November 19, 2019December 10, 2019 3min readBy Rohan Shah
A federal judge blocked Alabama’s abortion ban and declared it unconstitutional on Oct 29. The abortion ban would have barred almost all abortion procedures from being conducted in the state of Alabama—even in the extreme cases of rape and incest.
U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson issued the preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by abortion rights groups and providers in May and blocked it from taking effect on Nov. 15.
Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent. It violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make ‘choices central to personal dignity and autonomy,” Thompson wrote.
The restrictive abortion bill dubbed ‘The Human Life Protection Act’ was signed by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey in earlier this year on May 15. The bill stated that physicians could only conduct an abortion in situations where the life of the mother was at risk. According to the bill, physicians deviating from these guidelines would be subject to receiving the maximum sentence of life in prison.
The state’s senate voted 25-6 to pass the bill with the sole purpose being to challenge the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that granted all women in the United States the right to have an abortion. While Ivey shared she disagreed with the original 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Vox reported, others called her bill unconstitutional and now have been successful in blocking it.
According to the New York Times, Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have currently all passed “heartbeat bills” that restrict physicians from performing abortions starting as early as six weeks or approximately when the first heartbeat is detected. Many women are often still unaware that they are pregnant at the six-week mark. Critics and proponents of the Human Life Protection Act of Alabama agree that this law, in many regards, is much stricter than the already implemented heartbeat bills.
Other pro-life and anti-abortion activists believe that these laws, after being challenged in the various levels of the nation’s judicial system, will eventually reach the Supreme Court. The overarching goal being, hope that the newly formed conservative majority in the Supreme Court will overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973 that stated that women have the right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government intervention.
After the signing of the human life protection act on May 15, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama teamed up with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to sue the state on behalf of the affected women and the physicians providing them abortion services.
Pro-choice supporters highlight the immense strain a pregnancy has on the women’s physical and mental health. Additionally, the responsibility of appropriately raising a child or multiple children is of paramount importance for the well-being of the child and the mother. Pro-choice supporters state, that in lieu of conditions not conducive to raising a child, mothers and families should make an informed decision, consider all possibilities and have the right and freedom to choose the best course of action.
CEO and acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis Mcgill Johnson accused the politicians of Alabama of endangering the lives of women by attempting to ban abortion statewide in a statement.
She acknowledged that “today’s victory means people can still access the healthcare they need across Alabama-for now. We will continue to fight to ensure that everyone can access healthcare-including safe, legal abortions.”
This pro-life versus pro-choice debate has polarized this nation for several decades and will potentially remain a hot button topic for the upcoming election and many years to come.
Sustainable development practices can be utilized as a model for addressing gender inequities worldwide. Empowering women with the resources to gain opportunities, learn skills and collaborate in a safe and welcoming environment is crucial to women’s growth and development as individuals.
After witnessing the first-hand effects of gender-based violence growing up in Guyana, Menakshi Babulall founded the Canadian nonprofit A Different View Project (ADVP) to promote and implement sustainable development methods across Guyanese communities. Vaksana, which means “nourishing/refreshing” in Sanskrit, is a branch of ADVP exclusively aimed at developing Guyana’s first eco-friendly women’s retreat center. The retreat will offer wellness activities, training services, regenerative farming and community outreach programs.
Babulall was inspired by Guyana’s rich rugged beauty as a child. Her dual passion for preserving the environment and aiding underserved communities contributed to her studying International Development at Toronto’s York University before launching a public service career. This eventually led her focus back to Guyana. Babulall talks to BG about her journey as the founder of ADVP, the progress of Vaksana and her perspective on sustainable and ethical charity work.
How and when did you create ADVP?
“ADVP was founded in 2016 with the vision of empowering communities and fostering sustainable development. The idea stemmed from my desire to create an organization that could address pressing social and environmental issues through innovative and collaborative approaches. One thing that fills me with immense pride is ADVP’s unique ability to bring together diverse stakeholders, including those from the diaspora, to create impactful projects that make a tangible difference in people’s lives while also providing them with an opportunity to connect with their homeland.”
ADVP has worked on projects within Guyana’s fertile Pomeroon-Supenaam region, a vast expanse of hills and villages that dot the Essequibo Coast. Past projectsinclude building a centralized outdoor recreation space for families and facilitating peer tutoring groups for children affected by COVID-related school closures. They also engage with the children of Queenstown Village through storytelling and interactive activities to nurture their passion for the environment. Overall, the focus of ADVP’s projects is geared toward education and sustainability while developing meaningful and positive relationships with the local community.
Babulall’s remigration to Guyana during the pandemic to oversee Vaksana was a humbling experience. Living in rural Guyana allowed her to witness the benefits that wellness and eco-tourism can bring to a community, but also highlighted entrenched socio-economic struggles. It heightened her senses of resilience, adaptability and empathy; all key facets she believed essential to an effective leader. She soon realized the importance of cementing Vaksana as a catalyst for positive change in the region, particularly as a safe haven for women and gender non-conforming individuals who may face discrimination.
“The idea of Vaksana was born out of extensive research and a deep-rooted passion for creating a transformative space that combines wellness, eco-tourism and community development. The journey began with a vision to create a place where individuals could experience holistic well-being, connect with nature and promote sustainable living.
Vaksana’s foundation is built on three essential elements: tourism, community outreach and regenerative farming/agriculture. These elements were thoughtfully chosen to ensure a holistic approach to personal growth, community empowerment and environmental stewardship. By integrating these pillars, Vaksana becomes a powerful force for positive impact, both within the retreat center and the wider community.”
Vaksana is an ode to Babulall’s Indian heritage that was originally displaced and irrevocably transformed upon arrival to the Caribbean. Like its namesake, individuals have the opportunity to reclaim and reinvigorate themselves. Future plans for Vaksana include a kitchen/restaurant alongside sustainable farming, a workshop/training facility and a multipurpose room offering wellness classes such as meditation and yoga in consultation with a behavioral psychologist and holistic therapist. Collaborations with local businesses and partnership with the University of Guyana ensures that Guyanese citizens are actively involved in every aspect of the project, providing employment opportunities and allowing them to take on leadership roles.
What is the current progress of Vaksana, and where do you hope to see the project in one year?
“As of now, Vaksana is in an exciting phase of planning and development. We have made significant strides in securing the land and are eagerly awaiting the approval of the lease for our carefully chosen site. Our dedicated team is diligently working on the architectural design and construction plans to bring our vision to life.
In one year, we envision Vaksana having completed its initial construction phase, with the retreat center standing proudly amidst the natural beauty of Guyana. We anticipate being fully prepared to open our doors and welcome our first guests to experience the transformative journey that Vaksana offers.”
Babulall believes in transparency regarding the difficulties faced with running a non-governmental organization. She has overcome several obstacles such as limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles by seeking collaborations, leveraging available resources and engaging in open dialogue with members of the community.
When asked about the misconceptions of running an NGO, she replied, “Many NGOs actually strive for financial independence by implementing income-generating initiatives and fostering partnerships that create long-term sustainability. Another misconception is that NGOs are not as efficient or effective as for-profit organizations. In reality, NGOs often have lower administrative costs and are driven by a strong sense of purpose and commitment.”
She also disagreed with the belief that NGOs only focus on aid/handouts and says, “Many NGOs prioritize community-driven development approaches, working with local stakeholders to identify their needs/strengths and supporting capacity-building initiatives that enable communities to thrive independently.”
By debunking these perceptions, NGOs such as ADVP can continue to attract like-minded individuals to participate in the diverse work they undertake to address social challenges and advance a more equitable future.
How would you suggest those get involved in ethical public sector/charity work?
“I would recommend starting by identifying your passions and areas of interest. Research and connect with organizations that align with your values and goals. Volunteer your time, skills or resources to make a tangible impact. Stay informed about social and environmental issues and advocate for positive change. Collaboration and learning from others in the field are also crucial for personal and professional growth.”
What is your ultimate goal and future plans for ADVP and Vaksana?
“My ultimate goal is to continue building ADVP as a leading organization in sustainable community development, promoting social and environmental justice. With Vaksana, we aim to establish a renowned wellness and eco-retreat center that serves as a model for sustainable tourism, community empowerment and holistic well-being. We envision expanding our impact, fostering collaborations and creating positive change at both local and global levels.”
Guyana’s raw and authentic lifestyle has left a profound impact on Babullal as an individual and a leader. While embarking on the Vaksana project has not been without roadblocks, she is grateful to have gained the strength to confront difficult realities head-on in hopes of creating a safe place for individuals to learn and flourish. She has found contentment in the beauty of Guyana’s lush surroundings and hopes that others find its premise rejuvenating and inspirational.
To learn more about ADVP visit their website here or follow them on Instagram.
To donate to the Vaksana project, visit their GoFundMe page.
Featured Image: Menakshi Babulall | Photo Courtesy of Menakshi Babulall