Yesterday, former doctor for the USA Gymnastics team, Larry Nassar, was “sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison…for multiple sex crimes.” The sentencing came after more than 150 women sexually abused by Nassar read impact statements in the court, bravely confronting their abuser. The women described Nassar as a master manipulator, who took advantage of their trust and innocence to abuse them. They also talked about their resilience and ability to fight back. As one survivor, Kyle Stephens, said, “Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
One of the most disturbing aspects of this horrific case is the extent to which Nassar was allegedly enabled by existing institutions, including Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. In June 2015, USA Gymnastics was reportedly informed of Nassar’s actions, but “waited five weeks to contact law enforcement officials about the incident.” Michigan State University’s president, Lou Anna Simon, stepped down yesterday; the former Michigan State gymnastics coach “resigned last year after she was suspended for defending Nassar over the years.” But Aly Raisman, one of the survivors, and many others note that this is just the beginning. Raisman is calling for “an independent investigation” into the institutions that played such a crucial role in Nassar’s career, including USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee. (These organizations have denied many of the allegations.)
Nassar and predators like him do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of a intricate web of existing structures that ignore women’s statements and continue providing support and resources to the predators themselves. The trial cannot be the end of the Nassar story. Instead, it highlights the need for system-wide changes—not just in gymnastics, but in institutions and workplaces across the U.S. These brave women took the first necessary steps to stopping Nassar’s abuse; but, he is not alone. Concrete actions must be taken to ensure that women are protected in their homes, workplace, and public spaces, and that they feel empowered to speak up when abuse does occur.
ACTION OF THE DAY
#HandsOff Our Medicaid. Earlier this month, the Trump administration ended Medicaid as we know it, allowing states to enact punitive work requirements as part of their Medicaid programs. The majority of working-age Medicaid recipients are already working—and majority of those who are not are either ill or disabled, caring for a loved one, or going to school. This decision has put 6.3 million Americans’ health insurance at risk, and it kicks struggling workers while they’re down. And according to a new report, the state of Kentucky will go a step further—requiring people who have lost their Medicaid to pass a health or financial literacy test to get health care back, harkening back to racist literacy tests in the Jim Crow South. It’s the latest in his attacks on crucial programs that help families make ends meet—so take action today! Add your name to our petition urging the Trump administration to reverse their decision and keep their #HandsOff our Medicaid.
Abortion Ban. Next week, the Senate will take a procedural vote on the 20-week abortion ban that passed the House late last year. The legislation, spearheaded by Senator Lindsey Graham and co-sponsored by 45 other senators, will “need 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle before they can take up the bill.” The legislation, misleadingly called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, relies on the idea that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks – but science proves this is false. At 20 weeks, women have an ultrasound that shows detailed images—and is the best time for doctors to determine if the child will actually survive after birth. Banning abortions after 20 weeks is cruel, especially in cases of “devastating medical situations.” On top of all this, the bill is unconstitutional, as it directly violates Roe v. Wade, which celebrated its 45th anniversary on Monday.
Brownback’s Back. Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence was forced to pass the tie-breaking vote to confirm Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as the ambassador at large for international religious freedom. The Senate minority unanimously opposed the confirmation, echoing the concern of many in the progressive community who feared Brownback’s anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ views would negatively impact people around the world. Lambda Legal voiced their opposition, noting that Brownback “refused to condemn anti-LGBTQ laws, including those with death penalty sentences.” Brownback gained notoriety while the governor of Kansas when he “issued an executive order to remove discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and transgender state employees.”
Less Than 10 Days. Last night, a projection in Denver ahead of the Outdoor Retailer show served as a reminder of the imminent threat to sell out our national monuments to mining and drilling. In December, the Trump Administration launched an unprecedented attack on our nation’s public lands and buried provisions to allow private mineral companies to begin staking mining and drilling claims in two of our national monuments on February 2. With less than 10 days left, mining, drilling and other activities will be allowed in parts of two of our nation’s natural treasures: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.
UNDER THE RADAR
Another Crisis in Asia? As the United States and many of the world’s major powers grapple with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a second crisis in East Asia would be especially unwelcome. In spite of this, and in spite of Taiwanese President Tsai’s efforts to preserve peace in the island’s delicate balance of relations with its neighbor after her election in 2016, a second crisis is emerging because Beijing has refused to accept the democratic outcome of Taiwan’s election or to make a good-faith effort to avoid escalation. Instead, Beijing has responded with provocative measures designed to isolate Taiwan and weaken its economy, a heavy-handed response that is further deteriorating cross-Strait ties at a time when peace and stability in East Asia are particularly fragile. These actions raise doubts about Beijing’s commitment to be a responsible steward of the global order and about what Chinese officials really mean by the “open, inclusive and balanced” economic globalization that they have promoted at Davos.