Who, us? Punish abortion doctors? Perish the thought!

06 Jul 2015 05:58 am
Posted by: Donna

pill cartoon

Per Howie Fischer who is, as always, doing excellent coverage on reproductive rights:

State Health Director Cara Christ wants a federal judge to throw out a challenge to a controversial new abortion law because no doctor has yet been disciplined for breaking it.

In legal filings in federal court, attorney Douglas Drury who represents Christ tells Judge Steven Logan that he should dismiss the lawsuit filed on behalf of abortion providers and doctors because the case is not “ripe” for consideration.

“Plaintiffs and their patients have not suffered any injury in fact,” Drury wrote.

That same argument is being made by the Attorney General’s Office representing the Arizona Medical Board, the agency that could revoke a doctor’s medical privileges for ignoring the statute.

Hanging in the balance is a law that requires doctors to inform women who want to terminate a pregnancy that “it may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence.”

It’s not uncommon for attorneys on the defense side to file motions to dismiss suits on grounds they pull straight out of their asses but I think there’s more than that going on here. What they’re doing also fits nicely into the anti-choicer “who, us?” denial strategy. Anti-choicers will deny, deny, and deny they want to put women in jail for abortion, until such time as women are actually being prosecuted. At that time they will forget all that and find reasons why this terrible woman deserves prosecution for abortion, and even capital murder. They’re having it both ways, prosecuting women while still denying they intend to do that.

The anti-abortion movement has always sworn they will go after doctors performing abortions, though, so it may seem odd that they would ever deny that. But this particular law forcing doctors to tell women they can reverse abortions is so epically stupid that the state’s health director and AG office must feel compelled to insist publicly that no doctor would ever be targeted by it. There isn’t even the faintest glimmer of the “safety of women” nonsense they can reliably trot out to defend waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, and forced readings of scripts about (debunked) breast cancer and depression links to abortion. Nope, they are going with the same “nothing to see here, move along” strategy on this as they do with the prospect of women being jailed for abortion.

Once again with this “abortion reversal” law, anti-choicers are having it both ways: Promote and pass a law that poses real, and negative, consequences to real people. Pretend that said consequences are nonexistent. Then count on the public to assume the latter is true because it’s just so crazy to think that doctors would have their licenses yanked for refusing to lie to women about “abortion reversal”. Who, us?

But make no mistake, the state is vigorously defending this law and, should they prevail, doctors will be forced to lie to women. At such time that a doctor is found to be not in compliance, no doubt by an anti-choice undercover “sting”, the response from both anti-abortion advocates and the state will be, “well, omigosh, it is the law!”

Practically no one thinks they’re the bad guy

02 Jul 2015 06:43 am
Posted by: Donna

david brooks

David Brooks wrote (quelle surprise) an insipid NYT column advising social conservatives to tone down their devotion to litigating other people’s sex lives and instead embrace the “compassionate conservative” shtick of George W. Bush circa 2000. It reads like a stump speech for Jeb(!) Bush.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

In her blistering response on Raw Story, Amanda Marcotte suggests that Brooks’ treacle was really directed at liberals.

This op-ed by David Brooks titled “The Next Culture War“, which asks social conservatives to drop all the sex policing stuff and instead do something like feed the poor, is topping the New York Times most-viewed and most-emailed lists. I’m guessing that is not because a bunch of religious conservatives are impressed by his argument and are forwarding it to their friends and family. No, I suspect this is all being driven by liberals who, in an attempt to show off how open-minded they are, are bending over backwards to show that they believe that religious conservatives are good people who are just misguided.

I certainly saw several of my Facebook friends posting it, uncritically. Liberals can be big suckers for this type of kumbaya crapola.

My beef with Brooks (in addition to his insinuation that no one besides religious conservatives cares about love and stability) is with his assumption that religious conservatives haven’t already been engaged in very public acts of “charity” for ages.

Take Crisis Pregnancy Centers (no, take them, please!), for example. For several years now, these organizations have been cropping up all over the country, particularly in areas politically hostile to abortion rights. They sell themselves to the public as objective providers of information and assistance to women considering their options in an unplanned pregnancy. In reality, they often mislead women into believing they offer abortion services and the much touted (by anti-abortion advocates) material assistance they offer to women who do give birth comes with a heavy dose of religious proselytizing.

What of the woman who simply wants to have and raise her baby and get some help to do that, who isn’t interested in joining a Biblical crusade? David Brooks might chide her for being so scornful of the “selfless love” she is being shown by her benefactors at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. Of course, that would require Brooks to think for two seconds about the women he wants to throw off public assistance and into the arms of religious conservatives.

And the Salvation Army that Brooks offers as the antithesis of the Moral Majority has its own issues with bigotry against LGBT people. Does Brooks care about that?

If David Brooks is sincere in his call for religious conservatives to retreat from the culture war over sex, then he has gotten their motives completely wrong. They think they are right and that God is on their side. They believe that policing other people’s sex lives is crucial to the formation of a functioning society and, more importantly, to the attainment of the sublime.

In other words, calling upon religious conservatives to be good guys is useless because that’s how they’ve always thought of themselves. No matter what.

Anti-pot arguments continue to be disingenuous

01 Jul 2015 06:12 am
Posted by: Donna

lisa james
Photo: AZ Republic My Turn

Lisa James, who chairs Just Vote No (which opposes legalizing marijuana in Arizona), had a My Turn column in Monday’s Arizona Republic, wherein she asserts that passing a proposition to legalize pot in Arizona will lead inexorably to mass addictions, wasted lives, and death.

E.J. Montini’s recent blog, “Did marijuana actually kill 62 kids in Arizona? Or …,” misses the point being made by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and other opponents of recreational marijuana.

The research study Polk cited may not serve as evidence one could use in a court room to directly tie marijuana to 62 children’s deaths in Arizona in 2013, but I can tell you from personal experience you should be using it in your family room, your classroom, your doctor’s office and when you walk into the voting booth next November.

The airtight case that James presents is the anecdotal experience of exactly one person, her brother, who has struggled with substance abuse for most of his life. That is heart-wrenching and I am very sorry for him and his family but this is simply not a valid argument for the continued criminalization of pot. Pot being illegal did not stop her brother from trying it and going on to harder and harder drugs, including meth. Nor is there evidence that marijuana even plays a preeminent role in harder drug use. James can actually thank alcohol for that, statistically, irrespective of what her brother tried first.

I realize personal narrative is one of the most powerful ways to get a political message across but Lisa James is not just doing a TV ad here. She’s writing an editorial column and is simply not presenting hard evidence to support her claims. Plus, as I’ve argued before, people increasingly have their own benign experiences (of themselves or people close to them) with weed that don’t comport with James’ dire slippery-slope predictions.

James doesn’t stop at the spurious “gateway drug” argument. She goes on to play the “Dear God what about the children??” card using (again) exactly one person from her own family to illustrate her point:

If we legalize recreational marijuana, we are sending a message to our kids that, in the words of my own teenage son, “If it’s legal, that means it’s not that bad, right?”

Wrong. Unfortunately, years of discussions about how bad choices can ruin lives, as evidenced by his uncle, are thrown out with one statement about making it legal. Thankfully, we talk about it and could correct it in our home.

Ms. James, a Scottsdale resident, might be a teetotaler but based on her bio she is probably affluent, so my guess is her impressionable son has seen at least a few well-coiffed adults legally swilling glasses of wine (or whatever) in his life. Does she not care about the message that sends him? If not, why not? If she’s like many anti-weed crusaders, James might offer some practiced answer to that along the lines of, “Look how much harm legal alcohol and tobacco have caused! Why add another substance to the mix!”

There are several problems with that answer, not the least of which is the fact that people are not being jailed merely for possessing and consuming booze or cigarettes. It’s easy for someone like Lisa James, who lives and operates in a community where pot is de facto legal, to argue for continued criminalization. Her son is highly unlikely to be fed into the prison pipeline if he decides to try weed and is caught. “Thankfully, we talk about it and could correct it in our home.” Continuing the current pot ban is worse than mere hypocrisy. It is actively perpetuating inequality and an unjust legal system. And – once again and with feeling – it didn’t even protect Lisa James’ brother from becoming an addict.


But do go on about Iran, neo-cons

30 Jun 2015 06:37 am
Posted by: Donna

Shirtless Putin

I was working on a post about another topic when I saw a link to this long-read article from Vox, which is terrifying. I’m still in the process of reading it and may be a while at it since I have to stop very often to wince, cover my eyes, and pace nervously around the room.

We’ve got a real nuclear threat in the world, and it ain’t Iran.

Should the warnings prove right, and a major war break out in Europe between Russia and the West, then the story of that war, if anyone is still around to tell it, will begin with Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to solve a problem.

That problem is this: Putin’s Russia is weak. It can no longer stand toe to toe with the US. It no longer has Europe divided in a stalemate; rather, it sees the continent as dominated by an ever-encroaching anti-Russian alliance. In the Russian view, the country’s weakness leaves it at imminent risk, vulnerable to a hostile West bent on subjugating or outright destroying Russia as it did to Iraq and Libya.

This is made more urgent for Putin by his political problems at home. In 2012, during his reelection, popular protests and accusations of fraud weakened his sense of political legitimacy. The problem worsened with Russia’s 2014 economic collapse; Putin’s implicit bargain with the Russian people had been that he would deliver economic growth and they would let him erode basic rights. Without the economy, what did he have to offer them?

And that’s just a little background on Putin’s toxic masculinity. Read the whole thing. Dude is basically George W. Bush without the military might of the U.S. but with just enough of his own. The American Right may want to consider dialing back the swooning they’ve been doing the past few years over their shirtless hero.

Center for Arizona Policy ignores the biggest threat to “moms and dads” in denouncing same sex marriage ruling.

29 Jun 2015 06:47 am
Posted by: Donna


The Supreme Court voted to legalize marriage equality in the entire United States and the God-botherers at the Center for Arizona Policy reacted with the all the subtlety you would expect.

Historically Tragic: Supreme Court says moms and dads are unnecessary
Friday, June 26, 2015
Statement from Center for Arizona Policy Vice President of Policy and General Counsel, Josh Kredit

PHOENIX – “Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision is historically tragic. The High Court has disregarded the democratic process by stripping all Americans of their ability to debate and decide marriage policy.

What’s more, by throwing out the time-tested definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, the Court has said that children don’t deserve the best opportunity to be raised by their mom and dad.

This isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has overstepped its role, and just like before, this will not be the final word on this issue. The U.S. Constitution is absolutely silent on the definition of marriage which makes it all the more egregious for five justices to brush aside the votes of tens of millions of voters throughout the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court can never change the fundamental truth that the lifelong union of one man and one woman is at the foundation of a strong state and nation. Center for Arizona Policy is committed to seeing this essential union strengthened and reaffirmed to secure a better future for generations to come.”

Yeah, if you were going to pinpoint proximate causes of children not being raised by their moms and dads, I would say that divorce (of straight marriages) would loom larger than same-sex marriage. While CAP has made noises about the harms of divorce and got a voluntary and largely symbolic (though still troublesome) “covenant marriage” law passed in 1998, they simply have not gone after straight divorce with the vigor with which they’ve gone after LGBT rights. Wonder why that is. Possibly because they don’t want to rile wealthy male conservative donors?

Also, if the votes of millions of Americans matter so much, then why have religious conservative organizations like CAP not put divorce on the ballot? Why no ballot measures to bar married couples with minor children (with obvious exceptions for abuse and whatnot) from dissolving their unions? Oh no, it was so much easier to get straight voters to go along with denying marriage rights to same-sex couples a decade ago than it would ever be to get them to deny themselves divorce. It was always about bigotry, and never about the welfare of children.

Oh brother

26 Jun 2015 06:12 am
Posted by: Donna


A little while back Rachel Maddow did a wonderful segment that had me nodding my head in furious agreement and applauding (I seriously clapped my hands at the TV, you guys). She expressed her bewilderment at certain political concepts that aren’t really meaningful when closely examined or helpful when put into practice, but are wildly popular with some segments of the public. Things like term limits (which regular people looooove but aren’t really conducive to effective governance), or nepotism (thinking someone is qualified to hold office simply because his or her relative did). It culminated in her main thesis about Donald Trump (to quote John Oliver, why is he still a thing?) but I’m going to draw from her build-up to laugh at the latest stunt by the GOP majority in the House to get back at the Supreme Court for upholding the ACA subsidies in their decision announced Thursday.

As with term limits, voters have an inexplicable love of the idea of “punishing” politicians by docking their pay. This is why Arizonans refuse to raise state legislative salaries from their current amount of $24K to the more princely sum of $36K (and then wonder why lawmakers who often have to have independent wealth so as to remain in office can seem out-of-touch) and why Congress regularly votes to freeze or cut its own pay (as if that gesture makes the slightest difference to a poor family facing cuts to food assistance).

From the very onset of the Affordable Care Act conservative opponents of it (both politicians and rank-and-file) have been braying about how “Congress needs to forced to go on Obamacare!” It’s a pointless proposition on its merits, since members of Congress and their staff are already on the Federal health care plan, which the ACA was modeled after, but no amount of pointing that out to them (I have tried) resonates. People who hate that dastardly Obamacare just loooooove the idea of making those dastardly Congresscritters have to have it!

In keeping with this strange ethos, a Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) just dropped a bill to, you guessed it:

“As the Supreme Court continues to ignore the letter of the law, it’s important that these six individuals understand the full impact of their decisions on the American people. That’s why I introduced the SCOTUScare Act to require the Supreme Court and all of its employees to sign up for Obamacare. By eliminating their exemption from Obamacare, they will see firsthand what the American people are forced to live with!”

The “exemption from Obamacare” Babin speaks of is the same exemption anyone who gets insurance through their employer has. And as someone who is currently suffering under the horror of having a Silver plan on the exchange I can honestly say it’s better than being on the white-knuckle program (AKA being uninsured due to preexisting conditions) that I was on from 2007 to 2014. If Babin’s harebrained idea ever came to fruition, I’m confident that John Roberts and Sonia Sotomayor would be just fine. Hell, the more people on the exchange the merrier, and the closer we get to separating health care from employment, which should have happened long ago.

The deeply weird religious dogma behind that “reverse your abortion” law

23 Jun 2015 06:31 am
Posted by: Donna


Bob Robb did a column a few weeks ago where he criticized anti-choice SB1318 because it infringed on the liberty of doctors:

I’m generally pro-life and support most legislative restrictions on abortion. I don’t think exploring the limits of Roe v. Wade through litigation is a waste of time or resources.

Many of the Arizona restrictions struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have been upheld in other jurisdictions. Arizona lawmakers shouldn’t be idle simply because Arizona is stuck with the most liberal federal appeals court in the land.

But the pro-life movement goes too far when it attempts through legislation to dictate what a doctor can tell a patient.

I mention Bob Robb because he’s viewed as one of the more sagacious and reasonable public conservatives in Arizona. Agree with him or not (and on most things, I don’t), Robb takes a thoughtful approach to his work that leads him to go against the prevailing conservative party line on rare occasions. By his own admission, he unquestioningly embraces a lot of right wing garbage where restricting abortion is concerned, because ladies not cheerfully submitting to incubator duty makes him sad (he has referred to abortion as “barbarism”), but this “you can reverse your abortion!” idiocy was too much even for him to tolerate. And yes, sadly, this is one of those times when Robb could be said to be bucking the right wing status quo in Arizona. The “abortion reversal” thing is just plain weird.

The folks at Arizona Capitol Times might have similar feelings because they’ve been giving some heavy scrutiny to this “abortion reversal” business. Reporter Gary Grado recently explained how it had its origins in a papal encyclical from Pope Paul VI and a loopy Nebraska doctor who was a huge fan:

The roots of the law can be traced back to a 1968 letter from Pope Paul VI and a Nebraska doctor who has said he views the obstetric and gynecological industry as a “culture of death.’’

The controversial papal encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” affirms the church’s ban on contraception and abortion. The encyclical also set off a firestorm and was hailed and criticized by many, including bishops and Catholic theologians.

It stated that artificial birth control will lead to more marital infidelity and general lowering of moral standards, and cause a man to reduce a woman “to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

The encyclical inspired Dr. Thomas Hilgers to open a clinic in Omaha devoted to the practice of reproductive medicine in line with Catholic teaching. That is where all of the doctors who participated in the case studies involving the practice of abortion reversal trained on a method of gynecological care that rejects the use of the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization.

The encyclical, in fact, calls on doctors and scientists to practice in accordance with their faith.

I am fully convinced that people pushing nonsense similar to this would not ever have been allowed to infiltrate the care of, say, heart patients (or any other group that includes straight white men) for going on five decades. But this crap gets a free pass and institutional support in women’s reproductive health care largely on the basis of many people (Bob Robb among them) being angst-ridden over too much female autonomy.

Look everyone, seriously, your gut feelings about how women should behave are simply not a sound basis for public health laws and policies. When you center it on that it opens the door for every quack, charlatan, and holy-roller in the world to enter into those realms and do real harm.