Archive for January, 2012

The Politics of Cancer: Komen Pulls Grants to Planned Parenthood

January 31, 2012

An AP story today announced that Susan G. Komen will no longer provide what has historically been upwards of half a million dollars in annual grant money to Planned Parenthood for the use of breast cancer screenings and other breast-related health issues.  Komen says that the decision was based on Planned Parenthood’s recent investigation by Congress – which was spear-headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., in what is largely seen as a politically-motivated move. The investigation calls for twelve years of documents in exhaustive detail, ostensibly to dig up billing issues and cases where federal money was, in fact, used to fund abortions.

Sen. Henry Waxman, D-CA and Rep. Dianna DeGette, D-CO, of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations wrote a pointed letter to Stearns in which they state:

We question the basis for the investigation and question whether Planned Parenthood is being singled out as part of Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men.

[…]

We are aware of no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request of Planned Parenthood. The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood and report publicly on their findings. These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation.

Planned Parenthood believes Komen’s decision was simply a cave to pressure from pro-life groups who reveal their belief – in yet another un-surprising instance – that life in the womb trumps all other life/death/health issues. Period.

Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, whose wife is currently battling breast cancer, commented:

“It sounds almost trite, going through this with Betsi, but cancer doesn’t care if you’re pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people’s politics.”

Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood has performed nearly 170,000 breast exams that were funded by Komen grants. How many low-income women will be turned away in the next five?

I haven’t yet found a site that organizes petitions, but I’ll post when I do. The Planned Parenthood Action Center might be a good place to start (at the time of this posting both PPFA and Komen sites have no information.)

In the meantime, you can always donate.

Update: New Hampshire Drops One of its Domestic Violence Bills

January 28, 2012

HB 1608, legislation that would have weakened the power of law enforcement to detain or arrest violators of protective orders, was dropped in the House  after the bill’s sponsor, Representative Skip Reilly (R, Grafton 8), first bowed out of the hearing at the eleventh hour because he was out of town. Then, when the hearing was rescheduled to accommodate him, he simply failed to show up, forcing the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to apologize to the  dozens who had traveled to testify against the bill on both occasions.

When asked why he failed to show up, he told WMUR’s Amy Coveno that he “wasn’t prepared to testify about the legislation.” That’s a legitimate reason to be a two-time no-show? If you did that in any other job, you’d be fired.

The intent of the bill remains a mystery, however. When asked about it, Reilly gamely passes the buck and explains he sponsored the bill at the request of Plymouth prosecutor Gabriel Nizetick. Nizetick quickly returns the buck by saying that his original intent was completely lost in the wording of the bill. He explains that

he was trying to bring regulations currently on the books in compliance with state law, saying recent amendments lumped civil disputes in with criminal infractions.

Civil disputes? Mistaken for domestic violence?

Although opponents are relieved that the bill was dropped, Amanda Grady of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, expresses concern about other domestic violence bills proposed this session, including HB 1581 – sponsored by Rep. Daniel Itse (R), and Rep. George Lambert (R) – which prevents officers from arresting anyone on domestic violence charges unless they witness the assault directly.

Packaging vs. Motive: Greewald examines recent human rights “successes”

January 26, 2012

Glen Greewald has an insightful piece on Salon today. He examines the pruported human rights motives behind military action, against actual improvements in the lives of civilians impacted by the violence. Specifically, he cites human rights violations of officials in post-Gaddaffi Libya. Doctors without Borders recently stopped work there in protest of ongoing, and apparantly santioned abuse, lawless detentions, torture, and medical neglect.  A doctor with the french Medecins Sans Frontieres explains:

“Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations have expressed similar concerns. Greenwald compares this to our human rights “victory” following the fall of Saddam Hussein. He notes:

Obviously, the Gadaffi and Saddam regimes were horrible human rights abusers. But[…]one cannot celebrate a human rights success based merely on the invasion and overthrow of a bad regime; it is necessary to know what one has replaced them with.

Ironically, those who are the loudest advocates for these wars and then prematurely celebrate the outcome (and themselves) bear significant responsibility for these subsequent abuses: by telling the world that the invasion was a success, it causes the aftermath — the most important part — to be neglected. There is nothing noble about invading and bombing a country into regime change if what one ushers in is mass instability along with tyranny and abuse by a different regime. [Em. mine. Links, Greenwald]

He notes that although human rights abuses are often the loudly-tauted reasons for entering into military conflict, they are rarely the actual motive for doing so. He concludes:

The fact that it is not the goal means more than just another war sold deceitfully based on pretexts: it means that human rights concerns will not drive what happens after the invasion is completed. The material interests of the invaders are highly likely to be served, but not the human rights of the people of the invaded country.

[…] those who supported the war in Libya — which (like the war in Iraq) included numerous people who did so out of a genuine, well-intentioned desire to see a vile tyrant vanquished — have a particular responsibility to ensure that the same tyranny is not replicated by the forces supported by the invading armies. [Em. mine]

Well worth the read.

NH Proposes Legislation that Endangers Women’s Health

January 25, 2012

Part 1: Restricting Access to Affordable Reproductive Health Services

New Hampshire set the stage back in June 2011 when – through a five-person “exectutive panel” – it’s declined federal funding for the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. As a result, it could no longer offer affordable birth control and considered doing away with pelvic exams as well. Raymond Wieczorek, a member of the panel who voted to nix the funding, voiced an all-too-common viewpoint from the anti-choice camp.

“I am opposed to abortion,” said , a council member who voted against the contract. “I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don’t ask me to pay for it.”

And here we are – well past saving babies and far into the waters of SEX! People having sex! Because of course, the Hyde Amendment is alive and well and no federal money is used to fund abortions. And how can anyone pretend to believe a an embryo, fetus, or fertilized egg, is an innocent life in need of rescue while at the same time restricting access to birth control? They can’t.

Fast forward seven months and the NH house pulled all state funding as well. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is keeping a running tally of women denied services. As of today, it’s 2459.

Part 2: Making it harder to protect victims of domestic violence

HB 1581 would prevent a police officer from making an arrest in a domestic violence case unless he directly witnesses the violence. An article in NH’s Concord Monitor illustrates an apt scenario:

An officer is called to a home where she sees clear evidence that an assault has occurred. The furniture is overturned, the children are sobbing, and the face of the woman of the house is bruised and bleeding. It’s obvious who the assailant was, but the officer arrived after the assault occurred. It’s a small department, and no one else on the force is available to keep the peace until the officer finds a judge or justice of the peace to issue a warrant. The officer leaves, and the abuser renews his attack with even more ferocity, punishing his victim for having called for help.

It’s hard to understand the justification for this kind of change. And as much as I’ve dug, I haven’t found any proponents speaking out on the web. Reasonable suspicion is good enough for most arrests – but not when the victim is a partner or spouse? It’s reminiscent of criminal investigation being paid by the state, except in cases of rape.

On top of that, we have HB 1608, severely limits when someone can be arrested for violating a restraining order to two things:

  • Committing an act of abuse or an offense against the person named in the protective order
  • Engaging in prohibited contact

Critics worry that this language takes away a judges right to rule on a case by case basis. Additionally, NH law enforcement believes the bill would

remove a judge’s ability to order a defendant in a domestic violence case to relinquish weapons or prevent him or her from purchasing a gun. It would also eliminate law enforcement’s ability to arrest a defendant who threatens to use physical force against a victim or her children.

New Hampshire residents can petition here.

 

Chimes of Freedom: Dylan Tribute Benefits Amnesty International

January 25, 2012

Amnesty International is marking its 50th anniversary with a massive, four-disc tribute to Bob Dylan. In 1961, Dylan embarked on a career that would earn him the moniker “poet laureate of rock ‘n roll,” carrying Woody Guthrie’s torch as voice of the marginalized. In the same year, attorney Peter Benenson started what would become Amnesty International when he began lobbying on behalf of prisoners of conscience.

Amnesty explains:

It was a coincidence. Yet from the start, Dylan’s artistic work and Amnesty’s political work drew on a common sensibility that ultimately changed the world. 

For half a century, Amnesty has pressed to secure the fundamental human rights of the persecuted and imprisoned across the globe. Over that same half century, Dylan’s art has explored and expressed the anguish and hope of the modern human condition.

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International is a sprawling and ecclectic collaboration of 80 artists covering 75 songs.  From Carly Simon, Johnny Cash, Bad Religion, Dave Matthews, Lucinda WIlliams, Cage the Elephant, Pete Townsend, Diana Krall,…well, here:

$24.99 for the CDs, $19.99 for the download, individual tracks for $1.29. All proceeds go to AI.

Looking for other cause-worthy tributes? In 2007, Amnesty released Instant Karma: Save Darfur, a 23-track tribute to John Lennon. Highlights include Regina Spektor’s “Real Love”, REM’s “#9 Dream” and Ben Harper’s “Beautiful Boy”.

And while you’re in the mood…

Why not visit AI and lend your voice to those who’ve been silenced. Urgent cases include:

The women of Atenco Mexico. In 2005 more than 45 women were arrested without explanation, and were subjected to physical, psycholigical and sexual violence by officers who arrested them.  No one has been held accountable and in all the years since, no progress has been made toward justice.

Chinese journalist Shi Tao has been in prison since 2005 for sending a Yahoo email to a pro-democracy website.

Student leader Majid Tavakkoli of Iran has been in jail since 2009 because he criticized the government in a speech he delivered to celebrate Students Day.