Tag Archives: abortion

Let’s Discuss the Ladies?

Boom: The National Rifle Association is pleased to tell us that only Donald Trump will defend our 2nd Amendment rights…which isn’t true. Now it’s running a $6.5 million ad buy telling ladies to strap on the holsters to ‘fight back.’ [Salon]  This may not only be a function of current politics – the NRA has a problem, “not enough people are buying guns.”

Gun ownership graph What we do have is an increase in the number of people who own multiple guns:

“Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 133m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.” [Guardian]

Little wonder the manufacturers want to sell more to the ladies?  Unless, of course the ladies have  seen the actual numbers:

“If we examine data from within the United States, the odds aren’t any better for gun owners. The most recent study examining the relationship between firearms and homicide rates on a state level, published last April, found a significant positive relationship between gun ownership and overall homicide levels. Using data from 1981–2010 and the best firearm ownership proxy to date, the study found that for every 1 percent increase in gun ownership, there was a 1.1 percent increase in the firearm homicide rate and a 0.7 percent increase in the total homicide rate.” [Slate]

The Good Woman with a Gun is simply a variation on the old Good Guy with a  Gun, and neither is true.

Bust: What we could do is to have a national discussion of domestic violence and begin by taking rape, domestic violence, and assaults on women more seriously.   Jeff Van Gundy had some words for the NBA which are well worth highlighting.

Huh? There’s an anti-Question 1 ad in Nevada, showing the various law enforcement people against the proposition which would close the gun show loophole in the Silver State.  We ought to assume that these law enforcement professionals are tasked with the enforcement of NRS 203: 360 which forbids the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, addicts, those adjudicated mentally ill, and those guilty of domestic violence.  Now the question becomes WHY would any law enforcement officer NOT want to find out if some felon, fugitive, addict, mentally ill, or domestic abuser was trying to purchase firearms at the local gun show?

Duh?  That little exchange in the Vice Presidential Debate last night about “punishing women who have abortions merits a comment or two.

Governor Pence has some antediluvian thoughts on mothers, womanhood, and the value thereof, see this piece in Alternet.   See also: Cosmopolitan;

“Though there is little doubt how extreme Pence’s anti-abortion stance is, he made it explicitly clear on the campaign trail. “I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for it,” he said during a town hall in July. Of a Trump/Pence administration, he said, “We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

Then there was the not-so-small matter of Pence cutting funding for Planned Parenthood in Indiana, thus cutting HIV testing for Scott County, Indiana.

“In 2011, Planned Parenthood ran five rural clinics in Indiana. They tested for HIV and offered prevention, intervention and counseling for better health. The one in Scott County performed no abortions.

Mothers-to-be in Scott County must drive 50 miles to visit a gynecologist or an obstetrician. That’s not an isolated insight. Of Indiana’s 92 counties, Scott County has ranked 92nd in unhealthiness for five straight years.” [ChiTrib]

Health professional saw what was coming when the funding was cut. They begged for help from the state. None was forthcoming. Better an AIDS epidemic in a rural area than funding which might tangentially touch abortion services?

Mr. Trump is a classic misogynist, Governor Pence is downright dangerous.

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Filed under abortion, domestic abuse, Gun Issues, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Quick Notes on Rep. Joe Heck

Heck Trump Hat

Since Representative Heck has taken the Trump Road down Republican Lane, there are some sticky points he might want to address.

One such point is here – as Trump attaches a radical right wing advocate for absolutely NO abortions under Any Circumstances to his list of advisors.  Does Rep. Heck espouse this view as well, if he’s so enthusiastic about the prospect of a Trump presidency? 

This is not a “mainstream” position by any means. 

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, Heck, Nevada politics, Republicans

Ladies’ Day: Supreme Court Decision in Texas TRAP law case

Whole Women's Health

The slip opinion is available here in PDF.  Dissents centered on the issue of res judicata, the idea that once a question is litigated it can’t be re-litigated, however the majority ruling says,

“Changed circumstances showing that a constitutional harm is concrete may give rise to a new claim. Abbott rested upon facts and evidence presented before enforcement of the admitting-privileges requirement began, when it was unclear how clinics would be affected. This case rests upon later, concrete factual developments that occurred once enforcement started and a significant number of clinics closed.”

In dissent, Justice Thomas is having none of this —

“This suit is possible only because the Court has allowed abortion clinics and physicians to invoke a putative constitutional right that does not belong to them—a woman’s right to abortion.

Above all, the Court has been especially forgiving of third-party standing criteria for one particular category of cases: those involving the purported substantive due process right of a woman to abort her unborn child.

There are no “insurmountable” obstacles stopping women seeking abortions from asserting their own rights, the plurality admitted. Nor are there jurisdictional barriers.”

Notice, that for Justice Thomas the right to select a medical procedure is “putative,” and “purported.”  Nor should clinics, facilities, and physicians assert the claim that women have the right to obtain services (such as abortions) from them.  By Justice Thomas’s lights the only complaints to the court should come from those women whose rights have been denied.  He pitches the ‘third party litigant’ to the side, as if a union could not seek redress on behalf of its members, or a company should not appeal on behalf of its shareholders?

However, his final point in the list above borrows from the original anti-TRAP argument (‘insurmountable obstacles’) and bluntly tells women “if you want your rights to seek the medical procedures you feel are your right, then please feel free to file a lawsuit.”  Presumably, at your own expense.,

All this fails to answer a simple question:  How do any of the TRAP laws prevent rich women from seeking an abortion – or any other medical procedure for that matter?  They don’t.  And they were never intended to do so.

We should end on a high note, as usual provided by Justice Ginsberg:

Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”  (She cites tonsillectomies, colonoscopies, and in office dental surgeries.)  […]

“Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law “would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

Game. Set. Match.

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Filed under abortion, public health, women, Women's Issues

Heck’s Campaign: Saddled with Trump?

Heck Trump

Let’s start with the fact that 27.8% of Nevada’s population is of Hispanic or Latino descent.[Census] And, that of the 2,890,845 people in this state some 49.7% are women. [Census]  Now, add in information about voting demographics in this state:

    • From 2012 to 2016, voters of color will jump from 36 percent of the state’s electorate to 39.4 percent.
    • Asian American eligible voters will reach 11 percent of the Nevada electorate in 2016.
    • If the Latino vote share sees the same growth as is projected for the share of Latino eligible voters, more than one in five voters in the state in 2016, or 21.2 percent, will be Latino for the first time ever, up from 19 percent in 2012.

Not that the Heck campaign for the U.S. Senate would ever ask my advice, but I would offer this:  Given the statistics I would not advise doing anything to tick off women or people of Hispanic descent if I were to run for a statewide office in Nevada.  Nor would I try to hook my message on a mistake:

“End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said “no sane country” would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.” [Trump Campaign]

There are two problems herein.  It probably isn’t very helpful to attach oneself to a 1993 proposal about which the author said:

“Reid then talked about how, shortly thereafter, he was assailed at a town-hall meeting on his bill by Hispanic friends, and added, “I have done everything since that meeting in Las Vegas, in conversation with my wife, to undo my embarrassment.”  And, “In 1993, Reid’s bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Reid has said it was the biggest mistake of his legislative career. It has come back to haunt him .” [DrmAct]

Secondly, there are some very serious possible consequences of tinkering with the concept of birthright citizenship.  It’s time for a reality check:

“The reality is this: Repealing birthright citizenship would create a self-perpetuating class that would be excluded from social membership for generations. Working with researchers at Pennsylvania State University, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has found that ending birthright citizenship for U.S. babies with two unauthorized immigrant parents would increase the existing unauthorized population by 4.7 million people by 2050. Crucially, 1 million would be the children of two parents who themselves had been born in the United States. Under a scenario denying U.S. citizenship to babies with one parent who is unauthorized, our analysis finds that the unauthorized population would balloon to 24 million in 2050 from the 11 million today.

This last finding alone should give pause. Touted by its supporters as a solution to reduce illegal immigration, repeal in fact would have the completely opposite effect.” [MP org]

Thus, instead of “fixing” a problem, the repeal proponents are advocating a “solution” which  exacerbates it.  If we need an example of how badly things can go wrong – look to the Japanese importation of Korean laborers in the 1940s and the subsequent denial of citizenship opportunities.  [UCDavisEdu]

And then there’s the issue with The Women.  It’s about power, asserting power, using power, and that of course means putting women “in their place:”

“Women labor under a cloud of Trump’s distrust. “I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye—or perhaps another body part,” he wrote in Trump: The Art of the Comeback. Working moms are particularly lacking in loyalty, he believes, and thus do not make for good employees. “She’s not giving me 100 percent. She’s giving me 84 percent, and 16 percent is going towards taking care of children,” he told Mika Brzezinski. (Further evidence of his dim view of working moms: Trump once notoriously blurted that the pumping of breast milk in the office is “disgusting.”)”  [Slate]

One can only wonder what other gems are to be found in the archives of Howard Stern’s radio program?   So, we’re left with some questions candidate Heck should answer:

Do you support repealing birthright citizenship?  If so can you explain how its repeal will not create a permanent underclass of exploited workers?

Do you support the comments made by candidate Donald Trump on (1) working mothers?  (2) Which of the five different positions on the issue of abortion candidate Trump took in three days during late March/early April 2016 do you support? [WaPo] (3) How do you interpret candidate Trump’s life and life style as it relates to Family Values?

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Filed under Heck, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Culture Wars in the Potty

Iron Age

Once upon a time, for example back in the Iron Age, patriarchal bands hunted, planted, and herded.  Their story was collected, passed down, and now is accepted by some as literal. [AlterN]  Unfortunately, the Iron Age Rules of the Game don’t fit for everyone in the 21st century.  If one of the central rules was an “iron-clad” patriarchal system in which women were only “help-meets,” and daughters could be sold into slavery, [Exodus 21:7]   then it’s plausible that the biblical literalists might be disturbed by the autonomy of the modern era.  However, that’s no excuse to badger everyone into believing urban myths and blatantly false propaganda about women and members of the LBGT community.

As the backlash builds to the HB2 law in North Carolina, die-hards in Texas are doing a bit of chest pounding, declaring that the President can’t tell them to accommodate the needs of transgender children. [TPM]  The Lt. Governor offering:

“We will not yield to blackmail from the President of the United States,” Patrick said in a press conference responding to the administration’s letter. “We will not sell out our children to the federal government. And the people of Texas and the legislature will find a way to find as much of that money as we can if we are forced to. There is no compromise on this issue.”

He said that the debate over bathrooms “is the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.”

The biggest issue facing families and schools? Really?  This potty issue would be more important than the fact that the 2011 educational budget cuts are still having an effect [TXTrib], and that current budget levels have Texas ranked 38th in the nation? [DMN]  Or, perhaps there’s a more simple way of addressing the issue, such as the logic put forth by an Oklahoma legislator speaking of a bill to ban abortions:

“This is our proper function, to protect life,” said Senator Nathan Dahm, the Republican lawmaker who authored the bill, with fellow state Republican colleague David Brumbaugh confusingly adding, “Everybody talks about this $1.3 billion deficit. If we take care of morality, God will take care of the economy.” [InJust]

That’s right. If “we take care of morality then God will provide for the schools,  infrastructure, revenue streams, median household incomes, and corporate profits?  Surely, if we just follow all those Iron Age rules in the book – or at least the ones we want to – eating shrimp is OK? Wearing blended fabric clothing is all right? – then Life will take care of itself.  Leaving a person to wonder what ever happened to “God helps those who help themselves?”

Golden Rule

Or perhaps more importantly, what ever happened to the rules and advice imparted by Luke 6: 31, or by Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths, or Sutrakritanga 1.11.33, or Udana-Varga 5:18?

If we take a step further into Biblical territory we find:

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6: 16-19

Thus, spreading false information about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people is abominable? Publishing misinformation and outright lies about Planned Parenthood is hateful?  Disseminating that which is harmful to individuals who do not share a particular interpretation of the Iron Age Rules is abominable?

It is NOT true that homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles and child molesters. [UCDavisEdu] It is NOT true that transgendered people are a hoax. [MMA] It is NOT true that transgendered people just want to ogle the opposite sex in the restroom.  That’s the province of the immature.  What’s required to play the Potty War Games according to the Iron Age rules is to discount and discredit actual scientific research with statements like:

“I am not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.” [MMA

The correct interpretation of this statement is  “I am perfectly willing to deny and discredit any scientific findings which don’t comport with my opinions,”  even if doing so is harmful to others.

And, accommodating the needs of transgendered children certainly isn’t harmful.  The LAUSD has already implemented a policy of accommodation for a decade with positive results:

“Opponents of A.B. 1266 have expressed concerns that students will abuse the policy, imperiling the safety of others. But our experience stands in stark contrast to such fears: In all the years since the LAUSD implemented its policy, we have encountered nothing but positive results. We are committed to providing safe schools for all children. Our equal access policy enhances, rather than diminishes, school safety.” [HuffPo]

Absent anything other than acceptable results in states that do have statutes protecting transgendered individuals, conservative media has resorted to contriving situations designed to make people uncomfortable and then reporting it as “news.” [EM.org]

rest room sign

What would happen if we were to follow the Big Rule, the one in Luke 6:31 et. alia., and thought of our rest room accommodations accordingly?  A single person’s discomfort is not an excuse for discrimination against – a transgendered person, a person in “gastric distress” who needs to find the first facility immediately available, a young father who wants to change his baby’s diaper, a father or mother escorting a child to the toilet – anyone who’s just trying to get by doing to others as he would have them do unto him.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, gay issues, privacy, religion

Pain Capable Panderers Get The Wedgies

Heller Goo 2

No matter how much he may try to stretch himself into a “moderate” shape Nevada Senator Dean Heller is aligned squarely with the radical right when it comes to women’s health.   The U.S. Senate can’t seem to address major items like climate change, infrastructure, and the voting rights act, but the Republican controlled body can certainly spend time on women’s bodies.  Witness: H.R. 36, and the vote thereon. [rc268]

H.R. 36 is the product of the House conservatives’ brain-flatulence and emphatic embrace of pseudo-scientific items like a “pain capable” fetus, in which abortions would be banned after twenty weeks.  What’s the science?

“Published research generally supports an experience of pain being possible only later in gestation than 20 weeks. A synthesis of available evidence was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 by experts from the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere, and their report concluded: “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” The third trimester begins at 27 to 28 weeks from conception.” [FactCheck]

There are a couple of things to notice in the summary above. First, “evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited,” or, restated, there is limited evidence (read: little) that the fetus is able to perceive pain. Secondly, if we accept the “limited’ evidence, then the perception is unlikely until 27-28 weeks after conception. However, nothing scientific stopped Senator Dean Heller from voting to bring H.R. 36 up for a vote.  The motion to break cloture failed.

Nevada’s other Senator, Harry Reid, offered the following summation of GOP efforts:

“It is said that you cannot make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s a choice. On every issue imaginable Republicans are choosing to  employ the same failed strategy. Over and over again, they drag Congress and the American people through votes that are publicity stunts designed to boost their conservative records.

Today we stand in the midst of yet another Republican show-vote designed to honor the political wish list of extremists. Once again, Republicans have decided to place women’s health at the center of their ideological campaign. We’ve seen this tactic before.  It doesn’t work. Americans are tired of Republican attacks on women’s health.”

And yes, the bill is going nowhere, and the vote was a waste of time.  However, it does appear indicative of a Republican strategy in this Constant Campaign season.

Enter The Wedgies

For the sake of argument, let’s define a wedge issue as a social or cultural topic introduced into a campaign which seeks to attract and galvanize persuadable voters who might otherwise focus on economic or other major issues.  There’s nothing particularly new about this technique.  We could start almost anywhere, but 1968 seems as good a place as any, as an election into which two divisive issues were raised: “Public Order,” and “busing.”  The former sought to brand Democrats as the party of chaos (Chicago civil unrest) and the party supporting “forced integration” for which “busing” was the stand-in.  The busing (race) issue morphed into “States Rights”  and “welfare queens” (race) during the 1980 campaign, which was, in turn,  revised into the “Affirmative Action” (race)  issue in 1996. The “gay marriage wedge issue” was used to good effect in the 2004 election season.

Clinging to the Wedgies

While wedge issues are extremely helpful during primary elections, their utility may diminish during general elections depending on the level of voter turnout.  The danger of the wedge strategy is that it may be viewed as what is on offer from a party which has very little else to publicize to a national audience.  The second danger inherent in the wedge strategy is that the issue itself may become marginalized and less effective in national elections.

It’s a useful exercise during any campaign season to take a step away from the publicity attached to single issues or single candidates and see what the polling says about national priorities.  For example, the July 28, 2015 polling done by Quinnipiac University shows registered voters placing the highest priority on the economy and jobs (37%), health care (13%), terrorism (12%), and foreign policy (9%).  Immigration (9%), Climate Change (6%), federal deficit (6%), taxes (3%) rounded out the polling.  Those social and cultural issues garner about 2% to 3% in other polling. [TPP]

Note that of the contemporary wedge issues only immigration is seen as a major national priority (9%) and the polls don’t indicate the perspective of the voters in terms of either passing comprehensive immigration policy reform, or on the other hand, a policy of mass deportation. Gay marriage and abortion barely register with a majority of American voters.

Using gay marriage as a wedge issue appears to be one of those issues whose time has come and gone. Gay marriage might have been a potent wedge issue in 1996 when only 27% of the population thought those marriages should be valid, however its luster faded by 2015 when approximately 60% of the American public agreed that gay marriages should be legal. [Gallup] The fact that only the most radical of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates sought to exploit the issue of the Kentucky county clerk leads to the conclusion that this issue has also been marginalized.

The next available wedge issue for social  conservatives is abortion, and it appears to be moving center stage for its close up in the 2015 primary season.  The priority given to the abortion issue by the GOP has been explained thusly:

“The answer lies in the Republican Party’s shift to the right. A decade ago, between 30 and 40 percent of Republicans identified as pro-choice. This May, (2012) that number was a scant 22 percent. It’s hard to know whether that’s the result of Republicans changing their minds about abortion, or pro-choice respondents ceasing to identify as Republicans. But the result is the same: The party is increasingly uniform in its opposition to abortion.” [AmProsp]

This might help to explain why H.R. 36 (and other similar legislation) is perceived as a cohesive issue for Republicans and why Senator Heller and others have attached themselves to it.  Trends in voter affiliation may support the thesis that some are ceasing to identify as Republicans since polling was done in  2003.  As of 2014 32% responded as Democrats, 39% as Independents, and 23% as Republicans; a loss of 7% in self-identification with the GOP since 2003. [PRC]  If the trend continues, we might reasonably conclude that the fixation in the GOP with what appears to be a wedge issue of limited utility could have serious consequences for that party in upcoming national elections.

Given the Republican Party’s march to the right, the willingness of its national leadership to adopt a wedge issue like abortion, and the continual emphasis placed on the topic by ultra-conservatives, probably means we will see more publicity about Planned Parenthood, more non-scientific legislation, and more lock step votes such as that of Senator Heller in the U.S. Senate.   And it’s still over 400 days until the next national election.

Recommended/Reference: N. Coca, “Wedge Issues: A 2008 Historical Preview,” NithinCoca, January 2008.  D.S. Hillygus, T.G. Shields, “The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns, Princeton University Press, 2009.  K. Walsh, “Wedge Issues Take Center Stage in 2016 Race,” USNWR, April 2015.  Sen. Harry Reid, “Republican Attacks on Women…” Press Release, September 2015.  D. Townshend, “Abortion: The New Wedge Issue,” American Prospect, August 2012.  Pew Research Center, “Trends in Party Affiliation,” April 2015.  The Polling Report, “Problems and Priorities,” July 2015.

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Filed under abortion, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Reid

Cases of Interest in the Pipeline

 Gavel If we can tear ourselves away for a moment from the Pelagian morality play, or circus act, on stage in Kentucky, there are some other interesting cases which are winding through the U.S. courts.

Shapiro v. McManus:  A case brought by a Maryland Republican who believes the Democrats gerrymandered districts after the 2010 census.  What make this interesting is that Shapiro is contending his case should have been heard by a three judge panel – which would put it on a fast track to the Supreme Court. [ScotusBlog, Baltimore Sun]  Those watching voting rights and political cases may want to keep track of this one.

Arizona v. U.S.:  The immigration issue, and the legal status or protections related thereto, is central to this long running case based on the Papers Please Arizona law otherwise known as SB 1070. The case is back in the news:

“Challengers of Arizona’s landmark immigration law failed to show that police would enforce the statute differently for Latinos than they would for people of other ethnicities, a judge said in a ruling that dismissed the last of seven challenges to the law.

The ruling could signal the end of the case and gave a victory to backers of the law, which was approved in 2010.

In her order Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton dismissed the challenge and upheld provisions that were previously ruled on by appeals courts.” [LA Times]

Stay tuned.

Whole Women’s Health et al v. Cole:  The case has been filed by Planned Parenthood supporters in Texas challenging the “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.”  (pdf)  The petition raises some crucial questions and is highly recommended reading. (h/t Scotusblog]

Okay, if we really can’t avoid the Rowan County clerk’s exercise in liberum arbitrium, ( the moral strength of man’s will when steeled by asceticism is sufficient in itself to desire and attain the loftiest ideal of virtue ) then there are some interesting and informative articles available which go beyond sideshow reportage:

  • Marty Lederman “Further strangeness in the Kim Davis Case,” Balkinizaton blog September 7, 2015.  Mark Graber “A Different Take on Kim Davis, Balkinization, September 5, 2015.
  • Lyle Denniston “A New Legal Cloud over same-sex marriage in Kentucky,” Scotus Blog, September 3, 2015.
  • Charles J. Reid, “No Refuge in Scripture or in Law,” Huffington Post, September 5, 2015.
  • Garrett Epps, “The fatal flaw in Davis’s appeal,” Atlantic, September 2, 2015.
  • Brian Tashman, “Five Bizarre Arguments Kim Davis’ Supporters Have Used To Defend Her Lawbreaking,” Right Wing Watch, September 4, 2015.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, Immigration, Judicial, Voting, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

“Small Government,” my lady parts!

Happy Hour Debate

For a political party to stake its flag in “No Big Government” territory and then countenance government interference between a woman and her physician is just about as far into the Hamlet of Hypocrisy as one can inhabit.  And, there they went again, as expected, into the manufactured poutrage over the debunked Planned Parenthood video.  First, the Happy Hour:

“This is absolutely disgusting, and revolts the conscience of the nation,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said of secretly-recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing fetal tissue research. “We just, earlier this week, kicked them out of Medicaid in Louisiana as well, canceled their provider contract,” Jindal said. Then, seemingly undermining his case that the undercover videos related to his decision, Jindal added, “They don’t provide any abortions in Louisiana.” [MSNBC]

Yes, what’s “absolutely disgusting” and “revolts the conscience of the nation,” is that anyone would fall for the manufactured propaganda piece in the first place.  Additionally, to blunder into the questions associated with fetal tissue research AND note that PPA doesn’t provide abortion services in Louisiana is about as silly as it gets.  However, Jindal’s found a way to cut Medicaid in his state by canceling their provider contract – which means that the 80% of PPA clients who avail themselves of PPA medical services won’t be getting any help avoiding unwanted pregnancies.  Nor will they be getting STD/HIV/AIDS screening, or cervical cancer screenings, or breast cancer screenings. [PPA]

Former NY Governor George Pataki should have known better:

“You know, Hillary Clinton’s always saying how Republicans don’t follow science? Well, they’re the ones not listening to the scientists today, because doctors say that at 20 weeks that is a viable life inside the womb,” Pataki said. “And at that point, it’s a life that we have the right to protect, and I think we should protect.” [MSNBC]

Not so fast!   The science is a bit different than what Gov. Pataki is asserting. The New York Times reported the latest research results:

The study, of thousands of premature births, found that a tiny minority of babies born at 22 weeks who were medically treated survived with few health problems, although the vast majority died or suffered serious health issues. Leading medical groups had already been discussing whether to lower the consensus on the age of viability, now cited by most medical experts as 24 weeks.” 

Get the “tiny minority” and “vast majority” observations?  And, the part about “leading medical groups” citing 24 weeks as a minimum.  The American Academy of Pediatrics adds, “Determining the survival prognosis for the infant of a pregnancy with threatened preterm delivery between 22 and 25 completed weeks of gestation remains problematic.”    There are at least 8 pre-natal screening tests [ACOG]  There’s a reason for the problems, an ultra-sound ‘fetal anatomy survey’ is a test used at 17 to 20 weeks.  If a woman opts for blood screening tests the ‘sequential integrated screen’ is done at 10-13 weeks, and the second blood test is performed between 15 and 20 weeks.  The ‘serum integrated screen” is performed at 10 to 13 weeks, and the second between 15 and 20 weeks.  [Healthline] Noticing a pattern here? It should be noted that the “anomaly ultrasound” is usually completed around 18-20 weeks. [CDC] Most of the second tests are performed at or around 20 weeks, the results may be in the works when the clock runs out if the forced-birth folks have their way. 

No one is contending that a woman must have an abortion if a fatal defect is discovered in the second trimester.  Perhaps it would help the politicians to remind them that 0-13 weeks is considered the first trimester, 14-26 weeks the second, and 27 – 40 the third.  What rational people are asking is that the woman and her family be the ones who decide if between 20 and 26 weeks  an abortion is necessary to prevent the woman from having to carry a fetus with a fatal birth defect to term.  Governor Pataki should review some of the medical information easily available online before buying into the Radical Right Anti-Choice propaganda.

And then there was Senator Lindsay Graham.

“I don’t think it’s a war on women for all of us as Americans to stand up and stop harvesting organs from little babies,” he said, referring to a legal process by which women can donate the fetal remains after abortion for the purpose of medical research.” [MSNBC]

No, Senator, this isn’t Harvest Time.  We are talking about fetal tissue, donated by women voluntarily for medical research. Tissue which helped find a vaccine for polio, and which is assisting researchers find cures and treatments for such conditions as  Parkinson’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS),  and macular degeneration. [See previously DB]

Senator Graham is a lucky man – he was born July 9, 1955,  after the (inactivated) injected polio vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk (1953) and after about 2 million children participated in the 1954 field trials, and after the April 12, 1955 Ann Arbor, MI, press conference announcing the success of those trials.  Between 1955 and 1957 the incidence of polio declined in the United States by 85% to 90%. [AmHistSci]  There would be no more reports, as there were in the 1940’s and early 1950’s of some 35,000 children and adults contracting the dread disease every year. [CDC] And this, because some courageous and compassionate women donated fetal tissue for medical research.

And then there was former Senator Rick Santorum. Who sidestepped the question and went straight for promoting a Partial Birth Abortion Ban law, heedless of the fact that this is NOT a birth, that survival rates for infants actually born weighing 500 grams or less is 14%, [Slate] and that “partial birth” isn’t a medical term, it’s a political term coined by anti-abortion activists. [NPR]

Once the Happy Hour was complete, the main show included Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker proudly announcing that he’d closed down Planned Parenthood in his state four years ago.   Correction: He still has 22 PPA centers in the state, but five did have to close after the state withdrew $1 million in funding from any facility that provided abortion services. [CBS]

The true danger to himself and others is former Governor Mike Huckabee, who wants to apply the 5th and 14th Amendment guarantees to the unborn. Somehow, Mr. Huckabee has invented his own new pseudo-medical term: “DNA schedule.” There is NO DNA schedule. Much less is there a unique DNA schedule for every human being at conception. [CBS] But then, we have to remember that this is the same man who lashes out at any hint of equal protection (under the 5th and 14th amendments) for members of the LBGT community, but finds the Duggar Quiverfull folks perfectly acceptable.

Moving right along:

“Sen. Marco Rubio was on the defensive after debate moderator Megyn Kelly suggested that the Florida Republican would “favor a “rape and incest exception” to abortion bans.

“I have never said that,” Rubio objected. “And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection.” [CBS]

Really?  Because CBS news did a bit of fact checking:

“But he appears to be wrong about never having advocated the exception. In 2013, Rubio cosponsored a Senate bill with wide-ranging Republican support called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, and that bill had exceptions for rape, incest, and in cases when the mother’s life was threatened.”

Who’s arguing? Yes, all human life is worthy of protection, but most sentient beings include the mother in that equation.  So, Senator Rubio, are you now contending that the health and well being of the mother is of no consequence in the formulation of laws concerning abortions?  Are you perfectly willing to orphan the remaining children in the family in order to save a fetus?

And The Donald? Who knows. He jabbered for 10 minutes and 30 seconds. [HuffPo]

None of this should be surprising, other than offering “Repeal and Replace” rhetoric tossing some 19 million working men and women out of their health insurance coverage, and allowing the Banksters to avoid all those pesky regulations which might help ease if not prevent the next financial calamity (Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank), and tossing more funding into the next glorious war – they really don’t have anything on offer for climate change and voting rights…. So we’re back to the same old Trickle Down Economic Hoax, and “wedgie issues.”

Now we have 65 weeks before the 2016 general election…. Not quite long enough to cover the 91 week gestational period of an African Elephant…

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Filed under abortion, Health Care, health insurance, Lindsey Graham, Medicaid

Cut the Pro-Life Blather and Come Back to Me When You’re Ready to Talk About Real Life

Bronte Quote

Now the phony outfit which produced one bit of propaganda video smearing the work of Planned Parenthood has released others – albeit without so much fanfare after the first one was thoroughly debunked as beyond heavily edited and well  into the realm of sick fiction.  Sad to say, there’s a market for this stuff.

If we combine religious convictions with partisan politics the result is a rationalized*, but not necessarily reasonable, audience for all manner of propaganda which supports the world view of the anti-choice activist. Further, if we combine a media intent on publishing superficial coverage of policy with an emphasis on the politics of the subject matter and not the substance, then we get the breathless “debates” which pass for discourse in national media.

And the anti-choice activists are playing the media like a cheap tin whistle.  This is relatively easy in a media environment in which facts don’t matter all that much.  The anti-choice activism attracting national attention is as artificial and sensational as it is formulaic.

Step One: Attract Media Attention.  Marches on Washington, D.C. have become rather common place, the one planned by March For Life back in January 2014 was attended by “thousands.”  That would be “hundreds of thousands” if we count attendance at all the marches from 2003 onward.  The event will continue to be on the calendar as long as speakers are ready to sign on, such as Jesse Helms,  Rep. Chris Smith, Randall Terry,  Rep. Patrick J. Toomey,  Rep. Eric Cantor, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy.   However, as this event becomes more illustrative of the close relationship between religion and politics, it doesn’t command attention onto single targets.

Step Two: Make Your Own News.  This is the point at which the phony videos come into play. Planned Parenthood has come under fire before, and as a target for anti-choice activists who seem to be disturbed by the 3% of its medical care in the form of abortions, but also enraged by the “planned” part wherein the clinics provide contraceptive care.  In my opinion, it’s necessary at this part of the discussion to separate segments of the anti-choice audience.

If we look at the Gallup Polling for trends, since presumably they’ve asked the questions the same way over the course of their reporting, the number expressing support for abortion under any circumstances has ranged from about 21% in the 1970s to about 29% today.  Those who expressed the view that abortions should be illegal in all circumstances has never achieved more than a 23% level.  Gallup has been tracking opinions of “single issue” voters, asking if the candidate must share the prospective voter’s views, and in this instance among registered voters only 19% self identified as ‘abortion single issue voters.’

Americans are generally in favor of having a physician inform women of alternatives, but are opposed (57%) to having a law allowing a pharmacists or physicians  to opt out of procedures which could induce an abortion.  61% were reported as opposed (61%) to the idea that a Constitutional amendment should be enacted to prohibit abortions with the exception of an immediate threat to the mother’s physical health.

What these numbers show us is that the anti-choice influence as currently voiced by Governor Scott Walker, is a function of the fringe of the “pro-birth” advocates, a group identified as opposed to abortion in almost every circumstance, and agreeable only if the woman’s health is in immediate danger.

So, how did this this rabid minority grab the headlines?  (1) Television needs pictures, (2) and Television needs to fill air time.  Therefore, the strategy, as practiced by the erstwhile Center for Medical Progress is to create the pictures and edit the narrative to get media attention. It did: on Fox, on ABC, on NBC, and in the Washington Post, among others.

Step Three: Provide a Distraction.  Now we have the confluence of political strategy and conservative social activism.  A Republican Party, currently engaging in intriguing internecine warfare between its establishment and Tea Party ranks, has struggled to get a message out to voters on crucial issues, and has to deal with the Trump’ed Campaign which is long on bluster and short on policy.  CNN polling from this month indicates the top issue for Americans is the economy at 44%. Issues at 20% and below are: health care, terrorism, immigration, and foreign policy.  If the GOP opts for health care then it has to present a full blown policy alternative to the Affordable Care Act; if the GOP opts for terrorism then it has to present a unified vision of exactly who in the Middle East is going to be supported by whom.  If the GOP opts for trailing along with Donald Trump on the immigration issue, then it needs to offer a viable alternative to the Senate comprehensive immigration policy reform bill languishing in House committees.

In short, the anti-abortion issue is extremely attractive as a distraction. The media is enraptured with its latest shiny object “Celebrities talking about something scandalous which can be simply stated and opens the possibility of endless speculation.”   The Perfect News Story.  Let the lambent divagation begin!

Step Four: Enter the Opportunists.  Once the assault was given credibility by a credulous media, the politicians immediately pounced.  For example, Missouri politicians could be addressing the fact that the median household income for that state ranks 44th in the nation. [Census]  However, it’s ever so much easier to launch a state Senate investigation into Planned Parenthood.  Tennessee politicians could be evaluating information about the potential $1.4 billion “Insure Tennessee” could bring to the state, [UTecon] but no, they’d prefer to wail on about Planned Parenthood.  Florida politicians could be addressing how to deal with an influx of people from Puerto Rico’s lamentable economic situation [Orlando] but the publicity seekers prefer to call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood. [NBC2] And, one more example:  Washington state Republican leaders want an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s activities, [King5] instead of discussing further why it was necessary to cut $10 billion in basic services from the state budget? [WABPC]

Step Five: Lather Rinse Repeat.  Once conservative politicians discover that media attention can be drawn by magisterially announcing an Investigation into the Scandal, I Say Scandal!, and reporters chime in by asking those pro-choice politicians What Do YOU think? the great game can continue.  Meanwhile, the Missouri economy can lurch along, the Tennessee insurance options can be put aside in the wonky category, Floridians can contemplate what can go wrong when there’s an influx from the economically devastated  Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Washingtonians can muddle through a sparse budget while trying to renovate and redevelop waterfront properties.

The unholy alliance of shrill advocates, all too many of whom don’t much care what happens to the child after its birth (No food stamps for you, you little grifter, you’ll just learn to be dependent), combined with a sensationalist and shallow press – not well known for its fact checking, and added to a partisan farrago of opportunistic and camera seeking politicians, yields a recipe for political cynicism at its finest.

Come Back To Me When You’re Ready To Get Serious

Bluntly stated, I don’t much care for this brand of politics, or the attendant perfunctory press which nourishes it. Come back to me when there’s a real scandal – like the 16 million children in the United States who are now living in poverty.  [NCCP] – like the 18,000 children and teenagers who are killed or injured in gun violence each year in this country [Brady] – like, for how many years now have we been discussing the number of children who attend school in substandard buildings? “National spending on school construction has diminished to approximately $10 billion in 2012, about half the level spent prior to the recession, while the condition of school facilities continues to be a significant concern for communities. Experts now estimate the investment needed to modernize and maintain our nation’s school facilities is at least $270 billion or more…” [ASCE] – like, when you want to talk about the 49 million Americans, 15.8 million of whom are children, who are living in food insecure households. [FAO]

Until then, I will continue to hold the opinion that the radical anti-abortion advocates who are adept at playing the Grab the Microphone Game, and the politicians and members of the press who are delighted to play along, are little more than shallow opportunistic attention seekers.  Attention seekers who can’t differentiate between being Pro-Life and being in favor of Forced Birth.

Recommended Reading and References:

*Dissertation: University of Iowa, “The Violent Transformation of a Social Movement: Women and Anti-Abortion Activism,” Karissa A. Haugeberg, 2011.  Iowa Research Online. JSTOR: “Movements, Counter Movements, and the structure of political opportunity,” American Journal of Sociology, Meyer & Staggenborg.

Media Matters for America: “Factcheck.Org debunks deceptively edited video smearing Planned Parenthood,”  July 22, 2015.  “Unspinning the Planned Parenthood Video,” FactCheck.Org, July 21, 2015. “Second Heavily edited Planned Parenthood Attack Video is Also A Big Bust, Slate, July 21, 2015. “Debunking the Planned Parenthood Video Hoax,” RH Reality Check, July 20, 2015.  “What the Planned Parenthood hoax really proves: Right Wing Extremists have no qualms about destroying people’s lives, “ Salon, July 16, 2015.  “Here’s how the anti-abortion movement plans to modernize its approach,” Huffington Post, January 22, 2015.

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Filed under abortion, media, Politics

Politicians Playing Doctor: There’s a difference between pro-life and pro-birth

Pro Life

Indeed, we do need a broader, deeper, national conversation about what being ‘pro-life” actually means.  Unfortunately, in the constricted world of some activists, the term is simply a political buzz word for “anti-abortion.”

The buzz words are back as some Republican candidates woo their evangelical base with “pro-life” legislative proposals, such as Senator Lindsay Graham’s reintroduction of his “20 week abortion” ban bill in the U.S. Senate. [HuffPo]

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which the House passed earlier this year, bans abortions after 20 weeks unless the woman’s life is in danger or she is a victim of rape or incest. The bill is based on the disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.  Abortions after 20 weeks are very rare and women often make the decision to end a pregnancy at that point after discovering a severe fetal anomaly that could not be detected earlier. Graham’s bill has no exception for those situations.” [HuffPo]

The first problem with Senator Graham’s proposal is that it really doesn’t address the issue of abortion directly – 98.5% of abortions occur before the 20 weeks expire. Further, Senator Graham’s proposal would prevent the termination of a pregnancy in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or in instances of incest and rape.  For all practical purposes, Senator Graham’s bill doesn’t outlaw abortions, it merely makes them more inconvenient – and a challenge to his proposed law (if enacted) would allow for a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade.  Which, we’d might expect is what the Pro-Birth advocates want in the first place.  If we were truly Pro-Child we’d take some other elements into consideration.

Medical Issues

If we are going to extend the moral argument, as Sister Joan Chittester suggests, then we do need to take those “severe fetal anomalies” under advisement.   How do we address a potential “life” for a fetus which is developing without kidneys, without a bladder, and with no prospect for lung development? [HuffPo]  The condition is known as Potter’s Syndrome, “There has not yet been a BRA baby (no kidneys, no ureters and which also has pulmonary hypoplasia) that has been reported to survive more than a few days past birth.” [PS.org]  Bless them, there are geneticists and other researchers working to pinpoint the causes and perhaps find ways to discover how to eventually eliminate this condition, but for now parents are faced with the possibility of carrying to term a fetus which will survive only a few days. Where’s the reduction of pain in that?

Potter’s Syndrome, and some other fetal anomalies may only be discovered after the 20 week “ban” because “the ideal time to perform the second trimester ultrasound is between 20-22 weeks. While ultrasounds administered prior to 20 weeks are generally adequate to assess major organ systems, they fail to detect major cardiac, skeletal, and craniofacial anomalies, particularly those that are lethal to the fetus.” [SciPro] (emphasis added)

“Of particular concern are two classes of fetal anomalies that cannot be detected early in a pregnancy. First are the variable-onset fetal anomalies. These anomalies begin at variable gestational ages but are often detected beyond 20 weeks. Second are the late-onset anomalies that develop late in the gestational age of the fetus, typically in the second or third trimester, or are undetectable until the abnormality is at the end-point of a pregnancy. Importantly, the 20-week bans passing across the states generally do not include exceptions for lethal fetal anomalies, meaning women are forced to carry fetuses with anomalies to term, regardless of viability.”  [SciPro]

The only thing that may occur for certain if 20 week bans are enacted is that more families will have to endure the tragedies of anencephaly (absence of the brain above the base of the skull); renal agenesis (kidneys fail to develop); limb-body wall complex (organs develop outside the body); neural tube defects (protrusion of brain tissue through the skull or severe hydrocephaly); meningomyelocele  (openings in the vertebrae); caudal regression syndrome; lethal skeletal dysplasias (leading to respiratory failure).   These aren’t the kind of birth defects which lead to disabilities, in their severe forms they are simply and horribly lethal.

Where in Senator Graham’s bill are the funds to assist families who have to face the bills for a complicated and often tragic birth?  Where in the Senator’s bill are the funds for further research on fatal fetal anomalies and their possible causation?   If the bill is truly “pro-life” then where are the suggested appropriations for medical research?  Why hasn’t the House of Representatives, the body in which appropriations must be introduced, addressed research needs for those studying fetal anomalies?

Social Issues

If the issues aren’t medical they’re social, and we know what those are.

“Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.” [Guttmacher]

Raising children alone.”  And, how are we going to assist women who are single parents?  By cutting the funding for SNAP benefits? (food stamps) By turning the SNAP program into a block grant unit which can be further reduced at the whim of a stingy Congress?  By a Congress much more willing to subsidize the oil and gas giants, or the military manufacturers, than to offer help to a struggling mother.  By telling a single mother to “get her life together and find a husband?” [Bush 1994]  If we truly want to have fewer abortions, then the obvious thing to do is to remove the barriers to having children – including the economic ones.  Would it help the single mother if we decided that women should have equal pay if they are doing the same job as a man?

Depressed or using illicit substances.”  Again, if we want to reduce the number of abortions, how about increasing the access to mental health programs and treatment?   Where’s the funding for mental health clinics, for out-patient services, for in-patient services? For any mental health services?

We know that by 2012 state mental health services budgets had been pared to the bone.  [TP]  By 2011, the Kaiser Foundation was reporting that 60% of adults and 70% of children with diagnosable mental health issues were not receiving the treatment they needed.  Again, it’s one thing to vigorously announce one’s pro-life stance, and another to advocate for additional funds to support the mental health services which might make all the difference in the world to a woman who might otherwise seek an abortion.

Using illicit substances? Once more: Where is the advocacy for more drug treatment programs?  Where is the advocacy for making drug treatment programs more readily available to lower income women whose addictions endanger their pregnancies?   Do I hear crickets?

“…in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence.”  Have a look at the map, did your representative in Congress vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act?  Of the 160 Republican members of Congress who voted against the re-authorization of the law, we find the names of some who were also sponsors of Graham’s original S. 1670 abortion ban bill.  Who sponsored Graham’s  bill but voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act?   Answer: Senators Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Thune, John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, Tim Scott, Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassley, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Pat Roberts,  James Inhofe, Mike Johanns, John Boozman, James Risch, Tom Coburn, Ron Johnson, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul.  (Presidential candidates underlined)

How, exactly, does it make any sense at all to sponsor legislation to outlaw later term abortions while voting against a bill which sought to alleviate one of the five primary reasons women were seeking an abortion in the first place?

“…had trouble deciding and then had access problems.”   This seems to be the point of the anti-abortionists.  Legislate bans on later term abortions while enacting state laws closing down medical facilities which provide abortion services.  Perhaps it has not occurred to the Senators that lower income women may have trouble gathering the financial resources to get an abortion, and by the time they do – the clock’s run out on them. If simply “attending” to the possible pain of fetus (and that’s certainly debatable) is the reason for the bill – then the obvious way to solve the problem is to make it easier for a woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy earlier.  Obviously, that’s not the point.   The idea is to prevent the abortion – so, now we ought to address Sister Joan’s contentions – Where’s the funding for the nutrition, for the education, for the housing, for the day care, for the CHILD?

“…were young and nulliparous”  Nulliparous, fellows, is the term for a woman who has never before borne a child.   Morning sickness isn’t the only early signal – there’s shortness of breath, sore breasts, a need for a nap, shifts in the sense of smell, mood swings, and hunger.  How many young women who’ve never been pregnant before can put all the signals together? And, how many don’t have the necessary information from parents or from sex education or health classes to put the signals into a coherent pattern?  It’s entirely possible that a pregnant teen would miss the signals until “it’s too late.” Please spare me the sermonizing; abstinence only classes aren’t going to help the kids figure out what’s going on.  If a person wants to be pro-life, then it would behoove the individual to advocate for health education which addresses just when “life” is about to sprout.

Pro-Life Pro-Birth

Those who wave their Pro-Life signs won’t convince me the signs mean anything more than a call for politicians to enact anti-abortion bills unless, and until, those signs are accompanied by an equal effort to insure that every child is adequately fed, securely housed, cared for while parents work, attending a quality pre-school program, attending a well resourced school, clothed appropriately for the season, receiving needed medical, dental, hearing, and vision services.   That’s Pro-Life; the ideological and judgmental anti-abortion crowd is merely Pro-Birth. Please adjust your signage accordingly.

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Filed under abortion, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights