News people, you don’t have to play dumb to be objective

14 Apr 2015 06:15 am
Posted by: Donna

AZ Rep. Ken Clark (D) and Sen. Debbie Lesko (R) were on Channel 3′s Politics Unplugged to discuss the recently ended legislative session (one of the quickest in history).

(Link to video since, of course, it autoplays when embedded.)

I’m not singling out host Dennis Welch because he’s far from the only news person in Arizona who does this, but this interview is the latest example of the infuriating habit they have of pretending to be utterly ignorant of our state’s political realities so as to appear “balanced”. On the topic of the budget Sen. Lesko stuck to the GOP/Governor Ducey script of how a parsimonious spending plan was what they were elected to do and how education funding wasn’t cut at all (if you squint really hard). Clark criticized Lesko’s dubious math on spending-per-pupil and decried the GOP majority’s abandonment of investment in education and infrastructure in favor of 23 years of tax cut magic. It was what you’d expect from a bipartisan panel. The part that irritated me the most was Welch demanding to know what the Democratic plan was.

Now, Dennis Welch is a very smart man who is well-versed in Arizona politics and government, having covered both in print and on television for years. I find it difficult to believe that he does not know that Democrats run no legislative committees, that their bills and amendments generally die a quick death, their budget proposals are ignored, and that anything that is remotely a Democratic fiscal priority requires persuading several Republicans to go along with it for it to go anywhere. It’s been a full-on GOP hoedown here since 2009 so interrogating a Democratic lawmaker the way Welch did Clark on TV can only be read as an attempt to obscure that fact and push the idea that “both sides” are to blame for our lack of revenue when that is obviously false.

Furthermore, any political reporter in Arizona (who shouldn’t be fired immediately for gross ignorance) is surely aware of Prop 108, passed by voters in 1992, which requires a 2/3 majority vote of the Legislature to raise revenue. So a news person goading Rep. Clark (or Dem Governor candidate Fred DuVal, as they did relentlessly in 2014) into admitting to wanting to raise taxes appears to be doing little more than trolling for a soundbite. Democrats have zero ability to raise taxes here via the legislative process, even if all of them were shouting that they wanted to do that from the hilltops.

News people, you know exactly why Arizona is in our current predicament. Decades of tax cuts have led to insufficient revenue for the schools and other nice things for our state. It’s no inscrutable mystery so quit with the dumb act. Report on it accordingly. What you’re doing now is beneath you and annoying as hell besides.

The centrist fantasy on abortion rights is a dangerous farce

09 Apr 2015 06:36 am
Posted by: Donna

The folks at Vox commissioned a poll on attitudes toward abortion, asking more nuanced, and specific, questions than are usually asked and the results are fascinating.

Vox’s Sarah Kliff was intrigued enough about the responses that she contacted some of the respondents for further clarification.

“From my point of view, I believe all babies go to heaven,” King told me when I asked him to explain how both labels fit his viewpoint. “And if this baby were to live a life where it would be abused … it’s just really hard to explain. It gets into the rights of the woman, and her body, at the same time. It just sometimes gets really hazy on each side.”

King’s perspective is, in a way, unique: he has a distinct and nuanced view on when abortion should and shouldn’t be legal, one that takes in all sorts of personal and circumstantial factors. He’s generally anti-abortion, but not completely. He doesn’t fit neatly into either side of the debate.

In another way, though, King’s viewpoint is common: in our poll, we found that 18 percent of Americans, like King, pick “both” when you ask them to choose between pro-life and pro-choice. Another 21 percent choose neither. Taken together, about four in 10 Americans are eschewing the labels that we typically see as defining the abortion policy debate.

Vox also asked some people on the street how they felt about abortion:

Almost everyone in those interviews came across as kind, empathetic, and respectful of the rights and boundaries of women seeking abortion, whether they supported abortion or not. Except for one guy who was terrible. If you watch the video you can probably tell who I’m talking about. Judging from social media, this Vox project is bound to spawn at least a thousand think pieces by abortion centrists insisting that we simply must find “common ground” on this divisive issue. I hope at least some of the centrist pundits paid attention to where considerable common ground lies beyond things that are usually asked about, like late-term bans and parental notification.

Anti-choicers lately have been pushing hard on how some of their legislation, such as 20 week bans and eliminating “taxpayer funding” of abortion, enjoy majority support in the polls, making them “common sense”. But centrists have been proposing “sensible compromises” with anti-choicers since forever. Their utopian delusion is that if we just throw the antis a few limits they’ll reciprocate by leaving first trimester abortions alone and possibly even embracing sex ed, contraception, and social support for parenting. It’s nonsense, as Ed Kilgore explained in 2013:

…Suppose it were possible to engineer a permanent national deal (it’s not, but just consider it as a thought experiment) wherein in exchange for a strictly enforced ban on post-viability abortions that didn’t involve direct threats to the life of the mother, we’d also start treating all forms of contraception and pre-viability abortions not only as legal, but as medical procedures that would be publicly funded just like other medical procedures, under normal (not prohibitive) inspection and regulatory regimes? I suspect a large number of pro-choice folk would go for that kind of deal, which isn’t that different from the situation in much of Europe. It would reflect the fact that most late-term abortions happen not because some bad girl has had sex and now finds motherhood inconvenient, but because she hasn’t had meaningful access to contraception, Plan B, or early-term abortions.

But would any antichoice activists go along with it? No. Because they don’t really care about late-term abortions other than as a lever to move public opinion away from legalized abortion generally. I mean, if late-term abortions were really what upset you, wouldn’t you perhaps be even more adamant than the Planned Parenthood folk in trying to make sure steps short of late-term abortion were not only tolerated but encouraged?

Despite how obvious all of that is to anyone paying attention to the anti-choice movement, it has proven impossible to dissuade centrists from their near-religious refusal to see that anti-choicers see inches ceded to them as miles for which to aspire. The other (scary) problem with the centrist fantasy is that laws are real and arbitrarily enforced against real women. And they don’t even accomplish what purported intentions are, as legal expert Scott Lemieux (and others) explained back in 2006:

There is a further problem here, however: the complete disjuncture between the purported goals of abortion “centrists” and the actual effects of the regulations they support. It’s important to make a distinction between the moral and legal position of abortion centrists, which they constantly blur to disguise the fact that there’s no rational connection between the two. It’s defensible, whether one agrees with it or not, to believe that some abortions are more morally problematic than others, and that it varies based on context. But abortion regulations have nothing to do with that. In some cases, they’re openly contradictory: Patterico argues that “many of us who are uncomfortable with abortion become more so as the fetus advances in age”–a common argument among both the center-right and center-left–but of course creating regulatory obstacle courses makes later-term abortions more likely. But even when there isn’t an obvious contradiction, there’s no rational connection between the regulations and the moral position (and in the case of arbitrary bans on medical procedures given scary scientifically meaningless names, no rational connection with any purpose.) Abortion regulations don’t inscribe “centrist” moral positions into law: they just give more decision-making power to third parties for no good reason, and make abortion access more inequitable. Lizardbreath recently made this point very effectively:

(1) Regulations of this sort don’t discourage abortion in any targeted way. If you believe that abortion is always a wrong decision, regardless of the woman’s individual circumstances, I’m not talking to you right now – go over and sit with the committed, consistent pro-lifers. If you think that there are circumstances where a woman should be able to decide for herself whether to have an abortion, whatever you think those circumstances are, you have to recognize that these regulations aren’t going to preferentially discourage the abortions you disapprove of. Regulations requiring waiting periods are going to discourage poor women, who can’t get consecutive days off from work or can’t afford an overnight stay near the provider. Spousal notification regulations are going to discourage women with bad or fearful relationships with their husbands. Nutty “safety” regulations (such as those requiring an abortion clinic to have a written transfer agreement with a hospital to accept emergency patients — what, the hospital would otherwise refuse to accept emergency patients because they came from an abortion clinic?) raise the costs, travel and otherwise, of abortions, and so discourage poor women. None of them are going to preferentially discourage women who don’t take abortion seriously, women who use abortion as birth control, or any other category of women whose abortion decisions you disagree with.

If you think that abortion is always a difficult moral decision, but is sometimes the least of the available evils, regulations like this don’t bear any relationship to discouraging abortion when it’s the wrong decision and allowing it when it’s the right decision. All they do is serve as obstacles, making abortion available for affluent women in comfortable circumstances, and closing it off for poor women or women in difficult family situations. This isn’t right, and it isn’t just.

(2) Taking these regulations at face value, people who favor them don’t trust women. If we take mandatory counseling, waiting periods, and spousal notification regulations at face value as regulations intended to address the concerns of moderate pro-lifers (rather than assuming that they are cynically favored by pro-life absolutists who know that they can’t pass absolute abortion bans, and so favor any regulation, however irrational, making abortion more difficult to obtain) they reflect a mistrust of women as moral decision-makers.

The nominal goal of such regulations is to make the woman concerned consider additional information and opinions or spend additional time thinking about whether she should or should not have an abortion. Isn’t it clear that this reflects an opinion that women, if unregulated, will make abortion decisions flippantly or thoughtlessly? It’s not a simple case of saying that the woman involved has interests that are opposed to those of the fetus, and that she therefore, as an interested party, can’t be permitted to make the decision. These regulations still leave the decision in the woman’s hands – they just assume that women, as a class, can’t be trusted to inform themselves of the relevant facts and make abortion decisions thoughtfully and after moral deliberation. That assumption, made by someone who has considered it explicitly, reflects a profound contempt for women as moral decision makers.

Both of these points are exactly right. First, abortion regulations do nothing to ensure that women will only have abortions under conditions that either Patterico or Will Saletan will find acceptable (leaving aside the question of why their opinion on a highly contestable moral choice should matter more than the woman whose life is actually at stake in the first place.) Rather, as I’ve argued before, the effect of these regulatory obstacle courses is abortion-on-demand for affluent women in urban centers and highly restricted abortion for other women (even if these women are having abortions for reason Lord Saletan finds tolerable.) And the elitism here is again manifest: some women can be trusted with the decision, but others cannot…

Nine years passing have fully vindicated these arguments. Centrists seemed to believe that late term abortion laws would be simple admonitions to pregnant women not to wait too long to get an abortion, with no criminal penalties awaiting who violated it. Yet women are already being arrested and tried, convicted, and sentenced for decades-long prison terms for (alleged) self-induced late-term abortions. Neither Jennie Linn McCormack of Idaho nor Purvi Patel of Indiana had received any prenatal care, and thus lacked the knowledge of how far along they were. That didn’t stop third party authorities from targeting them for prosecution. It is horrifying to think what women experiencing pregnancy complications face when the decision over whether they get terminations or not is made by an anti-abortion hospital administrator or a nervous bureaucrat and not by themselves and their doctors.

Parental notification was another “sensible compromise” centrists urged pro-choicers to embrace. Leaving aside how divorced from reality it is as a policy, consider how anti-choicers are proposing things like appointing attorneys to fetuses and exposing judges who grant judicial bypasses.

Many of the young women who use the bypass system have been physically abused by a parent or have a mother or father who threatened to kick them out of the house if they ever got pregnant. Some are caretakers for their parents. Others are estranged from them: “Mom’s dead, Dad’s in prison, they never liked me much anyway,” is how Hays, the attorney, has described these cases.

But if the state were to start naming judges, many would become unwilling to participate in the process, Hays argues. “Some of these courthouses already refuse to hear the girls’ petitions, which is eight shades of illegal, but what are we going to do about it?” she says. “Now, if it’s going to be public which judges are doing these, you’re going to have girls with nowhere to go.”

Texas Republicans have tried before to out the judges who make these sensitive rulings. In 2005, Republican Rep. Phil King introduced a bill that would have not only publicized judges’ names and rulings, but also would have altered the law to make transcripts of the hearings available to the public. Opponents of the bill objected, noting that bypass hearing transcripts often contain enough information about a minor, such as the name of her school and a description of her home life, to make her identifiable to people who know her.

But one opponent of the bill was also concerned about the safety of the judges: Craig Enoch, a former Texas Supreme Court justice and a lifelong Republican, warned the Legislature that naming judges could place them and their families in danger from violent parents or extreme anti-abortion groups.

Parental notification isn’t exactly working out to be the “reasonable” olive branch that centrist fantasists have sold it as.

And then there’s the Patient Zero of Centrist Abortion Policy Fantasy: Bans on taxpayer funding of abortion going back to the Hyde Amendment of 1976. Centrists have been down for that all the way. In 2009 they insisted on reinforcing Hyde in the Affordable Care Act, while also insisting on granting religious organizations an exemption from the contraception mandate. Strangely, these concessions have not appeased the anti-choice lobby. Instead, they led to things like the Hobby Lobby decision and and a new Arizona law banning private insurance coverage of abortion. I’m sure that centrists would blanch at the suggestion that they have played a role in a North Carolina bill to ban funding to medical schools that train doctors to perform abortions but it’s hard to deny they have.

If abortion centrists have a single accomplishment of theirs that they can point to, that has improved and not worsened the status of reproductive health outcomes for women, I am very interested in seeing it.

Grand Old Privilege

08 Apr 2015 06:31 am
Posted by: Donna

I stayed up past 3am to watch the AZ House vote on final bills before Sine Die last Friday morning. The very last bill the Committee of the Whole was debating when it was announced that the Senate would be skedaddling, thus, not hearing any more bills was SB1339, which would have forbade so-called “ballot harvesting”. It was directed at Democratic volunteers, under spurious allegations that they are stealing thousands of ballots or forging them, or something. Democratic Reps were understandably impatient with this slander and took to the floor to say so.

Rep. Rebecca Rios (D-South Phoenix) had sharp words for her colleagues. “Politeness be damned!” was her retort to the notion that the Republicans’ motives (suppressing Democratic votes) should not be scrutinized. Naturally this led to her being admonished for “impugning the motives” of her colleagues. It was yet more of the kind of tedious civility politics that enables the powerful majority in Arizona to silence critics and demand that their obvious bullshit not be publicly exposed for what it is. You are just supposed to accept the following (ludicrous) claim at face value: That volunteers collecting ballots in Democratic-heavy precincts are probably committing fraud and that Republican lawmakers are not cynically advancing this evidence-free assertion so as to pass a law aimed at suppressing Democratic votes.

Then, on Friday afternoon following Sine Die, at an education forum in Northern Arizona, Reps Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) and Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) addressed an unfriendly crowd about education cuts. Once again, conservatives were miffed at not being shown deference (by people who are not required to follow legislative protocol) and their stated intentions not being treated as if they were magic:

So when an FUSD parent walked up to the microphone, decried how college tuition rates in Arizona have increased 80 percent in the past five years, and criticized Thorpe and Allen for providing tax cuts to corporations, Allen snapped.

“You’re asking me, sir, because I have the power to go after other people’s money,” Allen said. “You want me to go after other people’s money because you think it justifies (it) because we’re going to give it to kids for their education. It would have to be done very carefully because, you know, go look up socialist countries.”

The crowd gasped but Allen was not finished.

“Oh yeah?” she said, challenging the audience. “You can’t be polite about what I say but I have to be polite about what you say. You’re all here to beat us up because you’re upset that we just don’t raise taxes.”

Allen also took a few jabs at NAU and the Arizona Board of Regents by telling students they should ask NAU administrators where they are spending money. At one point, she implied NAU spends its funds on cars and credit cards.

I’m fairly certain most people who were in that room have at least a glancing familiarity with tax-averse right wing economic dogma. They were rejecting it, and this was considered impolite to Rep. Allen. Meanwhile she expected her own insinuations about the motives of people who want more funding for schools (socialist! wanting to take “other people’s”* money!) and of the ethics administrators of colleges (bad!) to be found acceptable and inoffensive.

In other words, pure privilege on display.

In other words, they demand the constant pretense on your part that their Emperors are fully clothed.

*The unending attacks on school funding strike me as very similar to right wing objections to any coverage (public or private insurance) of reproductive health care. Once again, there is the insistence that “taxpayers” shouldn’t have to pay for a certain thing, in this case public education. The obvious implication is that students in the public education system are not in the care of people who also pay taxes. And since women are seen as the universal caretakers of children, this is no surprise. It looks like conservatives are framing public education funding as (non-working bon bon eating) women grasping for public dollars. They must think the single moms doing all those menial jobs they take for granted are a mirage.

Just because their pants are in a perpetual state of fire doesn’t mean we should assume everyone else is dishonest

02 Apr 2015 06:17 am
Posted by: Donna

Arizona political consultant Barrett Marson is not the first conservative to make the strangely candid admission that he could not be trusted with ballots while advocating for SB1339, a striker bill that bans so-called “ballot harvesting” – that is volunteer canvassers collecting mail-in ballots by voters and delivering them to the county recorder. I appreciate the (rare) candor, guys. It’s refreshing, but your slipping up and letting us know what you would do with Democratic voter ballots is not a good reason to disallow collecting ballots, thus cutting voters off from a convenient way of getting their votes counted.

Sen. Don Shooter (R) waded far into bold prevarication territory by changing and wildly exaggerating his apocryphal firsthand account of “voter fraud” in Yuma County. Per Progress Arizona:

Shooter’s most recent distortion occurred on Wednesday when he testified before the House Appropriations Committee that members of several unions collected “5,500 some odd” Permanent Early Voting List requests for early ballots in Yuma during his first run for office, turning them in just before the deadline. Shooter then told committee members that “only 2,000” of those requests were valid. His testimony can be seen here. House Minority Leader Eric Meyer quickly pointed out to Shooter that his anecdote was not germane because his SB1339 criminalizes helping voters turn in early ballots and doesn’t address early ballot requests at all.

Shooter’s story was not only irrelevant, it was also wrong.

Francisco Heredia, executive director of One Arizona, led the 2010 door-to-door GOTV effort in Yuma as then head of Mi Familia Vota. Heredia confirmed that his canvassers turned in about 3,000 Permanent Early Voter List requests not 5,500. And those requests were collected and handed in over the course of several weeks, not all at the last minute. Of those, about 900 or 45 percent, were ultimately invalidated by the Yuma County Recorder, in most cases because the voters were already on the Permanent Early Voter List. They were simply duplicate requests, which are easily caught and corrected by election officials, Heredia said…

…This wasn’t the first time Shooter repeated his tall tale. Earlier this session he told an even taller version. During the February 18 Senate Government hearing on an earlier iteration of Shooter’s bill, he claimed that the 2010 Yuma GOTV effort turned in more than 5,000 VOTES at the deadline, not early ballot requests. Watch here as Sen. Martin Quezada checks Shooter and forces him to admit his story is not true.

Shooter would have gotten away with it were it not for those damn meddling kids and their internet archives! While I fully believe that guys like Marson are just cynically peddling “voter fraud” myths purely to suppress Democratic votes, I also think that guys like Shooter are invested in the belief that liberal activists must be engaging in dishonesty because certain conservatives (like him) are. It’s paranoid projection, which is not a sound basis for policy since the vast majority of people are honest about important civic duties like voting.

Mollycoddling right wingers is insulting to them and does no favor to the rest of us.

30 Mar 2015 07:13 am
Posted by: Donna

Conservative AZ Republic columnist Doug MacEachern has a habit of being willing to die on the weirdest hills, such as the time he defended a spurious anonymous complaint harassing the executive director of a pro-choice organization last November. More recently, he chided Democratic Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) for tweeting and others for reporting a direct quote of his colleague Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) proclaiming that she would like for there to be mandatory church attendance.

First, MacEachern set the table with misty nostalgia for past lawmakers from Tucson who were so pleasant. Then he expressed somber disappointment that Farley, who held such promise to continue the tradition of being “a good person to be around”, has failed to do so.

Then MacEachern called Steve Farley a jerk.

So why was he such a jerk to Sylvia Allen?

That’s so civil of you, Doug!

Allen, a Navajo County Republican from Snowflake, has been in the news. Perhaps you heard. Every news source in town, pretty much, reported on Allen’s meandering whimsy in a committee hearing about “how we get back to a moral rebirth in this country.”

Allen said she didn’t know how that moral rebirth might happen because “we are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have.”

And then she delivered the money comment that we in the media ran with like streakers on spring break*: “Probably we should be debating a bill that would require every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we could get back…”

That “require every American to attend a church” comment, on its own, could be construed as a joke or not. The entire context of her remarks at that hearing, plus a subsequent interview with Arizona Capitol Times where Allen called her comment “flippant” but further pressed the need for an at least culturally-enforced compulsory religion laid bare her intentions fully.

“People prayed, people went to church,” she said in explaining her views.
“I remember on Sundays the stores were closed,” Allen said. “The biggest thing is religion was kicked out of our public places, out of our schools.”

MacEachern scolded Allen’s critics for picking on her – “inarticulate”, according to his tweet about it – statement. But there was nothing inarticulate about her statements at all! I fully understood Sylvia Allen’s meaning as did everyone else who heard it. Allen thinks that lack of practicing religion, enforced by government dictate or social pressure, has led to a collapse in public morals. I happen to think she’s wrong about that and find her inference that I’m incapable of morality because I’m not religious to be insulting and more than a little frightening. I don’t see why Sylvia Allen, who is a grown woman in a position of authority, cannot handle my (and others) saying so.

But Doug MacEachern does treat Sen. Allen as a fragile flower unable to deal with criticism:

We know her as a lawmaker whose primary issue this session has been reforming public-employee disclosure laws – a change prompted by her son-in-law, a former jail detention officer, who got caught in flagrante delecto trading cigarettes for oral sex. This was her going-home bill.

But, really, that creates an image of Machiavellian complexity that does not do Sen. Allen justice. She is an intensely religious product of an isolated LDS village, Snowflake, whose views and values perfectly reflect a most sheltered upbringing. Yes, she does believe the Earth is, roughly, 6,000 years old.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Allen is pure, unadulterated rube. In her perfect world – which is what she clearly was drawing upon during her whimsy about mandatory religion – resolving social disputes in church is given wisdom.

As someone who disagrees with Sylvia Allen on every issue possible, I find myself having to defend her from MacEachern’s disgusting paternalism. Senator Allen can easily speak for herself and defend all of her positions. She is no rube and there are people – male and female – who agree with her about the age of the earth and numerous other topics. And they can be found in every single nook and cranny of the United States, from rural Arizona to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They aren’t all “rubes” by any stretch. Some, like Ted Cruz, have Ivy League educations. Right wing authoritarians choose to believe ridiculous things and to ignore or discredit all evidence that refutes them. They are free to stop doing that at any time.

While there is a distinct whiff of sexism in MacEachern (and others) rushing out to defend Allen as merely being “awkward” or “inarticulate” in her choice of words, when she was neither, there is a maddening general tendency across the political spectrum to treat right wing authoritarians as if they are these helpless, addlepated creatures who know not what they do. Meanwhile, “liberal” and all its iterations have been made into a dirty word and the sneering contempt with which people like Sylvia Allen and Doug MacEachern treat liberals and Democratic voters continues unabated. We’ve handled conservatives smack talking about us all this time; they can surely endure being directly quoted by a colleague when they say something patently absurd and offensive in a Senate committee hearing.

What MacEachern’s snit over Farley tweeting about Allen does demonstrate is what I others have been saying about “civility” for years: It’s mostly about powerful people protecting their tender sensibilities by telling everyone else to shut up.


Farm Animals 1 Women 0 in Arizona. Woman sentenced to decades in jail for stillbirth in Indiana

30 Mar 2015 06:06 am
Posted by: Donna

Bad day for women’s rights on Monday.

People in the Arizona animal rights community are happy, and rightly so, with Governor Doug Ducey’s veto of a bill straight out of Big Ag that would loosen animal cruelty restrictions. Yay for farm animals! Boo for women, though, since Ducey also signed SB1318, that idiotic pile of misogynistic garbage that turns women’s own damn money into “taxpayer dollars” and requires doctors to inform women about some hooey about “abortion reversal” concocted by anti-choicers.


Meanwhile, our right wing friends in Indiana continue to be horrible. On Monday, Purvi Patel, an Indian immigrant, was sentenced to 20 years in prison (a 41 year term, served concurrently). She had been convicted of both feticide and infanticide, charges which many believed to be contradictory. I’ll let Dr. Jen Gunter explain how it went down:

For those unfamiliar with the case Ms. Patel received no prenatal care and was an unknown gestational age when she delivered at home. She thought she had delivered very prematurely and that the baby was stillborn. Not knowing what to do, ill from bleeding, and psychologically affected from delivering unassisted in her bathroom she deposited what she thought was a pre-viable stillbirth in the trash.

Ms. Patel continued bleeding and so sought care at the hospital and what happened next should frighten everyone. After determining she had been pregnant the medical staff called the police and one of the OB/GYNs, Dr. McGuire, abandoned her to search with the police. Because that’s what doctors do, leave patients and play junior CSI. When the body was found Dr. McGuire told the officers he believed the fetus was 30 weeks, even though he had no qualification to make that determination. These actions starting the ball rolling as a potential homicide.

Dr. McGuire, a pro-life OB/GYN, was of course wrong. The autopsy indicted 23-24 weeks which is borderline viability and a gestational age when parents can make the decision to resuscitate on not. That didn’t matter to the prosecutor who either thought 6-7 weeks made little difference (it make all the difference in the world) or didn’t care. The fact that there was no proof Ms. Patel purchased or took abortifacients also didn’t matter.

Legal abuses aside, let’s focus on the behavior of Ms. Patel’s medical team. They simply handed over her records to the police while she was in surgery. When Ms, Patel awoke from her anesthetic she was almost immediately confronted by the police. She had lost a significant amount of blood and was incapacitated enough that she could not have driven a car.

I’ve had the police show up several times to interview inpatients and when I felt the patient wasn’t capable I told the police they would have to wait or come back or discuss the matter with the hospital’s legal counsel. My authority to make this determination was never questioned. If I wouldn’t let my patient drive a car then she isn’t medically fit to speak with the police. I can’t even fathom turning over medical records. That’s why there are court orders and hospital lawyers and medical correspondence departments.

But what of HIPAA, the medical privacy law? How can a doctor or nurse call the police, divulge your medical history, and then simply turn your records over without repercussions? HIPAA is civil so the best a wronged patient can do is sue the hospital and the personnel involved. You might win, but it’s a bit of a hollow victory if you’re now facing 20 years in jail.

Clearly at least some of the people treating Patel were more eager to get the prosecution underway than to care for the patient. The local coverage of the story, from what I understand, focused luridly on “she threw the baby in a dumpster!” and Patel’s alleged lack of enthusiasm for the pregnancy. You can see how little sympathy there is for Patel in the comments to this article. It’s not hard to understand how anti-choicers have been so successful from reading them.

The charges themselves were contradictory and based on flimsy evidence.

Prosecutors based the feticide charge on text messages police found on Patel’s phone. They say the messages show she talked to a friend about buying abortion drugs online. But the toxicologist didn’t find any trace of those drugs in her body or in the fetus’ body. And police found no evidence that she actually purchased the drugs.

Meanwhile, the prosecution still pursued the original charge of child neglect, which would mean the fetus had been born alive. Prosecutors tried to prove that the fetus took a breath after birth. They hired a local pathologist who tried to test this by placing the fetal lungs in water to see if they floated. Patel’s defense attorney argued this kind of test is scientifically bogus, and the fetus was too young to survive on its own.

The float test was antiquated nonsense, since gas typically inflates the tissues of corpses, which is why drowning victims float to the top of bodies of water after a few days unless they’ve been weighted down. The charge of feticide relies on hearsay and the thought crime of not enthusiastically welcoming pregnancy. But it was enough for the jury to convict on both counts because the real trial conducted against Patel was about whether or not she was a “good” woman. This speaks to why the problem of anti-choice laws isn’t the anti-choicers themselves, who are indeed scary people getting themselves into all kinds of positions of authority. The problem is everyone else. People who aren’t even invested in misogyny are far too willing to give misogynists every benefit of the doubt and women none.

Man, when I’m right, I am right!

27 Mar 2015 07:04 am
Posted by: Donna

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana

The Indiana Assembly passed, and Governor Mike Pence signed, a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” similar to Arizona’s SB1062 from last year, which was vetoed by then-Governor Jan Brewer under the threat of more boycotts of a state still reeling from boycotts sparked by anti-immigrant SB1070 in 2010. I mostly agree with WaPo’s Hunter Schwarz’ analysis on how it is playing out differently in Indiana.

While Indiana has begun to feel the heat from businesses (and the NCAA, which is hosting the Final Four in Indianapolis next week), it doesn’t face two particular pressures Arizona did: (1) hosting a Super Bowl the following year and (2) a pre-existing narrative that it’s an intolerant state. Arizona already lost Super Bowl hosting duties once before, in 1993, because it didn’t recognize Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as a state holiday. And coupled with the furor over SB 1070, the controversial immigration enforcement law Brewer signed in 2010, the state was on the verge of becoming known for intolerance, not a good thing for business and tourism. Brewer said she vetoed the bill because it would have created more problems than it solved, but it didn’t hurt that the state’s economy also could have suffered.

Schwarz did miss one crucial thing, though. Indiana’s bill is exactly like Arizona’s except that it has one additional important provision (emphasis mine).

Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.

Last year when the Chamber of Commerce types put the kibosh on SB1062, I pointed out a couple of times that one of the less-noticed reasons for doing so was that the bill gave any individual standing to pursue a legal remedy if s/he felt forced to violate deeply-held religious beliefs. That class of individuals would include employees, say, of hotels or restaurants refusing to serve gay couples or anyone else who were fired for that. Looks like the business lobby got that little problem taken care of. (This is similar to – and I’m just going to mention this for the 629,473rd time – how the AZ Chamber cut a deal with Russell Pearce in 2010 to strip employer enforcement out of SB1070 in exchange for their “neutrality” on it and a sure path to GOP victories in that year’s midterm elections.)

I also predicted that when SB1062 came back that the proponents would shrewdly stay away from attacking LGBT rights, which people are becoming increasingly comfortable with, and would instead emphasize the pressing need to let nosy nellies deny women reproductive health care in their own damn insurance plans. A new iteration of SB1062 hasn’t emerged in Arizona (yet) but here’s a snippet of Governor Pence’s statement on his signing of Indiana’s bill (again, emphasis mine).

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.

“One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Pence is too decorous to say it but he means the slut pills. The God-botherers have clearly learned their lesson from the SB1062 debacle and (with the Hobby Lobby wind at their back) are putting slut-punishing at the forefront of all their efforts in the hopes of making the public forget wedding cakes and think instead of irresponsible floozies attempting to get out of their childbearing duties. It just might work.