Tuesday, Women, Action & the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author/activist Soraya Chemaly launched a campaign to call on Facebook to take concrete, effective action to end gender-based hate speech on its site. Since then, participants sent over 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails, and our coalition has grown to over 100 women’s movement and social justice organizations.

Today, we are pleased to announce that Facebook has responded with a important commitment to refine its approach to hate speech. Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy. In a statement released today, Facebook addressed our concerns and committed to evaluating and updating its policies, guidelines and practices relating to hate speech, improving training for its content moderators and increasing accountability for creators of misogynist content.

Facebook has also invited Women, Action & the Media, The Everyday Sexism Project and members of our coalition to contribute to these efforts and be part of an ongoing conversation. As part of these efforts, we will work closely with Facebook on the issue of how Community Standards around hate speech are evaluated and to ensure best practices represent the interests of our coalition.

For details regarding Facebook’s response, please visit here.

Facebook has already been a leader on the internet in addressing hate speech on its service. We believe that this is the foundation for an effective working collaboration designed to confront gender-based hate speech effectively. Our mutual intent is to create safe spaces, both on and off-line. We see this as a vital and essential component to the valuable work that Facebook is doing to address cyber-bulling, harassment and real harm.

“It is because Facebook has committed to having policies to address these issues that we felt it was necessary to take these actions and press for that commitment to fully recognize how the real world safety gap experienced by women globally is dynamically related to our online lives,” explains Soraya Chemaly.

“We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world. It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues.” says Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women Action and the Media (WAM!), said: “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

We are hopeful that this moment will mark an historic transition in relation to media and women’s rights in which Facebook is acknowledged as a leader in fostering safer, genuinely inclusive online communities, setting industry precedents for others to follow.We look forward to collaborating with these communities on actions both big and small until we live in a world that’s safe and just for women and girls, and for everyone.

Pregnant, Sick and Pressing Salvadoran Abortion Law – NYTimes.com


May 28, 2013


MEXICO CITY — Beatriz spends her days in a hospital room, anxiously watching her belly grow.Her doctors say she is inching along a high-risk pregnancy that could ultimately kill her, fraught with risks caused by lupus and other complications. The fetus itself has such a severe birth defect that it has almost no chance of surviving, they say, urging an end to the pregnancy to protect Beatriz’s health before it gets worse. But in El Salvador, where she lives, abortion is illegal under any circumstances.Now she is waiting for the Salvadoran Supreme Court to rule on her case, which has quickly become a focal point in a broad battle over abortion in Latin America, a largely conservative region where the Roman Catholic Church holds considerable sway.Long home to some of the world’s most stringent abortion laws, the region has begun experiencing a shift in recent years, with some nations loosening restrictions or even legalizing the procedure. Now Beatriz’s case is testing the limits of El Salvador’s law, one of the more ironclad bans the region still has, by challenging whether abortion should remain off limits even when the mother is at risk and the baby has little hope of survival.“I don’t want to die,” Beatriz, 22, said in a telephone interview, explaining her reason for seeking an abortion. “I want to be with my boy, taking care of him.”Advocates have adopted her cause to intensify a regional push to change abortion laws, arguing that her rights under international law are being violated: the fetus is not viable, the danger of serious illness or death is increasing as her pregnancy progresses, and she already has an infant child to care for. A group of United Nations human rights experts called on El Salvador’s government to grant “exceptions to its general prohibition, especially in cases of therapeutic abortion.”The Salvadoran church, by contrast, has argued that the baby’s malformation should not be met with a death sentence.“This case should not be used to legislate against human life,” read a statement from the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador.Several Latin American nations have softened their stances against abortion in recent years. Uruguay’s Senate approved a bill last year allowing women to have abortions during the first trimester for any reason, after an earlier move to legalize the procedure in Mexico City. Courts in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina have also loosened restrictions on some abortions, allowing them in certain cases like rape or when the fetus is expected to die.But a total ban on the procedure remains in El Salvador, Chile and Nicaragua. Doctors who perform abortions and mothers who request them can be sentenced to long prison terms. Under Salvadoran law, Beatriz, who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her identity, and her doctors could face up to eight years in prison if one is performed.A group of doctors at the National Maternity Hospital, where she is being treated, determined that Beatriz’s risk of serious illness or death increased as the pregnancy continued, and that the fetus would die. They suggested terminating the pregnancy. “We agree in what proceeds,” the doctors wrote in a report, “but we are all subject to the laws of this country.”In a letter addressed to the Supreme Court last month, Health Minister María Isabel Rodríguez described Beatriz’s situation as “grave maternal illness with a high probability of deterioration or maternal death.” Given the fatal prognosis of the fetus, “it is necessary to undertake a medical-legal approach urgently,” Ms. Rodríguez wrote.But the case has its medical detractors as well. José Miguel Fortín Magaña, director of the Institute of Legal Medicine, which evaluates medical issues for the Supreme Court, acknowledged Beatriz’s medical problems but said that her health was currently under control and that she was not in danger at the moment.“If someone has appendicitis, we have to remove the appendix, but we can’t say, ‘We’ll remove it now because maybe in the future there’ll be a problem,’ ” he said, arguing that when a mother was in more immediate peril, doctors would be allowed to induce a premature birth, possibly saving both the woman and the baby.Other nations have wrestled with the question of whether to prioritize the health of the mother or the fetus. In 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered chemotherapy or radiation to protect the life of a Nicaraguan woman with metastatic cancer who was being denied treatment because she was pregnant.Last year in the Dominican Republic, a pregnant 16-year-old with cancer was denied chemotherapy for several weeks while doctors deliberated whether the drugs amounted to an induced abortion. The girl lost the baby and died herself after beginning treatment.Last month, the inter-American commission told the Salvadoran government to protect Beatriz’s life by following the doctor’s recommendations for an abortion, but the government has been waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter.Beatriz is well aware that there is an international frenzy swirling around her, but it seems far from her mind — an abstraction compared with the palpable yearning to touch the young son she left behind in her rural village, three hours away.She says she believes abortions are almost always wrong, acceptable only when the mother is at risk.Her first pregnancy, in 2012, was fraught with complications, especially after the sixth month. Pre-existing lupus, an autoimmune disease, coupled with severe preeclampsia, a serious condition that leads to high blood pressure, forced her doctors to perform a premature Caesarean section. The baby remained in the hospital for over a month.Medical records show that, following her doctor’s advice, Beatriz had a sterilization procedure scheduled shortly after the birth. She did not show up.Then Beatriz found out she was pregnant again. Doctors told her the fetus had anencephaly, a birth defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost all anencephalic babies die soon after birth.Beatriz testified at a two-day oral Supreme Court hearing two weeks ago, the first of its kind in the country’s history. During a cross-examination, Víctor Hugo Mata, Beatriz’s lawyer, asked her to remove her shawl. Standing in front of the judges, she uncovered her arms, chest and back to reveal lupus-related sores. Her lupus is under control now.Overwhelmed, she had to leave the chamber. The judges announced they would make a decision within 15 business days.Mr. Mata said that no matter what the Supreme Court ruled, doctors would probably have to remove the fetus as Beatriz enters her third — and riskiest — trimester. Several American hospitals have offered to perform an abortion, but Mr. Mata said this was an opportunity for El Salvador to modify its law.In a video posted on Vimeo this month, Beatriz asks that her doctors not be imprisoned “for what they may do to me.” The camera remains closed in on her small, spotted hands fidgeting on her thighs. Her burgeoning belly is covered with a red shirt.Gene Palumbo contributed reporting from San Salvador.

Mental Health Debate Personal For One Oregon Lawmaker » News » OPB

After last December’s mass shootings in Oregon and Connecticut, Democrats and Republicans in the Oregon legislature called for increased funding for mental health care. Now, there’s a proposal under discussion that would expand such programs in a big way, but it remains caught up in a debate over how to fund it. And for one lawmaker, mental health care is a very personal issue.

You wouldn’t guess it by seeing her. But Oregon State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward has multiple sclerosis. She controls it pretty well with medication. A lot of people know about it around the capitol. But there’s something about the Senator that none of her colleagues knew. At least, until a committee hearing on mental health in early April.

The Democratic lawmaker told her colleagues, onlookers and everyone watching the capitol video feed that she suffers from major depression. And has for the last 15 years.

“And I bet there’s a gazillion people who are looking at this right now and saying ‘really, really?'” Steiner Hayward said. “But I can tell you that if I go two days without taking my medication, I can’t walk in the door of this building. I can’t get up in the morning. I can’t take a shower. I can’t function as a normal human being.”

“So, stigma be damned, excuse my language. It’s no different that I have a biochemical disorder in my brain than my body’s choosing to attack my myelin and giving me multiple sclerosis. It’s genetic and it’s just like any other disease. And we gotta stop being afraid to say so publicly. And I’m doing that right here, right now. And I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks.”

Fast forward a month.

I caught up with Senator Steiner Hayward on the Senate floor. In our interview I asked her about that moment when she publicly disclosed her mental illness for the first time.

“It was a little scary,” she admits.

And here’s something else you should know about the Senator. She’s also a doctor at Oregon Health & Science University. So she knows a thing or two about what’s ailing her.

“I’m a physician and I understand this stuff,” Steiner Hayward says. “So I know who to talk to. So I’ve gotten great mental health care my whole life.”

But she says many, many others dealing with mental illness haven’t been as fortunate. Steiner Hayward is backing a measure that would dramatically expand the state’s mental health services, especially to youth and people in underserved rural areas.

The idea came from Senate President Peter Courtney after a series of mass shootings shook the nation last year. The Democrat wanted what he called a “game-changing investment.” So he approached the Oregon Health Authority’s Linda Hammond.

“He called me into his office,” Hammond says. “I remember it was a Friday morning. And wanted to talk to me about what it would really take and what it would look like if we truly made a commitment to investing in what was needed.”

Hammond came up with a series of ideas to boost mental health services. Many are existing programs scattered around Oregon that would go statewide under the plan. The goal is to provide comprehensive support services to families and individuals experiencing mental illness. Lawmakers say the plan needs just two things to make it work.

“Money. That’s probably the first one,” Republican state Senator Brian Boquist. He says the other thing such a major expansion of mental health care needs is time.

“You need a trained psychologist, or you need a trained case worker, you don’t go one off the shelf. So it takes time to develop a workforce and actually implement the program at the same time you’re identifying those issues.”

Lawmakers would give the Oregon Health Authority six years to expand and roll out the programs included in the bill. As for the money, that’s still under discussion. Boquist says he supports the expansion, but he says funding for it is wrapped up in the debate over higher taxes and public pension cost-cutting.

As for Senator Steiner Hayward, she says she’s received nothing but positive feedback from her fellow lawmakers since opening up about her depression. And she thinks her constituents will be just as understanding.

“I don’t want to lose my career in the legislature,” she says. “I love doing this. I think I’m pretty good at it. But if this is the thing that takes me down, then I’ve got a new job to do. And that’s to go out there and do more of this, being public about it.”

And she predicts if the mental health proposal does pass, it will be recalled in years to come as one of the most significant pieces of legislation to emerge from Salem in 2013.

BREAKING: Bachmann to leave Congress, insisting departure unrelated ethics investigation


Accompanied by odd digitized theme music, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced early Wednesday morning via YouTube that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress. At this writing, comments for the ‘Team Bachmann‘ video have been disabled.During her video presentation, Bachmann (R-Minn.) insisted that her announcement was not related to the ongoing ethics investigation regarding alleged misconduct during her failed attempt to win the 2012 Republican presidential primary.Watch the video here —> http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/29/michele-bachmann-to-leave-congress-insisting-departure-has-nothing-to-do-with-ongoing-ethics-investigation/