Category Archives: Reproductive Choice

Summertime Blues

Moral Monday Protest, Asheville, NC, August 5, 2013

Moral Monday Protest, Asheville, NC, August 5, 2013

There’s a certain perverse pleasure in waiting to see what disastrous policy initiatives Republicans can develop, like watching a Jerry Lewis movie. You enjoy the unwinding disasters, almost in disbelief, just waiting to see how bad it can get. Attempting to repeal Obamacare for the 50th time, for example, when we come in dead last for healthcare outcomes among all developed nations…. That’s something, really. It requires a kind of supreme lack of imagination. We endure the worst rates of heart disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes among all the developed nations on Earth. We are last in positive outcomes, but we spend the most–outstripping all rivals in flushing money down the insurance toilet without any actual return on investment (or ROI, as the smart MBA kids like to say). So the natural conclusion for the conservative movement is to repeal anything that would correct that situation, right? All this might suggest that the right doesn’t actually care about outcomes, or maybe it’s some unfathomably clever political ploy. Like how, every six months or so, they actively seek to plunge our economy back into an ice bath by holding the debt ceiling hostage. Or again, maybe it’s just the right gone wild in their usual productive cycle of ginning fake outrage over fake scandals (Benghazi! IRS!) and destroying any attempt at a sane economic policy which, I have to admit, is par for the course. After all, our band of antediluvian brothers’ idea of economic progress is to repeal the minimum wage.

Yet, there are moments when even a cynic must pause. Ten years ago, for example, would anyone have wagered that our Supreme Court would gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act, invalidating section four and opening the way for conservatives to pass some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country? Within 2 hours of that court decision, Texas arranged a voter ID law and redistricting map both of which were blocked in previous years for their discriminatory tendencies against blacks and Latinos. It’s not like this should have come as a surprise, either. The Texas Republican Party’s 2012 platform specifically called for the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The only people who didn’t see it coming, apparently, were the five Justices who concurred in the decision to gut the act. One must conclude they were willfully blind to reality, or criminally stupid, or, more likely, they were perfectly aware of the outcome, and that’s precisely why they formed their decision.

This brings us to an interesting question. Suppose the recent antics of the right aren’t just gross stupidity, poor analysis, or general loss of contact with reality? But, rather– it’s opposite. Suppose it is simply this: the right is actively seeking to disenfranchise millions of citizens to retain political power, keep sick people from adequate health care to ensure continued profits for a dysfunctional healthcare system, and weaken the middle class and labor movements so that big business–their primary constituent–can avail themselves of cheap labor in perpetuity.

If the latter is true, then maybe the activists in North Carolina have it right. The Reverend Barber and the NAACP have developed a sustained protest dubbed “Moral Monday” in reaction to anti-abortion legislation, voter suppression laws and cuts in public school teacher pay the conservatives of their state have enacted. Thousands have showed up at the North Carolina state house throughout the summer. Five thousand activists alone showed up in Asheville, North Carolina on Monday, August 5th. Close to a thousand have been arrested over the course of the summer in acts of civil disobedience.

“This is no momentary hyperventilation and liberal screaming match,” Reverend Barber told AP. “This is a movement.”

Indeed, it is. And with the racists-gone-wild antics of the right in Arizona, singing “Bye Bye Black Sheep,” outside one of President Obama’s speeches and carrying signs reading, “Impeach the Half-White Muslim!”, maybe it’s time to consider a nation wide “Moral Monday.”

After all, if the right isn’t entirely divorced from reality, their motives aren’t hard to decipher. Why gut the middle class economy, destroy any attempt at healthcare policy, restrict women’s rights, mock a black President and– a local note– plant a Confederate Flag just south of Richmond, Virginia (home of the ex-Confederacy, where millions of slaves were brought to be auctioned off to the highest bidder a little over 150 years ago) unless that is exactly what you’re seeking? To turn the clock back to that sunny time when blacks slaved like raisins in the sun, and poor whites were tenant farmers eking out a hard life’s wage, half of which went to pay their landlord? Sans any government protection, much less ‘healthcare’….This, after all, is the essence of the Confederacy, and, at bottom, the essence of the right-wing laissez faire economic model. It would not be the first time in human history that we’ve taken a step or two back.

Some folks might say I am exaggerating, because outside of a government predicated on a wealthy elite’s supremacy, the destruction of the middle class, the elimination of social services and the return of institutions that look and act like slavery or tenant farming, would the right-wing agenda really be all that bad?

I’m glad you asked, because even if we were to accept the feudal living arrangements the far right’s economic agenda promises, there is one other area where they would actually prove worse. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 30 Texas towns are about to run out of water due to global warming induced droughts, and– wait for it — fracking. Why? Because fracking uses water humans need to survive. The oil and gas industries are draining Texas of water in order to break up the earth so that oil may be extracted to produce gas that runs cars that lead to global warming which further exacerbates the lack of water … that humans need to survive.

The oil and gas industries consider the cost of this degradation–that is, the draining of Texas’ aquifers so that humans have nothing to drink–an ‘externality’ (another word those smart MBA kids love); and to the extent that they think about them at all, most of the humans in Texas are probably also considered externalities, as are their children and their children’s children, etc… Except the fetuses, naturally. That’s just the way the far right rolls.

We could put this another way, of course. We could talk about the human cost of such a far right economic model that reduces humans to a plus or minus on a ledger sheet. We could suggest that, as humans, strictly speaking, we cannot drink oil, and we cannot eat money.

Barnhart, Texas has already run dry. Moral Monday, anyone?

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Watching the “Cooch”

The Alliance for Progressive Values strongly objects to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s refusal to certify the new health clinic regulations passed by the Virginia Board of Health in June.

The Board adopted an amendment to exempt existing clinics from the proposed, burdensome architectural requirements for hallways to be a specific width and ceilings to be a specific height. Renovations such as these in TRAP laws are only intended to deter health care professionals from being able to provide safe and legal abortion care for women in Virginia.

The Alliance for Progressive Values is troubled by Cuccinelli’s behavior, particularly the unprecedented and unethical ways he is going about promoting his personal and radical anti-choice agenda. His refusal to certify these new health clinic regulations despite the Virginia Board of Health’s recommendation is not only unusual for an Attorney General but also clear political pandering.

The Attorney General is not interested in helping Virginia women gain access to a safe and legal medical procedure simply for his own career gain. This latest move demonstrates Cuccinelli’s willingness to jeopardize the health and human rights of women throughout the Commonwealth to appease the radically anti-abortion minority groups he has affiliated himself with.

APV urges the Board of Health to stands its ground and reject the Attorney General’s attempts to meddle with the reasonable compromise regulations it passed in June.

Christine Dawe

Deputy Policy Director

Alliance for Progressive Values

For more information we suggest you check out our friends at CoochWatch.com

We Won’t Go Back!

Tomorrow, June 15th is a big day. Tomorrow people will be gathering from across the state at an anonymous building in an unprepossessing suburban office-park to try to make a group of bureaucrats and political appointees understand how important it is to not wipe away 40 years of progress on women’s reproductive health as the result of a sneaky bit of legislative legerdemain back in 2011.

Tomorrow the Virginia Board of Health will rule on final adoption of the so-called TRAP regulations (Targeted Regulations against Abortion Providers). The new regulations are designed specifically to make it nearly impossible for women to get an abortion in Virginia while not actually making it illegal. See, they can’t overturn Roe v. Wade (yet), so at the state level they’ve taken to making it so hard to run a women’s health clinic that provides abortions that no one can do it. And it’s working! Around the country states are installing more and more outlandish and ludicrous hoops for clinic operators to jump through, and more and more clinics are closing. A generation of violent intimidation, indiscriminate bombings, arson and assassination haven’t worked, but a room full of bureaucrats might finally manage the job for these zealots. Tomorrow APV will stand with many other organizations, groups and individuals in opposing these medically useless, politically motivated regulations. We urge you to join us in our efforts to keep abortion safe, legal and AVAILABLE in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Attend the hearing, write and call everyone you know, get angry and stay angry and win or lose, start working the next day to make the people who push these awful rules pay at the ballot box. Below are APV’s comments on the TRAP rules before the Board of Health tomorrow. For more information about tomorrow’s hearing go to APVonline.org

The Alliance for Progressive Values strongly opposes the regulations before you governing licensure of abortion facilities. In approving these regulations you will be placing extremely cost prohibitive constraints on abortion clinics when abortion access in the Commonwealth is already limited.

Specifically, the draft regulations require women’s clinics to adhere to standards found in the 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities. In particular the Guidelines for Outpatient Surgical Facilities, otherwise called ambulatory surgical facilities. It is important to note that these guidelines were not intended for existing structures but meant to govern the construction of new facilities, especially hospitals. By arbitrarily linking women’s clinics and doctors’ out-patient surgical services that provide abortions with regulations designed for large hospital settings, the Department, with the backing of the Governor and Attorney General, is launching a concerted, targeted attack on women’s reproductive choice in Virginia under the guise of innocuous structural mandates. This is not only dishonest, but it is also potentially dangerous. These regulations will significantly limit women’s access to safe and legal abortions in much of Virginia and could lead to women being forced into difficult and dangerous medical situations such as carrying a life threatening pregnancy to term.

The proposed regulations have no basis in medical best practices and serve only to make it harder for women to gain access to this legal and safe procedure. In fact, your own advisory panel of medical experts found these regulations to be medically unnecessary; sadly their recommendations have been ignored.

It cannot be stressed enough that today first trimester abortions which make up 90% of all abortions are routine, safe and legal in Virginia. Currently abortion providers are covered under the same regulations as physician practices that perform certain other, and in some cases statistically more dangerous invasive procedures, including dental, ocular and plastic surgery (none of which are covered by the new regulations). There is no evidence that there is any need for a change. Worse still, if anti-choice advocates have their way in the future, the prescribing of emergency contraceptives would be treated as a form of abortion and doctors who proscribed the legal and safe prophylactic in their offices would also fall under these new restrictions.

It should also not be lost in the highly emotional debate over abortion, that many of the clinics that will be forced to close as a result of the new TRAP regulations also provide other much-needed services to women around the state including breast exams, PAP smears, STI testing, HPV inoculation and other routine but necessary treatments, often at low cost.

The Alliance for Progressive Values strongly opposes the new Department of Health regulations and urges they be rejected or at the least be seriously reevaluated and studied further so that the consequences of their implementation to women’s health in Virginia can be better understood. As presently constituted, these regulations set women’s health in Virginia back decades and add unnecessary risks and costs for no medically sustainable reason. These regulations have nothing to do with protecting women’s health and everything to do with proscribing women’s reproductive choices.

Just like Rape

If we could get a breed of gals that didn’t care, now, for their young uns…would be ’bout the greatest mod’rn improvement I knows on … ~Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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The Nation’s Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding, by JoAnn Wypijewski, takes a step back to look at the big picture of “choice” in the U.S and how it applies to the conservative war on women.

Wypijewski speaks of her sister’s upcoming book, and her new-found reasoning that includes the propagation of slaves as an important consideration in the legislation we’re facing, and the equal rights of women in general. She finds there “is another logic, and it calls us to complete the unfinished business of emancipation.”

I like the article, but find it falls short by not including some of the other proposed legislation that adds reason to the madness. Those would include the push to end labor unions, repeal our child labor laws, and Virginia’s new law, for example, that allows discrimination against adoption on the basis of any moral reason a contractor puts forth to keep children’s rights under state control.

If all the outsourced jobs and industry return to American soil only after we’ve achieved a “competitive” edge – and they will – what does that mean? It means cheap labor, and lots of it. It means that the organization of workers will have been rendered futile. It means our corporations can compete with China’s standards of employment. It means child labor, something we put behind us long ago.

The concerted stages of deregulation for corporate profit over the people’s safety and workers’ rights in our country are all frightening to me. I think a large voting bloc is being used to promote corporate interests.

Abortion isn’t the issue we’re dealing with in the war on women. I think it’s about control … just like rape.
DCKennedy

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HB 3808, BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE?

Tennessee Abortion Bill Would Make Abortion Providers’ Names Public:

“The House Health and Human Resources Committee is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, and Odom said he expects it to pass in the GOP-dominated House. It will then move to the state Senate, where Republicans are also in the majority.”

HB 3808 Sponsor
Rep. Matthew Hill (R-TN)

The Life Defense Act of 2012, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill (R-TN), mandates that the Tennessee Department of Health make detailed demographic information about every woman who has an abortion available to the public, including her age, race, county, marital status, education level, number of children, the location of the procedure and how many times she has been pregnant. Each report would also have to include the name of the doctor who performed the procedure. (…)

Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) called the bill “very dangerous,” and said the Republicans who voted it out of a House subcommittee offered “no explanation as to why this was something that needed to be done.”

When public servants try to pass a law knowing well that its result will endanger the lives of fellow Americans, their own constituents, an explanation is in order. Earlier this month, Hill said, “The Department of Health already collects all of the data, but they don’t publish it. All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.”

Okay, why? When it will obviously invade protected privacy by publicizing doctor-patient privileged information and could result in murder, why do it?

Tennessee Rep. Gary Odom (D) said, “I think in some small communities that woman would be identified, I think that by publicizing this, it would have serious consequences. … We know what has happened to physicians who perform abortions that there has been violence. … There could be violence against the women. … This is a dangerous piece of legislation. … I think this is full of meanness.”

Meanness? Laws without cause are dangerous. Any political party willing to risk our lives to advance some agenda they have for down the line is dangerous. The precedent set by this law would be dangerous. If you’ve been wondering just how far they’ll go to reverse Roe v. Wade, this one puts it right on the line.

Face it. When a state law is designed to place a bull’s-eye on the backs of law-abiding citizens, we’re in dangerous territory.
DCKennedy

An Opensalon editor’s pick has more here:
The State of Tennessee Needs to Know All About Your Abortion

Teach your children well – Hearts and Minds

Crosby Stills Nash and Young
You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

I found a safety pin in the carpet and remember being surprised and delighted when I got it open. I used it to scratch the paint off the face of my sister’s new dolly. After the tear fest that followed her outrage, torrents of Bible verses and lectures about jealousy fell on my young ears and then Daddy got home to teach me several other consequences of destructive behavior. I remember it well.

Feelings about fairness are rooted in every social problem.

A sense of fairness, whether innate or learned, is something I imagine most parents attempt to highlight in their children, and learning to respect the property of others is basic. Understanding why we wouldn’t is more subjective, requires empathy and addresses the feelings of persons negatively affected. When authoritative consequences drive home the point that punishment follows for those who disobey the law, it only works if the laws are understood, reflect society’s morals and ethics, and if the punishment is applied fairly across the board.

“Do as I say, not as I do” and “Do what I say without question” are old style authoritarianism, ineffective leadership, and not the least bit democratic. We need to get that mentality out of our government. When the American people react en mass out of feelings of unfairness, we don’t need to have the sin spanked out of us. We need representatives willing to listen first, ask and answer questions, and attend to our needs – whatever we say our needs are. Their secrecy and the favoritism they show to corporations is abhorrent. They need to keep their religion to themselves and legislate in fairness with the hearts and minds of the people as their priority. That could begin with laws that respect the peoples’ property.

When young lessons are twisted up in a mix of religious and economic self-righteousness, the result is confusion, then anger, then rage. The same goes for a nation with laws that allow corporations to abuse or destroy our property while others are subjected to jail time.

If my factory emissions cause your emphazima, loss of employment and homelessness, even death – that’s too bad. Illness, cancer, toxic waste, the destruction of our environment – it’s all the same. Erin Brockovich was popular because our hearts and minds were with her in a desperate struggle to right a wrong, but the rarity of her success is what made it a story.

Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

It’s role reversal. The people are the teachers, not the government. And the parents of America’s children have their hands full trying to convey that message, I’m sure. It must be tough, for example, teaching children that their bodies are their most precious possessions, to be cared for and treated with respect by all. This, at the same time the state of Virginia among others have the audacity to force medical procedures on unwilling women for a purpose clearly not covered in the law – a future mandate for women to endure unplanned pregnancy and bear unwanted children.

Another thing I know parents struggle with today, because it’s getting difficult for everyone, is providing and modeling healthy nourishment. Having compromised the standards for the most fundamental requirements of the human body – in favor of corporate profits, government agencies have made a mockery of our basic needs. Body, heart and mind – it takes clean air and water, healthy food.  John Prine suggests,
“Blow up your T.V.
throw away your paper,
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches”.
And while you’re at it, exercise the freedom to make your own spiritual choices. The religious doctrine of others is healthy food for thought and a joy to study and consider – during the process of independent, personal resolve.

I jumped off the track with John Prine, but while I’m here, I’ll say what I’m thinking: there’s nothing reasonable about making smiles illegal. “Well done, hot dog bun, my sister’s a nun.” Try explaining that one to your kids, but you might hold off on the drug war. They’ll eventually see through it like everybody this side of “Just say no”, another authoritative instruction from the old school that never worked and never will.

Back to religion – by their very nature, spiritual choices are unregulated; they come through a variety of life and family experiences. Legislation that favors your experience over mine is categorically wrong, but a good example of the confusing religious and economic self-righteousness being dished out by ‘Daddy’ these days.

Among various other discrimination, Virginia’s new adoption law allows state agencies to say, “You may adopt this child if you’re a Christian, but not if you’re a Jew”. If you live in America, have a brain cell and are raising a child, that’s another one that should be difficult to explain, especially for Christians. Subjecting the soft skin of children to the warehousing of orphanages when they deserve, have a right and an opportunity to become a family member in a safe, protective and loving home, is not exactly ‘witnessing’. If I were an orphan under those circumstances, I can’t think of anything that would drive me away from Christians more completely.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

The point is, good parents are what we need and I hold them in the highest esteem. Having the know-how, intuition, courage and stamina to make positives from negatives and prepare young minds for a go at the world ahead is more than I can grasp, but I appreciate them and the challenges they face.

One of the most important lessons in fairness and how our children will work toward it is in our Bill of Rights. The First Amendment enshrines the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to petition for governmental redress of grievances. In light of what happened at the Capital in Richmond on Saturday during the rally for women’s rights, I’ve wondered how parents are supposed to teach their children to be good citizens who practice healthy, peaceful redress efforts without being afraid or intimidated. (If you don’t know what happened, here’s March 3rd, 2012 – Of Protests and Bitch Slaps, by Jack Johnson, and excellent account of the rally and of the arrests that followed.)

The following is an example of good parenting that I think fits the bill. I saw it earlier today, and don’t know the mom who posted it, but see if you don’t agree that she has the “hearts and minds” of her children in full view of their future and our needs as a nation:

“Since Saturday I have been wondering about an appropriate role in the re-surging women’s rights movement. As I watched civil disobedience play out on Saturday I kept wondering, what can/should I do? What is my role in this?

I am a mom.
I am needed at home.
My life is busy.
You are too.
But…………………..

I sometimes wonder if some elected officials count on us being so busy as to not pay attention to what they do. I am not *that* busy anymore. But what, given the requirements of being a mother, should I be doing?

I am a mother.
I have two daughters.
I will teach.

Today I called the Capitol Tour Desk to inquire about having a picnic with my children on the grounds. I am told that we are allowed to bring food or purchase food at their underground café and eat anywhere on the grounds except inside in the historical part of the building.

I plan to take my girls for a field trip to discuss civil disobedience, democracy, and the women’s rights movement. I may do this more than once and I am putting the intention into the universe that other mothers will feel the strength of this lesson for the next generation. The erosion of personal freedoms is not to be tolerated. This Thursday I plan to sit on the steps in the same spot that the protesters were sitting and bring my laptop with the YouTube video of what happened in that spot.

Think of the tremendous life learning opportunity we have before us to teach the next generation. I am not looking to turn this into anything other than what it is… mothers teaching their children and remaining visible even while handling our busy lives.

I was thinking I might head over there this Thursday a little before lunchtime. Anyone care to join me???”

(That will be tomorrow, March 8, 2012)

~~~~~

DCKennedy

Some News from APV, Virginia:

Today Governor McDonnell signed HB 462 (the Mandatory Ultrasound Bill) into law. We are deeply disappointed by his decision, but not deterred. There is no doubt that our voices have been heard ‘loud and clear’, not just by our representatives, but by the press and therefore the country. We have gotten our message out there. We have been remarkably successful in fighting some of the worst legislation out of the GA this year with the odds against us. We have forged alliances and gathered people who will not forget, and we will continue to build momentum to take this state back. We’re in this for the long haul. Make no mistake, we ARE winning.

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March 3rd, 2012 – Of Protests and Bitch Slaps


Part 1, Protests – View from Top


By all rights, this should have been a boring article. Saturday, March 3, over a thousand activists converged on the steps of the State Capitol building. They assembled there to petition their government for a redress of grievances, in this case, asking Governor McDonnell not to sign into law a piece of legislation—HB462. Many of the marchers argued that HB462 was designed to shame and humiliate women seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy; something that had won the Republicans of the Virginia General Assembly overwhelming ridicule and nationwide notoriety. A massive protest barely two weeks earlier, organized by Speak Loudly With Silence, had flooded the State Capitol with protestors lining the walkway from the General Assembly building to the State Capitol. Saturday Night Live made jokes about the invasive transvaginal ultrasounds required by the language of HB462, with one wit noting that she really enjoyed ‘Transvaginal Airlines.’ Realizing that his conservative base had badly overstepped, Governor McDonnell suggested that they soften the language somewhat lessening the ‘transvaginal’ part of the bill and allowing for a less invasive abdominal ultrasound. The amendment passed, but it hardly lessened the fury of Pro-Choice activists who saw the bill as an intrusion of government into women’s reproductive rights, the proverbial war on women.

One activist, Sheila Jones, noted that over a million women marched to block such governmental overreach in reproductive health matters years ago. “I thought we’d taken care of these atrocities [on women’s rights] back then, and we haven’t,” On that Saturday, she wore a t-shirt from the 1992 Pro-Choice rally at the National Mall, “So I had to come back down here and do this for all of the young women that now are fighting for the same thing that we thought we had taken care of 20 years ago.”

If you happened to be standing on the top steps of the Virginia Capitol this last Saturday at around 2:00 pm, you would have seen something to make Sheila proud: a stream of hundreds (over a thousand by most estimates) Pro-Choice activists, many wearing red arm bands, filling the State Capitol grounds and waving signs that read “Life Begins when you Stand Against Madness”, “Gov. McDonnell Get Out Of My Vagina” and “Mind Your Own Private Parts.” All the while they chanted “Kill the Bill.” You may also have seen two or three Capitol Police officers on bicycles creating a mini phalanx attempting to block the protestors as they ascended the Capitol steps, but impotent against the sheer number of outraged citizens the General Assembly of Virginia had managed to piss off.

Now, as in the first protest march, the activists had a permit to assemble by the Bell Tower, but not on the Capitol steps. Eileen Davis, who helped organize the original Speak Loudly With Silence along with APV board member, Clair Tuite, saw this and quickly spoke to Capitol Police Col. Pike. “Just let this play out,” she pleaded. She asked for time. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. No good. According to Ms. Davis, Col. Pike argued that if he did this for one group, he’d have to do it for every group. Luckily for Col. Pike, State Police just happened to be on hand that day; State Police in full riot gear, as chance would have it….

Shortly, thereafter, the call went out that the activists had to leave the steps. “Alright everyone we have 5 minutes and then Capitol Police are bringing in the troopers!”

They weren’t kidding. State Police Troopers went quickly on the march themselves. Over-armored and over-weaponized, they made a tidy black row, creating an ominous phalanx of plexiglass covered helmets and body-length shields to separate those who refused to move off the steps from those who were further out on the State Capitol grounds. They wore the familiar body armor reminiscent of Darth Vader with padded elbows and padded knees and bullet proof vests, and thick scarves around their faces in case they might need to use tear gas (in order to disperse, through chemical weapons if necessary, the group of men, women and children requesting a redress of grievances by sitting peaceably on the Capitol steps). Captain Goodloe of the Capitol Police refused to say how many State Troopers in riot gear were on hand that day, but the number was right around 20, and even that number, apparently, wasn’t sufficient. To protect the Commonwealth from the dreadful depredations of 31 protestors sitting in silent protest, his men needed back up.

That’s why they brought in the Capitol Police tactical force, or the Men in Green. At a distance I mistook them for an armed military presence. Close up, I realized they were not, but they are no less scary. I was assured, later, that they were indeed just ‘police’… A somewhat rarefied variety of the Capitol Police, like our S.W.A.T. teams, apparently. They were decked out entirely in green camouflage, with green helmets that looked exactly like military helmets and they wore the same specialized padding the State Troopers wore and they carried –this is the scary part—assault weapons (like the kind they use in the military when they are ‘assaulting’ something deadly – an enemy military force equipped with Light Weight Anti-Tank Weapons, say, or bombs made of plastic explosives or nuclear weapons hijacked by maniacal terrorists for that matter—not, however, American men, women and children interested in petitioning their government for a redress of grievances). They also, by the way, spent a fair amount of time passing canisters back and forth that may have been tear gas, or, as I was told, flash grenades. No one was sure, and when asked, the officers refused to answer.

Labor organizer, Muna Hijazi, was dismayed by the heavy police presence: “The show of force was amazingly ugly and over the top.” Delegate Delores L. McQuinn, D-Richmond also spoke out. She said she had “never seen a similar police presence [even] when guns rights advocates assembled on Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.” She thought there was a slight political slant in such policy decisions.“ The men and women who marched on Capitol Square have a right to peacefully protest without the threat that they will be arrested for exercising that right,” McQuinn said in a news release. “At several recent women’s rights events, there has been an overabundance of police presence. In fact, the Capitol Police tactical team has been at all of the events,” she said.

Despite this show of force, thirty-one protestors chose not to relinquish their right to assemble on the Capitol Steps that day. Some were arrested to assert their first amendment right to peaceably assemble, after all the protestors had a permit for their assembly at the Bell Tower about 50 yards away and were within their time frame for that permit. No other like-sized protests were met with this ugly show of a police presence. Others who were arrested were protesting in favor of a woman’s right to choose. They were given numbers to call, legal advice and opportunities to leave. But they refused.

As an historical note, up until the 1970s, protests were allowed anywhere on the State Capitol grounds—or more accurately were not required to be ‘permitted’. This picture, taken in 1969 by APV member Mike Garrett, shows hundreds of anti-war protestors flooding the steps and covering the entire front of the of the State Capitol building. No arrests, no State Troopers and certainly no Men In Green. That’s mostly because up until then there weren’t that many protests to worry about. But by the 1970s –in the aftermath of the civil rights marches and the beginning of the anti-war protests– the Virginia Assembly decided that protests required permits with limited time durations and specific geographic areas –down to the foot and yards, apparently.

Protestors of this Saturday, March 3rd, 2012, locked arms and huddled. One by one they were pried apart and handcuffed, then led, dragged or carried to awaiting white buses emboldened with the initials DCP that drove them to the station at Ninth and Leigh Street.

Now, here’s where things get interesting. Those arrested Saturday afternoon were charged with either trespassing or unlawful assembly and were taken to the Richmond City Jail. Both charges are Class 1 Misdemeanors, usually processed with a summons (basically, like a traffic ticket) to return to court at a convenient date. But that’s not what happened to our March 3rd protestors. Not by a long shot.


Part 2, Arrests & The Long Wait.

Ninth and Leigh is an nondescript block, which, if you didn’t know better you would mistake for a faceless bureaucrat building ringed by a large parking lot. Maggie N., who works everyday as a Registered Nurse at MCV just across the street from Ninth and Leigh, had no idea what went on there. “I didn’t even know there was a jail here.” It’s easy to miss because the spot is actually about 10 -20 feet below street level, dug out, effectively, so unless you knew that the police vans backing up to the garage doors held desperate criminals, or, in this instance, disoriented women’s rights protestors, you’d never guess its true function.

On the afternoon of March 3rd, two white buses containing handcuffed activists parked in front of those two double garage doors and essentially spent three to four hours while the activists waited in handcuffs, either on the bus or inside the garage doors without water, without food and without access to a lawyer. Keep in mind, every one of them was ultimately charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor that should have required the equivalent of a traffic ticket. Said one Richmond Police Officer (who preferred anonymity), “I think that this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.”

That’s how the male protestors that day were treated. But there was special treatment for the female activists. Many of them were made to wait a total of eight to nine hours before the last of them was finally processed and released. They were made to wait eight to nine hours with hands tied behind their backs, without food and without water and without access to a lawyer.

The wretched conditions for the activists were well known. Fellow protestors had taken up a position around the block-wide dug-out at Ninth and Leigh and spent all of that Saturday night banging on the metal rails, chanting “Give Them Water” and “Take off the cuffs” and trying to update anyone of influence in the city to let their general condition be known. Stories trickled out about their treatment. Apparently, one bus contained a primitive bathroom facility while the other did not. The women were kept on the bus without the bathroom, so, if nature should happen to call within their 5-9 hour wait, they were taken off one bus, transported to the other bus and allowed to use the restroom. Each time this happened the activists circling the lot would shout, “Give them water.” When women were finally released, one of the first things they looked for was some soap and water to clean up, because none had been provided in the primitive bathroom.

Initially, when asked why they couldn’t receive water, the protestors were told that while on the buses, the prisoners were under jurisdiction of the Capital Police. The Richmond City Police claimed that they were not supposed to assist them until they were taken into the building and processed. When the Capitol Police heard that, they repudiated it in the strongest terms, and said that, in fact, it was the City Police who had a policy of not allowing prisoners to drink water. Either way, the women did not receive water for easily seven hours that day, even when complaining of headaches or nausea.

In some instances, the treatment of the women approached the absurd. When Gabi S. was asked what country she came from, she replied “Israel”…. Before she was led away, the police officer asked her, “How do you spell that?” She was later placed in solitary confinement for two hours, apparently because she hailed from a different country. She noted in a short summary of her time there: “So yesterday I was arrested for peacefully protesting. I was pulled from the group of women to be fingerprinted, given a mug shot, strip searched and put in solitary confinement. After 2 hours in there without any updates I was allowed out to see the nurse because my wrists were swollen from the handcuffs [a frequent complaint from other protestors]. When I was eventually released I was told that I had been processed differently because I was born in another country, Israel….”  But Quincy M. who hailed from Scotland and didn’t have a social security number (or US citizenship), was not put into solitary confinement, and was released hours before Gabi so it’s difficult to determine if there was any rational procedure being followed, outside of general harassment.

Activists, Glen B., who works for the Sierra club and was released after being held for about four hours, said that holding the women under such conditions was abominable. “We can’t let them get away with this. This state, remember, Virginia, has a history of abusing prisoners, of sterilizing its own citizens. What they are doing here is inexcusable, unacceptable and un-American”

Eileen Davies put it more bluntly, “Attorney General Cucinelli is trying to bitch slap all these women.” Indeed, rumors that someone in the nether reaches of State government was requesting a particularly long and punitive process for the detainees did not seem outlandish. Each activist arrested had a thorough background check which is unusual for a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Wayne Powell, a criminal defense lawyer running against Eric Cantor in the 7th district, offered to represent the detainees pro bono and was outraged by the delays, the fact that he was not allowed to speak with his clients, and the enforced background checks. “This is nowhere close to standard operating procedure for this kind of offense.” A few of the arrestees were even given relatively large bails – up to $500, some for prior offenses, but at least one was given the large bail for putting into words what many of the activists felt—a resolve not to be ground down by the excessive use of force, the government overreach, and the punitive harassment involved in their detention.

When asked by the magistrate if he intended to return to the Capitol grounds after he was released, activist Jonathan C. answered simply, “What time is it?”

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If you appreciate that 31 of the courageous M3 protestors chose to be taken to jail in defiance of Virginia’s attack on women’s rights, rather than retreat and just go home when they were given the option, you might consider donating to their legal fund today. You can do that here. I’m grateful for what they did and wish them a speedy and fair experience with Virginia’s court system! Big thanks to all 31!

One more important thing: The ACLU is investigating the conditions of detention for March 3rd, 2012 protestors at the State Capitol. If you or someone you know has information regarding the arrests and/or detention conditions, please contact Tom Fitzpatrick at 804-644-8080 or email him at tfitzpatrick@acluva.org.

And stay tuned for updates, as I imagine this story will be unfolding for some time to come ….

(All photos, unless otherwise identified, are from Style Weekly Magazine’s Facebook page.)

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On with the Witch Hunt – On, Wisconsin!

The war against women continues, gathering legislation, money and white males, trending now against single “parents”, a choice or circumstance affecting mostly mothers.

If SB507 passes into law, the people of Wisconsin will be taught in a “statewide educational and public awareness campaign” that single parents are guilty of contributing to child abuse and neglect.

Senator Glenn Grothman

Senator Glenn Grothman, a Republican and socially conservative lawmaker, is the bill’s sponsor. According to a paper(pdf) he co-authored in 2011, Grothman sites a conspiracy to encourage single motherhood in order to grow the government. “The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government.”

  • A third of Wisconsin’s parents are single.
  • According to the Census Bureau, in 2009 there were 13.7 million single parents across the U.S.
  • Child abuse and neglect are criminal charges.
    .

To promote the criminalization of single parenthood, the proposed law is worded as follows:

Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Section 2. 48.982 (2) (g) 4. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 4. Disseminate information about the problems of and methods of preventing child abuse and neglect to the public and to organizations concerned with those problems. In disseminating that information, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

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In all the discussion from both sides of the raging debate over reproductive justice and the attacks on women’s rights, someone recently posted this picture that made me consider the slippery slope they’re on – these supporters of legislation that demeans women and curtails their freedom to choose what’s best for themselves.

I called it “a hornet’s sting”, because I’m acutely aware of the secrecy, and now the utter hypocrisy being shown by some who “doth protest too much” against abortion, and I’m not alone. So get off your high horses – you’re not fooling us; we were there. The safe and legal medical procedure to terminate an unwanted pregnancy was not designed just for you and your family, your daughters, your nieces …. Considering yourselves as secret exceptions above the laws you demand for others (and why, because you’re not poor, because you’re educated, because it was an accident?) is reprehensible. You’re secret’s safe with me, but those you have told and the sheer number of people, including friends, volunteers, family members and neighbors who have worked to help women through that difficult process will increase your chances of being outed as this debate heats up once again. Get over yourselves.

Back to SB507, the legislation condemning single parents – that one seems particularly slippery, more slippery than jelly, I guess you could say. The divorce rate in America is the highest in the civilized world – and for the most part, caused by something a spouse has no control over. Infidelity ranks first as the reason given for irreconcilable differences.

No one gets married and has a child, or has a child and gets married with an assurance that divorce will not follow – not a legal assurance, anyway. It just happens, and all the legislation this side of the Taliban won’t stop it.

So, consider the source. We’re human beings, not marionettes being fingered by legislators who pray that “someday soon, these will be the good old days”.

Those days are best watched and laughed at ….

DCKennedy

On the rally in Virginia:

Saturday, March 3rd 2012, over a thousand people protested at the Capitol in Richmond against the continuing assault on women’s reproductive rights. Speakers from NOW Virginia, Women’s Strike Force PAC and Alliance for Progressive Values spoke before a well-behaved and attentive crowd that included mothers with children, students and many women from the generation that fought for and won many of our fundamental reproductive rights. Ostensibly, the rally was in opposition to HB462, which mandates an unnecessary and medically useless ultrasound for a woman seeking an abortion. APV has worked hard against this poorly contrived piece of legislation that claims to provide women with more information about their pregnancy while in fact acting only to place further barriers between Virginia women and their right to choose. APV’s position on HB462 is spelled out in our petition to the Governor (here), which we urge you to sign, but in fact this rally was about the ongoing war on birth control and abortion that has been waged throughout the 2012 session here in Richmond. Numerous bills that would make abortion illegal, make birth control illegal, potentially require police investigations of miscarriages, and end funding for women on Medicaid who’s pregnancies have gone terribly wrong and most be terminated, have come through the legislature, and we have been successful in defeating almost all of them. But the struggle continues. This year we have seen a full court press against the most fundamental of human rights, the right to control one’s own body. Today, as the session winds down, APV members once again stood alongside our brothers and sisters from across the state to implore our elected officials to come to their senses and stop this head long slide back into the “dark ages” to paraphrase pro-choice Senator Janet Howell. We are deeply gratified at the large turn out to this peaceful protest and we want to thank the organizers, some of whom are APV members, for their hard work. However the Governor decides to deal with HB462, we want you to know that we will not go away. We are pledged to stand up against those who would try to turn back the clock on reproductive rights, this year, next year and always. Thank you everyone who came out and everyone who was there in spirit.

APV Public Policy Director,
Scott Price

At the rate we’re going we’ll reach out goal of 5,000 signatures sometime near the end of the week. But for this to happen we all have to spread the word! Please sign and share our petition!

What’s in a name?

Today the Virginia State Senate effectively killed HB1, the so-called personhood bill when they hurriedly called a special calendar to re-refer the bill back to the committee it had passed out of only this morning with a recommendation to pass by for the year. In doing this they bowed to the inevitable and to the political calculus surrounding Governor McDonnell’s bid to be Mitt Romney’s VP. Thousands of Virginians stood up and made their voices heard over the last few weeks and in doing so they made it impossible for the state GOP and the Governor to proceed without doing even more damage to what remained of their national reputation and his chances at national office. Below is APV’s statement on the bill. There are still many more bills lurking in the General Assembly that we will continue to fight, but we and the many other individuals and organizations that fought against HB1 still have something to celebrate. WE DID THIS. And we can do more.

What’s in a name?

For decades our friends on the right have been railing against “activist” judges who interpret the law as they see fit, and yet the GOP controlled House of Delegates and State Senate are in the process of passing some of the most sweeping and open-ended language in recent memory; language, almost guaranteed to end up being parsed and interpreted in unforeseen ways in the courts of the Commonwealth. House Bill 1, the so-called personhood bill, passed the House of Delegates earlier this month by a healthy margin and is now awaiting debate in Committee on the Senate side, but it’s only now starting to get the scrutiny that it deserves and the more people see of it, the more they don’t like it. HB 1 requires that all the laws of the Commonwealth be interpreted to grant fertilized eggs the same rights, privileges, and immunities, as people from the moment of conception on. In doing so it opens a potential Pandora’s Box for confusion and litigation. The bill’s sponsor, anti-choice zealot Delegate Robert Marshall of Prince William, says the bill is only meant to establish a civil cause of action for wrongful death of a fetus stemming from harm to a pregnant woman, but Marshall’s record and his refusal to amend the bill to clarify the many ambiguities the language raises, tends to belie this claim. Instead the bill, which is similar to language introduced and subsequently rejected in other states threatens to outlaw all abortions in the state de facto and make most forms of birth control including the IUD and the Pill illegal if current Supreme Court precedent is ever overturned and it raises serious concerns about the legality of common procedures surrounding in-vitro fertilization. A harsh but not inconceivable reading of the law could be interpreted to require women who miscarry to report the “death” to the local authorities, who, one would assume would have to decide whether or not to investigate if the “death” was spontaneous and of natural causes or was in fact an act of murder. Such silliness we are told would never happen, but the same people who say this are the ones forever warning us of the overreach of government and the chaos caused by radical, “activist” judges bent on making law from the bench. In this case I am rather inclined to take their warnings seriously.
HB1 is a sloppy piece of lawmaking that in a few terse sentences changes the meaning of the legal term person, which appears almost 25,000 times in the Virginia code to include “unborn children” which it defines as existing from the instant of conception. The bill tries to allay some of our many reasonable fears; it acknowledges that Roe and Griswold are the law of the land… for now, and in Sections 6 and 7 it address some other obvious concerns:

§ 6. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as creating a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care.
§ 7. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.

Fair enough, a woman who drinks and smokes during her pregnancy or doesn’t stay on her diet can’t go to jail for murder if the pregnancy ends abruptly… but what about a woman who takes birth control? Remember conception happens outside the womb, the fertilized egg then implants (or not) in the womb. Most hormonal birth control prevents the fertilized egg from sticking to the uterine wall. By preventing this, the woman on birth control is “directly” intervening to prevent a pregnancy from continuing. The same could go for IUDs that create an inhospitable environment for the new “person” in the womb. It’s unclear, to say the least if using many of the most common and safe forms of contraception could be seen as a crime by an overzealous judge. Believe me after Citizen’s United, we Progressives have ample evidence of what damage a runaway court can do, and again don’t tell me prosecutors won’t bring these cases or judges will throw them out. Sure there won’t be many, at first, in the sense that birth control might be illegal and women and their doctors may have to seek contraception outside the law and would thus have to hide their actions, so there may be less murder and more smuggling cases. Who knows. We’re going into uncharted territory. What happens the first time or the fiftieth time that an aggrieved husband claims his estranged wife killed their child with birth control she bought in gasp, Maryland? The party that rails against nuisance lawsuits when they target corporations is all for opening up some of the most intimate decisions a woman or a couple can make to the tender ministration of the Courts. So this is what they mean by small government and tort reform.
And, what about section 7? What happens to all the “people” that routinely get produced as byproducts of fertility treatments? Doctors often implant numerous fertilized eggs, sometimes this results in large numbers of embryos in the womb. Can the mother look forward to a government official being part of any decision she and her family might make about reducing that number? What about freezing embryos, do the fertilized eggs get a legal guardian? Can the couple be charged with child neglect if they fail to pay for the lab work? Is it legal to freeze a person without their consent? What would be the impact on stem cell research? Would a doctor who performs a risky procedure like amniocentesis that results in an unintended abortion be liable for involuntary manslaughter? None of this is addressed in the legislation and to think such cases won’t come up is absurd.
This bill along with the raft of other anti-choice bills that have made this session one of the worst in recent memory for women’s rights is part of an overall plan to make abortion and birth control effectively unavailable for women in Virginia. Similar language has failed in public referendums in Colorado and that liberal bastion Mississippi. If put to a popular vote here, I am confident the people of the Commonwealth would reject it out of hand, but the radicals and partisans in the GA and the Governor’s office would like to push this through by mean force. In doing so they are also opening a gaping breach in the law that judges and lawyers and magistrates across Virginia will be asked to plug piecemeal. It’s time to let them know that that is as bad an idea as conferring personhood on a bundle of undifferentiated cells in the first place. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Progressive Values I urge the legislators and the Governor to stop and consider the many unforeseen ramifications of this dangerous bill. Please say NO to HB1.

Scott Price APV Public Policy Director

APV Comments on the TRAP Regulations passed yesterday by the Virginia Board of Health

“These regulations have nothing to do with protecting women’s health and everything to do with proscribing women’s reproductive choices.”

Scott Price

APV Public Policy Director.

APV Comments on the TRAP Regulations passed yesterday by the Virginia Board of Health