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Abortion Access Trouble in Mississippi

Mikel:

Since I have discussed abortion access on this blog before. I am afraid some of my readers may think that just because abortion is legal in America since Roe v. Wade, that the fight for women’s right to autonomy and healthcare is over and we can just relax. Having a right to something means absolutely nothing if you do not have access.

4000 Years for Choice

State Representative Bubba Carpenter recently told a group of local county Republicans that “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and that “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

I hope I am not the only one who finds this quote shocking. When your moral values include forcing desperate women to unsafe and unsanitary medical procedures because that is the only way they can access them, you might need to rethink the basis of your morality.

Originally posted on Everysaturdaymorning's Blog:

In September 2011, Operation Save America* started their States of Refuge* campaign. The stated goal was “…to establish the first abortion free states since Roe vs. Wade.”* The targeted states were those with only one abortion clinic at the time. This included Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. With help from anti-abortion legislators, they are nearing their goal in Mississippi.

Center for Reproductive Rights has detailed the fight over a TRAP law that might close the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in January 2013.

  • House Bill 1390, which was signed into law on April 16 and partially blocked by a federal judge in July 2012, imposes medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.
  • Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are…

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Savita Halappanavar’s Death – Victory for the Irish Catholic “Pro-Life” Murder Brigade

THIS. Why do we have to have a specific name of a woman denied critical medical care because the heartbeat of her dying fetus didn’t stop before it was too late for her, before we care about the countless other woman who have suffered from being denied abortions? Let anyone who says abortion should be banned read this and think really hard about the positions that they are advocating.

Savita Halappanavar’s Death – Victory for the Irish Catholic “Pro-Life” Murder Brigade.

The personal is political: Women’s health choices VS religious freedom?

English: One of the symbols of German Women's ...

Women’s health issues are controversial. In recent years, conservative politicians and religious leaders have been leading a push to make health services for women harder and harder to obtain. For instance Rick Santorum has advocated that states should have the right to ban birth control. Now, as adamantly pro-choice as I am, I can see why some people might be squeamish about abortion. It took me a lot of reading and listening to women’s stories, as well as a few hours volunteering in the chaos outside the Louisville abortion clinic on Saturday mornings to come to my stance. However, I seriously cannot understand how anyone could possibly also be in favor of restricting women’s access to birth control. Unless, of course, their ultimate aim is to take away from women the ability to control if they will have babies, or when, or how many. And if a woman can’t control her fertility, how can she have control of her life?

Recently, the Obama administration has mandated that employers cover birth control in their insurance policies, and the conservatives are having a fit.

Under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, most employers and insurance plans will have to cover birth control free of charge as preventive care for women. Churches and houses of worship do not have to follow that requirement, but administration officials recently announced that many religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals, colleges and charities must comply after a year’s phase-in period.

The wave of protest that followed has clearly taken the White House by surprise. Catholic and Protestant evangelical leaders criticized the decision as infringing on freedom of religion. Some religious liberals have called it politically risky for Obama in a close election year.

Now let’s be clear about this, there is still an exception for churches and other “houses of worship”, which generally hire people who are in agreement with their creeds and beliefs anyway. But to mandate that a nurse working for a Catholic hospital should be able to have birth control covered by insurance? This is a restriction on freedom of religion? What about freedom for these women to have access to the health care they need? This is the sort of thing that reaches into me and pulls out all the frustration and anger I have ever held towards religion! Why can’t they just let people make their own decisions about what services their health insurance should cover?

It is probably not news to anyone by now that the conservatives have been trying to shut down Planned Parenthood. Nevermind that federal funds do not, by law, go into funding abortion care. Or that the vast majority of services that Planned Parenthood provides are such controversial things as pap smears, cancer screenings, STI diagnosis and treatment. Oh yea, contraception too, which I believe counts as preventative care. Having been raised getting my information on PP mainly from Focus on the Family, even I was shocked to find out just last year that only about 3% of PP’s services have anything to do with abortion. Planned Parenthood is the sole provider of a multitude of health care services for so many American women, especially those without health insurance.

But here is the take of Scott Walker, who attempted to shut down Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin. (SLIGHT CORRECTION: This is a Forbes article paraphrase of Scott Walker’s position.)

No doubt, the women who will be denied access in the four counties where no such screening will be available, can comfort themselves in the knowledge that, while they may die of breast or cervical cancer, at least they won’t have to expose themselves to some perceived controversy over the local Planned Parenthood treatment facility.

That is just mind-boggling.

And then there is the whole debacle with Susan G. Komen. Why would an organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer retract funding and support for an organization that does a lot of breast cancer screenings for underserved women? Lately they have retracted that decision under tremendous backlash but one has to wonder what were they thinking?

When in the world did it become a religious right to deny health care to employees? And what is it with the conservative politicians lately? Do they envisioning a future where women must stay at home to care for a gaggle of children, imprisoned by biology, while the (wealthiest) men get to hold all the political and economic power? How is it that such personal, private choices are so political?

“Has Obama waged a war on religion?: NPR”

I found this NPR story posted on a friend’s wall in Facebook today, and though I’d pass it on. In light of recent blog posts and discussions on the state of religious rights in the United States, I think this is quite relevant. As typical, NPR takes a middle ground and is quite respectful to the religious and secular views expressed.

Staver says as rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people make gains, religious conservatives are having to set aside their convictions. A Christian counselor was penalized for refusing to advise gay couples. A court clerk in New York was told to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite religious reservations. A wedding photographer was sued for refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding. Staver says these people aren’t trying to impose their religious views on others.

“What people of faith don’t want to do, however, is be forced to participate in something that literally cuts to the very core of their belief.”

Boston says of course religious believers want to impose their views on the world — witness the fight against same-sex marriage. But he says under the law, people can’t discriminate based on their religious beliefs, any more than a restaurant owner can cite the Bible in refusing to serve black customers. He says the solution is simple.

“If you don’t want to serve the public, don’t open a business saying you will serve the public.”

I think Boston has it right. Religious people have every right to make their own choices regarding who they will marry, whether or not they would have an abortion in any given circumstance, whether they will take birth control, and so on. What they don’t get to do is make these choices for other people who may or may not share their convictions. Especially At least not with the blessing and funding of our secular government (what you do in your personal life is your business).

http://www.npr.org/2012/01/08/144835720/has-obama-waged-a-war-on-religion

When “religious rights” conflict with other’s rights

Last week I engaged in a discussion about Christian rights in America with The Warrioress at life of a female bible warrioress. She provided some examples that she believes proves that Christian rights are being eroded in America, though I disagree with her in several places. If you have not been following the blog posts you can read up more about it here: “Are Christians Losing Rights in America” Part 2.

The topic of religious rights and civil rights in general is very interesting to me, and I have done a bit of Googling to find recent examples where Christians have claimed that their religious rights have been violated. I have compiled a list of such examples, and I am seeing a theme.

For my first example: Town Clerk refuses to sign marriage licenses for lesbian couple.

LEDYARD, N.Y. — Rose Marie Belforti is a 57-year-old cheese maker, the elected town clerk in this sprawling Finger Lakes farming community and a self-described Bible-believing Christian. She believes that God has condemned homosexuality as a sin, so she does not want to sign same-sex marriage licenses; instead, she has arranged for a deputy to issue all marriage licenses by appointment.

Gay marriage has been legalized in New York. Since when have clerks had the right to pass their judgement on citizen’s marriages and decide that they will refuse to personally sign their certificate? Would she expect to get a pass if the citizens seeking a license were previously divorced, and it was against her religious beliefs for divorcees to get remarried? Somehow, I doubt it.

Here is my second example: Christian clerk in Macy’s discriminates against transgender woman

The store clerk, Natalie Johnson, is claiming a religious right to discriminate and suing Macy’s for religious discrimination. She is not claiming a right to discriminate against trans people just because they are transgender. No, she is making a very specific point of wrapping her prejudice in religion. Fine. Let’s take her position at face value and look at it.

There are only two approaches I can see to making such an argument: 1) that certain people have more rights to do whatever they want than others, or 2) that rights to engage in certain kinds discrimination supersede any rights of protection from that same discrimination. In the first approach, the only way this sales clerk can make her case is to deny the humanity and equal citizenship status of the transgender person she insists on treating unequally. That doesn’t fly. She has no special, superior citizenship rights because she professes Christianity. Changing one’s sex does not (at least legally) make one a second-class citizen and reduce one to having fewer rights and protections than others. It is reasonable to view both parties as equals in terms of rights and protections.

As the author of this piece notes, the transgender woman in this case has full rights as a citizen, and no one’s religious rights give them the right to treat her as a second class citizen. That includes the right to use to fitting rooms at a department store. And, fortunately, Macy’s agrees.

Christians have also claimed the rights to interfere with other’s medical decisions under the guise of “Conscience” laws. For a brief background and description of “conscience clause” laws, first check the article from USA Today: Conscience clauses not just about abortion anymore. Then, with that in mind, check out this story from early 2011 where a pharmacist used the conscience clause to refuse an emergency order from Planned Parenthood for medication to stop bleeding: Planned Parenthood files complaint against Nampa pharmacist.

Planned Parenthood officials said the complaint states that the pharmacist inquired if the patient needed the drug for post-abortion care. The nurse refused to answer the question based on confidentiality of health information.

According to Planned Parenthood, the pharmacist then stated that if the nurse practitioner did not disclose that information, she would not fill the prescription. The nurse alleged that the pharmacist hung up when asked for a referral to another pharmacy that would fill the prescription.

So, if the woman had an abortion, she should be left at risk of bleeding to death? Or even if she had had a miscarriage, since that was confidential information that the pharmacist has no need to know? When does someone’s religious rights (since this this is at heart what the “conscience clause” is there to protect) allow them to to withhold medication or medical aid to save a person’s life?

Here is the theme I see: Christians are sometimes put in a position of providing a service to people that they believe don’t have a legitimate right to the service they request. In these cases, the requirements of their jobs conflict with what they personally believe God wants them to do. The woman requesting birth control pills can be turned away if the pharmacist doesn’t believe in it. Her right to control her fertility is taken away if the pharmacist doesn’t believe in contraception. Or even more urgently, the woman who has been raped can be turned away when she requests Plan B emergency contraception, because of the moral beliefs of such a pharmacist. A city clerk can put inconveniences in the way of a lesbian couple getting married, because she doesn’t really believe they have the right to do so.

Can a citizen be legitimately deprived of their rights to made decisions for their own life by another person due to of that person’s religious belief? I think not. And is requiring a pharmacist to dispense prescribed birth control pills, or a town clerk to sign the marriage license for a perfectly legal couple mean taking away their constitutionally guaranteed rights to believe as they choose and worship or not as they choose without interference? I hate to say it, but if your religion forbids you to do your job, you should find another line of work.

For another perspective, can a Muslim man who does not believe woman should be allowed to drive be allowed to refuse to rent a car to a woman in the United States? See: Allowing women drivers in Saudi Arabia will be ‘end of virginity’ Would it not be the same thing?

In short, your right to belief ends where my right to autonomy begins.

For further reading, see the links below.

Town Clerk refuses to sign marriage licenses for lesbian couple

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/nyregion/rights-clash-as-town-clerk-rejects-her-role-in-gay-marriages.html?_r=2

http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressreleases/2011/12/20852/

Christian clerk in Macy’s discriminates against transgender woman

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-keppler/religious-discrimination-macys-transgender-woman_b_1137472.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/macys-employee-fired-transgender_n_1133831.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/video/macys-fires-worker-transgender-discrimination-dressing-room-flap-15115740

http://jezebel.com/5866187/employee-fired-for-harassing-transgender-customer-accuses-macys-of-religious-discrimination

Pharmacist “Conscious Clause”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4425603.stm (Pharmacists ‘denying birth control’)

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-10-24-conscience-doctors_N.htm

http://secular.org/blogs/lauren-anderson-youngblood/forcing-your-beliefs-others-not-religious-freedom

http://www.care2.com/causes/when-conscious-clauses-can-kill.html

http://www.idahopress.com/news/article_528847ac-1e9f-11e0-8247-001cc4c03286.html

Louisville KY University Hospital Merger with Catholic system limits patient’s choices, especially regarding reproductive choices.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110718/BUSINESS/307180002/Hospital-merger-limits-medical-options-Catholic-rules-will-bar-tubal-ligations-University-hospital

http://www.whas11.com/home/132013243.html

Pew Research Center: Rights of Conscience vs Civil Rights

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1612/legal-conflict-between-religious-beliefs-and-antidiscrimination-protections-in-health-care

The Bible and Gender Equality

http://www.stopthereligiousright.org/suffrage.htm

EDIT (I thought to add these after a discussion on a previous thread): If you think it is ok to have a religious recital at public schools, you should watch these videos regarding the Smalkowski case. I cannot help but see it as the height of religious privilege, indeed Christian privilege, to think that it is ok to have a bit of religious ritual in a public school when it divides up the students in this way. There is prejudice against atheists in a lot of places, and it is not nice to be outed as the only atheist in school in a small conservative town.

Kicked out of school for refusing to join prayer circle:

The Price of Atheism (ABC 20/20 Interview with Nicole Smalkowski)
Pay attention around 3:14 and especially at 7:20 on.

Yes, Atheists *Should* Advertise

We need to frame our issues in our own terms, and not accept the words that our enemies want to use to describe us. If keep our mouths shut and stay under the radar, they will be more than happy to tell everyone what we are all about. Whether this happens though outright attacks or though concern trolling, it will not be flattering or helpful to our cause. For this reason, we must not fear charges of “atheist evangelism” or of “salesmanship” (as alleged by Josh Jones in his commentary on the Louisville COR billboard)

From Don’t Let Sleeping Metaphors Lie:

Language describes reality. That is its primary, most self-evident function. We use words to define for ourselves, and communicate to others, what’s going on out there. Less evident, but almost as potent, is language’s role in shaping reality. The meaning of what is out there changes with the words we choose to describe it…
Language frames politics, of course. In the struggle to win over the public and brand their positions, those seeking to outlaw abortion became “pro-life” and those seeking to keep it legal became “pro-choice.” Using these terms in any other context will seem weird. (“I’m very pro-choice; I love the combination menu at Burger King;” “I’m pro-life, that’s why I don’t wear fur.”)

I’ve long thought that allowing and accepting the anti-abortion block to adopt the term “pro-life” has been detrimental to the struggle to keep abortion legal. I mean, if you look only at the words themselves, which is more important, “choice” or “life?” As anyone who has read the stories of women who have needed abortions should see, those terms do not even come close to describing the reality of the situation.

Atheism has had some of the same framing issues as the fight to keep abortion legal. Commonly heard phrases containing the word atheist, which I thought up off the top of my head, include:
“angry atheist”
“atheistic communism”
“avowed atheist”
“strident atheist
“arrogant atheist”
“New Atheists”
“Militant Atheists”

It’s no wonder so many atheists are timid about coming out! Speaking from my own experience, it took me a long time to dissociate atheism from anti-Americanism. I grew up not only seeing Christianity wrapped in the American flag, but whenever threats to our country were discussed I’d hear about the “atheistic” or “godless” communists. Besides that, I never heard of atheism at all when I was a child except in a pejorative sense.

Now, one item in the list above, “New Atheists,” can be taken positively or negatively depending on your point of view. But it seems to me that most of the time I hear it, it seems to be accompanied by a disparaging tone.

We have our positive phrases too.

The Happy Heretic (Thanks to Judith Hayes)
“Happy Humanist”
“Positive Atheism”
“Reality-based Community”
“New Atheists” (Included here because it is also used in a positive sense sometimes :))
“avowed atheist” (Also included here for the same reason as the item above.)
“It’s OK to be an atheist”
“Atheists are beyond belief”

I’m having a bit more trouble thinking up the positive memes without relying on Google, which is just a sign that we have let our opponents frame the issue for far too long. If we atheists ever want to be accepted as a legitimate part of society, if we ever want to get rid of the stigma associated with atheism, we need to be out there spreading our memes to the public and defining ourselves in our own terms. And the concern trolls who are worried about us offending religious sensibilities by merely advertising that we exist can go away, because I’m not listening.

Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.

Observations of an atheist abortion clinic escort…

I hadn’t been in a couple of months, but yesterday I decided to get up early to escort at the clinic. Thursday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, so the issue of choice and personal freedom was on my mind. After not being there for a while the scene was especially eery, or maybe that was the fog from the river. It’s easy to forget about the gauntlet these women are forced to run in order to go to the doctor. Continue reading

Another Saturday Morning

This morning at the the local abortion clinic was a bit different from the usual. The Kentucky Right to Life Association is having their convention in Louisville this weekend, so we were expecting a lot more protesters than usual. What we got were a lot more escorts and about the usual number of protesters. Continue reading

Doing what I can

As anyone who has seen my tweets or Facebook page yesterday knows, I have added a new role to my personal resume. Yesterday, I got up at 6am and went down to the local abortion clinic and volunteered as a clinic escort.

I didn’t even know this opportunity existed until last Tuesday, when a lady at my Atheists and Freethinkers meetup spoke up about the situation at the clinic in Louisville. I sought her out after the meetup and talked about what was going on. I found out that every morning that the clinic is open, there are protesters standing outside the door harassing women who need the services provided within. And that there are a handful of people who regularly volunteer as escorts to help these women get though the gantlet and exercise their autonomy. So, I decided to get up early on Saturday and see for myself what was going on. The lady I meet at the meetup keeps a blog about the goings-on at the clinic, so if you want a good general idea of what I saw yesterday morning  Every Saturday Morning is a good place to start.

It was not until May 31 this year that I really got galvanized on the abortion rights issue. That was the day that Dr. Tiller, at the time one of only three doctors who perform late-term abortions in America, was murdered right in his church on Sunday morning. To be perfectly honest, I’d never even heard of the man before, nor had I known just how rare were doctors who provided late-term abortions.  I was actually very ambivalent about late-term abortion and whether it should be legal or not, until I read the stories of the women and the men who love them who went to Dr. Tiller for help. He knew the danger that he was constantly in, as previous attempts had been made on his life. I could not help but admire the man and the risk we was willing to take for women’s health and lives.

You can read and watch about Dr. Tiller and the lives he has touched here, and here, and here.

What I found particularly hateful and repugnant about this murder was the reactions and words of some of the leaders of the “pro-life” movement. I wrote a bit about that in this previous post, and the way I felt about it when I wrote that post has not changed.

So after all this, when I saw that I had this sort of opportunity to stand up for the rights of women, I had to stand up and take it. I’ve never felt so galvanized about anything in my whole life. It’s the bit I can do and I’m doing it!