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Your Guide to Meaningful Action

Stand Up for Access to Emergency Contraception

On May 1, the Obama administration’s Justice Department appealed a court ruling directing the Food and Drug Administration to listen to the recommendations of its own scientists and make emergency contraception—otherwise known as Plan B or the morning after pill—available over-the-counter for all women and girls with no age restrictions. The science on emergency contraception is clear. It is safer than many painkillers and cough medicine already sold over the counter and there is ample evidence that young women are capable of taking it safely. While President Obama has spoken eloquently about the right to reproductive healthcare, his administration refuses to lift this clearly political impediment on the health and bodily autonomy of women and girls.

TO DO

Sign our open letter to President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius imploring them to abide by the federal court ruling and to make emergency contraception available over the counter to women and girls of all ages with no restrictions.

TO READ

In this post, Jessica Valenti cautions against letting our discomfort with teen sex trump young people’s right to reproductive health.

TO WATCH

The politics of expanding access to ec are complicated by the many misconceptions people have about the drug. This video breaks it down.

President Obama: Close Guantanamo Bay

More than three months into President Obama’s second term in office, 166 men are still imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, the majority of them held for more than eleven years without any charge or fair trial. While President Obama has rightly argued that Congress is standing in the way of his fulfilling his promise to close the prison, human rights groups have pointed out the many meaningful actions he can take.

TO DO

The Center for Constitutional Rights is calling on the President to end his “self-imposed moratorium” on releasing Yemeni detainees, to resume prisoner transfers and to appoint a senior official to “shepherd the process of closure.” Sign The Nation’s open letter and implore President Obama to take these steps and to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo Bay. To amplify your voice, call the White House at 202-456-1111.

TO READ

In the new issue of The Nation, editors explain why 100 Guantánamo prisoners are so desperate that they’re risking death by refusing food.

TO WATCH

In this Democracy Now! interview Pardiss Kebriaei, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, explains what President Obama can unilaterally do to redress human rights abuses at Guantánamo.

We Need the Post Office

We applauded Congress’s recent defense of Saturday delivery at the United States Postal Service and the USPS’s subsequent decision not to cancel it. However, the story didn’t end there. As John Nichols reported, the USPS still suffers from attempts to weaken the public institution and privatize its services. To preserve and modernize the USPS well into the twenty-first century, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter DeFazio have introduced the Postal Service Protection Act, a package of reforms designed to give this critical institution a fighting chance.

TO DO

The fight to protect the USPS is critical to stemming the tide of austerity and protecting our public institutions. Contact your representative and implore them to support the Postal Service Protection Act.

TO READ

In a recent post, John Nichols explained how nowhere has the austerity threat been more evident than in the attempt by Postal Service managers—and their allies in Congress—to eliminate Saturday delivery.

TO WATCH

This episode of Democracy Now! explored critics’ claims that a manufactured crisis is being used to push a privatization scheme on the USPS.

Tell President Obama: Halt Deportations Now

Each day that Congress delays passing comprehensive immigration reform, an estimated 1,100 undocumented immigrants are deported, leaving spouses, siblings and even children behind. These families are torn apart despite the fact that, if the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill or similar legislation passes, many of them could be eligible for legal status and a path to citizenship. Although President Obama has been a vocal advocate of immigration reform, his administration has deported a record 1.5 million people.

TO DO

While Congress debates, President Obama could make a real difference in the lives of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who have made their home in the United States. Sign our open letter developed in partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and join the many immigrant rights groups, unions and politicians calling on the President to place a moratorium on the deportation of prospective citizens.

TO READ

The NDLON’s anti-deportation toolkit offers useful background and context for understanding why current deportations are so inhumane and provides people in deportation proceedings, community advocates and organizers with tools, resources, and templates to organize public campaigns to stop individual deportations.

TO WATCH

This video was produced by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network as part of the the #Not1More series which works to halt deportations.

Support ACHE. Save Appalachia

In April of 2012, four leading scientists briefed Congress on the environmental and health impacts of mountain top removal (MTR) mining in Appalachia. Their findings were damning: mountain top removal, the practice of clearing mountain tops of trees and topsoil and then blasting them with explosives to reveal the coal seams underneath, is polluting the Appalachian watershed, decreasing organism diversity, increasing flooding and contaminating ground water. Meanwhile, people living in the affected areas are experiencing high rates of cancer, heart and respiratory disease, along with rising birth defect and mortality rates.

TO DO

Members of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Campaign, along with numerous Democratic representatives, are pushing for the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (ACHE Act, H.R. 526), which would allocate funds to research the affects of mountain top removal and to protect Appalachian families. Contact your elected reps today and urge them to pass this vital legislation.

TO READ

Laura Flanders makes clear why the stakes are so high in this call to support the ACHE Act.

TO WATCH

This video details the growing health crisis in Appalachian communities where coal is removed by blasting mountains down to piles of rubble with the use of toxic explosives directly above peoples homes.

Tell Your Senators to Preserve Background Checks in Gun Control Legislation

As the Senate approaches a vote on gun control legislation, amendments and changes in language threaten to hinder any attempts at meaningful reform. Right now, Senator Tom Coburn is advancing a change to the rules regarding background checks that would undermine much of the bill's intent.

 TO DO

The Senate is expected to start debate on the bill as early as April 17. Write your Senators now and implore them to ensure any legislation includes meaningful background checks. Then, use the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 to amplify your message.

 TO READ

In a new post, George Zornick reports: "Senator Tom Coburn is pushing a ‘compromise’ that renders background checks virtually meaningless: transferees could use an online portal to self-check themselves, print out the approval, and bring it to a firearms dealer. It would also forbid any records of these checks."

 TO WATCH

This episode of Democracy Now! explores one of the most extreme local legislative efforts to address gun violence: Nelson, Georgia's so-called Family Protection Ordinance, which, far from requiring background checks, mandates a gun in every home in order to "provide for the emergency management of the city" and "protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants."

Tell Secretary of State John Kerry: Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

It's still entirely unclear if the Keystone XL pipeline can be built and managed safely. Moreover, its construction would delay the critical conversion to a non-fossil fuel based economy on which our future depends. Secretary of State John Kerry, who once spoke out bravely against the Vietnam War and who has stressed the dangers of climate change, could stop it. Sometime in the next couple of months, the State Department will issue a final environmental impact statement on the pipeline, followed by a determination on whether it is “in the national interest."

 TO DO

Join Bill McKibben and many others in signing The Nation's open letter urging Secretary Kerry to consider his legacy and to find the courage to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. After that, take the opportunity of the State Department's official public comment period on the Keystone XL Pipeline to inundate officials with letters of opposition. The eco-advocacy group 350.org is collecting comments and will deliver them directly to the State Department.

 TO READ

In his recent Nation article, Bill McKibben examines John Kerry's Fateful Decision on the Keystone Pipeline.

 TO WATCH

If you know someone who doesn't know about Keystone, this is a good video to send their way.

Stand With Indiana University Strikers

On April 11th and 12th, while the Indiana University Board of Trustees holds its annual meeting, students and staff throughout the statewide system will walk out of class and off the job to protest critical issues plaguing higher education across the country—from sky-rocketing tuition costs to privatization schemes to barriers facing undocumented students.

 TO DO

Add your name to The Nation's open letter supporting the strikers' demands and imploring Indiana University to refrain from punishing students who choose to strike. Student activists are also asking supporters to write a letter of solidarity to the Indiana Daily Student at opinion@idsnews.com and to make a small contribution to help them out with much-needed supplies.  

 TO READ

In his post for StudentNation, James Cersonsky details the reasoning behind the strike.

 TO WATCH

Focusing on a parking privatization plan that could increase student parking costs by as much as 32 percent annually, students at Indiana University and Purdue University at Indianapolis created a video that warns against the "zombification" of the student body as important university decisions are outsourced to private companies.

The Student Loan Fairness Act is Only Fair

Student loan debt in the US has exceeded $1 trillion—more than credit card or automobile debt—and it is growing. This is a crisis that not only limits opportunities for those struggling to pay back their loans; it also causes a significant drag on the entire economy. Recently, Representative Karen Bass introduced the Student Loan Fairness Act of 2013, a measure that promises meaningful relief for many of the more than 37 million Americans saddled with student loan debt.

 TO DO

Contact your elected reps and implore them to co-sponsor and vote "yes" on the Student Loan Fairness Act of 2013.

 TO READ

This US News report describes in exacting detail how and why Bass's bill would make such a big difference in so many people's lives.

 TO WATCH

Narrated by student debtors, the student-made doc Scholarslip explores five critical issues: increasing costs of tuition; deteriorating quality of higher education; diminishing value of a college degree in the job market; student dependence on state and federal financial assistance; and the effects on personal lives and aspirations.

Stand Up for Employment Protections for LGBT Workers

While much attention has been focused on the Supreme Court’s consideration of California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense Against Marriage Act, the struggle for LGBT rights extends beyond the right to marry. Currently, twenty-nine states do not prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and thirty-four states do not protect transgender workers.

The protections are sorely needed, as members of the LGBT community, particularly LGBT people of color, face alarmingly high rates of employment discrimination. Studies show that up to 42 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and an astonishing 90 percent of transgender people, have experienced employment discrimination on the job or felt the need to hide their identity to avoid it.

TO DO

Introduced but never passed in nearly every Congress since 1994, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit discrimination in hiring, compensation, promotion or firing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Contact your representative and tell them it’s time to pass this much-needed law.

TO READ

In a recent piece in The Washington Post, Jamelle Bouie argues that politicians touting their support for marriage equality need to do far more, including pass ENDA, if they want to fully champion LGBT rights.

TO WATCH

In June of 2012, Kylar Broadus, the founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition and the first openly transgender witness to testify before Congress, spoke about the need to pass ENDA and to ensure it was inclusive of transgender people. In his testimony, he details his own experience with employment discrimination, including the loss of his job and his development of post-traumatic stress disorder due to harassment.

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