Families Belong Together

The Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council has called for a standout at Five Corners at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, to oppose the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the southern border. All welcome — bring signs!

A national “Families Belong Together” march on Washington has been called for June 30 by MoveOn.org and many other organizations to protest the inhumane treatment of immigrants, many of whom are fleeing terrible violence in their home countries. Hundreds of local rallies have been called in communities across the country. If you’re not on the Vineyard, you can find the ones nearest you on the MoveOn.org website.

Immigration law is complex, and so is the history of enforcement. The continual and contradictory misinformation put out by the Trump administration makes it hard to grasp all the ways that what’s going on now is a radical departure from what previous administrations have done. If you Google fact check immigration policy Trump or similar keywords, you’ll find a wealth of reliable reporting and commentary, but I found this one, Salvador Rizzo’s “The Facts About Trump’s Policy of Separating Families at the Border,” from the Washington Post, particularly useful.

And did you know that if you’re on Martha’s Vineyard, you’re in the 100-mile “border zone,” within which the Border Patrol can stop anyone on the slightest suspicion and check their immigration status? How slight is “slight”? Well, a woman in Montana was stopped because she was speaking Spanish.

This border zone extends 100 miles not only from the Canadian and Mexican borders but from both the east and west coasts.

Here is the ACLU’s fact sheet on the subject.

And here is a “know your rights” chart when dealing with the Border Patrol. It was prepared by the Arizona chapter of the ACLU.

Missing: Abortion Services on MV

Did everybody see this important story in the May 24 Martha’s Vineyard Times?

It’s titled “New Study Reveals Gaps in Island Reproductive Services,” and that’s exactly what it does. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are the key points:

  • The study referred to in the headline, “Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health on Martha’s Vineyard,” was conducted last fall by Rural Health Scholars, a group of students from the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing and Medicine.
  • From the story: “The main findings of the study revealed a need for sexual education revamp at MVRHS, better support for the Island’s LGBTQ community, and inaccessibility to pregnancy termination services.”
  • Health Imperatives, the nonprofit that runs the M.V. Family Planning Clinic on State Road, Vineyard Haven, is federally funded and so can’t provide “pregnancy termination services,” i.e., abortions.
  • Not only is it impossible to get a surgical abortion on the island, medical abortions (a series of pills taken within the first eight weeks of pregnancy) aren’t available either.
  • Local pharmacies aren’t allowed to carry abortion pills, and to even prescribe the pills,physicians have to be certified by a pharmaceutical company.

To address the lack of access to pregnancy termination services on the Vineyard, the Friends of Family Planning (which supports the M.V. Family Planning Clinic) will host a public forum and panel discussion at the Old Whaling Church on August 4. What do Vineyard women want and need, and how do we best organize to get it?

Note also that Cecile Richards, former head of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be speaking the very next day, August 5, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the summer M.V. Authors’ Series. Tickets are now available from Brown Paper Tickets. $45 includes a copy of Richards’s new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.

This sounds like a great opportunity to step up our efforts to improve women’s health care on Martha’s Vineyard!

Rally for Gun Safety

Before yesterday morning was out, news arrived of yet another school shooting, this one at the Santa Fe, Texas, high school. Nine students and one teacher were killed and ten others wounded, including a school resource officer who at last report was in critical condition. Once again the shooter was a white man: 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis surrendered to law enforcement at the scene and has confessed to the crime.

Word spread quickly on social media and via email, and despite the short notice about 15 Vineyarders gathered at Five Corners at 5:30 to mark the event, honor the dead, and call for stronger gun-safety laws. Women’s Committee members Maria Black, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna Sturgis were among those attending. Both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette covered the event.

Many passing vehicles honked, waved, or called out their support. One fellow, however, driving a late-model pickup that was almost big enough for a tiny house, held up traffic while he vociferously protested the protesters.

By the way, there was a school-related shooting in Illinois on Thursday, fortunately with no fatalities; the only injury was to the gunman, a 19-year-old — you guessed it — white guy. Friday night in the Atlanta area, one woman was shot and killed and another wounded near a high school graduation. Reports are still sketchy, and it’s not clear if the shooting had any connection to the graduation.

Women’s Committee member Sarah Nevin is at right; next to her, holding the green “Enough!” sign, is her daughter Katrina.

Keith Chatinover, member of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos and senior at the MV Public Charter School.

Action Needed on ERPO

This was posted this morning (Wednesday, May 15) by the Mass. Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. Dylan Fernandes, who represents the Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket district in the state house of representatives, is a co-sponsor of this bill, but if we express our support, he’ll be able to take that to Speaker DeLeo.

If you live elsewhere in Massachusetts, you can be connected to your rep by using the link below.

The Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is an important tool for keeping firearms out of the hands of, among others, domestic abusers.

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CALL TO ACTION!! We’re making good progress in getting Extreme Risk Protective Order legislation (H.3610) passed in Massachusetts, but our representatives and Speaker Robert DeLeo still need to hear from us! 87% of MA citizens support this legislation, and our leaders need to know that we support them in bringing this life-saving bill up for a vote!

You can be automatically connected to your rep’s office using this link: https://p2a.co/4wHxymX

If you’d rather send an email, you can use suggested wording below. Find your state rep’s contact information here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

“I am a constituent and a member of the MA Coalition to prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of over 60 groups statewide.

It’s time for the MA Legislature to take action to prevent more gun violence in our communities by passing an Extreme Risk Protective Order Bill. An ERPO Bill would empower Massachusetts families and law enforcement to prevent gun tragedies by temporarily reducing access to guns by individuals at a high risk of endangering themselves or others.

Will you actively support the ERPO bill by telling Speaker DeLeo know that you have his back and that he should bring the ERPO bill to the floor for a vote?”

On Preventing Gun Violence

Mass. attorney general Maura Healey

Nine members of the Women’s Committee just sent a letter to the editor to both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette. It supports Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s recent op-ed in the Boston Herald insisting that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

We also call for the passage of H3610, a bill providing for an ERPO (extreme-risk protection orders) law. The bill, currently before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

If Florida had an ERPO law, it’s likely that the arsenal of the alleged Parkland high school shooter could have been confiscated.

Here’s the text of the letter:

To the Editor:

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead, at least 14 wounded, and countless bereaved, we stand with Attorney General Maura Healey when she says that this “is not a reality we can accept.”

We stand with her, too, when she adds that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table. That includes common sense reforms like universal background checks, giving police discretion to deny licenses to domestic abusers, and allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.”

Massachusetts has been a leader in showing that thoughtfully written and effectively enforced gun laws can reduce gun deaths without impinging on the rights of responsible gun owners. At present, however, Massachusetts doesn’t have an extreme-risk protection order (ERPO) law, which would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

A crucial bill to rectify this — H3610, “the Decker bill” — is in the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Our state representative, Dylan Fernandes, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Please consider calling the co-chairs of the Joint Committee to urge that the bill be reported out of committee favorably. The co-chairs are Rep. Harold Naughton (617-722-2230) and Sen. Michael Moore (617-722-1485). You can also call House Speaker Robert DeLeo (617-722-2500) to express support for the bill.

Before the February 14 Parkland shooting, there had been frequent reports and complaints about the alleged shooter’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior. If Florida had an ERPO law (it doesn’t), his ability to buy firearms could have been curtailed and his arsenal confiscated.

Thoughts, prayers, and passing the buck have not solved the gun violence crisis and never will. It’s long past time for Congress to heed Maura Healey’s insistence that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

For more information on these issues, including legislative updates, readers are urged to contact Everytown for Gun Safety and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Ann Wallace, Cathy Walthers, Kathy Laskowski, Maggie Brown, Margaret Emerson, Max King, Nan Byrne, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna J. Sturgis