Reproductive Rights Law Training

July 01, 2014

On June 31, 2014, ACLU law clerks attended the second annual “Atlanta Summer Intern Training on Reproductive Rights Law and Justice,” sponsored by Law Students for Reproductive Justice and hosted by the Feminist Women’s Health Center. The training was an educational and enlightening experience. It was attended by summer law clerks and interns from several legal and advocacy organizations that work to further the reproductive rights of women in Georgia. The four-hour training focused on key reproductive justice issues in Georgia that went well beyond the traditional debate over abortion rights, and included a discussion on the rights of women to give birth with dignity and the obstacles that many women face in accessing much needed health services.

To Flee Abuse, Immigrants Need to Keep Car Keys

March 25, 2014

By Azadeh N. Shahshahani
WeNews commentator
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Georgia lawmakers just held back a crazy bill that would have removed drivers' licenses from a group of immigrants, including women fleeing abusive relationships. Many young female DREAMers are also hugely relieved.

The Georgia state legislature closed its session on March 20 and many immigrant women here heaved a sigh of relief. A trip to the grocery store or work or school won't mean risking arrest.

Hard to believe, but a small group of state lawmakers here recently tried to take away drivers' licenses from a group of people in the state with "deferred action" status under federal immigration procedures.

Those at risk included DREAMers with work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and certain other people, including victims of domestic violence, with deferred action status granted for other reasons.

ACLU Sues Haralson County School District for Violating Free Speech Rights of Employee

February 26, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia and the Kendall Law Group, cooperating attorneys for the ACLU of Georgia, have filed a lawsuit challenging the unlawful termination of Johnny Cook. Mr. Cook was fired for expressing concerns on his personal Facebook profile that a child was left hungry and denied lunch at school. He joined a national debate focused on the well-being of children and adequacy of school lunch policies. When Mr. Cook refused to allow his voice, thoughts, property, and image to be hijacked, commandeered, censored, and illegally appropriated by the Haralson County school system, he was fired.

Another state considers discrimination based on ‘religious freedom’

February 25, 2014

By Adam Serwer
msnbc

Georgia is the latest state to consider legislation that could sanction discrimination in the name of religious freedom.

There are two versions of the Georgia bill – a state House version, HB 1023, and a state Senate version, SB 377. Both would affirm the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person’s religious tenets or beliefs.” Where those beliefs conflict with local, state or federal law, the government would have to prove that the law is meant to pursue a “a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Walk in My Shoes - Hear Our Voice

February 22, 2014

Roe v Wade 41st Anniversary

January 28, 2014

January 22nd marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed reproductive freedom for all women and enhanced the privacy protections of all Americans. While it is unfortunate that reproductive freedom is still under attack 40 years later, we would like you to know that the ACLU and the ACLU of Georgia remain vigilant in our support of reproductive freedom and respect for the personal autonomy of all women.

In the courts...

In 2012, the ACLU of Georgia and the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia, seeking to prevent the State from implementing a 20-week abortion ban. In December 2012, the Fulton County Superior Court issued an injunction against the law as it applies to pre-viable abortion care and the injunction remains in effect today. By bringing this suit, we prevented this anti-choice law from infringing upon the rights that Georgia women are guaranteed underRoeand we are confident that the Georgia courts will find this law unconstitutional.

Time to Bring Moms Home: Impact of Immigration Detention on Women

May 23, 2013

Time to Bring Moms Home: Impact of Immigration Detention on Women

The Huffington Post
Azadeh Shahshahani
National Security/Immigrants Rights Project Director

Earlier this month, we celebrated Mother's Day while thousands of immigrant women across the country were separated from their children and families. They were imprisoned in the more than 250 facilities nationwide including the two in Georgia which currently detain women.

Women in immigration detention facilities including the Irwin County Detention Center and the North Georgia Detention Center face particularly painful circumstances as the ACLU of Georgia documented in our report released last year, "Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia."

Victims of Abuse

Women often end up in detention because they were victims of abuse. More than half of the women we interviewed had been victims of domestic violence. Veronica and Maria Francisco, two women detained at the North Georgia Detention Center, said they had never called the police when they were being beaten by their partners because they were afraid of being arrested and deported, which would hurt not only them but their children as well. Maria's husband actually threatened to call ICE and have her deported if she complained about the beatings. She believed him and never called for help. Her worst fears came true when she was finally arrested after police arrived at her home in response to a domestic violence call.

Separation From Families and Children

Many of the women we interviewed were worried for their children because they were no longer with any immediate relatives or living at their own homes. Dulce Bolanos Estrada, who fled to Georgia from New Orleans to escape an abusive husband, has never been convicted of a crime. When she was detained, her young children (ages two, five, and seven), all U.S. citizens, were staying with relatives because she was their only caregiver. Her detention, she said, had torn apart the home she kept together.

Clara, who had already received her final removal order, was terrified that her children, U.S. citizens, would be sent to their abusive father or put in state custody because she was told she would be deported regardless of the dates of her pending custody case. Because she could not afford an attorney, she had many questions about the future well-being and rights of her children, and she had no idea to whom she could turn.

Maria Francisco has four U.S. citizen children; two of them are still too young to attend school. They had been living with a relative since Maria's detainment. She did not know what she would do if she were deported. She wanted her children in good schools because as Americans, they deserved to attend American schools. She had not seen her children at all in the two months she had been detained.

Veronica's children, all three of whom are U.S. citizens, were back in Mexico because she had no family or friends who could provide a safe place for her children to live in the U.S. At the time we spoke with her, Veronica had been detained for almost four months, and the extent of her record was a ticket for driving without insurance or a license.

Medical Needs

Women face particular obstacles pertaining to their reproductive health in detention. When Natalia Elzaurdia was detained at the North Georgia Detention Center in May 2011, she and her fiancé were expecting their first child. At intake, Natalia told the nurse at the medical unit that she was four months pregnant. The nurse then conducted a urine test, and told Natalia that she was not pregnant. Natalia asked her to call the Gwinnett County Detention Center where she had previously taken two pregnancy tests. The nurse refused to call and conducted a chest xray against Natalia's protestations. Natalia asked for a blood test instead. The next day a blood test confirmed she was pregnant.

Natalia had requested to see a gynecologist as soon as she entered NGDC. At the time of the interview, days after she put in her request, she had yet to see a gynecologist. "I put in requests to two nurses and my deportation officer and still my concerns have not been addressed. I experience cramps in my abdomen daily. I want an ultrasound; I haven't been given one yet and I'm four months pregnant." Although she requested to see a doctor, Natalia only saw nurses. Natalia's family wrote to the warden and other NGDC officials, as well as DHS regarding Natalia's treatment, but never received a response.

Hygiene

Women often face inadequate hygiene conditions in detention, jeopardizing their health. At Irwin, the underwear women receive upon arrival is often used, even showing stains or signs that it is not properly washed. Veronica was issued soiled undergarments at intake and she asked if she could have clean ones. She was refused and told to wear what she was given. As a result of wearing the soiled undergarments, Veronica developed a serious infection that ultimately left scars on her legs and genitals.

In the spring of 2011, a rash broke out among the women in one unit at Irwin, and most of them had painful bumps on their chests. In July 2011, another women's unit had a similar rash outbreak, and one woman had the rash spread across her back and side. None of the women interviewed ever found out why these outbreaks occurred, or what exactly they had contracted.

Daniela Esquivela told us that women detained at the North Georgia Detention Center are given a pack of sanitary napkins for when they are menstruating, but that they must ask for more once they run out. The guards only give out three or four at a time, and if the women need more, they have to keep going back to ask for more. Geraldine Ayala also added that they sometimes have to wait to get more sanitary napkins because "they run out."

Food

The quality and quantity of the food in detention is often lacking, especially affecting pregnant women. The schedule of the meals at the North Georgia Detention Center posed particular concern for Natalia in light of her pregnancy. Natalia stated that "the feeding times are ridiculous; there are thirteen hours between dinner and breakfast." Although Natalia was eventually given increased portions due to her pregnancy, she was not given meals more frequently. In addition, it took two or three days once her request was approved for the portions to increase.

Need for Reform

It is past time to close down the worst immigration detention centers in the country and treat detention as the last resort rather than throw immigrants in jail-like conditions -- including individuals who have been here for years, those who have only committed minor violations, those who have U.S. citizens and relatives as spouses or children, and those who have strong claims to remain in the United States.

The immigration reform bill introduced recently in the Senate contains important detention reforms, such as prompt bond hearings, alternatives to detention in immigration jails, and oversight of detention facilities. The bill also recognizes the importance of appointed counsel for those with mental disabilities, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable populations.

We must continue to fight every step of the way to ensure immigration reform achieves a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants and an immigration process that respects the civil rights and liberties of immigrants, including women in deportation proceedings. With the hope that next Mother's Day, all detained immigrant mothers will be reunited with their families.

State Court Temporarily Halts Georgia Abortion Ban

December 26, 2012

State Court Temporarily Halts Georgia Abortion Ban

The Superior Court of Fulton County last Friday temporarily suspended a Georgia law banning pre-viability abortions. The law would have criminalized virtually all abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy, with only an extremely narrow exception for the woman's health.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia challenged the law on behalf of three Georgia obstetrician-gynecologists whose patients include women in need of this essential medical care.

“This law places women in harm’s way by depriving them of the right to make their own serious medical decisions,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Politicians should not place ideology over a woman's health."

Although very few abortions occur after 20 weeks, a woman who has an abortion at this point does so for a variety of reasons, including the fact that continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to her health, that the fetus has been diagnosed with a medical condition or anomaly, or that the pregnancy has failed, and miscarriage is inevitable.

“We’re glad that this dangerous, overreaching law has been put on hold,” said Chad Brock, staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia. “If our elected officials want to help women, they should be passing laws that increase their access to vital health services – not putting them in jeopardy by denying them critical care.”

For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom-womens-rights/lathrop-et-al-v-deal-et-al

Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Complaint

Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Motion for Injunctive Relief

Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Brief in Support of Motion for Injunctive Relief

Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Preliminarty Injunction

State Court Temporarily Halts Georgia Abortion Ban

December 26, 2012

State Court Temporarily Halts Georgia Abortion Ban

The Superior Court of Fulton County last Friday temporarily suspended a Georgia law banning pre-viability abortions. The law would have criminalized virtually all abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy, with only an extremely narrow exception for the woman's health.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia challenged the law on behalf of three Georgia obstetrician-gynecologists whose patients include women in need of this essential medical care.

“This law places women in harm’s way by depriving them of the right to make their own serious medical decisions,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Politicians should not place ideology over a woman's health."

Although very few abortions occur after 20 weeks, a woman who has an abortion at this point does so for a variety of reasons, including the fact that continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to her health, that the fetus has been diagnosed with a medical condition or anomaly, or that the pregnancy has failed, and miscarriage is inevitable.

“We’re glad that this dangerous, overreaching law has been put on hold,” said Chad Brock, staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia. “If our elected officials want to help women, they should be passing laws that increase their access to vital health services – not putting them in jeopardy by denying them critical care.”

For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom-womens-rights/lathrop-et-al-v-deal-et-al

Legal Docs
Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Complaint

Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Motion for Injunctive Relief

Lathrop, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Brief for Support of Motion for Injunctive Relief

Lathrip, et al. v. Deal, et al. - Preliminary Injunction