Commentary Politics

Connecting the Dots: Egg-as-Person Initiatives, Sexual Harassment Charges All Reflect Disregard for Women

Andy Kopsa

Religious zealots form a symbiotic relationship with politicians to pass draconian legislation sacrificing the rights of women.  The zealots get to walk away having successfully implemented a cog in their overall attempt to implement a Christian worldview system of governing and politicians in return get tons of fundraising cash and a committed group of one-issue voters that can propel them into office.

See all our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

Today Mississippi votes on, and if all indications are correct, may pass the so-called ‘personhood’ amendment, declaring that a fertilized egg is a person. Mississippi is just the latest canvas on which religious fanaticism is trumping science and a woman’s right to choose. Its just the most recent place where misinformation about human sexuality and reproduction are being used as tools to marginalize women to the point where they are mere baby vessels whose rights are up to popular vote.

I am watching my rights being dismantled by an institutionalized patriarchy buoyed by the religious right and political opportunists. I don’t live in Mississippi but what happens in state legislatures grows like a cancer across the United States — I am affected; every woman is.

Personhood (and all anti-choice efforts) emerge from politically entrenched religious zealots and political opportunists, quite often these operatives are men; men who generate a willing group of women followers to cast their efforts as somehow pro-woman. Men like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, Chris Slattery of Expectant Mother Care, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, and of course, Les Riley, the man behind Prop 26 in Mississippi.

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Religious zealots form a symbiotic relationship with politicians to pass draconian legislation sacrificing the rights of women.  The zealots get to walk away having successfully implemented a cog in their overall attempt to create a system of governing in the United States that is based on a Christian worldview and securely places men in the headship roll and subjugates women. The politicians in return get tons of fundraising cash and a committed group of one-issue voters that can propel them into office.

As Mississippi votes on a woman’s right to her own body, Herman Cain is promising to set the record straight regarding the numerous allegations of sexual harassment coming up from his past. While the Cain campaign tweets about Gloria Allred in a condescending male voice, the right wing media blames the victim, and the liberal media is busy determining whether Cain remains electable or not, we are all missing the point.

Our public discourse, by and large, discusses women and issues affecting women as if women themselves are removed from the equation. The result is that we are acting as though we are somehow having a high-level think-off on the rationality of a bill that establishes the contents of a woman’s body as not her own, and that the GOP front runner can run his hand up a woman’s leg and pull her head toward his crotch and make a killing in fundraising – and keep is position in the polls.  

Instead of focusing on women taking a beating in this country, the discussion deteriorates into who said what, political polls, and Howard Stern’s producer commanding audience at various press conferences. Cain is, by some accounts, being accused by up to seven women of sexual harassment and now with the public statement of Sharon Bialek, possibly sexual assault. Instead of the Cain scandal being called what it is – a potential criminal situation and a case study in the abuse of male power – pundits busy themselves arguing whether or not, Cain will be able to weather this political storm.

Can he make it through to Iowa? As the anti-Romney are the Republicans willing to overlook Cain’s unfortunate sex business (my guess is yes)? The media needs to seize this moment to connect the dots. The Mississippi personhood amendment, the ultrasound bills, waiting period laws and the myriad others ravaging women’s rights across the country, and Herman Cain’s sex scandal fall under a neat umbrella: men seeking to encroach on the rights of women for personal and/or political gain.

Whether it is Herman Cain’s apparent need to quench his sexual desires by making unwanted advances on subordinates or Les Riley’s need to create a Christian utopia starting with egg citizenship – we need to talk about them as connected.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Harassers Re-double Attacks On Jackson Women’s Health Organization As Hospitals Refuse Admitting Privileges

Robin Marty

More posters, more harassment at the only public abortion clinic in Mississippi as Jackson Women's Health Organization runs out of options.

“Please, Mommy, don’t kill me!”

The words have become a standard refrain on the sidewalks in front of Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) on the days where abortions are to be performed. While doctors and clinic staff scramble to keep open the only public abortion clinic in Mississippi, nothing changed for Operation Save America and their followers, who were once more on the streets of Jackson.

Now nearly ten months into their year long “States of Refuge” campaign, Operation Save America has yet to actually create an “abortion-free state” as they say they intend. Instead, they have succeeded mainly in harassing doctors and patients, terrifying little children, and annoying parents who would prefer their sons and daughters not be exposed to highly magnified and gory photo-shopped posters of “fetal remains.”

The group arrived in Mississippi directly after the election with plans to protest at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s sole public abortion provider. However, the protesters also set their sites on local high schools, which they picketed with their signs as students headed in to class for the day.

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Cal Zastrow, one of the “States of Refuge” organizers, said they needed to inform high school students of the “truth” of abortion because he saw too many teen girls arriving at the clinic.

“High School girls are coming in here and killing babies, so we want to educate them before they come here and kill their children,” he told WLTB.tv. “Already this week, I’ve seen three different high school sweatshirts on girls in the city here come here and murder their children.”

Schools were forced to bring in additional security to deal with the activists, but otherwise their hands were tied, despite parental complaints.

Many of the anti-choice activists were from out of state, but one well-known local face joined the activities as well—Les Riley, the anti-choice presence behind Personhood Mississippi. Riley has promised another attempt at a Personhood amendment in 2014, and says he is already working on the language to make that happen. With Personhood supporter Phil Bryant in the governor’s office, it’s no surprise that Personhood will be rising again.

All attention is focused on JWHO, who is in danger of being closed due to a TRAP law passed in the state legislature during the 2012 session that requires hospital admitting privileges, something the clinic has been unable to obtain. Operation Save America has been gleefully counting down the days to January, when they believe the state will finally be abortion-free. Rusty Thomas told Christian News Network:

“They [JWHO] were kind of shrewd and were able to make adjustments, so that they could [be classified as] a medical facility to give them six months to comply,” he explained.

If the facility is not able to comply by January 16, 2013, it can be shut down by the state under the law.

“The state has the authority to step in and say, ‘Are you in compliance?’ If not, shut it down!” Thomas said.

Thomas even encourages the nation’s anti-choice community to come to Jackson to protest the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, believing the clinic’s closure could be timed to coincide.

Will JWHO make it to the 40th anniversary of Roe? At this point, the question once more rests in the hands of the courts. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has announced that the clinic has finally run out of options, and that every available hospital that could provide the necessary admitting privileges for clinic doctors has refused to consider doing so. According to the CRR’s legal filing, hospitals shied away from offering privileges pointing either to a prohibition against what they define as “elective abortions” within their own organization, or fear of reprisal from outside sources should they associate with the clinic. Refusals often read:

“The nature of your proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions; … [and] The nature of your proposed medical practice would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital’s function and business within this community.”

CRR attorneys have filed a new motion against the law to stop it from going into effect, but as the year comes to a close it remains unclear if 2013 may in fact be the first year abortion won’t be—at least ostensibly—publicly accessible in all 50 states. (Ostensibly because access is determined by far more than just the existence of one clinic in a city, state, or locale of any size.)

As the courts consider whether the “undue burden” limits of Planned Parenthood v. Casey are finally met by ending access to abortion in Mississippi, harassment at the clinic is likely to escalate, especially in light of the anti-choice zealots who have already been on the sidewalks.

“Protesters” at the clinic itself have been a who’s who of jailed anti-choice terrorists, all congregated in one location. A self-congratulatory video compiled by Missionaries to the Preborn Iowa, who worked with OSA to harrass the patients and employees of JWHO (and yes, even the person who takes their medical waste), identifies many of those who “counseled” on the sidewalks of the clinic, such as Dan and Donna Holman, Cal Zastrow and his family, and others.

Dan Holman, member of “Missionaries to the Preborn Iowa” Holman advocates for “justifiable use of force,” claiming those who reject it as an option are “pro-life heretics.”

Flip Benham and Joe Scheidler are among the pro-life leaders who have publicly condemned Paul Hill for using force to save children. These men have done much good in the past, but they are in grave error regarding the use of force. To condemn the use of force to protect unborn children is a tacit admission that their lives are not worth defending. It is to say that that some have more of a Right to Life than others. It is a frank admission that pre-born children are somehow sub-human. If they truly believe the life of the unborn is worth less than the life of the abortionist than why defend the babies at all? Some say that the abortionist might repent and become another Bernard Nathanson, or a Carol Everett. How many children is their salvation worth? Would you give your sons or daughters to a baby-killer hoping he will come to repentance? Would we hold this principal true for any other serial killer? The abortionist’s salvation is not worth the life of one innocent child!

Dan has been arrested numerous times, including an arrest for an outstanding warrant after placing a “citizen’s arrest” on a girl who tried to spray paint over the graphic images on his van. His wife Donna has been arrested several times for harassment in front of an Iowa Planned Parenthood, with courts eventually recommending psychological screening, which her husband refused on her behalf. Michigan’s Cal Zastrow and his wife have been long involved with the “rescue” movement and subsequent arrests, which he dismisses by arguing that “Whatever consequences befall us for rescuing are trivial compared to children getting their limbs and heads cut off.” Randy Crawford also has been cited for harassment outside Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa, running in the same circles as the Holmans.

The Holmans, Crawford, Zastrow, and others had already toured the state together to urge a vote for Amendment 26, then touting themselves as “Pro-Life Mississippi.” Now, once more hitting the streets of Jackson, the band is working to pressure and harass anyone associated with the clinic, even if it’s just residents of the same city on their way to class at school.

The hospitals have turned down the requests for admitting prividges based in part on the potential “external disruptions” that could be caused by being associated with pregnancy terminations. Now, not only is the clinic in danger of being forced to close, but they have to worry that the outside agitators — sensing a potential victory — may grow even bolder, too.

News Politics

On The Third Attempt to Pass Egg-as-Person Legislation in Colorado, Former Supporters Shy Away

Robin Marty

Personhood Colorado may not believe the voters don't want to give legal rights to fertilized eggs, but the politicians do.

Unless there is are massive numbers of bad or duplicated signatures, the voters of Colorado will once again be deciding whether or not to grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. Personhood Colorado believes that the voters are ready to pass the amendment this time, pointing to the fact that they have gathered more signatures than necessary and with even less time to do it.

But if they think that means the people of Colorado are “pro-fertilized-egg-as-person” this go around, they are the only ones. Even their old supporters are starting to back away from them, saying the people have already spoken.

Via the Denver Post:

This time around Joe Coors, now a Republican candidate for the 7th congressional district, will not endorse the personhood initiative, which would ban all abortions in the state, the campaign told the Post Wednesday.

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“After its two failed attempts on the ballot, Coloradans have made their decision on this issue,” campaign spokeswoman Michelle Yi said. “Joe respects the voters’ decision and, for the next 90 days, will continue to focus on ideas to get our economy back on track by helping job creators start new businesses and expand their payrolls.”

Coors originally donated to the Personhood movement he is now shunning. Will other Colorado politicians do the same? 

The Rocky Mountain Media Watch writes:

[T]he political ramifications of the personhood amendment should continue to be a key part of the coverage. The amendment, which would ban all abortions and some common forms of birth control, is clearly of interest to women, in particular, and women are a key voters in Colorado elections.

Personhood supporters have yet to hear from Rep. Mike Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner about whether they will endorse their amendment this year, as they did in 2010, Personhood USA legal analyst Gualberto Garcia Jones told reporters today.

Garcia Jones said they’d welcome their support again, as they would any candidate, Democrat or Republican.

“To me, they’d be shooting themseves in the foot, if they backtracked,” said Colorado Right to Life Vice President Leslie Hanks. “It would be their loss.”

The official signature count will be released in early September, and it will be interesting to see if Republicans as a whole embrace or reject the initiative for 2012.

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