

But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.

This means finding ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves. This might include strategies to support working families so that they can read to their children more often.. It also means expanding programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership that have proved to be effective at helping single parents educate their children; but we also need to pay for research to develop new resources for single parents.

It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and day care so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children. Fundamentally, it means rethinking our still-persistent notion that educational problems should be solved by schools alone.

The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.

Sean F. Reardon is a professor of education and sociology at Stanford.



LinkedIn Releases Contacts App

New software collects all of your network and places them in one place


Staying in contact with yourprofessional network just got easier.

Yesterday, LinkedIn launched “LinkedIn Contacts,” a new smartphone and desktop app that makes it easier to strengthen your professional connections.

LinkedIn Contacts allows users to collect their professional contacts from various locations such as email, address books, calendars, Cardmunch and LinkedIn.

The app shows these contacts on various filters such as the people you have most recently spoken to, those you have lost contact with, and your newest contacts.

Other features include an algorithm to make sure you don’t get spammers, reminders to reach out to someone you haven’t contacted in a while, birthday notifications, the ability to add notes to people’s profiles, and a relationship history.

Although ‘Contacts’ is currently only available for the iPhone and as a desktop app, LinkedIn also plans to launch an Android app and mobile web experience.

Sachin Rekhi, LinkedIn products lead, said the company does not plan on getting contacts from Facebook or Twitter since it wants to stay focused on your professional relationships.


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A lethal cocktail for Africa: Religious extremism, endemic corruption and bad governance; but now NGOs too!

Abdul Ghelleh

2013-04-29, Issue 627

The overwhelming majority of non-governmental organisations do more harm than good to livelihoods and sustainable developments in Africa

The World Bank’s working definition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is ‘Private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services or undertake community development.’ But many people now ask whether the NGOs that work in Africa are progressively engaged in activities that are developmentally sustainable. And, by the way, how democratic and accountable are the NGOs?

Here in Kenya, it looks as though most Kenyan middle class individuals, and their regional counterparts who live in Nairobi, have their own non-governmental organizations or are partners in NGOs with others. Interestingly, Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is the base for this huge, unregulated and unaccountable industry that, when looking at its surface, seems to have a supporting role for the local economy, human rights advocacy and governance programmes. Nairobi is the NGOs’ capital in Africa.

I came to the conclusion, however, that the overwhelming majority of NGOs do more harm than good to livelihoods and sustainable developments in Africa. Here is my charge sheet: NGOs artificially sustain a false economy whereby they push huge amounts of cash into the pockets of corrupted local African partners while taking most of the cash back to their private bank accounts in Europe and elsewhere. Yes, they do pay the salaries of a few people here and there who support their families. But that’s not my point. The NGOs actually work against homegrown developmental strategies in Africa. The NGO operatives don’t want the recycling of aid operations—which creates chronic dependency and corruption within the receiving societies—to end. For example, NGOs are not prepared to cede some power or train local people to take over in the future, and they don’t give the confidence necessary to carry out their work to local government personnel of the countries that they operate in. Africans have the experience and the expertise to own the operations of the NGOs, but actually the foreign bosses of the NGOs want to retain power in order to continue the dependency culture that they have created.

In Kenya, the number of the NGOs in Nairobi had surpassed the capacity of the Kenyan government departments. If you stop at a traffic junction in downtown Nairobi for a moment, you’ll spot a specially number-plated NGO’s 4X4, clearly marked on the side with the logo of the NGO that owns it or a partnership logo with a government department, every few seconds. This is true. And you may find out more if you ask anyone who lives in Nairobi. When a European colleague and I recently took the steps of a first floor coffee shop at Yaya centre in Nairobi, he whispered in my ear and said, ‘This is where they cook Somalia.’ He was referring to the mixture of Europeans and Africans at most of the tables we passed.

Leaving that mall later that evening, we waited for our taxi for nearly an hour because the car parking lot was full and the road leading to the centre was choking with traffic. I confirmed my colleague’s statement when I later met a couple of NGO reps at Yaya centre. It’s the same story in every other Western-style shopping centre throughout Nairobi. Perhaps they do cook Somalia at Yaya, and Congo at the Junction Mall! I have lived in Nairobi since October of last year, and I have seen more than my fair share of NGOs’ actual activities in this region.

Sexual freedom, women’s rights, child soldiers, judicial reform, and what they call ‘good’ or ‘better governance’ are the areas they concentrate on most of their efforts, and these kinds of NGOs are plentiful here in Nairobi. However, you wonder: how can they empower women or protect the rights of the child in Africa if they keep corrupting the very institutions that are meant to carry out the necessary support systems? Christian and Muslim NGOs are here too. But unlike conventional NGOs, the religious charities also compete relentlessly among themselves for the hearts and minds of Africa’s poor. ‘Read the bible or the Koran and we will dig water wells for your community’ is their main policy objective. Religion-based NGOs, however, are far more active in helping alleviate the short and medium term needs of their target populations, building matchbox-sized schools for villages or bringing a few mattresses to hospitals there.

Much of the operations of Wilson Airport, Nairobi’s second airport, are NGO-related. Tens of light aircrafts take off from this airport for destinations across East and Central Africa every day. Daily flights depart for Kinshasa, Kisangani, Juba (South Sudan), Mogadishu, Kigali and Hargeisa, most of the time carrying a few NGO executives who fly twice a week from Wilson to sign yet other non-existent projects with local leaders of their destinations.

And it’s not only the local African populations that receive the brunt of NGOs’ onslaught; ethical journalism is a victim too. Upon arrival in the continent, NGO reps and journalists link up much quicker than other professional expats because they depend on each other in the rough terrain of Africa. It makes business sense too, more corrupting business that is. NGOs are the first to find an African tragedy. Then, they call their journalist colleagues in on their phones, and upon arrival they provide with them handy 4X4s, complete with experienced drivers and armed bodyguards. To return the favour, journalists beam harrowing stories of death and destruction to Western prime time television.

In fact, journalists are encouraged to travel on the NGOs’ chartered planes for free, and in return for their hospitality, NGO executives ask the journalists to bring graphic pictures and exaggerated stories of the local situation back with them, ready for consumption in Western capitals for more donations.

The NGOs have unlimited powers here in Africa and they are unaccountable to any other authority. In Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda, for example, NGOs act as something more or less similar to coalition governments. But in Somalia and the Congo, they effectively run the whole country. African ministers are powerless against the NGOs and are scared of them for fear of being deprived of future funds, or they may have already been corrupted by them so the NGOs have the upper hand all the time. I heard a firsthand account of a Somali minister begging an NGO executive for extra subsistence allowance from his hotel room while the plane taking him back to Mogadishu was being repaired.

NGO operatives often resist the calls for relocations closer to epic centres of their operations, like setting up shops in various towns across Somalia and the Congo. Earlier this year, the UN agencies issued directives to partner organisations to relocate their staff to Somalia by May 2013. To my knowledge so far, none of them had done so. Almost all of the NGOs that have activities in Somalia, South Sudan and the Congo are based in Nairobi and do not wish, apart from periodical visits, to base themselves in the country of their operations. Simply put, it’s not comfortable enough for them to live there. You’d have thought that the safety of their personnel is their main priority, but the stories I am discovering are doubtful and suggest otherwise.

Early last month while I was returning from Djibouti, I met a Norwegian aid worker at Addis Ababa Airport. We were both transiting at Addis on our way to Nairobi. I asked where he was coming from. ‘Hargeisa,’ was his reply. The British government had earlier that week issued a warning of a credible terrorism-related activity in Somaliland. Without my prompting, he added, ‘Bloody UK Foreign Office, many people were leaving Hargeisa.’ He told me that he and his family live in Nairobi, and that his children attend private schools there. I asked about the operations of his organisation in Somaliland. ‘On my part, nothing much really,’ and he went on, ‘I just visit Hargeisa once in every three months, and Garoowe twice a year, simply to check the boys and girls there.’ There is no way to verify this story as people often misrepresent themselves in a volatile and dangerous region like the Horn of Africa.

If the NGOs are in Africa for anything other than transitional services, they should not be allowed to operate in this continent any longer. The NGO culture must come to an end in Africa and throughout the developing world. Where NGOs have become a substitute for governments for so long, it’s almost impossible to lay the foundations of a functioning state. Moreover, places like Somalia, the Congo and Afghanistan where NGOs have operated for decades now should set an example for any change in policy from donor states. How can we expect a Somali or an Afghan minister who begs for his subsistence allowance from an NGO to take on the Shabaab or the Taliban? Quite simply, it doesn’t make sense. Real power should be removed from the NGOs and transferred to the indigenous populations.

I suggest that a pilot programme somewhere in Africa—perhaps Somalia or Congo—should be put into action sooner rather than later.

In fact, it’s time to overhaul the cartel-style aid industry in Africa and the developing world. It makes all the sense in the world to hand the cash over to the institutions it is meant to be supporting and to embed couple of auditors in these institutions. It’s cheaper, highly effective and it will be in line with the local social economy in a sustainable manner. Donor states should seriously reconsider whether to funnel their taxpayers’ money and other resources through unaccountable third parties.



State Lawmakers Driving Up Costs of Abortion

By Sharon Johnson

WeNews senior correspondent

Telemedicine for medical abortions, which controls costs for rural women in particular, is under legislative attack. These and other state restrictions drive up prices that abortion providers have contained amid overall rising health costs.



protest sign 'Women dont regret abortion'

Credit: Dave Fayram on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).


(WOMENSNEWS)–Abortion clinics and women’s health centers have kept the cost of abortion stable since the onset of the 2008 recession, at a time of escalating health costs. But now state legislatures are considering a wide range of restrictions that will make the procedure less accessible, driving up costs.

One restriction focuses on telemedicine in medical, or drug-induced, abortions.

In the first three months of 2013, three states passed bills that require physicians to be in the physical presence of patients when they prescribe the abortion pill rather than on camera. Both houses of theMississippi legislature approved the telemedicine ban; the measure is now awaiting debate by a conference committee. As of the end of March, similar provisions passed a legislative chamber in Alabama and Indianaand are pending in the second body. Seven states have similar laws.

“Telemedicine has been used successfully by the Veterans Administration and health care facilities in rural areas where there are few physicians for decades to treat conditions, such as strokes, because it is medically safe,” said Dr. Anne Davis, consulting medical director of the New York-based Physicians for Reproductive Health, an organization that aims to make quality reproductive health services an integral part of mainstream medicine. “Bans force women to travel long distances, lose wages and incur expenses for child care.”

Iowa and Texas have legislation pending that would require abortion clinics to revert to an old Food and Drug Administration protocol that requires three visits to a physician’s office to receive the medication. It also would decrease the use of medical abortions because the pill could only be used up to 49 days after the woman’s last period.

“Based on studies by the World Health Organization that showed that the pill was effective at one-third the standard dosage, clinics began to allow patients in 2001 to administer the second pill at home as well as the medication to be used up to 63 days,” said Davis, an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “Virtually all Planned Parenthood facilities use the newer protocol, so this change would have a great impact on clinics if it becomes the norm.”

Almost 20 Percent of Abortions

Medical abortion accounted for 17 percent of all non-hospital abortions and about one-fourth of abortions before nine weeks gestation in 2008, according to a 2011 study in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Arizona and Ohio now require the old Food and Drug Administration protocol; a similar law in North Carolinahas been stopped by court challenges.

“Keeping costs down has been especially important since the 2008 recession,” said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the Washington-based National Abortion Federation, which includes more than 400 nonprofit clinics, women’s health centers, hospitals and other abortion providers, in a phone interview. “Poor women often have a harder time obtaining contraceptive services, resulting in more unintended pregnancies. In addition, many women who might have been able to support a child in a better economy cannot do so because they have lost their jobs or suffered other financial setbacks.”

Low-income women may also be more likely to face the full costs of an abortion because of the Hyde Amendment. Passed by Congress in 1976 and affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1980, the amendment prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.

Abortion, meanwhile, has become concentrated among low-income women, according to a January report by the Guttmacher Institute. Forty-two percent of women who have an abortion are below the federal poverty level ($11,940 for a single person and $23,550 for a family of four in 2013).

“Poor women have great difficulty obtaining abortions because only 17 states have policies to cover medically necessary abortions of their Medicaid beneficiaries with their funds,” said Adam Sonfield, senior policy director of the Guttmacher Institute, in a phone interview. “Many poor women report having to borrow money from family and friends and forego payments for rent, groceries and utilities to pay for the procedure.”

Saporta estimates that a first trimester abortion costs $500 today rather than $1,000 had the cost kept pace with other procedures.

Bills Attack Access

During the first three months of 2013, state legislatures introduced 694 abortion-related bills, 47 percent of which seek to address access to abortion rather than imposing requirements, such as a woman having to undergo an ultrasound or complete a waiting period before getting an abortion, as they have done in the past.

“The more restrictions placed on access, the greater the wait to have the procedure and the more expensive the procedure becomes because the woman is farther along in her pregnancy,” said Saporta. “A second trimester abortion can easily cost $10,000 if a woman has medical complications.”

Currently, more than 6 in 10 abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy; almost 3 in 10 take place at six weeks or earlier, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Legislatures in Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia have imposed costly facilities regulations on centers performing abortions. In Virginia, for example, clinics must meet the latest standards for newly constructed hospitals.

“Regulations specifying the width of public hallways and the number of parking spaces for each surgical room are medically unnecessary,” said Davis in a phone interview. “Requiring clinics to pay thousands of dollars to meet these architectural standards are a thinly disguised attempt to cripple clinics and cause some facilities to close.”

Fifty-seven percent of women pay out of pocket for abortions because of the lack of insurance, lack of abortion coverage or desire to ensure confidentiality, the Guttmacher Institute noted.

These high costs can lead some low-income women to seek cheap, substandard care, according to Think Progress, a project of the Washington-based Center for American Progress. A first trimester abortion at the clinic of Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia was $330, for example. But the 72-year-old physician at the clinic is accused of killing seven late-term fetuses by snipping their spinal cords after they were born and murdering a woman who had overdosed on sedatives while waiting for an abortion.

In 2012, 43 abortion restrictions were enacted in 19 states, the second most of any year. More than half of all U.S. women of reproductive age (15 to 44) live in a state that is hostile to abortion, whereas less than one-third did a decade ago.


Sharon Johnson is a New York-based freelance writer.


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The Communities of Climate Change Are Leading the Charge

by dchin

Members of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) protest Chevron.  Source.  APEN Facebook

By Anthony Giancatarino, Coordinator of Research & Advocacy

The Faces of Climate Change” is the theme of Earth Day this year.  And it’s fitting given the impact that climate change had in 2012 for many of us.

2012 proved loud and clear that climate change knows no boundaries – it affects all of us.  And climate change does not work in isolation; it is a challenge in every aspect of our lives. It threatens the viability of our food system, as our farmers must deal with extreme droughts or floods that wipe out our fruits and vegetables.  It destroys our homes as we witnessed in the unprecedented forest fires in Colorado.  And it destroys our infrastructure – from broadband and transit lines to the power grid – as we witnessed with the raw power unleashed by Superstorm Sandy last November.

Yet, while we are all impacted, communities of color are often hardest hit. Black residents in Los Angeles, for example, are twice as likely to die from heat waves as Whites. And people of color often live nearest to the pollution sources that are root causes of climate change.  For instance, a recent NAACP report found that people of color are disproportionately located within three miles of coal plants.

So it should come as no surprise that these same communities are at the forefront of the fight against climate change.  In recognition of the many “Faces of Climate Change”, we want to celebrate some of the “Communities of Climate Change” that have been leading the charge against the biggest threat to Mother Earth.



While the solutions and actions may look different, they all have one thing in common, what we at the Center for Social Inclusion call community-scale solutions. These are not “one-size-fits all” models. Instead they respond to community needs and build on community assets.

What makes these models so critical are the impacts on the community:

  • Local, sustainable, quality jobs for residents;
  • Entrepreneurship and asset creation;
  • Health improvements;
  • Stronger political economy of marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, by building their power, value and agency in the economy and in public policy.

So today on Earth Day, let us honor the work of these “Communities of Climate Change.”  And let’s join them in advocating for policies at the federal, state and local level that ensure inclusive planning and provide public dollars to advance and replicate the positive change happening in communities all around us.


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