Nel's New Day

March 31, 2012

More Supreme Court/Health Care Questions

After a recent blog, I really thought that the Supreme Court/health care discussion was gone until a decision, possibly in June, but the topic seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. First, I’m delighted that the progressives have taken over the formerly pejorative term “Obamacare.” After the president’s speech in which he said  that “Obama does care,” I think of that every time I hear the word and hope that everyone else does.

Personally, I’m one of those people opposed to Obamacare because it doesn’t have single-payer universal coverage; insurance companies make too much money from the watered-down law that Congress finally passed. When I look at the polls, I wonder how many people opposed to Obamacare agree with me. It seems that a Republican attorney general in one of the 26 states that filed a lawsuit against Obamacare agrees with me. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell opposes Obamacare for the same reason that I do. “Insurance companies are the absolute worst people to handle this kind of business,” he said. “I trust the government more than insurance companies.” Caldwell endorsed a single-payer health care system, saying it’d “be a whole lot better” than Obamacare.

The plaintiffs (those 26 states) conceded that a universal health insurance program would be constitutional if the government taxed the people and then refunded it to people who have insurance. I don’t understand the difference, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor didn’t either. Declaring Obamacare unconstitutional would mean that the justices just didn’t like the language in the Affordable Care Act.

Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia seemed to have worried more about whether Obamacare was fair to everyone than whether it was constitutional. During oral arguments, Scalia used an early legislative complaint about Sen. Ben Nelson being offered money for his state if he voted for Obamacare, an action called the “cornhusker kickback.” He showed his ignorance by assuming that this was in the act although it was never approved. As former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried notes, this language is straight out of the Tea Party guerrilla manual that was written during the battle to prevent Obamacare from becoming law in the first place.

Justices seem to prefer legislating instead of judging. Alito talked about unfair insurance costs for the young while Chief Justice John Roberts worried about whether parts of the law would stand if others were done away with. As Eugene Robinson said, Roberts sounded more like the House Whip or a lobbyist than the top judicial figure in the country. Fortunately, the so-called “judicial activists” reminded Roberts that “the merits of the bill” belong to Congress and not the court. Sotomayor asked what the problem was with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.”

The conservative justices, however, just kept on with the strange hypotheticals that legislators had already worried to death. For example, they asked, if they allowed the government to force purchase of health insurance, were requirements for burial services, cars, and broccoli far behind? Despite the fact that broccoli and health insurance have no similarity, it’s something that conservative legislators–and now Supreme Court justices–obsess about.

Roberts went back to warring against women. When he talked about people being required to pay for coverage they would never use, he used the examples of “pediatric services” and “maternity services.” I’ve noticed that no man has ever used prostate surgery and medical remedies for erectile dysfunction when giving examples of coverage that not all people require.

Again and again, the so-called liberals point out that the conservatives introduced the need for universal health care during the late 1980s. As Stuart Butler, of the highly conservative Heritage Foundation, said, “If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services–even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab. A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract.”

Twenty years later, conservatives take the position that people should let others die rather than requiring them to pay for health insurance. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another . . . the freedom to ignore the injured” and to “walk away from those in peril.”

If the Supreme Court can overturn the health care act, it can probably do away with public education and safety. Republican presidential candidates already want to wipe out any federal involvement in education. Imagine this scenario regarding your safety. When you call the police or fire department because of a prowler or other safety issue, the person at the other end asks for you for your public safety number. If you haven’t paid into public safety insurance, they might then request a credit card number to verify that you can pay for the police or firefighter to come to take care of your problems. Conservatives would define this as “small” or “limited” government that also subjects women to thousands of laws on our bodies.

Massachusetts (with its successful Obamacare) has a 4.9 percent rate of those without health insurance while the rate in Texas is at 27.6%. That percentage compares with 17.1% of all people in the United States who lacked health insurance in 2011. Therefore, with a population of 25.7 million, Texas has over 7 million uninsured people, over 13 percent of the over 53 million uninsured people nationwide. Texas is an example of conservative, “limited” government—people in poverty without insurance. That is what can happen to the United States if the Supreme Court decides to do away with the provisions in Obamacare.

Until June all the young people under 26 on their parents’ health insurance plans, the seniors saving money on their prescriptions, the people with pre-existing conditions who could lose their insurance, and everyone else now benefiting from Obamacare can wonder about their fates. Meanwhile, start saving money in case we have to purchase public safety insurance.

March 30, 2012

Don’t Let Conservatives Silence Women

Republican legislators—primarily men—continue to create bills to oppress women, but people are beginning to fight back, sometimes successfully. Even courts are recognizing the unconstitutionality of these laws. The most recent ruling is from federal District Judge Brian Dixon, who declared that the Oklahoma law mandating ultrasounds before abortions is unconstitutional.  An appeal will send the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already permitted a similar law in Texas.

“The right is ours. Have it we must. Use it we will.” This is a statement from Susan B. Anthony over a century ago as she fought for women’s rights by the side of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Born less than 50 years after the Revolutionary War, the two women fought for another half century to change the repressive laws against women.

When Anthony and Stanton met on a street corner in Seneca Falls, New York, women were considered weaker and more inferior to boys and men. Women who spoke for their rights in public were ridiculed, reviled, threatened, called vicious names. Men believed they shouldn’t leave their homes without a male escort. Ministers declared women’s roles through bible verses: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” and “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

Anthony started to work for women’s suffrage after she was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman. That was when she learned that women had to have the vote if they could change any laws or policies. Anthony also knew that women have no independence without money and they can have no money without equal property rights and the right to keep their wages.

A transformative experience for Anthony was meeting a woman whose husband had first beaten her and then committed her to an insane asylum after she confronted him about his affair with another woman. She spent 18 months in the institution until her brother, a U.S. senator, got her released. Yet when she wanted to see her children, he said, “The child belongs by law to the father, and it is your place to submit. If you make any more trouble about it we’ll send you back to the asylum.” The woman fled with her daughter but could not find a hotel room because she was unaccompanied by a man. A year later the husband found them and abducted the child. The mother never saw her again.

Together Anthony and Stanton fought the language of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War, that delineates “male citizens” and injected gender into the Constitution for the first time. Because the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment defines citizens without gender, Anthony and many others decided to vote—and were arrested. During Anthony’s trial, the judge refused to allow her to testify because she was “not a competent witness” and instructed the jurors, all men of course, to “find a verdict of guilty.” Anthony was fined $100 and court costs, which she refused to pay.

As a Quaker, Anthony believed in a religion that allowed women to preach and participate in governance. She believed that if women were enfranchised that conservative churches and clergymen would become more liberal. “Get political rights first and religious bigotry will melt like dew before the morning sun,” Anthony wrote to Stanton. Disagreeing, Stanton believed that women must question religion that justifies the elevation of men over women. Toward that end, she published The Woman’s Bible.

For half the 19th century these two women helped lay the groundwork for the great gains accorded women, a foundation that women like Alice Paul and others imprisoned for their belief in women’s suffrage built upon. The constitutional amendment for suffrage was created as the 16th Amendment but ended up being the 19th because of three other national amendments passed in the interim: government collecting taxes, people directly electing senators to the U.S. Congress, and prohibition of alcohol.

Women still had a long way to go after women’s suffrage was legalized across the country in 1920. Only fifty years ago, people in this country could be arrested, fined, and sentenced to prison for distributing birth control. Sex between consenting adults of the same sex was illegal in every state. Employment discrimination against women was legal—and pervasive.

By the end of the 1970s Congress had outlawed some of the country’s gender discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled against statutes outlawing birth control and abortion, and half the states had repealed anti-sodomy laws. During the same decade women helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, battled sex education in schools, and fought federally-funded child care.

“Failure is impossible,” Anthony said in her last speech. As long as women are willing to vote for their equal rights, despite the laws that white men attempt to impose on us, Anthony’s statement will be true. Only when we women abdicate our power to vote, that hard-won power, or allow men to subjugate us through our vote will we return to a time when we could not own property, gain custody over children, obtain contraception, inherit property, keep wages, even serve on a jury—a right that we have had for only 40 years. In the United States, women are in the majority. We are in control as long as we wish to be.

If women have any doubt about whether they need to keep control over their reproductive rights, we should consider a finding from the National Bureau of Economic Research. During the 1980s, oral contraception accounted for 10 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap the gap in median annual wages between women and men.

Remember, too, the “common scold” laws begun in Colonial America and continued until 40 years ago. Women were criminals if we expressed strong opinions because this action was attacking male privilege. In the early days, women were chained in the town square, dunked in lakes, or wore a scold’s bridle—a metal cage with a tongue piece forced into the mouth. This could break teeth, cause vomiting, slash the inside of the mouth, and even cause death. The last “common scold” case, State of New Jersey v. Marion Palendrano, arrested a woman for arguing with two men over a parking space.

Conservative men are once again attempting to silence women. The Republican legislators kept women from testifying about birth control in Congress, and Rush Limbaugh verbally abused women who use birth control. Women need to stop men from silencing them and taking away our rights. We need to guarantee that next year’s Women History Month shows how much we have gained, not all the rights that we have lost.

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[The above information about Anthony and Stanton was taken from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World by Penny Colman; check it out for more about these amazing women.]

March 28, 2012

Health Care and the U.S. Supreme Court

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:52 PM
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According to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) the health care law debated for the past three days in the U.S. Supreme Court would remove our last “shred of freedom.” He evidently missed the piece about Virginia and other states already taking away this “shred of freedom” from women forced to have invasive ultrasounds before having abortions. Now that’s losing freedom! Doctors can no longer practice medicine in the way that they see fit. But enough about Johnson’s ranting on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Show yesterday and on to what’s happening with the health care act.

For the past three days, nine justices (maybe only eight because Clarence Thomas never says anything) have addressed the issue of whether the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to mandate health insurance for all when people have to pay for that insurance. Although the ruling is not likely until late June, pundits are trying to second-guess the decision.

One sure thing is that the justices are divided, but no one knows where the splits come. Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the attorneys almost equally. In The New Republic, Jonathan Cohen said that Roberts may not vote against ACA because he is less interested in limiting the commerce and “necessary and proper” powers than in rolling back the Voting Rights Act. (I’m hoping that he’s so embarrassed about his Citizens United ruling that he may be more rationale this time around.)

Three major issues are before the court. The first one is whether the justices will decide now or after the Affordable Care Act finishes going into effect in 2014. The discussion shows that they will most likely decide within the year rather than waiting.

“Severability” was the topic in connection with discussion about whether the insurance mandate violates the Constitution. Justices would have to decide whether they would overturn part of the act or the entire law. The Hill, a conservative news source out of D.C., reports that five justices on Tuesday appeared skeptical that the mandate meets constitutional muster, meaning the debate over whether the rest of the law must also be tossed could come into play.” The question is whether two other provisions would have to be scuttled if the court ruled against the mandate for everyone to have insurance: (1) the law requires that insurers cover all applicants, and (2)  the law bans charging higher prices to customers with pre-existing conditions.

The third issue is whether the entire law is constitutional. The 26 states that filed the healthcare challenge want Congress to dump the whole law. A third party argued that the mandate can be ruled against while the rest of the law remains.

The law’s Medicaid expansion was also a topic today. The same opposing 26 states used the term “coercion” to describe the new program because states couldn’t afford to give up the federal money provided for the program. Justice Elena Kagan asked Paul Clement, representing the states, if offering him a job paying $10 million per year is coercive because he would find it difficult to turn down that salary. “It’s just a boatload of federal money to take and spend on poor people’s healthcare,” Kagan said. “It doesn’t sound very coercive to me.”

What do women gain by the new health care act? Or what would they lose if the Supreme Court overturns the law? Before ACA, pregnancy, C-sections, domestic violence, and rape could be defined as pre-existing conditions;, meaning that health insurance could be denied for these. Insurance companies charge women up to 150 percent more than men; ACA made that illegal. Insurance companies now have to cover breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, domestic violence counseling and screenings, and other preventive care measures largely unique to women and therefore not considered important by many of these companies. And the measure that brought out the greatest resentment from men, women no longer are required to provide a co-pay for birth control.

Parents have also been highly grateful for another ACA provision: their children can stay on the parents’ health plan until the kids reach 26 years of age. Check out great graphics on how much the health care act has helped people already.

A few positive effects from ACA although the entire act has not gone into effect: 2.5 million additional young adults including 1.3 minorities have access to coverage; more than 50,000 Americans, a nearly 400-percent increase during one year, have enrolled in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan; 350 new community health centers in 2011 provided health care services to 50 million Americans in medically underserved areas; these centers created almost 19,000 jobs; almost 4 million seniors saved more than $2.1 billion on prescription drugs; cracking down on fraud and abuse in Medicare saved $4.1 billion in 2011; the ACA eliminated lifetime coverage limits for 105 million Americans; 42 states, D.C., and five territories improved their rate-review processes; and insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical expenses or rebate money to patients–$323 million in 2012.

Perhaps more optimistic than I am, over 50 percent of former Supreme Court clerks and lawyers who have argued before the court think that the individual mandate will be upheld, and only 35 percent expect it to be struck down. If the court strikes down the individual mandate, only 27 percent in the survey said they believed the court would strike down the entire law. The results from an American Bar Association survey was even more positive. ABA reported that 85 percent of their respondents predicted that the court will uphold the law.

Lower court rulings don’t predict how the U.S. Supreme Court will decide, but they may provide a guide. Only three of the 12 appellate judges who have reviewed the law have declared it unconstitutional to require all Americans to have health insurance. Not one single appeals court judge has said the entire law must be tossed out, the position advocated by Florida and 25 other Republican states leading the legal assault.

In June, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, in a lengthy opinion for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, upheld the law and concluded that Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause give it very broad authority to regulate markets, including health insurance. Using similar reasoning last week, Judge Laurence H. Silberman, an influential conservative and longtime Scalia friend, also upheld the law in an opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Silberman explicitly rejected the partisan attack on the law, writing that criticism of the mandate “seems to us a political judgment,” not evidence it violates the Constitution.

Both Silberman and Sutton cited Scalia’s 2005 opinion upholding strict federal regulation of marijuana in the case of Angel Raich, a Californian who used home-grown marijuana to relieve her pain. “If Congress could regulate Angel Raich when she grew marijuana on her property for self-consumption,” Sutton wrote, “it is difficult to say Congress may not regulate the 50 million Americans who self-finance their medical care.”

Conservatives should be very concerned about what would happen if the court does overrule ACA. Without the Affordable Care Act, they would have less to fight in the November elections, just as donations for conservatives would go down if abortions were made illegal.

Recent polls have indicated that the majority of people would like to see at least part of the Affordable Care Act be struck down. This can be expected after the Republican presidential candidates have spent months spewing their opposition to ACA. Even more interesting, however, is a Bloomberg News poll regarding the reason for the justices’ decision. While 17 percent of the respondents declared that the case would be determined “solely on legal merits,” 75 percent think that the Supreme Court’s health care decision will be influenced by the justices’ politics.

March 27, 2012

Women Gaining Ground–Maybe

As the war on women moves through Women’s History Month, the opposition to women’s rights may be weakening slightly. The Catholic bishops’ struggle to control government decisions and taxpayer dollars regarding contraception flagged last week when U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns ruled that the government was in the right for refusing to renew a contract to the Catholic Church. The decision focused on the bishops’ decision to refuse key reproductive counseling and referrals for human trafficking victims with its $3 million grant. Stearns agreed with the ACLU on the basis that the bishops’ rules for federal funding violated constitutional prohibitions on church and state. The judge in the Massachusetts federal court wrote:

“To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others….This case is about the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”

He also cited an earlier Supreme Court ruling that stated the Framers “did not set up a system of government in which important, discretionary governmental powers would be delegated to or shared with religious institutions.” Last week’s ruling questions the entire basis of the George W. Bush’s federal faith-based contracting initiative that has given almost total power to groups like the Catholic bishops who are permitted to determine how  taxpayer dollars are spent.

The bishops wanted the issue resolved in their favor even though they no longer had the contract. Their success might continue their autonomy over spending public money—including selection of insurance that provides contraception. In losing this case, they may have lost even more than the control of spending their money as they wish. It is possible that the FDA would make oral contraception available over the counter, making birth control far more accessible to women and totally offending the Catholic bishops.

Another break in the conservative forces against abortion and contraception came from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) in an interview yesterday with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. She said that she opposes the loss of Medicaid funding for the state after Texas stopped funding for Planned Parenthood. “I think Planned Parenthood does mammograms, they do so much of the health care, the preventative health care, and if they’re doing that, then we need to provide those services, absolutely,” Hutchinson said.

Although almost no men directly support women’s fight for contraception, one Republican made a surprising statement at a rally for the Equal Rights Amendment. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) thinks that we women should give our money to Democrats. “I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems. So many of your rights are under assault,” he told the crowd of mostly women. “I’ll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side—my side—has a lot of it. And you need to send your own message. You need to remind people that you vote, you matter, and that they can’t succeed without your help.”

The inequality between men and women in this country is made glaringly clear when male support for a female issue is totally unexpected—and when that male is a Republican, we find the support almost impossible to believe. We still live in a country where the Constitution defines a citizen as a male. But people like Richard Hanna may move us up the path toward more equality.

March 23, 2012

Anti-Choice People Get Crazier

How crazy can anti-choice people become? Just when you think you’ve seen it all ….

Members of an anti-choice group performed an exorcism outside a women’s clinic in Ohio last Sunday. Priests got permission from the Rev. Steve J. Angi, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, to perform the “exorcism of locality,” designed to drive evil out of a place, rather than out of a person. Participants read the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, that states, “Seize the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the devil and Satan, bind him and cast him into the bottomless pit, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”

While the Catholics are exorcising “locality,” Republican legislators are becoming more and more outrageous. In Arizona Rep. Terri Proud wants a bill to force women witness an abortion before they can have the procedure. An Alaskan bill requires women who opt for abortions to prove in writing that the fetuses’ fathers approve of the procedures.

To keep women from having abortions, both Arizona and Kansas are considering bills giving women’s doctors the legal right to lie about health issues regarding both the pregnant women’s and the fetuses’ health. In a 20-9 vote, the Arizona Senate approved a bill, sponsored by Nancy Barto, that prevents lawsuits if doctors fail to inform women of prenatal problems. The Kansas bill goes further, permitting doctors to outright lie outright if they discover a medical condition that could affect a pregnant women or fetus. Nine other states already have “wrongful birth” laws on their books allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant women.

Idaho State Sen. Chuck Winder clearly states the arrogant attitude that many Republican legislators have toward women. While discussing his mandatory ultrasound bill, he said, “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) stated that he can take money from Planned Parenthood because the Tenth Amendment allows him to do anything with federal money that he wants. Between the withdrawal of state and federal funds from Planned Parenthood, over 300,000 Texas women in poverty can no longer receive health care. Texas also has a 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements for abortions. The Texas Observer has published a story about the pain that these laws cause for women carrying fetuses with irreversible medical conditions, an article that every Republican should be required to read.

Utah’s governor signed the bill that demands a 72-hour waiting period before women can get abortions. The rationale behind lengthy waits seems to be that women will change their minds if given enough time … or perhaps not meet the short window of time during which women can get abortions.

The trend against women, however, seems to be slightly reversing. Tennessee is thinking about not requiring the publication of the names of doctors’ who perform abortions although the women’s identity could still be obvious. The change comes from the only physician in the legislature, a Republican who wants to protect at least doctors if not women.

The Idaho House is backing off forced ultrasounds after the Senate passed the bill 23-12 with five Republicans voting against it. The cancellation of a House committee hearing gives the impression that the bill may have died. After the New Hampshire House passed a bill that would force doctors to lie to their patients by telling them legislature-specified statements that abortions give higher risks for breast cancer, legislators decided to take the bill back to committee so that it could be reconsidered. Abortions do NOT give a higher risk of breast cancer.

Arizona’s bill requiring women to tell their employees why they want contraception has already passed the House, but it’s being amended by its sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, who pulled it from the Senate Rules Committee. The intent to return to committee is to work on amendments—what kind wasn’t disclosed. Gov. Jan Brewer said she was concerned that women might be “uncomfortable” with the bill.

Utah governor Gary Herbert vetoed a bill banning public schools from teaching about contraception in health education classes.

Women are still fighting back. Project TMI is still posting on legislators’ Facebook pages across the nation.

The National Organization for Women (NOW), which has been almost invisible in the past few years, has tackled the bust of Rush Limbaugh being sculpted for the Missouri state capitol. The state chapter’s program, “Flush Rush,” has sent hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Steven Tilley, the state House Speaker responsible for inducting Limbaugh in the Hall of Famous Missourians. Tilley’s justification for keeping Limbaugh in the capitol is that the Hall is “not called the Hall of Universally Loved Missourians. We’ve inducted people like John Ashcroft, Warren Hearnes, and Harry Truman. They certainly had their detractors.” Apparently at least one Missouri Republican compares Limbaugh to Harry Truman.

Because of its opposition to Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is losing affiliate officers and events. Another group—one that’s pro-choice and spends more of its funding helping women prevent breast cancer—would better suited to take its place.

Conservative legislators are also more reluctant to fight in other areas such as same-sex marriage. Two-thirds of the New Hampshire House voted to keep its 2007 same-sex marriage law in a 211 to 116 vote. Republicans hold 189 seats in the House; they could easily have passed the bill.

Even with this trend, the country trends farther and farther to the right. There must a tipping point somewhere!

March 19, 2012

“Release” Information about Women Who Have Abortions and Their Doctors, Say Tennessee Legislators

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:52 PM
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When have Republicans gone too far? People who were horrified at laws demanding transvaginal ultrasounds and prohibiting birth control need to see what Tennessee wants to do to women who decide to have abortions and the doctors who perform this legal medical procedure.

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) is sponsoring a bill that would require additional information on abortions, including the doctor’s name and demographics about the women that might very easily reveal their identities. This information is already provided to the Department of Health; Hill wants to publicize the data. The Department of Health already reports the information about abortions, but Hill would mandate that the department “release patient data broken down by county.” In small communities this reporting could easily reveal the women’s identities. State Rep. Gary Odom (D) warned that violence against both the women and the doctors who provide the procedures could ensue after their identities are made public.

Sixteen years ago, the government passed an act with a long name and the acronym HIPAA that protected patients’ privacy in health situations. Since that time, thousands of trees have been destroyed to print the mandated page-long instruction for each patient, given to each patient each time the person has any medical appointment. Yet some legislators who believe in no regulations and extremely limited government go beyond over-riding doctors’ opinions in providing health care to releasing information about women patients, information that could result in violence against the women. These legislators are the same people who want to endanger everyone’s health by allowing poison in our food, water, and air. Their guideline is no regulations unless they control women.

It’s been over 150 years since Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, about a woman in 17th-century America who was marked for life with an “A” on her forehead. Perhaps reading this book will give Hill more ideas about humiliating women.

While states across the country are busy working for abstinence-only programs and other controls on women’s reproductive rights, some Republicans are recognizing the insanity of this approach and its danger to Republicans’ being elected. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he opposes his state’s controversial bill allowing employers to restrict health insurance coverage of contraception to only those cases when a woman can prove a need for it because of a medical reason, such as endometriosis or an ovarian cyst. If this bill were to pass, women would need a note from their doctors to prove that they weren’t using birth control just for “fun” purposes.

Women are catching on. “If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business,” said evangelical Christian, Iowa voter, and former Mitt Romney supporter Mary Russell.

Republican legislators’ Facebook pages are being inundated in Project TMI: women all over the country post honest, frank information about their reproductive issues—menstruation, birth control, etc.—and ask for assistance from the men who have worked so hard to control women’s reproductive rights. Rick Perry is another recent recipient of the barrage of messages.

March is Women’s History Month, and our nation’s women are making history!

March 18, 2012

More Men Control Women

Unanimously rejecting $8,899 in state funds for contraceptives and other medical services related to family planning, the all-male New Hanover County (NC) board of commissioners had the following to say:

Commissioner Rick Caitlin: it was “using taxpayer dollars to fund someone’s irresponsibility.”

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield: he was “one of those abstinence guys.” [He regretted his decision after talking to his wife and called his vote “an error.”]

Commissioner Ted Davis, board chair: “If these young women are being responsible and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t have this problem to begin with.”

At the same time, the five men considered spending $10 million in taxpayer money to renovate a building that has been closed for two years. Caitlin and Davis are running for State House.

Susi Hamilton, a state House Representative who is running for re-election, said, “It sounds to me that Ted Davis and Rick Catlin think that women get pregnant all by themselves.”

The publicity must have gotten to them; Davis asked that the issue be re-addressed on April 2, the day after April Fools’ Day.

Although the situation can be seen as black humor, particularly the piece about Barfield getting talks from his pastor, his wife, and his father, the comments on the articles about this issue are truly appalling. Many males believe that women living in poverty do not deserve help with contraception, that they are all irresponsible in not remembering to take the “pill” and interested only in their pleasure in the sex act. The gap between males and females in this issue is greater than the income disparity in this country.

To quote Abigail Adams, wife of the second President of the United States, “Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

The commissioners’ decision is just one more reason to fight conservatives in their determination to control women and their reproductive rights.

March 17, 2012

Make Sperm Equal to Women

When I was growing up, men had more rights than women. Many of us didn’t even pay attention. After all, we were allowed to vote. What more could we want?

Because of the second wave of feminism,  girls were allowed to take the same classes in high school as boys, sports teams became more equal, and women were even allowed on juries by the end of the 1970s. Many of us weren’t even aware that we weren’t judged by a jury of our peers until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1975.

By the end of the 20th century, the third wave of feminists made us believe that we were headed toward equality even if our salaries still lagged behind those for men. After almost a century of progress, however, women have a new competitor for equality: sperm.

The GOP is now convinced that sperm rules. It appears that the sperm has the inalienable and God-given right over that of women. Catholic bishops successfully fought our right to birth control until 1965, and now they are working to remove this right as well as women’s right to make a choice regarding abortion.

Seven years after the religious leaders lost the ability to control women’s access to birth control, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government could not prohibit women from stopping the reproductive process after the egg’s fertilization. The court’s decision matched early Catholic policies.

Based on Aristotle’s three embryonic stages, St. Augustine determined the abortion in the first trimester should not be regarded “as homicide, for there cannot be a living soul in a body that lacks sensation due to its not yet being formed.” Pope Innocent II concurred at the beginning of the 13th century when he declared that abortion was not homicide until “quickening,” the feeling of the fetus movement, a time made specific over three centuries later by Pope Gregory XIV after 116 days. This rule wasn’t changed until 1869.

Almost 90 percent of all abortions are done within the 116-day window with 60 percent in the first eight weeks. Ones that occur later are almost always because of state-enacted delaying laws or serious medical issues.

While Republicans are working hard to erase our reproductive rights, they neglect the children.  States with the most punitive laws for abortions spend the least on education, facilitating adoption, and nurturing poor children. Those same states have fewer insurance mandates to cover hospital stays after childbirth. With its sonogram mandate for abortion, Texas cut its family planning budget by almost 70 percent, eliminating services for nearly 284,000 women. The sperm rules.

Women across the country are campaigning to gain equality with sperm. With almost a dozen states requiring transvaginal ultrasounds before abortion and more states leaping on the bandwagon, some women have gone to Facebook pages to protest–those of Republicans who are convinced that they know more about women’s health than women and doctors do, Republicans who believe that limited government and reduction of regulations stop at women’s bodies.

One Republican suffering from women’s ire is Virginia’s state senator and Republican caucus chairman Ryan McDougle. Despite his frantically deleting messages on his Facebook page, he hasn’t kept up. And even when he erases them, someone has already copied them. These messages are all over the Internet. Kansas governor Sam Brownback is getting the same treatment. The following is one of the more benign entries that appeared on the McDougle’s Facebook page:

“Hi senator. I seem to be irregular and my cramping is pretty bad- so bad that I can’t sleep at night or get anything done. Imagine being repeatedly kicked in the crotch for hours, but move the pain up to the whole lower abdomen, because that’s the only way I can describe it to someone who doesn’t have a uterus that can cramp so badly that it restricts blood flow to surrounding tissues. I thought you would be concerned.”

Another way women are fighting for equality with  sperm is to keep it from entering women’s bodies. Liberal Ladies Who Lunch, a women’s right group, is asking for a sex strike in April to oppose conservative infringements on our bodies. According to the group’s call to action, this protest doesn’t rely on picket signs and chants to get across their message. “Younger men and women may not remember the ‘good old days’ when the only reproductive choice we had was to deny men access to sex. In truth, if we lose our hard won rights to medical care, birth control and pregnancy choice, it won’t only affect women. Men will have to go back to the days when they waited for or paid for sex,” explains the group.

In Virginia, former lawmakers have formed the Women’s Strike Force, a political action committee with the goal of defeating state lawmakers who pushed for legislation to prohibit or restrict a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. “The steps that have been taken by lawmakers in Virginia and states across the country to deprive women of their reproductive rights are a slap in the face to every American wife, mother, sister, and daughter in our country,” former Del. Robin Abbott, the group’s co-chair, said. Former Del. Leslie Byrne said, “As a former member of the General Assembly and Virginia’s first woman in Congress, I fought for women’s rights in the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. We must move the Commonwealth and the nation forward, not backslide to denying women rights.”

A week ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the following statements at the Women in the World Summit:

“In America, in Tunisia, anywhere in the world, women should have the right to make their own choices about what they wear, how they worship, the jobs they do, the causes they support. These are choices women have to make for themselves, and they are a fundamental test of democracy.

“Now, we know that young woman in Tunisia and her peers across the region already are facing extremists who will try to strip their rights, curb their participation, limit their ability to make choices for themselves. Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world. And it seems clear to me that to do that, we have to live our own values and we have to defend our own values. We need to respect each other, empower all our citizens, and find common ground.”

That is what women in the United States are now doing—defending our values. Let’s declare equality to sperm.

March 15, 2012

The Foreign Press Takes on Our Brave New World

What Europe thinks of the American Republican primaries: 

The German Press: The Republican presidential contest in America is a “freak show,” said Marc Pitzke in the German der Spiegel. The candidates vie with one another to spew the most outrageous hard-right positions denying evolution while endorsing torture and joking about electrocuting illegal immigrants. How did a major party in the world’s sole superpower become a “club of liars, debtors, betrayers, adulterers, exaggerators, hypocrites, and ignoramuses”? These know-nothings are enabled by a U.S. press that has been “neutered by the demands of political correctness” so that it can’t say what’s obvious: These people are daft! Instead, it “proclaims one clown after the next to be the new front-runner.” Newt Gingrich is actually considered an intellectual merely because he can create sentences with multiple clauses. Scarcely a one has even the most basic grasp of foreign policy. One said Africa is a country, another that the Taliban rule in Libya. Collectively, “they expose a political, economic, geographic, and historical ignorance that makes George W. Bush look like a scholar!”

The French Press: That’s the scariest part, said Lorraine Millot in the Paris Liberation. The only GOP candidate who knows a thing about diplomacy, Jon Huntsman, is gone. The others “careen to extreme positions that include starting new wars and abandoning old allies.” And that’s when they even have a position. Herman Cain, now thankfully out of the race, was the front-runner even though he couldn’t find a single coherent word to say about President Obama’s policy on Libya. He even boasted of knowing little about foreign countries. And yet it was his adultery, not his astounding ignorance, that brought him down.

The British Press: There’s a simple explanation for this bizarre phenomenon, said Max Hastings in the London Daily Mail. In the “lunatic, gun-toting badlands of America’s Hicksville, Tea Party country,” it’s considered suspiciously elitist to show an interest in modern science or the world beyond America’s “borders. “Say what you like about British politics, no MP of any party would dare to offer themselves as town dogcatcher while knowing as little about the world as the Republican presidential candidates.” We take public service seriously. Yet we in Britain, and everyone in the rest of the world, will suffer if “one of the lunatics” vying for the nomination makes it to the White House. “The American political system has seldom, if ever, looked so inadequate.” Don’t worry, said Matthew Norman in the London Independent. The fact that Gingrich is the latest threat to Mitt Romney’s inevitability just “confirms how inevitable” Romney’s nomination is. The thrice-married, ethically challenged Gingrich is unlikable in the extreme. Which means the nominee will be Romney, “the slimiest, phoniest opportunist to run for president since … well, ever.” So sit back and enjoy this circus passing for a presidential election. It can’t possibly end in a GOP victory. Can it?

[The part about Gingrich is a bit out of date—but still applies!]

March 14, 2012

Pink Slime Stories Inundate Net

Nutrition is important for the brain and vital for children. So why is the government feeding school kids pink slime? This term describes a hamburger additive from first grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally used in dog food and then treating the substance with ammonia hydroxide to kill salmonella and E. coli. It’s not even good enough for McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Burger King.

The USDA permits beef products to contain up to 15 percent of “Lean Beef Trimmings” (think pink slime) since USDA undersecretary JoAnne Smith, a George H.W. Bush appointee and former president of the National Cattleman’s Association, pushed through the ruling. Nobody can know what meat contains the product because there are no labeling requirements for its inclusion.

In addition to pink slime having no nutritional value, it results in illness–three E. coli contaminations and four dozen salmonella contaminations between 2005 and 2009. Also ammonium hydroxide is not safe to ingest and can turn into ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in homemade explosives. It’s also used in household cleaners and fertilizers.

The school lunch program saves three cents per pound of hamburger for using pink slime.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is purchasing 7 million pounds of the “slime” for school lunches. “We originally called it soylent pink,” said microbiologist Carl Custer, who worked at the Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years. “We looked at the product, and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef].

This isn’t the first year that school kids eat pink slime. A USDA spokesperson said that 6.5 percent of last year’s purchases were LFTB (Lean Finely Textured Beef). Nice name for pink slime. He insisted that it’s a high-quality, safe product and claimed that it had showed no food-safety problems since the 2009 Times article. Nor, he added, does price play a role in the department’s decision to buy it. Oh yeah

Why would the Obama administration allow pink slime in school lunches? The question is especially appropriate because of new government guidelines for healthier options in school meals, more whole grains and produce as well as less sodium and fat.

School kids aren’t the only ones eating pink slime. Approximately 70 percent of ground beef at the grocery store contains this stuff. And don’t bother looking at the label. Remember? There are no labeling requirements for pink slime. The only solutions are to have the meat ground in front of you, buy organic ground meat—or just don’t buy it.

A rumor is circulating that the USDA will announce a change tomorrow so that schools can choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the product or less lean bulk ground beef without it. The new policy won’t go into effect until next fall because of current contracts. According to an anonymous source, USDA thinks that the ammonia treatment is safe but wanted to give schools choices. Meanwhile multiple sources are flooding the Internet with explanations of pink slime safety.

Want to keep fighting back? This site is for just one of the many petitions you can sign.

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