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Prison-industrial complex targets women

by Dan Burns on April 3, 2014 · 0 comments

prisonIt’s been going on for quite a while.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), females are the fastest growing group of incarcerated persons in the United States. The annual growth rate for incarcerated women is now up to 7.5%, compared to 5.7% for men The majority of these women come from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds, are undereducated and come from below the federal poverty line. Most of them are serving time for nonviolent crimes…
Back at the end of 2001, 93,031 American women were incarcerated in federal and state prisons, making up 6.6% of the total incarcerated population. In 2010, more than 200,000 women were behind bars, most of them women of color. Hispanic women are incarcerated nearly twice the rate of white women, and black women are locked up at four times the rate of white women.
(Humane Exposures)

And what is one (deeply red) state doing about all of this?


Anti-choice zealots find another bottom

by Dan Burns on March 19, 2014 · 1 comment

538554_417321918296055_196601040368145_1516637_2083533339_nAs a general, in fact pretty much universal, rule, right-wingers are not intelligent. But they can display extraordinary levels of low cunning. And I didn’t know about Minnesota; it would seem that it should be the #1 law to come off the books during this alleged “un-session.” I’ve seen no indication of any effort to do that.

Two obscure abortion proposals are currently advancing in Oklahoma and Alabama that would target women during some of the most emotionally painful moments in their lives. Both bills seek to prohibit women from having an abortion based on fatal fetal abnormalities unless their doctor provides them with “alternate options” first — essentially, information about perinatal hospice centers that can care for the infants in the first few weeks or months of their lives, before they succumb to their fatal medical conditions…
So, with that in mind, consider how the proposed legislation in Oklahoma and Alabama will factor into this equation. State lawmakers are ultimately suggesting that the women who have made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy to spare their child more pain — the women who are already grieving that loss — should hear more information about perinatal hospice care.
These women aren’t naive or careless when they show up for their abortion appointment. Like Day Danziger, they’ve surely already agonized over their choice. State-sanctioned language about carrying the pregnancy to term would simply insinuate they’re making the wrong decision, potentially putting them under even more emotional strain…
Nonetheless, this unnecessary and potentially harmful requirement is already law in at least three states. In 2006, Minnesota was the first to enact a law requiring women to receive information about perinatal hospice centers. Then Kansas followed in its footsteps in 2009. Arizona passed its own version in 2012. Those three states already had broad “informed consent” laws on the books requiring doctors to give women biased information about the risks of abortion. The provisions specifically applying to fatal fetal abnormalities were enacted separately, on top of the existing laws, just as they’re now moving through the legislatures in Oklahoma and Alabama.
(Think Progress)

Two more items about choice, below the fold.

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Changing the momentum on choice

by Dan Burns on January 21, 2014 · 2 comments

declarationIt’s certainly long past due.

But there may be a shift on the horizon.
As the new year kicks off, the pro-choice community is beginning to lay the groundwork for a new kind of strategy. On the state level, they’re beginning to push for legislation that not only rolls back anti-choice restrictions, but also expands health care opportunities for women and their families. They’re striking a delicate balance between finding common ground with social conservatives — like focusing on preventative care and maternal health outcomes — while maintaining that abortion is also an important aspect of reproductive health. And grassroots activists are committed to nudging the dial forward on issues that have long been considered too controversial for the political sphere.
“The momentum has shifted,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told ThinkProgress in an interview. “Americans as a whole have had enough. We’re not just going to sit idly by and fight defensive fights and take these attacks on reproductive freedom sitting down. We’re starting to define what a new agenda for reproductive freedom looks like in the 21st century.”
(Think Progress)

It’s important to know that, despite the insane zealotry in state legislatures, public opinion continues to heavily favor pro-choice views:


women__s_rights_chalk_by_luckyduck2-d3jfdlvIn the spirit of end-of-year listing, I’m passing on a good one.

2013 not only saw a number of pro-choice successes but also countless hard-working activists and allies who, against tremendous odds, put in time and energy to advance reproductive rights and health and ensure the safety of women and girls of all backgrounds. We salute these heroes for all that they do each and every day to make certain that women and their families have the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. Here is a far from comprehensive list of some of those brave women and men.
(RH Reality Check)

And I’m linking a pretty disgusting one, though engrossing in a perverse way, from Media Matters. “Know Your Role And Shut Your Mouth”: How Conservative Media Treated Women In 2013.


When Pro-life is Just Sexism

by Grace Kelly on September 14, 2013 · 16 comments

How can one get to an answer of supporting the death penalty and opposing abortion as consistent? See the inconsistency question points out what women have always sensed. The abortion issue is not about sanctity of life at all, or the “pro-life” people would oppose death penalties, war, and environmental toxins while also supporting universal health care, food aid and disaster aid. Almost universally the “pro-life” people oppose any policy that supports human life. That means that “pro-life” really means putting down women. Just like the Obama birth certificate issue is just an issue of not being born white. “Pro-life” is a code word for male superiority.


The principle of law should be that everything from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet is just me. What I am advocating is the one body – one life standard or the “breath of life” standard, otherwise if we build a law principle of a life within a life then we have to equally apply the standard. I call this conveying babyhood. So instead of real babies, we have fetal babies, ovum babies and clone cell babies. Using standards like mobility, independence, and ability to live without the parent, the sperm baby truly has the best case. Sperm live and move outside of the male for up to five days. When women in legislatures have proposed applying the same law to men about sperm babies, the real bias shows.


The map above is really a map of sexism, with North Dakota and Georgia Alabama standing out as the most sexist states.


66758002You’ve probably heard, from a certain faction not given to great regard for the truth, that any woman who exercises her fundamental right to reproductive choice will be wracked with soul-destroying guilt and anguish for the rest of her life. That is mega-BS.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have been taking part in a five-year study designed to measure the mental, emotional and economic effects that abortion regulations may have on women. Contrary to right-wing myths, the researchers found that ninety percent of women believe that they made the right decision, one week after the procedure. Even in cases where women described feeling some negative emotions such as guilt or sadness, eighty percent still said that it was the right choice for them. Additionally, the research revealed that women who did not have access to abortion services expressed more regret and negative emotion than women who chose to have the procedure.
(Addicting Info)

And speaking of that same faction:

As Katie McDonough notes at Salon, more and more Americans have become familiar with the forced-birther operations known as pregnancy crisis centers. In fact, they are pregnancy propaganda centers. The people who run these storefront centers brazenly lie to the women who show up at their doors. These lies endanger women’s lives. But lying doesn’t matter to them because in their minds any method is okay if it serves their immoral crusade to hamstring women’s reproductive rights.
Their very existence is bad enough. But guess what? If you pay taxes in one of those 34 states, you’re keeping their doors open.
(Daily Kos)

Including Minnesota, and I’m not confident that our current legislature plans to do anything about that.


It appears the Administration of Governor Rick Perry lied to the media.  And of course, the right wing blogosphere obediently ran with the story, but no surprise, the facts are not their friends.


It turns out, like the bogus claim of $15k worth of damage to an LA luxury hotel by Zimmerman Verdict protesters, and the bogus claim that black teens yelling “This is for Trayvon” beat up an Hispanic man, and the bogus claim that there were Zimmerman Verdict riots in Miami, or the bogus claim that two white men were killed by black men over a non-existent “Free Zimmerman” bumper sticker, that the story about the anti-abortion legislation protesters bringing and planning on flinging pee and poo is also not true.


Protesters claimed that they never brought urine or feces to disrupt the Texas legislature (although it does appear there were a few small envelopes of glitter confiscated).  Investigation of the claims, including interviews with those members of law enforcement have not produced a single officer who either made such a confiscation or saw another officer do so.  Nor have any protesters  experienced  such a confiscation, or members of the press observed it. …READ MORE


After Wendy Davis’s sublime effort

by Dan Burns on June 27, 2013 · 0 comments

66758002I’ve never really tried to get to know any right-wing men from states like Texas. From my perspective, there’d be about as much chance of having a worthwhile exchange of the fruits of our respective intellects, as I could have with a hunk of dirt out in the yard. Still, I think most of us progressives have them pretty well pegged; they’re not complicated. It may be useful to understand that for the likes of Texas Governor Rick Perry, it’s personal. He couldn’t compromise if he wanted to; his very “manhood” is at stake. A woman – properly, in his world, a willingly subservient baby-box – stood up to him, in a very public way, and won. Intolerable.
(Update: As I was saying…)
So it took him less than 24 hours to call a special session of the Texas legislature, in which the chances are about 99% that the zealots’ agenda will become law. And it’s a huge deal: closing down over 90% of the clinics will make safe, legal abortion a nearly impossible option for most girls and women in the state.

The informed speculation that I’ve been seeing is that the first court challenge will succeed in overturning the law, but that it will be reinstated on the next step upward. (The Fifth Circuit? I’m not sure about the number, but, apparently, fanatically right-wing.) And that then this could eventually be the one that finally forces the Supreme Court to get directly involved. Whether that will happen before or after a likely balance-of-power change on SCOTUS, I’m not even going to try to predict. I do doubt that the current court would overturn Roe outright, but John Roberts has shown himself more than willing to do all kinds of tap-dances and wriggles in order to get his way, while trying not to appear to be entirely a reactionary tool. That being said, I really don’t know.
An important thing is to try to take full political advantage. Over two of three Americans support full reproductive choice, whatever their private (and in many cases, apparently quite malleable, given changes in their own circumstances) opinions as to the ethics of the issue. (I’m talking about the overturning Roe v. Wade number.) And Texas is getting riper for the picking, by the day.
(“Draft Wendy Davis for Texas Governor;” check it out, here.)


Kline an eager soldier in the War on Women

by Dan Burns on June 14, 2013 · 8 comments

538554_417321918296055_196601040368145_1516637_2083533339_nIn the contemporary atmosphere of War on Women zealotry/lunacy, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) is of course doing his bit.

So it is not a surprise that Mr. Kline has sponsored many pieces of legislation related to the subject … one bill that has made it through two committee votes and appears to be headed for a vote by the full House is H. R. 1797 Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” will be a national prohibition on aborting pain capable unborn children after twenty weeks gestation (post-fertilization age). The legislation lists 14 findings (plus constitutional authority) … weighing into medical discussion of neurodevelopment effects and children born missing the bulk of the cerebral cortex … but no mention of Congress’s role in protecting the health and lives of pregnant women.
(MN Political Roundtable)

There is no legitimate science whatsoever behind claims that fetuses are “pain-capable” at twenty weeks, or anything like it.



It’s Blog for Choice Day: why I’m pro-choice.

by Bill Prendergast on January 23, 2013 · 5 comments

blog for choice day photo blogforchoicebfcd-2013-100px_zpsb85929e7.jpg

Here’s why I’m pro-choice, and have been for more than thirty years: it’s not a human being.

If we were talking about protecting the life of a human being, then we’d have to admit that Roe was incorrectly decided and a woman has no fundamental right to choose to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester. The purpose of law is to protect human life, interests, and rights.

But when we’re talking about protecting life in the womb, we’re not talking about protecting a human being–we’re talking about a fertilized human egg (a zygote,) a blastocyst, an embryo in the first trimester. Those things aren’t human beings.

I’m going to tell you why I’m sure a fertilized human egg isn’t a human being. But first: let me tell why some pro-life physicians think they are. (CONTINUED)
From a pro-life physician’s standpoint, the fertilized egg is a human being from the moment of conception. Here’s why:

Pro-life physician argument one: It’s the result of mating between two human beings, therefore the resulting living thing must be considered human. (Paraphrase: If its mom was a human and the dad was a human, the thing growing in mom’s womb has got to be human–right? I mean–it’s not a chicken…)

Response: Even if the mom was human and the dad was human…the result of that union does not necessarily constitute a human being. A hypothetical to demonstrate: A man is decapitated in a horrible traffic accident. Via some miracle of cooincidence, physicians with the proper equipment are on the scene, and via another medical triumph: they manage to keep the victim’s heart beating, blood pumping, lungs breathing. They take the victim back into the hospital–and there, with the help of medical equipment of the future: they are able to enclose and stabilize the victim–and keep the heart beating, the blood pumping, the lungs breathing.

Unfortunately the victim’s head was destroyed in the accident. So even though the physicians can continue to keep the victim “alive”: there is no technology or chance that the victim’s mind and consciousness can ever be restored.

Question: in that state we’re imagining–can the victim be considered “a human being?”

It’s a philosophical question and it’s a matter of opinion, but I think most of us would answer “no.” Even though this thing is “alive” (heart beating, breathing, etc.) and even though it is undoubtedly human as a matter of species (the offspring of a human mother and father)–I think that those facts alone are not enough to qualify this entity as “a human being.”

(If you think my gory hypothetical story is too far-fetched to be relevant: consider the philosophical and moral dilemma regarding the fate of human beings who have irretrievably lost mind and consciousness and self-awareness through illness and accident. Consider the questions facing surviving family and care-providers and society in those cases, and you will see that my gory hypothetical about “what constitutes a human being,” is far-fetched but quite relevant.)

For the same reason that most people would say the victim in my story is no longer a human being: I believe that that “human life” does not “exist from the moment of conception.” Just like the victim in my story: no mind, no consciousness, no self-awareness–none of those things, at this given point in time…means that the thing the thing we are talking about is not “a human being.” The fact that it was a human being or will become a human being (because its progenitors were human) doesn’t mean that it is a human being, regardless of stage of development or circumstance. And the fact that the tissue is human as a matter of species isn’t determinative either: as we saw with the headless, breathing victim, “species” isn’t the essential determinant in concluding something is a human being.

2) Pro-life physician argument two: It’s alive, it’s a living thing. When you terminate a pregnancy, you’re killing a living thing.

Response: True, but irrelevant. If the thing that you are terminating is not a human being, there’s no real moral or philosophical issue to quarrel about. (Unless you believe (as some minorities around the world do) that killing any living thing is a transgression.) The entity growing in the womb from the moment of conception is living, but so are the carrots growing in my garden, so is the fish I’ll have for dinner next week, so is a dog that I might have to put down due to serious illness. Killing a human being is usually objectionable; ending life that isn’t human is permissible in countless circumstances.

So I concluded that a thing without mind or consciousness or self-awareness is not “a human being” (or “person” if you like the relevant constitutional language.) Even if it is the living result of human procreation–these facts, by themselves, are enough to qualify it as “a human being.”

Now an opponent of Roe would say: that’s just your opinion. Yes. That’s my opinion, that’s my conclusion–in the same way that a Roe opponent’s opinion or conclusion is “just his philosophical or religious or logically derived opinion; his conclusion.”

There is no reason why a Roe opponent’s opinion about “what constitutes a human being” should trump mine, and become law. But there are at least two reasons why my opinion about “what constitutes a human being” should trump that of a Roe opponents.

The first reason is the Roe decision itself. It is the law of the land, handed down by a lawful government. It indicates that my opinion is supported by law and that the opinion of Roe opponents is wrong. (If the courts and legislature believed that Roe opponents were right, and that a fertilized egg or blastocyst or embryo is indeed a human being or “person”: these officials would end the Roe policy. And they haven’t. Thus: my opinion that an embryo is not a human being “trumps” the opinion of a Roe opponent, as a matter of law.)

The second reason my opinion seems to trump that of a Roe opponent: the verdict of the American people on the issue. For forty years the American people have accepted the Roe decision and stood by it. They’ve stood by the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion in the first trimester (despite strenuous and chronic attempts of Roe opponents to end that right.) Once again: if the American people believed that a fertilized egg or embryo in the first trimester constituted a human being–in the same way that they are human beings–they would demand that Roe be overturned.

They haven’t demanded that and they’re not demanding that now. On these grounds, my personal opinion once again “beats” the opinion of a Roe opponent, in that my personal opinion on this matter has more societal support.

I understand: just because my opinion coincides with that of officials who regularly consider the matter, that doesn’t end the controversy over “what is or is not a human being.” In our culture personal moral, philosophical and religious matters of opinion are not decided by elected officials and judges. And they shouldn’t be. But when there is a disagreement about which choices are prohibited and which are permitted–elected officials and judges are charged with deciding that. So as a practical matter, their opinion as to “what is/is not a human being” is authoritative.

And I also understand: just because my opinion coincides with that of that of the majority that condones and supports Roe: that doesn’t end controversy about “what is or is not a human being.” The fact that an opinion enjoys widespread support doesn’t mean it’s correct. But in a representative democracy, the majority’s opinion counts for a lot in determining which rights we have, which choices are permissible.

So a Roe opponent has a right to maintain their opinion as to “what is or is not a human being”–regardless of the fact that the law says otherwise and society at large says otherwise.

But a Roe opponent does not have the right to use law to force a Roe supporter to act in accordance with that opinion–against the verdict of officials recognizing Roe as law, against the verdict of fellow citizens who continue to support Roe. Roe opponents have no such right…

…no matter how fervently they are convinced that “a human life is in existence from the moment of conception.” That is their personal or philosophical or religious belief; Roe opponents have no right to bind the choices of fellow citizens who disagree with their personal, philosophical, or religious beliefs. (I wouldn’t use law compel one of them to choose abortion despite their personal belief on this matter of “what is a human being.” So why do they assume they have the right to use law to prevent fellow citizens from acting on their personal belief on the same matter?)

Those are some of the reasons I’ve always supported reproductive choice. There are other, equally important reasons. For example: I believe in the right of a woman to control decisions affecting her own body, health, and life.

If I’m sure–as sure as I can be–that a fertilized egg is not “a human being” in the same sense that you or I are human beings…what makes Roe opponents think they have the right to force me (or anyone else) to behave as if it is a human being? The truth is: they have no such right; not as a matter of law, logic, or public morals.