Reproductive Rights Update – The Week in Review

This year’s spate of abuses in state legislatures eclipses any other in recent memory. Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, North Dakota, Virginia, North Carolina… the dearth of responsible lawmakers is apparently a congenital disease spreading like a plague throughout the country.

In an era where we still have to have commissions at the international level to discuss systematic abuse against women based on religious beliefs, we have an eve more fundamental puzzlement: Why are we still arguing over whether a woman has a right to determine the use of her own body? Can you imagine the results if governments attempted to control the use of men’s bodies? The right to decide when and with whom to have children, whether to risk her life and health to reproduce, and to decide the number and spacing of children is a fundamental human right denied to women in many places, including the United States. Freedom does not apply to a pregnant woman.

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Last Friday, in an astonishing moment of humane clarity, a federal judge in New York  ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make “morning-after” emergency contraception pills available without a prescription to all females of reproductive age. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman said the FDA’s rejection of requests to remove age restrictions to obtain the pill was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” Denial of emergency contraception dooms underage girls to an even grimmer future than to adult women who find themselves inadvertently pregnant. Judge Korman blasted the policies of the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services that deny emergency contraception to girls, saying that the policy was “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”

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This week, we look at Alabama’s war on women. Alabama’s governor signed a bill into law yesterday that makes abortions much more expensive and much harder to come by in that state. Apparently concerned that there is some assembly-line abortion provider somewhere that fails to change his latex gloves before moving to the next patient, Alabama now mandates that only licensed physicians can dispense abortifacient drugs and that facilities that provide abortion services have to meet the same medical standards as a surgical center. Furthermore, doctors providing abortion services have to have admitting privileges at a hospital. Existing abortion providers say they will have to invest a lot of money into unnecessary mandated facilities, relocate, or close down altogether because of the medically superfluous burdens imposed by the law. But, that was the whole point of passing excessively expensive, burdensome, and medically unnecessary requirements for abortion providers. Alabama social services will soon have to absorb increased numbers of poor women with children they cannot support.

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Remember Savita Halappanavar? She was the 31 year old Indian dentist who died when Irish doctors refused to abort the fetus that was killing her last fall. She was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying when she went to Galway University Hospital on October 21. Because a fetal heartbeat could still be detected, Irish doctors did not abort the dying fetus, so both mother and fetus died. Witnesses at inquest into Halappanavar’s death this week dispute some of the facts as to why the abortion was denied her. During evidence on the opening day Monday, her husband Praveen said his Hindu wife repeatedly requested that doctors terminate the pregnancy when it was clear the miscarriage was inevitable, but they refused so long as a fetal heartbeat could be detected. The couple’s friend, Mrudala Vasepalli, and Ann Maria Burke, midwife manager at the hospital, corroborated Praveen’s testimony that the couple was told that since Ireland is a Catholic country, abortion would never be permitted. Dr. Katherine Astbury, the consulting obstetrician on Halappanavar’s emergency medical treatment, testified yesterday that the statement about Ireland’s Catholic ethos was never made, but because doctors believed there was “a small prospect the foetus would be viable” she could not terminate the pregnancy that was killing her patient. Dr. Astbury conceded that Irish “law does not permit termination [of pregnancy] even if there is no prospect of viability of foetus”.

Ireland’s abortion laws are under heavy attack because of this case, which has received significant international attention. Reforms may be forthcoming.

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Gov. Sam Brownbeck of Kansas received about 1600 signed petitionson Tuesday, all asking him not to sign the sweeping anti-abortion legislation just passed by the legislature. The petitions have religious supporters. Rev. Joshua Longbottom of Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, Kansas, said legislators and other religious denominations opposed to abortion should not restrict the right to abortion of people who don’t share their religious views. “I believe these women are the best moral agents for making those decisions without government intrusion,” Longbottom said. “The more difficult that abortions become the more young women’s lives will be put in danger.” More anti-abortion legislation was passed by the Kansas legislature last week, including a bill that declares life to begin at fertilization, and a ban on abortions performed solely because of the baby’s sex. The probability that arch-neoconservative, fundamentalist Brownbeck will actually listen? Zero.

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Arkansas is following the ill-fated and ill-advised lead of its neighbor Texas in denying funding to Planned Parenthood, since PP is well known for providing assembly-line abortions at its drive-through abortion clinics. Rant follows.

We all hear that Planned Parenthood provides abortions, but what about the other 97% of its work? Screening for lots of cancers, including testicular and prostate cancers (yes, PP provides inexpensive MEN’S health services, too), colon, cervical, ovarian and uterine, and breast cancers; physicals for general health as well as athletic participation; routine reproductive health check-ups for both men and women; making birth control inexpensive and widely available; STD screening and treatment; male infertility treatment and counseling; body image counseling; testing for anemia, diabetes, thyroid disorders; help for stopping smoking; vaccines for things like tetanus and the flu; screening for high blood pressure; vasectomies; treatment for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation; diagnosis and treatment of urinary tract infections; jock itch treatment; relationship counseling; diagnosis and treatment of yeast infections; sex counseling; and – yes – sex education. Because apparently there are still some troglodytes out there who think sex isn’t normal, natural, or something people have been doing since, well, since before they were even people. Planned Parenthood spends less than 3% of its resources on abortion counseling and services. Whether or not you want or need an abortion or emergency contraception, the notion of cutting off all its other services is not only ridiculous, it’s irresponsible – especially in an era where health care is expensive and hard to come by. /Rant.

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Judges in several states have struck down or temporarily blocked laws that outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain. Predictably, that doesn’t stop the Rick Perrys of the world. Despite the fact that the state would be inviting litigation, Texas is considering the same burdensome ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation that 20% of its sister states have enacted. Unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, none of these laws will stand. Of course, the anti-choice bunch is aiming for Roe.

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Alaska is wrestling with a somewhat different issue with respect to abortion. While state Medicaid funds are not to be used for “elective” abortions, the state legislature is struggling to define when an abortion is not deemed “elective.” The bill defines medically necessary abortions as those which needed to avoid serious risk to a woman’s life or physical health. Even where the fetus and mother are healthy, pregnancies resulting from rape or incest fall under the “medically necessary” category. While I certainly see the humane nature of aborting a healthy fetus that has resulted from rape, I fail to see how it is “medically” necessary.

 

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Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://yrif.org Joel

    I made a joke about putting aerosol cheese on communion wafers.

    If we can’t mock people who believe that crackers can be magically converted into the flesh of a 2000-year-old, half-human dead guy, then the terrorists have already won.

    As many pointed out in the previous thread, “blaspheming” means exercising precisely the kinds of freedom of speech that many religious types would like to ban under the guise of “hate speech” or “religious tolerance” or something else equally odious.

    That alone is a good reason for doing it.

    Also, it’s fun.

  • Bleatmop

    Considering (as I understand it) that this day is a reaction to the UN making it a crime to blaspheme, I think that is something worthy of reacting to with anger. Also, just saying that God does not exist is blasphemy in many people’s mind that I know.

  • Valdyr

    I think the campus group I’m part of (Kent State Freethinkers) did pretty well. We decided to combine Blasphemy Day and Banned Books Week into a general “Free Speech Day”. We had a table with candy (of course) and plenty of Post-It notes and posterboards, encouraging people to exercise their free speech by writing whatever they wanted on them. We also had printouts of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons with a bottle of Elmer’s Glue and hobby shop googly eyes. No Muslims came to the table, though… I like to think that if they had, even they would have been unable to keep from grinning at the sheer silliness of Googly-Eyes Muhammad and his bomb-turban.

    The only voice of opposition we got was a middle-aged religious guy who showed up towards the end, stared in disbelief for awhile, and finally started talking to our club leader about the table being an example of atheists’ pervasive disrespect for society and the collapse of (religiously derived, of course) moral values in society. It took him less than five minutes to bring up Hitler–I was keeping track.

    A bunch of new people signed up for our e-mail listserv, so that’s nice. Our posters are still torn down wherever and whenever they’re put up, though. Apparently even a generic poster with a picture of a sunset or a galaxy and info about the group’s URL and meeting times is too offensive for some people.

  • http://www.furaffinity.net/user/kilre/ Kilre

    If we have no message to send — no way to uplift people — they’re not going to drop their faith just because we mock it.

    Blasphemy Day should not be about netting some deconversions. Far from it.

    It should open the door to arguments on the freedom to speak, to criticize, to satirize. Organized religions often think they’re above this sort of commentary, and Blasphemy Day is just the sort of publicized event to remind them we’ve not forgotten.

    Of course, most of my campus was not familiar with the Jyllands-Posten incident, so the message we hoped to send was lost on the Christians that just wanted to pray at us.

  • http://www.mycolleaguesareidiots.com/ Jason

    It was a quite a fun evening for me. I spent the evening blipping songs both appropriate and innapropriate, to the #blasphemyday hashtag on twitter, and laughing uproariously at the growing stream of blasphemy trickling in.

    http://blip.fm/drunkenmadman

    Unfortunately, Sydney Atheists did’t really have the opportunity to do any IRL action, but if this is made an annual event, we’ll be on it for sure next year

  • stephanie

    I announced that the Raiders were a lousy football team and neither the management nor the players cared one whit about the people in the Oakland area. Since I live in the east bay, CA that’s about as heretical as you can get.

  • Andy S

    Celebrated Blasphemy Day and Banned Books Week simultaneously by reading The Satanic Verses.

  • Reagan Hawkins

    How did I celebrate? I posted this on Facebook:

    Reagan Hawkins thinks 1Timothy 2:9 (KJV) “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;” is a little much. I’m ok with women dressing… in bright colors, wearing jewelry and braiding their hair. You go ahead and dress up ladies! Don’t let what Paul wrote centuries ago stop you from looking nice! :)

    and got 90 comments. NINETY!

  • http://sunombreenvano.blogspot.com/ Diego, El Mapache

    I wore a tshirt that says “I’m not anti-religion, just anti-hypocrisy” at college and work. It’s not that offensive, but makes people think. If someone commented about it, I told them about this day and what was it about. It was kind of surprising that many didn’t know about the danish cartoons and how the muslims went apeshit.

    I also blogged about it in both English and Spanish.

  • Stan

    I bought a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth last night and carried it around with me at school today. One of my teachers grabbed it and looked it over while I had it sitting on my desk, but she just handed it back and said (in a reasonably sincere tone) “That looks really interesting”

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    I blasphemed on my blog. I had no intention or illusions of converting anyone. I was merely expressing my opinion about gods.

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    The Society of Non-Theists at Purdue put up a bunch of blank posters and encouraged people to write/draw whatever they wanted on them. Hooray for free speech! It was a great success.

  • Epistaxis

    Our student group showed Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

  • AlexP

    At Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania a couple of friends and I stood outside asking people to take a verbal Blasphemy Challenge. We got about 35 people to sign our “I Took the Blasphemy Challenge” poster. It provoked some good and respectful discussion with both theists and atheists. I consider it a successful day.

    Oh and I found out today that Repent America is going to be visiting campus this week. I think I might go out and preach FSM (there’s really no point in engaging in rational debate with members of that organization, so I might as well just have some fun).

  • Adam

    At Kent State our group had a combination Banned Books Week and Blasphemy Day celebration we simply called Free Speech Day. We had 6 big pieces of poster board and markers and, for three hours, we had random people who walked by in the student center write whatever they wanted on the boards with markers. It was great. So people talked about hating their classes, some religious stuff and some people just putting up their frat greek letters, and some people just writing profanity because they could. Everyone was fairly cordial and loved it.

  • DreamDevil

    But… but… I LIKE to piss off religious people!!! It give me a sense of empowerment.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I pretty much just denied the Holy Spirit. Again.

    Oh, and I pointed out a logical flaw in religious belief. And I got into an argument with an agnostic.

    I know. Weak. Totally weak.

  • Sue

    I was quite excited about Blasphemy Day until I looked at this Blasphemy day website, which I felt came across as a bit ‘let’s bash Islam’ in places and rather soured the whole idea for me.

    I did tell a joke about the Exodus though.

  • http://humanistottawaweb.wordpress.com/ Marlowe

    Another local sceptics group had something planned, so we had decided to attend/support their event rather than competing with one of our own. Unfortunately, life happens and we found out on September 29 that their event was no longer happening.

    So after franticly e-mailing everyone in the Humanist Association of Ottawa, we managed to get five of us downtown. Four of us wore the “there’s probably no god” bus ad shirts and one pinned that famous quote by Epicurus to the front of his shirt, and a sign that said “Jesus says he loves me, but he never calls” to the back. Thanks to the wonderful HAO president, we also had stickers (some had the bus ad message, while others had things like “Blasphemy is a victimless crime”).

    We sat in the food court of a mall for a while and just chatted. We weren’t approached, but we could hear groups sitting around us starting to talk about God and their own beliefs (stimulating discussions, yay!). Later, we went to a bar and had a fun time. While there, we struck up a conversion with a couple of guys who had come for the live music. They were very interested in learning about the UN blasphemy resolution business and in hearing that there was a Humanist group in Ottawa. One of them said he is a member of a local debate society and will be proposing debates on some of the topics we’d brought up.

    As we were paying our bill, the owner of the bar read our shirts and gave us one of those nod-winks.

    We definitely didn’t want to be evangelizing or force ourselves on people, so that limited what we were able to do with the little prep time we had. Still, we got people talking and asking questions, we got to explain what Blasphemy Day is all about, and we had a great time in the company of fellow Atheists. All round success, I say!

  • Peregrine

    I won’t be an asshat. It’ not in my nature.

    Oh, sure, I’ll stumble ass-backwards and say something stupid or insulting or offensive accidentally every once in a while. I’ll jump to conclusions. I’ll rant occasionally. I’ll speak without thinking. We all do that. I’m only human, and freedom of speech protects me from my own clumsiness.

    But I can’t in good conscience deliberately offend, deliberately show blatant disregard for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding, and then ask for those considerations in return.

    If I am to be an advocate for acceptance and understanding, then I won’t disregard the qualities I admire, and participate in such a pointless exercise for nothing more than shock value.

    They may hate me. But if they hate me for something I’m not, that’s their fault. If they hate me for something I am, it’s mine. And nothing offends them more than not living up to their prejudices.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Thomas Verenna: “Blasphemy Day has no real message other than to say “We’re here, now STFU and watch while…

    Mr. Verenna is an effing moron. He thinks blasphemers would be telling anyone they had to shut up? Need any help constructing that straw man?

  • Justin

    Greetings from Ohio, everyone! I just recently came out as an atheist, and have been checking out the blogs on Atheist Nexus. But I’ve been visiting this site every day for a while now. It’s refreshing to know that there really are so many other atheists out there, saying in public what I’ve been thinking to myself for so long. So Here’s a tip o’ my hat to Hemant and everyone else who has the courage to count themselves within the most distrusted minority in the US. Kudos!

    I tried posting something that I wrote for Blasphemy Day here yesterday (my first time posting), but it never went through. Not sure why. I also made a couple basic comics (about an adult atheist who’s exposed to the bible for the first time) which demonstrate why they need to get ’em while they’re young. But I have no blog to post it on, so nobody has really seen it yet.

  • http://blog.cordialdeconstruction.com Karl Withakay

    Look. I– I’d had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was, ‘That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.’

  • Justin

    Here’s what I wrote for Blasphemy Day. I was originally going to make a video to put on YouTube, but I didn’t want to join just to upload one single video. It was actually inspired by a TV commercial for a gastric bypass procedure. But I think it could make a good commercial for atheism. Let me know what you think. Maybe one of you could make a video of it. Here it is:

    If I dropped the weight,
    I wouldn’t feel so guilty
    about just being myself.

    If I dropped the weight,
    my friends & family
    might respect me more.

    If I dropped the weight,
    I might find that the people
    that I call friends aren’t
    really all that friendly.

    If I dropped the weight,
    I might not have such a
    difficult time trusting
    the new people that I’m
    introduced to every day.

    If I dropped the weight,
    I would have more time
    to live life, and have fun.

    If I dropped the weight,
    I could look at myself
    naked in the mirror,
    without feeling ashamed.

    If I dropped the weight,
    I might be able to go
    through life without
    feeling like I’m
    constantly being judged.

    If your full potential
    as a Human Being is
    held back by religion,
    drop the weight of faith.

  • DSimon

    Bigger than Jesus. And with better rhythm.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape
  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    If we have no message to send — no way to uplift people — they’re not going to drop their faith just because we mock it.

    I think you miss the point of Blasphemy Day. It is not to try to get people to drop their faith.

    As I said in a reply to the other thread, as long as criticism of religion is not acceptable in polite company, I have no reservations about setting aside one day a year to engage in the most brash over-the-top criticism of religion we can think of, and to do so with pride. THAT is the point of Blasphemy Day — to show that we will not be intimidated into limits on what is and isn’t fair game for harsh criticism.

    If the suggestion was to intentionally engage in blasphemy every day, then I’d agree with you. Absolutely it is important to show people that atheism is a positive humanist philosophy, and we should spend many, many days each year trying to further this goal.

    But it’s also important to show people that we can say whatever the fuck we want without the sky falling in, and that no matter how much they try to make us feel ashamed, we won’t. Spending one day a year furthering that goal? I don’t see the problem…

    (Oh, and to answer the question, what I did on Blasphemy Day was draw another “lolgodz” cartoon, as well as engage in some “blasphemy” against good ol’ Chuck Darwin, just to prove that nothing is sacred.)

  • http://jessicasideways.com Jessica Sideways

    I have to admit, I did nothing really special but next year…

  • http://smokesignalsonawindyday.blogspot.com/ Injun Trouble

    RE: the Aerosol Cheese Comment….

    Can I put it on a triscuit instead of the standard communion wafer? High-fiber Jesus rules!!! ;op

  • quixotic

    Reading the two posts and comment threads on blasphemy day here at friendly atheist makes me wonder if Mr. Mehta gets it at all…

  • http://naturalpond.blogspot.com village1diot

    I didn’t do anything for Blasphemy Day. But I do enjoy ridiculing religion on an almost daily basis. I don’t need a special day for it either.

    I’m not trying to convert anyone, never have, never will. If they can’t see how stupid their beliefs are, then tough cookies. IMO, they have it coming and I don’t feel bad at all.

  • http://existentialatheist.blogspot.com/ Joel Klinepeter

    Campus Atheists and Agnostics at IPFW in Fort Wayne, IN let IPFW students write whatever their thoughts were on 6 poster boards. The comments ranged from “Fuck God” to Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson quotes to “God rules suck my dick” and “F.U. Atheists, Jesus is my savior”.

    My account of the event with pics is @ http://existentialatheist.blogspot.com/

  • muggle

    I didn’t know of its existence but since I blaspheme every day, I’m good.

    That said, why in heck shouldn’t you blaspheme without a good reason? Gimme a break on that one, Hemant. Like I should be careful not to sin because someone else’s sky daddy thinks it’s a sin?

    Besides as the saying goes, I’m doing my best to piss off the religious right. It’s like being called a bitch. I know I’m doing something right.