Nel's New Day

November 13, 2015

GOP: Women Too Stupid to Make Choices for Themselves

The recent National Religious Liberties Conference had three GOP presidential candates–Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal appeared on the stage demanding that LGBT people be rounded up and executed, much in the same way that ISIS does. Approached about his participation in this bath of hatred, Huckabee said he had no idea that Swanson had these views, despite an earlier call for him to not participate in the event. Religious right radio host Michael Brown tried to explain away the candidates’ appearance despite Jake Tapper’s telling Cruz about Swanson’s views before the conference.

With insistence on genocide, however, was the call to eliminate women’s rights.The theme of the conference was freedom, but Geoff Botkin delivered the message that the Disney movie Frozen is evidence of its “spirit of licentiousness.” Botkin compared Frozen’s song “Let It Go” to Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the Garden of Eden and called it “Satan’s rebellion anthem” corrupting children. The song is about a woman who decides to break away from the directive to treat her talents as a curse and make her own decisions. Botkin was not alone in his claims at the conference: Swanson has frequently declared that Frozen will cause little girls to become lesbians.

Several conference speakers have connections to the “biblical patriarchy” or Quiverfull movement, which fights to roll back women’s rights to use contraceptives. To them, birth control access is a threat to the family and liberty because Christian families must return to traditional gender roles in order to bear and raise as many children as possible. At one time, the move to deny birth control was considered a fringe movement, but the Supreme Court legitimized it in the Hobby Lobby case that recognized restriction of birth control as well as abortion. To many fundamentalist Christians, all birth control that stops pregnancy is considered murder. By recognizing Hobby Lobby’s misrepresentations of this position, the Supreme Court put into law the falsehoods about contraception leading to abortions.

Conservatives also use the myth of “abortion regret” to push a doctor’s claim that he can “reverse” abortion by injecting women with unnecessary shots. Women do not regret abortions. A recent study of women who got abortions shows that 95 percent of women who get abortions say, both right after the abortion and years after the fact, that it was the right decision for them. The political propaganda of “saving” the “baby” comes from the misguided theory that women are too stupid to be trusted with legal abortion. The state must make decisions for these women, because no woman really wants an abortion.

Forced pregnancy is a way to protect women, according to conservatives, because, deep down, all women really want to have those babies. Justice Anthony Kennedy enshrined this belief in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) when he wrote that the right to choose should be narrowed because “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” The opinion moved medical decisions for women from doctors to federal and state legislators. This ruling upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 by claiming that it did not impose an undue burden on the due process right of women to obtain an abortion.

Sheva Guy, 23, disagrees. She was forced to either drive 300 miles from Ohio to Chicago for an abortion or deliver a stillborn child. At 22 weeks, her ultrasound showed a fatal spinal abnormality in a female fetus preventing its survival. Under Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate, Ohio dropped abortion clinics from 14 to nine with an abortion ban after 24 weeks. Guy wasn’t even allowed to take her fetus home to Ohio.

The late great journalist, author, and commentator Molly Ivins wrote in 1996:

“There’s something very wrong in our discussion of this. If there’s anything that late-term abortion is, it is not an easy call. And I just want to say, that perhaps, I almost get the impression that somebody thinks women don’t have no moral sense at all. No woman who is seven months pregnant, ever waddles past an abortion clinic and says, ‘Darn, I knew there was something I’ve been meaning to get around to.’ This is ridiculous.

“You have those late-term abortions, because either the mother is going to die, the child is going to die, or both are going to die. These procedures are incredibly rare. I only know of two in the state of Texas since Roe v. Wade was passed. They were both what they call cases of babies with no brain. The brain, the child’s brain stem had developed, but then something went horribly wrong and these children literally had no brains. Now, is that an easy call? Is that simple to you?”

Missouri Republicans are so afraid of abortion research that they are threatening to defund the University of Missouri if Lindsey Ruhr continues her doctoral dissertation on the effects of the 72-hour waiting period before women can have abortions. Despite a Missouri law banning universities from “encouraging” abortions, state senator Kurt Schaefer, chairman of the anti-abortion Committee on the Sanctity of Life, maintains that Ruhu is biased although he has not seen her methodology.

Republicans’  history of banning research includes funding about gun violence because “guns don’t kill people—people do,” according to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last summer. He said that “a gun is not a disease,” and the topic outside of the CDC’s research domain. Scientists are also prevented from studying right-wing terrorism in the United States.

Even women conservatives want stupid women. According to Phyllis Schlafly, men are smarter than women. She suggests admissions quotas, eliminating student loans, and reinstating all men’s sports canceled by Title IX to prevent women from attending colleges and universities. Schlafly, a retired constitutional lawyer, believes that fewer women would be raped if they didn’t go to college.

Conservatives’ denigrating statements about women and rape accelerated during the 2012 election campaigns and have increased since then. George Will called being a rape victim a “coveted status,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another GOP presidential candidate, minimized rape as a “definitional problem.” Many state legislators claim that women typically lie about being raped to avoid consequences of consensual sex. Former presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, insinuated that rape victims who need abortions after 20 weeks are either lazy or stupid—certainly undeserving of compassion.

The police chief of Georgia’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Bryan Golden, told the school newspaper that “most” sexual assaults aren’t sexual assaults at all — women just feel “guilty” about their “consensual” actions. “That’s being stupid,” he added. Golden was briefly suspended without pay, but he’s back on the job, investigating sexual assaults.

During the present term, SCOTUS will hear a case that may bring back the theme of women’s stupidity. Whole Women’s Health v. Cole resulted from the Texas law that tried to shut down at least nine of the 19 remaining abortion clinics in the state with 27 million people, almost half of them women. The term “abortion clinics” is really a misnomer because these women’s clinics provide far more health services than abortions.

None of the legal requirements for these clinics protects women—although legislators claimed that it does—but has everything to do with restricting abortions. Then-governor Rick Perry said in 2012 that until the world is without abortions, “we will continue to pass laws to ensure that they are rare as possible.” The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether it will uphold 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe v. Wade, or decide that women are too stupid to make decisions about their own bodies.

In Casey, Justice Anthony Kennedy, most likely the swing decider on the court, wrote that a woman’s right to an abortion involves “the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment.” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said:

“Access to health care should not depend on a person’s income, where they live or their ability to travel to another state. It’s time for the Supreme Court to send a clear message that these dangerous laws create an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”

Quote from Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence:

jennifer Lawrence

Oral arguments on Women’s Heath v. Cole are scheduled for Spring 2017; a decision will probably not be handed down until the end of next June.

February 10, 2013

Religion Causes Polarity

What are the religious right folks talking about on Sunday? My favorite sick far-right belief from the last week comes from  Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who has explained that “certain doctors and certain scientists” found “these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb… Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”

Even Kevin Peeples, director of the movie Birth Control: How Did We Get Here? which argues that the only way to be “pro-life” is to be anti-contraception as well as anti-abortion, thinks that there might be another side to all those “little tiny fetuses … embedded into the womb.” Peeples did say in the interview that the problem with birth control is that women “desire the men’s role.”

A brief science lesson about fetal development for both Swanson and Peeples and maybe all those conservatives on the House science committee: an embryo doesn’t become a fetus until the tenth week of gestation. But more than that, menstruation, that periodic cleansing of the uterus (which Swanson calls the “womb”), moves everything out of the woman’s body. Birth control only keeps the egg from being fertilized and implanted. So the uterus is regularly emptied. No “tiny little fetuses” left.

These ideas come from all those people who didn’t take sex education because the religious right prevented it from being taught in public school.

But even if kids go to public school in Texas, they’re going to graduate with the belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old because it’s in the Christian bible.   They’ll also believe that racial backgrounds come from a curse that God placed on Noah’s son and that biblical stories of the sun standing still was proved by astronauts’ discovery of “a day missing in space.” A report from the Texas Freedom Network found that over half the state’s schools teach students to believe in the Bible as “the written word of God.”

A slide show in suburban Houston’s Klein Independent School District (ISD) states, “The Bible is united in content because there is no contradictions [sic] in the writing. The reason for this is because the Bible is written under God’s direction and inspiration.”

Prosper ISD in northern Texas proclaims that “the first time the Lord gathered his people back was after the Babylonian captivity. The second time the Lord will gather his people back will be at the end of the age.”

Some of these Bible classes in Texas public school double as “science” classes. Eastland ISD outside Fort Worth shows videos of a dinosaur footprint on top of “a pristine human footprint.”

A chart in Amarillo ISD identifies the sources of racial and ethnic groups, based on Noah’s three sons:  “Western Europeans” and “Caucasians” descend from Japeth; “African races” and Canaanites from Ham; and “Jews, Semitic people, and Oriental races” from Shem. Students are tested on this information as indicated by the following question: “Shem is the father of a) most Germanic races b) the Jewish people c) all African people.”

The following is found in the preface of one of the textbooks: “May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.’ And may you have ‘life in His name.’” Texas uses the 2007 state law permitting “elective courses on the Bible’s Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament” to pass along its revisionist science curriculum.

Eighty years ago in an objection to teaching foreign languages in the public schools, Texas governor Ma Ferguson was quoted as saying,  “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.” The state hasn’t made much progress.

Other beliefs promoted last month by the religious right explained that women are to blame for the country’s problems. As I wrote earlier, Pat Robertson claimed that men are driven to drink by ugly wives. And rape victims are to blame for this crime. India’s prominent Hindu leader guru Asaram Bapu, 71, told his followers that the brutally raped women in New Delhi, who later died, was at fault:

“Had she taken guru diksha and chanted the Saraswati Mantra, she would not have boarded any random bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend. Even if she did, she should have taken God’s name and asked for mercy. She should have called [her rapists] brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy. Had she said, ‘I am a weak woman, you are my brothers,’ such brutality would not have happened.”

Two other ways in which women are destroying the nation are the lack of a HIV cure and gun violence. Matt Barber of the legal group Liberty Counsel explained on his radio show that the person who would find the cure for HIV was probably already “slaughtered in the womb” because of legalized abortion. Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), fifth-ranking of House Republicans, said children on psychotropic drugs are likely contributing to gun crimes, primarily through greedy welfare moms trying to get more Social Security money:

“Where are we on all those psychiatric drugs? We’ve overmedicated kids. Quite frankly some of the overmedication of kids are because welfare moms want to get additional benefits and if they can put them on SSI through maintenance drugs, they can also put them on Social Security disability and get a separate check. That is wrong on every single level. Not only is it fraudulent to the government, but it also tells a kid with great potential, “don’t try because you’re disabled.”

There may be hope, however, after two members of Fred Phelps’ family announced they are leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka (KS). Phelps,83, and his clan are well known for their hate-filled rants against LGBT people, picketing funerals of fallen soldiers with signs saying that they deserved to die because of the sin in the United States. Sisters Megan and Grace, Phelps’ granddaughters, have gone to live with their cousin, Libby Phelps Alvarez, who left in 2009.

A highly visible and active member, 26-year-old Megan had taken care of most of Westboro’s social networking and regularly spoke on a Kansas City radio program. Blogger Jeff Chu wrote about Megan.

For many years, many of the people in the country were not familiar with the Phelps name. But after the group threatened to picket the funerals of victims from the Newtown (CT) massacre in December, a petition to officially designate the Westboro Baptist Church became highly popular. In January, church members failed to appear for demonstrations at four different Pennsylvania churches, and the inauguration Westboro protest had more signs than people.

The intolerance of various religious groups is exemplified by the Lutherans forcing an apology from one of its pastors who participated in an interfaith prayer service in Newtown (CT) immediately following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Rev. Rob Morris, a first-year pastor who lost one of his congregation at Christ the King Lutheran Church in the killing, gave the benediction at the December 16, 2013 service.

The 2.3-million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prevents joint worship with other religions because it might be seen as an endorsement of faiths that fail to recognize Jesus alone as a savior. After Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the synod, called Morris to apologize, the pastor wrote, “To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies.” Harrison called on Lutherans to support Morris “especially in providing funding for Christ the King as it continues to care for victims.”

Over eleven years ago, the Missouri Synod suspended Rev. David H. Benke from ministry for participating in a large interfaith prayer service following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. According to Rev. Wallace Schulz, Benke had broken the First Commandment, “I am the Lord thy God,” by worshiping with “pagans,” including Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu clergy members. Benke, who refused to apologize, was permitted to return to ministry two years later.

Top American Family Association official Bryan Fischer supported the Synod’s position, saying that Morris should not have taken part in an “idolatrous” function. According to Fischer,Christians have no right taking part in interfaith prayer services because they offer prayers to “counterfeit gods”  and any Christian who takes part in such functions would be “unequally yoked.”

That’s a reason for our polarity in the “united” states: mourning together is “unequally yoked.”

August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-A and Health Care Day, Ironic Combination

Today was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. At least that’s what Mike Huckabee wanted. After the president, Dan Cathy, came out with his anti-LGBT statements on the Biblical Recorder, Jim Henson Co. pulled its toys as giveaways in the stores and gave the money already received from the company to GLAAD. At least two mayors (Boston and Chicago) have said that the franchises are not welcome there, throwing fuel on the Chick-fil-A Wars.

Huckabee, who lost 105 pounds before he gained some back, invited the people of the United States to gain weight at Chick-fil-A. He called on people to honor “the godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A” today. It was estimated that 600,000 people showed up, gaining about 300,000 pounds if they each ate the Deluxe chicken Sandwich meal and the brownie sundae.

The arguments against protesting against Chick-fil-A is that people who own companies should be able to have their own opinions and we should all be tolerant. Lawsuits, however, show that the company walks its bigoted talk.  Houston resident Aziz Latif, 25, was praised as a “great manager” a week before he was fired in 2000 after four years with the company. His lawsuit against Chick-fil-A in 2002 claimed that he was fired the day after he refused to pray to Jesus during a training session. Latif also charged that the company refused to pay his medical bills and expenses while he was a participant in Chick-fil-A’s employee benefit plan. The case has been settled on undisclosed terms.

More recently, Brenda Honeycutt, is also suing the company for gender discrimination. Jeff Howard, the owner and operator of a Duluth (GA) Chick-fil-A, fired Honeycutt on June 27, 2011, so she could be a “stay home mother.” According to court documents, Howard held meetings without Honeycutt present and eventually replaced her with a male employee. Before her firing, Honeycutt’s performance had been “satisfactory-to-above satisfactory.”

Religious guru Kevin Swanson displayed his ignorance on two fronts when he joked about muppets being sodomites and wondered if they supported NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association which normalizes pedophilia. It’s probably impossible to teach Swanson that homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same. He’s also unaware that the muppets were sold to Disney years ago. No muppets were ever provided to—or removed from—Chick-fil-A.

The debate about the homophobia that Chick-fil-A’s president displayed,  isn’t helping the company. Market research firm YouGov reports that Chick-fil-A’s BrandIndex score had fallen 40 percent nationally since Dan Cathy’s anti-LGBT announcement. The BrandIndex score averages other measurements, including “quality, impression, value, reputation, satisfaction and willingness to recommend.” On July 19, 2012, Chick-fil-A’s score was 65, one of the highest in the industry; less than one week later it was at 39. The score in the South fell from 80 to 44, and the brand went from 76 to 35 in the Northeast.

Not all Chick-fil-A franchises are anti-LGBT. The only one in New Hampshire, owned by Anthony Picolia, is a major sponsor of NH Pridefest to be held in Manchester on August 11 this year. Picolia said, “In both my personal and professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community. It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

The money from the franchises, however, has made billionaires out of the owners Dan Cathy, 59, and Donald Cathy , known as Bubba, the two sons of Chick-fil-A’s founder, Samuel Truett Cathy. The money that feeds to the corporation goes not only to the millions that Dan Cathy has personally donated but also to the $19.5 million that the corporation has also given anti-LGBT organizations. Each of the company’s 1,615 locations averaged gross sales $2.9 million in 2011, $400,000 more than runner-up McDonalds. The company also operates restaurants under the names Truett’s Grill and Dwarf House.

August 1 is also a day of real celebration for 47 million women in the United States. It’s the first day that all new and renewing health plans must cover a number of health services—free!  This is the day that insurers have to provide women free contraception, saving everyone who wants it about $50 per month. Women who use contraceptives consistently and correctly will have only five percent of all unintended pregnancies. Also free are well woman visits; mammograms; pap tests; screening for gestational diabetes; domestic violence screening and counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; HPV testing; screening for sexually transmitted infections and counseling for sexually-active women; HIV screening and counseling; and DNA testing for high-risk strains of HPV.

If we can keep the Republicans from overturning the Affordable Care Act, 2014 is the year that insurance companies can’t charge women more than men for the same health plans. At that time no one can be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

The Affordable Care Act is making Republicans more and more incensed, causing them to scale up their egregious statements. In decrying this day of celebration for women, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) said, “I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that’s Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that’s the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

Kelly’s objection is apparently to the loss of freedom because women will now receive contraception. Almost 5,000 women die of pregnancy-related causes each year in the United States. Almost 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year. Another 4,000+ women die of cervical cancer, almost entirely caused by HPV, each year. Infant mortality in the United States is 5.28 per 1,000 live births; 25 other countries have a lower mortality rate. As Krauthammer said about Romney, I have no adjectives to describe these men who think that women don’t deserve contraception.

It’s ironic that conservatives define “freedom” as keeping women from getting adequate health care just as Dan Cathy may define freedom as taking away rights from LGBT people. Today I celebrated by feeling joyful that millions of women in this country will have a better life because of President Obama’s health care act.  Someday I’ll celebrate the day that LGBT people gain their freedom.

If you missed Chick-fil-A today, you might want to support LGBT-rights activists when they gather Friday outside Chick-fil-A locations for National Same-Sex Kiss Day. They plan to embrace in kiss-ins to draw attention to the company’s donations to anti-marriage-equality groups.

Note: Just as I was posting the above blog, I received this from friend Christie Gibrich, a wonderful youth librarian in Texas, of all places. It’s worth reading. Thanks for writing this, Christie!


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