Social Justice

January 28, 2006

Julie Thomas averts her eyes as she contemplates the future of women's reproductive rights with John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

"I know it's a when, not an if," she said of the day that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman's right to an abortion, is no longer the law of the land.

Thomas, who works on women's issues through a variety of groups and organizations in Bloomington and on the IU campus, helped organize the Jan. 22 rally at City Hall celebrating the Roe decision's anniversary. She warns that the right to choose isn't the only reproductive right at risk for American women under the "Roberts Court."

January 28, 2006

Thirty-three years ago the Supreme Court upheld a woman's right to choose in the landmark case Roe v. Wade. At that point, many believed that those of us born after Jan. 22, 1973, would never have to experience the horror of unsafe back-alley abortions. Yet, the fear is still alive.

A Rally for Women's Lives was held on Sunday, Jan. 22, to honor and support Roe. About 150 people attended the rally at City Hall, where representatives from the community, university, and local government spoke. Each speaker shared a different perspective. Mayor Mark Kruzan and City Council member Andy Ruff spoke about the importance of privacy, while Alisa Brown from the Democratic Women's Caucus and State Senator Vi Simpson shared personal stories.

As a representative of the student population and president of the IU Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, I spoke as well, targeting specifically those born after Roe. Our rights are at stake, and unfortunately most of us are unaware of the rights we are likely to lose.

January 28, 2006

The government drops bombs on kids in the Middle East, while a hand full of activists torch some yuppie ski resort in Colorado: Bush gets re-elected and the radical environmentalists are issued warrants.

Where the hell is the justice?"The indictment tells a story of four-and-a-half years of arson, vandalism, violence and destruction claimed to have been executed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front -- extremist movements known to support acts of domestic terrorism," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a news conference.

January 18, 2006

Rhea Murray, the mother of a gay son in Seymour, embarked on what looked like a quixotic project in the mid-1990s. She resolved to organize a Seymour chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). She asked the national PFLAG office for advice.

"They suggested I seek support from my local human-rights commission," Murray recounts. "We didn't have one! They suggested I approach some liberal local churches. We didn't have any!"

Nor were there up-to-date materials on homosexuality in the local public library.

"It seemed like an impossible task," Murray recalls. "There were no models to go by. Most people in my community were isolated from the wider world, and most gay people and their families were isolated from one another."

November 13, 2005

The banging of pots and pans echoes from the kitchen at First United Methodist Church on Fourth Street. Apron-clad women bustle about, creating dishes such as raspberry chicken and shrimp-filled lettuce packets.

In less than six hours, these women of Middle Way Food Works will serve dinner to 50 people from the Quad County Bar Association.

At first glance, they seem like a typical catering service. But these women are anything but typical. They are survivors.

"The program was set up to provide secure employment for women who have been working to extricate themselves from bad situations," said Business and Operations Manager Donna Storm.

October 30, 2005

The unsigned e-mail was sent from a pseudonymous Yahoo account to Paula's professional Web site. "You're fucking sick," it said. "Your life is fucking messed up . . . You shouldn't be teaching anyone's children."

Somehow, the writer had found out that Paula, who chairs the accounting department at an Indiana business college, is a transsexual woman.

She traced the message back to another account, which belonged to a student she'd been tutoring. Soon thereafter, the student's father lodged a formal complaint with Paula's boss, impugning her professional competence.

October 16, 2005

This summer, when Bloomington Hospital announced it was closing the Title X family planning clinic it has run since 1998, community members stepped forward to make sure the 1,450 patients who visit it annually wouldn't lose the only health care service most of them receive.

"It was a broad, vocal support," said Indiana Family Health Council president Gayla Winston.

In September, the Indiana Family Health Council, a private, non-profit corporation in Indianapolis, accepted the Monroe County Health Department's proposal, ensuring the estimated $200,000 annual family planning grant will stay in Monroe County.

October 2, 2005

As the costs of institutionalizing criminals escalates, local elected officials and concerned community members debate the continued use of 10 state juvenile facilities that require transporting children out of county to places like Muncie and Kokomo.

Although secure detention is used sparingly, court-ordered shelter placement and treatment generate large numbers. According to the Monroe County Juvenile Probation Report for 2003, of the 880 referred cases, 200 were sent to secure detention, eight to the Indiana Boys School and three to the Indiana Girls School.

A task force, created to discuss the need for a juvenile facility in Monroe County, has initiated costly consultations. Due to the scope of the problems, no quick decisions are forthcoming. But concerns about limited bed space and planning for future increases have been identified.

September 4, 2005

"American Red Cross — may I help you?!"

Phones rang off the hook at the Monroe County Red Cross as citizens responded to the chaos and horror of Louisiana and Mississippi. Three high school students stopped by to learn about volunteer opportunities, a soon-to-be-retiring physician called to pledge her help, and dozens walked in carrying donation checks.

"The response has been incredible, but then the citizens of this area are incredible," said Maria Carrasquillo, director of emergency services for the Red Cross chapter. Carrasquillo is the only paid disaster worker on staff. A volunteer-driven entity, the American Red Cross constantly maintains a roster of disaster volunteers, and trains community members in disaster relief year around.

August 21, 2005

Peter Hopkins spent the past 19 months eagerly awaiting his day in court, and not only because he wanted to defend himself against charges that he resisted arrest after getting into a fight at a downtown Bloomington bar in January 2004.

Hopkins' refusal to accept plea bargains offered by Prosecutor Carl Salzmann's office was motivated by a desire to show a jury what happened to him that winter day. Jailers repeatedly stunned him with a 50,000-volt Taser gun, even though three of them said in written reports that the shocks had no effect on his behavior.

"During the course of wrestling with inmate Hopkins, I drive stunned him about 10 times with little effect," Jailer Jimmy Edwards wrote in his report on the incident.

It was 19 times, Hopkins said. And he has pictures to prove it. Taken two days after his arrest, the photographs show burn marks covering his body, on his front and back sides, from his neck to his crotch.

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