Monday, October 31, 2011

I have incorporated my uterus

Just to be on the safe side, I want to announce that I have incorporated my uterus and you can too, assuming you have one, at Incorporate My Uterus.
Not that my uterus will actually make me any money at my age.  It’s all symbolic, of course, but the point is, since the fundamentalists in this country do not want government to regulate corporations, but do want it to control every aspect and function of women’s uteruses, incorporation should provide some protection for us women, or at least create a few major dilemmas for the law makers.
If this theory holds any water at all, women in Mississippi should hurry up and incorporate as it now appears, a week before Election Day, that a majority of the voters in Mississippi are going to enact a state constitutional amendment that declares that a fertilized eggs is a person. 
Only in Mississippi, one of the poorest, most poorly educated, least healthy and least developed states in the nation on just about every measure, can the voters be pumped up to obsess about an issue like this instead of say, jobs or education or health care or the social safety net.
The amendment reads: The term “person” or “persons” shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”  (You have to throw in a “thereof” somewhere or it isn’t a legal document.)
This is, of course, yet another run on legal abortion.  Its backers hope the law will be challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and that the Court, with its 5-4 conservative majority, will uphold it and thus overturn Roe v. Wade.  Has anyone ever read Roe v. Wade?  Here’s your chance.
The blogger sphere is having a lot of fun with this “fertilized egg as person concept,” some of which I’ll get to in a minute, but personally I doubt the law will ever get to the Supreme Court.
It’s a nice sentiment, I guess, and it may further help prevent legal abortions in Mississippi, where I don’t think any abortions have been occurring for some time thanks to other already passed Draconian state laws.  In 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks such statistics, 99 percent of Mississippi counties had no abortion provider and 91 percent of Mississippi women lived in these counties. I’m betting it’s at 100 percent by now.
But I think that the instant Mississippi tries to apply its new personhood amendment, it won’t survive a legal challenge because it is, quite simply, unenforceable.  This precedent is well-established throughout all of the courts of the United States:  where a law is unenforceable, it is null and void.
Of course it will take some years to fully resolve the matter legally but in the meantime the amendment raises all kinds of absurd questions.
Such as, what if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy? This is a pregnancy that establishes itself in a fallopian tube.  The standard medical practice is to remove the tube before it bursts and risks the mother’s life through peritonitis.
But if you do that, you kill another “person”, the fertilized egg.  Let’s call it Edgar. And even if you don’t, the mother will perish, which of course means Edgar will perish as well.  That, my friends, is a dilemma.  
Does it ban most forms of birth control?  As an extra added bonus to the most puritanical and sex-hating among us, it certainly will lead to a push to ban just about every kind of birth control except condoms because many kinds of contraceptives – IUDs and morning after pills and perhaps birth control pills as well – interfere with the attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterine wall.  
If a fertilized egg is a person, it must be afforded the opportunity to survive, but how will the state enforce that?  How will it even know a fertilized egg is struggling to attach?  Will it seize the medical records of all women of child-bearing age to determine if they are already using IUDs then force them to go to a hospital to rip their IUDs out?  Will it seize pharmacy records to see who is using birth control or who has purchased a morning after pill? Will it arrest doctors who prescribe the pill? 
Are miscarriages murder?  The amendment seems to make every miscarriage a crime and may require that law enforcement investigate every miscarriage as a potential homicide.  How will they gather the evidence for that? Raid doctors’ offices and emergency rooms?  Carry off miscarried (also known as spontaneously aborted) fetuses for autopsies? Oh boy, will that ever overload the state’s criminal justice system.  DUI suspects will be cheering.  Mississippi is very hard on DUIs.
Does it criminalize all risky behaviors practiced by women but not men? Little sexist there, don’t you think?  The law may criminalize any dangerous activity that a woman undertakes in the state of Mississippi in the early stages of pregnancy, even before she is even aware of her condition – like drinking, smoking or going skiing.  (I don’t think there’s much skiing in Mississippi, but who knows?)  Again, how will it enforce that?
Is the amendment retroactive?  If so, does that mean all residents can, as of the moment of the law’s passage, legally drink upon attaining the age of 20 years and three months, or can they apply for a learner’s permit at the age of 15 years and three months?  Can citizens apply for Social Security at age 65 and three months or Medicare at 64 and three months?  Can a woman apply on behalf of her fertilized egg for welfare, Medicaid and food stamps as of the moment she knows she’s pregnant?
When she was interviewed by National Public Radio on the subject in 2008 – when it was on the ballot in Colorado – Jessica Berg, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, said the amendment could lead to some other bizarre situations — such as counting fertilized eggs in the state census and allowing pregnant drivers to use the carpool lanes. 
And, Berg pointed out, it’s not clear that in-state fertility clinics could ever destroy unwanted fertilized eggs, freeze them or implant them in other women without having to put them through the same adoption procedures as people who want to adopt actual children.
The personhood amendment has failed spectacularly twice in Colorado but I don’t think the voters in Mississippi will be so sensible.  And other states are watching attentively, such as Ohio and Florida, where similar laws have been introduced.
Of course, the amendment makes no exceptions for eggs fertilized through rape or incest and doesn’t provide any means of determining whether the mother’s life or the egg’s should be saved in a life-threatening situation, or indeed, even how the egg could be saved instead of the mother.  Medical science is amazing though and I’m sure they’ll come up with a way.
The bottom line is this, neither side will ever win on the abortion issue because it is just too lucrative to keep it going.  We have all 50 states in which to wage this battle, not to mention more than 80 federal trial courts and 13 federal appellate courts, although I do not think the Federal Circuit ever deals with abortion, so call it 12 federal appellate courts.
That’s not to say that some states are not succeeding very well at enacting laws that can be enforced, such as a newly implemented very restrictive anti-abortion law in North Carolina.
But just imagine if the fundamentalists were completely successful in banning abortion (and birth control) throughout the United States.  All of that Bible-thumping, sanctimonious “pro-life,” “oh my God, we have to save the unborn babies” money would just dry up.  And if abortion survived every onslaught and remained safe and legal, I would stop getting calls and emails from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
It’s not going to happen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oh those funny, funny rightwing nuts

Who knew the Teapublicans were so funny?
These past few days it’s been one thigh slapper after another.
First there was Herman Cain saying if he is elected president he would put up an electrified fence between Mexico and the United States with a sign on the other side saying “This will kill you,” presumably in Spanish.
Then on a Sunday talk show he said he was joking.  Then on Monday, after meeting with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he kind of took the “It’s a joke” part back.   Maybe he thinks he can get the Hispanic vote on even-numbered days and the anti-immigrant votes on odd-numbered days.
Mike Huckabee is hilarious too.  He urges supporters of an Ohio initiative to roll back union rights to suppress the votes of its opponents.
“You just make sure that they don't go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date. That's up to you how you creatively get the job done."
That was a joke too, Huckabee now insists.  What a kidder!  And it’s a “joke” he’s made before.  In 2009 he said pretty much the same thing here in this video while campaigning for Bob McDonnell in Virginia:
 "One, get all those people who are going to vote for Bob out to the polls and vote. If they're not going to vote for Bob, you have another job. Let the air out of their tires, and do not let them out of their driveway on Election Day. Keep 'em home. Do the Lord's work, my friend. I'm giving you an opportunity ... yes, do the right thing."
Do the lord’s work, indeed!  Keep those Democratic, Godless Commie bastards out of the voting booth. In some, no doubt humorless, circles, Huckabee’s little joke would be considered a federal crime, a violation of the Voters Rights Act of 1965. 
By the way, that ploy, “tell them the election is a different day” has been pulled all around the country in recent years, most recently in the Wisconsin recall elections.  Not by Democrats.  Also, “Tell them they’ll be arrested for parking tickets or outstanding child support if they try to vote” was actually tried in Philadelphia in 2008.
Speaking of the Lord’s work, Rush Limbaugh must have been joking when he expressed his support recently for the Lord’s Resistance Army:
“Lord's Resistance Army are Christians.  They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.  And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them,” Limbaugh said.
You would think Limbaugh or his producers would at least Google an organization before going on the airwaves to defend it.  If he had, he might have learned what the evangelical magazine Christianity Today thinks of the LRA:
“The perpetrators commit atrocities with such malevolence that even the most irreligious people familiar with their acts describe them as ‘unrestrained evil.’  The targets of the butchery are children. They rape, mutilate, and kill them with a rapaciousness that staggers the imagination.  Worse, they compel children to kill one another and their own families, fighting as ‘soldiers’ in an armed force deliberately composed of children.”
Sometimes sticking to your principle of opposing every last thing the (Democratic, Godless, secret Muslim, Commie, Socialist, half-black) president does can really lead you down strange byways, but that’s Rush, clueless all day, every day.
The “merry prankster” of the nutwing right has also been up to some new high jinx, but without much joy.  James O’Keefe, he of the Acorn, NPR Muslim Brotherhood and Mary Landrieu hilarity, has been trying to pass himself off to the Economic Policy Institute as a researcher for a hedge fund manager who is interested in funding a study showing that cuts to education would hurt students.  In other words, he was trying to get a progressive think tank to agree to buy bogus research results so that he could “prove” that the left will do anything to support its causes (unlike the Republicans, of course).  Luckily EPI was on to him.
"He was trying to get me to say, yeah, give me the money and I will come up with a report that says cutting back on school funding is going to hurt school kids," said EPI President Lawrence Mishel. "Which actually is the truth — I could have given him evidence that shows that."
O'keefe also made a video at Occupy Wall Street in which he passed himself off as a banker who was approached by a “protester” to invest in a company.  O’Keefe pleaded guilty to entering property belonging to the United States under false pretenses in May and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Keep 'em coming, you kings of comedy, you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Civics, we don't need no stinking civics

College professor Denise Oliver Velez asks a very important question in this Daily Kos diary Whatever happened to civics?  I encourage you to read it and then to read or at least sample the extensive, lively and thoughtful (for the most part) comments section that follows.
Velez reports that every year she gives her incoming freshman students at a New York public university a quiz about what they know about the political system and every year the results are always dismal. 
This year, she says, none can name either of their two U.S. senators, only one could name his congressman, only one could name a single candidate running for the Republican nomination for president and none knew the names of any of their state government reps, though roughly half did name the governor of New York.
All could name the President, of course.  I wonder how many could name the Vice President? 
Their lack of specific information about the current cast of characters in our ongoing political drama isn’t so shocking.  I don’t think many 18-year-olds of any generation have had much of that knowledge either, fresh as they were from an intense course of study on how to get into college, how to get or keep a girlfriend or boyfriend and how to be popular.
But according to Velez, her students lack “a basic understanding of how political systems work —especially ours —and … of the basics of legislation, politics, civil rights and social change and how they are affected by political and social systems.”
Secondary school education in civics, government, geography, social studies and American history seem to have diminished or disappeared at an alarming rate in recent years thanks in part to the pressures on schools to “teach to the test” as dictated by the Bush Administration’s implementation of No Child Left Behind (which seems to be leaving the vast majority of children behind) and by the explosive growth of social media, which seems to be replacing reading as a pleasurable and important pastime.
As Velez puts it:  They don't read newspapers. They don't blog.  They spend a lot of time texting each other because they all have cell phones. A majority have Facebook pages.  Question is, what are they talking to each other about?
In the comments section of Velez’s diary, another teacher reports that many of his students seem to believe that the President of the United States is like the CEO of a company, that he merely has to issue an order and things get done – health care reform, jobs creation, taxation – and that his students have no concept of the duties or prerogatives of Congress.
Other commenters discuss the need for teaching critical thinking and problem solving, the need for children to see other parts of the country and the world, and the importance of parental involvement in making sure each generation understands how our political system works and how voting affects all our lives. 
Taking your children to see Williamsburg, Gettysburg, the Alamo and other historic sites is important.   For me, the shock of getting off a bus in Virginia as a white 14-year-old girl from Connecticut in 1959, seeing the words “Colored Women” over a restroom and suddenly realizing what that meant was an education all by itself.
Some of the commentators speculate that conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers actively seek to keep civics education out of the public schools because, after all, learning about evolution, the Great Depression and New Deal, the union movement, the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights struggle and other such milestones in our history can put some very un-Republican ideas in a young person’s head. 
I can buy into that.   Glenn Beck often railed against public education as being an agent for “Socialism.”  What he chose to misunderstand is that public education has always been a force for “socialization,” for teaching about our common history and rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.
In the last two years we have seen Republicans in state after state enact stringent voter ID laws to “prevent” virtually nonexistent fraud and to actually prevent college students from voting in the districts where their colleges are located.   
Now, the Colorado Secretary of State says that those in military service serving overseas are “inactive voters” and cannot receive absentee ballots if they did not vote in the 2010 off-year election.  So they can fight and die for their country but if they skipped one election, they cannot vote for their commander in chief. 
He is, he says, just trying to prevent voter fraud, but really, if Republicans believed those college students and soldiers would vote their way, would they be waging this war on young voters?  
Like King Canute, conservatives are trying to hold back the tide, but the young are going to be around for a long time and to the consternation of conservatives, they just don’t care about issues like banning abortion or Gay marriage.  That tide will eventually come in anyway.
But there’s a great danger in failing to provide an adequate civic education and in seeking to disenfranchise young people.  If you Saddle them with oppressive student loans, fail to provide jobs, force them into the military to use them for cannon fodder and take away their vote, they may take to the streets, sort of like they’re doing now with Occupy Wall Street.