MIAMI — Odette Joassaint called 911 repeatedly, sounding agitated and incoherent, unable to explain why she was calling. It became horribly clear when Miami police officers arrived. “Come get them, I don’t want them anymore,” she told officers, according to a police report. When police rushed inside her Little River apartment Tuesday night, they found Joassaint’s own children — Jeffrey and Laural Belval, just 3 and 5 years old — hog-tied and strangled. The heart-breaking discovery shook even veteran officers and homicide detectives. By Wednesday, Joassaint, 41, had been charged with two counts...
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Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta, have begun mass-deleting posts that provide information about accessing abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established America's constitutional right to abortion.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Such content removals, first reported by Vice and the Associated Press, occurred immediately after the ruling was handed down. Much of the material in question reportedly contained information about how to obtain abortion pills by mail without breaking state laws.
"DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours," one of the since-deleted posts read, according to the Associated Press.
"I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me," another user wrote, reports Vice.
Both posts were immediately taken down by the site.
The Associated Press tested how long it would take for one of its own reporters' posts to be scrubbed. "If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills," they wrote in a post that was taken down within a minute. Further, the account which published the post was reportedly put on a "warning" status for violating the platform's guidelines related to "guns, animals and other regulated goods."
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When the reporter substituted the phrase "abortion pills" for "guns" and "weed," their post remained on the site, even though weed distribution is expressly prohibited by federal law and delivering the drug across state borders is likewise a federal crime. Abortion pills, meanwhile, can be legally distributed via mail by certified doctors, as the Associated Press noted.
Most abortion pills consist of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first halts the production of a hormone, progesterone, that helps facilitate the early stages of pregnancy. The second drug induces the uterus to empty itself of pregnancy tissue.
Asked about their sudden abortion-related content removal, Meta told the Associated Press that it prohibits users from selling certain firearms, alcohol and pharmaceuticals.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone affirmed this policy over Twitter, adding that the company has "discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these."
Just after the mass-deletions were flagged, the Intercept reported that Meta had secretly designated Jane's Revenge, an abortion rights group, as a terrorist organization. The classification reportedly stems from an act of vandalism the group led against an anti-abortion group in May, which "consisted of a small fire and graffiti denouncing the group's anti-abortion stance." According to The Intercept, Jane's Revenge has been put on "Tier 1" status speech restrictions, on par with drug cartels and mass murderers.
"This designation is difficult to square with Meta's placement of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters in Tier 3, which is subject to far fewer restrictions, despite their role organizing and participating in the January 6 Capitol attack," Mary Pat Dwyer, academic program director of Georgetown Law School's Institute for Technology Law and Policy, told the Intercept. "And while it's possible Meta has moved those groups into Tier 1 more recently, that only highlights the lack of transparency into when and how these decisions, which have a huge impact on people's abilities to discuss current events and important political issues, are made."
Historically, the vast majority of abortion-related violence has been carried out by anti-abortion groups against pro-choice doctors and clinics, as the Intercept noted. This trend, according to Axios, has continued into the present day, with "assaults directed at abortion clinic staff and patients" having "increased 128% last year over 2020." Despite this, only two names associated with anti-abortion violence reportedly appear on Meta's list of Dangerous Individuals and Organizations, which was obtained by the Intercept last October.
Despite Facebook's apparent effort to crack down on abortion access and abortion rights advocacy, Meta has told its staff that it would cover travel expenses for employees who have to go out of state for an abortion, according to CNBC.
Georgia Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan described a pattern of intimidation that he received immediately after being targeted on Twitter by Donald Trump.
Duncan was interviewed for a CNN documentary titled, "Trumping democracy: an American coup" that aired on Friday evening.
"There was an interesting timeline that started to happen, a pattern is a better way to put it," Duncan told CNN's Jake Tapper.
"So I would go on TV, I would speak the truth and within minutes he would send a tweet out that would say something derogatory or inflammatory," he explained.
On-screen were Trump tweets calling him a "puppet" and falsely claiming a "RINO Never Trumper...Too dumb or corrupt to recognize massive evidence of fraud in GA & should be replaced!"
Duncan explained how the pattern worked.
"And within minutes after that, me or my wife would start to get threats which would show up on our phone. I mean bloodcurdling threats from the most awful sounding individuals. And deep meaning, that they know things about you and your family," he said.
"They intentionally were trying scare us and intimidate us," Duncan said.
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Ten anti-LGBTQ+ bills largely focused on sports and education restrictions are going into effect today across six states — Alabama, Florida, Indiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah. Two of the most prominent bills are one in Florida restricting classroom discussion of gender and sexuality, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents, and a bathroom bill in Alabama that was amended to include its own education restrictions.
Collectively, the bills build toward an atmosphere of silence around LGBTQ+ people and restrict how LGBTQ+ youth can learn about themselves and participate at school, advocates say.
National LGBTQ+ advocates are especially concerned that more bills restricting classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity are being passed into law.
“These curriculum censorship bills hurt me the most,” said Vivian Topping, director of advocacy and civic engagement of the Equality Federation, a coalition of state LGBTQ+ organizations.
It is already hard enough for transgender and LGBTQ+ youth to see themselves reflected in the culture or in the academic materials they’re learning from, Topping said — and harder still for LGBTQ+ youth to simply go to school if they are getting bullied. Taking away the ability for students to talk with teachers about their identity or learn about queer communities in school may hamper their ability to dream of a future with people like them in it.
Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at LGBTQ+ suicide prevention organization the Trevor Project, is particularly worried about Alabama’s bathroom bill, which includes an amendment seemingly styled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Alabama’s bill passed with an amendment that prohibits public schools from teaching or allowing classroom discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The bill was sent to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk on the last day of the state’s legislative session in an 11th-hour move that shocked the state’s LGBTQ+ advocates.
“We got this weird Franken-bill, this education bill that is also a bathroom bill. That is one I’m particularly concerned about,” Ames said, noting that LGBTQ+ youth in Alabama will be hit with two restrictions in the same legislation.
Also in Alabama, a federal judge has blocked the state’s separate felony ban against prescribing hormone treatment or puberty-blocking medication to trans youth — but the state’s law still requires school counselors and teachers to alert parents if children come out as trans or gender-nonconforming.
Across the state line, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill outright bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade — but LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have interpreted the fine print of the bill to also restrict that instruction in grades four through 12. The law states that such instruction cannot take place in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.
A jury trial for Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ lawsuit against the state over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is currently set for February 13 next year. Parties currently have until November of this year to finish exchanging information on witnesses and evidence that they’ll present.
Equality Florida argues that the ripple effect of this legislation has already expanded beyond the classroom: A Florida high school class president was prevented from talking about his experience as a gay student in May, and some Florida teachers have reported being told to take down Pride flags (a trend that surfaced last year among teachers in other states as well).
Anita Carson, a former sixth-grade science teacher in Florida, told reporters on a Friday press call hosted by Equality Florida that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is one reason she resigned from teaching about a month ago — after spending 12 years in the profession.
“I could not see myself in a classroom where I could not support students in the best way possible,” she said. “This law prevents that.”
Conversations around education have grown “increasingly toxic” in the state, she said, pointing to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Stop Woke Act” — a law setting boundaries on discussions of race that also went into effect on Friday. Teachers have been accused of trying to harm kids while doing their jobs, she said.
“It’s already a hard job. And if you add to that this very toxic narrative surrounding what we do and why we do it, it’s untenable,” she said.
Dempsey Jara, who is trans and will soon enter fifth grade, told reporters on the call that she doesn’t feel safe in school with the bills that Florida has passed. Jara’s mom said that she feels the bills seek to hide and invalidate her child’s existence.
In South Dakota, an anti-trans sports bill and bill limiting classroom discussion on race, sex and ethnicity that advocates say would also affect LGBTQ+ students are going into effect on Friday.
Jett Jonelis, the ACLU of South Dakota’s advocacy manager, said the vagueness of the bill’s language — and how it defines “divisive concepts” that schools should not direct students to affirm — could especially restrict discussions on two-spirit identities. (While being two-spirit means different things to different tribes and Indigenous communities, it broadly refers to gender variation and those who are neither men nor women, who possess both spirits, or who occupy a separate gender identity.)
“It’s very overly broad and it opens the door to a wide variety of dangerous interpretations that would censor free speech and academic freedom,” they said.
Early next month, a Louisiana bill restricting school sports access for trans youth is also expected to go into effect.
Topping warned that a significant amount of confusion may be caused by the enforcement of these laws as they go into effect — whether that’s teachers figuring out how curriculum restrictions work, or how athlete bans would actually be implemented in schools.
“What these bills are encouraging is a culture of censorship and surveillance,” she said. “It’s encouraging people to report on each other.”
Originally published by The 19th.