Monday, June 10, 2013

Missisippi Loves Kids, Kinda

Lawdamercy, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant loves the little children! That's why he signed the Child Protection Act, to safeguard our most precious resource. From the text of MS HB 151:
When an abortion is performed on a minor who is less than fourteen (14) years of age at the time of the abortion procedure, * * *shall preserve fetal tissue extracted during the abortion shall be collected in accordance with rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this section if it would be reasonable to suspect that the pregnancy being terminated is the result of a sex crime against a minor.
So now the state of Mississippi will be collecting the products of abortion and performing a paternity test on them without regard for the privacy rights of the child undergoing the abortion?

But wait, there's more.
(ii)  When a minor who is under sixteen (16) years of age gives birth to an infant, umbilical cord blood shall be collected, if possible, in accordance with rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this section if it would be reasonable to suspect that the minor's pregnancy resulted from a sex crime against a minor. 
(iii)  It shall be reasonable to suspect that a sex crime against a minor has occurred if the mother of an infant was less than sixteen (16) years of age at the time of conception and at least one (1) of the following conditions also applies: 
1.  The mother of the infant will not identify the father of the infant;  
2.  The mother of the infant lists the father of the infant as unknown; 
3.  The person the mother identifies as the father of the infant disputes his fatherhood; 
4.  The person the mother identifies as the father of the infant is twenty-one (21) years of age or older; or 
5.  The person the mother identifies as the father is deceased.
Now, I know you're thinking that these laws trample over a young woman's constitutional right to privacy and choice. Or maybe you're thinking that this law just stigmatizes pregnant teenagers and makes them even less likely to seek out medical care. But you only have to look at the state of Mississippi as a whole to know that Governor Bryant just wants to protect kids.

Mississippi is so concerned about establishing paternity that they come in dead last nationally on child support enforcement actions, with an estimated $1.1 billion in unpaid support.

This state loves babies so much that it's tied with Alabama for the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

Governor Bryant knows why his state consistently ranks in the top 5 nationally for teenage pregnancy rates. No, not because of abstinence-only sex ed, it's because, "teenagers don't care enough" to use birth control.

And, if a crime has been committed, you know Mississippi will get their crack team of forensic scientists right on it. It's not like they have hundreds of rape kits from reported crimes just sitting there unanalyzed.
As a result of a combination of the reorganization and the willingness of existing MCL [Mississippi Crime Lab] staff to work extensive overtime for a concentrated period during the latter part of FY 2000, the case backlog was reduced by approximately 42%. When all of the positions created via the reorganization are filled, the MCL will be able to further reduce the case backlog, focus on further improving services and response time and position the laboratory to achieve national accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD).
Can't you feel the love? Love needs no standards or accreditation.

Really, what can you expect from a state which will make a women pay for her own rape kit if she decides not to prosecute?

After a whole lotta googling, I'm not sure I can find a Mississippi charity that doesn't take an anti-choice position. I get queasy about giving to a charity that takes a faith-based approach to anything other than feeding the poor. So I'll give today to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is fighting to keep the state's only remaining abortion provider open.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Texas Legislative Session: Coulda Been Worse!

Shut the front door! Texas Republican legislators did bring the crazy, they couldn't seem to get it out of committee. As reported in the San Antonio Express-News, at least 24 anti-choice bills and several more affecting contraception were filed but failed to pass this session. Highlights include:
  • HB 2364: banning abortions after 20 weeks based on the medically unsubstantiated claim of fetal pain;
  • SB 537: mandating that clinics providing abortion care adhere to the standards of general, outpatient surgery centers;
  • SB 1198: forcing abortion providers to gaining admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice, the OG of TRAP bills; and
  • HB 649: AKA "The Hobby Lobby Bill", indemnifying private businesses for any penalties incurred for flouting contraceptive health insurance requirement under the Affordable Care Act.
None of these made it onto Governor Hair's desk for signature, thank goodness! AND, the Texas Legislature got it together to restore funding for women's healthcare. Granted, the workaround involved the Democrats conceding that Planned Parenthood remains ineligible for state funding, and the federal government disbursing Title X funds through non-state entities. But, there's no denying this is a victory for the thousands of Texans who raised holy hell over the sonogram/waiting period/crisis pregnancy/wholesale defunding of women's healthcare clusterf*ck that was the 2012 session.

So, today's $5 is for the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, which works hard to ensure that Texas women have access to complete medical care.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Plan B Lawsuit: Grassroots Activism

Here's an inspiring article from the Miami Herald about the nine plaintiffs who are suing to force the FDA to permit over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception. Today's $5 is for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing them.

Carolina Crazyfight

It's getting real in the Carolinas this week, with a serious crazy-off between North and South.

South Carolina looked to make a big splash by re-electing creepy Mark Sanford to Congress. The heavily Republican First District chose a man currently charged with violating a court order to stay out of his ex-wife's house over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Bush. But will he celebrate his victory by hiking the Appalachian Trail?

North Carolina will see that challenge and raise you two houses of state legislators just a-rarin' to draft some crazy laws.
  • The NC House passed a bill forbidding doctors to perform gender-selective abortions. Because nothing promotes a healthy doctor-patient relationship like the threat of a $100,000 penalty for failing to correctly guess patient intent.
  • The Senate did its part by mandating that children be taught the science fact that having an abortion increases the likelihood of premature birth later in life. Spoiler alert: not true.
  • The House is still deliberating a law, which would prevent a doctor from treating sexually transmitted infections, dispensing contraception or even performing a pregnancy test on a teenager without her parent's consent:
No physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina shall perform an abortion upon an unemancipated minor or provide medical health services for an unemancipated minor for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of (i) venereal diseases and other diseases reportable under G.S. 130A‑135, (ii) abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, (iii) emotional disturbance, or (iv) pregnancy unless the physician or agent thereof or another physician or agent thereof first obtains the written consent of the minor and the written consent, acknowledged in accordance with Chapter 10B of the General Statutes, of:
(1)        A parent with custody of the minor; or
(2)        The legal guardian or legal custodian of the minor . . .
Game, set, match! North Carolina, FTW!

Sure, they included a judicial bypass provision. Because a scared kid totally has the time and skills to navigate the legal system when she needs to be tested for STIs and feels she can't tell her parents.

This last provision got me thinking about what legal rights kids have to access reproductive health services under the law. Title X mandates confidential access in federally funded programming. But in private healthcare, state law governs. And state law is getting more and more restrictive. Take a look at these charts from the Guttmacher Institute's website.

The first shows a state-by-state breakdown of laws governing minors' access to abortion and contraception in 2005.

Parental Involvement in Minors' Access to Abortion and Contraceptive Services
Dist. of ColumbiaMCMC
New HampshirePELMC
New JerseyPELMC
New MexicoPEMC
New YorkNLMC
North CarolinaPCMC
North DakotaPC‡NL
Rhode IslandPCNL
South CarolinaPCLMC
South DakotaPNLMC
West VirginiaPN†LMC
Notes: MC=Minor explicitly allowed to consent; LMC=Minor explicitly allowed to consent in limited circumstances (such as if married, a parent, pregnant or older than a specified age); PN=Parental notice required; PC= Parental consent required; NL=No explicit law or policy; PE=Law permanently enjoined.

*Minor may obtain an abortion upon meeting specified counseling requirements. †Allows specified health professionals to waive parental involvement if judge is unavailable. ‡Requires the involvement of both parents. §State funds may not be used to provide minors with confidential contraceptive services. For more detail, see Guttmacher Institute, Parental involvement in minors' abortions, State Policies in Brief, October 2005, and Guttmacher Institute, Minors' access to contraceptive services, State Policies in Brief, October 2005, available at .

And, here's a similar Guttmacher chart from this year. (Forgive the screenshot.)

Depressing. Today's $5 is for the Guttmacher Institute. Thanks for the (gloomy) data.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sex (Ed) Positive

I love the Interwebs - where Crazytown is never more than a click away!

Try to imagine the shitfit you would throw if your child's public school allowed this woman to come scream at your kid for an hour about the perils of sex.

Her name is Pam Stenzel, and she earns $4,000 - $6,000 per appearance to tell kids there's "No such thing as sex without a price." And when you're trying to scare the shit out of kids, why stop at "I could look any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you're going to be promiscuous." Wouldn't it be more effective to just LIE? Here are some whoppers from a speech given this month at a high school in West Virginia.
As part of the Welfare Reform Act, we are now requiring in all fifty states the Social Security Numbers of both parents on every birth certificate of every child born in this nation.

Girls, infertility, the inability to have children of your own biologically has risen over 500% among women in ten years.

Our university campuses are one big giant disease!

In the 1950s we had five sexually transmitted diseases we knew about and were treating. Five! You could count them all on one hand.

You get one of these diseases, and you've got it for life! Which is a lovely thing, boys, when you're getting ready to get married. Found this girl you love, I mean this is it. She's the one you want to marry. All those other girls were just messing around. Pull out that diamond, look her in the eyes... and say, "Marry me. By the way, I've got genital warts. You'll get it, too, and we'll both be treated for the rest of our lives. In fact, you'll probably get a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death. But marry me."
Wanna listen to the whole thing?

Take a deep breath and think of Katelyn Campbell the George Washington High School student body vice president who refused to attend the assembly, calling it slut shaming. School Principal George Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Katelyn will be enrolled this fall, to tell them about her "bad character."

The College's response, via Twitter.
Thank Heaven for that! But, back in West Virginia, telling public school kids that premarital sex will devalue them, scar them emotionally, leave them infertile and cause marital infidelity remains totally kosher.

Telling them that sex is normal and enjoyable . . . Aww, hell no!

Let's start by saying that these images were not produced by Planned Parenthood, much less used as part of the organization's sex ed curriculum. As Wonkette points out, these cartoons are from a book for kids called It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris and Michael Emberly. Which makes it all the weirder that an organization called Twelve Generations of First Cousin Marriage American Life League is using these images as part of a campaign against Planned Parenthood.

This week, ALL presented this ad to the Washington Post and New York Times, both of which deemed it too graphic to run. Then ALL claimed that Planned Parenthood was using federal funding to distribute these images to public school kids. Please, World Net Daily, enlighten us as only you can.
Judie Brown, president and co-founder of ALL, agrees that the images are shocking, but says that the images come directly from Planned Parenthood materials funded by American taxpayers and aimed at those taxpayers’ own children. 
“Parents tax dollars are being used to turn their own children into Planned Parenthood’s future sex customers,” says Brown. “Their abortion business is based on exploiting young minds and filling those minds with all manner of sex instruction. 
“It is a grisly trail, but it leads from sex instruction to contraception to abortion when contraception fails,” she says. “That is the Planned Parenthood recipe, and the media likes it.”
It's not the blatant lying that surprises me, really. Or even the gross violation of copyright law. No, what shocks me is that these people actually buy their own PR. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity may be carnival barkers, laughing all the way to the bank. But I think these crazy abstinence activists truly believe this stuff  - which they are perfectly entitled to do.

As a taxpayer and a parent, though, I have a major problem with educators lying to kids or shaming them into thinking sex is dirty, or only one version of it is okay. Particularly the girls - because it's always the girls who bear the brunt of all the shame and embarrassment. I'd rather have my kid learn about sex from a cartoon of a penis in a sport coat than listen to someone tell her that the only good sex is between married people.

So, I know it always comes back to Planned Parenthood, but I gotta give it up to them again today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Criminal Condom Possession in NY?

Pop Quiz: Use of condoms by sex workers is:
                  A) Good for society because it stops the spread of STDs, or
                  B) Bad for society because it encourages prostitution.

Okay, pencils down. If you said B, then you are probably a New York City prosecutor. If you said A, then you are any other sane person. Thanks to Jezebel for pointing out that NYC cops are taking advantage of the City's controversial "stop and frisk" laws to order suspected prostitutes to empty their pockets. Possession of condoms is then used as evidence of criminal prostitution in court.

Am I the only one who finds this weirdly familiar to the arguments against vaccinating kids against HPV? Opponents of the Gardasil vaccine want to discourage teens from having sex by making the behavior even riskier. NY prosecutors want to discourage prostitution, so they criminalize efforts to make it safer. And society at large pays the cost of treating cases of cervical cancer, drug-resistant gonorrhea, and HIV which could have been avoided.

Even odder, the practice is in direct opposition to the NYC Department of Health's efforts to stop the spread of STDs by distributing 35 million condoms last year.

Ready for one more WTF? Brooklyn Democratic Senator Velmanette Montgomery has introduced a bill every year since 1999 to prohibit using condoms as evidence of prostitution, and it hasn't passed yet. With recent involvement of Human Rights Watch, this could be the year.

But, seriously! This is ridiculous.

Today's $5 is for the Urban Justice Center, who advocates for sex workers and other vulnerable populations in New York City.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Clutch the Pearls! Good News in Mississippi.

A federal judge ruled this week that Mississippi could not enforce a law designed specifically to shut down Jackson Women's Health Organization, the one abortion care provider in the whole state. The law required clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Ostensibly a safety regulation, Mississippi's Governor Phil Bryant admitted to a group of pastors, "My goal of course is to shut it down." As Bryant and the legislators knew, clinic doctors are denied privileges at all local hospitals because they performed elective abortions. Not for nothing they call these TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws.

Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, a George W. Bush appointee, found that regulating the clinic out of existence constituted an undue burden on Mississippi women's right to choose. It takes impressive chutzpah to argue, as Mississippi did, that these women could simply travel 200 miles to a neighboring state. Particularly when the neighbors have 24 hour waiting periods. Did I mention that Bryant thinks that Democrats' "one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb?"

Before I start swearing again, let's remember that we actually won this battle. So, today's $5 is for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is participating in this case.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eden Foods: Not buying it.

Eden Foods supports local farming, organic agriculture, and healthy eating. So do I.

Eden Foods is also suing the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate. You won't find it on the company's website, but reports that the company seeks to deny insurance coverage to it's employees for birth control, because "those procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices."

Buh-bye, Eden. I can get my miso elsewhere.

Today's $5 is for Planned Parenthood of Michigan. Because Eden Foods' employees need to get their health care somewhere.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A win in Texas!

Have you heard that the good folks in Texas legislature do not like abortion? They don't want to have an abortion, and they sure as H-E-double-hockeysticks don't want you to have one either. And if they have to cut reproductive health care to every poor woman in Texas, well by gum they will do it!

If you are a woman living in Texas and you are poor, there is a good chance that you've gotten health care at Planned Parenthood. PP served more than 40% of the women participating in the state's Women's Health Initiative (WHI) in 2012, providing family planning, cancer and STI screenings, and prenatal care. What you didn't get at any of the 51 PP facilities participating in the program was an abortion. Because no state or federal funds can be used to pay for abortion, and the federal government picks up 90% of the tab for women's services under Medicaid, which is distributed by the Texas WHI. Or, it used to.

Over the past two years, Texas legislators have drafted laws aimed specifically at ending reimbursements to PP facilities under the WHI. Not because these facilities provide abortion - which they don't. But because these facilities are affiliated with a national provider that advocates for abortion rights. Which is kind of like telling hungry people they can't use food stamps at a store which sells cigarettes. Only don't tell that to Texas legislators, since those guys are a bunch of heartless bastards who would probably just turn around and do it.

So, YeeHaw! Governor Hair and his posse passed laws specifically excluding Planned Parenthood from WHI reimbursements. This caused an immediate shortage of providers for thousands of Texas women. It also defunded dozens of other women's health clinics beside PP - none of which was providing abortion care. Celebration ensued.

The federal government pointed out that Texas couldn't continue to receive Title X funds while violating the provision which allows a woman to choose her own qualified healthcare provider. Texas' response: "Don't let the doorknob hitcha in the crack of the ass, Lawman." Or something like that. At which point the Department of Health and Human Services stopped funding the Texas's Women's Health Initiative.

But just when you're wondering, "Is there something in the water down there? Can there really be NO rational people in that entire state?" . . .

A coalition of women's healthcare providers in Texas banded together and submitted their own application for funds under Title X. On March 25, the federal government announced that it would award some of the canceled Medicaid funds directly to the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas (WHFPT). The coalition will distribute these funds to clinics across the state, including Planned Parenthood.

Importantly, any clinic which receives this funding will be governed by federal privacy laws. This means that a teenager seeking birth control will not be required to notify her parents, as required under Texas' statute. Moreover, federal funding grants a provider access to discounted drugs, so patients pay less for contraception.

I love it! And I also find it more than a little ironic that an administration which has consistently railed against big government, which calls the Affordable Care Act a socialist violation of state's rights, is causing a separate system regulated and funded by the federal government to be born in their state. It's a weird world.

Today's $5 goes to the WHFPT. Y'all rock!

Monday, April 1, 2013

She's Baaaaaack!!!

Obviously, my work here is not done!

Here's a picture of second-place Tour De Flanders winner Peter Sagan on the podium.
That's the event's official Twitter feed referring to the Slovakian rider as "naughty."

Am I the only one flashing back to Benny Hill reruns?


Benny Hill was an English satire of lechery that went off the air in the 80s. Not for nothing, but this picture is in black and white!

These attractive ladies are called "podium girls." Because after riding 160 miles, who wouldn't want a kiss from a heavily made-up stranger? And what is the cutoff for calling someone a girl? Menopause?

Of course the whole idea of a "podium girl" is sexist. Women's cycling doesn't put hot boys onstage to kiss the winners. So, we'd call it sexual assault on the subway, but on the podium it's just a goofy guy in a goofy situation.

One tweet, since deleted but captured by summarizes it perfectly.
The podium girls are there to be objectified. He objectified them. The (faux) outrage at his antics is probably misdirected.
By this logic, any woman hired to be attractive, has consented to these "antics." Because boys are just "naughty," and they can't be expected to keep their hands to themselves? And Hooters waitresses are there for the groping? And girls in short skirts are asking for it?


Today's $5 is for the National Partnership for Women and Families, which works to combat sexual harassment. Because it wasn't funny in 1970 and it's not funny now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let me get this straight, Oklahoma . . .

Sometimes you read something so weird that you think, "I guess I just misunderstood."

Nope. Oklahoma State University really did fail to alert police that a student had committed a series of sexual assaults on other students. And their rationale really was that doing so might illegally disclose the predator's educational records.

Nathan Cochran was a 22-year-old fraternity leader at OSU when a student conduct board suspended him from campus in 2012. Cochran was accused of groping and attempting to engage in oral sex with three other male students while they were sleeping. No member of OSU's staff contacted the police, who only heard of the case from a reporter at the student newspaper. Since a police investigation was opened, eight other students have come forward.

University officials originally stated that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevented referring the case to Oklahoma law enforcement, since this would have involved disclosure of Cochran's educational records. I believe this is what is technically referred to as bullshit. My friend Mr. Google found me the relevant statutory provision in ninety seconds.
An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information [ ]only if . . . the disclosure is in connection with a disciplinary proceeding at an institution of postsecondary education. The institution must not disclose the final results of the disciplinary proceeding unless it determines that [t]he student is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense [and]with respect to the allegation made against him or her, the student has committed a violation of the institution's rules or policies.
Does sticking your hand down your frat brother's pants while he's asleep counts as a non-forcible sex offense? Is this why OSU's Board of Regents decided yesterday that the school's original interpretation of FERPA was incorrect? Is it possible that administrators didn't want to acknowledge the possibility of homosexuality within the Greek system?


Today's $5 is for PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment), which works to remove stigma for victims of sexual assault.

Monday, February 25, 2013

UNC to Victim: Shut up or else!

Last month I linked to a series of articles in the North Carolina Daily Tarheel about UNC's abysmal record dealing with sexual assault on campus. A former dean has alleged that the school pressured her to underreport cases of assualt to the Department of Education; Four students filed complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights arguing that the school creates a hostile environment for victims of sexual violence; And the school's undertrained Honor Court treated Landen Gambill, a student who alleged long-term abuse by her boyfriend, to questions like this:
Landen, as a woman, I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened. Will you explain to me why you didn’t?
At the time, the Honor Court was composed of two students and two professors. UNC claims that they have since overhauled their Honor Court system. But today reports that Ms. Gambill will have to defend herself to the same Honor Court for creating a hostile environment for her abuser.
You are being charged with the following Honor Code violation(s): 
II.C.1.c. - Disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another (other than on the basis of protected classifications identified and addressed in the University's Policy on Prohibited Harassment and Discrimination) so as to adversely affect their academic pursuits, opportunities for University employment, participation in University-sponsored extracurricular activities, or opportunities to benefit from other aspects of University Life.

This decision was reached because the evidence provides a reasonable basis to believe that a violation of the Honor Code may have occurred. Please note that being charged with a violation does not imply guilt. It simply means that sufficient evidence of a possible violation exists to warrant a hearing before the Undergraduate Honor Court.
Yes, Ms. Gambill is being threatened with expulsion for talking about her experience of sexual assault and harassment. Although she has never used his name, her former boyfriend is feeling disparaged.


Ms. Gambill receieved this notice from the Graduate and Professional Schools Student Attorney General. Sounds official, right?

Psssst, UNC! If you're going to tell a victim of sexual assault to stop talking about it because it makes dormlife uncomfortable for her rapist, don't have a law-student draft the violation! If your institution was recently in the news for having a review board that is totally untrained to deal with cases of sexual violence, maybe get someone with specialized training to write the letter? And if you're tring to intimidate a victim of sexual violence to shut up about it, maybe a faculty member would be a more effective spokesman?

Or maybe, don't try to intimidate victims at all. Because, PR gaffe aside, prosecuting women who report assaults is backward behavior unworthy of an institute of higher education.

Another $5 for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dangit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fox News Enlightens Us on Campus Rape

Oh, those nuttynutty Fox Newsers! During the fine, daily program The Five Mensa Rejects, liberal-for-Fox panelist Bob Beckel wondered, "When was the last time you heard about a rape on campus?"


The gang was trying to decide if gun bans on college campuses would make women more vulnerable to sexual assualt. Spoiler alert: Three out of five Fox panelists want more guns in the hands of kids who can't drink legally.

So far, so ignorant, right? 

Then co-host Dana Perino pointed out that "in particular, date rape on campus" is rampant.

"That's one thing, date rape." Beckel responded. "But you're going to take out your gun and shoot your date?"

"If your date is a rapist, you shoot them," said Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Big Man on Campus Eric Bolling had to jump in to put a stop to the debacle. "Can we move on? Let's move on."

Yes, I think we'd all like to move on. But I think we've heard Bickel's argument before. Something about some rapes being more real than others . . .

Oh, yeah. Because it only counts if you are assaulted by a stranger at knifepoint (and you resist to the utmost). Otherwise, it's just he-said-she-said. Right?

According to the Department of Justice, one in five college women is raped during her college years. And a full 96% of these women are raped by men who are classmates, friends, current or former boyfriends, or accquaintances.

So, once again, today's $5 goes to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

And here is a video I stumbled on of The Five co-host Greg Gutfield explaining the liberal media bias yesterday. Looking to add a little crazy to your day? Oh, this guy brings it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hard Cases, Bad Law and Wingnut Warfare Part 2

When will a Catholic hospital argue that a fetus is not a person? When it's facing liability in a medical malpractice case, of course. Specifically, if its staff failed to perform a C-section on a dying woman, allowing the twins she was carrying to die with her. In that case, you have to be born alive to be a person, so forget about recovering any money in that wrongful death lawsuit.

The facts of the 2006 case are largely undisputed. Lori Stodghill was seven months pregnant and dying of a pulmonary embolism when she arrived at Saint Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado. It is unlikely that the hospital could have done anything to save her. A timely C-section might have saved her twins, who were considered medically viable. Because the hospital failed to intervene, they died with their mother.

Colorado courts have never accepted that a fetus could be a victim under the state's Wrongful Death statute. And, even as it acknowledged the unjust result, the Stodghill Court refused to expand the law in ways that would have farreaching consequences.
The Colorado general assembly is and has been free to extend the scope of the wrongful death statute to causes of action on behalf of unborn fetuses, viable or not. To date, it has chosen not to do so. The legislature is the appropriate place to debate and consider whether persons who have lost an unborn fetus should be able to recover and whether potential tortfeasors and their insurers should be held accountable financially for such losses. The legislature is the appropriate place to debate such issues and make social policy in a deliberate manner rather than in the context of isolated, anecdotal and perhaps sympathetic cases that might redirect concern from the broader issues.
It was just such a law, intended to make harming a viable fetus a crime, that allowed the Indiana State's Attorney to prosecute Bei Bei Shuai for her failed suicide attempt while pregnant. How can we trust state politicians to craft laws holding doctors responsible when they harm a fetus, without leaving them open to prosecution when they terminate an unwanted pregnancy? The short answer is: we can't. Not when legislators are presenting Personhood Amendments declaring that a fetus has all the rights of a person from the moment of conception. Because the debate over abortion rights warps our national discourse, we can't grant any legal status to viable babies in utero without jeopardizing women's rights to control our own bodies. So, we're stuck with unjust outcomes like this one.

As a post script to this story, Catholic Health Initiatives, the non-profit that owns Saint Thomas More Hospital, has responded to criticism of hypocrisy in truly creative fashion. Having come late to the conclusion that it was "immoral" to argue a fetus was not a person, CHI has decided to pursue a different line of argument should the case go to another appeal. After a confab with Colorado's top three bishops "to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church," their new story is that, "the Stodghill children tragically died before medical care commenced, so an emergency C-section would not have saved them." That's CHUTZPAH!

Today's $5 is for Healthy Beginnings of Colorado, to promote prenatal care.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Holy Tinfoil Hat, Batman!

Every week or so, I visit Bless those people for sending correspondents all the way to Wingnutistan!

They first published this quote from well-known aerosol huffer conservative radio host Kevin Swanson.
I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery [hysterectomy?], and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.
Okay, then! I listened to ten minutes of the January 31 program where Swanson interviewed Kevin Peeples, the filmmaker behind the "documentary" Birth Control: How Did We Get Here? Spoiler alert: God loves babies!

Strangely, I found the tiny corpses of basic grammar and punctuation embedded in both Swanson's and Peeples' websites. Click on through to Wednesday's show, A Vision for the Family Economy, Leaving an Inheritance For Your Children.
98.4% of parents in America won’t be a good man leaving an inheritance for his children. What is happening to the family and just how bad is the economy? Kevin interviews Guy Burgo about Christian wills and trusts.
Or buy Peeples' DVD for only $14.99.
The Definitive Films on the Subject of Birth Control and It's Impact on the Church, Marriage and Family" [sic, even the quotation mark] ...
In order to effectively communicate this truth we have to ask 2 questions; how did we get here, and is it up to us?
Would it be shooting fish in a barrel to point out that Swanson is a big proponent of homeschooling?

The point is not that these people are totally nuts. Rather, that many opponents of birth control are wilfully ignorant of human biology. This week the Obama administration made another concession to religious groups opposed to mandatory insurance coverage of contraception. If we are to respect their "religious liberty," they must respect our "scientific facts." So, today's $5 is for the National Association of Biology Teachers. Because you can't just make shit up!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hoosier Paternalistic Pinkwasher?

I really do want to be a kind and tolerant person. But writing this blog is like compiling a list of places I never want to go. Today's non-destination: Indiana. (Sorry, SL.)

So much here to get pissed off about! Let's look at the synopsis of the proposed change to  Indiana's law governing abortions, and take it one clause at a time, mmkay?
Sex selection and genetic abnormality abortion ban. Prohibits a person from performing an abortion if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion because of: (1) the sex of the fetus; or (2) a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or a genetic abnormality. Makes it a Class C felony if a person knowingly or intentionally commits a sex-selective abortion or an abortion conducted because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other genetic abnormality. Provides for civil relief.
Joining their progressive pals in North Dakota, Indiana's Senate took up a bill to ban sex-selective abortions this week. Were you worried about Chinese-style gender imbalance in the midwest? Well, don't. In 2006, there were 45,679 Hoosier boy babies and 43,725 Hoosier girl babies born - or exactly the ratio scientists tell us occurs in nature.

Were you worried that craven legislators were trying to peel off supporters of women's rights by raising the spectre of the million baby girls aborted in Asia every year? Yeah, worry.

Even more troubling is the ban on abortions where the fetus is found to have Down Syndrome or some other genetic abnormality, defined as:
Any disease, defect, or disorder that is genetically inherited. The term includes the following:
(1) A physical disability.
(2) A mental disability or retardation.
(3) A physical disfigurement.
(4) Scoliosis.
(5) Dwarfism.
(6) Down syndrome.
(7) Albinism.
(8) Amelia.
(9) A physical or mental abnormality or disease.
Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term when she will give birth to a child who is profoundly disabled shows a breathtaking lack of compassion. So does equating minor defects such as albinism or cleft palate with major deformities which will cause a baby's death shortly after birth. That's a lot of chutzpah from a legislature that cut $47.6 million from its Family and Social Services Administration budget in 2012!

For all practical purposes, the statute is unenforceable (and probably illegal) - if you say you are terminating a pregnancy because it interferes with your trip to Cancun, rather than because your fetus has a crippling genetic disorder, who can prove otherwise? And how can a doctor have guilty intent based on his patient's state of mind? But, as written it leads to the perverse result that a woman may choose to abort a healthy fetus for any reason at all, but will be forced to carry a sick child to term. It also means that the less conversation she has with her doctor, the better; the doctor can only be prosecuted if she "knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed" with Down syndrome or another genetic abnormality. Because nothing promotes a healthy doctor-patient relationship like the threat of criminal prosecution!

A majority of Indiana's citizens support abortion rights in most circumstances, so I don't think a law that is so patently unconstitutional will pass. But the statute is worth noting because it's the first I've seen to criminalize abortion in the case of a genetic defect. While most people have sympathy for a woman seeking to end a pregnancy in the case of serious fetal abnormality, these legislators liken it to a hate crime. Let's hope this is not part of a trend.

Today's $5 is for Planned Parenthood of Indiana, who will not be regulated, intimidated or starved out of it's mission to care for women.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hard Cases, Bad Law and Wingnut Warfare, Part 1

Have you heard the old saying, "Hard cases make bad law?"

Here's a new one: Fighting extremists makes us all radicals.

Take the Indiana case of Chinese immigrant Bei Bei Shuai.

Bei Bei Shuai was 33-weeks pregnant when she attempted to commit suicide on December 23. In a note, she wrote that she wished to kill herself and "tak[e] this baby, the one you called Crystal with me." When she did not immediately die, Shuai went out and ran into a friend who took her to the hospital where she was treated for the poison and stabilized. A week later, doctors performed a C-section and Shuai gave birth to a daughter named Angel. Over the next three days, Angel suffered bleeding in her brain and on January 3, her mother consented to remove her from life support. Over several hours and surrounded by grief counselors, Shuai held Angel while she died. Shuai then spent a month in a psychiatric hospital. On March 14, 2010, she was arrested and charged with murder and feticide.

Shuai was held without bail, since Indiana law prohibits bail in cases of murder "where the proof is evident, or the presumption is strong." In February of 2012, an appellate court held that it was not "evident" that ingesting rat poison caused the baby's death, and Shuai was released on bail. Friday, the case against her was dismissed because the coroner had failed to investigate whether other drugs given to Shuai and her child in the hospital caused the fatal brain hemhorrage.

From the beginning, this case has been a flashpoint of controversy. According to her lawyer, hospital staff had to prevent state officials from interrogating Shuai the day her daughter died. Indiana prosecutors tried to sanction Shuai's lawyers for publicizing the case to raise money for her defense. (It's pretty vindictive to complain about the headlines when your case seems ripped from an episode of Law and Order!) In fact, the state of Indiana prosecuted Shuai under one of the laws drafted after the infamous Lacy Peterson murder, making it a secondary crime to kill a viable fetus when you kill her mother. The law was never intended to cover suicides by pregnant women, but the statute says, "A person who ... knowingly or intentionally kills a fetus that has attained viability commits murder, a felony." So, Indiana Attorney General Gregory Zoeller went for it.

Maybe if abortion opponents weren't trying to pass Personhood Amendments defining a fertilized egg as a human being we could have a rational conversation about this. Maybe if a New Mexico legislator hadn't introduced a bill this week to classify abortion in the case of rape as a felony because it "destroy[s] evidence of a crime," or if Alabama hadn't prosecuted 60 women since 2006 for chemical endangerment of a child when babies were born with traces of narcotics in their systems. Maybe then those of us who support a woman's right to choose wouldn't see this as part of an effort to use the law to control women's bodies. Take this quote from Soraya Chemaly at
Is this really what American’s want? There is no other conclusion. Pregnant women will all be potential criminals, their bodies considered potential crime scenes. They will deny themselves health care, endanger their lives, harm their bodies, have high-risk pregnancies. Many, many will go to jail.
It's certainly not what I want. And yet, if we can only talk about Bei Bei Shuai's case as part of a trend toward arresting women who smoke or eat junk food while pregnant, then we've allowed ourselves to get shoved into our own radical corner. Who could possibly defend what this woman did? Who could argue that a viable fetus shouldn't have some protection under the law?

If our opponents refuse to acknowledge the difference between this,

and this,

should we do the same thing?

In all likelihood, Shuai was mentally ill when she attempted suicide. An entire month of psychiatric hospitalization for an uninsured immigrant seems pretty strong evidence. My argument is not in favor of criminal prosecution of mothers. Rather, I would advocate a return to the trimester or viability approach from Roe v. Wade and the early Supreme Court abortion cases.

Thanks again, Justice Kennedy, for knocking down that firewall!

If we can't speak forcefully in favor of a bright line between a woman's right to bodily autonomy and the state's interest in protecting a future citizen, then we've given up half the field. If we allow the discussion to be about when life begins, we've conceded that the life of a fetus trumps that of a woman. And if we can't make a moral argument for abortion, we're reduced to rallying around deeply troubled women who do terribly immoral things.

Toward that end, today's $5 goes to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which supports access to abortion as part of the continuum of social and healthcare policies which allow women to participate as full citizens. We are pro-choice AND pro-child, and it's high time we take back this debate.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tarring the Tar Heels

Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation? 
I don't generally talk about "rape culture." You just can't describe the ways we interact by dividing the world into victims and perpetrators. But when a college administrator responds to a student's 2007 allegations of rape this way, I'm going to call it a "rape culture" at University of North Carolina.

UNC is embroiled in a major scandal over the way it handled allegations of sexual assault on campus over the past decade. Last week, four students and one former administrator, Melinda Manning, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

The complaint, leaked to UNC's student paper the Daily Tar Heel, alleges that the University created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault and then failed to comply with federal law by under-reporting these assaults to the US Department of Education. Although the story was picked up nationally, it appears that the student paper is doing most of reporting, and it has not published the leaked complaint.

In 2012, the University undertook a review of it's sexual assault policies at the behest of the Department of Education. Pending the review, allegations of rape and sexual assault were heard by a University Hearings Board composed of one administrator, two faculty members, and two student members of the school's Honor Court. There is dispute as to to how much training these Board members received. I'm thinking, not enough.

Here's how one member questioned a woman reporting long-term emotional and sexual abuse by her boyfriend.
Landen, as a woman, I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened. Will you explain to me why you didn’t?
The Board found Landen Gambrill's story non-credible based on her history of depression and attempted suicide. The members also forced her to recount graphic details of the sexual abuse she suffered and then gave the transcript to her parents without her consent, believing they had a right to know.

Other students report similar experiences with the Hearings Board and UNC administrators. Melinda Manning, the former UNC Dean of Student Affairs tasked with handling reports of sexual assault, confirmed that the hostility to victims was part of a wider culture at the University. Under the Clery Act, schools must report all cases of sexual assault to the Department of Education. In drafting the report, Manning was told the number of assualts was "too high."
For two weeks, she received multiple phone calls from various members of University Counsel staff asking her to ‘make sure that her numbers were correct.’ 
Obviously, it's not that UNC men raped too many women. It's simply a numbers problem! According to the complaint,
The number of sexual assaults that appeared in that year’s Clery report was three lower than the number Manning submitted to the Office of University Counsel . . .
The University reported six incidents of forcible sex offenses on campus for 2009, 19 for 2010, the year for which Manning was asked to compile statistics, and 12 for 2011. 
Lucky thing Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls is such a math whiz!

Hey, let's do a little math right here. For Feminism.
Which kind of makes that 12 reported to the Department of Education in 2011 sound like BS, no? Even if only 10% sought redress through the UNC system, the number would be somewhere between 30 and 50. Then again, why would any woman turn to this school administration for help?

Today's $5 is for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill North Carolina.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Bean is Not a Baby

Just a week into the 113th Congress, House Republicans are rolling up their sleeves to get some real work done to help their constituents.

Just kidding.

Paul Ryan and 26 other Republicans are co-sponsoring yet another un-passable Personhood Amendment, which states:
The life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood . . . 
Hurricane Sandy victims are still waiting for money, and these . . . patriots . . . are wasting time drafting a "Sanctity of Human Life Bill" so radical that it failed in Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Dakota and Virginia. Not to mention being rejected by the last two sessions of Congress. Priorities!

This bill would define a baby into existence from the moment sperm meets egg - which is before a women is actually pregnant. It would force millions of women to have their highly effective IUDs removed, since IUDs work by preventing a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the wall of the uterus. It would also outlaw the morning after pill for the same reason.

In the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, Paul Ryan explained the unimpeachable science behind this argument.
Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course, but it's also because of reason and science. You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born for our seven-week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. Our little baby was in the shape of a bean, and to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child, Liza, "Bean." Now, I believe that life begins at conception. That's why — those are the reasons why I'm pro-life.
Well, okay then. Who could argue with "reason and science?"

Can we just talk like grown-ups for a minute here? Can we just cut the shit for a sec?

What pisses me off about this argument is that the people making it must know better. These Congressmen are some of the breedingest people in the country. Most of them have three kids; eight of them have four (including Ryan); and at least one of them is proud papa to five. I, too, am a breeder (three). You know what happens when you have multiple pregnancies? Not all of them are going to result in a baby.

Without denigrating the sadness of a late miscarriage or the heartbreak of infertility, I think we can all agree that an early miscarriage is not the same as losing a child. And since one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, it's safe to say that these family men have probably been through it. Of course a miscarriage at seven weeks is sad. But losing a "bean" is not the same as losing a baby. I know it, and dollars to doughnuts Paul Ryan knows it, too.

We don't hold funerals or put death notices in the paper for a miscarriage; we don't go through a long period of mourning - we probably don't even tell most people that the "bean" ever existed. We cry for a while and then start trying again next month. Because we understand that we've lost a pregnancy, not a child.

So why sponsor legislation pretending that a tiny fetus is a person when you know it will never become law? Because it's more important to show your radical constituents that you believe a women has no right to control her own body than to actually do the work of passing laws.

Everyone's got priorities.

Today's $5 is for NARAL Pro-Choice America, which advocates for reproductive rights nationwide.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Woman's Place is in The House

Today, this happened! More women were sworn in to the House of Representatives than ever before. These are just the Democrats!

What else happened? Tuesday, Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). House Republicans refused to support the Senate version because it included new protections for undocumented immigrants and LGBT partners, and because it gave new powers to Native American authorities to adjudicate domestic violence on tribal lands. The immediate result is to cut off future funding for state-level domestic violence programs.

Look, I know Washington was a busy driving off the fiscal cliff last week. But the Senate passed their version of VAWA in April. If John Boehner gave a damn about it, they could have done something in the past eight months. Nancy Pelosi promises to make reauthorization "an early priority."

Speaking of legislative priorities, a Californa Court of Appeal reversed the conviction of a man who had sex with a sleeping woman who believed he was her boyfriend.
A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend. Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.
Don't blame the judges. California law still differentiates between married and unmarried victims of rape who believe they are consenting to have sex with their partners. Courts have begged the California legislature to fix this law for 20 years when rapists went free because they impersonated lovers not husbands. Obviously, not a priority for elected officials in California.

Say what you will about Idaho, but after a 2010 case where a guy let his buddy have sex with his drunk girlfriend and the two were accquitted because she wasn't his wife, they fixed the damn law!

Maybe one day we won't care what proportion of elected officials are female. Maybe one day California will make it illegal to rape an unmarried woman. For today, we need women leaders who will prioritize women's issues. So, today's $5 is for EMILY's List, which works to "bring more women into politics and elected office." Let's make that a priority!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Some Days the Bull Wins

Happy New Year!

Now let me tell you some crappy stuff that happened this week.

Two courts issued injunctions exempting employers from complying with the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate for employer-sponsored health insurance.

A court in Illinois ruled that a construction company would suffer irreparable harm to its religious convictions if it isn't allowed to switch to (more expensive) health insurance that does not offer birth control, emergency contraception or sterilization.

But, wait! How can a corporation have religious convictions that require protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Well . . .

Remember when Congress tried to reduce corporate political contributions but the Supreme Court ruled that companies had First Amendment rights to speak with their money? (Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010)). Since corporations have a right to speak, they must also have a right to exercise religion. Or, as Mitt Romney put it,

Just to be totally clear here, a corporation is a legal entity that will protect the personal assets of the corporate owner if the company gets sued, but owners can claim that their religious liberties are harmed by corporate regulation. Which is kind having it both ways, no?

So, the Illinois Court found that the husband and wife who own Korte Construction will suffer serious harm to their Catholic faith if they have to include contraceptive coverage in their employees' health plan. Never mind that they didn't care enough enough to determine that the 20 employees covered by this plan enjoyed contraceptive coverage for at least a year prior to filing this case. And disregarding the fact that the company's 70 union employees get the disputed coverage through the union plan, which the construction company buys into.

Also Tom Monaghan, that prince of a guy who founded Domino's Pizza, gets to outsource his current employees' healthcare decisions to the Catholic Church, thanks to a Federal Court in Michigan. His company Domino Farms is free to exercise its Catholic faith, Hosanna!

AND, icing on the cake, both Courts characterized the morning after pill and the IUD as abortifacients! The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists says otherwise, but what do those doctors know? If Tom Monaghan's priest says life starts when sperm meets egg, then his employees will just have to live with that.

Let's all take deep breaths and remember that health insurance exchanges will be live a year from now. It may take a while, but the day is coming when the boss's religion doesn't determine his employee's healthcare choices.

Worse than the insurance cases, Courts are allowing Oklahoma and Texas to cease all state funding of women's healthcare through Planned Parenthood.

Oklahoma will terminate PP's contract to offer pre- and post-natal counseling to poor mothers and to distribute WIC vouchers for food. This decision has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood's relationship with other abortion providers, of course. This will be a great relief to the 50% of babies born in Oklahoma who rely on WIC vouchers for food.

Texas, however, makes no pretense that it has targetted Planned Parenthood for any other reason than that some branches of Planned Parenthood use private funds to provide abortion care. No branches of PP that receive federally-subsidized Medicaid funds provide abortion. But Rick Perry and the Texas GOP has long made it their mission to make sure no poor women in Texas get care from Planned Parenthood. Andrea Grimes at has been covering this slow-motion disaster. Her afternoon calling state-approved clinics shows the total inadequacy of other providers to serve the reproductive needs of patients who can no longer receive care at PP. 
Nearly six hours of those kinds of conversations later, I found 13 clinics or doctors that take the Medicaid Women's Health Program. Thirteen. Not 181. Why? Because 92 of the state's listings are duplicates. Others are radiology associates and labs and pediatricians and even closed clinics. Others just plain don't take Medicaid.
And that's why I started this blog - because walking around pissed off all the time doesn't help. So, $5 today for Planned Parenthood of Texas and another $5 for Planned Parenthood of Oklahoma.