Nel's New Day

February 19, 2017

The Struggle to Regain Free Speech

The biggest shock I received from the news during the past few days did not come from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). It was the ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a Florida law restricting doctors’ First Amendment free speech rights when talking to patients about guns. In a 10-1 vote, the court overturned laws preventing doctors from asking patients questions about guns in their home, putting any “non-relevant” information about gun ownership in a medical record, and “unnecessarily harassing a patient about firearm ownership during an examination.” The law still prohibits discrimination against patients who don’t answer the doctors’ questions.

The ruling sends a message that government does not have the ability to prevent unpopular speech, a vital decision because government increasingly suppresses language. Although the court covers only two states other than Florida—Alabama and Georgia—it establishes a precedent for other courts and could affect the nation if the case moves to the Supreme Court to a supportive First Amendment ruling.

Throughout history governments have tried to control doctors’ free speech. Chinese doctors were sent to rural areas during the Cultural Revolution to convince patients to use contraception, and the Soviet government ordered physicians during the building of the Siberian railroad in the 1930s to deny medical leave requests and keep the order from patients. Nazi Germany taught doctors that their higher duty was to the “health of the Volk” over their individual patients while many of them performed horrifying surgical experiments on humans. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s plan to increase the nation’s birth rate stopped doctors’ advising patients about birth control and providing information about prevention of the transmission of AIDS and HIV infections by the use of condoms.

Legislators in 38 of the United States order doctors and women’s clinics what to tell women requesting abortions, some of this information inaccurate and misleading. These doctors must tell women about a non-existent link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer, suicide, or future infertility. In 28 states, informed consent forms and brochures in clinics must provide legislative-chosen information about alternatives to abortion, the risks associated with abortion, and fetal development stages.

Some states require non-scientific and non-medical language for doctors’ counseling, mandatory brochures, and informed consent forms such as referring to embryos as “unborn children,” insisting that life begins at conception, lying that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, and stating that abortion at any stage terminates the life of a separate, living being. Twenty-eight states require that women wait between 24 and 72 hours between their visits to doctors and the procedure in reflect on her decision—and an attempt to humiliate her.

Government uses religious values in their lies to prevent abortions. There is no link between abortion and breast cancer according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist. There is no “post-abortion syndrome,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychiatric Association. The APA found that “there is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women,” noting most studies that claim otherwise “suffered from serious methodological problems.” There is no link between abortion and infertility. And fetuses cannot feel pain until 24 weeks at the earliest.

This article gives a list of states with their laws as of August 2016. Since then, one more state is mandating that doctors lie to patients about the non-existent link between abortion and the occurrence of breast cancer.

The new president added fuel to the abortion controversy at the last presidential debate when he declared that doctors do abortions in the “ninth month” of pregnancy. In his false bombastic rhetoric, DDT said that “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.” This is called a Cesarean  or C-section, and it doesn’t kill the baby.

Religious–or pandering—lawmakers with the goal to prevent all abortions fail to recognize only 1.3 percent of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks and 91 percent of them happen before 13 weeks. The ones that occur late in the pregnancy almost always are required by dead or seriously deformed fetuses. With the religious fervor to keep all fetuses coming out of the uteruses at full term, the House voted last Thursday, 230-188, to overturn an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions. Thirteen states can return to their non-support for Planned Parenthood. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would remove money from caring for the severely mentally and physically disabled children resulting from the lack of abortions.

Religion was the reason behind DDT’s removal of U.S. funding from any overseas organization that mentions abortion. The money doesn’t go toward abortions: the Mexico City Policy is simply a suppression of free speech. When George W Bush reimposed the global gag rule, he erased shipments of contraceptives to 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The elimination of these shipments cut off condoms for Lesotho Planned Parenthood, the only available place in a country where one in four women were infected with HIV. Like George W., DDT will create more unwanted pregnancies and more cases of HIV.

ddt-signs-mexico-act

The above photograph of DDT signing an act that affects millions of women shows that limiting women’s reproductive rights is largely a “guy thing.”

The worship of DDT is creating threats to democracy. In attempts to avoid protesters, over two-thirds of the congressional Republicans refuse to have town halls during the current recess. DDT’s tweet explains the lies that they are spreading:

“Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

GOP legislatures in at least ten states are introducing bills to stop dissent permitted by the First Amendment, that gives the “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”:

  • Colorado: Greatly increase penalties for environmental protesters up to felonies resulting in prison and fines up to $100,000.
  • Indiana: Publish officials could immediately dispatch “all available law enforcement” to clear a traffic blockade involving at least 10 people “by any means necessary.” People have nicknamed the bill “block traffic and you die.”
  • Iowa: Creates penalty of five years in prison for traffic disruptions.
  • Michigan: Boost anti-picketing penalties, especially for union members who try to boycott a business’s profits.
  • Minnesota: Penalties for blocking traffic.
  • Missouri: Prohibit demonstrators from wearing masks or robes. (Does that count the Ku Klux Klan?)
  • North Carolina: Imprison people who intimidate ex-officials because a group followed former Gov. Pat McCrory (king of the “potty police” law) and chanting “Shame!” His discriminatory law cost the state millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.
  • North Dakota: Criminalize road protests, restrict wearing apparel, and allow government to sue for enforcement costs. An additional proposal would exempt drivers from liability if they injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road.
  • Virginia: Imprison people engaged in an “unlawful assembly” after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.”
  • Washington: Classify as “economic terrorism” any permit-less protest that causes harm to the flow of commerce.

DDT has his phone back and is angrily tweeting his “war on the press.” His latest salvo is declaring the media as the “enemy of the people.” Beginning with The New York Times, CNN and NBC News, he quickly added ABC and CBS. That’s a major U.S. newspaper and all three mainstream television channels. DDT is patterning his actions on ancient Rome and later Russia’s communist revolution a century ago which was followed by massive purges ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

DDT rants included a quote from Thomas Jefferson about his hate for the press. The press quoted DDT but failed to show how DDT’s message was out of context.  The Founding Father also said,“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

We can only hope that the 11th Circuit Court took the first step toward reinstating free speech and free press in the United States as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Indifference about the distinction between truth and lies is the precondition of fascism. When truth perishes so does freedom.”—Simon Shama, British historian

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