Nel's New Day

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 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 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.

February 8, 2012

Conscience = Discrimination

Conscience. What a strange word to use when discriminating against people. Once again, religious groups have co-opted a term to oppose the scientific view that conscience is probably learned or imprinted (like language) as part of a culture.

The concept of conscience has provided the latest firestorm against President Obama regarding the requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control without co-pay with exemptions those provided by churches and other places of worship. Because the Catholic Church operates an unbelievable number of businesses including private schools, universities, hospitals, and charities, millions of employees in these institution are not Catholic. Catholic leaders don’t want to follow the president’s guidelines—except in the 28 states that already require insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and services. No matter that the Church will not be paying for birth control; the insurance carriers do this as part of the benefits.

Republicans are delighted with their war on contraception because they can scream from the rooftops that President Obama is violating the First Amendment right of religious freedom. But what will the result be from their constituents? Republicans are ignoring the fact that 58 percent of Catholics believe that all employers should provide no co-pay birth control, and 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used contraception. Eighty-five percent of all Catholics support expanding access to birth control for women who cannot afford it, higher than the 82 percent of the general population who favors this, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

The decision to provide free birth control to women was based on an Institute of Medicine study concluding that birth control is medically necessary to “ensure women’s health and well being,” echoing similar recommendations by other medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association.

Demonstrating the extremes to which conservatives are going to fight the health benefit of birth control for women, MSNBC commentator Eric Metaxas compared the requirement to provide contraception to women to the rise of Nazi Germany. Men in Congress have again retreated from solving the economy and jobs problem to again trying to control women’s bodies.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an organization with $26 million in its annual lobbying budget. This legislation would make all women who work for Catholic-operated institutions—nurses, janitors, teachers, etc.—purchase their own birth control unless state law provides that all employee insurance provide birth control or Catholic institutions already include this provision in the insurance policies.

House Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has sworn that Congress will overturn the administration’s mandate. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) claimed that the requirement of contraception coverage in employers’ insurance plans was a “bailout for Planned Parenthood” because birth control “is unrelated to the basic needs of health care.”

“What we are seeing now is the unfortunate fruits of the logical extension of the cesspool of Jacques Rousseau and his civil religion, whereby which your true religion was tolerated as long as it was subservient to the state,” Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) said. “That is not what this nation is about–it is a clear violation of your constitutional right to freely exercise your religion.”

In response, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “Women’s health care should not depend on who the boss is.”

As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) explained, the administration’s rule has exempted 335,000 churches and other places of worship. “The concept of separation of church and state protects these 335,000 places of worship, but the concept of separation of church and state does not mean that a church can use their bully pulpit to separate millions of women from critical healthcare benefits,”Moore said, adding that separation of church and state does not trump women’s access to contraception.

Conscience is also the excuse in Virginia to give private adoption agencies the right to refuse parents based on sexual orientation or religious and moral beliefs. Under consideration in the state is adding state-funded, faith-based agencies to the list of agencies that can choose which parents are suitable for adoption based on the agencies’ beliefs. At this time, gay and lesbian couples are prevented from adopting because unmarried couples cannot adopt and gays and lesbians cannot get married in Virginia and eight other states. Thus gay and lesbian parents will be forced to contribute their tax dollars to an agency that, in turn, refuse them its adoption services.

The state currently permits single people, including gays and lesbians to adopt.  At this time, approximately 2,279 same-sex couples are raising about 4,558 children inVirginia, most adopted in Virginia, allowing only one parent to have custody.The new law will be more restrictive than the existing one, allowing agencies to refuse adoption by a single gay or lesbian.

Although the federal government has some protection against discrimination, Virginia allows faith-based organizations to discriminate based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and family status. These discriminations will almost certainly continue with the new law despite the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that gays and lesbians are a distinct legal classification and entitled to collective protection under the Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection clauses.

As with the birth control bruhaha, the Virginia legislature ignores the will of the people. Last year a Washington Post poll showed that 55 percent of Virginians think that gays and lesbians should be able to legally adopt children, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of Virginians think that state-run agencies should not ban prospective parents based on their sexual orientation.

The basic question is how far religion can discriminate in the name of religious freedom. For example, if state-funded organizations can deny service to gays and lesbians in adoptive services, can they also deny services to them in hospitals? If Catholic institutions can discriminate against non-Catholic employees in providing health care, can they then discriminate against them in hiring? How far can religions go in infringing on other people’s rights in the name of religious freedom? Why should religions be able to use their beliefs to exclude rights and services when they receive government funding? Why should people be forced to contribute financially to organizations that refuse to provide services to these same people?

If an Islam-operated hospital were to insist that its employees be bound by Sharia law, Congress would be screaming that this is wrong. Their position on freedom of religion is attached only to the Christian religion, which means that they don’t actually believe in religious freedom—just in the political clout that the argument might give them.

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