Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s Governor Signs New Law That Removes Many Of The Island’s Protections For Women And The LGBTQ Community

Until recently, Puerto Rico had several laws on the books that dated all the way back to when it was a Spanish colony – some 130 years ago. It was widely acknowledged that the island’s civil code needed to be updated. However, the territory’s unelected governor has just signed into law an updated civil code that many say strips away hard won civil rights protections for women and the LGBTQ community.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed into law updates to the civil code that put several communities at risk.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Getty

This week, the island’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, signed into law a sweeping overhaul of the territory’s civil code – and in doing so, many say legal protections for at-risk communities have been wiped away.

The civil code hadn’t been updated since the 1930s, and many of the island’s old laws dated back to when the island was still a Spanish colony. Therefore, many experts agree that there was a need to update several laws in a way that reflects today’s modern society.

After Puerto Rico’s constitution, the island’s civil code is the most significant legal document in the territory. But the new civil code infringes upon the “human rights gains of women and LGBTQI+ people” by giving rights to fetuses, limiting people’s ability to amend their birth certificates in ways that are consistent with their gender identities and failing to “explicitly prohibit discrimination,” according to the advocacy group Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de Equidad, which loosely translates to the Committee for Equity.

Law experts and civil rights activists were quick to express concern and outrage over the move.

Everyone from legal experts and civil rights activists to Puerto Rican celebrities (including Ricky Martin) have spoken out against the update and many say some of the laws represent a historical setback. In fact, the word “discrimination” doesn’t appear in the new civil code at all.

“Puerto Rico’s governor signed into law significant revisions to the island’s civil codes that shamefully ignore the urgent calls of local advocates to explicitly include vital, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in a statement. “The government has failed to carry out its primary duty of ensuring the safety and well-being of all Puerto Ricans, including LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.”

The move also comes as Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ community – especially the trans community – is under increased attack.

The new civil code, which doesn’t even mention the word discrimination, was signed into law just as the island is experiencing a severe uptick in violence against LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

Five transgender Puerto Ricans have been killed in the U.S. commonwealth since the beginning of 2020. These include Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Pelaz, two trans women who were murdered in April in Humacao before their bodies were placed inside a car that was set on fire.

In what seems like a direct attack on the trans community, the new civil code prohibits people from changing the sex they were assigned at birth in their original birth certificates. That, according to the Committee for Equity, is effectively “jeopardizing the rights of trans people.”

Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, a lawyer and the director of the nonprofit Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project at the National LGBTQ Task Force, told NBC News that “this type of action by the government, the Legislature, and the rhetoric that comes from the religious right inflicts physical harm” on trans people because it fuels “hate crimes and allows families to reject their trans relatives.”

Puerto Rico’s trans community had finally won some serious legal rights – these are being set back with the new laws.

Since 2018, transgender people in Puerto Rico have been able to correct their birth certificates to reflect their gender identities after winning a 15-year legal battle in federal court. Since then, a trans person can go to the Demographic Registry with an order from a social worker or a medical professional “who puts their credentials on the line” guaranteeing that a person lives with the gender of their preference.

The new civil code seems to roll back those protections when it says “no amendments to the sex a person was born with can be authorized in the original birth certificate,” adding that a court is the only entity with the power to “make an annotation next to the original sex designation” if a person wishes to correct their designation after birth.

The new civil code could also infringe upon the rights of women to maintain control over their health and body.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is subject to Supreme Court rulings – so abortion rights continue to exist on the island through the Roe v. Wade ruling.

However, the new civil code recognizes an unborn child’s “condition as a person,” adding that it’s “considered born for all the effects that are favorable to him or her.” Granting rights to an unborn child means that the government could intervene and place more obstacles later on. Several experts agree that it opens the door to start limiting abortions in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is no stranger to such efforts. Over the past year, conservative lawmakers have tried to pass legislation to limit women’s access to abortions. Rep. María Milagros “Tata” Charbonier, president of the commission within Puerto Rico’s House in charge of creating the new civil code, supported bills looking to limit abortions. She also spearheaded an unsuccessful attempt to block same-sex marriage in Puerto Rico after the Supreme Court legalized it in 2015.

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More Anti-Trans Bills Have Been Introduced in 2021 Than Any Year in History

Things That Matter

More Anti-Trans Bills Have Been Introduced in 2021 Than Any Year in History

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trans rights are under siege in over half of the United States this year, as 28 states have proposed one or more anti-trans bills. The bills range from banning trans children from playing on sports teams to prohibiting doctors from giving trans youth life-saving care. 

Despite winning the White House and both houses of Congress, we cannot grow complacent. Now is the time for others from the LGBTQ community and allies to stand up and protect our trans brothers and sisters.

At least 28 states have proposed anti-trans legislation that could severely harm the community.

Less than three months into the new year, Republican lawmakers have already introduced a record number of anti-trans bills across the country.

According to a report published Monday by Axios, at least 73 pieces of legislation have already been put forward in state legislatures targeting members of the transgender community. Of those proposals, 65 specifically single out trans youth, such as bills prohibiting the kinds of medical care doctors can offer trans minors and others seeking to limit the participation of trans student athletes in school sports. 

Notable examples include legislative efforts by South Dakota and Mississippi, both of which passed bills in the past week blocking trans girls from competing in school athletics in accordance with their gender identity. After being approved by their respective Houses and Senates, their governors have vowed to sign them.

These would be the first bills of their kind to become law in the U.S. after numerous attempts to pass anti-trans sports bills in previous years. In 2019, a bill targeting trans student athletes failed in the South Dakota House by just one vote.

LGBTQ+ advocates are warning that the influx of this type of legislation will harm trans and nonbinary youth.

Trans advocates and experts argue that bills like this do not protect young trans people, and recent studies support this. In February, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report which argued that banning the trans community from certain sports programs would deprive an entire group of people of the benefits of athletics, including lower risks of depression, anxiety, and drug use. Despite so many states introducing legislation targeting trans youth in sports, the report also found that the argument of an “unfair advantage” does not actually hold up to data-driven scrutiny.

“This has been a significant part of my work at the ACLU for the past six years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, told CNN. “There have never been this many bills targeting trans youth voted out of committee and then making it to the floor.”

There is widespread opposition to anti-trans bills, and not just from LGBTQ+ civil rights groups. More than 55 major corporations have endorsed a statement against these bills and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in general; they include Facebook, Pfizer, Microsoft, AT&T, Apple, Dell, American Airlines, and many more. Nearly 550 college athletes have signed a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association demanding that championship games be pulled from states that have anti-trans sports laws or are close to enacting them. More than 1,000 child welfare groups have taken a stand against legislation that would keep trans youth out of school sports or deny them health care.

States that enact anti-LGBTQ+ legislation often experience boycotts, as was the case with North Carolina and its anti-trans “bathroom bill” in 2016 and Indiana with its discriminatory religious freedom law in 2015. The former has now been repealed, the latter amended.

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Women Are Sharing Their Most Brutal Pregnancy Symptoms

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Women Are Sharing Their Most Brutal Pregnancy Symptoms

JOHAN ORDONEZ / Getty

Pregnancy really does require a strong stomach.

Women in their first trimester of pregnancy experience extreme hormonal changes that can lead to some pretty bizarre symptoms. From extreme cravings, even for non-food items such as pica, to a heightened sense of smell, it often seems like a pregnant woman could be experiencing an actual possession.

Women on Reddit are sharing the most bizarre symptoms they wish people had given them a heads up about before they got pregnant.

Check them out below!

“Nosebleeds. Not currently pregnant, but when I was, I got nosebleeds every few days during the first and second trimesters.”- creativeandwonderful

“From my mom: I paralyzed her from the waist down for a few hours because I decided to take a nap on her spinal cord in the third trimester. The doctor’s response was ‘yeah you’ll be able to move again once they wake up.’ Pregnancy is pure body horror.”- AbsolXGuardian

That is awful. I’m glad it wasn’t permanent. I knew a mom of twins who had one of them move and dislocated some of her ribs. Just…holy cow. It’s scary to think about all the damage that tiny little being can do while inside you, not to mention when coming out. Then many years of them beating you up and wearing your body down. Thank goodness for those hormones that help you believe it’s all worth it.”- TCMueller

“This is mostly a 3rd trimester thing, but that when you are active and moving, it kinda rocks the baby to sleep.

But as soon as you lay down to go to sleep, baby wakes up and starts kicking and spinning.

Might not be super common (?), but I knew a lot of other mothers who complained about this, too.”- GingerMau

“Not a woman, but i wish i knew the warning signs of preeclampsia, Girlfriend was 7 months pregnant at the time, and had been complaining of generally not feeling good with a constant headache that would occasionally break for a bit, i came home from work(i work overnights) to her sleeping on the floor and i eventually got to bed but i woke up 3 hours later to hear a thud and she was having a seizure, turns out she went eclamptic, she ended up having a c section, daughter was in the nicu for a bit but both are doing great now. What really put things into how close my girlfriend was to dying was the doctors and nurses saying how few people they’ve seen go eclamptic and one of the nurses said shes only seen 3 cases in like 10 years and 2 of them died.”- LeButtSmasher

“How hungry you can be. All. The. Time. Especially twins.

Then how hungry you still are after baby comes.

Then his hungry you are while breast feeding.

And sometimes the weight doesnt go away. At least the kids dont care.”- kleigh1313

“I wish someone would have warned me about the constipation. Corollary: I wish someone would have warned me that ‘fiber supplement’ does not equal ‘stool softener.’ Today, we’re at 26 weeks gestation.”- InfernalWedgie

“Related– I did have a couple of friends warn me about constipation, but no one told me I would be as thirsty as I have been! I get constipated after any day where I didn’t drink a huge glass of water every single time I felt thirsty… but I’ve been constantly insanely thirsty since probably month 2. I’m drinking something like 8-10 12 oz glasses of water a day. And no, turns out it isn’t gestational diabetes… just pregnancy.

And lol, agreed on the fiber supplement– I’d say it was more of a gas multiplier than helpful. Real food fiber did better on that front (oatmeal, pears, prunes, sweet-potatoes. heck, even beans were better than the fiber supplement for me).”- badgersonice

“Your body produces a hormone called relaxin that helps loosen your pelvis in preparation for birth. Some women get waayyy too much too soon and it loosens everything to the point you lose mobility and every day all day is painful. Also your body pushes so hard during birth you can feel yourself shit your own asshole out.”- Jen_Itals

“During labor the “water breaking” is not one rush of liquid. it’s continuous and can occur for several hours. it’s horrendous and messy and incredibly awful to deal with. it feels like peeing but you have zero control over anything and if you tense up then everything is much more painful and weird feeling.

nobody ever told me that and i was VERY surprised to find out for myself.”-notgrass87

“YUP. Went to the hospital at 4CM, water broke the second I got into triage. Water continued to POUR out with every contraction until I laid down. An hour later, they decide to take me to L&D, I stand up, bam pouring buckets. Get to L&D, another big contraction and water pours out of me all over my poor nurses shoes. My god, I did not know my body could have that much liquid in it. It was insane. I was so embarrassed and kept saying sorry lol.”- The-Chonky-one

“To quote a doctor friend of mine: People don’t realize that it’s the worst day of their life for them, but for me it’s Tuesday. Stop worrying about embarrassing yourself.”- Klaus_Goldfish

“I had adult diapers given to me by my SIL (she had some unused ones left from her pregnancies). They are INCREDIBLY useful for if your water breaks, and after you give birth and there is blood, so much blood.”- CypripediumGuttatum

“I didn’t measure, but I’ve heard people describe it as 9 months of periods saved up and thought that was pretty accurate. I was more concerned by my 2nd degree tearing to be worried about the blood. They said if there were “clots” that was what to look out for (so if your placenta hadn’t all come out and could potentially rot inside you basically). There is no glamor and not much dignity in giving birth and the recovery. Good thing the babies are cute! 10/10 happy I did it once and would never do it again, props to the ladies that go for round 2+.”- CypripediumGuttatum

“Hair loss! After I had my kid I lost a ton of hair. I would pull fists full of hair during my showers. I thought there was something wrong with me because no one told me about this. Went to Google, totally normal and it happens to everyone. It grows back eventually and you’ll go through an awkward baby hair phase.”- sm1020

“Aahh something I actually know the science behind! So apparently when you’re pregnant, your head holds on to almost all of those dead hairs that your scalp would normally just get rid of everyday. We all lose some hair, but most of the time we don’t realize how much we lose, especially if you’re blessed with thick hair. So when you’re pregnant and your body is worrying about keeping baby safe and growing, it basically stops shedding dead hair, and then sheds it ALL AT ONCE right after baby is born. So you’re not actually losing more hair than normal, you’re just losing all of those dead hairs that you would have lost anyway over the course of your pregnancy. It takes some time to see that your hair is back to normal because your head is now growing all of those hairs back at once, but when all is said and done your hair isn’t any thinner than it was before baby! My hair stylist told me this when I started freaking out about my pregnancy and body changes. She saved a panic attack that day.”- aep17

“Tore up from the floor up” lololol. I’m 5 weeks postpartum and had my OB take a look today for any remaining stitches from my second degree tear. I tore alllll the way and I swore I could still feel some. She said that they were all gone, but then I went home and found a whole ass suture on my toilet paper. Took my first look down there and it looks like I was stitched up by Frankenstein. My taint straight up has a seam now.”- edgeofdoom

“My god, the pooping. I now I have a three month old, and while I can’t remember my first poop after delivery, I vividly remember crying on the toilet not being able to poop. And nobody warns you about the hemorrhoids. Mine were so big I couldn’t sit for two weeks, and poops came out in little nuggets. Sometimes I actually had to scoop it out. Going to the bathroom became an event. My husband said the sounds I made trying to poop were worse than what I did during labor.”- toot_toot_tootsie

“I had a total meltdown in the hospital because my entire extended family was on the phone with my mom asking to come over to visit. “They just want to see you because they love you!” Um, no they want to see a cute new baby while I’m still bleeding heavily and have to use a squirt bottle after I pee, so… no.”- killergiraffe

“This times 1,000. Mine was fine, but I follow a woman on Instagram who lost her daughter full term because the doctor didn’t induce. She had signs of cholestasis and wasn’t diagnosed for awhile, then went to the hospital for lessening movements, failed a NST and then HE SENT HER HOME.

Every time I read her story I am angry on her behalf. I know she’s said she felt uneasy, and the way doctors dismiss our concerns in general let alone while pregnant, I imagine she ignored her feelings because she trusted the doctor and didn’t want to be pushy. I’m a loud mouthed person and I still failed to assert my needs during my last pregnancy. I’m pro-medicine but people need to understand that there is a valid reason that people mistrust doctors. Please anybody reading this – advocate for yourself!!! Trust in modern medicine but if your instincts are telling you something is wrong, trust them.”- thatcondowasmylife

“L&D nurse here, and I just wanna say that while you can pass blood clots as big as a tennis ball, it’s not “normal.” We tell our patients if they pass blood clots bigger than an egg, they need to let their nurse or OB doctor know! Big clots like that can cause a patient to have a hemorrhage, and patients don’t realize this, but you can hemorrhage up to like 6 weeks postpartum! Also, if you’re bleeding heavily enough to have to change your pad hourly or more, please call your doctor. Your nurse will probably do a fundal massage a million times before you get discharged, and I always encourage my patients to learn how to do it because it helps ensure the uterus is doing what it should do!”- little_ginger1216

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