Nel's New Day

April 7, 2016

Lawmakers Rule Medical Advice for Women

In an interview on MSNBC, Donald Trump brought up the idea that women who seek abortions should be “punished.” The audience, women’s rights groups, and other politicians were incensed. How dare he say that!? The March for Life erroneously referred to women who gets abortions as “victims” and said that it was wrong to “punish” these women. There can’t be punishment for these women in such a free country as the United States! Oh no?!

In most states, women cannot get abortions from state health care, at least five states have each closed all except one clinic providing this service, a current case in the Supreme Court is considering whether to force women in Texas to drive at least 200 miles to a women’s clinic, and at least one state restricts abortions past 18 weeks. Women are forced to get and watch ultrasounds, wait up to three days, and listen to lies from doctors telling them the problems of having abortions such as cancer.

Just when rational people think that a state cannot come up with more punishment for women who have abortions, Indiana has thought of a few new wrinkles. Gov. Mike Pence has totally banned abortions if a women requests it because a fetus has Down syndrome or any other disorder. These defects could include the ones related to Zika virus, meaning that a woman would be forced to carry fetuses to term that have no chance of surviving long after birth. A lethal fetal illness is legal only if the woman informs the state that she plans to terminate the pregnancy.

A woman’s doctor can face a wrongful death lawsuit if he provides an abortion after learning about a pregnancy complication. One OB/GYN said that the law could imperil patients’ health by deterring doctors from performing a legal medical procedure. He said that “some women have “cases in which the risk of death during a full-term pregnancy is more than 14 times higher than for a termination of pregnancy.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with 30,000 members, opposes the law because a patient might keep life-threatening information from her doctor.

The legislature didn’t stop there. Donating fetal issue to scientific research is classified as a felony crime, and abortion providers responsible for burying or cremating “fetal remains.” Physicians must also provide information “about perinatal hospice care to a pregnant woman who is considering an abortion because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.” Women are forced to listen to a fetal heartbeat and view an ultrasound 18 hours before getting an abortion in a state that has only four clinics in 92 counties.

Women have decided to fight back. In a new program called “Periods for Pence,” women are calling the governor’s office with details about their menstruation. It is based on the women’s assumption that the governor deserves updates on their bodies because he has shown so much interest in them. Below are sampling of call reports:

Me: “Good morning. I just wanted to call and let the good Governor know that I am still not pregnant, since he seems to be so worried about women’s reproductive rights.”

Irritated lady on the other end of the phone: “And can I get your name, please?”

Me: “Sure, it’s Not Pregnant Laura.”

 

Just got through to Governor Pence’s office. (The operator must be on break.)

Me: “Hi, is this the operator, or the Governor’s office?”

Them: “Um, this is the office, but I am covering for the operator right now.”

Me: “Oh, good. I need to get a message to the Governor that I am on day three of my period. My flow seems abnormally heavy, but my cramps are much better to–”

Them: (Seriously pissed and trying to keep their voice down, but not quite succeeding.) MA’AM, WHAT IS IT THAT I CAN HELP YOU WITH?

Me: “Oh, I don’t need your help, I just wanted to keep Governor Pence informed of my reproductive cycle, since he seems so concerned.

Them: “Ugh.” (Click.)

 

I called to let him know that I am a lesbian so I won’t be needing an abortion (or legal protections, for that matter lol double whammy! Thanks, Pence!) also mentioned that I’m not currently menstruating but I might be ovulating.

 

Me: “Good Morning. I just wanted to inform the Governor that things seem to be drying up today. No babies seem to be up in there. Okay?”

Them: (Sounding strangely horrified and chipper at the same time.) “Ma’am, can we have your name?”

Me: “Sure. It’s Sue.”

Them: “And your last name?”

Me: “Magina. That’s M-A-G-I-N-A. It rhymes with–”

Them: “I’ve got it.” (Click.)

 

Someone from Pence’s campaign literally just rang my doorbell, wanting to know if I was likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the upcoming election. I let him know that I wasn’t sure, and that I’m going to be ovulating soon, and that I was unclear on whether or not I was legally required to fertilize the egg. He started cracking up.

 

Operator: Governor Mike Pence’s Office, please hold…  (Six minutes later.) Governor Pence’s office, thank you for waiting…

Me: Hi, I’m a native Hoosier who derives from the uterus of another native Hoosier…

Operator: (clears throat.)

Me: I now live in California and I’m wondering if my uterus still falls under the jurisdiction of Governor Pence or– ?

Operator: Please hold. (Click.)

The woman who launched this initiative on Facebook wrote:

“The more I read this bill, the more vague language I found and the more loopholes, and it just seemed incredibly intrusive. So I wanted to give a voice for women who really didn’t feel like they were given any kind of input into a bill that would affect our life so much.”

The law includes a reporting requirement that “some women on their periods may unknowingly expel a fertilized egg and thus have a miscarriage and be potentially liable if the egg is not correctly disposed of.” Lawmakers didn’t take into consideration that about half of miscarriages take place shortly after a fertilized is implanted and occur about the time when a woman might expect her menstrual period. She may not even know that she was having a “miscarriage.” As the creator of Periods of Pence wrote, “I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not ‘properly dispose’ of this or report it.” Therefore she recommends to women that they report to the governor about their menstrual periods in detail to keep from breaking his new law.

Some women, such as Madi Whitman, are choosing to post information on the governor’s Facebook page instead of calling:

Dear Governor Pence,

I recently switched from tampons to a menstrual cup and have found that it has an unexpected learning curve. I am having trouble with the position of my cervix at the onset of my period and as a result the cup leaks. Since you are so invested in my reproductive health and clearly understand my anatomy better than I do, I would appreciate any advice you have in cup placement and rotation techniques. Thanks!

And this request from Brandy Hager Smith:

Governor, I am thinking about getting a pair of underwear called Thinx. They are designed to catch the blood from Menstruation, replacing the need for tampons & pads. Are these approved by you? I don’t want to violate any of our strict women’s rights laws in Indiana. Thanks for undying commitment to women’s health!!!

Those wishing to participate in “Periods for Pence” can call (317) 232-4567, or 317–569-0709, fill out a form on the governor’s website,  or leave a message on his Facebook page. More message are on his Facebook page.)

In late March, one Missouri state legislator explained one reason why lawmakers consider themselves authorities on women’s reproduction. In a discussion about whether to ban abortion in the state, GOP Rep. Mike Moon claimed to know when a fetus becomes an “unborn human child” because he is a “former embryo.” After the audience finished laughing at him, a certified health expert testified against the resolution, explaining that there is no scientific consensus on when a fetus becomes a person and declaring that women should have the final choice about ending a pregnancy. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that only “all persons born” are granted citizenship under the jurisdiction of the United States. Two key words: persons and born. Personhood begins at birth.

When the cervix of a pregnant woman in Texas began prematurely dilating, nothing could be done to save the 20-week-old fetus. State law sent the woman home to wait until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat or the woman could deliver the fetus. After she started bleeding, she went back to the hospital where she had to wait four days until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat.

Thanks to “religious liberty” and conservatives, medical decisions are made by ignorant lawmakers who consider themselves experts in women’s reproductive health.

February 24, 2013

Aim for Freedom from Religion

All the scandals swirling about the Catholic Church and the pope may be shaking up the leadership. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland and the only cardinal invited to next month’s conclave, said that priests should be able to get married:

“For example the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry–Jesus didn’t say that. There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church–in some branches of the Catholic church–priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine of origin and it could get discussed again. I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.”

Celibacy has not always been a mandate in the Catholic Church. Most of Jesus’s apostles were married, and priests could be married until the eleventh century when Pope Gregory VII required that priests be celibate. Before then six popes had families with some of their sons then becoming popes.

The German Bishops Conference now says that Catholic hospitals can give emergency contraception to rape victims. After two Cologne Catholic hospitals turned away a rape victim, Cardinal Joachim Meisner said that the church was “deeply ashamed by this incident because it goes against our Christian mission.” Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary, Georg Gaenswein, told him that it was “justifiable” in rape cases to provide drugs to prevent conception. The Catholic Church, unlike many Evangelical fundamentalists, understands that “the ‘morning-after pill,’ …  has a preventive and not an abortive effect.”

At this time, however, the Catholic Church is confused about whether a fetus is a person. To some of the leaders, it may depend on whether denying the “personhood” of a fetus, as they are wont to do, will save them money. The decision goes back to a case in 2006 when a woman seven-months pregnant with twins went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More hospital in Canon City (CO) and suffered a massive heart attack. Her obstetrician, on call for emergencies that night, failed to answer a page, and the woman died. The fetuses did not survive.

The woman’s husband filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, maintaining that the doctor should have answered the page, told the hospital staff to perform a C-section, and possibly saved the fetuses. The hospital’s defense was to claim that this was not a wrongful-death case because the fetuses were not people.

Recent publicity surrounding the Catholic hospital’s defense of the lawsuit led them to declare that their original defense was “morally wrong,” but they blamed the lawyers for using this defense without the hospital’s approval.

This past week the National Organization of Marriage accused state Sen. Pat Steadman of being contemptuous of religion in response to Steadman’s speech on discrimination and marriage equality:

“Don’t claim religion as a reason the law should discriminate. We have laws against discrimination. Discrimination is banned in employment, and housing, and public accommodations, and so bakeries that serve the public aren’t supposed to look down their noses at one particular class of persons and say ‘we don’t sell cakes to you.’ It’s troubling, this discrimination. And it’s already illegal.

“So, what to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? I’ll tell you what I’d say: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’ And live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself. Away from the stream of commerce where you may have to serve them or employ them or rent banquet halls to them.

“Go some place and be as judgmental as you like. Go inside your church, establish separate water fountains in there if you want, but don’t claim that free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains for her citizens. That’s not what we’re doing here.”

LGBT people aren’t the only ones who suffer from religious bigotry. After 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist sued a Rhode Island school because of its prayer mural dedicated to “Our Heavenly Father,” a florist refused to send a dozen red roses that the Freedom from Religion Foundation ordered for her, citing “religious reasons.” The FtF is now suing Marina Plowman, owner of Twins Florist in Cranston, on the basis that she violated state laws. Metaphorical roses have now been sent by Hemant Mehta: he started a scholarship fund for her which has reached almost $50,000.

Another Colorado organization is using a biblical passage for positive results. According to Isaiah 2:4,

“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

That’s exactly what the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission did. Partnering with Mike Martin of RAWtools—“war” spelled backwards—the group promoting social justice and sustainability has launched the “Guns-to-Gardens Tools” project. Colorado Springs Mike Warren, kicked off the event by donating the AK-47 assault rifle that he bought after the 9/11 attacks.

“I always had it in the back of my mind, there might be something I needed it for,” Warren said. “Sounds stupid now.” He added, “This thing will turn a human being into rags. The fact of the matter is, upon reflection, I concluded that it would be stupid for me to keep thing.” Martin said the gun will be “a garden trowel, a cultivator and a weed puller,” donated to Ranch Community Garden, a non-profit project that provides plots to local residents who lack garden space.

Religion is losing its control over government. Barna Group found that 66 percent of Americans believe that no one set of religious values should dominate in the U.S. On the other hand, 23 percent believe “traditional Judeo-Christian values” should be given preference over competing faiths. Only among evangelical Christians does that percentage rise to 54 percent.

It gives hope to those of us who believe that constitutional separation of church and state means freedom from religion for all.

August 19, 2012

Changing Bible Lets Unicorns Disappear

A basic tenet of conservative Evangelists and Fundamentalists is that they must accept every single word of their bible in its literal meaning. Their perspective of the “word of God” comes from this one source that was believed to be the legal code for the ancient nation of Israel covered in the first five books of the Old Testament, which even describes the punishment for knocking out a slave’s tooth.

People who believe in the literalness of the bible don’t know what is in their bible because they don’t study it; they just listen to the man who gives the sermon in church. Or they just think that part of it is out of date, for example the pieces about killing women adulterers and keeping slaves and wearing clothing of mixed fiber and on and on.

Yet there’s nothing in Catholic and Evangelical bibles against marriage equality—indeed the bible says nothing about legal marriage. The bible also doesn’t object to abortion; it doesn’t mention it. Some people say that abortion is murder, but the bible says nothing about a fetus being a person and hasn’t been considered that until modern times.

And the bible doesn’t support the Republicans’ belief in “personhood,” the current conservative position that an egg has constitutional rights from the first second of its fertilization. The only ruling that discusses fetuses concerns the miscarriage of a fetus when the woman is struck by a man other than her husband during a fight. In that case, if there is no lasting injury, the man makes the payment that the court determines. Otherwise society settles the damages, probably killing the man who caused the miscarriage.

“If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Exodus 21:22-24)

The penalty in the second case is death, one which no current law in this country requires. The Old Testament does not give personhood to fetuses.

But the bible does have quite a bit to say about unicorns.

Psalm 92:10 “You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox…. But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.”

Job 39:9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Will the unicorn be willing to serve you, or abide by your crib?”

Job 39:10 “Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Can you bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow?”

Numbers 24:8 “God brought them out of Egypt…. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bone.”

Numbers 23:22 “God brought them out of Egypt…. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. God brought them out of Egypt; he has as it were the strength of an unicorn.” [The bible can be a bit repetitive!]

Psalm 29:6 “He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young…. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.”

Deuteronomy 33:17 “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”

Psalms 22:21 “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”

Isaiah 34:7 “And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”

The use of the word “unicorn” disappeared after the King James Version of the bible. Since then, bible “scholars” have claimed that the unicorn may have existed and become extinct. Another rationale for the use of the word is that the meaning has changed throughout the past two centuries.

Why, if there is more about unicorns in the bible than fetuses, do Fundamentalists support the belief of personhood? Lynn Beisner explains that the development of the Christian Right caused a mutual support between the Evangelicals and the Catholic Church. Because the Pope is against abortion, Catholics oppose this practice despite the lack of evidence in their bible. Evangelicals needed to maintain their dominance through an unfettered capitalist market in opposition to Catholic beliefs about the importance of economic and social justice. In the bargain between two powerful religious groups, Evangelicals took an anti-abortion stance, and Catholic male leadership took on the importance of a destructive capitalism.

Now extreme religious groups have support from the the great infusion of money from corporations who donate to campaigns of legislators who will destroy regulations and give the wealthy more and more tax advantages. The result of this coordination between the wealthy and the religious is to turn the United States into a theocracy.

Some Catholics and Fundamentalists are beginning to oppose their church’s positions. Some Catholics, including the American nuns, are protesting the Catholic position that ignores the needs of poor people and denies rights to human beings. At the same time, young Evangelicals are beginning to question their religion’s anti-LGBT position.

People who support formal Christian religions need to protest both sides of the Catholic and Evangelical power structure—LGBT people should have legal rights, women should have control over their bodies, and everyone should have a safety net. More Fundamentalists and Catholics need to move ahead in their religious beliefs and not wait for the religious leadership that won’t accept the changes in their bible over time.

No more unicorns? Let’s also give women their freedom, accept love between two people of the same sex, and allow the government to help people on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

February 25, 2012

Protesting Conservatives Takes Odd Turns

In their protests against the men’s refusal to allow women to testify in the House hearing regarding President Obama’s decision to make contraception available to all women, Congresswomen boycotted the session. The ensuing publicity make the Congressmen who prevented women from having a part in their future brought the conservatives’ “war on women” to the forefront in a way that other protests have not been able to do.

An example of the conservative male mentality comes from Washington state Senator Michael Baumgartner, challenging Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for her re-election, when he denounced her for signing a Senate letter supporting the position that the “morning after” birth control pill be available over the counter at pharmacies.  Baumgartner said that Cantwell was not qualified to talk on the issue because she isn’t married but claims that he is because he has two daughters. He said nothing about Catholic bishops not being married.

The 1,000 activists who kept a silent vigil at the Virginia statehouse to protest the proposed invasive transvaginal ultrasound bill (the probe is eight to ten inches long) was a solemn struggle against the attempt toward eliminating women’s rights, including access to abortion and contraception, while the Republican presidential candidates make hay with their homophobic claims about reversing this nation’s movement toward diversity.

Other methods of protest are a form of black humor, for example the lesbian judge in Texas who refuses to marry people. Straight people, that is. Tonya Parker recently told members of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas that she would not marry heterosexual couples: “I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away. So I usually will offer them something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry. I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people.’ And it’s kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can’t be performed for me, so I’m not going to do it.”

Two lawmakers have found even more creative approaches toward the male war on women’s reproductive rights. Constance Johnson, a Democratic state senator in Oklahoma, addressed the “personhood bill” brought forth in the state, which would give zygotes the same rights as adults, by adding a provision that would treat any sperm not intended to fertilize an egg as an “an action against an unborn child.” Her language read: “However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.” Sad to say, Johnson later voted to table her amendment, and the personhood bill passed the Senate.

In Virginia, Democratic state Sen. Janet Howell introduced an amendment into the legislature that would have required men to obtain a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before they could receive a prescription for Viagra. Her amendment was in response to the bill mandating medical vaginal penetration before having an abortion even if women did not agree to the procedure. A few Republicans tried to explain that the consent at having sex carried over to the ultrasound penetration. Even if the explanation was at all rational—which it wasn’t—the rapes and incest were certainly not “consensual.”

Howell said, “We need some gender equity here. The Virginia Senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we’re going to do that to women, why not do that to men?” Fortunately, Virginia abandoned both the transvaginal ultrasound bill and the personhood bill—for now.

Texas has already passed a mandated sonogram law that requires women to have transvaginal ultrasounds because the majority of women get abortions during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus is too small to be picked up on in an abdominal ultrasound. This law forcing vaginal penetration without a woman’s permission is in direct conflict to the Texas Penal Code that defines sexual assault as “intentionally or knowingly caus[ing] the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent.”

Watching the insanity in other states, I’m grateful to be from Oregon where the Republican co-chair of the House, with the membership split 50-50 between the parties, said about the three important issues to discuss in the state legislature, “You have health care, you have education, and you have jobs.” What a refreshing change from the Republican-controlled states and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives where the “important” issues are eliminating voters with voter ID laws, making women second-class citizens through personhood and restrictive pre-abortion mandates, and eradicating unions to wipe out the middle class.

January 26, 2012

Legislator Wants to Keep “Aborted Fetuses” Out of Food

Coca-Cola may be getting a big boost in Oklahoma, and it’s all about “personhood.” Republican State Senator Ralph Shortey, a Republican, has proposed a bill to ban “aborted human fetuses in food.” The bill reads: “No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.” Asked for the source of this possibility, he said “internet research.”

This “research” may be the actions of a group that tried to boycott PepsiCo because it works with a research and development company that they accused of using a line of embryonic kidney stem cells from the 1970s to test “flavor enhancers.” The group called Children of God for Life claims that these stem cells are the same as aborted fetuses: “What they do not tell the public is that they are using HEK 293–human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors,’ stated Debi Vinnedge, President for CGL. She did admit that these reported “aborted fetal cells” are not actually in the product.

PepsiCo partnered with food product development company Senomyx to develop a new low-calorie sweetener, but the company denied using fetal tissue in its research. “Unfortunately, there is some misinformation being circulated related to research techniques that have been used for decades by universities, hospitals, government agencies, and private companies around the world. These claims are meant to suggest that human fetal tissue is somehow used in our research,” wrote Margaret Corsi, a spokesperson for PepsiCo. “That is both inaccurate and something we would never do or even consider.”

Children of God for Life is a “medical” offshoot of the American Life League which is behind the “personhood” bills described yesterday pushing “personhood” bills and other attempts to close Planned Parenthood and ban birth control.

Shortey said that he doesn’t positively know if any foods contain “aborted human fetuses.” But he added that, without his bill, government could “force every human being” to be an organ donor “and that’s kind of what we’re doing with these children. Before they’re born, we’re going to kill them and then we can do anything we want to with your body.”

Let’s imagine that the bill passes, crazy as it sounds. It could be a ban to all stem cell research and products that might cure such disorders as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If these products enter the body, stem cell treatments could be described as “a product that contains aborted human fetuses.”

This isn’t the first crackpot bill Shortey has put forward in Oklahoma’s senate. Last year he wanted law enforcement to be able to seize the homes and vehicles of illegal immigrants. In addition, he wanted to deny Oklahoma citizenship to anyone born in the state to illegal immigrants, in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. Then, probably feeling insecure because of the bills he sponsored, he proposed an amendment to an existing bill that would allow legislators to carry firearms anywhere in the state, including the floor of the House and the Senate. This year he has already sponsored a bill asking the public to vote on a state amendment that would abolish the Court of Criminal Appeals.

There are lots of problems in the country; now one of them seems to be that legislators are trying to outlaw far-fetched possibilities of the future instead of solving existing evil around us.

January 25, 2012

Ask “Personhood” Advocates These Questions

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:21 PM
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“Personhood” of fertilized eggs is going to be a big issue throughout the coming year. The Colorado organization Personhood USA plans to push state constitutional amendments defining life as beginning at fertilization—thus making not only abortion but also birth control illegal—across the country from Oregon through the Midwest states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma to Florida.

For most of the 99% of the women who have used contraception, the concept is insane. But a letter from Doris M. Williams in Eugene (OR) to The Register-Guard brings up many more issues:

  • How would the gestational status of the entire population of women of reproductive age be monitored? Would massive invasive screening programs be needed to identify every newly fertilized egg so that the rights and protections of personhood can be guaranteed?
  • Would child abuse laws be applied to protect the fertilized egg? Given the research showing fetal damage from tobacco smoke and alcohol, use of such toxic substances by pregnant women could be deemed child abuse. Would pregnant women who abuse their fertilized eggs  be arrested and perhaps incarcerated to prevent them from abusing their fertilized eggs?
  • If the fertilized egg becomes a tax deduction within its family unit, how much would that reduce government tax revenue?
  • Would declaring fertilized eggs persons have effects on programs such as welfare payments based on number of children? Are we prepared to increase welfare payments from the moment a pregnancy is documented rather than wait until birth?
  • What effect would declaring fertilized eggs persons (thereby adding eight or nine months to a person’s age) have on qualifying for age-based rights and benefits such as voting, drivers’ licenses, and Social Security?

I would add two more questions:

  • If child abuse laws are carried out, then would everyone who smokes be considered liable under the law because of the dangers of second-hand smoke?
  • Would the care of fertilized eggs then largely be ignored as this country ignores the needs of millions of children after birth?

Every time you hear people say that they would vote for a “personhood” constitution, ask them these questions. And ask them how much money they are willing to pay to keep the millions of women who violate the “personhood” mandate in prison.

December 7, 2011

Corporations, Wealthy Work to Increase Political Control

Fortunately, I don’t live in Iowa—or New Hampshire—or any other state that will have primaries or caucuses early in 2012. Those are the states where people have to watch television advertising for and against Republican presidential candidates nonstop unless they have a way to block these ads or just don’t watch TV.

At least TV stations are making big bucks because corporations and super PACS are permitted unlimited spending in federal campaigns, thanks to George W. Bush’s Supreme Court. The activist approach of conservative Roberts court was made obvious in its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned key provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, rules that kept corporations–and their lobbyists and front groups (as well as labor unions)–from spending unlimited amounts of cash on campaign advertising within 60 days of a general election or 30 days before a primary for federal office.

Former Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, explained the results of the ruling: “We’re now in a situation where a lobbyist can walk into my office…and say, ‘I’ve got five million dollars to spend, and I can spend it for you or against you. Which do you prefer?’” To give all this money to the conservatives, who will probably spend 90 percent of this advertising money and swing the elections toward the far right, the court used the concept of “corporate personhood.”

Grayson said, “One-hundred years of settled law meant that corporations cannot buy elections inAmerica, and they [Supreme Court] not only allowed corporations to buy those elections, but they made it a constitutional right.” Although the plaintiffs said nothing about the First Amendment, the court decided to use this as the basis for their decision. Justice John Paul Stevens noted that the conservative majority had “changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”

Corporate personhood’s origin in English law was based on the approach that companies have to be considered “persons” in order to sue them. An inanimate object can’t be sued.

The nineteenth-century robber barons managed to get a few corrupt jurists to codify the idea that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as living, breathing people in the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The railroad used the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to avoid paying taxes because states had different tax rates.

The courts bought the argument, but historian Thom Hartmann found no mention about “corporate personhood” in the original verdict. This declaration comes from the headnote to the case—a commentary written by the clerk, which is not legally binding—in which the Court’s clerk wrote: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Over 100 years of Supreme Court decisions have been based on an incorrect headnote written by J.C. Bancroft David, a corrupt official, who had previously served as the president of a railroad, working “in collusion with another corrupt Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Field.” The railroad companies, according to Hartmann, had promised Field that they’d sponsor his run for the White House if he assisted them in their effort to gain constitutional rights.

Even after the ruling, Hartmann noted, the idea of corporate personhood remained relatively obscure until corporate lawyers dusted off the doctrine during the Reagan era and used it to help reshape the U.S. political economy. Nike, Sinclair Broadcasting, Dow Chemical, J.C. Penney, tobacco and asbestos companies—all these corporations used the amendment written to free the slaves for their own benefit to avoid surprise inspections, keep secret dangers of their products, and continue practice illegal discrimination. All these companies succeeded except for Nike.

Legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick condemned the court’s “systematic dismantling of existing legal protections for women, workers, the environment, minorities and the disenfranchised.” Those who care about spiraling inequality, she wrote on the Slate, “need look no further than last term at the high court to see what happens when—just for instance—one’s right to sue AT&T, one’s ability to being a class action against Wal-Mart, and one’s ability to hold an investment management fund responsible for its lies, are all eroded by a sweep of the court’s pen.”

Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), among others, are fighting back against this corrupt vision of corporate control by introducing and supporting a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. Udall’s proposal would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures, and allow states to regulate such spending at their level. It would also provide for implementation and enforcement of the amendment through legislation. Over 750,000 people have signed petitions to void the Supreme Court ruling.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) also provided the following: “The SCOTUS made a mistake in the Citizens United ruling by equating money with political speech. We must redress this error before special interest money comes to dominate political campaigns and determine the outcome of American elections.

“On June 24, 2010, I joined with my colleagues in the House to pass HR 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, which aims to curb the ill effects of Citizens United in the near-term. Had the DISCLOSE Act passed in the Senate  it would have required corporations, unions, and other interests to adhere to campaign finance disclosure and expenditure requirements similar to those already in place for candidates standing for election to Congress. Although this bill would not have prevented an influx of money in federal elections, it would have made the sources of such money transparent to the public and prevented foreign intervention.

“In the 112th Congress, I have reintroduced a proposed amendment to the Constitution of theUnited States, H.J. Res 72, to address the long-term and fundamental problems presented by the Citizens United ruling. My proposed amendment would add a new and unfortunately necessary clause to the Constitution affirming that money can be a corrupting influence in a democracy and therefore excessive use of money to buy elections can be restricted under the Constitution of our great country.

“Money does not equal speech. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure free and fair elections in Oregon and throughout the United States of America.”

At least one judge is determined to go farther than the Supreme Court in allowing corporations carte blanche. Although the Supreme Court ruling allowed unlimited independent expenditures in political campaigns from corporations and other organizations, it did not overturn the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates campaigns. Judge James Cacheris of Virginia ruled that “Citizens United requires that corporations and individuals be afforded equal rights to political speech, unqualified.” The Department of Justice is appealing Cacheris’ ruling to the 4th Circuit Court.

Worse yet, Karl Rove has asked the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) if he can run coordinated political advertisements, featuring candidates the PAC is supporting. He justifies his request in this way: “While these advertisements would be fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012, they would presumably not qualify as ‘coordinated communications.’”

After debating the question of whether super PAC ads featuring a member of Congress would violate the coordinate ban, which blocks certain interactions between independent groups and candidate committees, the FEC deadlocked at a 3-3 vote. The PAC’s lawyer, Thomas Josefiak, said, “Certainly they’re coordinated, but we’re using that in the lay sense. The question is, is it coordinated from a regulatory perspective?”

The topic was a source of discussion–and hilarity–on Stephen Colbert’s comedy show, The Colbert Report. Typical of Colbert’s tongue-in-cheek approach, he provides a solution to Rove’s request: “To avoid the appearance of collusion, the F.E.C. could rule that candidates can appear in Super PAC ads only against their will,” he wrote. “They’d have to be kidnapped, blindfolded, and thrown in a van before being forced to read a statement supporting their goals and then returned to their fundraisers in time for dessert.”

Commissioner Ellen Weintraub thanked Colbert for “shining a light on this little corner of government” as she brought up the hundreds of comments the commission had received on Rove’s request from viewers of his show.

The thin line between comedy skits and supposedly serious political discussions has dissolved.

November 12, 2011

Conservatives Continue War on Women

What do conservatives have against women? I don’t know, but I do know how they oppose considering us as equal human beings. Let’s start with Herman Cain. He seems determined to protect himself against allegations of sexual harassment and sexual abuse while blaming everyone else—the liberal media, Rick Perry (who blamed Mitt Romney), the Democratic machine, some mythical network, the women themselves, … Who’s next?! Some of these aren’t even allegations: the National Restaurant Association settled the statements against its CEO, Cain, thus admitting the accusations.

Cain always declares that he’s joking when he’s being offensive, for example, his comment at a campaign stop in Kalamazoo (MI). When someone mentioned Anita Hill, the woman who was pilloried for accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, to Cain, he responded, “Is she going to endorse me?” Not a horrible statement but certainly not appropriate, especially in light of statements from different women against Cain during the last two weeks. And an indication that he doesn’t believe in fair treatment of women.

As always, Rush Limbaugh manages to be the most offensive media representative. Consider his unbelievable statements about the women who have spoken out against Cain, for example slurping when he pronounced Sharon Bialek’s last name and repeating “buy-a-lick.” Limbaugh’s not alone in his offensiveness, however. On Fox News, Dick Morris asked when a Playboy spread would come. New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser was openly unprofessional, accusing Bialek of having “flirted like a tart” with Cain and declaring that “the gold rush is on” despite no evidence of her receiving money for coming forward. The Cain campaign trashed Bialek’s financial history, claiming that this proves that she’s lying.

Karen Kraushaar, the woman who was awarded money in her settlement after Cain’s sexual harassment, was treated in an equally shameful fashion. A pro-Cain website declared her an “ugly bitch,” and she has been criticized for having filed another, unrelated workplace complaint years later. When she asked for a joint press conference with other accusers, Limbaugh dived in again with his question, “Do they want to synchronize their menstrual periods? Why appear together?” He has a solution for women who are sexually harassed or abused: “You women, why don’t you just make it official and put on a burka and nobody will touch ya.”

Twenty years ago, Thomas declared himself the victim of media smears, and Cain is following his script. Yet the women end up suffering for coming forward, as shown two decades ago in the cruelly false responses to Hill’s openness about Thomas’ transgressions. Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, knows that all he has to do to win his case is to spread slime over any woman who complains about Cain’s actions because most women cannot cope with this disgusting treatment.

Yet conservatives, supposedly the defenders of the country’s moral values, approve of Cain no matter what he might have done. Judson Phillips, perhaps one of the most extreme Tea Party leaders, writes: “Let’s assume for the moment, all of the allegations are true. Let’s assume for the moment Herman Cain, back well over a decade ago, made some inappropriate comments to some women who were coworkers and let’s say just for the sake of argument that he even propositioned one of those women as the New York Times claims. Does that affect my favorable attitude towards Herman Cain? No, it does not.”

Another example of the conservatives’ war on women comes from the far-right Family Research Council. Its pro-family 100% “True Blue” rating award went this year to Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), sometimes called “the deadbeat dad.” His consistent votes “to defend faith, family and freedom” have an inverse relationship with his personal actions. Walsh failed his first family by refusing to pay child support—over $100,000 as of last summer—and his second wife by rejecting the Congressional health insurance plan, despite her on-going bad health issues. Recently, a judge rebuked Walsh for his failure to even show up at a court hearing about the missing child support payments.

Despite the promise from the House of Representatives to find jobs for people and grow the economy, the conservatives there are spending their time—after protecting “In God We Trust”–ratcheting up its war on women. After Mississippi (one of the most conservative states in the union) failed to pass the infamous “personhood” initiative, a gaggle of Republican lawmakers introduced three separate bills extending “personhood” rights to fertilized eggs.

Sixty-three House Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) signed onto Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-GA) “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” which uses the Mississippi personhood language. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) cosponsored Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) personhood bill, which would allow “the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.” Note that the Bachmann/Hunter bill doesn’t “require” prosecution,” which perhaps was the reason it has even more supporters, 91 to be specific.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) plans to introduce a bill again identical to the Mississippi personhood bill that would have amended the state’s Constitution so that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”  If any similar bill ever passes, one wonders if its passage would affect such laws as the number of “people” (including fertilized eggs) who could be in an elevator or on a bus at one time.

It is encouraging to note that Cain has lost support among women, down to 15 percent, since late October when he had 28 percent of their support. Conservatives are also bailing out, from 30 percent to 23 percent, and Tea Partiers have gone from 32 percent to 19 percent. Meanwhile as Cain’s support shrinks, Newt Gingrich’s support is growing. His multiple marriages and reasons for divorce illustrate his personal war on women.

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