Marcia G. Yerman

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Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Droz Tragos follows the intimate accounts of women as they grapple with the impact of their pregnancies and how the crisis impacts the trajectory of their lives. The insights revealed are quite different from the political pronouncements of elected officials.

April 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Droz Tragos follows the intimate accounts of women as they grapple with the impact of their pregnancies and how the crisis impacts the trajectory of their lives. The insights revealed are quite different from the political pronouncements of elected officials.

April 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

On Election Day, I cast my vote full of hope.

On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. — after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.

I have been writing about the environment for six years.

As I looked over all the articles I have produced,

November 17, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Scott Pruitt’s Denial of Climate Change is Out of Touch

Scott Pruitt’s Denial of Climate Change is Out of Touch

The New York Times made it a front-page story: “EPA Chief Doubts Consensus View of Climate Change.”

Trump’s appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, stated (again) that carbon dioxide was not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He added, “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

For those who follow clean air and water issues to …

March 19, 2017 | No comment | Read More »


Abortion: Stories Women Tell

“Abortion: Stories Women Tell,” directed by Tracy Droz Tragos, looks at one of America’s most contentious debates through the prism of personal stories.

The documentary is set in Missouri, where Droz Tragos hails from. The state has one of the toughest abortion laws on the books. Currently, there is only one operative clinic. A seventy-two-hour waiting period was enacted in 2014, with no exception for rape or incest.

Missouri women seeking an abortion travel to the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois. It’s located fifteen minutes away from the downtown area of St. Louis.

Droz Tragos follows the intimate accounts of women as they grapple with the impact of their pregnancies and how the crisis impacts the trajectory of their lives. The insights revealed are quite different from the political pronouncements of elected officials.

A parallel narrative tracks “pro-life” advocates who want to abolish abortion. They are deeply influenced by religious beliefs. They plant themselves at the Hope Clinic to confront patients with graphic photographs, statues of the Virgin Mary, and invective laced with praise for the Lord.

It’s an exhausting and disturbing look at two sets of belief systems that are miles apart.

A husband and wife discuss learning that their developing twelve-week-old has a skull that has not formed and is missing limbs. The genetic defects mean that there will not be survival beyond birth. They self-identify as Christians, who had the support of their pastor in their difficult decision to terminate.

Not all the stories end with an abortion. Te’Aundra, who had dreams of improving her life through higher education, keeps her baby. She had been working two jobs and had been offered a basketball scholarship. Te’Aundra was willing to give up the baby for adoption, but the father was not in agreement with that decision (which could create problems for the adoptive parents down the line). However, he had no interest in helping to raise the child.

Women relate that they are overwhelmed by the basic need to survive. They suffer from a lack of finances, domestic violence, prior drug addiction, or the desire to become an adult before having a baby. Frequently, they are alone and without emotional support. The youngest girls would be kicked out of their homes if they shared the predicament with their families. For women who already have children and can barely keep their heads above water — another child would sink them.

Those who believe that life begins at conception view their anti-abortion beliefs as a calling — usually directly from God. Conversations reflect values that maintain abortion is murder and results in eternal damnation. Kathy, who learned from her father that she was almost aborted, reveals that she has always felt “a kinship with the baby in the womb.”

One of the strongest interactions in the film takes place at a college student center. On the way there, Reagan, a leader in the Students for Life of America movement, speaks directly to the camera. She explains that she is a different breed of activist than the “stigma of pro-lifers as old, crazy religious nuts.” Yet, when she sets up her booth there are handouts asserting that “Abortion=Breast Cancer” and signs saying, “3700 babies aborted daily.”

A young woman, close in age to Reagan, confronts her. She recognizes Reagan as an on-site demonstrator who prays at the Planned Parenthood facility where she is an escort.

It’s tense.

“Why protest this organization when it’s just one thing [abortion] that it does?” She talks about the women seeking affordable gynecological services. She presses Reagan on who will adopt all the children that don’t fit the idealized version of an adoptee. Who will be there for the baby that has physical or mental difficulties, or is from the inner cities? As Reagan packs up her materials, she appears shaken by the pragmatic questions of her challenger.

It is clear that the combination of religion and shame is toxic. 70 percent of adults in Missouri have an absolute belief in God. Belief in Hell among adults is 66 percent. Given these stats, it’s not surprising that a young woman who gave up her child for adoption says, “If you have an abortion, you cannot go to heaven.”

There is an overt disconnect between the quiet pain of those seeking an abortion and the proselytizing (or harassment, depending on your point of view) of those Christian Missourians who want to “make abortion unthinkable.” Shots of the landscape with billboards condemning abortion are pervasive. Rallying cries include, “All in Christ, for Pro-Life.” Supporters are revved up with the rhetorical question, “What are you willing to live for or give your life for?”

Amie, a single mother who is 30, works seventy hours a week to support her two children. When she arrives at Hope Clinic after a 200-mile drive, a parking lot regular greets her with, “You don’t have to kill your baby.”

Courtesy of HBO

“Why should I be ashamed?” she asks with a mixture of anger and frustration. “It’s not fair to have to deal with shit like that.” Trying to make ends meet on the tips she earns as a waitress and bartender, her concern is for the children she is raising. Falling within the six to nine-week time frame, she opts to use the abortion pill which will loosen the fetus from the uterine wall.

Staff physician, Dr. Erin, talks of the difference between when she worked at Planned Parenthood in Chicago and her experience in St. Louis. In her new neighborhood, protestors showed up at her house. She speaks matter-of-factly about what the future may hold.

One in three women get an abortion. One in three women get a C-section. A C-section is accessible.

It’s going to become very, very dangerous for women. People are going to die. It’s getting harder and harder, and I don’t see a path for it getting easier any time soon.”

According to an older man who seems to be at the Hope Clinic on a daily basis, “God is going to destroy America if we don’t repent very quickly.”

A nurse goes outside to take a break. She watches a father and his daughter. He is singing a well-known spiritual with his own lyrics: “He’s got the unborn babies, in his hands.” They switch to another hymn, “Yes, Jesus loves me.” She comments, “I guess they think we don’t believe in God or anything like that. That kind of bothers me when they do that. They think we don’t care about God. But we’re no different than anybody else.”

There are plenty of tears shed on both sides.

The female guard at the clinic, Chi Chi, has the final word. Throughout the film she has commented on the action, punctuating it with her insights.

“It’s your choice. I let them know, it’s their choice. Everything is your decision. God loves everybody.”



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Apr 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Chinese Dissident Wei JingSheng Featured at International Human Rights Art Festival in NYC

On the weekend of March 3, The International Human Rights Art Festival was held in New York City. Presented by The Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, it was co-sponsored and housed at Dixon Place.

Tom Block, who wears a number of hats including activist, writer, and artist, was the producer of the event. His goal was to bring together various art forms in the service of activism.

I reached out to him, to learn more about the objectives of the event.

What is the mission of the International Human Rights Art Festival?

“The International Human Rights Art Festival was conceived to offer a salving balm to our raw and injured society, using art as the impetus.  As Lao Tzu said: ‘Nothing is as soft and yielding as water, but for dissolving the inflexible, nothing is more powerful.’  We looked for art that would use its gentle power to dissolve the inflexible hatred, divisions and anger that is currently so prevalent in our land.”

How did you choose the participants?

“The artists were chosen for the quality of their artwork, their heart and soul, their passion and sincerity, and their honest assessment of the issues they were dealing with. In all cases, they were driven by the ‘I should’ instead of the ‘you should.’ We were very careful to keep a positive and gentle atmosphere, even more so in light of the tremendous divisiveness in our society at this time.”

The Festival covers topics ranging from the death penalty to the environment to disability identity. What is the connective thread?

“All of the work is sincere, beautiful and often very raw. It takes art to its highest level: At that knife’s edge between pain and beauty. Here, resides truth. Here can be found the answer to the anger and divisions in our society.”

With the Trump administration on the cusp of disenfranchising the human rights of many groups in our country, how does this event speak to that concern.

“By softening hatred, opening conversation, expanding ideas of ‘us’ as opposed to ‘them,’ and using soft power to heal wounds rather than exacerbate them.”

Are you concerned about the fate of the arts and creative expression during this administration?

“Many dictatorships have tried to kill artists and control creative output, putting it in service to the state. All have failed. I have no doubt that Donald Trump will fail, as well. Art will still be here when he goes.”

A top highlight of the festival was the presence of Chinese dissident Wei JingSheng, who served as an Honorary Co-Sponsor for the event. He is a renowned human rights activist, a key  player in the movement for democracy in China. In 1978, Wei Jingsheng wrote the essay, Fifth Modernization. He posted it in Beijing on what became called the “Democracy Wall. As a result, Wei JingSheng was arrested and found guilty of “counter-revolution propaganda and agitation.” He remained in jail from 1979–1993. Upon release, Wei Jingsheng resumed being proactive. Speaking to foreign journalists led to his reincarceration the following year (1994), which lasted until 1997. After eighteen years in various prisons, Wei JingSheng was exiled due to “medical parole.” He came to America in November of 1997.

The testament to his time in prison, The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters from Prison and Other Writings, was released in 1997.

Mr. Wei gave this speech at the opening festivities of the event:

“What is the relationship between art and human rights?  As if it were two completely different areas, but it is not so. In countries where human rights are not guaranteed such as in China, where all the spiritual activities are controlled by autocratic government, human rights and art definitely have a very close relationship. In Beijing in 1978, my friends and I launched a Democratic Wall movement. The reason the democratic wall caused a stir in the Chinese society then, was because I and many of my friends published political essays to oppose the one-party dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party.

Interestingly, meanwhile this political movement also gave birth to an artists’ movement. A large number of painters who were repressed in the past and had no place to publish their works, exhibited them on the wall of democracy. They soon formed a new school of painting, called the Star Exhibition. There appeared a large number of famous artists, such as painters Ai Weiwei, Huang Rui, Qu LeiLei, Ma DeSheng; sculptor Wang Keping, and so on. Thus was created a new look of Chinese art since then.

In the many publications on the Democratic Wall, there were two famous literary journals.  One was by the famous poet Bei Dao (North Island) who hosted the “Today,” and another called the “Fertile Soil” which gathered a large number of famous writers. They were the pioneers of the new literature of the 1980’s in China, which broke the monotonous style of propaganda by the Communist Party. It created a flourishing situation of various styles, like hundreds of different flowers blooming at the same time. It produced a large number of famous poets and writers, such as Huang Xiang, Shi Zhi, Mang Ke, Gu Cheng, Lao Gui, and so on, as well as a lot of novelists who wrote anonymously. They were all participants of the Democratic Wall movement.

Why is the movement of literature and art needed to be combined with the political movement that rebel against an autocratic system? This is because we are all rebels of the Communist system that suppresses human rights. The protection of human rights, freedom of speech, publication, assembly and association are the common need of all. It is like people are indispensable to the air and water — everyone is indispensable to the air and water.

Chinese people and Chinese artists are still under the oppression of the Communist autocracy. It is the responsibility of all of us to appeal and strive for their human rights.

Human rights are the common ideals of all of us, and the necessities of those who are still struggling under oppression. Let us fight for the legitimate rights of all the people.”


Photo: Elisa Gutiérrez

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Mar 20, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Scott Pruitt’s Denial of Climate Change is Out of Touch

The New York Times made it a front-page story: “EPA Chief Doubts Consensus View of Climate Change.”

Trump’s appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, stated (again) that carbon dioxide was not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He added, “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

For those who follow clean air and water issues to protect the health of our families, Pruitt’s statement was no surprise. (It was insane that someone with his track record of suing the EPA and unreleased emails to fossil fuel powers, got confirmed in the first place.)

So where does that leave us?

Ever vigilant.

The Trump environmental team may think that it’s okay to continually relitigate science. However, most Americans don’t.

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication updated their Opinion Map this month (incorporating findings from 2014-2016). This interactive mapping of the country is remarkable. America can be broken down by states, Congressional Districts, metro areas, and hyperlocal counties.

Currently, 70 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening. (Good thing that this research isn’t on a federal website. It would have been disappeared by now!) Looking at the breakdown, the bar in gray represents those who either “refused to answer the question or said ‘I don’t know.’”

The data can be cross-indexed with four categories of questions posed to respondents. They were: Beliefs, Risk Perceptions, Policy Support, and Behaviors. This allows for comparisons and drill downs on disparities between locations.

For example, two different reactions to the statement: “Global warming will harm me personally.”

In Florida, where rising sea level is a viable concern, 41 percent agreed. In Wyoming, an inland state, only 29 percent concurred.

As a nation:

  • 53 percent believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities
  • 71 percent somewhat trust /strongly trust climate scientists about global warming
  • 70 percent believe global warming will harm future generations

When it comes to policy, Americans do not want roll-backs of regulations.

  • 82 percent support funding research into renewable energy sources
  • 75 percent want to see regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant
  • 69 percent want strict carbon dioxide limits on existing coal-fired power plants

Looking at individual states, it was not surprising to see that in New York, 79 percent of those polled wanted tough limits on coal-fired plants, while in Kentucky, 58 percent didn’t.

As I changed criteria and combinations, I saw that in the Washington, D.C., Arlington, Alexandria areas, numbers were consistently high in conjunction with climate concerns. For example, on the question about funding research into renewable energy sources, the answer came in at 86 percent. I wondered if there was any overlap with people working in the military and defense sectors, as they have been pointing to climate change as a cause for international instability and terrorism.

I have written previously about the disconnect between elected representatives and the viewpoints of their constituents on environmental issues and fossil fuels. Once again, the big takeaway is, “Follow the money!”

Check out the “Climate Denier 2016” Google doc that documents House and Senate members who don’t accept the science behind climate change. Then compare it to the contribution totals they have received from the coal, oil, and gas industries throughout their terms.

The scientist Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Tsk-tsking at the outrageousness of those who don’t want to deal with the climate crisis is getting the public nowhere.

Scott Pruitt is not going to change his mind anytime soon. But Senators and legislators who want to keep their jobs, may. And if they don’t, let’s remind them that if we ignore climate change, even their kids won’t get a second chance at developing a new brain, a functioning reproductive system, or a new set of lungs.

The Climate March is in April. Help put an end to this insanity.


This article originally appeared on the Moms Clean Air Force website.

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Mar 19, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

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Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

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Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

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Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

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Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

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Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »