Monthly Archives: January 2011

Washington State Proposes Bill to Stop Crisis Pregnancy Center Lies

Lying to pregnant women about false risks from abortion for breast cancer and mental illness, using religious pressure to shame women, and hiding their anti-choice agenda from women, many limited service pregnancy centers known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) nationwide pose a serious menace to women. Finally, some lawmakers are taking action on to protect women from this scam: legislation in Austin, TX, and Baltimore, MD, now requires that these “fake clinics,” as they’re often called, put up signs warning that they will not provide or offer any information on abortion or birth control, nor do they provide medical care. But if Washington State passes a proposed bill, it would be the first state to take action addressing all the CPCs within its boundaries.

The Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act would mandate that CPCs reveal that they do not provide comprehensive reproductive health services, guard women’s medical information as private, and not delay pregnancy test results. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington reports that this would impact some 46 clinics around the state.

It’s seem pretty simple: whatever your feelings about abortion, women have the right to privacy and accurate information about their bodies and treatment options. But CPCs are grumpy about such restrictions because they keeps fake clinics from tricking women — who would head right out the door if they knew that abortion wasn’t an option there — into seeing and being drowned in anti-abortion rhetoric by one of their counselors (almost never a medical professional of any sort).

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Victory: Belmont U Gives in to Protests Over Removal of Lesbian Coach

Early in December, I wrote about the Belmont University women’s soccer coach removed from her position after sharing the happy news with her players that she was expecting a baby — with the woman she loves.

Coach Lisa Howe’s players were furious and rallied in her defense, but the Belmont University administration, which has also refused to recognize a student LGBT group on campus as going against their religious tradition, didn’t budge. Well, that was 21,000 Change.org member emails and a lot of controversy ago. Michael Jones reports on Gay Rights that the Tennessee university has now announced that they will add sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy. Goooooooooooal!

Though Belmont U President Bob Fisher has denied that Howe’s firing related to her sexual orientation, soccer players reported that their discussions with administrators sounded a little different. Team captain Sari Lin said she was told by Belmont’s Athletic Director that the school has “the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and when she told us about the pregnancy, it violated that.” But even if the University had admitted that Howe’s sexual orientation got her the “resign or be fired” ultimatum, they wouldn’t have been violating any of their own policies.

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Glenn Beck Won’t Stop Death Threats Against 78-Year-Old Woman

Seventy-eight-year-old Frances Piven, a City University of New York professor, has been receiving death threats. It all started when Glenn Beck decided to target her on his Fox News program for a paper she wrote in 1966, calling Piven an “enemy of the Constitution,” one of the “nine most dangerous people in the world,” who supports “terrorism” and wants to “intentionally collapse our economic system.”

“Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas [sic] ready and I’ll give My life to take Our freedom back.” That’s one violent comment posted to a website Beck runs, The Blaze. “Maybe they should burst through the front door of this arrogant elitist and slit the hateful cow’s throat.” That’s another graphic example, among many. Although these direct threats were eventually removed from the website, other inflammatory rhetoric, such as charging her with treason, remains. As Piven told Media Matters: “It only takes one person who is a little deranged to take such rhetoric and make it real.” Yet Beck refuses to put a stop to these death threats by moderating his own language.

Piven’s 45-year-old proposal, written with her late husband, suggested that if the welfare rolls were overwhelmed it would force political action on improvement such as guaranteed income. Hardly seems like enough fodder for Beck’s 18-month-long rampage against her as attempting to bring down the economy and Constitution — but then again, when has Glenn Beck been known for making sense? Piven also recently wrote a piece for The Nation magazine suggesting that America’s unemployed begin staging mass protests to bring attention to their plight, an call for grassroots empowerment that was twisted by Beck into “inciting violence.”

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Over 6000 Change.org Members Support Single Mom Jailed for Sending Kids to School

After hearing that Kelley Williams-Bolar, a single mom, was sentenced to jail for sending her kids to school in a safe neighborhood, Change.org member Caitlin Lord decided to take a stand on her behalf. And so far, over 6,000 people have stood with her.

Williams-Bolar received 10 days in jail and 3 years probation after found guilty of a felony crime: sending her children to school. As Carol Scott reports on the Education cause, the Akron, Ohio, mom registered her children as living with their grandfather because she feared for their safety, and wanted them to attend school in a more secure location. The school wasted $6,000 to bring the case to trial, hiring a private investigator to spy on and videotape Williams-Bolar’s children to prove that they lived with her in a different district, although she maintains that they split their time between the two homes.

“I wanted to do whatever was within my power to ensure that this travesty of justice would not slip between the cracks of our fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle,” says Lord of her decision to start a Change.org petition asking Ohio Governor John Kasich and officials in Williams-Bolar’s case to reduce her sentence on appeal. “I am also a single mother, and can identify with Williams-Bolar’s desire to do everything and anything possible to ensure that her daughters were safe and receiving the quality education they deserved.”

As Cara points out on The Curvature, it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that Williams-Bolar “a black mother who has been jailed for sending her kids to a white school district.” She lives in a predominantly minority housing project, while Copley, where she sent her kids for school, is mostly lily-white and middle class. While the Copley school district screams about lost property taxes, the broader problem is that we’ve set up a fundamentally unequal education system in which it’s a crime to send your children to a school where you can trust that they will be safe. The judge wants her sentence to send a message of deterrence. How about a message about the deep-rooted injustice of our educational system?

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Single Mother of Three Faces Deportation Due to Outdated Adoption Laws

Since 2004, any child adopted into the United States by American parents receives automatic citizenship. Unfortunately, while the immigration system has no problem removing legal permanent residents who served time years or decades before a law was passed making their offenses deportable, it doesn’t extend that method of enforcement to allowing adoptees to stay if they were brought to America prior to the magic date. So “Seo,” a 31-year-old mother of three, faces deportation back to Korea.

Adopted into the United States at eight months old, Nadra Kareem Little reports on Immigrant Rights, Seo’s parents no doubt meant for her to be American through and through. And for all practical purposes, she is. She doesn’t even speak Korean or know anybody in that country. And she’s built a life and a family in Arizona.

But before the 2004 law fixed things for future adoptive families, many parents and adoptees didn’t realize that legally making a child part of their family didn’t confer citizenship upon them, only legal permanent residency. It isn’t until the prospect of deportation appears before them that they realize they aren’t quite as American in the eyes of the law as expected. Immigration and Customs Enforcement admits that over the past few years many adoptees have been deported, potentially an effort on stepped up enforcement and programs using local police such as Secure Communities, and that frequently the deportees were unaware that they were not citizens.

Can you imagine discovering one day that you have no right to live in the place you thought was your home?

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New Hampshire: Steer Clear of Anti-Abortion Laws

Up in New Hampshire where I attended college, the thermometer’s been dipping down below zero degrees. Yeah, that’s Fahrenheit. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it. But while I would consider this way below freezing weather bad news enough for the winter, there’s something else to be concerned about: Republican plans to ice abortion rights.

Republicans in the state legislature want to ban abortion for minors without parental notification — and they actually might “have a shot,” according to NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire Executive Director Pilar Olivo. Women’s eNews points out that the midterm elections put not just Republicans but men in the majority.

Currently, New Hampshire is living up to its motto, “Live Free or Die,” by not having any abortion restriction laws that control female bodies on the books. But Republicans want to take that freedom away. And there are concerns that this initial bill proposal is only the start of an agenda against women’s control of their bodies.

Parental notification or consent laws often get by after being framed as “parent rights” bills, or in the best interest of youth who can’t make decisions for themselves. However, a teenager who doesn’t voluntarily share the decision to have an abortion with her parents might have a good reason, such as having been physically or sexually abused by a family member, or religious extremists parents who might disown or harm the girl if they knew she was considering an abortion, or even for being sexually active.

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Cop Gets One Year Sentence After Two Rape Charges

It seemed like a pretty solid case against San Antonio, TX, Officer Craig Nash. The rape kit turned up his DNA, and GPS put his squad car where his accuser said she was taken captive and then raped. Gotta love technology. The victim went to the police station immediately to report the attack. Not only that, there was yet another rape charge against Nash in 2008. Yet in a shocking plea deal, Nash was given only one year for “official oppression” (having sex with somebody in custody, consensual or not) and both rape charges were dropped.

As Criminal Justice blogger Elizabeth Renter points out, this “slap on the wrist” hardly represents justice. What is looks more like is blatant favoritism toward an officer, and discrimination against the victim, a transgender sex worker. Police abuse and negligence regarding a sex worker or transgender person is hardly anything new. The victim, meanwhile, is now in prison for illegally engaged in sex work. I couldn’t discover how long her sentence is for, but since Nash received such a light term, I wonder who will get out first.

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LAPD Frees Wrongfully Arrested Sex Trafficking Victims

Last month, the Los Angeles Police Department decided to conduct an illegal de facto immigration raid, swooping up 78 women who displayed clear markers of human trafficking victims and treating them like criminals, while Club 907, the exploiter, faced no charges.

Now, Lauren Markham reports on Immigrant Rights that the women arrested for undocumented status have finally been released, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the Raids Response Network of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Ms. Magazine, and the over 1,300 Change.org members who signed a petition telling the LAPD how to treat trafficking victims. After being locked up over Christmas and New Year’s, these women, a majority of them mothers, can finally go home.

While it’s a victory for these women to be released, there’s a glaring deficiency that mellows the celebration: the club hasn’t been confronted with any repercussions for using trafficked women, paying them unfair wages, or forcing them into prostitution. And while the club continues its work unmolested, advertising for replacement dancers to exploit within a week, some of the women that were arrested still face immigration court proceedings and potential deportation, without, it appears so far, access to special protections for trafficking survivors.

That is unacceptable. Tell the LAPD that this isn’t enough. If you haven’t already signed this petition to ask the LAPD to investigate the potential trafficking and exploitation of these women, and to set up a training schedule with an anti-trafficking group to avoid this situation in the future, please do so now. We can’t let traffickers, the true criminals in this situation, get away without consequences.

Photo credit: billsoPHOTO

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Betsie Gallardo Allowed to Die at Home, With Her Family

It’s a bittersweet victory, because 24-year-old Betsie Gallardo is still dying of cancer. But for Betsie and her family, it’s just what they were hoping for: Betsie gets to return to home, to spend her last days with her loved ones.

Betsie, a Haitian immigrant adopted by an American mother, received a five-year prison sentence in Florida for assaulting a police officer with a “deadly weapon.” That would be her saliva, because Betsie is HIV-positive, but as her frustrated mother writes in a guest post for The Bilerco Project, you can’t get AIDS from spit. Raped by a member of the police in Haiti, Betsie had flashbacks to that trauma when approached by the police after crashing her car (no other parties were involved in the accident). But neither Betsie’s past trauma or the medical ludicrousness of considering spit a deadly weapon were taken into account with this was a harsh sentence.

Then Betsie developed terminal cancer, and those five years turned into a life sentence. Unless somebody intervened.

The almost 700 Change.org members who signed a petition for Betsie and the efforts of The Bilerco Project have gained a number of victories along the way to this final one: forcing the prison to give her the IV nutrients she needed to stay alive instead of starving her to death. Moving up her release hearing. Getting her moved to a hospital. And now, returning home to Indiana to spend her last days with her mother, Jessica Bussert, who has been fighting for her daughter’s release to die in peace.

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Accused Rapist Cross-Examines His Victim, Then Wants Lawyer After All

First, accused rapist Luis Munuzuri-Harris insisted on representing himself in a Florida court. He insisted on conducting his own two-hour cross-examination of the woman who brought the charges against him. Then, suddenly Harris decided, actually, I’m going to take that lawyer you offered me. Who can interrogate the victim a second time.

“For a rape victim to not just recite, but relive the actual crime with the person who inflicted the crime upon her is the biggest deterrent you can have,” stated legal analyst Judge Jeanine Pirro. “This is a nightmare. There are victims who have tried to kill themselves, who have collapsed after testifying.” In November, I wrote about a shocking case in Washington State in which a young woman, faced with the prospect of being cross-examined by the man accused of raping and threatening her as a child, couldn’t bear the prospect and threatened to commit suicide.

How was this resolved? By dismissing the charges she brought against him. (Thankfully, his other victims managed to go through the ordeal, he was found guilty of multiple counts of child rape, and will probably spend life in prison.)

If you are in fact guilty of rape, it makes perfect sense to insist on representing yourself at trial: it puts you in a position of power over your victim, as with the original assault, and can intimidate her out of testifying and traumatize her yet again. And since rapists get off on asserting power over another human being, this courtroom interrogation gives them a new opportunity. In this Florida case, the fact that Harris decided he wanted a lawyer immediately after grilling the woman he’s accused of raping raises red flags that he had exactly this in mind, and once he’d gotten he way, he had no reason not to take advantage of his right to legal representation.

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