Weekly Pulse: The Republicans’ War On Women

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The entire federal government might shut down over birth control. Yes, birth control. This special edition of the Pulse is about the ongoing war against women being waged in Congress and in state legislatures nationwide.

Cutting birth control

Last Friday, the House voted to amend the continuing resolution to fund the federal government to defund the $317 million Title X Family Planning Program, a major beneficiary of which is Planned Parenthood. None of this money funds abortions. Instead, it goes to birth control, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services for 5 million low-income Americans.

This kind of preventive care is highly cost-effective. Every federal family planning dollar saves an estimated $4 tax dollars on unintended pregnancy costs alone. Saving money by de-funding contraception is like “saving money” by not paying your rent. It’s not savings if you end up staying in a hotel that costs even more.

As Nick Baumann reports for Mother Jones, Senate Democrats are confident that they can defeat the measure. However, if that happens and the House Republicans won’t pass an acceptable alternative, the federal government will run out of money and shut down until the impasse is resolved.

Julianne Hing, blogging at TAPPED, wrote of last Friday’s House vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood:

I find it difficult to summon the energy to be angered or even shocked by the news anymore. I wouldn’t describe my reaction on Friday as either of those two. It felt like something much deeper — like an attack on women and women’s access to health care. I took it personally.

The vote was just the latest assault on women’s health care by House Republicans. H.R. 3 initially proposed to redefine rape as “forcible rape.” That provision was withdrawn amid public outcry, but the bill would still effectively eliminate private health insurance coverage for abortion. H.R. 358 would give hospitals a loophole to not refer women for abortion, even if their lives are in danger.

The miscarriage mafia

Georgia state Rep. Bobbie Franklin (R) has introduced a bill that would investigate unsupervised miscarriages as potential murders, Robin Marty reports for Care2.

Here’s the relevant text of the bill, H.B.1:

When a spontaneous fetal death required to be reported by this Code section occurs without medical attendance at or immediately after the delivery or when inquiry is required by Article 2 of Chapter 16 of Title 45, the ‘Georgia Death Investigation Act,’ the proper investigating official shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall prepare and file the report within 30 days[.]

The bill opens with the familiar anti-choice tactic of defining a fetus as a person and declaring abortion to be murder. Even fervent anti-choicers may regard this as something of an overreach on Franklin’s part. Historically, anti-choicers have sought to pass discrete “personhood amendments” while maintaining the polite fiction that these laws have nothing to do with restricting abortion. Franklin is not a fan of the incremental approach. He is seeking to redefine a fetus as a person and abortion as murder in a single piece of legislation.

As Marty notes, one third of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. In early miscarriages, the woman may never even know she was pregnant. So, Franklin essentially wants to criminalize unauthorized vaginal bleeding in Georgia. Setting aside the basic human rights of women, as Franklin is only too happy to do, his miscarriage bill is about as practical as his bid to make Georgians pay their state taxes in gold and silver coins.

State legislatures all over the country are weighing ever more draconian restrictions on abortion. Republican lawmakers in Ohio have proposed legislation to ban abortion of any fetus with a heartbeat, Daniel Tencer of Raw Story reports. South Dakota Republicans were forced to back off a proposed law that appeared to legalize the murder of abortion providers.

Scott Walker’s anti-abortion crusade

You probably know Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the Tea Party favorite who wants to take collective bargaining rights away from the state’s public employees. You may not know that Walker is also a longtime anti-abortion crusader. Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports that Walker, a former president of his college’s chapter of Students for Life, has a long history of campaigning against abortion, contraception, and sex ed. As a gubernatorial candidate, Walker won the endorsement of the hardline Pro-Life Wisconsin, which even opposes abortion to save the life of the woman.

As I reported in RH Reality Check, Walker’s anti-union “budget repair” bill also contains an all-out attack on a popular and successful Medicaid program to provide birth control to Wisconsinites whose incomes would qualify them for Medicaid if they became pregnant. The program saves Wisconsin an estimated $45 million a year in maternal and infant health costs alone and brings in 9 federal dollars for every on dollar spent by the state.

The Republicans swept to power with promises of limited government and fiscal conservatism. Now that they’re in office, their true agenda appears to be restricting women’s freedom at taxpayers’ expense.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: South Dakota’s Legislative Attack on Abortion Providers

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The South Dakota House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill that would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing to protect the life of a fetus. The plain language of the bill would appear to legalize the murder of abortion providers for performing legal abortions on women who request them.

Kate Sheppard explains in Mother Jones:

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

“The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers,” Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Foundation told Mother Jones.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phil Jensen, vehemently denies that his bill would legalize the murder of abortion doctors, Sheppard reports in a follow-up post. Jensen did not return Mother Jones’s calls for comment before the original story ran, but he now claims that he simply wants to update the state’s fetal homicide legislation.

Jensen’s stated intent is irrelevant, however. The plain language of his bill expands the category of “justifiable homicide” to protect certain people who kill to save a fetus.

There is no question that many radical anti-choicers will interpret this legislation as a license to kill. If this bill becomes law, it is only a matter of time before one of these terrorists travels to South Dakota to test that interpretation.

As Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check notes, the bill codifies the same legal argument that anti-choice terrorist Scott Roeder deployed unsuccessfully at his trial for the assassination of the prominent late-term abortion provider and pro-choice activist Dr. George Tiller. Technically, the bill would only protect people who killed to “protect” a fetus being carried by their partner or family member, not strangers like Roeder who killed to “protect” fetuses in general, but the veiled threat to abortion providers is clear.

The bill cleared the legislature’s judiciary committee by a party-line vote of 9-3. The legislation is co-sponsored by 22 state legislators and 4 state senators. The full state house is scheduled to vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly sees the legislation as a sign of a “radical turn” in the culture war.

“Birth or Die Act” advances

Meanwhile, at the federal level, the anti-choice bill H.R. 358 passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Miriam Perez reports for Feministing. H.R. 358 is controversial on two fronts. First, it appears to create an opening for hospitals to refuse abortion care and abortion referrals, even when a woman’s life is at risk. Second, the bill would effectively end private insurance coverage for abortion as we know it.

Fruitwashing

You’ve heard of “greenwashing,” the marketing trend where companies repackage their old polluting inventory as planet-healthy products? The latest corporate marketing gambit is to convince consumers that sugar, starch, and red food dye are good for us, a process dubbed “fruitwashing,” by Brie Cadman of change.org.

Cadman takes food giant Kellogg’s to task for touting the “real fruit” in its frosted mini Pop Tarts, now available in 100-calorie packs. Of course, these rosy toaster pastries contain only a minuscule amount of fruit.

Kellogg’s is a repeat offender when it comes to fruitwashing. The box of the company’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry Muffin cereal features photos of real blueberries, but the actual “blueberry crunchlets” in the box are made of sugar, soybean oil, red dye #40 and blue dye #2.

Play with your food

In an article called “Why Playing With Your Food is Serious Business,” Carol Deppe of Grist argues that processed fare is driving us to overeat by cheating us out of our instinctive drive to interact with our foods before we eat them:

I also tend to overeat the delicious bean soup on that day I effortlessly thawed a portion from the freezer, compared with the day that I made the soup from scratch myself. The act of preparing food seems to actually be one of my satiety mechanisms. That is, to avoid overeating, to feel satisfied with normal, healthful amounts of food, I have to play with my food.

A highly processed diet enables us to practically inhale our calories, leaving us unsatisfied.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

The Battle Over South Dakota’s Justified Homicide Bill

South Dakota‘s proposed “justified homicide bill” has been withdrawn for the time being, but don’t be surprised if it returns like cow flop on a South Dakota rancher’s boots.

What’s the controversy? Read from the bill for yourself, “Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.”

Some proponents of the bill, including bill sponsor and anti-abortion advocate Rep. Phil Jensen (R-South WTFistan), claim the bill has nothing to do with abortion. Opponents, and even some advocates believe that’s hogwash – and if you can read, that seems a reasonable interpretation – and doubt that it’s legally sound.

Legal wrangles over abortion have gone non-stop since Roe v. Wade became the basis for the law of the land, but the nation rarely looks at the pretzel logic behind the legality debate.

Pro-lifers often argue a fetus is a full-blown human being and that it’s justified, if not morally correct, to perform a sort of vigilante capital punishment on abortion providers because they’re “murderers”. So if self-appointed juries can mete out capital punishment for “murdering” abortion providers, how can many of those same people support state-sponsored capital punishment.

Even if one wraps themselves in the cloak of religion, how’s it possible to cite the 6th commandment without caveat – Thou shalt not kill – as the basis for killing an abortionist while ignoring it when a capital criminal walks the Green Mile?

And for the record, pro-lifers could reverse this tangle of law and morality to bash the other side. After all, why is it OK for pro-choice advocates to argue it’s OK to terminate a pregnancy, but are equally inflamed about abolishing capital punishment.

The legality of this issue is valid, but it’s a dicey legal case that’s spread beyond just the courtroom. For years, both sides have short-sightedly used Roe v. Wade as a one-issue litmus test for judge approval to the exclusion of all other issues. Judges should be made up of more than this one issue.

Abortion is a tough nut, a moral and legal tangle whipped raw by high emotion. There’s no perfect answer because it isn’t a zero sum issue with a clear winner or loser – no matter how much the opponents and proponents wish it would be.

Perhaps we’d all be better off to step back and think about this a little more dispassionately instead of counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pinhead.

Or, a South Dakota legislator.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

The Battle Over South Dakota’s Justified Homicide Bill

South Dakota‘s proposed “justified homicide bill” has been withdrawn for the time being, but don’t be surprised if it returns like cow flop on a South Dakota rancher’s boots.

What’s the controversy? Read from the bill for yourself, “Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.”

Some proponents of the bill, including bill sponsor and anti-abortion advocate Rep. Phil Jensen (R-South WTFistan), claim the bill has nothing to do with abortion. Opponents, and even some advocates believe that’s hogwash – and if you can read, that seems a reasonable interpretation – and doubt that it’s legally sound.

Legal wrangles over abortion have gone non-stop since Roe v. Wade became the basis for the law of the land, but the nation rarely looks at the pretzel logic behind the legality debate.

Pro-lifers often argue a fetus is a full-blown human being and that it’s justified, if not morally correct, to perform a sort of vigilante capital punishment on abortion providers because they’re “murderers”. So if self-appointed juries can mete out capital punishment for “murdering” abortion providers, how can many of those same people support state-sponsored capital punishment.

Even if one wraps themselves in the cloak of religion, how’s it possible to cite the 6th commandment without caveat – Thou shalt not kill – as the basis for killing an abortionist while ignoring it when a capital criminal walks the Green Mile?

And for the record, pro-lifers could reverse this tangle of law and morality to bash the other side. After all, why is it OK for pro-choice advocates to argue it’s OK to terminate a pregnancy, but are equally inflamed about abolishing capital punishment.

The legality of this issue is valid, but it’s a dicey legal case that’s spread beyond just the courtroom. For years, both sides have short-sightedly used Roe v. Wade as a one-issue litmus test for judge approval to the exclusion of all other issues. Judges should be made up of more than this one issue.

Abortion is a tough nut, a moral and legal tangle whipped raw by high emotion. There’s no perfect answer because it isn’t a zero sum issue with a clear winner or loser – no matter how much the opponents and proponents wish it would be.

Perhaps we’d all be better off to step back and think about this a little more dispassionately instead of counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pinhead.

Or, a South Dakota legislator.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Military Lands Black Hawks At Wounded Knee Gravesite

I just got back from a three-day trip to Rapid City and the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. On Saturday morning, I drove out to Wounded Knee to pay my respects with a friend who lives in Pine Ridge. Wounded Knee is the site of the 1890 massacre where 7th Cavalry soldiers killed as many as 300 innocent Indian men, women, and children, and of the 1973 American Indian Movement (AIM) standoff with federal agents. And now most recently, it is the site of a 2010 military blunder. Early Saturday afternoon, three Black Hawk military helicopters tried to land on the 1890 mass burial grave. Numerous blogs report these helicopters were affiliated with the 7th Cavalry, although that is unclear. What is clear is that while their intentions were educational and pure, they were also miscommunicated. A peaceful protest prevented their landing and many reservation residents remain justifiably outraged by the disprespectul choice of a landing site and the display of military force on sacred ground.

I was right there, but left moments before it happened with no clue of what was about to occur. I only wanted to feel the history and pay my respects, and did not stay long because the museum was closed and a crowd (the protesters, it turns out) was gathering by the current cemetery. My friend thought maybe it was a family gathering or a funeral, and out of respect stayed in the car. As we drove back towards the town of Pine Ridge, we saw three black helicopters flying extremely low to the ground. It was very confusing and a little troubling to see.

It turns out those helicopters were military Black Hawks, and just minutes after we saw them they attempted to land at the Wounded Knee burial ground. Protestors ran beneath two of the helicopters, which then flew away. In an Argus Leader story picked up nation-wide by the Associated Press, tribal president Theresa Two Bulls later said that the helicopters were bringing members of the Colorado National Guard to the reservation to learn about the Wounded Knee massacre and improve relations, an admirable purpose that was not properly communicated to area residents. That miscommunication reminds me of the fear many New Yorkers felt when Air Force One buzzed the Statute of Liberty last year. Even if it had been better disseminated, however, the presence of war machines at the massacre site would have remained highly inappropriate and disrespectful. The indigenous blog Censored News provides detail, and a video of the incident is below the fold:

The first helicopter landed a few feet from the mass grave. The Lakota men ran up to it, holding their staffs, yelling at the military to leave Wounded Knee, the elders did not want them there. As the other two helicopters began to descend, four women ran to get under the choppers, waving red banners and a United Nations flag. The helicopters came lower, the women did not budge. They yelled at the soldiers hanging out of the helicopters, “Leave, you are not wanted at Wounded Knee.” The three black helicopters flew away.

“Military transport coming to Wounded Knee? Why, to intimidate us? I came here to talk about my family, but now I am thinking, I am 80 years old, I pray every day. The Chairlady said to come here and talk about our families, but for people to make money off of this place, they shouldn’t do that. This is a place to pray, the military have no place here” said Stanley Looking Elk, an elder and former Tribal President.

Marie Not Help Him loudly questioned the people present, “Why are you doing this? I invited them here! My great grandfather Dewey Beard survived this. I wanted to tell our story,” saying she belongs to the Wounded Knee Survivor’s Association…

Olowan Martinez said, “The Tribe did not even tell us they were doing this, we found out last night, me and my children live right down the hill. The US military can go elsewhere to hear the story. Our ancestors at Wounded Knee were killed by the US military and my father, a Veteran of Wounded Knee 1973, lies buried there, they have no respect to come back to where they put the blood of our relatives on the ground.”

I am glad that the military wanted its soldiers to learn about the 1890 incident. That desire to improve relations is a good sign, but the way it was implemented is ironic proof of just how badly that education is needed. Why fly to sacred ground when you could fly to Rapid City, Pine Ridge, or any one of several nearby Nebraska airfields and drive the rest of the way? For the military, possibly even the 7th Cav, to bring in heavy war machines to the very ground where a previous 7th Cav had murdered hundreds of innocents was the height of insensitivity. To land by the burial ground itself was the height of disrespect and arrogance.

I'm not on the rez anymore, but from what I can tell online, tensions are running high. Russell Means, the legendary Sioux activist who led the 1973 standoff, said: “We the Lakotah People, do not want our massacred dead bodies of Men, Women and Children at the mass grave at Wounded Knee used for publicity by the United States Government nor their colonial corporation, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government.” (In all fairness, when Means labels the tribal government a pawn of the U.S. government, it should be noted that he has come very close to winning the presidency several times, including against Two Bulls in 2008.) Several YouTube comments liken the U.S. landing at Wounded Knee to the Lakota landing in Arlington National Cemetery. And the Aboriginal News Group writes,

This domestic military action is a deliberate insult and an obvious message of ongoing colonialism, state-sponsored racism and apathetic Indigenous genocide to all Indigenous peoples across the Fourth World; to the whole of the Lakota/Dakota Nation; and to the Indigenous residents of Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee. The symbolism of dispatching the Seventh Cavalry to Wounded Knee in an attempt to land weapons of mass destruction on Aboriginal sacred ground tells us how little this government, and this particular administration, respects the people of Indian Country and our significant historical perspective as survivors of the racist Euro-settler xenophobic purges waged against the Indian in the Americas

A resolution is being presented to the Tribal Council today that lays out the history of Wounded Knee and would continue the tribe’s attempts to get 20 Medals of Honor from the 1890 massacre revoked. It would also “not allow the United States Military from this time forward to come anywhere near the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre Mass Grave in order to demonstrate Honor and Respect for the Lakota people buried there, and to ensure a peaceful, nonviolent, weapon-free zone for the Mass Gravesite area.” Whether this resolution passes or not, the base commander of wherever it is in Colorado those helicopters were from would do well to apologize, and the Pentagon should revoke those 20 medals. Too little too late, but at least it would be something. And on the personal level - I wish we'd turned that car around to find out what the helicopters were doing. I would've asked those gathered if they wouldn't've minded a white boy joining the protest.

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