Nel's New Day

June 12, 2013

Legislative Males Take Charge

Yesterday, I wrote about the way that six Republican men, with no imput from women or medical doctors, moved a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill to the House floor. (More about that later.) Today a Democrat senator, Carl Levin (MI) decided what is best for raped women (and men) in the military despite protests from women, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The issue was whether the military rape cases should be moved to independent prosecutors instead of leaving it in the hands of ineffective military leaders, some of them rapists themselves. Gillibrand’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, moving these cases away from the failed military, had 28 co-sponsors, including four Republicans.

Branch commanders complained about their loss of authority if this would happen, and the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee arbitrarily replaced Gillibrand’s amendment with his own, moving up the cases to a higher level of command if unit commanders decide not to prosecute service members. Levin’s plan was approved in committee by a 17-9 vote.

The Senate involvement came from the Pentagon’s annual report that estimated as many as 26,000 military members experienced unwanted sexual contact last year, an increase from 19,000 the year before. The abuse of victims is clear: last week a woman in the military who accused three U.S. Naval Academy football players of raping her last year said she was disciplined for drinking while her alleged attackers went unpunished.

Navy veteran Trina McDonald, who survived three rapes by other military members while serving in Alaska in 1989, predicted that Levin’s action would deepen the military’s sex-assault crisis. McDonald said that she did not report the crimes because she would have been forced to do this with the offenders, her superiors.

Gillibrand can still introduce her amendment when the Defense spending bill reaches the floor, but opposition from Levin and military leaders give it a slight chance of passing. Co-sponsor Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), summarized the position of Levin and other male senators: “They basically embrace the status quo here.”

As the New York Times wrote in “A Failure on Military Sexual Assaults”: “It is distressing that two decades of scandals could not persuade Mr. Levin to budge from his decision to support the military brass.”

Following the Senate Judiciary Committee vote yesterday to move anti-abortion bill to the floor, Chair Trent Franks (R-AZ) must be feeling defensive to make the following statement:

“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low. But when you make that exception [allowing rape victims to get abortions], there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment.”

Franks tried to explain this statement by saying that he was referring to women seeking abortions in the sixth month:

“This bill does not address unborn children in earlier gestations. Indeed, the bill does nothing to restrict abortions performed before the beginning of the 6th month.”

An estimated 32,101 women, about the same number as people killed from guns, get pregnant from rape per year in this country. One study found that about 32.4 percent of victims did not find out they were pregnant until their second trimester—beyond the strict 20-week limit in Franks’ bill. Some studies show that rape victims are even more likely to get pregnant, putting the number of women who became pregnant from rape in one year around 83,000.  Even if they do find out before the 20-week limit, finding a clinic that performs an abortion has become an extremely time-consuming process.

The question for Franks is why it matters how few women this would affect. Does he mean that laws should only provide for a large number of people?

Another man in Congress is throwing around his weight. House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), king of the manufactured-scandal investigations, has decided that he doesn’t want anyone to know the information that his committee received about the scrutiny in the IRS. After seeing all the transcripts, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings (MD), asked Issa to release this information. A week after Cummings’ request, Issa called releasing the full transcripts to be “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

Issa’s leak of partial transcripts with cherry-picked quotes, concealing the interview with the conservative Republican who started the Tea Party review, is far more “reckless.” His refusal must be taken as admission that the transcripts hold no “smoking gun.” Ten days ago, Issa said, “The whole transcript will be put out.”

Issa’s behavior has caused him to lose support of some GOP members. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), who chairs the panel’s Oversight subcommittee, said that the release of partial transcripts could “adversely alter our ability to get future information from other IRS employees.” He expressed concern that Issa’s political act could stop an investigation for the facts.

Today Issa sent Cummings a letter scolding him for his suggestion that the IRS investigation was finished. During a Sunday interview on CNN, Issa said that Cummings’ desire to close the inquiry into the IRS targeting was “irresponsible, but not surprising.” Issa listed a number of questions that the investigation has not revealed. Lumped together, these questions seem to boil down to this from Issa: “How can I provide that Obama is at fault?”

On the state level, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and his fellow GOP legislators have moved on from union-busting and destroying the middle class to controlling women. A state senate bill, passed this morning, mandates the GOP-popular transvaginal ultrasound before abortion, the same invasive procedure that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said would be against the constitutional right to privacy.

“I don’t have any problem with ultrasound,” Walker told reporters. “I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.” Another man with no medical training thinks that he should override a physician’s decision for a patient with a medically unnecessary procedures.

The bill mandates that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services provide a list of free ultrasound clinics. Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), said she would pull them together from the “pregnancy help centers,” organizations run by religious anti-abortion groups. The only requirements for these “clinics” is that the person performing the ultrasound not have a record of conviction for sexual offenses and that both trans-abdominal and trans-vaginal types of ultrasound equipment are available.

The bill also imposes additional restrictions on abortion clinics, forcing a Planned Parenthood clinic to shut down. Currently only four health clinics in the entire state of Wisconsin provide abortion care. Another part of the bill designed to close clinics is the mandate that doctors who work in abortion clinics must get admitting privileges at a hospital. Mississippi passed this provision to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state, but it was blocked by the courts.

Senate President Mike Ellis, the man conducting the vote, could use this video to apply for a part in a violent horror film as he wildly wielded his gavel to prevent any debate. Ellis blamed the Democrats for his action because they tried to debate a motion that was not debatable. “They triggered this,” he said. “I am a nice guy.” Ellis allowed only one Democrat to speak this morning before the vote.

Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), the longest-serving state legislator in the nation, called this morning’s actions by the Republicans the worst abuse of power he has experienced in his more than 50 years as a legislator.

As usual in Wisconsin, the fast-tracked bill has gone to the GOP-controlled House, ignoring due process. Last year, Walker signed three anti-abortion bills into law and expanded abstinence-only education, which is unsuccessful according to studies. His budget also stripped 91 percent of Planned Parenthood funding, resulting in the close of clinics in rural Wisconsin.

And there you have some of the men controlling our rights according to their personal preference and ignorance.

March 10, 2012

Newspapers Censor ‘Doonesbury’

Republicans can force women to do their will, but they can’t talk about it. Neither can the media, at least not on the “funny pages.” After Gary Trudeau used the obscenely ridiculous occurrences within the past few weeks in next week’s comic strip Doonesbury, many newspapers are refusing to run this series because of its “graphic imagery” and “graphic language.” At least some of the newspapers are moving the comic strip series to the opinion pages or posting it on their websites although others are out and out rejecting it.

In Oregon, the Register-Guard (Eugene) plans a link on registerguard.com for readers who want to see the series while The Oregonian (Portland) posted on its website that Gary Trudeau “in our judgment went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.” They also plan to post the series with a poll about the decision not to run it in the newspaper at gocomics.com/doonesbury. Of the 44 comments to the decision thus far, only one commended the newspaper. Sample comments to the decision:

This newspaper thinks its readers are morons.

I disagree with your shortsighted decision.

When did the Oregonian become the arbiter of “good taste” for its readers?

You are eroding your trust with the public you serve by this decision.

It is an embarrassment to the state of Oregon that our largest newspapers so freely practices censorship.

Apparently the obscene nature of the matter and its substance can be reported, but mocking the asinine nature of the subject is verboten.

For its premise, the “shocking” series uses the recent spate of state legislation requiring ultrasounds–many of them transvaginal–for women seeking abortions.It shows a woman going to a clinic where she is confronted people who state that she should be ashamed. A doctor reads a script for Gov. Rick Perry (TX) inviting her to a “compulsory transvaginal exam,” and a middle-aged legislator calls her “slut.” In one panel, the mandated procedure is compared to rape with the device described as a “ten-inch shaming wand.”

Complaining about the “language” and “imagery” is ironic because the same information has been on the news where children can see and hear it. Rush Limbaugh’s program is aired at a time that children have ready access to it.

In defense of the Texas law that requires an ultrasound before an abortion, abortion being a legal medical procedure in this country, Perry’s spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said that the governor is proud of his leadership on the sonogram laws. Frazier also said, “The decision to end a life is not funny. There is nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have passed in Texas to ensure that women have all the facts when making a life-ending legislation.”

Frazier is right about ending a life not being funny. People in Texas, more than in any other state, should be knowledgeable about ending lives because of the huge number of people, some of them innocent, executed by that state. This is also the same state that will no longer receive federal monies to help 130,000 low-income women in obtaining contraceptives and breast cancer examinations.

Thus Texas will protect the children and guarantee that more women become pregnant because they are unable to obtain birth control, an action probably leading to more abortions. This is the country where a political party that claims to be for “limited government” can force doctors to perform medical procedures with which they disagree. Women can be forced to hear a description of the image and the fetal heartbeat, but comic strip readers are “protected” from hearing about the horrific law passed by some of the states, with Virginia making the eighth one earlier this past week.

Doonesbury is satire, defined as an attack on or criticism of any stupidity or vice or a critique of dangerous religious, political, moral, or social standards. Stephen Colbert used satire when he employed an ultrasound wand to make Margaritas during his Super Tuesday program. (In my viewing area, Stephen Colbert’s show aired at 6:00 pm and therefore readily available to young people.) Laughter comes from shock, and the states’ mandates to force women to have transvaginal ultrasounds before an abortion is shocking.

The fact that Doonesbury is influential may frighten conservatives. The comic strip has caused social change, for example when it satirized a law in a Florida county that required minorities to have a passcard in the area. The law repealing this act was nicknamed the Doonesbury Act. Conservatives know that the most effective way to defeat opposition is to silence it.

Kudos to the Washington Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer for running the satiric comic strip where it has always been—on the “funny pages.” Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor of features at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said that she and other top editors have decided to run the next Doonesbury. “We didn’t deliberate long. This newspaper deals with those issues [abortion and transvaginal ultrasounds] routinely in the news sections and in our health section.” She pointed out that the first page carried a story about the movement by women legislators across the country to curb men’s abilities to get vasectomies and prescriptions for erectile dysfunction. “I haven’t heard of any objections to that story yet,” Van Tassel said.

Fortunately some newspapers don’t want to suppress negative reactions to the conservatives’ attack on women.

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.

February 14, 2012

Virginia Republicans Promise to Penetrate Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:06 PM
Tags: , , ,

Not satisfied with taking away birth control from women, the Republicans—the ones who want small government—want to penetrate women. In their vaginas. The Virginia House has passed a bill, 63-36, that will force women to endure a “transvaginal ultrasound” before having a legal abortion. No exceptions for rape or incest. No exceptions if the woman’s medical provider believes that this procedure is a bad idea. No exceptions. House member Todd Gilbert referred to abortion as a matter of “lifestyle convenience.”

Virginia was one of the first states that sued against “ObamaCare” using the argument that government cannot force people to purchase health insurance. Yet this is the same state that will force women having a legal procedure to be penetrated without their consent, the state that will dictate medical procedures. This is the state that refuses to require young women to have a vaccination against HPV because the conservatives stated the state has no business mandating a vaccine against a virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The bill now goes to the Senate which plans to pass it. Gov. Bob McDonnell has said that he will sign it. Remember that name because he is on the short list for vice-president of the United States.

Virginia is also on the verge of passing a personhood law, declaring that human rights begin from the instant that a sperm hits the egg. That bill passed the house, 66-32. This is the same bill that people in Mississippi rejected, the bill that could make birth control illegal. In the Virginia senate, Bill Stanley won passage of a measure that would permit wrongful death civil lawsuits against those who kill a fetus.

Sonograms show fetal images, but Virginia insists on literally penetrating women’s vaginas. That’s how little the conservatives in that state think of women. If this passes, other conservatively-controlled states will surely follow Virginia’s example, and a conservative Congress and president could follow suit. Vote in the next election against people who are willing to abuse women in this way. And tell everyone you know to vote against these people.

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