Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above.


Anti-Choice Medical Malpractice Shields Threaten to Permanently Alter Medical Care for Women

Anti-Choice Medical Malpractice Shields Threaten to Permanently Alter Medical Care for Women | MyFDL
Among the new restrictions appearing in anti-abortion bills nationwide, it is the medical malpractice liability shields that have the potential to alter, perhaps permanently, women’s relationship with the civil justice system.
Both Kansas and Arizona are advancing measures that exempt doctors from medical malpractice suits should they withhold medical information in order to prevent a woman from having an abortion. These bills also shield doctors from malpractice claims if a woman suffers an injury from a pregnancy as a result of information withheld from her to prevent an abortion. Georgia just sneaked a liability shield into their 20-week abortion ban. We can expect more to follow.
Proponents of these “wrongful birth” bills argue they are necessary to stem the tide of lawsuits like one in Oregon where parents sued for costs related to the care of their daughter who was born with Down Syndrome. In that case the parents argued that the medical professionals were negligent in conducting the genetic testing and had they known their daughter would be born with a disability they would have had an abortion.
This is the kind of case that is destined to generate lots of headlines and some terrible legislation in its wake. In reality, less than half the states recognize a claim for wrongful birth and in those states that do, cases like this one are rare and these kinds of verdicts ever rarer. Nevertheless, anti-choice activists see an opening, and they are going to take it.
(this is from the comments: 
I just LOVED the fact that, after Corbett passed the state rape ultrasound bill with a bunch of other odious provisions damaging to women, he cut 90,000 kids off Medicaid, claiming their “paperwork” wasn’t in order.
If they get away with these things, next will be disenfranchisement of women.
They poison everything, yet women are to be responsible if a pregnancy goes wrong.


The Fracking Frenzy's Impact on Women | birth defects, breast cancer

The Fracking Frenzy's Impact on Women | Common Dreams
Some reports indicate that more than 25 percent of the chemicals used in natural gas operations have been linked to cancer or mutations, although companies like Haliburton have lobbied hard to keep the public in the dark about the exact formula of fracking fluids. According to the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce, fracking companies used 95 products containing 13 different known and suspected carcinogens between 2005 and 2009 as part of the fracking fluid that is injected in the ground. These include naphthalene, benzene, and acrylamide. Benzene, which the U.S. EPA has classified as a Group A, human carcinogen, is released in the fracking process through air pollution and in the water contaminated by the drilling process. The Institute of Medicine released a report in December 2011 that links breast cancer to exposure to benzene.
Up to thirty-seven percent of chemicals in fracking fluids have been identified as endocrine-disruptors -- chemicals that have potential adverse developmental and reproductive effects. According to the U.S. EPA, exposure to these types of chemicals has also been implicated in breast cancer.
and this one!
Here in Pa we have the frack attack laws which if your Doctor suspects you’re harmed by fracking chemicals he can see the list of chemicals used only if he signs a nondisclosure to not reveal the suspected cause of the problem to his patient .

Bill C-31 to fight human smuggling only punishes victims | Human Rights Watch

Bill to fight human smuggling only punishes victims | Human Rights Watch
(These days, when Canada is mentioned in HRW, it's never a good thing...)

Parliament is currently debating legislation that would require one-year, mandatory detention for certain migrants arriving in Canada, including 16- and 17-year-old children. Ostensibly intended to prevent human smuggling, this bill in fact punishes victims of human smuggling, including those desperately fleeing persecution and violence.
The detention provisions in Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, would allow the citizenship and immigration minister to “designate” groups of people arriving in Canada who would automatically be sent into detention for a year if the minister either has “reasonable grounds to suspect” they were smuggled or thinks examination of the group’s members cannot be conducted in “a timely manner.” The limited exceptions to year-long detention are unlikely to result in practical relief.
What would constitute a group is not defined and could technically include as few as two people travelling together. Children under age 16 in the group would either be detained with their parents or separated from them and sent to a child welfare agency. Under international law, 16 and 17 year olds are also children, yet Canada would run afoul of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by subjecting them to one-year detention.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child protects children from the devastating psychological impact of long-term detention. A study published in the October 2011 Journal of the Canadian Pediatric Society documents effects of immigration detention on children’s the mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal thoughts, behavioural difficulties, developmental delay, and a host of other problems.
Bill C-31 would also violate Canada’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits punishing refugees for entering a country illegally. The year of mandatory detention without review imposed on all designated migrants would almost certainly include asylum seekers, some of whom will be recognized as needing protection after spending a year unnecessarily in detention. C-31 would also punish refugees by preventing “designated” persons, including those recognized as refugees, from applying for permanent resident status for five years, delaying family reunification...

What motivates such a bill? Canada is not facing an influx of irregular arrivers who pose a real threat or meaningfully strain its resources. Despite the troubled state of the world, there has not been a surge of asylum seekers entering Canada. In fact, Canada had a 30 per cent decrease in asylum claims in 2010 from 2009 and 10 per cent fewer claims in 2009 than in 2008. Yes, there was a 4 per cent increase in the first half of 2011, but this was at a time when there was a 17 per cent increase in asylum claims among all industrial states, including a 34 per cent increase in the United States.
In fact 80 per cent of the world’s refugees are in the developing world, straining resources of governments that can barely afford to provide for their own people. Canada received 23,200 asylum seekers in 2010; but an average of 10,000 new Somali refugees arrived irregularly in Kenya every month last year, including nearly 30,000 in August alone. Does a country with Canada’s resources and geographic isolation from war and civil strife really need to punish the relatively few refugees who arrive irregularly?

Could Coffee Eliminate Borders?

Could Coffee Eliminate Borders?

ROME, Mar 30, 2012 (IPS) - A diverse blend of coffee is going to pervade the city of Milan in 2015. World producers will come together to show, exchange and market their coffee in a global alliance without geographical-based membership.

The Expo 2015, scheduled to run from May 1 – Oct. 31 in the Northern city of Milan, Italy, will focus on food and nutrition. Titled "Feeding the planet, energy for life", the Expo aims at stimulating and leading a global discussion on the challenges linked to food production, safety, availability and nutrition.

Along with the usual exhibition spaces built by participating countries, the Italian Expo will introduce thematic spaces meant to gather within the same architectural project a number of countries sharing a common theme.

Coffee producers have already met in Rome, where delegates of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, Uganda, Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia discussed how to build a shared space at the Expo.

"The ‘cluster’ approach is an innovative model of participation in an Expo, and it is the first time that it is (being) applied," Filippo Ciantia of the International Affairs Department for Expo 2015

According to Ciantia this approach will give equal dignity to all participating countries, despite their political or economic weight. "In past (Expos), countries that were not able or didn’t want to run their own autonomous space – which (requires) quite a big investment – were put in joint pavilions, geographically grouped, so you had the African space, the Asian space, and so on.

"But the world has changed and we want an Expo that reflects the 21st century. The voices and experiences of developing countries – especially on a theme like ‘feeding the planet’ – are essential for success. Gathering countries around a thematic issue will allow the Expo to really address the issues of agriculture, nutrition and sustainable development.

Nepal's Rural Women Seek Justice -

Nepal's Rural Women Seek Justice - IPS

DAILEKH, Nepal, Apr 5, 2012 (IPS) - Women in Nepal’s remote rural areas stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their men during the bloody 1996-2006 civil war that overthrew an oppressive monarchy, but many now battle domestic violence at home.

Rachna Shahi was only 15 when she joined the Maoist People's Liberation Army in 2004. Today, she finds herself kicked out by her husband's family and under pressure to grant him a divorce while her own family refuses to take her back. "I joined the war to fight for women's equality and our rights but many women like me are now at the receiving end of both family and society," Rachna tells IPS. "I don’t know how I will survive now."

Dhanasara Majhi, who also lives in this remote district 700 km west of Kathmandu, would have committed suicide, except that she does not want to leave her four children to the mercy of their abusive father. "Sometimes I am tempted to kill myself, as that would end all my sufferings. But who will take care of my children after I die?" she asks wiping her tears and sobbing softly.

Her husband, Keshab Majhi, hits her with anything he finds handy such as an iron rod or a hammer and has even threatened to kill her with an axe. Majhi gets particularly violent after he drinks alcohol. "We usually run towards the hills and hide in the forest until he is sober," says Dhanasara. She is worried most for her eldest son, 12-year-old Rosan, who shows signs of being mentally disturbed.

Dhansara does not approach the police, fearing that this will enrage her husband all the more and because she knows that she will get no support from the local community. "My neighbours often accuse me of provoking him. I don’t know who to turn to for help."

Dhansara and Ruchi share the woes of many Nepalese women, especially in the rural areas where they have little or no access to legal protection and end up living in constant fear and daily abuse.

Despite the alarming rate of violence against women, the government has done little to protect them, say women’s rights activists. In 2011, there were nearly 700 recorded incidents of violence of which 40 percent were cases of domestic violence, according to the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a non-governmental organistion (NGO).

"Lots of incidents are never reported due to fear of reprisal and lack of access to legal aid," says Khadga Raj Joshi, regional coordinator of INSEC in the western region. Last year, 54 women were killed by family members in Nepal for disobeying their husbands or in-laws or for petty reasons such as objecting to their husbands’ drinking. Most of the perpetrators got away scot free for lack of evidence, says INSEC.

The Nepal Bar Association provides pro bono legal services in district courts, but these are too far away for women living in the remote rural areas, says Joshi. "Basically, the women are on their own and have no social protection even from their own families," says Deepa Bohara, a social worker. 


Report: Worldwide Opposition to Monsanto Growing

Report: Worldwide Opposition to Monsanto Growing | Common Dreams

“Farmers worldwide are resisting for food sovereignty, but the rest of the world must join us."

A report released today shows that worldwide opposition to the biotechnology giant Monsanto and "the agro-industrial model that it represents" is growing.
  La Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International, and Combat Monsanto, the groups who issued the report, show that small farmers, groups and communities in every continent are rising up to resist Monsanto's products and environmental harm. While Monsanto's -- and other giant agribusinesses' -- approach, including genetically modified crops, has been shown to hurt biodiversity, local food knowledge and the environment, the report shows that "food sovereignty is a real and feasible alternative."
“This new report documents the intense opposition to this powerful transnational company, which peddles its genetically modified products seemingly without regard for the associated social, economic and environmental costs,” said Martin Drago, Friends of the Earth International's Food Sovereignty programme coordinator.
“This report demonstrates that the increasingly vocal objections from social movements and civil society organisations are having an impact on the introduction of GM crops.” said Josie Riffaud from La Via Campesina.
The report notes that an "unprecedented agribusiness offensive underway, under the banner of the new ‘green economy’" positioning giant agribusiness companies like Monsanto to have even greater control. The report's highlighting the "offensive" echoes a report issued last month on global water security from the Defense Intelligence Agency that also pushed biotechnology and agricultural exports rather than agroecology and food sovereignty.
"Who will hold Monsanto responsible for the global depletion of biodiversity, soil erosion, and violations of peasant rights wrought by the application of petroleum-based inputs required by industrial agriculture?” asked Dena Hoff of the National Family Farm Coalition / La Via Campesina North America. “Farmers worldwide are resisting for food sovereignty, but the rest of the world must join us," she added.

Be Heard – No Stealth Fighters! |

Be Heard – No Stealth Fighters! |
Yesterday, the Auditor General released a report stating that the Department of National Defence failed to follow correct procedure in its efforts to purchase a fleet of F-35 stealth fighters, and even misled Members of Parliament as to the risks of the purchase. The report states that “National Defence knew the costs were likely to increase but did not so inform parliamentarians.”
Auditor General Michael Ferguson said that “the process was inefficient and not managed well. Key decisions were made without required approvals or supporting documentation.”

Even as the Auditor General criticizes the government’s plan to purchase the fleet, and the price tag continues to climb, the Harper government refuses to withdraw from their previous commitment to purchase a fleet of F-35s – despite the fact that they never signed a contract guaranteeing their purchase!
Sign the petition today, so we can tell Harper we do not want our tax dollars to pay for the F-35s.

Prime Minister Harper,
I am very concerned that your government spends more than $21 billion every year on the Department of National Defence, and plans to purchase a fleet of extremely expensive F-35 stealth fighters.
Instead, I urge you to cut wasteful military spending and the F-35s, and use our tax dollars to preserve our pensions and social programs, protect the environment, improve our health care and assist the world’s poorest.


Sex and Sharia: Muslim women punished for failed marriages

Sex and Sharia: Muslim women punished for failed marriages | The Agonist
The Independent, By Charlotte Rachael Proudman, April 2
Today I received another telephone call from a young Muslim woman, Nasrin, who pleaded with me to help her obtain an Islamic divorce. After fleeing a forced marriage characterised by rape and physical violence, Nasrin applied for an Islamic divorce from a Sharia council; that was almost 10 years ago now. Despite countless emails, letters and telephone calls to the Sharia council as well as joint mediation and reconciliation meetings, the Sharia council refuse to provide Nasrin with an Islamic divorce. Why? Because of Nasrin’s sex. An Imam at the Sharia council told Nasrin that her gender prevents her from unilaterally divorcing her husband, instead the Imam told her to return to her husband, perform her wifely duties and maintain the abusive marriage that she was forced into.
Having represented Muslim women pro bono at Sharia law bodies across the UK to obtain Islamic divorces, I am all too aware of the gender discriminatory experience many Muslim women suffer at some Sharia councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (‘Sharia law bodies’). Unfortunately their experiences have not been highlighted by the media. Instead some Sharia law bodies have been misrepresented by the media as being transparent, voluntary and operating in accordance with human rights and equality legislation. This is not the case.
Many Sharia law bodies rule on a range of disputes from domestic violence to child residence all of which should be dealt with by UK courts of law. Having observed Sharia law bodies ruling on legal disputes it is all too apparent that they operate within a misogynist and patriarchal framework which is incompatible with UK legislation. For instance, the cost of an Islamic divorce is £400 for a woman compared to £200 for a man at the Islamic Sharia Council in East London; this is an example of blatant gender discrimination which is incompatible with the Equality Act 2010.
With over 85 Sharia law bodies operating in the UK, the majority of which charge vulnerable and impoverished Muslim women astronomical fees, Sharia law bodies have become successful and lucrative businesses. For instance the Islamic Sharia Council rules on over 500 Islamic divorces per annum at a cost of £400 for every woman applicant, equating to an annual turnover of £200,000 for Islamic divorces only. If we consider the additional legal disputes they rule upon it is likely some Sharia law bodies have an annual turnover of over £500,000. The majority of women I represent can barely afford a £15 weekly shop let alone £400 for an Islamic divorce. These destitute women have been forced to pawn their jewellery and take out loans from dangerous loan sharks in order to pay for Islamic divorces that are not even guaranteed and ultimately to fund a service that is pricing women out of the Sharia law market.
Anne-Marie Waters, Spokesperson for One Law for All commented – “the very process employed by Sharia law bodies is gender discriminatory, flawed and incompatible with UK legislation”. For instance, unlike male divorce applicants, women are requested to bring along two Muslim, male witnesses to corroborate their testimony. I have yet to represent a Muslim woman who is able to comply with this gender discriminatory requirement that is contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Not only are such requirements near impossible to adhere to, but they also reflect Sharia law bodies’ ideology that women are second class citizens. A stark comparison can be drawn between the way in which women are perceived as lacking capacity to give evidence before Sharia law bodies and their inability to give evidence in court to substantiate their own cases in Dickensian times. Women were treated as criminals not citizens in Dickensian times; their belonging to society was rejected as they were portrayed as mad and bad because of their gender. Sharia law bodies are a 21st century example of the patriarchal Dickensian period that eventually prompted the early Suffragettes to engage in feminist activism to bring about gendered change.
Where are the Suffragettes now that we need them? Fortunately we have Baroness Cox’s Bill, which aims to prevent Sharia law bodies from ruling on family and criminal matters. With collective action from politicians, lawyers, human rights and women’s rights organisations it is hoped that Muslim women will be better informed of their right to seek legal remedies under UK law instead of submitting to Sharia law bodies that promote and subsist in a patriarchal framework that runs parallel to UK law.