Blog of Rights


Thinking Twice: The Catch of the Biometric Bargaining Chip

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 1:01pm
Reform is in the air, and immigration reform will likely follow health care reform on the Congressional to-do list. While this could be great news, it seems like we will be asked to swallow just about anything, including mandatory electronic employment verification and increased local enforcement of federal immigration law, even if it results in racial profiling, in order to get legalization of the 12-14 million undocumented people currently in the country. And, one of the scariest proposals that is being seriously discussed inside the Beltway is a biometric worker identification card (PDF).

Oversight FAIL

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 5:56pm

Last Friday marked the release of a report on the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), the report that those of us in the surveillance policy world have been waiting for with bated breath since, well, the FISA Amendments Act passed last summer…

25 Percent Would If They Could

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 2:57pm

Twenty-five. That's the percent of women who say they would've obtained a Medicaid-funded abortion if they had the option, but instead carried their pregnancies to term. According to a new Guttmacher report released yesterday, many of these women…

Reproductive Freedom 100 Days into the Obama Administration

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 2:26pm

(Originally posted on Feministing.)

It's only been 100 days, but already reproductive freedom has come a long way. The first 100 days of the Obama administration have brought us more victories than we had in the eight years of the previous administration, and now seems like a good time to recognize and celebrate our success.

On his first Friday in office, President Obama rescinded the Global Gag Rule, restoring U.S. funding to international organizations that use their own, non-U.S. dollars to provide, refer for, and/or advocate for safe and legal abortion in their countries. This decision will both increase women's access to desperately needed family planning services, such as contraceptives, HIV-AIDS prevention, and maternal care; and reaffirm the United States' commitment to free speech and democratic participation.

At the same time, President Obama committed to reinvesting in the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, which is widely considered the best delivery system for international family planning funds worldwide. Also in the international realm, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been vocal in her support for reproductive health care and family planning services abroad and at home and has made it clear that reproductive freedom will be an important tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

Since When Is Racial Profiling Just?

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 5:06pm

At an April 2 hearing by two House Judiciary Committee subcommittees entitled "The Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws," Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) raced through a rapid tangled and convoluted litany of immigration laws. His bottom line? Racial profiling is a good thing.

Both he and Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) used scare tactics to justify profiling, conflating undocumented immigrants and terrorists, invoking 9/11, and telling stories of immigrant criminals. Of course, the facts just don't support their conclusions. In fact, immigrant men are five times less likely to be incarcerated than native-born men.

It was a while before we were able to hear the witnesses rebut King and Smith's opening arguments. The committee recessed for over an hour for votes. During that time, we discovered what a rock star witness the ACLU helped bring to the hearing. Julio Cesar Mora, a 19-year-old citizen from Avondale, Virginia, fielded rapid-fire questions in English and Spanish from journalists for nearly the entire recess.

Julio Cesar Mora answered questions from the media.

Support President Obama's Rescission of the Health Care Denial Rule

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 4:39pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

What would you do if you went to your doctor to ask about ways of preventing pregnancy and your doctor neglected to mention birth control pills, IUDs, or other forms of contraception? What if a clinic receptionist…

Time for REAL Solutions

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 5:42pm

Most people think of March 17 as a time to drink green beer and listen to bagpipes. Inside the Beltway, we think of March 17 as the day of the Irish Prime Minister's annual meeting with the President and address to Congress. But, this year, we celebrated something besides St. Patrick's Day on March 17. This past Tuesday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) re-introduced the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act (S.611/HR 1551), a bill designed to create the first ever federal funding stream to provide age-appropriate, medically-accurate, comprehensive sexuality education.

Advocates who were trying to attend the REAL news conference had to run from one door of the U.S. Capitol to another because the heightened security, due to the Irish Prime Minister's visit, meant that certain passageways were closed. It took us a little longer to get there, but our difficulty accessing the event did not dampen the spirit in the room or the turn out.

Sen. Lautenberg and Rep. Lee, against a backdrop of advocates and students, addressed a standing-room-only crowd. Rep. Lee punnily emphasized the importance of "being for REAL about sex ed." A few minutes later, Sen. Lautenberg stressed the morality — yes, I said morality — of giving teens REAL facts that they can use to keep themselves healthy, make responsible decisions about whether to have sex, and protect themselves when they do choose to become sexually active.

Let's Get REAL About Sex Ed

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 12:53pm

(Originally posted on Feministing.)

I did not have a sex education. I graduated from high school in 2003, when Congress was in the thick of its love affair with scientifically-discredited and constitutionally-questionable abstinence-only programming, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal funding since 1996. In fact, at a conference on sex ed last month, I was so disturbed by my inability to recall whether sexuality education ever came up in my school that I called my brother, who graduated from high school in 2006, to see if he remembered any such classes. He confirmed my recollection that our school did not teach sex ed.

I guess I should be glad that my school district did not teach abstinence-only and proud that my home state, New York, has since rejected Title V abstinence-only funds, concluding that they are a bad investment and counter to the interests of its students. After all, my peers and I were spared "education" that would have, according to a Congressionally-mandated study, had no impact on our decision to initiate or delay sex, but would have made us less likely to use condoms if we did decide to have sex. We did not have to hear about exaggerated condom failure rates. We were not subjected to a litany of gender stereotypes meant to color our future sexual relationships. ("Miniskirts turn boys on; if you wear one, you're asking to be raped." "A wife must always please her husband, or he'll cheat on her.") I did not have to listen to presentations that would have stigmatized my peers from single-parent families or my lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender friends by insisting that sex is only acceptable within the context of legal (read: heterosexual) marriage. Nor did I have to endure programs suggesting that my sexually active classmates were somehow dirty and impure. I was not the captive audience of classes that violated the separation between church and state by promoting a religion that was not my own.

But, what I did have in place of sexuality education was deafening silence. A year of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) taught me 101 different ways to say no to drugs, but no one gave me a way to say, "I'm not ready to have sex yet." The closest my school came to sexuality education was an annual play featuring HIV-positive actors aimed at dispelling myths about HIV/AIDS, reducing stigma, and raising awareness of how one could contract HIV/AIDS and that condoms could be used to reduce the risk. But, no one told me about sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) besides HIV/AIDS, and no one taught me how to say, "Okay, I'm ready to have sex, but can you please use a condom?" And, certainly, no one explained to me how, if I wanted to have sex with another woman, to do so safely.

"Sheriff Arpaio Is America's Problem"

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 5:47pm

"Sheriff Arpaio is not just Arizona's problem; Sheriff Arpaio is America's problem. Arizona has to live with Sheriff Arpaio, but Sheriff Arpaio is America's disgrace," Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told a room of journalists, immigrants, and advocates at a combination rally and news conference on Wednesday, March 11. The immigrants and advocates had come from as far as Arizona, California, and Florida to deliver petitions to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in support of the investigation of Maricopa County's Sheriff Arpaio for civil rights violations that was announced on March 10. The 30,000 petitioners also called on the judiciary committees of Congress to hold hearings on Arpaio's violations.

The room was locked when attendees arrived and the press conference started late, but everyone — including journalists — waited. And they were rewarded for their patience. Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Grijalva, as well as Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and several immigrants' rights advocates from Arizona addressed the crowd, in English and Spanish, emphasizing the atrocities committed by Arpaio and his deputies as well as the importance federal oversight in this situation.

One advocate described a college-age Latina who was pulled over for allegedly having a broken tail-light while driving home with her mother. She was made to leave her car and was interrogated and harassed. When she ultimately proved that both she and her mother were U.S. citizens, she was dismissed without a citation — because she did not have a broken tail-light. She was pulled over for driving while brown.

Affordable Birth Control Restored

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 1:03pm

What a difference an election makes. Since January 2009, we have seen President Obama repeal the Global Gag Rule and the Department of Health and Human Services propose the rescission of the Health Care Denial Rule. And just a few days ago Congress…

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