Nel's New Day

February 22, 2019

DDT: Week 109 – Disregard from Allies, Corruption

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has lost—again. In VP Mike Pence’s attempt to turn Europeans against the 2015 Iran anti-nuclear deal at the 55th annual Munich Security Conference, he faced stony silence, starting when he said he brought greetings from DDT. Joe Biden received cheers for his speech. The French foreign minister asked why DDT can be so firm about opposing Iran while pulling troops out of Syria that helps Iran.

Like U.S. intelligence agencies, European nations have found no indication of Iran building nuclear weapons. Last month, Europe created a plan to purchase Iranian energy, stopping damage from U.S. sanctions, while not suffering U.S. financial reprimands. Even anti-Iran countries in the Middle East couldn’t agree at the meeting because of the Saudi-operated boycott of Qatar. With war-hungry national security adviser John Bolton, DDT wants a war with Iran, but his only follower may be Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “war with Iran.” The blasts against DDT came at the heels of a failure in a U.S.-led meeting about Iran in Warsaw where European nations sent only low-level delegations, if anyone.

No longer is Roe v. Wade being chipped away; it’s being chopped away with a hatchet. DDT’s newest rule takes Title X funds from family planning clinics that provide abortions, refer patients for abortions, or promote or support abortion for family planning. Funds will be directed to religious places, such as phony Crisis Pregnancy Centers, for women seeking reproductive health care—care which many CPCs promise but don’t provide. Title X covers reproductive health care for 4 million women every year at a cost of $286 million.

Former FBI deputy Andrew McCabe is providing the public with news about his conversations with DDT. A major revelation is that DDT believes that North Korea’s missiles can’t reach the U.S., despite intelligence to the contrary, because “[Vladimir] Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles.” On the day before its release, McCabe’s The Threat was #1 on the bestseller list.

Earlier this week, North Carolinian Baptist pastor Mark Harris, who paid a contractor to request and pick up absentee ballots that were either marked Republican or destroyed if for Democrats, said he knew nothing about what his employee was doing in an attempt to get seated in the U.S. House. Harris’ son said that he had told him about what was happening, but Harris said he ignored his son, a federal prosecutor, because he was only 27 years old at the time. The father described his son as a “very judgmental” person who “has a taste of arrogance.” A quantity of incriminating emails between Harris and his employee of them show that he lied about his ignorance. That issue seems to be the tipping point: Harris has asked for a new election. Harris excused himself by saying that he is recovering from an infection that led to sepsis and two strokes and therefore cannot deal with the “rigors” of the state election board hearing. The “rigors” of the election will start all over, beginning with a primary.

Most of DDT’s former Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, including VP Mike Pence, stayed silent about this fraud after their attempts to suppress poor and minority voters. The only GOP response came from election lawyer J. Christian Adams who scolded fellow commission member Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlop for a WaPo op-ed, “Why Doesn’t the ‘Voter Fraud’ Crowd Care about What Happened in North Carolina?” In a tweet, Adams called Dunlop a “charlatan.”

DDT deflected questions about the North Carolina  fraud by mentioning California and Texas. Told that these accusations had been disproved, he moved on. At the same time, DDT has been highly vocal about the revelation that Jussie Smollett allegedly paid two brothers $3,500 to fake a racist attack on him. Also missing from DDT’s prolific tweets is commentary on the arrest of a Coast Guard lieutenant, Christopher P. Hasson, for a domestic terrorist plot to kill prominent Democrats, CNN and MSNBC journalists, and “almost every last person on earth.” The self-identified white nationalist (aka supremacist), obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views, has stockpiled weapons and ammunition since 2017 to sow destruction and chaos. He also planned biological attacks targeting the food supply. Hasson got many of his ideas from books by Harold A. Covington, whose books, along with other white supremacist polemics, are  available on Amazon. Covington, who popularized the concept of a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest, died in 2017.

Federal authorities concealed the arrest for five days until a private citizen discovered information in a documents search about extremism. Another Coast Guard member was reprimanded and removed from the response to Hurricane Florence after the public complained that he flashed a white-supremacy sign last September during a televised interview with another officer.

The current cultural and political climate will most likely result in punitive measures for Smollett, concerns about the mental state of Hasson, and exoneration for Harris.

One DDT game is which Cabinet secretary is the next to go. Maybe Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta? Eleven years ago, Acosta, then U.S. Attorney for southern Florida, was sued for giving Jeffrey Epstein federal immunity on child molestation and trafficking charges, blocking an FBI probe into Epstein who may have trafficking young girls in Florida but also from other states and Europe. For his leadership in abusing scores of underage girls, Acosta received only 13 months of prison time, most of it on work release and the rest in a special suite separate from other prisoners. Epstein’s lawyers, including Ken Starr who led Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying, were largely allowed to set the terms of their client’s plea deal. Acosta had this evidence but complained that he would have trouble convicting Epstein.

The Miami Herald has been working on the story for months and reported yesterday a judicial ruling that Acosta and federal prosecutors “broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey.” The judge wrote that prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims Rights Act when they didn’t tell the victims but also misled the victims into believing that the case, secretly closed after the plea bargain was sealed, was ongoing. For the first time, a judge has ruled that Acosta illegally hid the agreement from Epstein’s victims although the only follow-up is that the victims have 15 days to settle the issue with the government. Acosta was so convincing during his confirmation hearings—even calling the Epstein deal a “point of pride”—that he gained the votes of all the GOP senators plus 8 Democrats and one independent.

Asked about Acosta, DDT said:

“I really don’t know too much about it. I know he’s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago.”

Sex trafficking in DDT’s mind exists only as a device to get votes through his wall on the southern border.

DDT doesn’t mind troops in Syria—he just thinks they shouldn’t be from the U.S. After he announced his pullout of the U.S. military, he asked Europe to send in more soldiers to replace them, raising questions of whether he thinks that Syria is safe enough to be left on its own. EU allies refused DDT’s request. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), separated himself from DDT by shouting at the DOD acting secretary Patrick Shanahan who supports the pullout by April 20. “That’s the dumbest f—ing idea I’ve ever heard,” Graham yelled. he said that ISIS would return, Turkey would attack Kurdish forces, and Iran would have the advantage. Shanahan agreed with Graham but said he would do what DDT wants. Maybe DDT listened to Graham: today he plans to keep 400 soldiers on the ground in Syria, up from the 200 that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced yesterday.

The leakiest White House in history has mandatory non-disclosure agreements for all employees—at least for now. Former DDT staffer Jessica Denson is suing to nullify the NDAs, claiming that their broadness allows retaliation against employees with legitimate workplace grievance. The lawsuit describes the NDAs as “unenforceable” and “unconscionable.” The class-action suit covers thousands of DDT’s employees and volunteers, including for his campaign, that prevented them from making any disparaging comments about DDT, the campaign, and his family.  Staffers aren’t even allowed copies of the NDAs that they sign that include a $10 million penalty for each infraction.

Roger Stone groveled after he sent out a tweet incorporating a gun target symbol with a photo of his judge and his criticism of her, but his abject apology wasn’t enough. She just placed a full gag order on him.

Spin—twisting negative events to make them sound positive—has reached an artistic high in a conservative Wall Street Journal editorial. Attorney David Rivkin and “legal theorist” Elizabeth Foley purported that criminal allegations against DDT are so many that he should not be investigated. One concern was taking time away from DDT’s “work”—aka “Executive Time.” Investigating DDT’s money laundering and other business fraud might take away from the unscheduled calls he makes to GOP legislators to talk about his television watching or golf or whatever.

February 8, 2019

DDT: Week 107 – Temper Tantrums, Threats

A wild week—Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered his usual lies in the State of the Union speech and the House committees began its investigative hearings. Tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) have the stench of fear, with a recent example of a tirade about how investigations of his scandals not being “allowed” finished by how “Dems and their committees are … even stealing people who work at White House.” An unnamed staffer guided a CNN reporter to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the Intelligence Committee, for an explanation. Schiff has hired former National Security Council members, who DDT had dumped, to work in the investigation into DDT’s finances and foreign connections. In an inverse act, Kashyap Patel, former staffer for former House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), to join the National Security Council.

Acting AG Matt Whitaker joined Republicans in responding with the same fear as DDT. Whitaker rudely responded to Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee hearing today, even telling the chair that his time for questioning was up. Whitaker said, “I’m here voluntarily,” but he might not be so fortunate at his next hearing. He refused to answer questions while disrespecting House Democrats. GOP committee members repeated conspiracy theories including the lie about the FBI tipping off CNN for the Roger Stone arrest. After he pounded the table and yelled at chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) tried to shut down Eric Swalwell (D-CA) when he questioned Whitaker about taking donations from foreign groups. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Whitaker for the redactions in a memo from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to Robert Mueller about the investigation. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked Whitaker to get DOJ employees to be loyal to DDT, despite the oath that they take to be loyal to the U.S. Constitution. Vox has a good rundown of the event.

Because the Senate still has a GOP majority, Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of its Intelligence Committee, is dragging his heels in any investigation of Russia collusion, but DDT still had to lie when he said that the committee had finished its investigation and had found “NO COLLUSION.”

The shutdown came about—and may return—because Congress has not provided a budget that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) will sign. At the same time, however, DDT has failed to comply with the law. It is his legal obligation to send a budget to Congress by the first Monday in February—February 4, 2019–which he has not done.

Yesterday was National Black HIV Awareness Day, and Tuesday DDT announced that he will end the HIV epidemic by 2030. Here’s the male white crowd who plan to carry out the plan.

The Supreme Court released both conservative and not-quite-so-conservative opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing in striking down Louisiana’s restrictive anti-abortion law—at least for now—but moved to the conservative side in refusing a Muslim any religious support during his execution in Alabama. The Supreme Court had already found the Louisiana law unconstitutional when the same one was passed in Texas, but DDT has added two conservative justices since 2016 when Roberts had dissented from overturning the Texas law. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), up for reelection next year, is taking criticism when she supported Brett Kavanaugh for the high court because she believed his promise that he would not overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade, legalizing some abortions.

AMI, owner of the National Enquirer which helped elect DDT with its suppression of news, may have lost its immunity from Robert Mueller. If the publishing company cooperates and avoids committing crimes, it won’t face prosecution for paying off a woman who had an affair with DDT. Upset about news published in the WaPo, AMI tried to extort Jeff Bezos, the newspaper owner, by threatening to publish more embarrassing material about his sexual affair.

Instead of being coerced, Bezos published the extortion message and his response in which he defined the extortion terms:

“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.’”

Bezos’ documents can be read in entirety here. The National Enquirer’s final paragraph in the blackmail note reads:

“If [Jeff Bezos] agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior [meaning reporting in the Washington Post], we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.”

Bezos indicated that the reason for National Enquirer’s may be WaPo’s coverage of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” wrote the world’s richest person.

DDT has refused to submit a requested report from Congress regarding White House findings on whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is personally responsible for the torture and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence determined that the premeditated murder was almost certainly from orders by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but DDT said he would retain relationships with Saudi Arabia even if the rulers were responsible for the killing. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, has claimed that the killing was a “rogue operation.” A bipartisan Senate group is considering asking the White House to lay sanctions against anyone considered “responsible.” A bill might include a refusal to sell Saudi Arabia certain military arms.

ICE may have hit a new low. Ordered last summer by the Supreme Court to give specific hearing dates, ICE agents issued “dummy” dates with threats that people would be deported if they didn’t attend. Immigrants crossed the country to comply with the orders only to find that the fake scheduled hearings didn’t exist. Chaos ensured as the photo to the left shows. Court administrators tried to help the immigrants by double-checking addresses and promising that they would soon receive hearing notices.

Because DDT has pulled out of a nuclear treaty with Russia, Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military to develop new ground-launched hypersonic missiles with an intermediate range and to convert previously sea-based cruise missiles for ground launch.

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. general in charge of military operations in the Middle East, testified that he was not consulted before DDT’s announcement of all 2,000 troop withdrawal from Syria. He also testified that taking pressure off ISIS will permit it to regroup and have “renewed vigor.”

The GOP and DDT’s tax cuts for the wealthy and big business may raise the deficit trillions of dollars, but many DDT’s supporters are discovering that it doesn’t help them. Here’s one of the angry responses:

“The @GOP tax bill cost my family THOUSANDS of dollars this year on our return due to changes, thereby hitting us with the LARGEST tax increase of our lives. We are middle-class homeowners, and you raised our taxes. Infuriating!”

IRS accounting deception to keep people unaware of how little tax cuts would help them—at least until after the midterm elections—may have added to their frustration. Instead of telling people that the tax “reform” wouldn’t give much relief to most people, the IRS changed withholding guidelines that would give more money back to workers in each paycheck by reducing the amount of taxes withheld throughout 2018. In the past, people tended to get refunds, but the new system means much smaller refunds or even the requirement to send more money to the IRS. Discovering that corporations are getting even more of a break than they were promised will undoubtedly result in more rage, especially if they find out that companies get a much larger tax break fi they move their profits overseas—about half as much tax responsibility.

Maybe some people have already learned their lesson: over three-fourths of registered voters want the wealthiest people in the U.S. to pay higher taxes. Even a Fox poll shows that 70 percent of people want increased taxes for those earning more than $10 million.

Other polls are also not favorable for DDT. He went into the Oval Office with a growing economy, but two years later, 56 percent of people in the U.S. believe that the economy is slowing down or worse. Seventeen percent think that the economy is in a recession or depression. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe interest rates will go up in the next six months, including 20 percent who believe they will go up “a lot.” Likewise, a majority (61 percent) see inflation rising in the near future, including 17 percent who say it will increase a lot.

December 16, 2016

 The Return of the Coat Hanger: The State of Abortion Rights

coat-hanger

When Gov. John Kasich vetoed the infamous “heartbeat” bill, people across the nation breathed a sigh of relief. If signed, the ensuing law would have made abortion illegal in Ohio after the sixth week when some women didn’t even know they were pregnant. The bill he did sign into law, making abortion in the state illegal after 20 weeks, seemed mild by comparison. The 1972 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortions legal until 24 weeks, 4 weeks later than Ohio, yet the Ohio’s restriction to 20 weeks initially seemed much better than the alternative.

The new Ohio law is dangerous, however, on many levels. Not only does it attempt to break Roe v. Wade, but it also puts doctors in prison. Performing an abortion after 20 weeks is a fourth-degree felony, carrying a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. A 2013 Ohio law imprisons people who commit fourth- and fifth-degree felonies for a first time offense. Doctors disagree with Kasich’s new law: a group of ob-gyns wrote:

“Continuation of these pregnancies abortions [after identification of serious and fatal birth defects] would result in certain death of the baby and expose the newborn to needless pain. Meanwhile the mother is forced to carry the fetus to term and may be exposed to a myriad of medical and reproductive risks.”

Kasich and his legislators ignored the doctors’ plea.

That’s where the coat hangers come in. In the late 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, pro-choice activists used this object as a symbol of choice because women would use this sharp object as their only option. It caused horrible pain, sometimes permanent damage, and even death, but some women felt it was their only solution. On December 10, 2016—16 years into the 21st century—protesters to Ohio’s anti-abortion bills hung several hundred wire hangers on the fence of the state capitol. More people came and added more hangers. They were taken down during that night, but the protesters can back the next day and replace them.

Coat hangers went to court at a 1972 hearing of Abele v. Markle from a lawsuit from 350 women challenging Connecticut’s anti-abortion statute and influencing the judicial opinions of Roe v. Wade. The women in the courtroom brought babies and hangars; they left their hangars. In a 1969 demonstration in Washington, D.C., over 300,000 protesters hung coat hangers around their necks and carried signs reading “Never again” as they marched.

Many people unaware of the meaning of coat hangers can learn from the case of Anna Yocca, 32, who was charged in a Tennessee court last year for trying to abort a 24-week fetus with a coat hanger. Abortion is legal at 24 weeks, but she still sits in jail and faces new felony charges: aggravated assault, an attempt to procure a miscarriage, and an attempted criminal abortion. Only four of Tennessee’s 95 counties have clinics that provide abortions, and Yocca does not live in one of these.

Yocca is not unique: Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year after she took medication to terminate her pregnancy. In other states, women have been charged with attempted feticide for falling down stairs, not wearing a seatbelt, and trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Other women throughout the country have also gone to jail for terminating their pregnancy.

Thirty-eight states have feticide laws; many of these were intended to protect pregnant women. Anything that a pregnant woman does can probably result in criminal charges if police determines that it may damage a fetus in any way. Doctors can’t tell the difference between a self-induced abortion or a natural miscarriage, leaving women subject to interrogation, arrest, and even incarceration. Poverty and poor nutrition can become reasons for imprisonment.

cpr-map

 

The week before DT won the presidential election, seven states—Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas—sent $30 million of federal funding intended to stop poverty to Crisis Pregnancy Centers that lie to pregnant women about the effects of abortion and refuse to refer them to legitimate women’s clinics. They also provide no other health care that Planned Parenthood does.

The courts are providing some help:

  • A federal judge ruled that Mississippi cannot deny Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because of their affiliation with abortion services, keeping almost 700,000 state residents on Medicaid to a reliable healthcare provider.
  • The Virginia Board of Health voted 11-to-4 to remove the unconstitutional outpatient surgical center building requirements imposed on clinics that perform abortions. It is the first state to comply with Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruling to overturn surgical center and admitting privilege requirements, known as TRAP, passed by many states.
  • A federal court blocked two Alabama abortion restrictions.
  • The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center opened in Oklahoma City, the first new abortion clinic since 1974. Until the clinic opened, the city was the only major metropolitan area in the country with no abortion provider. It joins two other providers in the state.
  • Memphis Center for Reproductive Health will open a new, comprehensive reproductive health clinic will house the Tennessee first freestanding birthing facility. It will also provide abortion, gynecological, mental health, and sexual/reproductive health care services.
  •  A Planned Parenthood clinic in Springfield (IL) will offer surgical abortion care.
  • South Carolina officials will drop regulations that target abortion clinics in the state.

Alaska must pay almost $1 million in legal fees incurred when Planned Parenthood and two Alaskan physicians fought the state’s unconstitutional parental notification law. Wisconsin had to pay $1.6 million to plaintiffs suing over the state’s admitting privilege law. North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri also had to reimburse the legal costs from fighting  unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. Other GOP states across the nation are also averaging $1 million out of their budgets to fight abortion rights.

Yet women have to keep fighting for reproductive rights. This month, Texas passed a law, already declared unconstitutional in Indiana and Louisiana, that requires burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages. A judge has already suspended the law until he hears testimony on January 6, 2017.

Texas is notable because its death rate from pregnancy complications doubled between 2010 and 2014. In 2011, Texas cut out more than 80 family planning clinics, including all Planned Parenthood clinics, across the state, and the other clinics could serve only half as many women as before the budget cuts in 2011. No other state saw the same death rate.

The word “abortion” raises so much emotion among people in the United States. Yet minor surgery to remove scar tissue after early miscarriages is classified in medical files as “abortions.” Basically, self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” are only interested in life until birth. After that children and their parents are on their own because, to quote HUD Secretary nominee Ben Carson, poverty is a choice. Republicans deny children health care, food, water, housing, air, education, and other “amenities” because life for the already born individuals is no longer their responsibility. And the upcoming years will result in more deprivation to children because President-elect Donald Trump is moving more money to the top 0.1 percent.

The year 2015 was considered the worst year for abortion restrictions until now. The upcoming year with a new administration promises to be worse. The last time an elected Republican cared about you was when you were a fetus.

January 22, 2016

‘Roe v. Wade’: Past, Future

Filed under: Reproductive rights — trp2011 @ 9:14 PM
Tags: , ,

Abortion is as old as the Bible, but recently its history and politics have moved from attention on pregnant women to unborn fetuses. “Women always have and always will have abortions,” said Heather Ault, 4000 Years for Choice founder and graphic designer. “It’s fundamental to human existence, and all human societies around the world have practiced forms of controlling pregnancy, to various degrees of effectiveness with the tools and knowledge they had available at that time, whether it be toxic herbs, early surgical methods, or magic and spells.”

In Numbers 5:11-31, God is described as instructing Moses to present “The Test for an Unfaithful Wife” (NIV), a ritual to be used by priests against women accused by their husbands of unfaithfulness. These women are to drink “bitter water,” a potion that to abort any pregnancies that result from “having sexual relations with a man other than your husband.”

The Royal Archives of China holds the earliest written record of an abortion technique in the 3000s BCD. The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, a founder of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the 2700s BCE, wrote recipes for contraception and abortion which were quoted into the 16th century. In the 300s BCE, siliphium, now extinct, was regarded as a gift from Apollo and used for both contraception and abortion in northern Africa and Greece. At the same time, Egyptians and Greeks used the birthwort plant for the same purpose. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “If too many children are being born, there are measures to check propagation,” and Aristotle agreed on the need for population control.

In the 200s, prolific Christian theologian Tertullian described two surgical methods used for abortion. In 418, St. Augustine, like most theologians of the time, felt that abortion wasn’t homicide because “unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified.” In 1318, St. Thomas Aquinas opposed abortion unless the fetus was “ensouled” at approximately 30 days after conception. Aquinas did not consider abortion a sin before this time because it was not a human being. After England broke with the Catholic Church in 1540, abortion was no longer considered a crime under common law.

During American slavery beginning in the 1600s, black slaves used the cottonwood plant as an abortive remedy to spare their children a life of misery. Colonial women used the same technique because abortion was legal through common law before “quickening,” the first detectable fetal motion at about the fourth month.

In 1821, Connecticut passed the first law in the United States that made abortion illegal. By the end of the nineteenth century, every state had passed anti-abortion legislation except Kentucky, which waited until 1910. The oppressive maternity homes established for pregnant women refused, however, to house black women. A choice was Dr. Bronson’s Female Pills, which promised to “remove difficulties arising from obstruction”; text warned that taking these during the first three or four months or pregnancy might result in miscarriage—most likely the remedy’s intent. The most widely known abortionist in the 1830s, Madame Restelle operated for 35 years with additional offices in Boston and Philadelphia. By the 1850s, she was one of over 200 abortionists in New York City, largely sought out by middle- and upper-class Protestant women who wanted smaller families.

Male doctors pressed for laws against abortion when they took over health care for women from the midwives, who they considered a threat to the male economic and social power. After the AMA declared in 1857 that abortion should be illegal, politician and “morality” advocate Anthony Comstock crusaded against birth control, sex workers, and eventually abortion. In 1873, the “Comstock Law” outlawed contraception and abortion with limited exceptions for health and women lost their common law right. Comstock also succeeded in passing laws against sending anything through the mail related to sexuality and was instrumental in jailing Margaret Sanger for defying the contraception prohibition.

Not until 1869 did the Catholic Church condemn abortion at all stages of pregnancy. By 1896, the Chicago Health Department forbade “any midwife having in her possession any drug or instrument or other article which may be used to procure and abortion,” as well as eleven other rules intended to control how they practiced traditional women’s health care.

When Margaret Sanger surveyed 10,000 working-class women during the 1920s, she found that 20 percent of them had had abortions. Another study showed that ten to 23 percent of educated, middle-class women had had the same procedure. By the late 1920s, 15,000 women a year died from illegal, unsafe abortions from knitting needles, crochet hooks, hairpins, scissors, and buttonhooks. Physicians reacted to the rising death toll in the 1930s by providing abortion care through underground clinics and working to protest the prohibition on abortion.

In 1931, a study in the Bronx found that 35 percent of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish women had had at least one illegal abortion. The next year, Harlem Hospital (New York City) opened a separate ward to treat women seeking emergency post-abortion emergency services from illegal abortions. For 10 years during the Depression, Dr. Josephine Gabler performed over 18,000 abortions at her office on State Street in Chicago. Eighty percent of the women were married and 57 percent already had children. She had referrals from over 200 area doctors.

During the 1930s, the U.S. had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with induced abortions responsible for at least 14 percent of the deaths. The increase in the number of the abortions to over 681,000 coincided with the rising economic problems faced by most people in the U.S. Women began to organize their own “birth control clubs,” such as one in New Jersey with 800 members. They paid dues and carried cards entitling them to regular examinations and access to illegal abortions.

Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer, Jr., a black physician in Detroit, started providing abortions in 1938. After performing 30,000 procedures, he was incarcerated from 1958 to 1960. In 1939, 68 percent of medical students in the U.S. said that they would be willing to perform abortions if they were legal. By the 1950s, between 200,000 and 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year.

With abortions still illegal in many states in 1959, Patricia Maginnis, a medical technician in San Francisco, developed a do-it-yourself abortion procedure that involved dilating your own cervix to miscarry. Although oral contraceptives came on the market in 1965, it was available only through prescription to married women for the next seven years. In Chicago, a group of young women started “The Service,” an underground feminist healthcare system to help women find safe and affordable illegal abortions, before it renamed itself “Jane” and trained themselves to provide surgical abortions in-house. Between 1969 and 1973, Jane performed nearly 12,000 abortion procedures. A similar group called the Feminist Women’s Health Center began in California.

All these efforts could stop in 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade  that the right of privacy included “a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” The 7-2 decision found that a person’s “zone of privacy” extended to their doctor’s office although Justice Harry Blackmun’s decision ruled that more narrow state laws could be constitutional after the point of fetal viability.

Blackmun’s ruling is the reason for the huge spate of anti-abortion, anti-women laws clogging state constitutions and statutory restrictions in the past half decade which have again removed the “zone of privacy.” In the past four years, 231 abortion restrictions have been enacted at state levels. The U.S. is rated D+ in overall reproductive rights and health, downgraded from the C rating in 2014,  and 27 states are ranked either “hostile” or “extremely hostile” to abortion. Not satisfied with attacking abortion, many of these states have attacked pregnant women, imprisoning them for using drugs or alcohol and convicting them of feticide if they accidentally have miscarriages. At this time, 38 states have feticide laws.

As the number of restrictive anti-choice laws rise, so does the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth—from 14.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2007 to 28 in 2014—almost double, as the conservative states pass draconian laws surrounding reproductive rights. This rate is seven times higher than seven European countries and 14 times that of Israel which has liberal abortion laws and government-subsidized abortion services. The states with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest uninsured rates, infant and child death rates,  and teen drug and alcohol abuse as well as lower preventive care and cancer screening rates.

On March 2, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear its first abortion case in eight years: Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case concerning a Texas law designed to close down more than 75 percent of clinics that provide abortion services in the state—a law which is actually a de facto abortion ban. The question before the court is whether reducing abortion clinic numbers into single digits for a state the size of Texas constitutes an “undue burden.” The decision will most likely set new precedent for the country. The answer will be whether every woman has a right to safely and legally end a pregnancy in this nation that claims to prize personal freedom.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We can only hope that women will regain some of the rights they have lost during the past 43 years.

January 21, 2015

House Backs Off Anti-Abortion Vote on ‘Roe v. Wade’ Anniversary

Hell froze over—at least for a short time today. House Republicans were all primed to vote tomorrow on a bill that would stop abortions after the 20th week as their way of commemorating the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal throughout the United States. The vote was to be in conjunction with the annual March for Life with thousands of anti-choice activists in Washington, D.C. Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) re-introduced the bill from last year on the first day of the 114th Congress. The House passed it in 2013, but the bill went nowhere else. Franks needs Blackburn because of his statement that there was no need to exempt rape because “the incidence of pregnancy from rape is very low.”

Two GOP women in the House, however, objected to the restrictive rape and incest exemptions only if the victims had reported their attacks to law enforcement. Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) withdrew their support after GOP leaders refused to change the legislation at the party’s retreat last week, and the issue came to a head today. Ellmers used the excuse of not wanting the appearance of a “war on women”:

“The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials—social issues just aren’t as important [to them].”

President Obama has already promised to veto the bill. According to the White House:

“[T]he provision that requires rape and incest survivors to report the crime to a law enforcement agency or child welfare authority in order to have access to an abortion after the 20-week mark demonstrates a complete disregard for the women who experience sexual assault and the barriers they may face in reporting. Research indicates that the majority of survivors have not reported their sexual assaults to law enforcement.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics show that only 35 percent of rape and incest victims report the crime to the police. Either they cannot emotionally come forward because of shame or they think that the justice system will not help them. Incest victims also fear retribution if they report the crime.

Up to two dozen Republicans, both men and women, started to raise concerns to the bill. When a compromise couldn’t be reached because some lawmakers wouldn’t give up the reporting requirement, the GOP leadership changed its plans to move forward a bill prohibiting federal funding for abortions. Current law restricts the use of federal funds toward abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is threatened, but the proposed bill would keep women from receiving federal tax credits toward their insurance, including plans through the healthcare law’s exchanges, and from getting coverage for abortion services.

The divisiveness among House Republicans follows yesterday’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech: Rep. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said nothing about immigration, but in a supposedly verbatim translation, Rep. Carlos Curbelo  (R-FL) gave his Hispanic audience some reassurances about reform.

In a reversal of the usual GOP procedures, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) met with at least half of the 22 Republican women in the House. Usually the male Republicans in the House, 224 this year, make all the decisions about women’s bodies. As the Washington Post reported:

“A meeting with top [House] leaders requested and attended almost exclusively by women is a rare sight. One-by-one they exited the meeting and remained tight-lipped.”

The bill ignored the fact that almost 99 percent of abortions already occur before the 21st week of pregnancy, and later terminations usually involve “rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman’s health.” For this reason, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly opposes laws like the House proposal.

The bill required determination of the “probable” post-fertilization age of the fetus by examining the woman or taking the word of another physician. Any abortion after 20 weeks must be conducted in a way intended to save the fetus’s life “unless that manner would pose a greater risk than other methods would pose for the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” No health conditions are listed as exclusions to the ban, violating Roe v. Wade.

Most physicians define age of viability at 24 weeks; fetuses delivered at 21 weeks or less have a 0 percent chance of surviving while most do not survive until 25-26 weeks. At that time, they require skilled care, months of hospitalization, and significant financial costs to families, hospitals, and insurers. In addition, premature infants often have life-long developmental deficits and other health challenges. Roe v. Wade set viability at 28 weeks, seven months, which is still recognized as a time which offers a 90 percent chance of survival for fetuses.

The bill provided no abortions for women who learn that their fetuses have severe defects causing death after birth or severely limiting lives after birth. Fetal abnormalities are typically not diagnosed until after the 20th week. For example, a woman carrying a fetus with no brain (anencephaly) would have to carry the fetus to full term and wait for it to die after birth. Some current laws are so strict that many doctors are reluctant to abort a dead fetus.

Showing the GOP ignorance of science, the bill, H.R. 26, is called “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (PUCPA) using the false assertion that fetuses feel pain at the 21st week. Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2010 identified the possibility of pain after 24 weeks because the cortex is necessary for pain perception. Fetuses lack the neurological development to register a response and to potentially recognize an experience as pain until at least 24 weeks and probably much later.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concurred, commenting that studies used by fetal-pain law supporters lacked persuasion “when weighed together with other available information,” according to a Sept. 16, 2013 article in the New York Times. Dr. Mark Rosen, a pioneer in fetal anesthesia, concludes from his research that fetal pain perception comes at the beginning of the 27th week, in the third trimester.

In a Quinnipiac poll, 60 percent of respondents supporting their ban, yet many of these people are unaware of information about fetal viability or consequences of banning abortions before viability. Another national poll shows that 60 percent of respondents support access to abortion at 20 weeks with 33 percent of the respondents opposing. Unlike the Quinnipiac poll, the latter poll asked about specific circumstances in which women should and should not be allowed to terminate a pregnancy after the 20th week.

While risking women’s health and lives, the H.R. 36 would put the government into doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals by criminalizing a safe medical procedure. A 20-week ban has been declared unconstitutional because it prevents abortion before fetal viability, the gestational time when women have the right to end a pregnancy as the Supreme Court has ruled.

Nina Martin has listed ways that the coming year can limit women’s rights, both from the federal government and states controlled by Republicans, which can cause more unwanted pregnancies:

More Abortion Restrictions: Adding to the existing limits, the GOP may try to pass laws requiring women to get permission from the fetus’s father for an abortion which was declared unconstitutional over 20 years ago.

Increasing Religious Exemptions for Contraception: Bills allowing non-compliance of laws surrounding same-sex marriage can also be used to erode reproductive rights.

Non-religious Groups’ Conscience Clauses: Right-to-life organizations argue that denying abortion opponents the same exemption given to religious groups violates their constitutional right to equal protection.

Contraception Battles: Groups, including the U.S. Catholic bishops, argue that birth control is exactly the same as abortion.

Personhood Laws: The legal rights of “pre-born humans” lost at the ballot box last fall, but the National Personhood Alliance is moving to laws in municipalities and counties that would require action from courts sympathetic to the personhood movement.

The climate change in Washington will bring a rapid warming to Hell, but even a short cooling trend makes politics more livable.

We will still need to fight H.R. 36. You can ask your representative to vote against H.R. 36 and keep Roe v. Wade the law of the land.

January 22, 2014

On Anniversary of ‘Roe v. Wade,’ Women Need Help

Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that continued to give reproductive rights to the women of the United States. The Court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution and ruled that during the first trimester of pregnancy, the decision to abort must be left to the mother and her physician. Since 1973, both the Supreme Court and individual states have chipped away at women’s reproductive rights as extremists attempt to criminalize the procedure for any reason. This year SCOTUS is hearing a case to decide whether anti-choice people can walk up to people going into a women’s clinic to verbally abuse and threaten them.

Anti-choice arguments in the Supreme Court include the U.S. Constitution not including abortion in any of its terminology. (I’ll repeat my earlier argument that the Constitution also doesn’t address marriage etc.) At the time that the Constitution was written, there were no laws against abortion. Nowhere in the country was abortion addressed in any law until Connecticut passed a law in 1821 protecting women from being poisoned by untrained abortionists after the fourth month of pregnancy.

Not until 1873 was information about abortion and birth control banned by the Comstock Act. Within less than 100 years, however, abortion was considered a felony in 49 states and Washington, D.C., but states started repealing these laws in 1970. By 1989, however, SCOTUS stopped reaffirming Roe v. Wade as its decisions started to allow states’ punitive laws.

Reproductive rights are not the only loss for women during the past few decades. As an extremist far-right Congress refuses to act on serious economic and environmental issues in the U.S., women suffer the majority of the fallout. Following is Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) list of economic and environmental issues facing the people, including women, in the United States:

  • The middle class continues to decline; median family income is $5,000 less than it was 15 years ago. More people, 46.5 million, are now living in poverty than at any time in our nation’s history.
  • Child poverty, at 21.8 percent, is the highest of any major country.
  • Real unemployment is actually 13.2 percent instead of 7 percent, and youth unemployment is higher. Real unemployment would measure all those who have given up looking for work and those who want full-time work but are employed part-time.
  • Most of the new jobs that are being created are part-time work at low wages, but the minimum wage remains at the starvation level of $7.25 per hour.
  • Millions of college students are leaving school deeply in debt, while many others have given up on their dream of a higher education because of the cost.

As tens of millions of Americans struggle to survive economically, the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well and corporate profits are at an all-time high. In fact, wealth and income inequality today is greater than at any time since just before the Great Depression. One family, the Walton family with its Wal-Mart fortune, now owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In recent years, 95 percent of all new income has gone to the top 1 percent.

Global warming is real, it is already causing massive problems and, if we don’t significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet we leave to our kids and grandchildren will be less and less habitable. That’s the news from the science community.

Sanders’s agenda for the coming year includes five issues: the economy, health care, global warming, education and election reform.

Wealth and Income Inequality: A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little. It is simply not acceptable that the top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while the bottom 60 percent owns all of 2.3 percent. We need to establish a progressive tax system which asks the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes, and which ends the outrageous loopholes that enable one out of four corporations to pay nothing in federal income taxes.

Jobs: We need to make significant investments in our crumbling infrastructure, in energy efficiency and sustainable energy, in early childhood education and in affordable housing. When we do that, we not only improve the quality of life in our country and combat global warming, we also create millions of decent paying new jobs.

*Wages: We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We should pass the legislation which will soon be on the Senate floor which increases the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, but we must raise that minimum wage even higher in the coming years. We also need to expand our efforts at worker-ownership. Employees will not be sending their jobs to China or Vietnam when they own the places in which they work.

Retirement Security: At this time only one in five workers in the private sector has a defined benefit pension plan; half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings; and two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income. We must expand Social Security and make sure that every American can retire with dignity.

Wall Street: During the financial crisis, huge Wall Street banks received more than $700 billion in financial aid from the Treasury Department and more than $16 trillion from the Federal Reserve because they were “too big to fail.” Yet today, the largest banks in this country are much bigger than they were before taxpayers bailed them out. It is time to break up these behemoths before they cause another global economic collapse.

Campaign Finance Reform: We are not living in a real democracy when large corporations and a handful of billionaire families can spend unlimited sums of money to elect or defeat candidates. We must expand our efforts to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and move this country to public funding of elections.

Social Justice: While we have made progress in recent years in expanding the rights of minorities, women and gays, these advances are under constant attack from the right wing. If the United States is to become the non-discriminatory society we want it to be, we must fight to protect the rights of all Americans.

Civil Liberties: The National Security Agency (NSA) and some of the other intelligence agencies are out of control. We cannot talk about America as a “free country” when the government is collecting information on virtually every phone call we make, when they are intercepting our emails and monitoring the websites we visit. Clearly, we need to protect this country from terrorism, but we must do it in a way that does not undermine our constitutional rights.

War and Peace: With a large deficit and an enormous amount of unmet needs, it is absurd that the United States continues to spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. The U.S. must be a leader in the world in nuclear disarmament and efforts toward peace, not in the sale of weapons of destruction.

Health Care: The Affordable Care Act doesn’t do enough to fix the system; we need a single-payer plan as Vermont does.

Climate Change: With Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sanders introduced the Climate Protection Act and the Sustainable Energy Act.

Education: Last July, Sanders protested the passing of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act that would potentially raise costs for students on the Senate floor. He plans to amend the Higher Education Act in 2014 to make college more affordable for students.

Election Reform: Overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC through a constitutional amendment is an important priority. The only legal remedy to corporate person-hood is through a 28th amendment.

Another of Sanders’ positions is to make higher education more affordable. If “conservatives” wanted to “conserve,” they could greatly lower the cost of higher education or even make it free. These are some of the statistics:

  • Undergraduates paid public universities $62.5 billion in 2012; the U.S. government spends $69 billion on educational financial programs so that students could afford some of this $62.5 billion.
  • Student loans are currently $107.4 billion; the government will make $184 billion on student loans over the next decade. The loans are thus making college far less affordable.
  • For-profit universities, with diplomas of dubious market value, take 25 percent of all educational financial programs while they educate 10 percent of the students who are then responsible for about half of all loan defaults.

 In an Atlantic article, Jordan Weissmann suggests that the federal government send money to the states with the mandate that legislatures maintain tuition at a reasonable rate. In the past 35 years, states have cut per-student funding for their schools by 44 percent, requiring the schools to increase tuition. A public option for higher education would take the federal government out of the business of subsidizing for-profit universities. Higher education costs rise because state schools raise tuition, allowing for-profit universities to do the same thing. More and more countries around the world are providing free or inexpensive higher education; the richest country should be able to provide the same opportunities for young people.

*Sanders’ answer to question about increase in minimum wage causing fewer jobs: “In my state of Vermont, our minimum wage is $8.60 compared to the national minimum wage of $7.25. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in America. You have states where there is virtually no minimum wage at all, and their unemployment rate is much higher. The facts just don’t bear it out. The reality is that if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour about 30 million Americans would get a pay raise, and 88% of them are adults. These are not kids. These are working families struggling to keep their heads above water. They need a pay raise. We’ve gotta pass it.” He also pointed out that paying people minimum wage requires taxpayers to subsidize workers through the safety net while the companies reap the benefits.

The people in the United States have the opportunity to reverse the downward spiral of the country in its 2014 election. The direction of the nation is in the people’s hands when they vote.

January 22, 2013

Roe v. Wade Protects Women

Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade that protects a woman’s right to have an abortion within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Because this right is being threatened across the United States, a coalition of over 50 organizations,  The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign, is working to keep this family-planning ability.

Almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and at least one-third of all U.S. women have an abortion sometime during their lives. Without legalized abortion, women live in shame and pain—and sometimes don’t live at all because illegal abortions kill.

According to Ellen Shaffer, abortion continues to be stigmatized by the well-funded minority movement, many of whom promote violent acts to stop women from seeking their legal rights. Every clinic in the U.S. that provides abortions has experienced systematic harassment, and doctors who perform abortions have been targeted and murdered. In 2009, a church was the site of a violent killing when an anti-reproductive rights zealot shot Dr. George Tiller point blank while he was serving as an usher. The media perpetuates the myth that these killers are each a “lone wolf.”

Women who self-identify as born-again or Evangelical Christians have 20 percent of the abortions. Yet fundamentalist Christians have gone so far as to re-write the Bible to prove that their God disapproves of abortion.

Instead of addressing the issues of economy and unemployment, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) co-sponsored a fetal personhood bill in the 113th Congress less than a week into the new House session. The bill follows the failed Mississippi initiative in granting full Constitutional rights to one-celled human embryos before they are even implanted in the uterus. Part of H.R. 23 allows a rapist to sue his victim to keep her from getting an abortion. Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a state personhood initiative as “clearly unconstitutional” because it blocks a woman’s legal right to have an abortion.

On the second day of the House session, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) re-introduced legislation to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

The majority of people in the United States support Roe v. Wade and believe people should have the right to make decisions about personal reproductive health. Eighty percent of likely voters say a woman should be able to make her own personal decisions about her pregnancy, including 56 percent of voters who call themselves “pro-life.” To keep these rights, people need to stand up and be counted instead of staying invisible. That is the goal of Silver Ribbon.

January 22 is the first day of Trust Women Week. You can make your voice heard. My voice came through the following letter that our local chapter of NOW submitted to the media across our county:

During the past 40 years, no Supreme Court decision has caused greater dissention than Roe v. Wade, the ruling that deemed abortion during the first three months a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. On Tuesday, January 22nd, people who believe in women’s reproductive rights celebrate this momentous Supreme Court decision. No one claims that abortions are good, yet an overwhelming 64 percent agree with the Roe v Wade decision while only 31% disagree.

Without legalized abortion, women will get illegal ones at great personal danger. Before Roe v. Wade, when only 20 states had some legalized abortion, about 1.2 million women died each year from illegal ones. Legalizing abortion dropped the mortality rate of the procedure over 85 percent from 4.1 to 0.6 per 100,000 abortions.

Although some state governments have overwhelmingly passed anti-abortion laws within the past two years, a total of 135 bills, criminalization of the procedure does not prevent abortions. The rate of abortions is highest in Latin America where it is considered a crime in most of those countries.

Anti-choice people argue that millions of viable fetuses are aborted. In truth, 88 percent of abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and almost 99 percent are completed within the first 20 weeks.

The predominant reasons for abortions are poverty and ignorance. If you care about eliminating abortions, you should:

  • Require sex education for all teenagers. Mississippi had no mandatory sex education until last year and is still teaching abstinence-only in over half the school districts. That state also has the highest teenage pregnancy rate – 55 of every 1,000 teen girls get pregnant, a rate almost 80 percent higher than the federal level of 31 per 1,000 teen girls. Fifty percent of all pregnancies are not planned; 87 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended.
  • Provide free contraception for every fertile woman. A two-year study of 9,000 women in St. Louis showed that free birth control led to much lower rates of abortions and births to teenagers. The abortion rate of these women was 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women compared to 13.4 to 17 abortions in other St. Louis areas and almost 10 abortions per 1,000 women nationally.
  • Support Planned Parenthood and other women’s clinics. Without availability to the education and contraception that these provide, women will end up pregnant, and many of them will resort to abortions whether these are legal or not. Almost half the women getting abortions were not using contraception.
  • Mandate that all health care practitioners talk to patients about family planning. In Oregon the “One Key Question” initiative enlists doctors, nurses, and other health-care practitioners to ask women if they want to become pregnant in the next year. If yes, they talk about prenatal care and having a healthy baby. If no, they talk about contraception.
  • Provide free child care. Many women have abortions because they cannot care for children while keeping their jobs. Many children of women denied abortion will end up in foster care, costing taxpayers more money than funding child care, at least $30,000 to $100,000 before adoption — if foster parents could be found. Orphanages, an alternative, result in serious health issues for the children as shown by children in Romania.
  • Provide affordable education. Without education, women cannot support their children. They also cannot rely on men to provide for them.
  • Demand that women have equal pay with men as well as a living wage. Teenage girls denied abortion services, for example, are three times more likely to go on welfare. Seventy percent of women getting abortions are economically disadvantaged; statistically there are fewer abortions during a good economy.
  • Make men get involved with pregnancy. Guarantee that men care for children through both emotional and financial support.
  • Stop the “slut” culture. Teens may get abortions because of the shame and guilt heaped on them by both peers and adults. Educate young people that they can get help without emotional suffering.
  • Keep religion out of politics. The “slut” culture and the lack of education and contraception come from the religious beliefs that pregnancy out of wedlock, sex education, and contraception are wrong. The Constitution provides for separation of church and state. Religion should not create reproductive rights laws.

To paraphrase the common statement from gun supporters, “abortions don’t cause death; people cause death.” People who don’t provide ways to stop unwanted abortions contribute to them.

A final note: Although there is not easy access to legal abortions on the Oregon Coast, there is help for women who need them: The CAIR Project (http://www.cairproject.org/abortion/oregon/), NRO Network for Reproductive Options (http://www.nroptions.org/), and Oregon Public Health (http://public.health.oregon.gov/).

January 20, 2013

Good News for Separation of Church & State

During the last decade, the fundamentalist Christian religion has tried to control the entire legal process of the United States. Here is some hope that this process may have started failing.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias has ruled that names of church leaders who mishandled child sex abuse allegations will be made public in 30,000 pages of internal Archdiocese of Los Angeles records. The private mediator asked that the names be blacked out to save further embarrassment to the church and “guilt by association.” The judge disagreed, saying that parishioners who learn from the files of a priest accused of abuse in their local church “may want to talk to their adult children” about their own experiences. Lawyers for the church were upset because they had already blacked out the names and didn’t want to pay for redoing the work, a job that could take months.

Supporters of stem-cell research were pleased over a week ago when the Supreme Court failed to review a challenge to federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research. Abortion-rights opponents, who equate research involving embryonic stem cells with murder, criticized the court’s decision. Appellate judges had acknowledged ambiguity in laws governing stem-cell research but ultimately deferred to the National Institutes of Health, which supports the studies. Scientists believe that stem-cell research, who believe it will yield treatments and cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Christian fundamentalists in Florida, pleased with a new law to allow prayer in school, may not be pleased with the outcome. The Inspirational Messages law allows students to write and read these messages. Overlord Lucien Graves, a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, has said that they promote many of the same ideas as major religions and should be included in the “inspirational messages.”  The bill dictates that school officials are not permitted to mediate, approve, or participate in these “inspirational messages,” which expand upon the two minutes of silence for quiet prayer or mediation previously observed in Florida public schools.

This coming Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal across the United States. Despite the huge spate of anti-abortion laws passed by states in the last two years on religious grounds, some religious people support the right of women to control their bodies.

Before the Supreme Court legalized abortion, clergy were among the staunchest supporters of women seeking an abortion. The Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, an underground network that counseled women and led them to compassionate, competent doctors who provided abortion care, grew to about 1,400 clergy operating on the East Coast during the 1960s to serve women from across the nation. Rev. Howard Moody—who was born in Texas, lived in New York, and died in 2012 at age 91—created the network and considered it one of his most important ministries.

Five years after the Roe decision, a number of religious organizations voiced support for the decision in a 1978 ecumenical study document. American Baptist Churches wrote, “Abortion should be a matter of personal decision.” The American Lutheran Church agreed, recognizing the “freedom and responsibility of individuals to make their own choices in light of the best information available to them and their understanding of God’s will for their lives.” The Church of the Brethren voiced support in the document for women who, “after prayer and counseling, believe abortion is the least destructive alternative available to them.”

The 1978 ecumenical study document articulated the inherent value of the fetus and the importance of reducing the need for abortion. It also held up values of humility, freedom, justice, balance, compassion, and responsibility. Since that time, a different translation of the Bible by pro-life advocates now determines that God is opposed to any abortion, wanting people to protect fertilized eggs from the time of conception. In fact, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is sponsoring a bill to that effect, the third of his career. (He has evidently abandoned the need to improve the economy and job market.)

Candidates who want to keep raising money from the issue of abortion need to move the “pro-life” movement to the fertilized egg. With advanced technology, over 60 percent of abortions are now completed before the ninth week and 90 percent before the 12th. Increased use of contraception has drastically decreased abortion rates because prevention of pregnancy is more accessible. The rate in 2008 was 19.6 per 1,000 women, two-thirds of the rate in 1981. In the past, women who would afford the cost of contraceptives rarely needed abortions; with its free contraceptives, Obamacare will shrink the rate of abortions for the poor.

Religious acceptance of reproductive rights for women is important. As the Southern Baptist Convention reasoned when it supported Roe v. Wade, if the government could tell a woman what to do with her body, it could also tell Baptists what they could—or couldn’t—do with their religion. That’s an important reason for separation of church and state.

An update on yesterday and GAD: There were actually five people injured at gun shows yesterday. In Indiana a 54-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the hand outside the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Shot while loading his .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun in the parking lot. In Medina (OH) a vendor at the Medina County gun show had to be transported to the hospital by EMS after accidentally shooting himself. In Raleigh (NC), site of the other three injuries, the Dixie Gun and Knife Show  closed down yesterday after the injuries and no longer allow people to bring personal guns to the show.

Today in Albuquerque (NM) 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego killed both his parents and three of his nine siblings with an assault rifle. All victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The father, Greg Griego, spent 13 years as volunteer pastor at the Metropolitan Detention Center. The killer did not have a criminal record.

If anyone tries to convince you that we don’t need gun laws because law-abiding gun owners are responsible, ask them to watch this video.

January 22, 2012

Roe v. Wade at Risk

A third Republican presidential candidate has taken the majority delegates in a third state—although it’s hard to say that Rick Santorum really won Iowa when 8 precincts can’t find their paperwork. For women’s reproductive rights, there is no real difference among these three: any one of them would return women’s rights to that of a century ago–in short, none. All the candidates vow to overturn Roe v. Wade; all support the concept of “personhood,” giving more rights to a fertilized egg than a woman.

Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion for all women in this country during the first third of the pregnancy and allowed abortion during the second third to protect the woman’s health.  Legal yes, but not necessarily accessible. The murders of doctors who perform abortions during the past decades plus state laws limiting abortions have made this surgery almost impossible to get in many places, and state laws compound the inaccessibility of abortions.

To stop pregnancies, the far right has set up “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPC) to pressure women, usually with deceptive information, into carrying a fetus to term, regardless of the women’s wishes and needs. An investigation of the CPCs in North Carolina, more than eight times the number than clinics that actually provide abortion, shows that over two-thirds of them provide medically inaccurate information. Yet they receive public funding from the state’s “Choose Life” license plate sales.

Of the 122 CPCs, 92 percent had no medical professionals although only 22 percent disclosed that they were not medically licensed. Because there is no state licensing for the CPCs, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not protect patient confidentiality. An investigator posing as a pregnant Jewish woman who went to five centers was told that unless she converted to Christianity she would not go to heaven. Volunteers at one meeting prayed for an investigator and suggested she become a “born-again virgin.”

New York City tried to give the public information about CPCs with a law that would require them to disclose whether they have licensed medical staff and how they protect the clients’ privacy. Federal Judge William Pauley blocked this law.

Over 1100 anti-abortion bills were introduced at the state and federal level in 2011, including the 8 by House representatives elected to find jobs for people and save the economy, an unbelievable increase from previous years. Legislators in 24 states passed 92 anti-abortion provisions in 2011, shattering the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005. Recent state restrictions include waiting-period requirements, unnecessary medical procedures, burdensome and unnecessary clinic regulations, and cuts to family planning services and providers because of their connection with abortion. Other laws restrict private insurance coverage of abortions.

Arizona stopped the use of student fees and tuition to train OB/GYN students to perform abortions and revoked tax credit for donations to organizations that provide abortions, like Planned Parenthood, as well as to any institutions that might refer clients to Planned Parenthood, like domestic violence shelters. North Carolina’s requirement for an ultrasound before an abortion included the provision that a woman’s refusal to view the ultrasound would be kept on file for 7 years. Nine other states also have an ultrasound mandate.

Dana Millbank, supposedly one of the “good guys” in this debate, seems to sneer at pro-choice activists: “If the ‘choice’ rally participants really wanted to preserve legal abortion, they’d be wise to drop the sky-is-falling warnings about Roe and to acknowledge that the other side, and most Americans, has legitimate concerns.” Is he talking about the fact that the state forces women to have MRIs, a medical procedure not recommended by their doctors and one which serves no medical reason, before having an abortion.

Does he think that the “personhood” movement is no problem? After the initiative to define a fertilized egg as a “person” failed in Mississippi, Oklahoma thought it would put its oar in the fertilization waters. Their new bill defines “person” as “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being” with a few exceptions such as “Only birth control that kill a person shall be affected by this section” and “Only in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction that kills a person shall be affected by this section.” The same people who proposed these bills are also convinced that ordinary birth control will kill the “person.”

What does Millbank think about Jennie Linn McCormack, a 32-year-old Idaho woman with three kids—unmarried, unemployed, and barely surviving on $250 monthly child support for one of her children? The man who had impregnated her was sent to jail for robbery. She couldn’t afford the $500+ necessary for the two-and-a-half-hour trip—mandated twice!–to Salt Lake City to get to a clinic. Her sister in Mississippi got her RU-486 online for about $200. She thought she was about 12 weeks pregnant, but the fetus turned out to be between 18 and 21 weeks.

According to Idaho’s 1972 law, a year older than Roe v. Wade, women can be imprisoned for five years for inducing her own abortion. The charges against McCormack have now been dropped, but the state retains the right to re-file charges. McCormack’s attorney, Richard Hearn, also a physician, not only obtained a federal injunction to prevent any woman from being prosecuted under the state’s anti-abortion statute by the district attorney but also filed a class-action suit against the state, claiming the statute is unconstitutional. He plans to argue the case up to the Supreme Court.

Much of politicians’ ignorance comes from their reliance on the bible to explain science. A fine example of this is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) who—naturally!—opposes Planned Parenthood. Marshall believes that women who have abortions then have disabled children because of God’s punishment. “In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest,”Marshall told a press conference.

David Williams, who ran for governor of Kentucky, tried to use logic to defend forcing rape and incest victims to carry their fetuses to full term. “If somebody shot my mother, I would want to kill them, but I don’t think that is the appropriate thing to do. We have laws against murder,” he said. He also failed in his gubernatorial bid but stayed as the president of the state senate.

Morals of the religious fluctuate and extend into hypocrisy. The Catholic leader St. Augustine believed that abortion of the “unformed” embryos was acceptable because “the law of homicide would not apply, for … it could not be said that there was a living soul in that body.” The Southern Baptist Convention voted in the 1970s to support abortion under certain circumstances but said in 2010 that life begins at conception and abortion is not permitted.

Memphis (TN) is another place where religion controls women’s rights. Shelby County commission voted 9 to 14 to take Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and give it to Christ Community Health Services. No more emergency contraception because of “religious objections.” Never mind that EC doesn’t abort fetuses. Instead women have to go to a “third party,” delaying the process and probably being too late for EC to be effective. Clients also are forced to listen to sermons with their health screenings and birth control pickups.  A Christ Community patient testified at the commission that she was told, “If only my relationships with people and God were right, I would have fewer health problems.” No way are there any referrals to clinics that provide abortions.

While some Christians call abortion murder and therefore wrong, they are not bothered by people lacking insurance or those with insurance having it terminated, meaning that people are killed by the “person” of insurance companies. War is murder, as is capital punishment, but anti-abortionists are usually not bothered by these murders.

People outraged by abortions past the first third of the pregnancy aren’t swayed by the horrific health issues that cause women to have abortions during the third trimester to save their lives. Rick Santorum refers to the health exception for a third-trimester abortion as “phony.”

Anti-choice people also don’t realize that they are at fault. Because of the severe limitations on getting abortions, despite Roe v. Wade, some women like McCormack who face funding and travel—sometimes two or three times to see a doctor far away—wait past the first trimester. Prejudice against birth control also causes abortions: 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant often because of abstinence-only education and the cost of contraceptives.

Anti-abortion activists care nothing about the life of women who end up dying from illegal abortions, but at one time Mitt Romney understood the tragedy of these deaths. During his candidacy for Massachusetts senator in 1994, he volunteered the story of the sister of his brother-in-law. Because of her death, he said in the debate with Ted Kennedy, he believed that abortion should be “safe and legal.” That same year, he attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and his wife, Ann, gave $150 to the group. During the same campaign, he said, “I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people.” During his 2002 campaign for the state’s governor, Romney vowed to uphold the state’s abortion laws. Ten years later he supports “personhood,” not only for corporations but also for fertilized eggs.

Ann Keenan, the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law, died of an infection at the age of 21 in 1963, ten years before Roe v. Wade. Listed on her death certificate was “subarachnoid hemorrhage following septic criminal recent abortion with septic thromboembolism pneumonia and hepatitis with focal necrosis of liver.” Infection, often caused by the use of unsanitary instruments, was one of the most common causes of death from abortion in the pre-Roe era, according to Dr. David Grimes, who previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control studying abortion deaths. Many other deaths were caused by self-inflicted wounds or bleeding to death, especially because women were afraid to see medical help.

Last week, Guttmacher reported that in countries where abortion is illegal—think maybe inaccessible?—abortion rates are higher. Stopping access to safe, legal abortion care does not lower abortion rates; it just forces women to search for clandestine and unsafe abortion care. The simple solution to unwanted pregnancies is to provide ways to stop these pregnancies. U.S. legislators are trying to stop birth control too. The conservative House and many state legislators have been intent on eliminating women’s access not only to birth control but also to breast and cervical cancer screenings.

To combat this trend, Planned Parenthood has created its own campaign, Women are Watching. Over half the voters in this country are women. All of us need to know about these attacks on women’s health and the candidates’ stance on pivotal health care issues.

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