when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for August 2010

Do you know Judge Camp?  Probably not.  She is a federal district judge in Nebraska.  But she had a very clever view on the new Nebraska abortion legislation, passed in April of this year, and euphemistically named the “Women’s Health Protection Act”.  This act required physicians who perform abortion to discuss research literature about possible health risks related to abortions, even though the information was outdated, false and misleading.

Before the State of Nebraska conceded by entering into a consent decree finding that the legislation was unconstitutional, Judge Camp had enjoined the enforcement of the legislation in an Injunction Order in July.

In the Injunction she said:  “No such legislative concern for the health of women, or of men, has given rise to any remotely similar informed consent statutes applicable to other medical procedures.”

An interesting thought.

Mississippi’s abortion legislation contains the requirement to consult with the patient about appropriate alternative options.

The nation’s largest civil rights class action suit to date, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., hit the headlines again recently.  The litigation has been pending since 2000.  In that year, Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart employee in California, filed a lawsuit alleging that Wal-Mart discriminated against women, a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Dukes and 5 other women alleged specifically that Wal-Mart discriminated against its women employees in promotions, pay and job assignments.  While Dukes alleged that she represented the class of women employees who had worked and were working for Wal-Mart, a class action allegation is not that simple.  Class certification was granted in June 2004; the certification was affirmed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Wal-Mart appealed the 9th Circuit’s decision to the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed.  The class action continues.

During the pendency of this litigation, it has become the topic of a book by American journalist Liza Featherstone, Selling Women Short:  The Landmark Battle for Workers’ Rights At Wal-Mart, which was published in 2004.

Mississippi made the national news a week ago. Time Magazine Online reported a story as the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit in Mississippi on August 11, 2010.  An immigrant woman living and employed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast gave birth to a little girl last November.  An agent of the hospital, Singing River, contacted the Mississippi Department of Human Services which ruled that the birth mother was an unfit mother, in part because her lack of English “placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future.”

The lawsuit alleges that Singing River and agents of DHS conspired to commit baby theft by creating false accusations, and slandering the mother.  The US Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Civil Rights and Administration of Children and Families had investigated the situation prior to the filing of the lawsuit.  The Feds determined that reasonable steps were not taken to prevent tearing the family apart or to place the baby with relatives.  (The baby was placed with a Caucasian couple.)

Defenses posed by the Singing River and DHS agents included the facts that the mother had not yet bought a crib for the baby and that the mother had not yet bought formula.  (Perhaps the La Leche League has been wrong all these years and mother’s milk is really dangerous!)

Are you embarrassed? I am.  I applaud Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center for interposing litigation on behalf of the mother and child.

I have had the pleasure of teaching a number of courses in Mississippi’s community college system.  And I find many  women who gave birth to one or more children when they were very young.  They are very young still.  And while they love their children, they realize the impact that having a child so very early in their lives has had on their future.

Mississippi ranks #3 in the list of states having rates of pregnancy among women age 15-19. It ranks #1 is infant mortality.  Mississippi is ranked #51 in a list of states’ (and DC) Composite Reproductive Rights Index and #39 on the Composite Health and Well-Being Index, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

More Meir

Posted on: August 19, 2010

While the “iron lady” was a term coined for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it aptly describes Golda Meir as well.  She was the first (and to date the only) woman Israeli prime minister and only the third prime minister in the world.  David Ben-Gurion, known by many as Israel’s founder, once described her as “the only man in my Cabinet.” She was there at the birth of her nation and was one of 24 individuals who signed the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Occurrences which catapulted Israel into the international spotlight included the murder of Israel’s Olympic athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 and the 1973 war.  On both occasions her responses were decisive.  She authorized the Mossad to kill members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed credit for the athletes’ murders.  The 1973 war, known as the Yom Kippur War, was an attack on Israel by Syria and Egypt, previously soundly defeated by the tiny Israeli army in the 6 Day War.  While Meir had solid intelligence that the attack would occur (delivered by King Hussein of Jordan), she decided against a preemptive strike against her neighbors, fearing that if Israel attacked Egypt and Syria before being invaded, the United States would not come to the defense of Israel.  A savvy politician, her instincts were correct; Secretary of State Henry Kissinger subsequently confirmed that had Israel acted prematurely, the US would not have provided assistance.

Israel has been in the news lately, clarifying its position on defensive action against threatening nations.  That made me think of Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel.  Prime Minister Meir was a visible leader of a world power when I was growing up, and she was another woman who convinced me that there was a place for women in the public arena.

Golda Meir was born in Kiev (now in the Ukraine) in May of 1898.  She was the 4th prime minister of Israel and an incredibly visible woman on the international scene in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Meir was raised in Milwaukee, and settled on a kibbutz in British Mandate Palestine with her American husband, Morris Meyerson.  Born Goldie Mabovitch, she adopted the name of Golda Meir as she became active in Zionist politics.  After Israel’s independence in 1948, she served as Israeli ambassador to the Soviet Union, then in the Knesset, and was named Israel’s foreign minister in 1956, serving until 1965.

After the death of Prime Minister Eshkol in 1969, Meir came out of retirement to become Israel’s prime minister; she was 71.  (She resigned this position in 1974 and died of cancer 4 years later.

Meir published an autobiography, My Life, in 1975.  She was portrayed in two shows.  Ingrid Bergman played Meir in the 1982 movie A Woman Called Golda;  Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson for those of you who are about my age) played Meir in the Broadway stage play, Golda.

That’s the question, isn’t it?  If Americans could agree on that, then the answer to the abortion issue would be fairly simple.  But Americans cannot agree on when life begins.  There are valid reasons for this disagreement.  For example, there are individuals who can only think of life in religious or spiritual terms, associated with the soul.  There are others who look to the latest scientific research and exclaim:  “Aha!” at the most recent pronouncements that tend to answer this question from a medical point of view.  There are others who believe that when life begins can be legally determined.  And there are others who believe that this is a personal decision.  A primer on the various views is important to the ultimate understanding of arguments over reproductive rights.

Genetic View:  Life begins at conception, when the sperm and ovum are united, which takes up to 48 hours after the sperm is introduced to the ovum.

Embyrological View:  Life begins at gastrulation, about 14 days into the process.  This is the point when a developing embryo forms cellular layers that will ultimately grow into various human organs and is capable of and does implant into the uterus.

Neurological View:  Life begins when the brain produces measurable waves, sometime between 6 and 24 weeks after the sperm is introduced.  The validity of the neurological view is based on the loss of pattern on a cerebral electroencephalogram, which allows us to determine when someone is “brain dead” and prepare to make a decision to take an individual off life support.  Consistent thought would suggest that if the pattern on the cerebral EEG denotes that life does not exist in such a definitive way as to acknowledge “brain death” there must be something called “brain birth” and that would be when life begins.

Ecological View:  Life begins when the fetus can survive outside the uterus.  This occurs about 25 to 27 weeks into the process. Viability is determined by sufficient maturation of the lungs so that the fetus can breathe.  By approximately week 25, with significant medical intervention, a fetus could survive, although survival is not guaranteed.

Birth View:  Life begins at birth.  When the fetus emerges and is separated from the body of the mother, naturally or surgically, a child is born and life begins.  Normally this occurs successfully between 7 to 9 months into the process.

Awareness View:  Life begins when a being possesses a consciousness of itself.  Self awareness does not occur in the womb, nor does it occur, generally speaking, until a child is around 18 months old.

Some of us cannot agree with ourselves about when life begins.  We certainly cannot begin to agree with each other.  But we must think of these issues in order to validly explore issues of reproductive rights.



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