Tag: reproductive rights

Bernie Sanders stands up for Planned Parenthood and calls for expanding funding for women’s health care

While reducing rampant income inequality and ending the culture of big-money politics in this country are two of the main causes of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, he’s also a staunch supporter for reproductive rights. In a recent fundraising email, Bernie called for increasing funding for women’s health care, not defunding women’s health care like what the far-right Republicans who control Congress and are running for president want to do:

Let me tell you what I believe: we need to be spending a lot more money on women’s health care. We need to be investing in organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide absolutely essential health services for women, particularly in low-income communities.

And Americans need a president who knows women in this nation deserve a whole lot more than $3 a person for health care.

Regarding Bernie’s claim about spending $3/woman on women’s reproductive health care, that’s a reference to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush complaining about spending “half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”. If the U.S. spent $500,000,000 annually on women’s reproductive health care (I’m not sure what the actual figure is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were close to that figure), that would translate to, rounded to the nearest cent, $3.19 per woman, since there were 156,964,212 women (50.8% of total U.S. population) in the United States as of the 2010 U.S. Census. Rounded to the nearest whole dollar ($3.19 rounded to nearest whole dollar is $3), Bernie’s claim is correct.

It’s common sense to increase funding and access to reproductive health care. Reproductive health care organizations like Planned Parenthood provide a wide array of reproductive health care services designed to prevent abortions and stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health services to men, in addition to reproductive health services to women.

The push by Republicans and right-wing smear artists to defund reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood have had disastrous consequences in Indiana, where a Republican-led push to defund Planned Parenthood resulted in an HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana. This is one of many reasons why we need more public funding, not less, for reproductive health care.

Her body is amazing

I think that a woman’s body is absolutely amazing.

Sure, her body can produce children, care for children, cook, and clean, but her body can do far more things. Her body can walk, run, jump, swim, dive, dance, sail, play sports, coach athletes, lift weights, paddle boats, ride bicycles, ride motorcycles, and drive automobiles. Her body can write, draw, paint, take pictures, film, record videos, produce radio programs, produce television programs, sing, play musical instruments, talk, act, tell jokes, study, think, and teach. Her body can invent, explore the world, explore the universe, conduct experiments, preserve species, solve math problems, care for the injured, care for the ill, care for the disabled, and use technology. Her body can work jobs, own businesses, run businesses, run non-profit groups, advise people, manufacture things, build houses, build buildings, build infrastructure, farm, ranch, sell insurance, sell homes, and trade financial instruments. Her body can vote, participate in democracy, fight for democracy, fight for her rights, fight for the rights of others, serve in an armed force, work for government agencies, run government agencies, make laws, interpret laws, enforce laws, represent plaintiffs, represent defendants, lead communities, lead regions, lead nations, and lead the world. Her body can date, marry, love men, and love women. Her body can become his body, and his body can become her body. Her body can do many other things as well.

This is why I support progressive policies that value her and her body. I support requiring equal pay for equal work. I support requiring paid family, medical, and maternity leave. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. I support protecting and expanding her right to determine what kind of health care she wants for her body, including what kind of reproductive health care she wants for her body. I support prohibiting all forms of discrimination. I support universal health care, so that she can afford the kind of health care she wants for her body. I support many other progressive policies that value her and her body.

As he launches his presidential campaign, Scott Walker compares Wisconsinites to special interests

Approximately 19 seconds into Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign announcement video, an unnamed narrator for the Walker campaign said that Walker “beat the special interests” over a video clip of progressive protesters supporting the unsuccessful recall attempt against Walker in 2012. At around the 39-second mark of the video, Walker himself spoke in front of the camera and talked about taking “power out of the hands of big government special interests”.

In reality, Walker compared the people of his state to special interests, while allowing special interests like big business interests and the school voucher lobby to benefit from the very big government that Walker rails against.

For Walker to compare Wisconsinites to special interests is not only false, it’s also offensive. More specifically, Walker compared Wisconsin progressives to special interests, and, having followed many of them on blogs and social media for the past few years, I can certainly say that they are not special interests. They’re people who want to make their state and their country a better place to live. They care about their communities, and they support workers’ rights, women’s rights, the middle class, open government, equality, and other progressive ideals. As Meghan Blake-Horst, a co-founder and the market manager of the MadCity Bazaar flea market in Madison, Wisconsin, put it, “Yes, we have special interests in feeding, educating and providing our kids a healthy place to grow up. And running our small businesses.” Comparing people like Blake-Horst to special interests dehumanizes people.

The truth about Walker’s record is that he and his political allies in Wisconsin have given special interests, such as big business interests and the school voucher lobby, effective control over Wisconsin’s state government. Those special interests have, in turn, helped Wisconsin’s state government, among other things, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy, give out tons of corporate welfare to businesses, privatize and cut funding from public K-12 education, cut funding from higher education, strip tenure away from college professors, make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, make it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want, bust unions, drive down wages, hurt Wisconsin’s economy, run up massive state budget deficits, and destroyed Wisconsin’s reputation. Martha Laning, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), didn’t mince words one bit in her statement criticizing Walker as he launches his presidential campaign. Laning stated that Walker’s record “is one of unprecedented corruption, division, extremism and a failure to foster economic growth and opportunity”. Laning also took Walker to task over “stagnant” wages in Wisconsin, “job growth that’s dead last in the Midwest and trailing most of the nation”, a corporate welfare agency “that’s known more for scandal than economic development”, and a massive Wisconsin state budget deficit “created by his failed policies”.

While Scott Walker compares the people of his home state to special interests, the truth of the matter is that Walker is beholden to real special interests that own him and his political allies, and they’ve completely wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. If Walker is elected president, Walker, his political allies, and big-money special interests will turn America into a third-world country by enacting the same far-right political agenda they enacted in Wisconsin.

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

Bernie Sanders draws massive crowd to Madison, Wisconsin rally, lays out progressive vision for America

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America’s future in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (also called the Alliant Energy Center) in Madison, Wisconsin last night.

Here’s a couple of photos of the crowd at the event:

Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie's appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie’s appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Bernie Sanders Madison WI Rally Crowd Doug Cvetkovich
Massive crowd at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin during Bernie Sanders speech. Sanders is standing at the podium on the stage at the bottom left of the picture. (photo courtesy of Doug Cvetkovich)

I’m going to share a video of Bernie’s speech from the YouTube channel Bernie2016.tv (which is not directly affiliated with the Sanders campaign), but I want to make two notes before I do so: First, I’ve set the video to start playing at around the 42:20 mark, which is about 20 seconds or so before Nichols takes the stage to introduce Sanders. Second, several technical glitches occur during the video, most notably the first part of Nichols’s introduction not having any audio at all and an audio echoing issue occurring in at least one segment of Sanders’s speech.

Here’s the video of Bernie’s speech:

Bernie did a masterful job outlining a progressive vision for America. In his speech, Bernie called for reducing income inequality in America, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, expanding workers’ rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, getting big money out of politics, ensuring that women are paid the same as men for the same amount and type of work, reforming the criminal justice system, opposing free trade deals, providing high-quality education to Americans without burdening them with student debt, raising the minimum wage, and enacting many other progressive policies. Bernie energized a large crowd in Wisconsin’s second-largest city, and I think he can win the general election for president.

According to arena officials and Sanders campaign staffers, the attendance was 9,600, although I’ve seen reports on social media that so many people tried to show up at the 10,231-seat arena, some people had to be turned away from the event because the venue couldn’t handle any more people than the stated capacity. Sanders was introduced at the event by John Nichols, a progressive political author and columnist for The Nation magazine. Nichols mentioned during his introduction of Sanders that Ed Garvey, the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin and the founder of the annual Fighting Bob Fest progressive gathering, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), and Wisconsin State Representatives Terese Berceau and Melissa Sargent (both D-Madison), were present at the event. Of those four, Sargent livetweeted Sanders’s speech, in which Sanders talked about issues like money in politics, climate change, education, higher education, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, income inequality, poverty, criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and international trade. Here’s every one of Sargent’s tweets about Sanders’s speech in Madison:

Note that there is an apparent typo in one of Sargent’s tweets (the one she sent at 8:05 P.M. about Sanders talking about how climate change affects our future; Sargent likely meant to type “We must leave this planet in a condition that is habitable for our children”); other than that, Sargent did an absolutely fantastic job paraphrasing Sanders’s speech and livetweeting the key points that Sanders made. Please also note that Sargent has, to my knowledge, not formally endorsed a presidential candidate.

It is perfectly fitting that Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America in the hometown of Wisconsin progressive legend Fighting Bob La Follette.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wants to make income inequality even worse

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced yet another bid for the Republican presidential nomination earlier today. This time, he’s trying to appeal to working-class voters, saying that “working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money”.

However, Rick Santorum is not a real champion of the working class.

For starters, Santorum has a long history of taking far-right positions and making offensive remarks on various issues, especially on social issues like abortion and marriage equality. For example, Santorum has staunchly opposed marriage equality, going as far as to claim that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to people marrying dogs, which is absolutely false and absurd. On LGBT rights in general, Santorum has claimed that the Boy Scouts allowing openly gay people to join the Scouts would “murder” the organization, another absolutely false and absurd claim. On abortion and reproductive rights, Santorum has staunchly opposed the idea that women should be able to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, going as far as to say that survivors of rape who get pregnant via rape should “accept what God has given”, effectively saying that he thinks that women should be forced to carry an unwanted fetus to term.

When it comes to economic issues, Santorum’s “appeal” to working-class Americans is phonier than a $3 bill. For starters, Santorum supports eliminating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and instituting a flat federal income tax rate. I have two things to say about this ridiculous idea. First, a flat income tax would make income inequality, already a serious problem in this country, even worse, because the wealthiest Americans would receive most, if not all, of the tax cuts from a flat income tax. Second, who the hell would be responsible for collecting taxes if the IRS were eliminated?

Rick Santorum is a phony and a far-right crackpot who would make an absolutely horrible president.

PRE-ENDORSEMENT: Oren Jacobson for 3rd Congressional District of Illinois

Oren Jacobson, a tech entrepreneur, has formed an exploratory committee to look at a possible run for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois, which is currently held by conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski.

You can watch a video of Jacobson’s exploratory committee announcement here:

Jacobson would be a significant improvement over Lipinski, who is one of the worst Democrats to hold any kind of elected office in the entire country. When it comes to health care, Jacobson supports increasing federal funding for research in search of cures for the most devastating illnesses and diseases that affect Americans. While Jacobson hasn’t formally entered the race in the 3rd District, which includes parts of Chicago and numerous suburban communities between Chicago and Joliet, at this time, his campaign has already been endorsed by Blue America, a political action committee that supports progressive-minded Democrats for public office.

In the current Congress, Lipinski has voted more often with John Boehner’s Republicans than his own party, and, when it comes to women’s rights, Lipinski has stood with right-wing extremists who want to control women’s bodies and deny them the reproductive health care services they need or want. Lipinski is such an staunch opponent of women’s rights, he voted against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because he thinks that politicians like himself and his far-right Republican allies should control women’s bodies.

While I live in a different region of Illinois, I believe that Oren Jacobson would make a great representative of the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois, and I encourage Democrats and progressives in that part of our state to strongly support his candidacy.

Virginia feminist Erin Matson schools Senate Democrats on women’s rights and political messaging

Erin Matson, a Virginia progressive activist and reproductive rights supporter, sharply criticized U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for including “defending a woman’s right to choose” on a survey that was sent out by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which is led by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Matson responded by saying that Democrats should “stop defending and act to expand abortion access!”.

You can view Matson’s response to the DSCC survey here. Here’s what Matson said about Democratic messaging on reproductive rights, as well as a few other important issues, on her blog:

The voter priorities suggestions are instructive. We can — and should — raise the minimum wage,reform campaign finance law, regulate Wall Street and big banking, and expand health care coverage. These are all positive goals, and activist goals at that. (Beyond the abortion whopper, WHICH WE’LL GET TO NEXT, notice that the only other negative statement of priority refers to “protecting” Social Security and Medicare. Figures. Expansions to these programs would disproportionately benefit women, since women tend to live longer and have fewer savings.)

But “defending a woman’s right to choose” is laughable because people are faced with a reproductive health care crisis today in large part due to very new laws that restrict the human rights and dignity of women.

Abortion clinics are closing, y’all. Terrorist group Operation Rescue claims that three out of four abortion clinics that were open in 1991 are no longer open today — and that 73 clinics closed last year.

So when Harry Reid sends out a mailer in early 2015 saying we need to “defend” a woman’s right to choose, I frankly wonder what the Jupiter he is talking about. How much is left to defend? The financial and logistical barriers to abortion created and approved by elected officials of all parties means this country is filled with women who can’t “choose” their way out of a one-way street.

While Democrats and reproductive rights supporters aren’t currently in a position to actually implement any reproductive rights measures at the federal level, Matson is right in that there really isn’t a whole lot left for pro-women’s rights Democrats to defend when it comes to reproductive rights. Since Roe v. Wade became law of the land over four decades ago, Republicans and anti-abortion Democrats have enacted restrictive legislation at the federal and state levels of government making it harder for women to get the reproductive health care they want or need. Not only is it getting harder and harder for women to get an abortion, it’s getting harder and harder for women to access basic reproductive health measures, such as contraception. Democrats need to start talking about expanding reproductive rights in this country, not merely “defending a woman’s right to choose”, as Democrats talking about merely “defending a woman’s right to choose” makes it sound like Democrats aren’t really interested in making it easier for women to access reproductive health procedures.

Sadly, this is only one example of Democrats absolutely sucking at political messaging.

Crisis pregnancy center in my home county in Illinois caught violating patient privacy by local media

The Women’s Care Clinic of Danville (WCC), a crisis pregnancy center located in Danville, Illinois, which is located in Vermilion County, posted pictures of the sonogram of a pregnant woman’s fetus on their Facebook page and stated that the woman had scheduled an abortion and wanted people to pray that the woman would change her mind and not had the pregnancy terminated.

WCIA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Champaign, ran a segment on one of their local newscasts earlier today calling WCC out for violating patient privacy. While I’m not going to directly link to the article about this story on their website, illinoishomepage.net, as the online article includes a video that shows the sonogram in question, and it would be unethical for me to post or link to anything containing the sonogram in question, this is from their online article, titled “Clinic’s post causes privacy concerns” and dated February 11, 2015:

A picture of an unborn baby is causing controversy online. An area clinic posted what leaders say was a picture from a patient’s sonogram. It’s raising the issue of privacy. The clinic took the post down the same day it went up.

The Women’s Care Clinic of Danville says the image was removed because comments were “too negative.” The post shows a sonogram picture stating the baby’s mother had scheduled an abortion and asked people to pray she would change her mind.

But, clinic managers say they don’t know if the picture is an actual sonogram from the patient mentioned in the post. They say they didn’t identify who it was, so it wasn’t an invasion of privacy, adding clients agree any images can be used for promotion or education.

WCIA’s online article went on to describe WCC as an organization that “provides counseling and support groups for post-abortion” and that WCC stated that “asking for prayers for certain clients” is normal operating procedure for them.

Here’s my thoughts about this:

  • WCIA used a considerable amount of anti-abortion framing in their TV report about the WCC posting a sonogram online, which is not surprising given the fact that WCIA’s local newscasts have a heavy right-wing bias. For example, “Picture of an unborn baby” is not the medically correct term for a sonogram of a fetus; “sonogram of a fetus” is the medically correct term for that. Also, the reason why comments on WCC’s Facebook page got “too negative” is because WCC operates in a highly unethical manner, and those who made “negative” comments on their Facebook page were rightfully criticizing them for operating in a highly unethical manner.
  • WCIA is just as guilty as WCC is of violating patient privacy since they showed the sonogram, both on television and online, in fact, one could argue that WCIA is even more guilty of violating patient privacy than WCC is, since I’m guessing that a local newscast on WCIA has a considerably larger audience than WCC’s Facebook page, even though WCIA is located in what I’d call a medium-small local TV market.
  • While WCIA didn’t explicitly refer to WCC as a “crisis pregnancy center”, they did mention that WCC regularly asks people to pray that their patients who are considering whether or not to have an abortion decide not to terminate a pregnancy and offer post-abortion counseling, which is a huge indicator to me that WCC is a crisis pregnancy center, regardless of whether or not they refer to themselves as such. Crisis pregnancy centers are organizations that claim to be legitimate women’s health clinics, when, in reality, they’re actually organizations that are primarily set up to shame pregnant women by, among other tactics, doing everything possible to discourage pregnant women who want to have abortions from getting abortions and spreading false information about women’s reproductive health. While I don’t know if WCC is doing the latter, it’s obvious to me that they’re doing the former.
  • Regardless of whether or not the names of patients are disclosed, it’s still highly unethical and an invasion of medical privacy for a women’s health clinic of any kind to publicly post sonograms or other types of medical records for promotional purposes.

Every effort should be made to shut down these unethical, woman-shaming crisis pregnancy centers across the country and make legitimate women’s health clinics available in areas of this country where women would currently have to travel long distances in order to get to a legitimate women’s health clinic.

The last progressive victory of 2014: Far-right Obama judicial nominee Michael Boggs will NOT be confirmed or re-nominated

Michael Boggs, a former right-wing Democratic Georgia State Representative (yes, there used to be right-wing Democrats in office in Georgia and other Southern states), will not be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and will not be re-nominated by President Barack Obama to a lifetime term to a federal judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

While this isn’t a pretty victory by any stretch of the imagination, since there’s still a large number of federal judicial vacancies, this is a progressive victory because Boggs would have been a rubber stamp for the Republicans’ far-right agenda had he been confirmed as a federal judge.

When Boggs ran for and won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, Boggs campaigned as an ultra-conservative, supporting the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda, the Confederate flag, and school prayer and opposing openly-gay Boy Scout leaders, reproductive rights, and marriage equality. During his 2000 campaign, Boggs’s campaign distributed this flyer touting his pro-discrimination and anti-equality views on social issues and stating that he was running as a Democrat simply to get a committee chairmanship and advance far-right legislation (at the time, Democrats controlled the Georgia House of Representatives). More importantly, as a Georgia State Representative, Boggs built up a right-wing, pro-discrimination, and anti-equality voting record that is far out of line with what is expected of Democrats of today’s Democratic Party.

Michael Boggs’s bid to be a federal judge is, at least for the next two years, is over, and this is the last progressive victory in 2014. While I expect very few progressive victories in 2015, given that Republicans will have increased power in Congress and in numerous state governments, I hope that us progressives score some victories, and I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year.