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?

Yuck.

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 Jezebel.com 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.

Boohoo.

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?"

Seriously.

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 www.Rightwingwatch.org. 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.