Stop the covert attempt to criminalize abortion September 20, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health, Women.
Tags: abortion, anti-choice, Canada, pro choice, reproductive rights, Stephen Harper, women's health, women's rights
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I just signed on to this urgent campaign to defend women’s reproductive
rights in Canada. This is an important issue and I hope you’ll join me:
just 48 hours, our MPs will debate a Conservative motion that the Canadian
Medical Association, representing 70,000 doctors, is calling a backdoor attempt
to criminalize abortion.
In 1988, the Supreme Court of
Canada ruled that the abortion provision of the Criminal Code was
unconstitutional. But this week, Parliament will be debating a motion
that would threaten our reproductive rights – and the rights of our friends,
daughters, mothers, sisters, and partners.
Prime Minister Harper has
chosen to allow this motion to go forward to a free vote in Parliament, so every
MP must decide whether or not they will stand up for the rights that women and
our allies have been fighting to protect for decades.
We need a
huge public outcry to show our MPs that Canadians will not tolerate this attack
on women’s rights. Please click here to send an urgent message to your MP to
defeat Motion-312 now – then forward this to
Tags: abby zimet, anti-choice, health, misogyny, pro choice, reproductive health, republicans, right wing, roger hollander, ryan mcdougle, west virginia, women, women's health
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03.20.12 – 11:13 AM
by Abby Zimet
With Virginia Republican – and avid supporter of the state’s personhood and ultrasound bills – Ryan McDougle so psyched to get all up into the lady parts of his constituents, they generously obliged him by taking to his Facebook page with to offer detailed reports on their menstrual cycles, cramping and vaginal discharge. His office tried to delete them; too late.
“Senator McDougle, I am almost 49 and STILL menstruating with no sign of slowing down! Frankly, I’ve had enough of this inconvenience – the cost of pads and pain reliever and all the mess – well YOU know how it is. You’re an expert on this lady stuff.”
The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation February 1, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women, Right Wing.
Tags: anti-choice, anti-women, breast cancer, breast exams, cliff stearns, health education, jane abraham, jodi jacobson, komen foundation, minority women, nancy brinker, native american women, planned parenthood, poor women, right wing, roger hollander, women's health, women's rights
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This week it became clear there are things more important to the Susan G. Komen Foundation–the fundraising giant that each year during breast cancer awareness month virtually swathes the United States in pink, a la Christo–than ensuring women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer.
What could be more important to an organization ostensibly dedicated to the elimination of breast cancer? Answer: The politics and personal agendas of the organization’s senior staff and board, both of which have been infiltrated by right-wing ideologues and both of which were instrumental in a decision to deny further support from Komen affiliates to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide breast exams. In fact, it is now clear that some anti-choicers on Komen’s board and senior staff are actually willing to sacrifice poor women to breast cancer to satisfy their own agendas.
Nationwide, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast cancer screenings annually, offering risk assessments, breast exams, breast health information and education, and diagnostic and surgical referrals. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers have conducted nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams with funds from Komen, out of a total of more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide by Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen grants also supported more than 6,400 out of 70,000 mammogram referrals made by Planned Parenthood. These are affiliate-to-affiliate grants between Komen and Planned Parenthood sister organizations at the state level.
A large share of the clients served at Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income African-American and Latina women. The National Cancer Institute identifies lack of access to early and effective screening for breast cancer (and hence lack of early treatment) as a primary reason that African-American and Latina women die of breast cancer at higher rates than the general population. In fact, Komen itself recognized these links in a 2011 statement lauding its relationship with Planned Parenthood:
While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.
Komen further stated:
These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.
As long as there is a need for health care for these women, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.
But apparently those women no longer matter as Komen’s support has now been withdrawn. Last month, the national office of the Komen Foundation, which maintains tight control over its state affiliates, sent a memo barring those affiliates from using money they had raised at the local level to partner with Planned Parenthood clinics in improving access to breast exams.
Why? Not science, not evidence, not concern for women.
Politics and personal ambition, pure and simple.
It’s no secret that anti-choice legislators at the state and national level have made Planned Parenthood the central focus of their anti-woman agenda, spending well over half of entire legislative sessions in some states focused on cutting funding and limiting access to reproductive health services. At the national level, the ongoing witch hunt aimed at PPFA has taken many forms, one of which includes a “Congressional inquiry” launched by House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). Stearns sent a letter to PPFA in late September 2011 asking for an avalanche of documents to “investigate” whether PPFA has used federal funds to provide abortion services.
In a letter protesting the move, Democrats Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) called the inquiry a politically-motivated waste of time and taxpayer money, stating:
“Planned Parenthood is being singled out as part of a Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men. … The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood … These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation.”
Wasteful or not, any Congressperson can start such an inquiry, even for specious reasons. This is not equivalent to a legal “investigation” of an organization. What Stearns is doing is completely unfounded and politically motivated, but when you have power you can abuse it.
What does Stearns have to do with Komen? Anti-choice groups have long targeted Komen for its partnership with Planned Parenthood, in part by haranguing the organization and listing them as targets of various protests and boycotts, and in part by touting the medically-disproven and specious claims about non-existent links between abortion and breast cancer. A group known as Life Decisions International (LDI), the website of which is “fightpp.org,” has long had Komen on its boycott list.
These efforts hardly appear to have affected Komen’s bottom line since the foundation’s total gross revenue in 2010 was nearly $421 million, only several hundred thousand dollars of which were granted over the past five years by Komen’s state affiliates to local Planned Parenthood partners for education, screening, and referrals. Moreover, as a large and well-known organization (albeit one criticized for its work on many levels) Komen appeared until now to stay above the ideological mud-pit of the anti-choice movement.
Last fall, however, things began to change. LDI began quiety telling other anti-choice groups that it had “won” the battle with Komen and that they should await public announcement of a policy change.
And suddenly, Cliff Stearns’ inquiry became a reason for the Komen national office to change what state affiliates could do with their funds. Komen’s board recently approved a new policy stating that affiliates can only provide grant funds to other organizations if:
• The applicant is not currently debarred from the receipt of federal or state funding.
• No key personnel of applicant or any of its affiliates has been convicted of fraud or a crime involving any other financial or administrative impropriety within the last year.
• The applicant or any of its affiliates is not currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud. (“Affiliate” means any entities that control, are controlled by, or are under the same control as applicant or independent entities operating under the same name or brand as applicant.)
While the policy ostensibly affects “any” organization to which Komen affiliates might grant money, the memo sent to state affiliates specifically targets Planned Parenthood.
“Currently, however, various authorities at both the state and federal levels are conducting investigations involving [Planned Parenthood] and some of its local chapters, and the organization is barred from receiving government funding in numerous states. Under these new criteria, Planned Parenthood will be ineligible to receive new funding from Komen until these investigations are complete and these issues are resolved.”
But these are lies and innuendo: There are no “authorities” investigating Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood is not barred from receiving federal government funding in any state. No mature organization concerned about the health and well-being of women at risk of breast cancer would have created a policy targeting another respected organization with a record of saving untold lives.
But Komen can no longer claim the mantle of a respected organization. First, Komen last year hired Karen Handel, a former Georgia anti-choice gubernatorial candidate and Sarah Palin acolyte who promised as part of her platform to defund Planned Parenthood and other vital health services. Handel, who lost her race but is said to have future political ambitions, is now Senior Vice President for Policy at Komen. She was originally endorsed in her race by and received money from current GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, with whom some sources suggest she remains closely allied. Romney, in turn, has suddenly become more anti-choice than thou and has promised a federal person-hood amendment as well as to defund Planned Parenthood.
Second, sitting on Komen’s Advocacy Alliance Board is Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the virulently anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List and of its Political Action Committee. Among other involvements, Abraham helps direct the Nurturing Network, a global network of crisis pregnancy centers, organizations widely known for spreading ideology, misinformation and lies to women facing unintended pregnancy and to use both intimidation and coercion in the course of doing so. Also on the board of Nurturing Network is Maureen Scalia, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, no hero to women’s rights and health.
That Komen–an organization ostensibly dedicated to scientific exploration of cures for breast cancer–has invited on its advocacy board women so closely allied with organizations that so blatantly ignore science and medicine and spread outright lies to other women about their health and welfare speaks volumes about Komen’s ethical principles as an organization.
While anti-choicers including those on Komen’s board are spreading lies, Komen’s steps will ensure that more women who might have been screened will now lack access to early detection and treatment and may die from breast cancer. This is in keeping with a general and patently insane approach of the anti-choice movement: Decry abortion, for example, but limit funding for contraceptive education and supplies which can prevent the unintended pregnancies that lead to abortion. Decry the plight of minority women, but make their access to care increasingly limited. Cry for the “babies,” but defund pre- and post-natal care, nutritional support, and other forms of life and health care for infants and mothers. It is a venal and disgusting strategy that until now I would have thought well beneath the Komen Foundation no matter other issues.
But Komen as an organization now appears so little able to stand the truth that it is deleting comments from its website protesting the policy change. And this is not the first time Komen has come under fire for misinformation or questionable affiliations. Some point to concerns about Komen’s influence on a recent Institute of Medicine report playing down environmental factors in breast cancer, and its close affiliation with many companies that manufacture products using cancer-causing agents.
Given these and other links, it may be no surprise that Komen’s own memo to its affiliates spreads lies about Planned Parenthood, nor that Komen’s actions belie its own claims to care about racial, ethnic and income disparities in access to breast cancer screenings.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control on disparities in access to care noted that women without insurance (38.2 percent) and women without a usual source of health care (36.2 percent) were least likely to be screened for cancer and that such disparities remained stark among Latina, African-American, and Native American women.
In response, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Komen, said: “This gap in care for uninsured and low-income women is particularly troubling and one we have been working very hard to fill at Susan G. Komen. It’s clear that we have far more work to do for women who have no resources, no insurance, and no steady source of healthcare. They need our help the most.”
Jodi L. Jacobson is a long-time leader in the health and development community and an advocate with extensive experience in public health, gender equity, human rights, environment and demographic issues. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of RH Reality Check.
The War on Contraception Goes Viral May 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: abortion, amanda marcotte, anti-choice, birth control, contraception, family planning, indiana, mitch daniels, planned parenthood, pro choice, religious right, roger hollander, tennessee, women's health, women's rights
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As those of us who’ve been following the anti-choice movement for years can attest, the biggest stumbling block for them has been finding a way to make a move towards restricting access to contraception while still trying to keep something like a decent reputation with the public. Attacking sexual liberation and women’s rights has always been at the heart of the anti-choice movement, but in order to sell such a radical agenda as mainstream, they’ve had to make sentimental and often bad faith claims about simply wanting to protect fetal life. While making frowny faces in the direction of pregnant women who want to terminate has been an effective strategy for restricting abortion rights, however, it has its limits when it comes to attacking women’s ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place.
Not that there haven’t been attempts at using “pro-life” arguments to fight not just abortion but contraception. Some anti-choicers have floated the idea that contraception leads to abortion—claiming that women wouldn’t have abortions if they didn’t get it in their silly heads that they should be able to have sex for pleasure instead of procreation. (Never mind that women throughout history have attempted abortion by all sorts of means, whether their cultures had contraception or not.) A slightly more effective argument has been to claim, with no evidence in support, that popular, female-controlled hormonal birth control is the same thing as abortion. This hasn’t done much to convince anyone, but at least establishes a convoluted, disingenuous cover story about embryonic life that anti-choicers can hide behind while they attack contraception. But even then, it has limits, since while the “pill is abortion” argument can be used to attack hormonal contraception, even anti-choicers haven’t been bold enough to claim that condoms or other barrier methods are also abortion.
Then, just this year, it seems that the anti-choice movement came to a nationwide realization: Their past attempts to create some logical-sounding connection between contraception and fetal life were a waste of time and energy. Successful attacks on contraception don’t have to make sense or even look like they kind of sort of make sense if you look at them sideways while ignoring history, science, and true rationality. No, all they have to do is wave their hands around while yelling “abortion” and focus their attacks on those made vulnerable through economic duress, and they would have surprising success at separating women from the means to prevent pregnancy.
True, screaming “abortion” while attacking funding for contraception and other reproductive health services that aren’t abortion didn’t end up as successful as anti-choicers hoped when the Republicans nearly brought the federal government to a shutdown trying to defund Planned Parenthood. But overall, the entire debacle was a success for the anti-choice movement, because by the time it was all over, politicians who want to be viewed as social conservatives realized that it’s no longer enough to be anti-abortion. You must also be opposed to access to contraception for people deemed to be unworthy of sexual autonomy, namely, low-income women and young women.
What this means is that politicians in conservative areas have taken a hard right turn on contraception. The biggest example so far is definitely Indiana, where Gov. Mitch Daniels blew off the “truce” he claimed to support in the culture wars to sign a bill that defunds family planning aid to his state, which will inevitably increase the state’s budget problems in myriad ways. If this were 2010, Daniels probably wouldn’t have done that or even have been put in that situation. In the past few months, however, the last tentacle attached to the concept of attaching anti-choice lies to some semblance of truth has been released, and any politician who doesn’t want to be labeled “pro-abortion” had better start hating on contraception, no matter how many abortions it may prevent.
The pressure to move towards a more radical anti-contraception stance is quickly becoming localized, which was entirely predictable, as conservatives tend to organize on a local and state level far more than liberals do. A reader from Tennessee alerted me to this story about the commissioners at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department in the state suddenly turning on family planning, canceling a half million dollar contract for family planning services in the area on the grounds of “abortion”, even though (say it with me now) none of the funding in question goes to abortion.
The reasoning for this is scattered and nonsensical. The all-male commissioner board claims some times that the problem is that abortions are being performed in the same buildings as contraception is distributed, and some times they claim that contraception is abortion. Because of this ridiculous inability to even pretend like they’re making sense, the board has tabled the debate until this Wednesday, but it’s not looking good for the women of Chattanooga-Hamilton County who rely on subsides to pay for birth control and other forms of non-abortion reproductive health care. The arguments for cutting the funding probably won’t get any more coherent, nor will the politicians pushing them likely bother to do anything crazy like educate themselves on the realities of women’s health care before condemning it all as abortion. They don’t need to anymore; anti-choicers who are calling the shots don’t care what kind of hand-waving you employ, so long as the goal of cutting off women’s access to contraception is achieved.
Unfortunately, barring some miraculous turn of events in the courts that shut this all down, we can probably expect to see more of this on the state and local level in conservative areas. A switch has been flipped in the conservative movement, and it’s not enough anymore to simply oppose abortion rights anymore, but to move even more radically in a direction of denying women any right to control their bodies whatsoever.
One Year Later: Honoring Dr. George Tiller May 25, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion rights, anti-choice, goerge tiller, leroy carhart, nancy keenan, nebraska legislature, operation rescue, pro choice, reproductive health, roger hollander, women, women's health, women's rights
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We are days away from marking the one-year anniversary of the Sunday morning Scott Roeder walked into Dr. George Tiller’s church in Kansas and shot him at close range.
After his murder, many women and men came to our blog to express their appreciation for what Dr. Tiller had done for their sisters, wives, relatives, and friends. Many of these women had found themselves in desperate and heart-breaking circumstances and turned to Dr. Tiller in their time of need.
Karen from Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania gives us one example of what Dr. Tiller meant to women:
Dr. Tiller, you saved my niece Jeanette’s life, you helped our family through one of the darkest, most desperate and unthinkable moments we ever experienced. When we thought there was no where to turn, there you were. I called you the ‘Wizard,’ because of the incredible journey we had taken to find you, in Kansas. You are, and will always be my Hero.
It makes me angry when I think about how Roeder sat through his trial without showing any remorse for his actions. He reached new lows of callousness and disrespect for the Tiller family and for families like Karen’s. It’s equally infuriating that the same people who spent years harassing Dr. Tiller and his patients outside his health center showed no remorse. They rejected the notion that their pattern of inflammatory rhetoric could lead to violence by the more extreme elements of their own anti-choice movement.
We didn’t have to wait long for the intimidation to resume. Less than four months after Dr. Tiller’s murder, the members of the notorious Operation Rescue picked up their signs and bullhorns and moved 328 miles north to Omaha, Nebraska. Dr. Tiller’s murder didn’t change their tactics; they just changed their mailing address — and their target.
They took aim at Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is one of the few abortion providers to whom women in heart-breaking circumstances can turn. Many of these women have wanted and cherished pregnancies but something goes wrong, such as a fetal anomaly or a condition that threatens their life or health. These circumstances are of no interest to Operation Rescue. Their goal is to close his clinic, too.
I am proud to report that pro-choice Americans in the heartland sent a strong message to Operation Rescue. On the day of Operation Rescue’s protest, pro-choice activists outnumbered their protesters two to one.
Unfortunately, our numbers weren’t as strong when it came to the Nebraska Legislature, where anti-choice lawmakers hold an overwhelming advantage. What Operation Rescue couldn’t achieve through violence and harassment, anti-choice politicians in Nebraska made possible through legislation. Just this spring, the state enacted a divisive and invasive anti-choice law aimed directly at threatening Dr. Carhart and the women he serves.
In a further sign of disrespect for women, the National Right to Life Committee’s Mary Spaulding Balch told Politico how her group capitalized on tragedy for political gain:
When George Tiller was killed, LeRoy Carhart had national attention…That alerted Speaker Mike Flood to the problem in Nebraska and he worked to address that.
An anti-choice operative’s callous words that reduce women in tragic situations to pawns in a political game are outrageous — and we cannot let them go unchecked.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of Dr. Tiller’s murder, those of us in America’s pro-choice majority must be vigilant about telling our friends and family that what happened in Kansas was not an isolated incident. It is a part of an ongoing campaign of threats — in legislative chambers and outside abortion providers’ offices and homes — to make it more difficult and dangerous for women to access abortion care.
Frankly, we cannot control anti-choice lawmakers or Operation Rescue, but we can call out their outrageous statements and aggressive tactics.
We can take inspiration from the pro-choice activists who stared down anti-choice demonstrators in Omaha. Not all of us can go to Nebraska, but we can join others in sending messages of support to Dr. Carhart. We can share our reasons for being pro-choice and standing up for women with friends and family. We can pledge to only vote for pro-choice candidates at all levels of government, so that groups like the National Right to Life Committee can’t coerce their followers into attacking women through the legislative process.
We can — and will, I have no doubt — pay tribute to Dr. Tiller, his family, and the women he served by speaking openly and honestly about our pro-choice values.
As we speak out, let’s always remember to use the two powerful words that guided Dr. Tiller’s work: Trust Women.
© 2010 Huffington Post
Nancy Keenan began her tenure as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in December 2004. Committed to working on behalf of America’s pro-choice majority, Nancy took the reigns of the organization pledging to protect and defend the American values of freedom, privacy and personal responsibility.
Utah Women May Face Murder Charges After Miscarriages February 28, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Health, Women.
Tags: abortion, anti-choice, Criminal Justice, david usborne, feminist, gary herbert, miscarriage, pregnancy, roger hollander, utah, utah law, women's rights
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Outrage at bill that could jail women who ‘recklessly’ endanger unborn children
by David Usborne in New York
A proposed Utah law that would open women who suffer a miscarriage to possible criminal prosecution and life imprisonment has enraged feminists and civil rights activists across the United States.
While the main thrust of the law is to enable prosecutors in the majority-Mormon state to pursue women who seek illegal, unsupervised forms of abortion, it includes a provision that could trigger murder charges against women found guilty of an “intentional, knowing or reckless act” that leads to a miscarriage. Some say this could include drinking one glass of wine too many, walking on an icy pavement or skiing.
Lawmakers were responding to the case of a 17-year-old pregnant Utah woman who paid a man $150 to assault her physically in the hope that the beating would cause her to miscarry. The child was born anyway and put up for adoption. And while the man involved is currently behind bars, prosecutors found they had no basis in state law to prosecute the young woman. She was in her seventh month when she tried to terminate her pregnancy.
Last-minute efforts to remove reference in the bill to “reckless” acts failed, feeding the uproar about a law that some people say would be impossible to implement and threatens basic freedoms of women. Statistics suggest that 15 to 20 per cent of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. “This creates a law that makes any pregnant woman who has a miscarriage potentially criminally liable for murder,” said Missy Bird, director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Utah, part of the national organization that champions abortion rights.
Critics also note that the bill has no exemptions for women who suffer domestic abuse or who have addiction problems. They wonder, for example, about the putative case of a woman remaining with an abusive partner and suffering a miscarriage after an episode of violence. Would remaining in that relationship constitute “reckless” behavior, they ask?
Abortion remains deeply contentious in the United States, where, with some restrictions, it has been legal under the terms of the landmark Roe v Wade ruling by the Supreme Court of 1973. The issue returned to the front pages last month when Scott Roeder was tried and convicted for the murder in Kansas last August of one of the few doctors legally providing late-term abortions in the country.
The reaction to Utah’s new initiative has verged in most quarters on disbelief, however. “For all these years the anti-choice movement has said ‘we want to outlaw abortion, not put women in jail’, but what this law says is ‘no, we really want to put women in jail’,” Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, wrote in a blog.
Similarly astonished is the syndicated columnist Dan Savage. “Where will this insanity end?” he wrote. “If every miscarriage is a potential homicide, how does Utah avoid launching a criminal investigation every time a woman has a miscarriage? And how is Utah supposed to know when a pregnant woman has had a miscarriage? You’re going to have to create some sort of pregnancy registry to keep track of all those fetuses. Perhaps you could start issuing ‘conception certificates’ to women who get pregnant. And then, if there isn’t a baby within nine months of the issuance of a conception certificate, the woman could be hauled in for questioning.”
Utah is used to criticism from some of its more liberal neighbors for its socially conservative ways that range from allowing concealed guns on its state university campus to strict limits on alcohol sales. It has not gone unnoticed that consideration of the bill, with the potentially high costs it would entail, has coincided with a debate on canceling the last year of school for Utah children to help to save the state money.
Tags: abortion, adele m. stan, anti-choice, antiabortion, catholic bishops, catholic church, george tiller, insurrecta nex, leroy carhart, missy smith, operation rescue, randall terry, religion, roe v. wade, roger hollander
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As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops renews its offensive on the anti-abortion language in the heath-care legislation soon to be finalized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, four of those bishops appear to have given their seal of approval to a group whose leader gloated over the killing of Dr. George Tiller, a gynecologist who performed late-term abortions in Kansas, and called on anti-abortion activists to next “get” Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who performs similar services at his Nebraska clinic.
Missy Smith, a stalwart member of Insurrecta Nex — Randall Terry’s merry band of anti-choice hecklers and street clowns — announced plans yesterday to conduct a training session for her own organization, Wake Up, at Washington, D.C.’s John Paul II Cultural Center, an institution presided over by four bishops, including Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. (The other members include John Myers, archbishop of Newark, N.J.; Bernard Harrington, bishop of Winona, Minn.; and Cardinal Adam Maida, the retired archbishop of Detroit.) Among the speakers on Smith’s program is Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who famously called Tiller “a mass murderer,” adding that Tiller, who was killed in cold blood, had “reaped what he sowed.” Susan Gibb, communications director for the archdiocese of Washington, refused comment on whether Archbishop Wuerl approved of the use of the Cultural Center by Smith and Terry, though she made the point that it was Smith, not Terry, who booked the facility.
George Tiller’s patients often traveled long distances to avail themselves of his services, since he was one of a handful of doctors willing to perform late-term abortions, usually to women who learned late in their pregnancies that the fetuses they were carrying were severely deformed and would not survive very long, if at all, outside the womb. For prospective parents left to make excruciating choices, Tiller provided services believed to promote healing, such as funerary services for the fetus, as well as allowing the parents to be photographed with the fetus. Anti-choice extremists often point to these acts of mercy as evidence of Tiller’s “evil”; he is misrepresented as a bloodthirsty criminal who took joy in committing macabre acts with “dead babies.”
Since Tiller’s murder, one of the few remaining abortion providers to offer late-term abortions is Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska, for whom two Supreme Court cases about the issue of late-term abortions are named.
Two weeks after Tiller was gunned down while ushering a church service, Missy Smith addressed a June training session for Insurrecta Nex activists.
“So, we’re all here to march on and to stop the slaughter of these little babies,” she said. “And to tell the truth, the biggest part is to use — tell everyone what Tiller did. Most of America doesn’t know that he took these dead babies and dressed them up in christening dresses and took their pictures. Most Americans believe, because of the liberal press, that he was a wonderful, martyred person, you know, who did — you have to kill a baby, don’t you, when a woman’s nine months pregnant — you just have to do it? I mean, most people believe that. And now we’ve got to get Carhart.”
With that, she left the podium in a meeting room at the Arlington, Virginia Doubletree Hotel to appreciative applause.
I learned of Missy Smith’s planned appearance at the Cultural Center from a press release sent by Randall Terry, who noted that he would be a speaker on Smith’s program, along with two of his regular activists. The program coincides with the annual March for Life in Washington, an event where anti-choice activists mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
At present, no one appears to want to take responsibility for allowing Smith’s group to contract the facilities at the John Paul II Cultural Center. When I called the Cultural Center in the evening (I didn’t receive Terry’s release until after closing time), I could find no one in the directory whose obvious responsibility was facilitating use of the center by outside groups. I left a message for a Brother John who oversees something called the Intercultural Forum. I received a voice mail from Brother John in the morning directing me to contact Missy Smith with any questions about Randall Terry’s inclusion on her program.
I called Smith, as well as John Sanders, the director of facilities for the John Paul II Cultural Center, but as of press time I had not heard back from either of them.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl sits on the center’s four-bishop executive committee, so his spokesperson seemed an appropriate contact for any comment the archbishop wanted to make about the use of the Cultural Center by Missy Smith and Randall Terry. But archdiocese communications director Susan Gibbs grew testy with me when I pressed for comment as to whether or not the archbishop approved of Smith and Terry’s training session at the center, saying only that the executive committee has nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of the Cultural Center. When I pressed to get a comment on whether Wuerl judged Terry to be an appropriate guest for the center, Gibb simply repeated her claim that the executive committee is not involved in the Cultural Center’s bookings.
“I’m sorry if you don’t understand that,” Gibbs said. But she didn’t disavow Smith or Terry in the archbishop’s name, and instead used Smith as her line of defense, saying that it wasn’t Randall Terry who booked the facilities, it was Missy Smith. The same Missy Smith who told Insurrecta Nex activists that it was time to “get” LeRoy Carhart, presumably in the same way that George Tiller was gotten.
Randall Terry, the antiabortion extremist who founded Operation Rescue (and then was ousted from the group) has been a busy man since moving to Washington, D.C. last year. Most of his activities have focused on President Barack Obama: heckling the president and his nominees in various venues, and performing street theater that features a white man wearing an Obama mask while turning a bullwhip on his confederates. Another Terry street-theater act involves the stabbing of plastic baby dolls and the profligate use of fake blood.
On the day that Tea Party activists rallied against health-care reform legislation, Terry staged a skit outside a Senate office building in which he was costumed as the devil, while activists donning the masks of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid pretended to be writhing in the fires of Hell.
It was Terry who organized the heckling of the president during his address at Notre Dame, a Catholic university, and Terry who dogs Catholic bishops he deems insufficiently pro-life with protests outside their chanceries. Missy Smith was arrested for civil disobedience at Notre Dame with Terry and former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes. Since that time, Smith told the gathering of Insurrecta Nex activists last June, she had joined Terry in “six or seven protests.”
This is the same Randall Terry who sent his minions into the Senate to disrupt the nomination hearings of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a practicing Catholic.
While it’s likely that the bishops who lead the John Paul II Cultural Center were unaware of Smith’s partnership with Terry when she booked the center’s conference facilities for her training session, the refusal of Archbishop Wuerl’s spokesperson to disavow them is troubling, especially given Terry’s violent rhetoric and racist depictions of the president.
For Randall Terry, a talented strategist, the controversy surrounding Missy Smith’s training session at the John Paul II Cultural Center is a win whether the bishops allow her to hold the training or not. If they kick her out, they bolster Terry’s argument that the bishops aren’t really committed to “protecting the unborn;” if they permit his group to use the facilities, Insurrecta Nex — of which Missy Smith is an integral part — receives a de facto seal of approval from the church.
Thank God I’m and Atheist December 7, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Religion, Religion.
Tags: anti-choice, church misogyny, church patriarchy, faith, first communion, guilt, marx religion, religion, religious belief, repression, roger hollander, roman catholic, Roman Catholic Church, sin
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by Roger Hollander, December 7, 2009
Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional,
There, the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!
Tom Lehrer, “The Vatican Rag”
You hungry, ain’t you, babies.
Lord Buckley, “The Naz”
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
I live in what is referred to as a “Catholic country” in South America. The Church and its rituals and its paraphernalia are ubiquitous.
I have a profound disrespect for institutionalized religion, and that most certainly includes the Roman Catholic Church.
I make it a point, however, not to disparage individual believers or to show disrespect, although, if the circumstances permit, I will quite willingly enter into debate on questions of faith and belief.
This weekend I had occasion to attend the first communion ceremony of a ten year old niece. I sat patiently through the mass and participated in the après mass family photo taking and then the party at the parents’ home.
Here is a short list of what offended me about the ceremony:
- The indoctrination of young children
- The emphasis on confession, guilt and a repressive notion of sin whereby war can be OK, but masturbation or pre-marital intercourse can send you to you know where
- The false, arrogant and unctuous attitude of the priest and his attempt to appear “cool”
- The display of ostentatious wealth in a dirt-poor country (this was an upper-middle class all white congregation); the money spent on designer dresses, thousand dollar suits, beauty parlour hair-dos,and expensive digital cameras could feed the population of the near-by slum ghetto for a year
Here is a short list of what offends me about the Roman Catholic Church:
- A pope who is a former Nazi youth and who, as a Cardinal and chief defender of the faith, did all he could to destroy local autonomy and suffocate the promotion of Liberation Theology
- The Church patriarchy, its misogyny, the policy of celibacy, its protection of child abuser priests, and its aggressive stand on therapeutic abortion, which has caused untold death and suffering for women around the globe
- The Church’s past and present active support for dictatorships and authoritarian regimes
I endured a mass through which I sat with bitterness in my heart, and this little essay is my attempt to get it off my chest. Having done that I would like to end on a positive note by saying that some good things happened as well. Children were made to feel special (this was “first communion weekend” in Ecuador, with thousands participating; at the mass I attended there were about 35 children taking their first communion). It brought families together in joyful celebration. Most children will end up living their Catholicism as a cultural artefact and will resist the authoritarianism of the Church.
Karl Marx’s classic statement (cited above) about religion is usually taken out of context and wrongly considered to be anti-religious. I do not believe it is inconsistent to be Marxist and Christian (or any other religion) at the same time. Even within the Catholic Church there have been and are those who struggle and sacrifice for the good of humanity. Marx was not a critic of the spiritual; rather he wished to replace the misguided hope for the relief of suffering via faith in a future heaven with the revolutionary struggle to transform human social structures as a means of alleviating human suffering on earth.
ps. for the record, in case God is listening, I consider myself an agnostic, not an atheist, but I couldn’t resist the oxymoron title.
Time for Men to Make a Sacrifice November 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Women.
Tags: abortion, anti-abortion, anti-choice, blue dog, catholic bishops, catholic church, choice, christian supremacist, feminism, health, health care, health care reform, healthcare, healthcare reform, katha pollitt, patriarchy, religious bigotry, reproductive choice, reproductive health, reproductive rights, right wing christian, roger hollander, stupak, stupak-pitts, tax exempt
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Women are being asked to shut up and accept the ban on abortion funding in the US healthcare reform bill. We won’t
by Katha Pollitt
You know what I don’t want to hear right now about the Stupak-Pitts amendment banning abortion coverage from federally subsidised health insurance policies? That it’s the price of reform, and pro-choice women should shut up and take one for the team.
“If you want to rebuild the American welfare state,” Peter Beinart writes in the Daily Beast, “there is no alternative” than for Democrats to abandon “cultural” issues like gender and racial equality. Hey, Peter, Representative Stupak and your 64 Democratic supporters, Jim Wallis and other anti-choice “progressive” Christians, men: Why don’t you take one for the team for a change and see how you like it?
For example, budget hawks in Congress say they’ll vote against the bill because it’s too expensive. Maybe you could win them over if you volunteered to cut out funding for male-exclusive stuff, like prostate cancer, Viagra, male infertility, vasectomies, growth-hormone shots for short little boys, long-term care for macho guys who won’t wear motorcycle helmets and, I dunno, psychotherapy for pedophile priests. Men could always pay in advance for an insurance policy rider, as women are blithely told they can do if Stupak becomes part of the final bill.
Barack Obama, too, worries about the deficit. Maybe you could help him out by sacrificing your denomination’s tax exemption. The Catholic church would be a good place to start, and it wouldn’t even be unfair, since the blatant politicking of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on abortion violates the spirit of the ban on electoral meddling by tax-exempt religious institutions.
Why should anti-choicers be the only people who get to refuse to let their taxes support something they dislike? You don’t want your tax dollars to pay, even in the most notional way, for women’s abortion care, a legal medical procedure that one in three American women will have in her lifetime? I don’t want to pay for your misogynist fairy tales and sour-old-man hierarchies.
Women Democrats have taken an awful lot of hits for the team lately. Many of us didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary because the goal of electing a woman seemed less important than the goal of electing the best possible president. Only a self-hater or a featherhead didn’t feel some pain about that. And although women are hardly alone in this, we’ve seen some pretty big hopes set aside in the first year of the Obama administration.
The Paycheque Fairness Act, which would expand women’s protections against sexism in the workplace, is on the back burner. Meanwhile, the Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships is not only alive and well. It’s newly staffed with anti-choicers like Alexia Kelley of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which, as Frances Kissling notes in Salon, has compared abortion to torture.
I know what you’re thinking: conservative Democrats like Stupak took Republican districts to win us both houses of Congress. Thanks a lot, Howard Dean, whose bright idea it was to recruit them. But those majorities would not be there, and Obama would not be in the White House, if not for pro-choice women and men – their votes, talent, money, organisational capacity and shoe leather.
We knocked ourselves out, and it wasn’t so that religious reactionaries like Stupak – who, as Jeff Sharlet writes in Salon, is a member of the Family, the secretive rightwing Christian-supremacist congressional coven – would control both parties. Elections have consequences, you say? Exactly: Obama, the pro-choice, pro-woman candidate, won. Stupak didn’t put him in the White House, and neither did the Catholic bishops or the white anti-feminist welfare staters of Beinart’s imagination.
We did. And we deserve better from Obama than sound bites like “this is a healthcare bill, not an abortion bill“. Abortion is healthcare. That’s the whole point.
What makes the Stupak fiasco especially pathetic is the fumbling response from pro-choicers. Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill would not be in the Senate today were it not for pro-choice and feminist supporters like Emily’s List. How does she thank us? By telling Joe Scarborough that Stupak isn’t so bad, that it won’t affect “the majority of America” – just low-income women – and that it’s “an example of having to govern with moderates.”
So people who’ll tip healthcare reform into the trash unless it blocks abortion access are the moderates now! (McCaskill took it back later, but the damage was done.) If I ever give that woman another dime, shoot me.
The big pro-choice and feminist organisations are up in arms – Now and Planned Parenthood want to see healthcare reform voted down if Stupak is retained – but writing in the Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein nicely captures the bewilderment of leaders caught by surprise. “It’s the feeling that you’ve been rolled,” said Eleanor Smeal, of Feminist Majority. Or haven’t been paying attention.
Smeal was onto something, though, when she told Goldstein: “Here we are playing nice guy again, we didn’t want to make a fuss.” Consciously or unconsciously, by not organising in advance to insist on coverage of abortion, pro-choicers set themselves up to be out-manoeuvred. In fact, as Sharon Lerner reported on TheNation.com, Democrats stood by while anti-choicers kept contraception out of the reform bill’s list of basic benefits all insurers must cover. So much for the “common ground” approach where we all agree that birth control is the way to lower the abortion rate.
Enough already. Pro-choicers have been taking one for the team since 1976, when Congress passed the Hyde amendment, which Jimmy Carter would later defend with the immortal comment: “There are many things in life that are not fair.” Time for the theocrats and male chauvinists to give something up for the greater good – to say nothing of the 20 pro-choicers, all men, who supported Stupak out of sheer careerism.
After all, if it weren’t for pro-choicers, there wouldn’t be much of a team for them to play on.
STATEMENT OF PROFESSOR DANIEL C. MAGUIRE AT THE MEMORIAL FOR DR. GEORGE TILLER, MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN, JUNE 7, 2009 June 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Religion, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion rights, ama, anger, anti-choice, daniel maguire, fbi, george tiller, injustice, justice, misogny, planned parenthood, pro choice, religion, roe v. wade, roger hollander, scott roeder, st.antoninus, thomas aquinas, women's rights
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I had the privilege of knowing George Tiller. It was a pleasure at the time, but it gives me pain now to remember the evening and dinner my wife Edie McFadden and I spent with George and his wife Jeanne in New York two years ago.
I would use these words to describe George: gentle, soft-spoken, courageous, committed. He also had a quiet anger at American terrorists and outlaws who would not leave him in peace to practice medicine according to American law.
Thomas Aquinas spoke of “the virtue of anger.” He saw the prophets of Israel and saw that they were bursting with anger. He saw Jesus angrily attacking the temple of injustice, overturning tables and Thomas concluded that if these moral heroes were angry, then there is a virtue of anger. It is a virtue, I would say, that most of us lack. Thomas cited this quote from St. John Chrysostom: “Whoever is not angry when there is cause for anger, sins.” Remember that quote. It should be in every church and court house.
Good anger is a virtue, said Thomas, because good anger respicit bonum justitiae, it looks to the good of justice, and those who are not angry in the face of injustice love justice too little.
The history of abortion rights in America is cause for anger. In 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court gave women the legal and constitutional right to abortion in problem pregnancies.
Such a legal and constitutionally grounded right, is like the right to vote the right to go to church or synagogue the right to go to school. And to do all of that without being harassed, threatened, or murdered. That’s what rights are.
Starting in 1976, some—-not all—-anti-choice activists became outlaws. Since they could not change the law non-violently, they turned to violence and began a campaign of terror, egged on by right wing talk show hosts. They began by the bombing of clinics, arson, anthrax threats, and hostile violent picketing and physical and verbal assaults at clinics.
When this was not enough, starting in the 1990′s, they turned to murder and assassination.
The results so far in this domestic war of terror: seven doctors and clinic workers murdered………..one doctor murdered in his church, another in his kitchen. The suspect Scott Roeder said from jail that more such events are planned.
Sad to tell, this domestic war of terror has had an evil success. In 85% of the counties of this nation, there is no abortion provider. And we have let it happen.
This evening, as we gather in memorial, a single man, Scott Roeder, is held in prison in Kansas for this murder. The guilt, however, extends far beyond him.
The guilt extends to all of us here tonight who have not been angry enough to practice effective non-violent resistance to this very successful and malicious war of terror. In the memory of George Tiller I issue to all of us tonight a fervent Call to Effective Political and Non-violent Action.
Let me list those who, with us, share in the guilt of this murder:
First, I cite the police and FBI nationwide who have been lax. Reports went to the police and FBI during the week and the day before the killing about Roeder breaking the law and violating clinics. Absolutely nothing was done. In my opinion this screams out sexism. Abortion related violence is a WOMAN THING and it simply is not taken as seriously as if it were a MAN THING. In my view, if men got pregnant, clinics would be protected like an army fortress and police would make sure that no one would threaten or harass men as they went there to exercise their legal rights as citizens. There would be none of the current nonchalance.
On an almost daily basis, pickets outside Planned Parenthood offices and abortion clinics cross the line between protected free speech and violence. Violence is defined as harm done or threatened. Pickets here in Milwaukee practice violence by threat, shouting at clinic workers: “We know where you live!” or, with the same effect: “We know you Mary,” a tactic used by organized crime to intimidate. They scream insults at patients entering the clinic—in most clinics most clients are not there for abortions but to get the health care that Planned Parenthood provides for the poor—-and the pickets rejoice when they see these women reduced to tears. What they are doing is shouting “Fire! in a crowded theater,” to use Justice Holmes famous analogy. That is violence. Where are the police?
Conclusion: Every day that pickets gather outside these offices a police person should be there to arrest anyone who turns free speech into violent and assaultive threats. We must insist on this.
Secondly on the guilt list is the medical profession: The AMA and the Medical Society of Wisconsin and other state medical societies have sinned by their lack of outrage and effective leadership as their fellow professionals were murdered, tortured and harassed. Let them also hear this call to action.
Also guilty are the religious leaders. All the world religions, including Roman Catholicism, have a strong pro choice position existing alongside the no choice position. Both positions have the weight of religious authority and Roe v Wade respects that religious freedom of choice. It recognizes that the right to abortion is a religiously grounded civil and human right. Yet religious leaders, almost all men, fan the lethal fury of fanatical terrorists. Their pious hands are not clean when these people act out violently. Most of these religious leaders do not even know the openness to abortion choices in their religious traditions, and should be sent back to school. At the least they should say a prayer to St. Antoninus, canonized a saint in 1523, who supported abortion when a woman’s health was endangered, a common condition in his day. He was thus approving of a great number of abortions.
President Obama at Notre Dame called for “common ground” with anti-choice people. He was wrong. There is already common ground. It is called Roe v. Wade. That is the common ground for the law of this land and the anti-choice people are using pressure, threats and violence to prevent women citizens from acting within that law.
This is what angered George Tiller. This is what killed George Tiller.
This gathering this evening does Dr. Tiller no honor if we only shed tears and issue lamentations, but do not adopt the spirit of the African American civil rights movement. Let their cry be ours. “We’re all fed up. Aint going to take it no more……no more……no more!!!”